Underlinings (#60)

From Tim Powers’ Declare (p 236-7):

And for getting Russian documents translated he found himself having to consult the weird old women in the MI5 Soviet Transcription Centre. This was located in another St. Albans house, in a tiny room which these fugitive White Russians had converted into a little anachronistic corner of Tsarist St. Petersburg, with carved wooden saint-icons standing among the dictaphone cylinders and acetate gramophone disks on the shelves, and a perpetual perfume of tea from the steaming samovar in the corner. To these wizened babushkas the NKVD was still the Cheka or even the pre-revolutionary Okhrana, and they took a particular intense interest in Hale’s researches, often pausing to cross themselves as they translated some musty old report of a Russian expedition to Turkey, in 1883 or a description of burned grass around little coin-sized eruption holes in the grave plots of Moscow cemeteries. All of these old grand-mothers were of the Russian Orthodox faith, but Hale noticed — uneasily — that their use of the term guardian angel was hesitant and fearful, and always accompanied by them splashing their lumpy old fingers in the holy water font by the locked door.

Neoreaction a Basilisk

Three extracts from Phil Sandifer’s exploration of horror in philosophy can be found here. All quibbles aside, the core conjunction prompting the work — and advertised in the title — is hugely compelling.

For anyone interested:


(I’m guessing this offer extends beyond the Order of Shadows.)

Codex Seraphinianus


An odd book (by any reasonable estimation).

… the book is just so damned strange that it has accumulated a veritable industry of speculation about its meaning, deeper origins, and whether the language in which it is written actually has any syntax or not. Serafini has said relatively little about it himself over the years, and denies that the script has any meaning, but no one really believes that …

More here.

Underlinings (#54)

Cryptic Dee weirdness:

In 1564, while studying at Antwerp, Dee published Monas Hieroglyphica, a series of twenty-four theorems interpreting the Hieroglyphic Monad, a symbol of Dee’s own devising which carried associations with both creation and unity. The glyph first appeared in Dee’s earlier text on astronomy, Propaedeumata Aphoristica (1558), but in the Monas Hieroglyphica it became the central focus of the work. One of his most incomprehensible texts, it draws parallels between and ascribes cabbalistic meaning to the physical properties of certain minerals, their governing planets according to alchemical theories of the day, and the geometry of their alchemical and astrological symbols. The result is a complex web of meaning that is not fully understood even today. […] Some believe that the Monas Hieroglyphica was intended as a textbook to accompany lessons delivered orally by Dee but now lost; others believe that it is a hidden treatise on cryptography to be used in espionage. …



Underlinings (#53)

On the K/T-missile and its impact:

In one of the greatest titled books ever, T. rex and the Crater of Doom, Walter Alvarez told the story of how he and his nobel prize-winning physicist father Luis revolutionised our understanding of the end of the dinosaurs. [Walter] … discovered that the boundary layer in rocks found at Gubbio in Italy contained ten times the normal levels of the metal iridium. […] … Luis had the insight that such a high concentration of the metal in one layer of rock meant it must have arrived in one huge asteroid impact. The team then confirmed another iridium spike in a Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary rock section at Stevns Klint in Denmark. […] They reasoned that the spikes implied there had been an asteroid impact so big that it threw enough dust (including tiny particles of iridium) into the atmosphere to black out the sun around the globe. This would have prevented plants from photosynthesising and, as was later suggested, caused global freezing for a short time, leading to the mass extinction of many species. They worked out that such an asteroid would have weighed at least 34 billion tonnes and measured around 7km in diameter, producing a crater around 100–200km across. […] … However, it still took a while to locate the Chicxulub crater because it had been completely covered by sediments deposited in the previous 66m years. And while half of it lies under dense tropical rainforest, the other half is beneath the Caribbean seabed. Hildebrand used evidence from boreholes made by Mexican oil company Pemex in the 1960s to prove the crater’s existence. Subsequent geophysical surveys that can scan below the surface have established the exact size and shape of the structure, which is roughly circular with three concentric rings, as you would expect from a massive impact.