The Earth Shoe

Audio uplink from excavator Johannes Calder, received on 6/5/08 at 2031 hours:

“All I know is, I found it in the middle of one of the avenues coming off of the Central Plaza and that it hadn’t been there the day before — unless I was confusing it with the avenue directly opposite, but I don’t think so. I was on a mapping tour, and I’m just too careful for that. Of course, someone could be playing pranks, but since Theronomous’ chocolate cake debacle, it’s unlikely.

“It was a single shoe, just lying there. I was by myself, but called the others in soon enough. It looked like one of those Earth Shoes from the ’70s. So of course Marta insisted on us doing a bunch of research.

“Earth Shoes were designed to position your heel lower than your toes. They were designed by a yoga master. The angle of incline toward the heel is 3.7 degrees, which supposedly simulates the angle of one’s feet during the Tadasana pose performed in yoga. This is apparently more natural and healthful — “orthopedically superior.” It used what’s called the Kalso Negative Heel Technology. The Earth company still makes the Earth Shoe, though not in the boxy style they were so known for in the 1970s. They were kind of a joke back then, if I remember, but sold.

“According to an article in Time, the height of sales for the Earth Shoe was 1974. The Earth company website has photos of both its Copenhagen and Minneapolis stores, taken in 1974. And we know the significance of the year 1974.

“I remember how the advertising said that the shoes were supposed to match how your feet were when barefoot. They were supposed to be like walking on the beach. So there you go.

“I’m Robinson Crusoe. I’ve found my Friday.”


The Toaster

Heliopoli_Full_EX107The excavators found a toaster.

(Perhaps that should be said more dramatically.)

The excavators found a toaster!

But … well, the first sentence is more apt, for it is an ordinary toaster.

It’s quite a nice toaster, really. It makes toast. It sits there, waiting for you to make it make toast. It’s not grand. It’s not got swept-back wings or Cadillac fins. It’s not got flashing lights or Internet access. But …

Toasters are great because they do one thing. You’re expecting me to say, “and they do that one thing very well,” but that isn’t always the case. They’re temperamental. They’re truculent. They don’t like bagels. They really want you to stick a metal fork in them to get that stuck bread out so they can electrocute you.
But …

You’re expecting me to say, “But you always know where you stand with a toaster.” But you don’t. Don’t base your life’s philosophy on a toaster.

The toaster isn’t a metaphor for anything. It’s a toaster. But …

Sometimes, when you’re frazzled and out of sorts, there’s nothing for it but to do your laundry. All of it. Vacuum — everywhere. Clean the sink. Clean the shower. Clean the toilet. Wash all your dishes. Take a shower and wash your hair.

Get dressed in the toasty clothes you’ve just taken from the dryer and feel the carpet under your feet, all full and fuzzy from just being vacuumed.

Now: the next morning, make coffee. Make toast. Don’t skimp on the butter and peanut butter. (Use one on top of the other, butter first.)

Now look out your window at the sun shining on your city, your town, your hamlet, your square, your house. Your home. Nothing’s solved; nothing’s settled. But if anything worse happens … well, now you’re ready for it, aren’t you? The carpet’s vacuumed. You’ve got toasty clothes on. Whaddya want, egg in your beer?

Sometimes you just have to reset and start over by cleaning everything.

But … don’t forget to make toast, too. It goes with the coffee.


The Glass Helmet

The Vader Project

The discovery of a glass helmet in Heliopoli sparked an entry by the chief archivist on Darth Vader’s connections with Palmer Eldritch. Since there is not much to say about the glass helmet itself, it was decided that an entry on the helmet would entail an examination of the concept of halos and their antecedents in pre-Christian art, notably concerning the god Apollo and Alexander the Great, and ending with an analysis on how their depictions are antecedents for the Statue of Liberty, the reason being that the wearing of the glass helmet, if the sun is shining behind one, creates a brilliant halo effect for the wearer.

