Archive for the 'Things I Have Learned' Category

Tin Jaw

I was intrigued to learn that the new president of the Land Formerly Known As Burma goes by the resounding name Tin Jaw. At least, that is how the BBC pronounces Htin Kyaw on the Today programme.

Though I wish Mr Jaw no ill, past or present, I cannot help wishing that he personifies a spectacular variant of nominative determinism and that, at some point earlier in his life, he suffered a catastrophic injury to his face which led to him being surgically fitted with a tin jaw.

A tin jaw is perhaps not as gritty and heroic as, say, an iron jaw, but it is a fine name for a head of state.

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The Kibbo Kift Universe

John Hargrave, founder of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, wrote an article in 1925 entitled “A Short Exposition of the Philosophical Basis of the Kibbo Kift”. It includes a passage where Hargrave insists on the “unity of the unique units of the Universe”:

teapots, chairs, mud, electric light bulbs, fingernails, hammers, steam engines, mountains, hats, shoes, needles, tram tickets, lilies, telephones, tents, dynamos, walking sticks, cow dung, churches, iron foundries, neckties, cats, human beings, steel plates, bricks and mortar, glass, sealing-wax, trees, thoughts, tables, music, flowers and flower-pots, clouds, gutter-gratings, books, food, buttons, machine guns, beads, rain, clocks, boots, ferro-concrete, eggs, sunlight, coal, stars, solar systems, slugs, pictures, maggots, wheel bolts, smells, darkness and light, collar-studs, speech, seeds, birds, bootlaces, insects, skeletons, pepper-corns, babies, Space, Time, Matter, all religions, all Spirits, all Matter(s) … all, all, are actually the ONE GREAT POWER.

This is quoted in Annebella Pollen’s book The Kindred Of The Kibbo Kift, which you will recall I recommended during the run of the 2015 Hooting Yard Advent Calendar. If you need any further persuasion to obtain a copy, please note that it has recently been acclaimed as “the most beautiful book in Switzerland”.

My Brother

Watch, listen and learn. Click on the “song” link below.

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Camber Rilnt

Who now remembers Camber Rilnt?

In the long ago, when I was a teenperson, Camber Rilnt was, if not quite my hero, certainly a totemic figure, one I held in awe. I pored over his name with something akin to reverence. Today, on a whim, I tapped “Camber Rilnt” into Google, and it yielded absolutely no results whatsoever. There are millions, probably billions of pages on the world wide interweb, but if Google is to be believed, Camber Rilnt appears on none of them. He has vanished down the plughole of history.

Ah! But I did find him, not once but twice, hiding in plain sight, in a manner not traceable by Google’s algorithms, but present nevertheless. Camber Rilnt lives on!

As for you lot, devoted Hooting Yardists all, do you remember Camber Rilnt? Can you track him down on the web, perhaps in places I missed? Feel free to plunge into the Comments Bath to let me know.

Self-Indulgence At Croydon In Fruit

The Oxford University Press recently published Volume VIII of its majestic Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins. The latest book – a snip at £110 – is devoted to the Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks. As a good Catholic, Hopkins kept a record of the sins he committed, and this new edition includes the previously suppressed details. We learn, for example, of frequent bouts of ”O.H.” (“old habits” – I think we can guess what that means) and of occasions when unseemly thoughts are prompted by the sight of choristers, “cart-boys”, and other young men.

But several other entries are suggestive of the fathomless depths of the poet’s sickening depravity and moral turpitude. He confesses in the privacy of his diary to “looking at and thinking of stallions” and worse, much worse, “self-indulgence at Croydon in fruit”.

How Hopkins escaped prison is one of the enduring mysteries of Victorian Jesuit literature.

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Delusions And Slurry

Just a couple of things to attend to today. First, over at Gruts, Richard Carter quotes some amusing snippets about O. Henry and Osbert Lancaster. One wants to learn much more about the latter’s father-in-law. Were the rest of his “numerous” delusions as delightfully specific as the belief that he “had crossed the Channel with Blériot”?

Second, it has occurred to me that one thing I would really, really like to do is to write a smash hit million-selling pop song about a farmyard mishap, entitled 16 Tons Of Slurry.

Kibbo Kift Diary

For those of you who followed our advent calendar with ever-mounting excitement, and have since become fanatical devotees of the Kibbo Kift, here are some dates for your appointment book. Dr Annebella Pollen, who wrote the book and curated the exhibition, has arranged a series of forthcoming events, to wit:

Wanstead Tap pub, London E7, 26 January

University of Bradford, 27 January

Kibbo Kift study day at Whitechapel Gallery, 6 February

Treadwell’s occult bookshop, London 25 February

Evening of Kibbo Kift-inspired music and art, Whitechapel Gallery, 10 March

Talk (as part of children and socialism series), Marx Memorial Library, London, 17 March

Take your totem!

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Shaman Of Snacks

This little Inuit shaman figure is designed to represent good and evil, or yin and yang, or heaven and hell, in snack-world. In one hand he holds a Twiglet, in the other a Rich Tea biscuit.

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The Blood Of Boobies

Given the seeming ubiquity of vampires in contemporary popular culture, I am surprised that nobody has thought to produce an ornithologically-themed vampire TV series – especially when I learn, from this morning’s Tweet of the Day on BBC Radio Four, that there is, in the Galapagos Islands, a vampire finch which sucks the blood of blue-footed boobies. I am always looking for an excuse to show a picture of the latter bird, so here are a couple of them.

