Monday, December 31, 2007

Current Favourite Aside

Play it, you crazy klezmer, play it!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ornate Fruit-Dove

My brother has pointed me in the direction of West Papua for its enticingly weird rodent life. However, the ornate fruit-dove (seldom can bird have been better named) seemed to offer a nice opportunity for a break from the rat-race. Also, the most interesting rodent in West Papua is a giant (three-pound) rat, which would be slightly disconcerting to display here. But if I ever have the money, it's to West Papua I will go.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


I fear I may inadvertently have misled the House. The crustaceans which came to dinner were a colony of crayfish, rather than several lobsters. As an apology, here is a picture of a giant crayfish made out of steel, currenly exhibited in Donetsk.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Guess who's coming to dinner?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Israel Shamir

This is mad enough to be here, even though politics is something I normally avoid.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And Again

Even more rodent behaviour. Stick all the way through to the mad scientist at the end.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Long-Eared Jerboa

A new addition to my rodent pantheon.

Anne Geddes

This is the only photo by Anne Geddes which I do not find kitsch and objectionable. In fact, it is quite pleasantly creepy. But I wonder if she realises that?

On the other hand, this I find funny.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Halil Mutlu

A previous post, Naim Süleymanoğlu, might, by the coincidence of title and photograph, have implied that the weightlifter portrayed in the post was the Turkish 'Pocket Hercules', the 147cm Naim Süleymanoğlu. The possibilities for confusion have been brought to my attention by a friend, who points out that the weightlifter in the earlier post was in fact Süleymanoğlu's successor as the Turkish 'Pocket Hercules', the 150cm Halil Mutlu. I hope that this clearly-titled post, with its picture of Naim Süleymanoğlu, will resolve any confusion.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sonata 2007

This is the future. And it makes me feel slightly uneasy.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My Brother's Tidiness Survey

My brother wants people to take photos of their desks and post them on their blogs, for reasons I can't quite fathom. I suppose it will indicate a) that we are all equally messy, and b) that computers have taken over the world. Where's the old Remington typewriter when you need it?

Naim Süleymanoğlu

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Jenny Wren (troglodytes troglodytes)

I saw one of these on the green today. It was very small, about as long as my little finger.


Some people have a deal too much time on their hands.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sergei Bolmat (1960-)

Author of the bestseller Сами по себе (1999).


Der Mops

Der Mops kam in die Küche
Und stahl dem Koch ein Ei:
Da nahm der Koch den Löffel
Und schlug den Mops entzwei.

Da kamen all Möpse
Und gruben ihm ein Grab
Und setzten ihm ein Denkmal
Darauf geschrieben stand:

"Der Mops kam in die Küche
Und stahl dem Koch ein Ei...

Repeat as necessary.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

W.N.P. Barbellion (1889-1917)

Pseudonym of Bruce Frederick Cummings (1889-1919). 'W.N.P.' stands for 'Wilhelm Nero Pilate', which puts him up there in the pseudonym stakes alongside James Thomson (B.V.). I've just read The Journal of a Disappointed Man, which is amazing. Here is a not particularly representative extract which gives you an idea of how he viewed himself:

'My father was Sir Thomas Browne and my mother Marie Bashkirtseff. See what a curious hybrid I am!'

Here is a more representative extract:

'To-day I have reviewed the situation carefully, exhaustively. I have peered into every aspect of my life and achievements and everything I have seen nauseates me. I can find no ray of comfort in anything I have done or in anything I might do. My life seems to have been a wilderness of futile endeavour. I started wrong from the very beginning. At the moment of my birth I was coming into the world in the wrong place and under wrong conditions. Why seek to overcome such colossal initial disadvantages. In this mood I found fault with my parentage, my inheritance, all my mental and physical disabilities.'

