Global Dominion (Continued)

And still the onward march of Hooting Yard into every nook and cranny in the universe continues, unstoppable! The latest place we have wormed our way into is the Public Domain Review, a project of the Open Knowledge Foundation. The Public Domain Review is, as it says, “exactly what it says on the tin: a web-based review of works which have entered the public domain. Each week an invited contributor presents an interesting or curious work with a brief accompanying text giving context, commentary and criticism.”

This week’s invited contributor is your very own Mr Key, who was asked to write a brief piece introducing that inimitable masterpiece Jubilate Agno. The lovely people at the Review have added the audio of the legendary ResonanceFM recording (an outtake of which appeared here the other day), so now you know exactly what to do with the next three hours of your nasty, brutish and short life.

ADDENDUM : On the subject of global dominion, WordPress keeps me alerted to mentions of Hooting Yard wherever and whenever they occur. And today, I am pleased – albeit rather beflummoxed – to learn that Unthinkable Consulting, on its ‘delicious’ feed, recommends the “offbeat brilliance” of Hooting Yard, “an example of a gift-based literary business model”. Well, at long bloody last. Ever since I started tippy-tapping the contents of this website over seven years ago, I have been waiting for somebody to acknowledge that, all along, I have been constructing a gift-based literary business model, daddy-o.


“Gas was given its name after Greek ‘chaos’ by the Dutch chemist J B van Helmont in a book published in 1652. It passed into English towards the end of the century, and was then defined as ‘a Spirit that will not coagulate, or the Spirit of Life’.”

Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria : Spirit Visions, Metaphors, And Media Into The Twenty-First Century (2006)

New Readers Start Here

At The Dabbler the other day I answered the question “Where do you get your ideas from?”

The other poser regularly aimed at scribblers – and, indeed, bloggers – is “What do you write about? Describe your work to us, in terms a dribbling infant could understand!” I have seen no better a potted summary of Hooting Yard than this piece at Twisty Turny Lanes. Anybody crashing through the rusty iron gates of Hooting Yard for the first time would do well to read it, before devoting the rest of their dismal days to exploring the archives.

Many thanks to that perceptive fellow Johnnynorms.

Things To Do With Vipers

Theriac was created by the Ancient Greeks and achieved a miraculous reputation as a universal panacea. It was believed to be effective against swellings, blemishes, fevers, poisons, heart problems, epilepsy, and palsy and it restored lost speech after a stroke.

“Venetian treacle” took forty days to make, twelve years to mature, and contained up to sixty-four ingredients including opium, myrrh, frankincense, saffron, gentian, liquorice, cinnamon, gum arabic, bitumen, and skinned and roasted vipers.

Information gleaned from the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garrett

Bombastus And The Mountebanks

One has to admire Mr and Mrs von Hohenheim, the parents of Paracelsus (1493-1541), for giving their tot the Christian names Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus. Two things worth remembering about Paracelsus are that he was the first person to call zinc zinc – actually he called it zincum – and that he kept a small avian devil imprisoned in the pommel of his sword. Samuel Butler noted this in Hudibras, where he wrote:

Bombastus kept a devil’s bird / Shut in the pommel of his sword, / That taught him all the cunning pranks / Of past and future mountebanks.


Galvanic Batteries, Heads Of Swans

It is a simple enough matter to embed a galvanic battery in the graceful head of a swan, provided, that is, you are a boffin with some training in the basic techniques of veterinary surgery. The layperson or amateur is likely to face difficulties not only with the bloody business of embedding, but also in telling the difference between a galvanic battery and other types of battery, and indeed in knowing what a swan looks like. The ornithological ignorance of some people is breathtaking, and that includes boffins. For example, I once met a boffin, an acknowledged wizard at home in the lab heating various substances in glass tubes over a Bunsen burner, who mistook a heron for a cassowary, if you can imagine such bird-blindness. And do not get me started on the story of the boffin who pointed at a flock of swooping swifts in the sky and said “Ah, I love the sight of swooping pratincoles!”

A boffin who has grasped the basics of veterinary surgery, however, should know a swan when they see one and, depending on their field of boffinhood, ought to be able to pick a galvanic battery out of a line-up of various types of battery. There are cases where the name of the battery-type is etched or stamped on the body of the battery itself, for ease of identification, and then no familiarity with batteries is required. However, it is rare, o rare indeed!, to find a bird so etched or stamped. One must learn at least a few basic identification skills, to pick a swan out of a line-up.

