Monthly Archive for April, 2011

The Magic Mountain

Fair stood the wind for France

The land in which I’ll prance

Along the boulevards and rues

In my winklepicker shoes

Then to Switzerland I’ll proceed

To the Alps! Fear not, I’ll heed

Warnings about the high thin air

Which warn my brain may need repair

But that thin air is just the thing

For those of us who’re suffering

Who suffer as I do from TB

Lying shattered on a balcony

High in the Alps’ imperious span

Like a character from Thomas Mann

Intelligent Aerial Pig

Roll up, see this pig in the balloon basket!

Any question you have, you must ask it.

Within its brain sparks’ll zag and zig.

It is the Intelligent Aerial Pig.

The balloon is up high so you’ll have to shout

Whatever your query, bawl it out.

The pig will answer as best it is able

And send its reply down the tethering cable.

It taps its trotters on one end of the rope,

Once for “Yes” and twice for “Nope”

I feel the vibrations down here on the ground

And tell you the answer in return for a pound.

I spend all the profits on pigfeed and swill

Bought from the farmyard just past yonder hill.

That’s where the pig has its earthly sty

When not answering questions from its perch in the sky.

So put your query, hand over your cash,

Before the balloon comes down with a crash

The Intelligent Pig will suffer no harm

Or, if it does, I shall smear it with balm.

Balloons tend to plummet if not kept aloft

But all will be well if the landing is soft

That’s why I’ve strewn all these cushions and pillows

Across the fields as far as those willows

The willows that weep, that sob, that bewail

When I end up being carted off to gaol

Accused of being a scoundrel and rotter

Pretending to count the taps of a trotter

There’s no pig up there borne by balloon

It’s as fanciful as the man in the moon

But when I get out from my durance vile

You’ll see that my face bears a glittering smile

I’ve had an idea that’s sure to win big

An invisible intelligent aerial pig.

Judgement Of Character

I have learned never to judge a gentleman by the cleanliness of his doilies.

Bella Pok to Lucifer Box in The Vesuvius Club : A Bit Of Fluff by Mark Gatiss (2004). Recommended.

vesuvius club

The Regal Woading

Today at The Dabbler, my indispensable guide to the Regal Woading, which I reproduce here:

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By rights, several dimblebys should be on hand to guide you through the events of today’s regal woading, but they have been ripp’d untimely from their anchorage, so I am stepping into the breach. Let us be joyful.

Before entering into the state of woaded bliss, the darlings are pulled by elegant horses in procession through the streets of the capital. These streets are lined by flag-waving peasants and other savages, watched over by coppers with clubs “on the ground”, as they say, and, from high buildings, by snipers armed with high-velocity rifles and walkie-talkies. But the mood is rightly joyous. The peasants wave their flags and, as the carriages progress, the darlings, yet unwoaded, wave back, though flagless. The horses have been equipped with tackle that occludes their peripheral vision, to prevent them seeing anything that might make them panic and, in panic, go galloping pell mell, crushing peasants beneath their hooves. Were that to happen, to continue with the woading would be unseemly, and there must be not a smidgen of unseemliness on this day of all days. Hence the horses’ blinkers-tackle.

Within the huge ensteepled and consecrated edifice await the guests and the shamen. None has need of blinkers. The arch-shaman is a fellow with a ragged grey-white beard, as is considered proper for his office. He will perform the rite of regal woading when the darlings are ushered, separately, into the cavernous interior of the edifice. See, there, the trough of woad, and the siphon and funnel and besplattering implement which will be used to woad-besplatter the darlings at the most significant moment of the ceremony.

But first there is much rigmarole, of a kind that cries out for interpretation-by-dimbleby. The arch-shaman, or one of his acolytes, will ascertain that the woading is pure, unalloyed and sullied not by any hint of bewolfenbuttlement. In a modern woading such as this, those watching electrical transmissions may be able to see each individual grey-white hair in the arch-shaman’s beard trembling faintly in the cool air. It is a sight to behold. The horses remain outwith the edifice, stamping their hooves, being fed from nosebags. The peasants and savages too, stay in their pens beside the streets, feeding from crisp-packets. The coppers and snipers stay alert.