It's a great book. Marie Bashkirtseff, incidentally, is a Ukrainian artist and diarist whose diary was published in English in 1889 as I Am The Most Interesting Book Of All. Here is one of her pictures, Jeune fille lisant la question du divorce (1880)

The Paper Nautilus

The knowledge of the varying forms of the living Mollusks, of their habits and powers, has been increased, and is likely to be materially advanced, by the rapidly extending practice of preserving them in confined spaces of sea or fresh water. Poli, Montagu, and before them probably other lovers of nature, resident near the sea, availed themselves of large vessels to keep alive, in frequently renewed sea-water, the marine animals in the study of which they were interested. But to Madame Jeannette Power (née de Villepreux), according to the testimony of Professor Carmelo Maravigna, in the Journal du Cabinet Littéraire de l'Academia Gioenia, of Catania , for December 1834, ought to be attributed, if to any one individual, the invention and systematic application of the receptacles now called Aquaria, to the study of marine, and principally of molluscous animals.

Madame Power invented three kinds: one of glass, for preserving and studying living Mollusca in a room; another, also of glass, for small Mollusks, protected by an external cage of bars, in which they could be kept submerged in the sea, and withdrawn at will for inspection; and a third kind of cage for larger Mollusks, which could be sunk and anchored at a given depth in the sea, and raised, when required, for the purpose of observation and experiment. With these different kinds of molluscous menageries, of which the first answers to our present improved and enlarged aquaria, Madame Power carried on her observations and experiments from the year 1832 to 1842 at Messina in Sicily.

She determined the question of the true relation of the Argonauta, or Paper Nautilus, to the delicate boat-like shell which it inhabits. She first showed that the so-called "sails" were normally applied over the exterior of the shell, and proved experimentally that they were the organs which formed and repaired the shell. She proved that the Bulla lignaria preyed upon, and by its strong gizzard ground down and digested, the Dentalium entale. She described the curious manoeuvers by which the Astropecten aurantiacus seized and conveyed to its mouth and stomach small Naticae. And many other interesting facts were brought to light by this persevering and ingenious observer, through the application of the "Gabioline alla Power", as her aquaria were termed by the Gioenia Academy, some years before the practice of so studying aquatic animals was introduced and diffused in this country.

Richard Owen, Introduction to MOLLUSCA (1858)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Revelers

This link takes you to my brother-in-law's group and their song, 'Clone'. They may be posting more videos soon: watch this space.

Pelléas et Mélisande (1902)

The full piano score is here.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Purple-Breasted Gallinule

A bird, rather like an irradiated moorhen, which has had the misfortune to inspire the following poem:

'O, purple-breasted Gallinule
Why should thy beauty cause thee fear?
Why should the huntsman seek to fool
Thy inocence, and bring thee near
His deadly tool of fire and lead?
Thou holdest high thy stately head!
Would that the hunter might consent
To leave thee in thy sweet content.'

Although 'O, purple-breasted Gallinule' is riding high on my list of favourite poetic lines at the moment.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Current Favourite Title, Current Favourite Sentences

Abiezer Coppe, A Fiery Flying Roll (1649)

'And under all this terror, and amazement, there was a little spark of transcendent, transplendent, unspeakable glory, which survived, and sustained itself, triumphing, exulting, and exalting it self above all the fiends. And, confounding all the blackness of darkness (you must take it in these terms, for it is infinitely beyond expression.) Upon this the life was taken out of the body (for a season) and it was thus resembled, as if a man with a great brush dipped in whiting, should with one stroke wipe out, or sweep off a picture upon a wall, &c. After a while, breath and life was returned into the form again. Whereupon I saw various streams of light (in the night) which appeared to the outward eye, and immediately I saw three hearts (or three appearances) in the form of hearts, of exceeding brightness; and immediately an innumerable company of hearts, filling each corner of the room where I was. And methoughts there was variety and distinction, as if there had been several hearts, and yet most strangely unexpressably complicated or folded up in unity. I clearly saw distinction, diversity, variety, and as clearly saw all swallowed up into unity. And it hath been my song many times since, within and without, unity, universality, universality, unity, Eternal Majesty, &c. And at this vision, a most strong, glorious voice uttered these words: The spirits of just men made perfect. The spirits, &c. with whom I had as absolute, clear, full communion, and in a twofold more familiar way, than ever I had outwardly with my dearest friends and nearest relations. The visions and revelations of God and the strong hand of eternal invisible almightiness was stretched out upon me, within me, for the space of four days and nights without intermission.'