Blue Footed Booby Wallpaper (1)

Toppled Infant

Meanwhile, thanks to Poppy Nisbet for drawing to my attention this snap encountered somewhere on Het Internet. She asks : “ Isn’t this someone from your landscape?”

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Classical Grunting

As Hooting Yard is the home of The Grunty Man, I thought I should draw to your attention the latest “Ancient and Modern” column by Peter Jones in The Spectator:

What a pleasure it was to watch the men’s final at Wimbledon contested with a minimum of grunting, exclaiming and gesticulation. Romans would have approved.

It was well known that athletes and those taking exercise had a tendency to grunt. Seneca the Younger (c. 4 bc–ad 65), multi-millionaire Stoic philosopher and adviser to Nero, described his unfortunate lodgings over the baths, which made him abhor his ears: quite apart from people hawking their wares, depilators making their victims shriek, bathers singing out loud and splashing about, ‘those working out with weights — whether actually working out or just faking it — grunt away; when they let out their breath, they emit shrill wheezes’. The satirist Juvenal mocks the way female gladiators, taught by their trainers to prepare for the real thing, ‘grunt while they practise thrusts at a tree-stump (and then reach for the potty)’.The assumption is that the grunting associated with exercise was largely a matter of showing-off: it sent out the message ‘look what a heroic effort we are putting into all this’. In a philosophical dialogue, Cicero shines a different light on the matter. Discussing mastery of pain, he sees an analogy between bracing the soul in order to keep a stiff upper lip and bracing the body to sustain a supreme physical effort. In both cases, a groan or grunt may help. He cites athletes in training, especially ‘boxers who, unleashing a blow on their opponent, emit a grunt… in order to tense up the body and so increase the force of the hit’. To that extent, Cicero goes on, a man in pain may release a groan — but nothing feeble or piteous — if by bringing a degree of relief it will strengthen his will for the battle against it.

The two Wimbledon finalists provided an admirable example of skill, determination, self-control and minimal, functional grunting. Perhaps the professional grunters and ranters might mend their ways if crowds grunted and ranted back at them in mocking unison.

I feel inspired by this to write a fat and comprehensive World History Of Grunts And Grunting. Watch this space.

Stunned Duchamp

I am much looking forward to the Joseph Cornell exhibition which opened at the Royal Academy at the weekend. Meanwhile, reviewing the show in The Spectator, Martin Gayford tells us:

Cornell … was one of the few ever to ruffle [Marcel] Duchamp’s philosophical cool. At their first meeting, or so the story goes, they discussed the topography of central Paris in enormous detail, building by building – and in French – Cornell mentioning casually only afterwards that he had never visited the city. Duchamp was lost for words.

Cornell spent his entire life on Utopia Parkway in New York, and never travelled further than Maine.

Wives Of Horse-Riding Barbarian Maniacs Bent On Global Domination, No. 1

In the first of our series devoted to the wives of horse-riding barbarian maniacs bent on global domination, we celebrate the intriguingly-named Borte, dearly beloved of Genghis Khan.

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Wooden People

People carved out of wood by the actor Jim Broadbent, in the Royal Festival Hall, snapped by Pansy Cradledew on this day in June MMXV.

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Reincarnation

I have never given serious thought to the idea of reincarnation, and it is about time I did so. After all, we are serious people, are we not?, and we should think seriously about everything, absolutely everything, as it falls within our purview. There will be many subjects deserving of only our fleeting attention, but even those we should consider with all due seriousness. In that spirit, and in the full knowledge that the concept of reincarnation, or the transmigration of souls, is almost certainly arrant poppycock, let us see if we can winkle from it anything of significance.

In some versions of the theory, the transmigrating soul flits from species to species. This would suggest that, immediately before the glorious event that was the arrival upon earth of Mr Key, I might have been, say, a bat or a prawn or a tulip. This is a perfect example of something so foolish that our fleeting attention can fly away from it tout suite, with nary a backward glance. Like the collected written outpourings of Will Self, it can be safely tucked away and forgotten about. We gave it our serious attention, for a moment or two, and then moved on, sensibly, as sensible and serious persons do.

Of more interest is the idea that, as the spark of life is extinguished in one human corporeal being, at the very moment when life passes it makes a leap into a brand new host. Though as preposterous as the idea that I was once a tulip, this at least has a certain tidiness about it. If, for a while, we entertain the possibility of it being true, the urgent question then thumps inside our heads – who were you, Mr Key, before you were Mr Key?

I am minded to date the dawn of my existence not to the date of birth, but to the moment of conception in my mother’s womb. Unless one’s father is a precise and punctilious Walter Shandy figure, that moment is well nigh impossible to pinpoint, so the best we can do is to use informed guesswork. Counting backwards from the date of my (premature) birth, it is likely that I was conceived in the dying days of May in the Year of Our Lord MCMLVIII, or, as modern barbarians would prefer, 1958. So who shuffled off this mortal coil around that time, apart from several bats or prawns or tulips?

Three candidates present themselves – the Romanian aviator Constantin Cantacuzino, the Spanish writer Juan Ramón Jiménez, and – skipping forward slightly to the beginning of June – the American oceanographer Townsend Cromwell. The next stage of my serious research will be to immerse myself in the lives of this trio, finding out all I can, perhaps entering a fugue state. Without leaping ahead of myself, I have to say that my favourite of the three, at this stage, is the Spaniard, not so much on account of his Nobel Prize for Literature (1956), but because, judging by this photograph, his wife is wearing exactly the sort of hat I can imagine Pansy Cradledew sporting atop her lovely head.

I will keep you informed of my findings.

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