April 19th, 2005

laszlo moholy-nagy_chx

Long Night Too Short

I checked the Windows update page, just in case, even though I've only had this computer for a few weeks. There were over 15Megs of critical updates! It took hours to get them because my connection kept crapping out. Then Micro$oft recommended a vist to the MS Office update page. It turns out that I also need Office service pack 3, which (they say) would take 90 minutes to download at my connection speed. I didn't fetch that. I know that the 90 minutes will stretch into several hours. That's a job for another night. Will no one rid me of this meddlesome Gates?

But after installing all the patches (I always envision Windows as a cheap garment of the sort one would find at K-Mart, worn by a homeless derelict, growing ever more tattered as it quickly ages in its owner's peregrinations through the dangerous slums of the Internet), I had a bit of time to read about something more durable. Advancing technology has made it possible to read a horde of ancient papyri found in Egypt a century ago. Bits of the Greek and Roman worlds unseen for ages will be revealed. I'm wondering how long it will be before any significant portion of it is translated into modern languages, though. Even when it is, it will probably be costly to procure. I don't see the academicians releasing this stuff under a Creative Commons License. We rabble are apt to be waiting a long time before we reap any benefit from this discovery.

I've seen the video of ambiguous smoke coming from the Vatican chimney. It's showing up on every newscast. Invisible talking heads discuss whether it looks more black or more white. It's odd how events that people consider important can make people who think they are doing important work behave like puzzled monkeys. I've been wondering if, should a fire now break out in the Sistine Chapel, everyone watching would mistake its smoke for part of the normal re-Poping process, and fail to call the fire department until it was too late to prevent a burnt offering of barbecued Cardinal?

Time for sleep, obviously.
caillebotte_the orangerie


The wings emitted a faint hum as the dark insect glided in leisurely flight. It landed on the jamb of the front door, and I was able to examine it closely. It as about a quarter of an inch long, its chitinous outer wings shiny and black, now folded protectively over its fragile, transparent inner wings, only a small portion of which were revealed. The segmented head was like a delicate amber carving, with two big eye-pods of black jade affixed to the sides. Its fine antenna quivered and waved as the bug crawled up the jamb on six thin legs.

From the face, two moderately long stalks extended- part of its feeding apparatus, I believe- and between them were two shorter protrusions, like extended twin tongues. The longer stalks moved over the surface of the wood, gathering something which I could not see and moving it to the shorter protuberances. Though I was but a few inches distant, and the comparatively huge clusters of eyes must have revealed me to the bug, it ignored me and continued its dinner, scouring the surface of the wood for what may have been bits of pollen which had settled there- I really have no idea. After a while, the black outer wings suddenly opened and the insect arose from the door jamb and flew off to be lost in the afternoon sunlight, apparently none the worse for the experience of having been watched by a gigantic voyeur.

My oddly alien fellow denizen of the planet having departed, I stood for a while observing the day, with its silvery cloud clusters and bright sunshine, and enjoyed the mild air, which was filled with countless other small winged creatures flitting and flashing from place to place. The moment had become remarkably dense with activity, and the garden was suddenly like a bucolic version of a teeming city street, almost dizzying in its complexity. Had the sound of the afternoon breeze not been so loud, I imagine that I might have heard the hum of those thousands of tiny, beating wings.

They are probably silent now. The sun has set and the clouds grown dark, and the air grows night-chill again. But perhaps the bugs are only hidden by the darkness. Maybe they continue their activity, and the night is as busy as the day. Maybe, if the air falls perfectly still, and I listen carefully, I'll hear that collective hum which I have imagined.