Monday, August 29, 2005

I'm Speechless ....

( Click on the image to see the video )

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Valhalla for Fictional Figures

I searched for the preface of "The Case-book" the other day. "The Case-book" is the last but far from the best Sherlock Holmes series. Conan Doyle seemed so tired of writing a typical Holmes story then, he started experimenting: in “The Blanched Soldier”, Holmes himself told the story; “The Mazarin Stone” was told by the third person; there was no crime in “The Lion’s Mane”.... I don't know about other loyal readers of Conan Doyle, I didn't like it.

But the preface, which was actually placed in the end of the book in the Chinese edition, is one of my favorite essays. The reason is simple: in its first paragraph, Conan Doyle articulated something I always tried to say.

And below is what I got from “Camden House: The Complete Sherlock Holmes”, an excellent Holmes website.


I FEAR that Mr. Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular tenors who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make repeated farewell bows to their indulgent audiences. This must cease and he must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary. One likes to think that there is some fantastic limbo for the children of imagination, some strange, impossible place where the beaux of Fielding may still make love to the belles of Richardson, where Scott’s heroes still may strut, Dickens’s delightful Cockneys still raise a laugh, and Thackeray’s worldlings continue to carry on their reprehensible careers. Perhaps in some humble corner of such a Valhalla, Sherlock and his Watson may for a time find a place, while some more astute sleuth with some even less astute comrade may fill the stage which they have vacated.

His career has been a long one–though it is possible to exaggerate it; decrepit gentlemen who approach me and declare that his adventures formed the reading of their boyhood do not meet the response from me which they seem to expect. One is not anxious to have one’s personal dates handled so unkindly. As a matter of cold fact, Holmes made his debut in A Study in Scarlet and in The Sign of Four, two small booklets which appeared between 1887 and 1889. It was in 1891 that ‘A Scandal in Bohemia,’ the first of the long series of short stories, appeared in The Strand Magazine. The public seemed appreciative and desirous of more, so that from that date, thirty-nine years ago, they have been produced in a broken series which now contains no fewer than fifty-six stories, republished in The Adventures, The Memoirs, The Return, and His Last Bow, and there remain these twelve published during the last few years which are here produced under the title of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. He began his adventures in the very heart of the later Victorian era, carried it through the all-too-short reign of Edward, and has managed to hold his own little niche even in these feverish days. Thus it would be true to say that those who first read of him, as young men, have lived to see their own grown-up children following the same adventures in the same magazine. It is a striking example of the patience and loyalty of the British public.

I had fully determined at the conclusion of The Memoirs to bring Holmes to an end, as I felt that my literary energies should not be directed too much into one channel. That pale, clear-cut face and loose-limbed figure were taking up an undue share of my imagination. I did the deed, but fortunately no coroner had pronounced upon the remains, and so, after a long interval, it was not difficult for me to respond to the flattering demand and to explain my rash act away. I have never regretted it, for I have not in actual practice found that these lighter sketches have prevented me from exploring and finding my limitations in such varied branches of literature as history, poetry, historical novels, psychic research, and the drama. Had Holmes never existed I could not have done more, though he may perhaps have stood a little in the way of the recognition of my more serious literary work.

And so, reader, farewell to Sherlock Holmes! I thank you for your past constancy, and can but hope that some return has been made in the shape of that distraction from the worries of life and stimulating change of thought which can only be found in the fairy kingdom of romance.








Thursday, August 18, 2005

小孤山 - 彭郎屿 - 大孤山

朋友送我一本画册《千里江城:二十世纪初长江流域景观图集》。前言里写到“二十世纪初,… 一个在中国生活了二十年的钟情于长江文化的日本人山根倬三,用相机记录了那个时代,他后来从千余张照片中整理出一百五十余张,加上搜集来的稀有图片,汇集成《长江大观》,那是用珂罗版印制,厚重而精致的游记式图集,出版于1916年” 。这本《千里江城》就是基于此书整理编缉的。


山苍苍,水茫茫,大孤小孤江中央。崖崩路绝猿鸟去,惟有乔木参天长,客舟何处来?卓歌中流声抑扬。沙平风软望不到,孤山久与船低昂。峨峨两烟鬟, 晓镜开新妆,舟中贾客莫漫狂,小姑前年嫁彭郎。(卓应为左木右卓)

看地图小孤山应该离天柱山不远。天柱山我十多年前去过,风景很好。记得上山时遇大雨,又饿又累,半山处在农家吃了碗这辈子吃过的最香的素面条。下山时天大晴,满山瀑布,从山脚看去就象个大屏风。不知什么时候会再去看看,下次争取看一下小孤山。这地图不怎么清楚,小孤山的位置看不出,彭郎屿也没标上。幸好我们还有 Google Earth,打开程序,转动地球,找到中国,然后长江,鄱阳湖往北,对照地图几分种后就到了小孤山上空。下面第一张图是网上找来的地图。第二张图是相应的卫星照片。然后往下分辨率依此提高。最后一张上江北的小圆点就是小孤山了,江对面当为彭郎屿。
从照片上看小孤山已与岸相联,不再是江心孤岛了。 岛左边隐隐有条细直线,应该是条上岛的公路,那么我画的小孤山未来图也并非全无根据了。长江到此稍稍变窄,小孤山和彭郎屿恰如咽喉。