Inside there is solemn blathering and the woading itself, and the darlings buss their lips, and a great hosannah of voices is raised in song. Here even a dimbleby might pause, to let it sink in, sound and spectacle without comment. Then, blue with woad, the darlings emerge, upon the steps, to much cheering and clanging of bells, before climbing together into a carriage to be pulled by snack-refreshed horses for the return procession. Somewhere in the teeming masses, a “student” raises a placard of contempt. Before he can be clubbed by a copper or shot by a sniper, he is torn limb from limb by a gaggle of peasants, unnoticed by the larger throng. It is meet that it should be so.

Across the land, jelly and ice cream are gobbled. Huzzah!

Dismantled Wooden Myrna Loy

He came, clutching an Alpenstock, from the far Tyrol.

He joined the Baader-Meinhof Gang, along with Astrid Proll.

He joined an English folk group, and sang a Fol De Rol.

And no one ever realised that he was a wooden doll.

His name was not Pinocchio, a different wooden boy.

Our hero’s name, quite weirdly, he shared with Myrna Loy,

That siren of the silver screen who brought filmgoers much joy.

Our Myrna was a terrorist and a folkie, a simple wooden toy.

Pinocchio’s nose, you will recall, grew longer as he lied.

But Myrna Loy’s did not, he took truth as his guide.

Well, he only did so after Ulrike Meinhof died.

For on that day  his revolutionary fervour was cast aside.

He cast aside the folk group too, hey nonny nonny no.

He met a man in a field, one man who went to mow.

He lay down on the fresh-mown grass, he had nowhere else to go

And Myrna Loy, when winter came, was buried under snow.

He lay there until springtime, a wooden boy, frozen, dead

Until he was found by urchins, who carried him to a shed.

They dismantled him piece by piece, the urchins Lars and Ned.

And then they had a game of football with his wooden head.

So when you tour, with your Alpenstock, the fabled far Tyrol,

Say a prayer for Myrna Loy, the dismantled wooden doll.

