La Gata Encantada

La Gata Encantada is the name of a pub in a novel by John Varley. It means 'the enchanted cat'. I like cats, so I stole the sign (it just needed some revarnishing and - Look! Good as new!). The door is open, to an amber glow and the sound of music and good fellowship. Come on in.


Pure as a virgin and cunning as a rabbit!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Shorts: Minimal Pairs

'Minimal Pairs' is a concept that I've encountered in a Phonetics class. It's what you get when there are two words with only ONE difference between them. In the class, it refers to a difference in sounds. For example, look at 'ojisan' and 'ojiisan' in Japanese, where the length of the middle vowel determines whether I'm talking about someone's uncle of grandfather (I nicked the example from the class. If I got it wrong, blame the lecturer). We can see it (er, hear it) in spoken English in words like 'convict', where the stress on the first or second syllable makes a different between a verb or a noun. Indeed, there's another example in 'have': "I have very pretty flowers (hav); I have to go water them (haff)." Neither 'have' or 'convict' are true examples though - the pronunciation shifts with context. I would never expect 'haff' to go in front of a noun unless the speaker had a German accent. Still, it can be a bit confusing is complicated sentence.

Anyway. I was thinking about how the concept of 'minimal pairs' relates in other areas, and, in written English, it is very important. There are many words of wildly differing meanings that have a difference of only one letter.

complimentary ("you're sweet") - complementary (sweet and sour)

manager (one who manages) - manger (wooden box for feeding herbivores)

form (shape) - from (preposition)

too (also) - two (one plus one)

angle (corner) - angel (messenger of heaven)

decide (choose) - deicide (god-killer!)

The scary one for me is:

prescriptive ("Yes, do this") - proscriptive ("Don't do this!")

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Eating Wyrms

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me
I'm going to the mountains to eat Wyrms
Long, thin, scaly Wyrms; rough, tough, fiery Wyrms;
Taloned, spiky, jewellery-hoarding Wyrms!

Long, thin, scaly Wyrms slip down easily,
Rough, tough, fiery Wyrms don't.
Rough, tough, fieries stick their claws in your throat
And their flames go rooooooaaaaaarrrrr out your nose!

I can't say that everybody hates me, and actually I had a pretty good day; it's just that I'm feeling tired and depressed right now. Hence the song.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I Have Achieved II

This time it is just that I finished a ruddy big Phonetics assignment - a 20 percenter. The lecturer said, in his advice on it: "You can discuss third formants - hint hint." Unfortunately, there's an awful lot on third formants, scattered through several books on the topic, in differing nomenclature, all of which I had to digest into a useful and manageable form. No, I am not going to tell you what a third formant is. Take it from me that it is useful when reading a spectrogram. A spectrogram is like a picture of a sound, mapping all the frequencies against time. No, I am not going into more detail. You don't want me to, trust me.

Anyway, I wrestled that baby behemoth to the ground, whimpering (me, not the behemoth), last night, attempted to get an early night's sleep (which failed because I kept dreaming there was one more assignment question to answer, and dreaming that I drafted and re-drafted my answer [sigh]) and woke up this morning to juggle printing it against work. There were problems with transferring files from disks. It was unpleasant. Finally, I skated in to the assignment collection box where I must have caused some innocent merriment for the lecturers around the corner when I shouted "God damn it!" upon realising that I had to erase some pencil marks on the spectrogram I'd been working on and put some neater ones in. And I didn't have an eraser with me. And it was ten minutes walk back to my office. And I didn't have time. (I borrowed one from one of the lecturers, a very nice lady called Rei something).

Of course, then I had to work on something else that's due tomorrow (as opposed to last Friday), which I have just now completed.

That is why I have labelled this Blog "I Have Achieved."

Dear Readers, I believe that I have earned myself some sewing time.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Something For The Classicists

I'm not sure why I wrote this. I'm supposed to be writing love poetry, but this doesn't seem to fit the parameters set in the course. It just wanted to be written, I guess. Anyway:

Psyche to Eros

Do you think of me, then, waiting on the rock?
It was cold – the wind bellied my red mantle, embroidered
with suns and wheels and dandelions. Their
warmth was only pictures; my bare feet bled
on the ragged stones. From the dark hills cold glints
of trumpets bid farewell: they were leaving me, though
my mother had clung like lichen clings, had wept
like water gushing from blank granite.
A beautiful sacrifice, I.

In this dark place – all softness, as a scrap
of thistle-down, as the fluff
of a wild-cat nursing kits – my eyes
are shut with your kisses, your murmuring
willow-voice all I hear. I drink you,
as night drinks blindness from a bowl.