新华网南昌2月28日电:中国第一个水上古战场兵器陈列馆,近日在江西鄱阳湖鞋山建成,共陈列了500多件在历次水战中失落于湖中的各种兵器。 鞋山位于鄱阳湖湖口县水域,距长江9公里,号称“江湖锁钥”,历来是兵家必争之地,这里曾发生大小战争近百次。从周瑜鄱湖操练水军、朱元璋与陈友谅的鄱湖之战,到太平天国时期的石达开与曾国藩的湘军水师大战等都在该水域展开,大量兵器散落于湖底。

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


我买的《吴友如画宝》是喀什维吾尔出版社发行的。正版盗版不详,反正印刷质量不敢恭维。画勉强可看,字就困难了。非得仔细揣摩才可以读顺读懂。“天上行舟”其实也提到“西人于是就将气球之法扩而充之,造成气船”。那么是吴友如不太了解“气球之法”了。查了一下,世界上第一艘商用飞艇是 Zeppelin 公司1910年造的 Deutschland 号,吴友如不可能见到其照片。另外 Zeppelin 是个德国公司,画中所说的“英美人”看来没有成功。“车行树腹”指明是旧金山,我猜就是在 Yosemite 的红木国家公园吧。我记得见过一张有车穿过的老照片,不过没有在网上找到。贴上几张有关的照片,添些余兴。
A: the first steam balloon was constructed by Frenchman Henri Giffard in 1852. B: the first ascent of the world's first untethered rogid airship, the LZ-1, on July 2, 1900. C: the sequoia with a hole.

Sunday, August 14, 2005




一直想找来鲁迅提及的这几幅画看看。今年回国去书店,《点石斋画报》没见到,《吴友如画宝》倒买到了。看介绍应该就是鲁迅所谓的《吴友如墨宝》。来回翻了几遍,居然一幅都没找到。《海国丛谈图》收海外风俗画一百幅,有轮船的有几幅,但未见战舰和决斗。《古今丛谈图》和《风俗志图说》收中国风俗画四百幅,也未见“老鸨虐妓”或“流氓拆梢” - 看来恰巧都没收入进来。不过鲁迅说吴友如“对于外国事情,他很不明白”,大约是对的:“天上行舟”里的飞舟真的画成了船型,我猜那舟多半该是飞艇吧。“车行树腹”里的车也应该不是火车,红木画得也不甚对。不过吴友如的风俗画“采用西洋透视方法,线条以单线勾勒,画面丰富紧凑”,看起来还是很有趣味的。


Saturday, August 13, 2005

About Saul Steinberg

I have a used copy of the first edition of "passport". The previous owner seemed to be a big fan of Saul Steinberg: between the book cover and the title page, I found a carefully folded 1999 New York Times obituary of Steinberg titled "Saul Steinberg, Who Transformed Epic Doodles Into Fine Art, Is Dead at 84". Thank this anonymous collector, I read this interesting article, which is no longer free on the New York Times website, and learned the following amusing facts of Saul Steinberg:

But Mr. Steinberg was known to most of people, as he lamented late in life, as “the man who did that poster”. That poster, one of the most famous American drawings, portrays a New Yorker’s shortsighted view of the rest of the world, in which everything in the landscape recedes according to its cultural distance from Manhattan. … which first appeared on The New Yorker cover of March 29, 1976. It was subsequently copied in knockoffs made for London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Kansa City, Durango, wherever. “I could have retired on this painting,” if royalties had been paid, he once mused. But they weren’t, and he didn’t.

... 1943, was momentous for Mr. Steinberg. … and on the same day that he became United States citizen he was given an ensign’s commission in the Navy. He was assigned to teach Chinese guerrillas how to blow up bridges, and for a year flew the mountainous route known as the Hump from China to India, making sure that the explosives reached their destinations
(Is it why there is China in that famous drawing? - Albatross).

He was fond of diners, motels, kidney-shaped swimming pools and highways, and he thought the country was best seen from the height of a bus window. He was a European sophisticate posing as a regular American guy. Roger Angell of The New Yorker recalled that Mr. Steinberg became such a baseball fan that “he acquired a Milwaukee Braves uniform that he used to put on to watch the games on television”.

“Steinberg kept away from cartoonists,”
Mr. Koren recalled. “Steinberg was not a warm man. He was chilly and Olympian with a somewhat hauteur tone.” Once, Mr. Koren said, the two were together at a dinner party. “I got somewhat in my cups, cheery, and I said, ‘you know, Saul, you’ve been a profound influence on me.’ He looked at me chillily and said, ‘I would be surprised if I wasn’t.’”

Friday, August 05, 2005