In Thomas Pynchon’s first novel V., there is a subplot involving rhinoplasty. A surgeon in the story (“being a conservative”) refers to his own profession as the “Art of Tagliacozzi”. This is reference to the 16th century surgeon Gaspare Tagliacozzi, who pioneered surgical techniques for nasal reconstruction. He was a professor of anatomy at the Archiginnasio of Bologna, whose famous anatomical theatre houses a statue of Tagliacozzi holding a nose. I visited Bologna in 2015.Read more
This cobbler has remained in the same corner in Taipei for decades. The neighbourhood has experienced dramatic changes. Old apartments have been replaced by modern buildings. Traditional food stalls became hipster coffee shops. But this cobbler is apparently frozen in time.
In a recent trip to Paris, my wife and I visited the Montparnasse Cemetery, hoping to find the tomb of the mathematician Évariste Galois. We were disappointed to learn that although Galois was indeed buried in the cemetery, he was buried in a common grave and the burial site can no longer be identified. However, we were delighted to have found the family tomb of Henri Poincaré.Read more
This is the famous world map by the 15th century monk Fra Mauro. I saw it in Museo Galileo in Florence. Unfortunately it was a replica. The real thing is in Venice. I found it very difficult to recognize landmarks on the map because the orientation is very different from our modern convention. North is down. South is up. Here’s a puzzle: What’s this?Read more
The unusually thick glasses on the windows of the Old Art building in Melbourne University seem to be hand-polished, whose uneven surfaces naturally distort the view into an American expressionist painting. The historic building of the Drum Theatre in Dandenong, Victoria was reflected on a modern office building across the road. The reflective windows reconfigured the image into an incongruent mosaic.Read more