Thursday Morning Thriller

Little did Sir Foljambe Junket suspect, as he was poised to dunk a Rich Tea biscuit into his piping hot cup of Darjeeling, that he was about to precipitate a series of events that would lead to the toppling of one of the great crowned heads of Europe, events involving a bewildering cast of Lascars, dacoits, thugs, assassins, diplomats, remittance men, bankers, parish constables, distressed gentlewomen, flappers, floozies, defrocked Jesuits, pastry chefs, princelings, Savoyards, cutthroats, bellringers, sots, wastrels, ragamuffins, street urchins, detectives, privateers, signalmen, costermongers, pedlars, peasants, boulevardiers, flaneurs, snake charmers, circus strongmen, footballers’ wives, cripples, mendicants, sisters of mercy, merry widows, bluestockings, bloated jantors, gumshoes, ski instructors, film directors, zanies, clowns, mountebanks, captains, my captains!, mavericks, cowpokes, jewel thieves, gentlemen callers, beldams, duennas, docents, governesses, papal nuncios, gold prospectors, mining engineers, stokers, undertakers’ mutes, chat show hosts, cashiered cadets, shanghaied sailors, brevet colonels, elephant hunters, expats, spies, irredentists, snowmen, chimney sweeps, gangmasters, snipers, balletomanes, aesthetes, charges d’affaires, rapporteurs, adulterers, divorcées, milkmen, struck-off doctors, discharged bankrupts, airmen, balloonists, hod carriers, birdwatchers, clock makers, traitors, Frankish kings, mothmen, athletes, sprinters, vampires, zombies, psychopaths, straw men, poetasters, boobies, nutters, wazirs, muftis, hunchbacks, ombudsmen, topers, gasmen, helots, hellions, hippies, swamis, gurus, rotogravurists, shamen, city slickers, minstrels, metallurgists, paviours, ravers, bohemians, Tundists, fishmongers, safe crackers, recusants, hermits, anchorites, movers and shakers and Quakers and bootblacks and boffins and henchmen and murderers and tallymen and bus conductors and even the Crown Prince himself. His biscuit hovering over the cup, Sir Foljambe paused before dunking. The thing about a Rich Tea biscuit, he thought, was that it had the consistency of cardboard and tasted of nothing. Dunked, it had the consistency of hot wet cardboard and still tasted of nothing. Of a sudden, with uncharacteristic impetuosity, he flung the biscuit across the room, where it clattered against the wainscot and broke into smithereens. Did he but know it, the aged grandee had, at the eleventh hour, averted a series of events that would have led to the toppling of one of the great crowned heads of Europe, events involving a bewildering cast of Lascars, dacoits, thugs, assassins, diplomats, remittance men, bankers, parish constables, distressed gentlewomen, flappers, floozies, defrocked Jesuits, pastry chefs, princelings, Savoyards, cutthroats, bellringers, sots, wastrels, ragamuffins, street urchins, detectives, privateers, signalmen, costermongers, pedlars, peasants, boulevardiers, flaneurs, snake charmers, circus strongmen, footballers’ wives, cripples, mendicants, sisters of mercy, merry widows, bluestockings, bloated janitors, gumshoes, ski instructors, film directors, zanies, clowns, mountebanks, captains, my captains!, mavericks, cowpokes, jewel thieves, gentlemen callers, beldams, duennas, docents, governesses, papal nuncios, gold prospectors, mining engineers, stokers, undertakers’ mutes, chat show hosts, cashiered cadets, shanghaied sailors, brevet colonels, elephant hunters, expats, spies, irredentists, snowmen, chimney sweeps, gangmasters, snipers, balletomanes, aesthetes, charges d’affaires, rapporteurs, adulterers, divorcées, milkmen, struck-off doctors, discharged bankrupts, airmen, balloonists, hod carriers, birdwatchers, clock makers, traitors, Frankish kings, mothmen, athletes, sprinters, vampires, zombies, psychopaths, straw men, poetasters, boobies, nutters, wazirs, muftis, hunchbacks, ombudsmen, topers, gasmen, helots, hellions, hippies, swamis, gurus, rotogravurists, shamen, city slickers, minstrels, metallurgists, paviours, ravers, bohemians, Tundists, fishmongers, safe crackers, recusants, hermits, anchorites, movers and shakers and Quakers and bootblacks and boffins and henchmen and murderers and tallymen and bus conductors and even the Crown Prince himself.

La Maison De Térébenthine

Earlier today I was rummaging in the ReR Megacorp catalogue when I discovered, somewhat to my astonishment, that Mr Cutler’s emporium has “a few copies” of House Of Turps for sale.

HoT

He describes it as “classic Oulipoesque Keyiana” which is fairly accurate. It is a booklet originally published by the Malice Aforethought Press in 1987, although the copies available may be from a second print-run made as the “gift item” appended to subscribers’ copies of one of the legendary ReR Quarterlies. (Incidentally, besotted devotees may wish to snap up the entire collection of Quarterlies, two sets of which also seem to be available.)

Here, then, is your chance to clasp to your heaving bosom a true rarity, nigh on a quarter of a century old. I suggest you hie hence and place your order and send Mr Cutler your monies.

Pang Hill Plop Pit

Upon Pang Hill, there is a plaque, battered and burnished and copper and commemorative, affixed to a stone marking the spot once occupied by the Pang Hill Plop Pit, the pit into which generations of tinies from Pang Hill Orphanage plopped things discarded and abandoned. Incessant rainfall in those parts meant that there was forever a puddle at the bottom of the pit, and the presence of the puddle meant that when a thing discarded or abandoned was tossed into it, the thing made a plop as, tossed and falling, it landed in the puddle. Oft times the depth of the puddle was such that the plopping thing was wholly submerged under the rainwater. Sometimes, when rainfall was light, was but a drizzle, much of the puddle water would leach into the muck, and the puddle become shallow, and then the thing discarded or lost would remain visible, to those who looked, until a storm came, and the puddle level rose, and the waters covered the tossed-away abandonee.