Shortly after this decision had been made, a paroxysm of meta-ness occurred, whereupon the chief archivist discovered in a magazine an image of a sculpture in which the artist Wade Lageose took the head of Darth Vader and added the flanges of the Statue of Liberty to it (pictured above).

Such is life (if things are more connected than we know), or not (if connectivity is just an illusion of the mind), and one is referred to such excellent posts concerning coincidence and serendipity on John Crowley’s blog and Nancy Kress’ blog, which, coincidentally, were posted within one week of each other.

On to halos.

(Note: This is not an examination of religion. It is, rather, an interrogation of the question “What are those things sticking out of the Statue of Liberty’s head?”)


In Greek mythology, the sun was personified as Helios, a handsome god crowned with the shining aureole of the sun. He drove a chariot across the sky each day, drawn by solar bulls or steeds. As time passed, Helios was increasingly identified with the god of light, Apollo. Solar Apollo, with the halo of Helios, was depicted in a Roman floor mosaic in Tunisia in the late second century.

The style of this representation, with lips slightly parted, head tilted, and hair wild and curling, was developed in the third century B.C. to depict Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great’s sculptor, Lysippos, invented the image of man as hero with this style. (And Homer had described a light around the heads of heroes in battle.)

Heliopoli_Full_EX118Antiquities scholar John Romer, in his television program “The Seven Wonders of the World,” examined what the colossus of Rhodes might have looked like. The statue, created by Chares of Lindos, a pupil of Lysippos, does not survive today, but it depicted the god Helios.

In the program, Romer examines a marble head of Helios found on the island of Rhodes. It has holes in the head that must have held pins for the depiction of the rays of a sunburst. Statues of Helios always possessed a sunburst. And the head is in the style of Lysippos’ Alexander, with tilted head, mouth slightly parted, and hair curling and wild.

The halo was incorporated into Christian art sometime in the fourth century. In a catacomb in St. Peter’s in Rome is a mosaic depicting the risen Christ. He rides a chariot, like Helios, and the flaming sun rays of Helios are now depicted as a halo. His head is in the style of Alexander the Great. Helios was born on Dec. 25. We worship on Sunday, the day of Helios.

The Calling of St. Matthew
The Calling of St. Matthew

With the increase of realism in painting during the Renaissance, the halo was often reduced to a thin gold band depicting the outer edges of the nimbus, as seen in  Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew.

The Statue of Liberty in New York wears a crown that holds seven spiked rays representing a nimbus or halo. The seven spikes represent the Seven Seas and seven continents. The Statue of Liberty wears the sunburst of Helios, the god of the colossus of Rhodes.

Inside the Statue of Liberty, inscribed on a plaque, is the poem “The New Colossus.”

There is nothing new under the sun.


An Indescribable Color

The chief archivist relates that, upon visiting his hometown on a whim, he came upon a car show being held in the parking lot of a shopping plaza, and there discovered an indescribable color.

“The parking lot was full of vintage cars, souped-up cars, roadsters, and hot rods. You had long Cadillac convertibles, all cherry-red lacquer and fuzzy dice; hot rods with snaking flames painted all over them; and cool, zippy numbers in outdated orange-browns that a vintage James Bond would love. They all blinded you with chrome and their engines were so clean you could eat off them.

“There was one, though, that caught my eye from afar. It was a compact roadster that sported an interior refurbished in a plush, dark beige. But the flawless paint job on the exterior was the real ticket. I just kept staring at this incredible color.”

When asked to describe it, he could only say, “It made me thirsty to look at it.”

When asked to generalize, he went on:

Heliopoli_Full_EX101“Something like an aqua green-blue, but lighter, though not pastel; something akin to mint chocolate chip ice cream without the chocolate chips in it, but maybe lighter, though it’s been a while since I’ve eaten mint chocolate chip ice cream; and very like the color of a swimming pool wall once the water has been drained, like maybe a pool from the 1950s; or the color of swimming pool water itself, though a tad greener, but ‘green’ feels too strong a word — you have to remember it was a very light hue, but not pale.

