Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Delaney Davidson

(Last seen live at Cassels & Sons Brewery, New Year's Eve ... excellent... )

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Combinatorium II: Ether

Ether: "the rarefied element formerly believed to fill the upper regions of space b : the upper regions of space : heavens ....  a light volatile flammable liquid C4H10O used chiefly as a solvent and especially formerly as an anesthetic" (Merriam Webster)

The cotton pad over the face. Ether.  Counting down to going under.  An anaesthetic from another era, the smell triggers nostalgia like some perverse version of  Proustian involuntary memory ... And with the anaesthesia, lost time.  Only an unaccounted for period of existence, and a residue of pain.

Cotton pads over the jars.  Chloroform.  Inside the jars were cicadas, captured for the purposes of zoological examination.  The best place for capturing cicadas was in the Valley of the Moon. The road up was steep, gravel, following the bluffs that face out to the sea, and then beyond was a more lush realm, with a stream running through it. Abuzz with cicadas. Trapped in the jars they would flutter for awhile before entering their own insectivorous reverie. Kept in their slumber for their journey south to the university, where their fantastically veined wings and crisp carapaces would be carefully explored. Drawn perhaps, as in the epitome of delineation, AWB Powell’s Native Animals of New Zealand, published by the Auckland Institute and Museum. First published in 1947, and seemingly unchanged for the decades to follow, it offered a litany of creatures, each carefully detailed in a simple, precise line drawing, and accompanied by a paragraph of description. Scale is irrelevant to AWB Powell. A whale and a starfish, a kiwi and a flatworm, are all given the same amount of space, the same degree of detail. Not badgers, moles and beavers, as in the other books of childhood.  Here are weka and weta, penguins and paua.

Large Cicada

Monday, January 2, 2012

Combinatorium I: Meths

“Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combinatoria of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined? Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable.”
Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium, 1993

The spirit lamps were always burning in the Dental Clinic. Inside the small wooden building there were two dental chairs, each flanked by swivelling tables and lights, extending out from the chair prosthetically. Through the windows, no foreground, no activity - only the ocean, the horizon, sky.

The spirit lamps were entrancing, mystical. Like a priest’s censer, they united a sense of holy inscrutability with an evocative odour. The lamps’ glass reservoirs held a sublimely ethereal liquid: methylated spirits dyed a divine pale purple. Gentian Violet. The swivelling table was always set out perfectly with the spirit lamp, the heavy milk-white glass, the small crucible for mixing amalgam. A mouth full of mercury. Quicksilver.

Passing the dental instruments through the flame and into the mouth drew some of the smell with it. The strange smell of burning meths. The ritualised procedures. The flame, the water. The dental nurse in her nun-like uniform. A glass is offered. Lifted to the lips. Rinse. Spit. The smell of the meths, the mysterious instruments, the lighting, the head scarf. A fusion of something sacred and unknowable, a mysterious order.