This is from AFFR: the whole thing's available here

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Moskovskiy Metropoliten

For your inner nerd, this is an interactive map of the Moscow metro. Click on any two points and it will show you the route between them, and how long it should take. For your outer nerd as well, I suppose.

Christopher Caudwell (1907-1937)

The Progress of Poetry

I saw a Gardener with a watering can
Sprinkling dejectedly the heads of men
Buried up to their necks in the wet clay.

I saw a Bishop born in sober black
With a bewildered look on his small face
Being rocked in a cradle by a grey-haired woman.

I saw a man, with an air of painful duty
Binding his privates up with bunches of ribbon.
The woman who helped him was decently veiled in white.

I said to the Gardener: 'When I was a younger poet
At least my reference to death had some sonority.
I sang the danger and the deeps of love.

'Is the world poxy with a fresh disease?
Or is this a maggot I feel here, gnawing my breast
And wrinkiling my five senses like a walnut's kernel?'

The Gardener answered: 'I am more vexed by the lichen
Upon my walls. I scraped it off with a spade.
As I did so I heard a very human scream.

'In evening's sacred cool, among my bushes
A Figure was wont to walk. I deemed it angel.
But look at that footprint. There's hair between the toes!'

From Christopher Caudwell, Poems (1939, repr. London, Lawrence and Wishart 1965)

Yuki Yukite Shingun

I saw this film a couple of days ago. It is every bit as strange as this review makes it sound.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kohei Yoshiyuki (1946-)

Friday, October 19, 2007


The Eleven Asertions of Daniil Ivanovich Kharms

Assertion I
Objects have disappeared.
Assertion II
It used to be that the numerical series began with 2. 1 is not a number. 1 is the first and sole perfection. The first quantity, the first number, and the first departure from perfection is 2. (Pythagoras's unit)
Assertion III
Let us imagine that 1 is the first number.
Assertion IV
The new 1 is subject to the law of common numbers. The law of numbers is the law of masses. (Kharms's unit)
Assertion V
The law of single 1s is false - there is no such law. There is only the law of masses.
Assertion VI
The object is disarmed. It has been repudiated. Only the heap is armed.
Assertion VII
The law of large and small numbers is the same. The difference is only quantitative.
Assertion VIII
The human being and the word and the number are subject to one and the same law.
Assertion IX
New human thought has moved and flowed. It became fluid. The old human thought says about the new that 'it has become touched'. That is why for some people the Bolsheviks are insane.
Assertion X
One person thinks logically, many people think fluidly.
Assertion XI
I am one, but I think fluidly.

18 March 1930

Adapted from Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky, The Man with the Black Coat: Russia's Literature of the Absurd (ed. and trans. George Gibian, Evanston, Northwestern University Press 1987)


'Somebody came against a very popular preacher. "He's getting too rich and big. I want something done to keep him down. They tell me he's 'bout to get to be a bishop. I sho' should hate for that to happen. I got forty dollars in my pocket right now for the work."
So that night the altar blazed with the blue light. We wrote the preacher's name on a slip of paper with black ink. We took a small doll and ripped open its back and put in the paper with the name along with some bitter aloes and cayenne pepper and sewed the rip up again with the black thread. The hands of the doll were tied behind it and a black veil tied over the face and knotted behind it so that the man it represented would be blind and always do things to keep himself from progressing. The doll was then placed in a kneeling position in a dark corner where it would not be disturbed. He would be frustrated as long as the doll was not disturbed.'
Zora Neale Hurston Mules and Men (1935)

A braver man would tell you about the Black Cat Bone as well.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Greenlander; The Real Thing

Well, it's a theory...

