On Saturday, my bride and I drove over to Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco bay between the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. Why did we go? Was I trying to join the Navy? Nope…
We went because once a month they have a flea market there and my wife had been wanting to go. We couldn’t go last month for some reason (isn’t it the pits when you can’t remember why?), but we made it finally this month.
I must confess, it is quite an interesting flea market. I wasn’t all that excited about it, but since it was a place I’d never been before and it was in the middle of the bay and it was an absolutely gorgeous day in the Bay Area, I thought it might be fun to take pictures. I was right, but as it turns out, the pictures I took weren’t really that involved with the bay or the bridges or Alcatraz, or anything of the like. It was of things on Treasure Island and items at the flea market. You’ll see several of them in the next couple of weeks, I’m sure!
The first thing that catches your eye when you get to the place where the flea market is held is a 40-foot tall sculpture named “Bliss Dance” of a dancing woman. The sculptor, Marco Cochrane, started his work on the piece on Treasure Island, starting with a foot-tall prototype.
It eventually took Cochrane over a year to finish the sculpture and it was shown for the first time at a bizarre party in the desert (Burning Man) in 2010. The sculpture weighs 7000 pounds and is made of steel mesh, cables and the like.
Anyway, it is a fascinating piece of art to shoot. Here’s a close-up of just the head. As you can see, at places the sculpture is “see-through” and you can catch glimpses of the sky right through her as if she is transparent. The hair is made of cables (steel, I assume). She looks anything but blissful in this photo, perhaps due to the sadness she feels at the rust that is beginning to accumulate on her “skin”….much like we are often saddened by the wrinkles that appear on our human skin. Or, perhaps she is melancholy because she can’t really dance as many do when they stand at her feet and she looks down at them. Either way, she, like nearly all women, is fascinating!
Known collectively as “The Great Moon Hoax,” the articles were supposedly reprinted from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The byline was Dr. Andrew Grant, described as a colleague of Sir John Herschel, a famous astronomer of the day. Herschel had in fact traveled to Capetown, South Africa, in January 1834 to set up an observatory with a powerful new telescope. As Grant described it, Herschel had found evidence of life forms on the moon, including such fantastic animals as unicorns, two-legged beavers and furry, winged humanoids resembling bats. The articles also offered vivid description of the moon’s geography, complete with massive craters, enormous amethyst crystals, rushing rivers and lush vegetation.
The New York Sun, founded in 1833, was one of the new “penny press” papers that appealed to a wider audience with a cheaper price and a more narrative style of journalism. From the day the first moon hoax article was released, sales of the paper shot up considerably. It was exciting stuff, and readers lapped it up. The only problem was that none of it was true. The Edinburgh Journal of Science had stopped publication years earlier, and Grant was a fictional character. The articles were most likely written by Richard Adams Locke, a Sun reporter educated at Cambridge University. Intended as satire, they were designed to poke fun at earlier, serious speculations about extraterrestrial life, particularly those of Thomas Dick, a science writer who claimed in his bestselling books that the moon alone had 4.2 billion inhabitants.
Readers were completely taken in by the story and failed to recognize it as satire. The craze over Herschel’s supposed discoveries even fooled a committee of Yale University scientists, who traveled to New York in search of the Edinburgh Journal articles. After Sun employees sent them back and forth between the printing and editorial offices, hoping to discourage them, the scientists returned to New Haven without realizing they had been tricked.
On September 16, 1835, the Sun admitted the articles had been a hoax. People were generally amused by the whole thing, and sales of the paper didn’t suffer. The Sun continued operation until 1950, when it merged with the New York World-Telegram. The merger folded in 1967. A new New York Sun newspaper was founded in 2002, but it has no relation to the original.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Since house cats are clean and their coats are dry and glossy, their fur easily becomes charged with electricity. Sparks can be seen if their fur is rubbed in the dark.