But I ought not give the impression that the putative embedder must first pick out a galvanic battery, and then select a swan, from a pair of line-ups like identity parades such as are arranged by coppers following an arrest connected to a heist. It is much more common to be called in to perform the embedding and to find a galvanic battery and a swan already provided, the one resting on a countertop and the other, stunned with anaesthetic, fast asleep in a basket. Even the most stupid person will know which is the battery and which is the bird, I hope, and to allay even the merest smidgen of doubt, some form of signage can be installed, cheaply, using a couple of sheets of cardboard and a magic marker pen. To make absolutely sure, the words “Galvanic Battery” and “Swan” on the signs can be accompanied by simple pictograms for the illiterate. Add to each sign an emboldened arrow pointing clearly towards what a beardy French intellectual would call “the referent”, and Bob’s your uncle.

Now, I mentioned that the embedding is a bloody business, and so it is. There is no way of slicing an opening in the graceful head of the swan without causing a flow of hot red swan-gore. It is helpful to have a gaggle of eager unpaid interns to staunch this, and to mop up inevitable spillages, so the embedder can get on with the task at hand, which is to embed the galvanic battery into the swan’s head by shoving it, o so delicately!, through the bloody slit until it is lodged firmly next to the swan’s brain. Note that the brain of a swan will always be located in its head, rather than elsewhere in its anatomy. That done, sew up the slit with butchers’ string, and slap a bandage over it. If the bandage is white, as is common, and the swan is white, as is common, the casual observer may not even notice that the embedding has taken place. That may or may not be important, depending upon the legal regulations obtaining in the jurisdiction. Some authorities take a dim view of the embedding of galvanic batteries in the graceful heads of swans, though for the life of me I cannot think why that might be so. In any case, it is better to check the legal position beforehand.

Alert readers will have spotted that I omitted to mention perhaps the most crucial part of the process, which is the bit where the galvanic battery is actually attached to the brain of the swan by wires. In practice, of course, one would never miss this out, otherwise the entire operation would be a waste of time and effort. However, unlike the slicing and cutting and shoving and staunching and mopping up, the wiring is a fiddly and complicated matter fraught with godawful difficulties, and deserves a separate article, written in fiddly and complicated prose, to which the reader must pay unflinching attention, while also being wide awake, and probably half-crazed with stimulants. That article has yet to be written, and it will need to be approved by experts in the fields of galvanic batteries, and of swans, and of wiring, before it can appear here, for your instruction and edification.

The Clue Is In The Dabbler

Dabbler-3logo (1)It’s quiz time, readers! Limber up those cranial integuments and see if you can answer the following brain-teaser:

Who wrote these words?

“Our phaeton was a small, white, swan-shaped carriage, ornamented with golden designs, and propelled by a galvanic battery in the graceful swan-head, which at my request took the place of the ordinary steed. This was, to me, an exceedingly novel mode of travel, which my short sojourn in the spirit world had prevented me from before enjoying.”

Was it : A) Washington Irving, or B) the spirit-form of Washington Irving, transmitting its thoughts by mysterious means from its habitation in ethereal realms?

You will find a clue to the correct answer through a careful reading of the contents of my cupboard in today’s Dabbler.

Meanwhile, here at Hooting Yard, I will have a few things to say about the important topic of galvanic batteries embedded in the graceful heads of swans, soon, soon.

Ingrate Ghoul, Scattered Sprig

I met this morn a beckoning ghoul. It beckoned me, and like a fool I answered its summons. I followed it towards the drains. There, by the gutter, next to the drains, it began to drool. I shuddered, as one shudders when confronted by a ghoul. The drains stank. The ghoul stank too. From the sprig in my fist, I handed it a chrysanthemum. It took the flower in its ghostly claw, and chucked it into the drains. O ingrate ghoul! Ingrate ghoul! I turned my back on the stinking phantom and pranced away, contemptuous, like a fop. It does not do to show contempt to a ghoul. From behind, it clutched me in its cold spindly arms, and twirled me round, and flung me into the drains. I dropped my sprig of chrysanthemums. O scattered sprig! Scattered sprig! Sprawled in the drains, I saw the ghoul shimmer and vibrate and shape-shift. Before my eyes, it was become a pig. It grunted once, and trotted away towards its sty. I lay in the drains and stared up at the sky, immense and blue and blank. And no birds sing.

