From the Stacks 6


My recent foray into the document folder turned up bits of writing from one of my favorite blog events from Aprils past –the A to Z Challenge. They’re pretty interesting, if I do say so myself. I’ll be sharing  a few until life quiets down around here. I hope you enjoy. Scroll back to read earlier From The Stacks posts.
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F for Funeral Mementos
Just as Hollywood celebrity inspires fans to go under the knife to look like their favorite stars, and TV shows such as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous encourage spending beyond one’s means, other periods in history had their own celebrities to emulate. I think it safe to say none had the social impact of Britain’s Queen Victoria . Practically everything the woman did became in vogue. Some of what we do today can be traced back to her. From child rearing to greeting cards to style to Christmas trees, she made an impact.

When typhoid fever claimed the life of Prince Albert that sad December in 1861, Queen Victoria was devastated. In dealing with her loss, she unintentionally set a mode for society. The Queen mourned her husband for 40 years and because of that, death became fashion.  Aside from wearing black every day for the rest of her life, she made sure their home stayed exactly as it was on the day her husband died. This included his clothes set out for the day, his toilette prepared for his shave, his place at the table set, and other sad daily rituals for a husband who was no longer there.

Regarding Victorian death rituals, there were very strict rules to follow: mirrors were covered, buntings hung, certain colors worn at certain times over the length of the mourning period. But it wasn’t enough that morning ritual was prolonged and the lives of the living impacted beyond their grief, a booming death business sprang into being. More than one city and hairtown had the latest embalming techniques advertised in mortician shop windows. Coffins and hearses and cemeteries all reflected the ostentatious Victorian flair.

Another common practice involved weaving your dear departed’s hair into flowers etc either for display  or 2abed9dadf413492922b52a5d0a5688dto be worn as jewelry.

One of the strangest things from the Victorian era occurred when the unusual focus on death partnered with that newfangled  invention photography and gave us The Memento Mori (Latin for remember that you must die)

In my opinion, this was the pinnacle of the death rituals — having life-like photos taken of your deceased as a memento. Elaborate stands and contraptions would hold the body in life-like poses. Eyes were painted on closed eyelids. And often, living family members joined in the photo shoot. I’ve seen dozens of these images and the photos that show the deceased child sitting side by side with a living sibling are the most haunting to me. It’s the confusion in their eyes. Death is hard enough for children to comprehend.

How often do we stumble across old Victorian era photos in antique stores or even in our attics? I’ve seen beautiful sleeping children and had no idea that sleep was eternal. I’ve seen others posing for the camera with staring faces. I’ll look closely next time. I might see the stands that aided the pose and those staring eyes might just be painted on.

The following pictures look like average photographs from the Victorian era, but in fact, they are love tokens — funerary mementos made to capture the life that was. I show them here in tribute to the love behind them.
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F for Fractals and Fibonacci.

Before I go into the work of mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, I’ll begin with a brief explanation of the Fibonacci Sequence. For brevity’s sake, I’ll skip the fine details of this mathematical creation, but I urge to everyone to delve into it. It all starts with a man of the Middle Ages, a mathematician named Leonardo Fibonacci. Once you understand it, it’s utterly fascinating, especially when you see evidence of it everywhere. In my understanding, the Fibonacci Sequence concerns these integers, or whole numbers, laid out like so:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89….ad infinitum.

See how that works? 0 + 1 = 1. 1+1=2. 1+2=3. 3+2=5 and all the way to 34+55=89 and beyond. If you worked this formula out on graph paper with squares and rectangles, you’d eventually get what’s known as the Divine Proportion or Golden Mean.

mandlebrotOk, so you have a basic idea of the Fibonacci Sequence. What about Mandelbrot? He’s the modern day mathematician who came up with the mathematical term Fractal, and he’s known for one in particular – the Mandelbrot Set. Suffice to say he used an equation that’s too over my head to explain here, but this is what he did — After entering the math into a computer, he got a computer-generated image that graphically represents the behavior of his  equation. And it had the old Fibonacci Sequence inside of it! To mathematicians, this phenomenon is unexplainable via their notions of how the math works. It’s still unknown as to why the Fibonacci sequence appears in the Mandelbrot Set.

The following video is a long one, but well worth it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LemPnZn54Kw?rel=0

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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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