'As a general rule, I believe that translation should be a work of collaboration. The person responsible for the final version into English, let us say, must not only possess English as his mother-tongue; he must also be a master of it, alive to its subtlest nuances. But very few writers who are masters of their own tongue have equal mastery over another. As his collaborator, therefore, he needs a person who knows some English but whose mother tongue is the original, or, in the case of dead languages like Greek and Latin, a first-rate philological scholar.'

Friday, October 12, 2007

Save the Planet!

On the day that Al Gore and his pals are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, I have made a job application. This has involved filling in an application form and providing a statement of what my current work was, and of the work I would do if I got the job. I also had to send in a selection from my current work to the tune of about 30,000 words. Fair enough.

However, the application form has to be submitted in duodecimate (12 copies, just in case I've got my adjective wrong). That makes 5 x 12 = 60 pages. The statement of current work also has to be submitted in duodecimate. 4 x 12 = 48 pages. The selection from my current work has to be submitted in duplicate, single-sided. 2 x 81 = 162 pages. Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form. 1 page. Covering letter. 1 page. A total of 60 + 48 + 162 + 1 + 1 = 272 sheets of paper. There are on average eighty applicants to any one job in my field, and there are four jobs on offer in this particular competition. Say 300 applicants and you're being conservative. 300 x 272 = 81,600 pages.

Add to this that it is only the short-listed candidates whose work is actually read. A short list is normally four or five people. Say a short list of twenty for these four posts. 272 x 20 = 5,440 pages which are actually read. Which is about 7%.

I can't help thinking that there must be a better way of doing things. Specifically, an application process which does not require a small novel in hard copy from each applicant and then throws away 93% of them after only reading the first ten pages (which, to stretch the analogy a little too far, are each printed twelve times). In any case, I'd be interested to know what the recycling policy is at this particular concern.

There is always the possibility that I've just overdosed on cute polar bears.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Elephants and Bees

This, if you get past the pun in the article title, and the fact that you'll need some sound to get its full effect, and the fact that you have to sit through a terrible ad with Vinnie Jones in it before the main feature, is some nice footage of elephants being conned by tape recorders.

More Yu Xuanji

Saying Goodbye

Several nights in this gorgeous pavilion
and I began to have expectations

until my darling surprised me -
he had to be off on a journey

so I sleep alone and don't discuss
the whereabouts of clouds

around the lamp, now almost spent,
one lost moth is circling.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Yu Xuanji (844-871)

Poem for the Willows by the River

The calm blue sky and its reflection
frame the barren riverbanks

huge shapes of misty cloud
merge into distant mansions

upside-down, many images
spread on the autumn waters

flowers drop from time to time
onto the head of the fisherman

old roots mark the dens
where many fish are hiding

hanging branches offer mooring
to the boats of travellers

the night tosses and sighs
all filled with wind and rain

and dreaming astonishing dreams
only enlarges my gloom.

(trans. David Young and Jiann I. Lin)

Yu Xuanji: her name means 'dark secret fish'; the translators say that this 'is unusual'. People don't know much about her: it is conjectured that in her time, Yu was consecutively a concubine, a nun and a courtesan. She was executed in 871 for beating a servant to death.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Nicholas Hughes

There is more information about him, and more spooky pictures, here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bald Eagle

It was the combined 325th birthday of my immediate family over the summer, and we had a meal yesterday to celebrate parts of it. The fluffy bald eagle has a voice-box inside it, and warbles a cheery bald eagle note when you compress its sternum. Any experts in avian anatomy who wish to correct me may do so.

My New Capital

We went to Madrid, a place I had never been to for longer than it took to transfer between aeroplanes. Madrid has:
false doors in front of real doors;

geometrically laid-out gardens;

streets named after foodstuffs;

a vast monument to Miguel de Cervantes;

and you can never have enough geometrically laid-out gardens.

