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)