“I just have nothing to compare it to.”

When asked to describe it in a single word, he replied:


This uplink was prompted by reports from the excavators at Heliopoli site about the discovery of an enormous wall. After hosing it down to reveal its surface, one exclaimed, “What a wonderful color.” When asked to elaborate, another said, “I’m getting thirsty just looking at it.”

Speculation at this point may run rampant. The chief archivist awaits transmission of photos of the wall, but expects reproduction of the color to be not quite the same as seeing it in person, and therefore prove to be inconclusive. There is the coincidence of possibly finding the same color in Heliopoli and the fact that attendance to the car show was not planned, but merely part of a jaunt.

An attempt to formulate a conclusion, the meaning of which is not clear, nevertheless contains the following: the phrase “the hand of spontaneity” and the sentence “the chief archivist experienced a visitation from Heliopoli.”

After compiling his notes for this uplink, the chief archivist happened to look at the color of the header for this blog, whereupon he exclaimed, “That’s very near like it! — but … not quite.”


The Poster

Poster1_200The poster was one of the first artifacts found at Heliopoli. Folded into quarters and preserved by dry desert sand, the image on the poster suffered little from age, except for some fading and perhaps changes in color due to alkalines in the soil.

The poster was evidently a piece of advertising for the city itself, though speculation still runs as to why it was made. Possibly it was a recruiting tool that never got to the point of distribution.

The graphic is a watercolor painting depicting the Great Plaza. The vast expanse of the plaza is evident in its smooth blue surface, etched by white lines that radiate outward from the Solar Disk monolith in its center. These lines of perspective run away, in turn, from the viewer. The monolith crystal upholds an enormous bronze disk and is rendered transparent in a way that only good artists can achieve.

Poster2_200In the background, trees edge the plaza. They are carefully outlined in the style of architects and contain splashes of deep green and lime and yellow. One speculates that the colors were more vibrant when the poster was new, and perhaps the yellow was originally a light green.

The figures along the trees are distant and rendered in silhouette. Other figures walk along the plaza and can be seen clearly.

All of the people are happy. They smile, stand at ease while conversing and casually gesture. The men possess long sideburns and sweeps of hair across their foreheads. The hair of the women swirls and curls. All of the children hold balloons, though a more careful study reveals some of these as circles of color floating free, placed there to lend a light air to the painting — a cheerfulness, a festivity. Some of these circles, or bubbles, are in the sky, imitative perhaps of the way sunlight creates such orbs when entering a camera lens at an angle.

The poster captures essence like the best of graphic design, if not entirely realistic.

Poster3_200Dominating the foreground on the right side as if she has just crossed the plaza from the left is a woman. We see her from a low angle. She appears as if she has just now stopped her uniped; her left foot is on the ground while her right still rests on the vehicle’s pedal. The chrome of the uniped’s large single wheel glistens in the sunlight. The bell-bottoms of the woman’s slacks curve in a relaxed fashion and the wide lapels of her blouse gently flare outward. Her hair is brown, and its multiple curves and swirls are carefully outlined in tan. The artist is an excellent draughtsman.

The woman is looking over her right shoulder with a fetching smile. She is quite beautiful. She has just taken her right hand off the uniped’s control stick. The hand, as she is caught in the act of turning to look over her shoulder, is curved in a gesture of questioning, relaxed expectancy. Her eyes are mischievous. One guesses that she is waiting for someone to catch up after she has sped across the plaza on her uniped on this joyful outing. A man far in the background faces her with one hand raised, but he is not the one she is looking at. We cannot see the object of her regard.

Curving at the top of the poster, with letters of descending size, is the word “Heliopoli.” Displayed across the bottom of the poster, overlapping the lower portion of the plaza surface and the uniped’s wheel, is the following:

“If you lived here, you’d be home now.”