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More holidays than a medieval monastery


Well, whaddya know? It’s National Poetry Day. Not as compelling as National Badger Day, but I’m home late tonight.

What do I know from poetry? Oh, it’s that impenetrable stuff I skip past when I’m reading a novel, is what. My personal taste runs to saucy limericks (I remind you I lived in Pawtucket for seven years).

I’ll get us started with my favorite:

There once was a woman from Exeter,
So beautiful, men craned their necks at her.
And then the more brave
Would smile and wave
…the distinguishing marks of their sex at her.

Beeyootiful! See you back here tomorrow, six sharp, for Dead Pool Round 78.

October 8, 2015 — 10:01 pm
Comments: 6

Good heavens! Is it National Badger Day *already*?


Well, lookit that. Tuesday, October 6 is National Badger Day (which I’m pretty sure is a totally made up fundraising holiday invented by the National Badger Trust).

In honor of this most artificial of celebrations, here are ten badger facts I totally lifted verbatim from today’s Express:

1. The earliest recorded use of the word “badger” for the animal was in 1523. Before that, it was called a “brock” or “bauson”.

2. “Badger” was originally (around 1500) a word for an itinerant trader.

3. The animal was probably called a “badger” from the badge-like white mark on its forehead.

4. Another theory it that is comes from the French word “bêcheur” meaning a digger.

5. Badgers feed mainly on earthworms of which they may eat hundreds every night.

6. According to an old belief, when a badger bites, it will not loosen its grip until its teeth meet.

7. A male badger is a boar, a female is a sow, the young are cubs and their system of underground burrows is a sett.

8. Interfering with a badger sett is an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. So is obstructing access to any entrance of a sett.

9. The honey badger, or ratel, is considered by many to be the world’s most ferocious and fearless animal.

10. The word “badger” does not appear in any Shakespeare play but Twelfth Night mentions “brock” once.

Must find out who does badger PR. Weasels could use a bit of that.

October 6, 2015 — 7:10 pm
Comments: 12

Today’s the day! Callooh callay!


This is the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this is the day supermarkets in Britain which have more than 250 employees are required by law to charge customers 5p for a shopping bag.

They can do what they like with the money they collect, provided it goes to a ‘worthy cause.’ One worthy cause might be a charity for providing free shopping bags to Britons pissed off by radical green legislation that keeps making it through Parliament somehow, even though they never win an election anywhere, ever (except Brighton, ’nuff said). Bets are, the Prime Minister’s bobble-headed soft-left wife is behind this one.

The papers have decided on a sarky approach to the general public disgruntlement. And the disgruntled general public is inclined to be sarky right back about the difference it’s gonna make to ‘the environment.’

See, when they did this in Wales, supermarket bag use was reduced by 71%. Which looks like a minor something useful until you reflect that those supermarket bags have been replaced by ‘bags for life’ — which, naturally, aren’t for life. Duh. They use roughly ten times the plastic, cost about ten times as much and last about ten times as long as regular bags. That’s what we call a wash. Except, if you reuse them enough, they pick up all sorts of nifty bugs from your raw food.

Today we went shopping, put our stuff in ‘bags for life’ — and bought a roll of small garbage bags for the kitchen messy bin, where recycled carrier bags used to do. Take that, gaia! Virtue signalling is my new favorite term of abuse.

Truth is, this is just one more pointless, pushy lefty inconvenience in a life made increasingly pinched and gray by neopuritan gesture politics.

October 5, 2015 — 10:03 pm
Comments: 15

Good for a laugh


The next Assassin’s Creed game is set in Victorian London, I guess, because they sent me this promotion tonight: The Nineteenth Century Search Engine.

Fun animation. Good for minutes of wholesome fun! The first search term I tried was “coal.”

Have a good weekend, everyone! We’re overdue for a weekend at home, not looking at any fine antiques but each other.

October 2, 2015 — 10:18 pm
Comments: 5

Food always looks so awful in black and white


I bought myself one of these last week. It’s a small plastic rice smusher which, like all silly and fun kitchen gadgets, cost me stupid money. I love it.

I squished the rice a little too forcefully and my, er, rice cubes were a bit hard. But if you don’t, they go to bits in the soy sauce.

Need more practice.

Oh, the ones in the back are smoked salmon and cream cheese. The ones in the front (with the turd-like inclusionis) are tuna and pickle. Thus proving I really don’t ‘get’ sushi.

October 1, 2015 — 10:30 pm
Comments: 11



Lookee what I found on eBay. It’s a…well, look at it. It’s kind of a…hm. It’s a…SWEET FANCY MOSES, WHAT IS THAT THING?

It’s a coin, issued by a real government. Or, at any rate, the government of New Zealand. It has Liz on the other side and everything. It’s a proof coin, so it was only ever intended for collectors. But I have to ask myself…collectors of what?

I’ve been watching the quality of coin designs slide for years but — in all seriousness — there is no excuse for modeling this shitty ever to escape into the wild. Even for the notoriously unfussy collectors’ market. Certainly not with the imprimatur of a real government mint.

