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Three Things: Crowd Searching Edition

2011 October 3
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Time for another imaginary word, I believe. Today we’re revisiting The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, and landing on one of the more gorgeous words in the collection:

n. [Brit. wallesia] a condition characterized by scanning faces in a crowd looking for a specific person who would have no reason to be there, which is your brain’s way of checking to see whether they’re still in your life, subconsciously patting its emotional pockets before it leaves for the day.

Judging by the response on the blog’s entry (over 7,000 people have shown their appreciation so far), I am not alone in having experienced this condition: finding oneself searching for someone you know is not there, harboring that tiny glimmer of hope that they somehow will be anyway.

This week: three black and white photographs, each a perfect setting for a moment of waldosia.


Alexey Titarenko, Untitled, from Black & White Magic of St. Petersburg series, 1995–1997. Photograph.


Michael Light, Untitled/Downtown Dusk, from LA Day/LA Night, 2010. Photograph.


Louis Faurer, Man in Rain, 1946. Photograph.


Three Things: Train Whistle Edition

2011 July 25
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I lived, for a time, in a small Midwestern town with a railroad running through it. The train whistles on quiet nights were one of my favorite things about living there, at once melancholy and comforting. Like a late-night bell toll, those far-off whistles break into a gentle reverie as if to say, “I am here, too! You are not alone, awake in the dark.”

It is perhaps, then, no wonder that when I discovered The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows a while ago in the strange depths that is Tumblr, the very first (and possibly the shortest) entry caught my attention:

n. the half-forlorn, half-escapist ache of a train whistle calling in the distance at night.

There are many other lovely imaginary words and definitions to be found in the (local!) blog—indeed, it was very hard to choose between them—but for this week’s Three Things, it is that train, off in the distance. I have for you this week not three images of trains (that felt too easy), but three pieces in which I can imagine the distant hail of a locomotive.

Don’t forget to listen for that whistle.


Edward Hopper, Gas, 1940. Oil on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Andrew Wyeth, Wind from the Sea, 1948. Tempera. Private collection.


Alfred Stieglitz, A Snapshot: Paris, 1911. Photograph.