Once a week, on Thursday mornings, the Pang Hill Plop Pit became a bubbling fizzing fuming frothing gaseous pit. The Orphanage Janitor emptied into it numerous pailfuls of nigh-impossibly corrosive acid, which dissolved all the items tossed and plopped into the puddle during the previous seven days. By dusk on Thursdays the acid had done its work and further rainfall served to dilute the puddle and it ceased to bubble and fizz and fume and froth.

We have a record of all that was tossed away to plop into the Plop Pit, for the orphans were charged to maintain log books. Here are some telling extracts, from a recent compilation published by the Pang Hill Orphanage Documentary Archive. I have obliterated the dates, through a lack of pernicketiness.

Orphan Carstairs. Chucked into the plop pit several lobster pots of no further use since the imposition of the revised sea creature protocol.

Orphan Brandt. Up bright and early that day, feeling awful, and out to take a turn by the Pang Hill Plop Pit, and tossed into it cheesecloth trousers rent in many places following bramble bush and hornets mishap.

Orphan Cuddy. Into the pit plopped wrench, awl, adze, cutters and pincers.

Orphan Furbelow. Dun flap o’ tarp, eggs o’ larks, talc ‘n’ seed sprinkler, Jap keg lid, sconce ‘n’ punnet. All thrown into the Pit o’ Plops, all sank in the puddle, to be forgot.

Yet due to the log books, nothing is forgotten. Tossed away, plopped into the pit, discarded and abandoned and eaten by the janitor’s acid, every last item is granted immortality. The orphans themselves have perished, the long line of janitors too, the Orphanage crumbled to ruin, even the battered and burnished and copper and commemorative sign hangs from a single rusty nail and will one day fall and be buried in the muck. Pang Hill itself will be flattened by tectonic shifts or cataclysm. The sound of the plops, though, travels on, across unimaginable distances, in space and time, and with it the memory of all that was discarded, of all that was abandoned, of all things.

Your Guide To Vitamins, Part One

mard

From Dull Tool Dim Bulb

An Easter Sunday Morning Moan

Prompted by his recent piece in The Dabbler, I decided to improve my ornithological knowledge by reading Tim Birkhead’s The Wisdom Of Birds. And lo! that is how I began my Easter Sunday on this sunny morning, to the sound of cawing crows outside.

the-wisdom-of-birds-Birkhead

I am afraid to say I am ready to hurl the book across the room in exasperation. This is an expensive and lavishly-produced Bloomsbury book, and by page 18 I have fought my way past no fewer than three howling typos: a missing indefinite article on page 2, “who” for “how” on page 6, and “know” for “known” on page 18. This is proofreading-by-spellcheck, and it simply isn’t good enough.

I shall persevere, for the time being. But this slipshod approach fatally undermines the pleasure of reading, for me. Tim Birkhead has been ill-served by his publishers. I’d insist on getting the whole print-run pulped and starting again, with a competent copy editor.

UPDATE : Still on page 18, and another one! – “principle” where what is meant is “principal”.

Lars And Maud

Lars and Maud went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.

Lars fell down and clonked his crown and Maud came tumbling after.

They rolled and tumbled further down, tumbling pell mell,

‘Til they came bumping to a halt down in the dingly dell.

In the dell lurked the Grunty Man, who carried them off to his cave.

But fear not, tinies! For Lars was bold and Maud was very brave.

They shook their little fists and bawled and rent the sky asunder,

And made the Grunty Man commit a very foolish blunder.

He dropped them at the cave-mouth while he went to have a fight,

An illegal boxing match under the cover of the night.

The Grunty Man was pitted ‘gainst an awful, dreadful foe –

None other than Miss Peep, affectionately known as “Little Bo”.

She looked so pale and timorous, yet she packed a hefty punch,

And often bashed a dozen ogres before she had her lunch.

So when the Grunty Man stalked off to meet his Nemesis,

Lars and Maud ran off into the arms of Alger Hiss.

