Things I learned this week #16

  • These Tattoos: In the late 1880s, a man called Sutherland Macdonald became the UK's first professioanl tattoo artist. Although he was already an artist, he started the tattoo craft after a trip to the South Pacific. Macdonald is the reason we have the word 'tattooist' (a portmanteau of tattoo and artist) - because the Post Office had to create a new category to place an advert for his services in. He also patented an electric tattoo gun in 1895, and created the first 'safe' green ink which did still contain lead so... (source)
  • This unconventional translation: In 1900, a newspaper in Reykjavik, Iceland, serialised Dracula - the classic horror novel by Bram Stoker. The translation, entitled Powers of Darkness, took some rather strong decisions in the translation. They shortened some parts, adding a deaf-mute handmade to the Count's castle, added some police investigations, completely omitted the fact that the Count drinks the blood of his victims, and removed the original ending by finishing the novel early. So they essentially took Dracula, riffed on it and did a little workshopping (more "yes and"), rewrote the book in another language, gave it the same name and author, and then just presented it like it was the original, just translated (source)
  • These new bodies: This week, the details of two new remains of a master and slave were release at Pompeii - the Roman city that was famously wiped out when a volcano erupted nearby in 79AD. The pair consisted of an older (30-40) and a younger (20s) man who had been preserved in ash for the last two thousand years. I'm just going to repeat that once more: two thousand years ago a volcano killed two men, their flesh and muscles were burned away, and then we found their very well preserved bodies in the ash. (source)
  • This historical insight: We know that the nature of religion and spirituality has changed a lot. Way back when we were more hunter-gather, our spiritual views were pretty Shamanistic and Animist: places and things had their own spiritual essence. Then at some point we moved to more mono-, and sometimes, poly-theistic place where we had spiritual entities distinct from worldly places or things. And also we started having Organised Religion. We used to think that this transition happened alongside the move from tribe to central metropolitan areas. It makes sense - if religion is (among other things) a way to teach and enforce morals, it helps to have an "eye in the sky" that sees you if you steal, have sex sex with your neighbour's spouse, or murder. God Is Watching, even if the entire village/town/city is not. However, it actually seems that we evolved as a society and then spiritually. So for a while we had these older religions, as humans moved to larger and more complex settlements and cultures. The link in the source is interesting, go and check it out - it asks what role religion has played, does play, and could play as our socieities become more complex and geographically dispersed. (source)

What I've had on rotation

  • Something New: Because I Wanted You To Know by Matilda Mann (Singer Songwriter). These songs are feminine, and cute, and well produced. This little EP is the feeling of seeing someone cute somewhere and the nerves of talking to them, then hoping they actually text you. (links)
  • Something Old: Eyes Open by Snow Patrol (Sad Pop?). This album takes me back so quickly to being 16 - and also makes me very sad to listen to, but also I really like the music? Genuinely I had to stop listening to it a few times this week because it was just making me too sad. But I kept coming back to it, so... (links)

Cool Articles

  • Jan Morris, historian, travel writer and trans pioneer, dies aged 94 by Richard Lea for The Guardian. I only learned about Jan's life, work, and passing on the radio earlier this week. Jan sounded like a really lively, passionate, and sparkly person. If you've never heard of her either, I'd advise reading a little bit about her amazing escapades, and wondering how amazing it would have been to run into her at a pub.
  • Is Resilience Overrated? by Jami Attenberg for The New York Times. It can feel like we live in a culture which celebrates overwork and exhaustion. Attenberg talks about how "You're so resilient" can be code for "You're on your own, sorry". It's not enough to acknowledge difficulty and admire those who go through it, but instead we should be doing what we can to reduce human suffering - which can, at times, involve us getting our own boots dirty.