I bottled my first attempt at winemaking tonight, amazed at the transformation effected over the last few weeks. It seems appropriate then to rehearse Ben Franklin's famous lines addressed to the Abbé Morellet:

We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage of Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.

"On Wine - from the Abbé Franklin to the Abbé Morellet", in Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, Poor Richard, and Later Writings (Library of America: 1987, rev. 1997), pp. 199-202. (A web version, unfortunately without the clever sketches, at The Claremont Institute.)

Also worthy of mention is Franklin's postscript to the same letter praising the Intelligent Design of the elbow.

April 19, 2005 | Comments (0)

Les Autos de Tintin

Renault Reinastella, ca. 1932

Renault Reinastella, ca. 1932, as seen in Le Lotus Bleu.

Cleverly setting off Hergé's drawings of Tintin's cars against photos of the same the gallery Les Autos de Tintin [Tintin's Cars] demonstrates the kind of careful research and meticulous draftsmanship that went into The Adventures of Tintin. As much as I like the Renault I've always been partial to the Citroën Traction-Avant, happily represented here as well. More on Hergé, Tintin's creator.

April 18, 2005 | Comments (0)

An Analogy

It's strange that all birds don't fly in the same way. After all, the air's just the same at the same place and the same time. I've heard that the wings of aeroplanes all conform to the same formula, whereas birds each conform to a formula of their own. It has undeniably required more than a little ingenuity to equip so many birds each with their own formula, and no expense spared, either. Nevertheless, there has perhaps never been a bird that flies as correctly as an aeroplane; yet all birds fly better than aeroplanes if they can fly at all. All birds are perhaps a little wrong, because an absolute once-for-all formula for a bird has never been found, just as all novels are bad because the correct formula for a novel has never been found.

Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier [Kristnihald Undir Jökli, 1968], translated from Icelandic by Magnus Magnusson.

April 16, 2005 in Natural History | Comments (0)