Yes, Alger Hiss, the communist spy from Washington DC!

Urbane and droll and stylish, dressed up to a T.

He took the tots to a meeting of his fellow-travelling Reds,

Where Stalinist propaganda turned their pointy little heads.

They went back to the cave and found the Grunty Man covered in gore.

Little Bo Peep had bashed him up, then bashed him up some more.

They recruited him to their cause, to overthrow the state.

Said Lars (or Maud) “We must act before it is too late!”

So Lars and Maud and the Grunty Man went back to the dingly dell,

And hid some microfilmed secrets at the bottom of the well.

But they were caught by Nixon, indefatigable in his zest

To place as many Reds as possible under house arrest.

He confined them to a house atop the hill they climbed for water,

A solid and a sturdy house well built from bricks and mortar,

Like the house of the three little pigs that withstood lupine huff and puff.

But Lars and Maud and the Grunty Man were Communists, sure enough.

So when the big bad wolf hove into view from o’er the hills,

They sang in praise of Stalin and then swallowed their cyanide pills.

And so the state was safe once more from Communist infiltration,

And Nixon was bathed in the praise of a relieved and grateful nation.

The Grunty Man and Lars and Maud were buried and forgot.

But Richard Milhous Nixon – he is not.

Hippies!

You won’t find them on the Wikipedia, which is kudos in itself. The original sleeve is here.

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Teetering On The Brink Of Idiocy

… speculation continued to flourish in Germany, where a group of young writers, gathered at the University of Jena, began to explore the philosophical ideas of Friedrich Schelling, and what he called Naturphilosophie. This doctrine, perhaps best translated as ‘science mysticism’, defined the entire natural world as a system of invisible powers and energies, operating like electricity as a series of ‘polarities’. According to Schelling’s doctrine, the whole world was indeed replete with spiritual energy or soul, and all physical objects ‘aspired’ to become something higher. There was a ‘world-soul’ constantly ‘evolving’ higher life forms and ‘levels of consciousness’ in all matter, animate or inanimate. All nature had a tendency to move towards a higher state.

So carbon for example ‘aspired’ to become diamond; plants aspired to become sentient animals; animals aspired to become men; men aspired to become part of the Zeitgeist or world spirit. Evolutionary, idealist, electrical and Vitalist ideas were all evidently tangled up in this system, which had an obvious appeal to imaginative writers in the Jena circle like Novalis, Schiller and Goethe, as well as experimental physiologists like Johann Ritter. It had its attractions, not least in its optimism and its sense of reverence for the natural world. But it also constantly teetered on the brink of idiocy. One of its wilder proselytisers, the Scandinavian geologist Henrick Steffens, was said to have stated that ‘The diamond is a piece of carbon that has come to its senses’; to which a Scottish geologist, probably John Playfair, made the legendary reply: ‘Then a quartz, therefore, must be a diamond run mad’.

Richard Holmes, The Age Of Wonder : How The Romantic Generation Discovered The Beauty And Terror Of Science (2008). In some ways the joys of this book are encapsulated in a single brief sentence on page 273:

The Anti-Jacobin magazine made a more general link between radical politics, inhaling gas, flying balloons and mesmerism.

Political Dabbling

Dabbler-3logo (1)In The Dabbler this week I examine in breathtaking detail the parliamentary career of a scientist who dabbled in politics. Dabbler he may have been, but Sir Isaac Newton’s record as a parliamentarian, albeit brief, was exemplary, and ought to serve as a model for some of the more loathsome specimens at large in the Palace of Westminster today.

Your Capitalist Music Cuttings For Today

No luck as yet with the decipherment of the great Steve Bloch’s lyrical sally in “Jane’s Gone To France”. But for those of you keen to see the resurrection of perhaps the most important beat combo ever to mention Marshal Petain in a song, here are some cuttings culled from distant outposts of Interwebshire.

First, two reviews of the magnum opus itself, from a couple of local rags. Please note that a young Mr Key did not write either of them.

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jane2

Second, unfortunately as low in resolution as he was high in importance, Bloch himself, on stage.

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