For the last couple of weeks I seem to have been here, there and everywhere and had little time for catching my thoughts. Wielding my cognitive butterfly net this morning has produced the following specimens for sharing.
One of the places high up on the "there" list was a visit to Oxford and to the wonderful Ashmolean Museum. We decided to adopt the "top ten must see" approach to a task that otherwise could take weeks, and progressed from gallery to gallery in search of the rising stars of art and archeology. I well remember pausing at the nested coffins of Djeddjehutyiuefankh (as one does) and thinking about the clear similarities between ancient hieroglyphics and modern emojis. There was a translation of some of the sarcophagus symbols next to the exhibit, and a very pleasant and knowledgeable guide who spoke about them at length; but at the end of the day they boiled down to something like "when I get to the after-life I am looking forward to a pint of beer and a bacon sandwich". In modern terms this sentiment would look something like this:
and I am determined to leave instructions to have it imprinted on the side of my coffin when the time comes.
Still in Oxford, we visited one of my favourite bookshops in the world, Blackwell's. The link between images and words has dominated my thoughts a lot during the last few years and I was wanting to see how this relationship was reflected in the vast stock of books throughout the store. I suspect that traditional physical books full of words are rapidly becoming, like vinyl records, a niche market, in this age of the far more convenient electronic e-readers. Kindles - and their like - can conveniently deliver a library of books to your back pocket, but they have the formatting skills of a garden slug. They can cope with the complete works of Shakespeare with ease, but if you want a picture of Macbeth's wife they start to panic. At best the picture will be grainy, monochrome and in the wrong place. For frolicking along the shoreline where text and image combine to produce something which is a pleasure to look at as well as read, you can't beat a physical book. I was keen to see how such trends were reflected in the books available in Blackwell's, and it didn't take me long to discover a perfect example of what I mean in the form of a "book" called Revolution by Philip Parker. The book itself contains no more than sixty pages and more than half of those are occupied by well chosen, and well-reproduced, illustrations. But that is only the start of things: the book also contains three bags, or folders, full of carefully reproduced source documents. Thus whilst reading of Russian Revolution and looking at some fine reproductions of contemporary photographs, you can handle a perfect facsimile of Tsar Nicholas's abdication proclamation. Try doing that with you Kindle!
Perhaps those old Egyptian kings and queens had the right idea after all. Why limit yourself to words when you can bring words and pictures together in perfect harmony.