Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Victorian (and pre-Victorian) Pug Cult

"Blonde and Brunette" by Charles Burton Barber
The rise of the pug cult is popularly traced back to when the British found pugs in the Chinese Imperial Palace during their invasion of China in 1860 and brought them back to England, where black pugs, in particular were made popular by someone called Lady Brassey. "Lady Brassey" probably refers to the travel writer and Baroness, Anna Brassey, who died in 1887. Though it is said she presented a black pug at the Maidstone show in 1886, just a year before her death.

Soon after Brassey made them cool, Queen Victoria became fond of the breed. She had several and it was through her involvement in breeding pugs that the Kennel Club was established in 1873. It was, consequently, a pug who won the first best in show of the Westminster Kennel Club in 1877.

Dog fancying is linked to the Victorian cult of domesticity, supported by the Queen, who commissioned a painter, specifically Charles Burton Barber, to capture her beautiful dogs (and others) on canvas.

"A Monster" by Charles Burton Barber
According to one blogger, other artists followed suit with amazing results:

I've been wearing mostly jeans, and one blazer has already had a few threads pulled since I got my own little brindle pug a few weeks ago, so I am astonished at that dress. All of the pictures above depict scenes of feminine domestic bliss in the typical Victorian fashion: women and children in household settings with their pets. But, as with everything in the nineteenth century, nothing was as simple as it seemed.

Before Victorian England embraced them, pugs were part of a very masculine culture in continental Europe and this is where it gets really weird.

The Mops-Orden (German for the "Order of the Pug" was a Catholic para-Masonic society that was supposedly founded by Klemens August of Bavaria in 1740 to bypass a papal bull. To the Order of the Pug, the pug represented loyalty, trustworthiness and steadiness, whereas now they are known primarily for their flat faces and love of cheese. Those who belonged to the Order of the Pug were called Mops (Pugs). New members underwent an initiation process that involved wearing a dog collar and behaving, in various ways, like a dog: scratching at the door to get in and kissing a porcelain pug's bum.

The secrets of the Order of the Pug were exposed in Amsterdam in 1745, but it took three years for anyone to ban them (maybe it took that long for them to take it seriously). However, it is rumoured that the Order was active until 1902.

A Pug by Carl Reichert (1836-1918)
Before the British Invasion in 1860, pugs were imported to the European continent by the Dutch East India Company. The dogs have a long history in China and are considered one of the oldest and most loyal breeds, housed only in Tibetan Monasteries and by members of the Chinese Imperial household.

Aside from Queen Victoria's pugs, Minka, Venus, Rooney, Olga, Fatima and Pedro, the most famous pug in European history is probably a little guy, called "Pompey," who, contrary to Monty Python lore, expected the Spanish Inquisition and alerted his master the Prince of Orange William the Silent to their arrival in 1572, thereby saving his life.

So while it is popular to trace the pug cult back to Queen Victoria and Lady Brassey, it has most certainly been around a lot longer than that!

Queen Victoria and one of her pugs.
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Friday, April 24, 2015

Humans of London (in the 1890s)

Who isn't occasionally inspired by Humans of New York? Since I've taken a little break from writing recently and been playing with Photoshop, I thought I would share what I've come up with.

These are writers in London in the 1890s (if they had Facebook and someone got inspired by Humans of New York).

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Cartographic Fictions and the Poverty of Digital Archives

In Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club (1996), the protagonist lives on a paper street, but did you know that paper streets have actually been used as cartographical traps to catch plagiarism? Gizmodo shared an excellent article on this today, outlining the ways in which some of these "trap streets" and imaginary places have actually lead to the creation of real places in the locations where they were mapped to catch intellectually lazy cartographers. I loved this idea and had to find out more about it.

"Trap streets" differ from "paper streets" in that they are deliberate misrepresentations. "Paper streets" and "paper towns" are imagined streets that someone actually plans on creating, irregardless of whether they will ever be constructed. Paper streets and towns are what developers lay out, after purchasing the land, but as we all know, sometimes those plans can fall through and cartographers have been known to include the still imaginary places on maps as traps for other cartographers.

Trap streets are a fascinating, but ultimately pointless, trade secret. Cartographers almost universally deny using them. Although the practice started to deter copyright infringement, trap streets are not copyrightable because "the existence, or non-existence, of a road is a non-copyrightable fact." Yet, the practice is only just beginning to die out.

Map aficionados treat the fake places that only exist on maps as Copyright Easter Eggs. Now that we've entered the era of digital imaging and mapping, these fake places are quickly being weeded out. Perhaps, the most famous example of this is Moat Lane.

Moat Lane in Finchley, North London was only recently removed from Google Maps, after first appearing in the TeleAtlas directory, a primary reference for Google Maps. Satellite view revealed treed yards and a house where the street was supposed to be.

This is Google's Street View of the place Moat Lane supposedly was.
Illustrating the ubiquitous and democratic nature of the digital world, TeleAtlas is now a subsidiary of the GPS mapping company TomTom. Mapping errors go through a system called Tele Atlas Map Insight, which enables users to improve the maps by reporting and correcting errors bypassing the customer and technical support teams of the manufacturers that use TeleAtlas maps.

More accurate maps are undoubtedly important, but these systems for correcting them illustrate the poverty of digital archives in the modern world. Trap streets are rapidly disappearing from the maps we use everyday without a trace. The corrections are leaving little to no record of how initial "errors" occurred, or why the corrections were made. The need to alter the written records of the past was a testament to the authenticity of archives, leaving a literal paper trail for historians. Digital archives leave no such paper trail. After all, who wants to leave behind a record of their mistakes?

Here's a link to another great article on this subject.