Madrid also has a three-day conference on travel literature, which was the first one we had attended as a husband-and-wife team. Reflected glory tastes as good as real glory.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Tuesday, September 11, 2007


The sons of the Prophet were brave men and bold,
And quite unaccustomed to fear.
But the bravest of all was a man I am told
Named Abdullah Bulbul Ameer.

When they needed a man to encourage the van
Or harass a foe from the rear.
Storm fort or redoubt they had only to shout
For Abdullah Bulbul Ameer.

This son of the desert in battle aroused
Could split twenty men on his spear.
A terrible creature when sober or soused
Was Abdullah Bulbul Ameer.

The heroes were plenty and well known to fame
That fought in the ranks of the Czar.
But the greatest of these was a man by the name
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

He could imitate Irving, play poker or pool
And strum on the Spanish guitar.
In fact quite the cream of the Muscovite team
Was Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

The ladies all loved him, his rivals were few
He could drink them all under the bar.
Come gallant or tank there was no one to rank
With Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

One day this bold Russian had shouldered his gun
And donned his most truculent sneer.
Downtown he did go where he trod on the toe
Of Abdullah Bulbul Ameer.

"Young man", quoth Bulbul, "Has your life grown so dull
That you're eager to end your career?
Vile infidel know you have trod on the toe
Of Abdullah Bulbul Ameer."

"So take your last look at the sunshine and brook
And send your regrets to the Czar.
By this I imply you are going to die,
Mr. Ivan Skavinsky Skivar."

Said Ivan, "My friend, your remarks in the end
Will avail you but little, I fear.
For you ne'er will survive to repeat them alive,
Mr. Abdullah Bulbul Ameer."

Then this bold Mamalouk drew his trusty skibouk
With a cry of "Allahu Akbar".
And with murderous intent he ferociously went
For Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

They parried and thrust, they sidestepped and cussed
Of blood they spilled a great lot.
The philologist blokes, who seldom crack jokes,
Say that hash was first made on that spot.

They fought all that night 'neath the pale yellow moon,
The din it was heard from afar.
And multitudes came, so great was the fame,
Of Abdul and Ivan Skivar.

As Abdul's long knife was extracting the life,
In fact he had shouted, "Huzzah!"
He felt himself struck by that wily Calmuck,
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

The Sultan drove by in his red-crested fly,
Expecting the victor to cheer.
But he only drew nigh just to hear the last sigh
Of Abdullah Bulbul Ameer.

Czar Petrovich too, in his spectacles blue
Drove up in his new crested car.
He arrived just in time to exchange a last line
With Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

A tomb rises up where the Blue Danube rolls,
And 'graved there in characters clear,
Is "Stranger when passing, oh pray for the soul
Of Abdullah Bulbul Ameer."

A splash in the Black Sea one dark moonless night,
Caused ripples to spread near and far.
It was made by a sack fitting close to the back
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps,
'Neath the light of the pale polar star.
And the name that she murmurs so oft as she weeps
Is Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ivan Vladimirov (1869-1947)

Lenin and Stalin in Summer 1917 (c.1945)

Mikhail Bozhiy (1911-1990)

Stalin in the Civil War (1950)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Boris Vladimirskiy (1878-1950)

Roses for Stalin (1949)

Karp Trokhimenko (1885-1979)

Stalin as an Organiser of the October Revolution (c. 1945)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Upupa epops

A present from a friend.

Monday, September 03, 2007

We are lived by powers we pretend to understand

This is the first entry in a series that recently celebrated its fortieth. Unluckily, they aren't all archived in one place, so you'll have to look for them yourself. Worth the detour.

