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.