Dude’s face fails even the basic properties of bilateral symmetry common to all terrestrial mammals. I wouldn’t accept this level of drawing from a middle school student, not without some pretty stern critique.

Oh, it’s a 2003 proof coin celebrating the coronation of Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings flicks. See the whole thing.

September 30, 2015 — 9:31 pm
Comments: 18

Funny feller


Ah. This is where I went today. I went to see a Richard Dadd exhibition.

Do you know him? I think the picture above is the only one of him; it’s the only one I’ve ever seen, anyway.

He was born in 1817, the son of a chemist. He showed early promise in art, so he was sent off for a proper art education. It stressed him out. When he was 26, he was walking in the park with his father and, without much warning, turned on the old man and murdered him. Cut his throat.

Dadd spent the rest of his life in the loony bin, first in Bedlam, then in Broadmoor. He never really got better. He had lots and lots of time to paint.

Now, I don’t hold with worshipping artists just because they’re crazy. There are plenty of nutcakes of very indifferent talent. But Dadd really was a very good artist. Highly technically accomplished, though the crazy shines through, even in his early work.

By far his most famous painting is The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke, which is, like, two feet by two feet and so crammed full of beautifully rendered crazy that it is almost always exhibited next to some kind of huge blowup (today, it was next to a slide show of extreme closeups).

I had seen some of his oils before, but this was the first time I’d ever seen his watercolors. Holy shit, they were uniquely beautiful but, well…bugfuck crazy. Made of tiny, tiny, tiny flecks of very pale color. Not at all like pointillism, though. Can’t describe it. Can’t find an example online.

Didn’t buy the show catalogue because it wasn’t a show catalogue, it was just a book about Dadd. Will have to search harder.

September 29, 2015 — 9:00 pm
Comments: 13

If it’s Monday, this must be Camelot


For reasons I ain’t quite sure, I have been to five ancient piles in the last week, and I’m up early tomorrow for another. (For those following along at home, they are: the Clergy House, the Priest House, Michelham Priory, Smallhythe Place, Penshurst Place and…erm…I have no idea where I’m going tomorrow. It’s work).

The picture above is Penshurst Place. It’s not my picture. They wouldn’t let us take pictures. We almost snuck and took pictures anyway and I kind of wish we had; the ones online don’t do justice to…well, any of it, but particularly this room. This is the baron’s hall and photos don’t give any sense of the scale and amazingness of it.

Probably the most gobsmacking room I’ve ever been in, ever. It made me whisper bad words in wonder and appreciation.

They filmed chunks of Wolf Hall here. If you haven’t seen it, make an effort.

As for last night’s No Kidding Apocalyptic Death Moon of Plague and Blood and Other Bad Things…meh. It was a clear, cold night here — perfect for viewing. We went out at 1:30 and the moon was impressively big, with a bite out of it. I woke up at 3:00 and discovered it hovering outside the bedroom window, still big, with an even bigger bite out of it. I woke up again at 4:00 (what bad night I had) — supposedly the peak of the phenomenon — and it was pitch black.

Maybe it had moved away from the window. Maybe it was only red for a little while as the shadow passes. I don’t know. Not impressed.

Dear Celestial Doodah: must try harder.

September 28, 2015 — 7:26 pm
Comments: 10

Don’t forget

Blood moon in 45 minutes…!

For once, we have a clear sky. Next time we have an
eclipse plus supermoon, we shall be old, the lot of us.

September 27, 2015 — 11:26 pm
Comments: 6

Old bones


This is what we went to see in Alfriston: the Clergy House. We’ve been several times before; it’s one of my favorites.

The house is a perfect transition from Medieval to Tudor. It was built in the 13th C. The original floor (hard-packed and white, made of sour milk and chalk) had a firepit in the center. It was one big open room, with the master’s table at one end and the servants at the other, just like a Medieval hall (or Viking longhouse). The smoke rose up to the high pitched roof and escaped out the…well, thatch or stone. They’re not sure of the original.

One big smokey, sweaty communal living area, just like Wayland intended.

Then the Tudors got hold of it and installed all sorts of wacky newfangled conveniences, like a fireplace and an upstairs with stairs and rooms.

The picture shows what it looked like in the late 19th, when it had damn near crumbled back into the earth. It was so far gone, it was more easily returned to its original Medieval condition, with the outline of the later innovations still showing.

It’s not one of those so-rebuilt-it’s-practically-Disney sorts of places, though (I’m looking at you, Great Dixter). It’s all original, down to the funky floors and wattle-and-daub construction.

I could spend a lot of time staring at those walls, if the steward hadn’t been such a loquacious and excitable young man.

Remember, now: Dead Pool Round 77. Tomorrow. 6WBT. Be here, or be somewhere else! Or go somewhere else and then come back here!

September 24, 2015 — 9:03 pm
Comments: 6