let’s go (to frankenstein castle)

Crocodile @ 3:08 am

last night and this morning writing about mary shelley’s frankenstein: a modern prometheus (first published march 11) for my column, which should go up tomorrow. a tough part of this gig is walking away from riffs that are Too Heavy For Me, or Good But Not Now, and/or More Work Than Required. roughly we’re talking about knowing when to hold em, and knowing when to fold em. oftentimes lately i’ll get on a subject and realize that i’d like to read a good book about it, but i can’t write the book. i only need to do a couple hundred words, i don’t need to drop a thesis every week (or ever, at all). moreover, some topics are simply not for me to write about. and some are flat-out bummers. nothing against bummer reality (aside from the obvious desire to change it), but from a workflow standpoint, it poses a distinct motivational problem. for me.

anyway i’m getting better at making this decision. deciding to write about frankenstein was a no-brainer, though i still had to pick my path. this week i read a lot about but didn’t write at all about castle frankenstein, which seems incredible! here’s my loose notes:

the “legends and myths” section of the frankenstein castle wikipedia page seems lifted entirely from some other more fantastic source. as such it’s liberally sprinkled with “[clarification needed]”s, so many that at times they read like back-up vocals. buuut it’s pretty sick!!! includes notes on a dragon that kills and is killed by a knight errant, a fountain of youth where on walpurgis night old women from nearby villages undergo tests of courage, a myth of gold that led to mines which collapsed on foolish diggers (and zero gold), strange magnetic phenomenon, a sea of rocks, etc.. old women undergoing tests of courage is a great bit- fury road really whetted my appetite for this angle, hopefully we get more old women undergoing tests of courage next blockbuster season.

the gnarliest part of the page is regarding perhaps the source of the myth that inspired mary shelley, an alchemist named johann dippel, who was born in and lived in the castle in the 1600s. among other alchemisty things, he’s credited with an eponymous oil:

Dippel created an animal oil known as Dippel’s Oil which was supposed to be equivalent to the “elixir of life.”

everything’s an elixir of life to these people– it’s worth noting that dippel was trying to exchange the recipe for the deed to the castle (which he was denied) so upselling was certainly involved from the beginning. but it wasn’t all hogwash– the page on dippel’s oil says:

Dippel’s oil had a number of uses which are now mostly obsolete. Its primary use was as an animal and insect repellent. It saw limited use as a chemical warfare harassing agent during the desert campaign of World War II. The oil was used to render wells undrinkable and thus deny their use to the enemy. By not being lethal, the oil was claimed to not be in breach of the Geneva Protocol.


also via Dippel’s page:

According to [a single 18th century source] Dippel and the pigment maker Diesbach used potassium carbonate contaminated with this oil in producing red dyes. To their surprise, they obtained a blue pigment “Berliner Blau”, also called “Preussisch Blau” or “Prussian blue”.

via prussian blue:

Prussian blue was the first modern synthetic pigment. It is employed as a very fine colloidal dispersion, as the compound itself is not soluble in water. It is famously complex, owing to the presence of variable amounts of other ions and the sensitive dependence of its appearance on the size of the colloidal particles formed when it is made. The pigment is used in paints, and it is the traditional “blue” in blueprints.

hokusai wave, starry nights, etc.

In medicine, Prussian blue is used as an antidote for certain kinds of heavy metal poisoning

It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most important medications needed in a basic health system. Prussian blue lent its name to prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide), which was derived from it. In Germany, hydrogen cyanide is called Blausäure (“blue acid”), and Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac gave cyanide its name, from the Greek word κυανός (kyanos, “blue”), because of the color of Prussian blue.

This Prussian blue pigment is significant since it was the first stable and relatively lightfast blue pigment to be widely used following the loss of knowledge regarding the synthesis of Egyptian blue.

no conclusion, just notes, maybe to return to later. if anyone has a good movie (other than fury road) in which an older woman protagonist undergoes tests of courage, comments are open.



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