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The Remembrance of Distemper

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 11 Jan 2016, 03:35
Tonight at my local pub, the snug was stripped bare for repainting. The Sunday regulars discussed interior decorating for a while, and then someone (I think it was the pint of IPA) mentioned distemper: something which was common before we started decorating our interior walls with emulsion.


Distemper! A Marcel Proust moment for me, with paint in place of cake. Not only do I remember the wall that half a century ago I was sent to distemper, I remember too the colour (a sort of orange my mother wanted). I can see now details of the room: where the windows are; the dressing table; the adjoining washroom with its obscure glass window and fanlight; the coat-hook on the door. I feel the texture of the wall, grasp the handle of my broad, black-bristled paintbrush. 

Distemper has been and is still is used as an art medium. Here's an attractive example from 1918. What a super composition! And there is an interesting story surrounding it; try looking up "The Grand Teddy Tea Rooms paintings."


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Le_Grand_Teddy.jpg

 


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Birds Fly Home

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The wind is cold,

and the birds fly home.

Winter twilight.

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The Interrogation

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 8 Jan 2016, 03:28

"Would a star burn a flag?", was whispered in my ear.

Then was I saved; for I could neither see nor hear.

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The Red, White and Blue, Episode 1 trailer

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 8 Jan 2016, 00:26

Flags should be ashamed of the beauty of the skies. Watch episode 1 to learn why.

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Cicada Song

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 7 Jan 2016, 16:39

That hot day

Cicadas bellowed at us.

"One chance, one chance."

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Resonance

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The greatest poets have written lines memorable even in translation. Here is one I read for the first time ever today

Death will come, and she will have your eyes.

I remembered it instantly (even though I got it wrong) after reading it here. And I was drawn there by a reference in Primo Levi's book The periodic table. Specifically the chapter on Nickel.

Levi himself was a poet, and a good one: as well as much else. But he doesn't come near "Death will come.." in my eyes, and the young translator of this captured an eternal voice.



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These roads I must feel

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These roads I must feel

Travelling alone in the night.

Morning please look out

And kiss my eyes.

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Joke from the Cambridge Fringe

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Keep your toenails carefully filed. Then you won't lose them.

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Mondegreen

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This is another mondegreen I've collected. Last night I heard someone say "She's an heiress".

What they actually said was "She's hilarious".

This is another example of Steve Pinker's observation that the phrase the listener hears is often less plausible than the actual utterance.

The person being spoken about is indeed very funny, but I'm pretty sure she isn't an heiress. However "heiress" was what it sounded like to me.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by David Tracey, Tuesday, 5 Jan 2016, 13:57)
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Here Be Dragons

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 5 Jan 2016, 02:17

Entering the cathedral of Kraców, you can't help noticing, that high on the left-hand side, are huge bones, bound by rusty chains.

These, in legend, are the remains of the local dragon, Smok Wawelski (pictured below). The exact details vary a bit, but a long time ago this dragon lived in a cave lower down on the rock than the modern cathedral (and still accessible to visitors).


The dragon terrorized and ravaged the land thereabout, because dragons do ("fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, dragons gotta terrorize and ravage"). However, as happens often with  mega-fauna, open conflict with the interests of humans led to it being slain.

"Smok Wawelski" sounds like the dragon's personal name (usually not mentioned in dragon-lore). But Smok is just old Polish for dragon or snake (like "worm" in Anglo-Saxon), and the second part comes from the location, Wawel being the rock on which the cathedral was founded, post-dragon. So this was just the Wawel dragon.

"Smok" might be the origin — and it's controversial — of the word schmuch (and many variant spellings), which means "a contemptible person", according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The origin is the Yiddish word for penis (I never knew that before!), and it's a taboo word in that language. The possible connection is with snake. The OED records the slang term "trouser snake" to mean, well, penis.

Many scholars don't agree with this derivation. No-one will never know the etymology for sure: unless there is a continuous documentary record of a word's use we can never be certain where it came from: and in fact the origin of a word can follow two or more parallel strands. Given the taboo associations it's even more hard to trace.

The bones?

Coffins in the crypt hold those of Jagiellonian kings. Bones on the wall belonged to Pleistocene whales.

And I wonder where the name "Smaug" came from.


Credit: wikimedia


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The Joke Factory Again

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The latest from the Elves, based on field notes we fed them

Question: Why aren't recycling bins made standard?

Answer: Because the system's rubbish.

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Schrodinger's cat rites home

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 3 Jan 2016, 18:54

dear mater and pater

a Physics teecher put me in a nasty box, it was HOORIBLE with know air holes I didnt no if i was alive or ded

Yours sincerly Felix



(With apols to Nigel Molesworth)


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My Ancestor Knew Doctor Pavlov

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Gran paraded us the pedigree again.

"Descendants of Pavlov's dogs."

I thought

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a spit."


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Dar me um beso

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At least

This

Kiss 

Exists

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New blog post

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Cold winter rain

Made us cry

But not for long

Your warm hands

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Figure of Speech

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I've often thought like this before; just be kind, what matters more?

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FELIX NOVVS ANNVS

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Untitled

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The young laugh. The old know.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richard Walker, Thursday, 31 Dec 2015, 19:28)
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Sardonic Sardines

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Years back some friends booked a holiday in Sardinia.

The youngest daughter was in a flood of tears. "But I don't like sardines", she wailed.

We laughed then, not knowing that the fish probably is named for the island. So she may have had a point; although sardine consumption has never been compulsory (except at some birthday parties etc. in my youth).

And what about sardonic? Perhaps it's from the same root. Homer used sardanios to mean biting humour; maybe because eating a kind of plant that grew there (what plant though?) was supposed to give you a hideous (and perhaps fatal) grin if you ate it. A rictus.

I can't put my finger on the Homer reference, and these derivations may both be mistaken.

But here is an example of a sardonic sardine, from Spike Milligan. If I get a take down notice, then of course I will comply.

   A baby sardine
   Saw her first submarine:
   She was scared and watched through a peephole.
   "Oh, come, come, come,"
   Said the sardine's mum
   "It's only a tin full of people."



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Rainbow Haiku

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Does a rainbow exist? It's a beautiful thought.

At any rate, don't go digging there.

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Sunset, Looking East

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Sunrise and sunset provide some of the most beautiful sights in the sky. But we only usually bother to look towards the rising or setting sun, and not in the opposite direction, and so we miss some interesting effects.

My photo below was taken at 4pm this evening, facing east.


You can see that a band of sky, and a small stray cloud above, is illuminated by the pink rays from the setting sun in the opposite part of the sky, and that below the pink band there is a blue-grey one, which I think is the shadow of the earth on the atmosphere.

The effect would be more striking given a flatter horizon and a better camera than the one on my phone, but all the same I was pleased to get this shot.




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Classical One-Liner

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Question - What would you call the chariot of the Sun?

Answer - An awesome cart.

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Joke Factory #2

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What can make you laugh but also stop you laughing? 

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richard Walker, Monday, 28 Dec 2015, 23:05)
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The Joke Factory

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 27 Dec 2015, 00:41

After reading a number of 'jokes' or 'mottoes' that people have had the effrontery to insert in crackers and pass off as humour, I propose to set up a joke factory with stricter quality control. The start-up already has a number of visionary backers.

The investors and I hope in time to completely automate the process but for now we've had to rely on humans to craft our jokes. The first joke has just been delivered. Remember you read it here first.

Question: What do you call an angry worm that goes "Hey nonny no"?

Answer: A mad wriggle singer.

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Celandines Out

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 27 Dec 2015, 00:20

The celandines are out




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