The Tipping Point

Suddenly, social interaction seems incredibly complicated.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Beginnings Again

This one moves to the head of the pack:

'There was once a king who, during a leisurely stroll one day, found a louse on him. A king's louse, he thought, is to be respected. So instead of delousing himself, he took it home to the royal palace and cared for it. The louse grew fat, as fat as a cat, and spent the whole day in a chair. Then it got as fat as a pig and had to be moved to an easy chair. When it became as fat as a calf, it had to be put in a barn. But the louse continued to fatten and soon outgrew the barn, so the king had it slaughtered. Once it was slaughtered, he had it skinned and the hide nailed to the palace door. Then he issued a proclamation: whoever guessed which animal's hide it was would have his daughter in marriage; but whoever guessed wrong would be condemned to death.'
Louse Hide (Rome)

Thursday, August 30, 2007


This is Super Scrabble. Its main advantage over Scrabble is that games take a whole lot longer to play. I sound slightly bitter because I lost. Comprehensively. But I did get to put down an ocelot. Which segues neatly into the following ocelot-related anthology.

If I could be any one of the things
In the world that bites
Instead of an endangered ocelot on a leash
I'd rather be your kite
(Lou Reed's inventive interpretation of scansion in 'Andy's Chest')

I'll be the first ever Asian astronaut
Blasting off, casting off
The ties that bind like a smashed guitar
Rode a mastodon out of Jurassic Park
Chased by a fan in a Tyrannosaur mask
Travel the traffic cop past the spot
Where the ostrich got across for the ocelot
(Blackalicious's inventive interpretation of sense in 'Do This My Way')

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Current Favourite Exchange

Scene: The Gypsy Encampment


DIEGO: Where are the Gypsies?

Middleton and Rowley, The Spanish Gipsie (1623)

Saturday, August 25, 2007


I'm reading Italo Calvino's collection of Italian folktales at the moment. They're great, especially the beginnings - in the middle they tend to conform all-too-neatly to folktale morphology. You know the drill: three keys made of crystal, silver and gold, a standard 2:1 ugly to virtuous sister ratio. And they don't call it a fairytale ending for nothing. But they all start off like gangbusters. The translation is by George Martin.

'A boy had taken it into his head to go out and steal. He also told his mother.
"Aren't you ashamed!" said his mother. "Go to confession at once, and you'll see what the priest has to say to you."
The boy went to confession. "Stealing is a sin," said the priest, "unless you steal from thieves."
The boy went to the wood and found thieves. He knocked at their door and got himself hired as a servant.
"We steal," explained the thieves, "but we're not committing a sin, because we rob the tax collectors."
One night when the thieves had gone out to rob a tax collector, the boy led the best mule out of the stable, loaded it with gold pieces, and fled.'
The Three Castles (Monferrato)

'There were twelve brothers who fell out with their father, and all twelve of them left home. They built themselves a house in the woods and made their living as carpenters. Meanwhile their parents had a baby girl, who was a great comfort to them. The child grew up without ever meeting her twelve brothers. She had only heard them mentioned, and she longed to see them.
One day she went to bathe at a fountain, and the first thing she did was remove her coral necklace and hang it on a twig. A raven came by, grabbed the necklace, and flew off with it. The girl ran into the woods after the raven and found her brothers' house. No one was at home, so she cooked the noodles, spooned them onto the brothers' plates, and hid under a bed.'
The Twelve Oxen (Monferrato)

'Once there was a king who, for a son, had a pig named King Crin. King Crin would saunter through the royal chambers and usually behave beautifully, as befits anybody of royal birth. Sometimes, though, he was cross. On one such occasion, his father asked, while stroking his back, "What is the matter? Why are you so cross?"
"Oink, oink," grunted King Crin. "I want a wife. Oink, oink, I want the baker's daughter!"
The king sent for the baker, who had three daughters, and asked if his oldest daughter was willing to marry his pig-son. Torn between the thrill of marrying the king's son and the horror of marrying a pig, the daughter made up her mind to accept the proposal.'
King Crin (Colline del Po)

'There was once a young man who spent his days in cafés challenging people to a game of billiards.'
The Billiards Player (Milan)

