10th march 2005

That feeling we know of confusion and impotence in the presence of the beloved, where do we find it best expressed? Shakespeare in the sonnets makes quite a good stab I believe, but there are perhaps more powerful examples in popular music from Mr Morrison and Mr Mahal, both poised upon a threshold:

And I'm standing in your doorway
And I'm mumbling and I can't remember the last thing that ran through my head

Van Morrison, Ballerina

I'm standing in the doorway
And I don't know what to do

Taj Mahal, The New Hula Blues

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13th march 2005


The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion - all in one.

Ruskin, from Modern Painters

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16th march 2005

balloons of doom

On August 22, 1849, the Austrians, who controlled much of Italy at this time, launched some 200 pilotless balloons against the city of Venice.

Even earlier in 1806, Napoleon - having lost maritime control over the European seas - employed an engineer named Pasquale Andrioni, working on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the Venetian lagoon, to build one of a projected ten giant balloons capable of each lifting 700 hundredweight* for use in the aerial invasion of the British Isles. Thousands came to see the launch, but the balloon was unable to take off and eventually the scheme was abandoned.

* The heaviest payload lifted by balloon has been the astronomical observatory Stratoscope II (1971) weighing 3.5 tons (70 hundredweight).

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