Advice On Grunting

Courtesy of The Cat’s Meat Shop, some extremely detailed advice on grunting:

Take the baby hand in one of yours. Spread out the hand. Point to the thumb, and say decidedly, yet confidingly –

1. This little pig went to market.” (Grunt and let it be an ordinary pig’s grunt.)

Point to the next finger and say, in the deepest bass you can assume –

2. “This little pig stayed at home.” (Give a morose bass grunt and frown.)

Point to the next finger and say, with an insinuating tone and smile, elevating your eyebrows and bowing –

3. “This little pig had roast beef” (and add three quick little grunts of satisfaction.)

Point to the next finger and say, in a voice just ready to cry –

4. “This little pig had none.” (Give two low grunts of weariness, and look ready to cry.)

Then pointing to the little finger, say very pleasantly, in a shrill, droll voice, laughing meanwhile, “This little pig cried, ‘Tweak! tweak! tweak!'” pinching and twirling the child’s finger gently, as if you had hold of the pig’s tail.

This makes a complete harmless drama of the story of the pigs, and rouses baby’s feelings, sensations and ideas in a healthy manner. Five distinct emotions are raised: 1. Interest; 2. Fear; 3. Pleasure or sympathy; 4. Grief, almost to tears; 5. A sudden reversion to mirth, and “All’s well that ends well,” a great desideratum in baby estimation. We must remember too, that the feelings during babyhood are ephemeral in the extreme, light and evanescent….

Tombstone Blues

“I am not just a person who goes around peeing on tombs, but a writer with a serious oeuvre.”

So says one Eduardo Labarca, quoted in today’s Grauniad. Proclaiming oneself to be the creator of “a serious oeuvre” is akin to the claim, invariably made by humourless persons, that “I’ve got a mad sense of humour, me”. Labarca also states “Peeing on that tomb was a legitimate artistic act.” Ah! How delightfully transgressive!

It briefly occurred to me to court notoriety and publicity by desecrating the grave of, say, Anthony Burgess, but then I realised that I am no longer a teenperson. Nor, for that matter, is the absurd Labarca.

Rackstrow’s Chair Of Beatification

“Benjamin Rackstrow, a most enterprising showman in Georgian London, staged ‘The Chair of Beatification’, which involved irradiating a willing member of the public with the kind of flaming amazement that Ariel conjured on the shipwreck: ‘a Glass Crown being placed on the Head of the Person who sits in the Chair, immediately becomes filled with Aetherial Fire; and likewise a Glass Sceptre, wherein is to be seen one continued stream of Electrical Fire, of a beautiful Purple Colour’.”

Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria : Spirit Visions, Metaphors, And Media Into The Twenty-First Century (2006)

Wisdom Of The Swiss Sage

Swiss sage Alain De Botton excels himself:

“Airlines and travel agencies should think more about the nature of their business. At one level they’re sending passengers around the world. At a deeper level they’re connecting people with their dreams and hopes. I would like to be offered a therapy service prior to booking a ticket, and have a chance to talk to a therapeutically trained agent about why I want to travel to a particular place.”

From an interview in Lufthansa in-flight magazine, quoted in Pseuds’ Corner, Private Eye No. 1280, 21 January – 3 February 2011

Hen Project

Now you have spruced up your mud idol, you are probably in the mood to spruce up a few of your other appurtenances. You might have noticed that your hens are looking a bit tatty. It is difficult to work out why this is so, although the neglect into which you have allowed their coop to moulder may have something to do with it. It will probably be a good idea to spruce up the hen coop once you have spruced up the hens themselves, but that is a project for another day, one when it is not raining incessantly, and when a cold wind is not lashing across the yard in a corner of which the coop has been shoved, ramshackle and near collapse.

The best way to spruce up a hen is to paint its feathers with henna, obviously. Prepare a large tub of henna and get a paintbrush. Holding the hen in one hand, paint each individual feather with henna, and then replace the hen in the coop. Repeat until all your hens have been spruced up.

It may be that being painted enrages one or more of your hens and you may now suffer from lacerations made by their fierce beaks. Dab some sort of gooey antiseptic ointment upon the lacerations, swathe them in bandages, and go and lie down in a darkened room. Before you do so, don’t forget to clean the tub and the brushes with hot soapy water. If you do not have any hot water, or soap, you must be a filthy and unprepossessing person, quite unlike your hens, which are now smartly spruced with henna. Passers-by, if there are any, will do a double-take, wondering how so grimy a specimen as yourself has managed to accumulate a coop’s worth of such lovely hens. By such disjunctures is the world made that little bit more intriguing.