'One day a young man said, "This tale about everybody having to die doesn't set too well with me. I will go in search of the land where one never dies."'
The Land Where One Never Dies (Verona)

'Once there was a man devoted exclusively to St. Joseph. He addressed all his prayers to St. Joseph, lit candles to St. Joseph, gave alms in the name of St. Joseph; in short, he recognised no one but St. Joseph. His dying day came, and he went before St. Peter.'
The Devotee of St. Joseph (Verona)

'There was once a mother and father with two little boys and a girl. The father was often away from home travelling and one day when he was away the two little boys said to their mother, "We are going to meet Papa!" Their mother replied, "Yes, yes, go ahead."
When they reached the woods the children stopped to play. Shortly afterward, they saw their father approaching and ran up and grabbed him around the legs, saying, "Papa! Papa!"
The father was in a bad humour that day and replied, "Don't bother me! Go away!" But the boys paid no attention and went on pulling on his legs.
Thoroughly irritated, the father yelled, "The Devil take you both!" In that moment the Devil came out and took them away before the father knew what had happened to them.'
Silent for Seven Years (Venice)

'A woman was expecting a baby and craved parsley. Next door to her lived a famous witch who had a whole garden of parsley. The garden gate was always open, since the parsley was so abundant, and all who wished could go in and help themselves. The woman with a craving for parsley went in, fell to, and didn't stop until she'd eaten half the garden.'
The Cloven Youth (Venice)

'A king issued a proclamation that whoever succeeded in giving his daughter her fill of figs would have her as his wife.'
The King's Daughter Who Could Never Get Enough Figs (Romagna)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Current Favourite Sentence

At the Institute they are singing On Human
Symbiosis and the Vicissitudes
of Individuation.

Yes, I know the last favourite sentence was only yesterday. What can I say? I'm fickle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Current Favourite Sentence

'Your Majesty had best remain out of sight,' remonstrated the Dean, but the King said, havers, this was the daftest ploy he'd been engaged in since he was a sackless callant, and naething would gar him miss any o' the whim-whams.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Here is some top-quality sumo action for you to watch. This is about as exciting as it gets: the controversial Asashoryu in action.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


This was what I saw, or rather didn't see, when I got out of bed this morning and then (who wouldn't?) groped my way down to the beach.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

Things had been going so well. After the cornucopia of caricatured copulation in the last entry, I thought maybe there might be a run of cheerful stories and images, puppies and kittens and suchlike. But then the Master of Gloom ups and dies on us. Well, at least this is a still from one of his more cheerful movies. Although if you follow the link, you'll notice that the plot keywords are: Young Wife; Sweden; Maid; Suicide Attempt; Adultery; Country House; Farce; Nobleman; Societal Hypocrisy; Moral Hypocrisy; Russian Roulette; Aristocracy; Costume Drama; Housemaid; Law; Mistress; Officer. Which doesn't promise to be a bundle of laughs.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

All the News that's Fit to Print

A bit of backstory. el jueves (or to give it its full title, el jueves: La revista que sale los miércoles [Thursday, the magazine published on Wednesdays]), is the Spanish equivalent of Private Eye. The big story last week was that Presidente Zapatero has decided to give €2,500 to each family per child born after July 3rd. This explains the front cover of el jueves 1,573.

The headline says, '€2,500 for a kid'
The subheading says, 'We see there are elections coming up, Zappy!'
The two figures are recognisably Prince Felipe of the Asturias, the next in line to the throne, and his wife Letizia.
Cheery Felipe is saying, 'Just fancy! If you get knocked up, it'll be the closest thing to work I've done all my life!'
Naturally, the royal family were displeased. Also, and more importantly, the judiciary. The magazine was ruled offensive and withdrawn from circulation. el jueves was also asked to print a retraction. Which it did: this is the cover of No: 1,574, with new pictures of Felipe and Letizia.

The headline says, 'A correction!'
The subheading says, 'This is the cover we wanted to print!'
I think that what I'm feeling is admiration.