Ah, love,
I dreamed that I married a falcon,
and slept in his feather-soft nest in the cliff
but I looked in his eyes,
and knowing me, he fled.

I might travel the hills to find that bird,
and cut my feet on the rocks,
and wear the wind for a mantle.
Until I see you,
you will never know.

As I finished writing it about an hour ago, I'm still not sure if it's good or not. I point-blank refuse to gloss who Eros and Psyche are. You are on the Internet. If you don't know: look it up.

Hope you like it, anyway.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Son Of Solanum Tuberosum

My flatmate is back from a three-week holiday in his native land (the USA) and he brought me an ugly hat and a Bonsai Potato kit (See? That was a tie-in that was. Dead clever.)

It's good to have him back.

I'm currently cutting class because I have a minor dose of the 'flu and it is raining. On and off. Good enough for me. So there.

I'm feeling a lot better, though I still have a headache and a strong desire to go back to sleep.

That's all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Culture Shock

This happened three weeks ago.

I was sitting in the sun with some class mates - younger people - just kicking words around, when I somehow mentioned that I liked sewing clothes. Enthusiastically they asked me what I had made recently.

I looked down at my perfectly fitting new trousers, chocolate-coloured, of a solid material with a nice feel that would last years, their workmanship beautiful... "This," I said, gesturing down.

They saw plain brown trousers, somewhat baggy. Their faces fell.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

So, I still haven't written the next bit of the Midwife's Tale. I'm sorry. That's what I get for posting the first part of a mostly unwritten story. It just doesn't want to come. In the meantime, this is something I wrote a while back, as a Christmas present for my cousin Pablo. I hope that it is at least passable.

Unwin the Unshaven and the Three Strangers

A long time ago, in a country far away, there was a man Unwin, called the Unshaven. This was only one of his nicknames. Others ranged between Unwin the Unwashed, Unwin the Grubby, Unwin the Poorly Clothed, Faugh! You Smell, I Think I’m Going To Be Sick and others less printable. But mostly, he was called the Unshaven.

It was not that he intended to be revolting to the people around him, it was just that he was a very amiable man and also very distracted. On any given day he intended to bathe, shave, comb, launder, and trim, but was diverted by rainbows in the soap-bubbles, waded into a bog to catch tadpoles, chopped a bundle of wood for his elderly aunts, invented a better mouse-trap, and picked a bundle of daisies. He was very dirty, and he scratched constantly, if absentmindedly, because he was inhabited by vermin of various natures. He was much loved and much avoided by his neighbours.

As it happened, a ferocious Ogre lived in that region. This Ogre was both needlessly nasty and fabulously rich, two qualities that go together too often, alas. The Ogre didn’t like people living near his gloomy castle, especially if they were happy, so he went out of his way to torment them. If a herd of cows went missing, the Ogre had eaten them. If all the carefully washed table-cloths for the village festival got covered with mud, the Ogre had blown up a storm to muddy them. If the gold to pay the village’s taxes turned into lead overnight, the Ogre had done it. He intended to be very revolting.

One day the Ogre, who loathed children, decided to get rid of them. He sent out a beautiful red bouncing ball that sang funny tunes and giggled on each bounce. All the children thought that it was the most amazing toy they had ever seen and followed it, even when it bounced up the winding and rocky path that led up to his castle. They followed the red bouncing ball through a portcullis that looked like teeth, and down a hallway done up in red velvet and into a large kitchen all filled with clanging pots. The Ogre, who was beautifully dressed in a white chef’s hat and apron turned to them and smiled. “Ah, children,” he said, “how nice of you to come to dinner!” And he laughed, loud and long.

The villagers, as soon as they realised that their children had disappeared, tried to get them back. But it was of no avail. They simply could not get through the portcullis. When they tried climbing the walls, the Ogre heard them and tumbled rocks on their heads. Then he told them about the lovely little sauce he was cooking up.

All the people in the village met in the town hall to talk about what they were going to do next. They decided to send one man to sneak over the walls and then do what he could. When they held a raffle, Unwin’s ticket was called. Some wanted to draw the raffle again, for they thought that Unwin would have even less chance against the Ogre than most, but he insisted that fair was fair. He wandered outside, wondering what he would do.

In the shadows of the hall veranda he sat, scratching his bugs, and tried to think. A solar-powered gyrocopter was interesting, but not immediately useful, neither was an improved potato peeler. It was then that three strangers appeared in the darkness. “Unwin,” they said, “you don’t know us but we know you. We have long found you a hospitable host, never stinting in largesse. Now we’re going to help you.” They introduced themselves. Mighty Leaper was a small dark man, very neat about his person. He stood quietly, but as if he was just about to spring into the air. Grips Hard was a little taller and hairier, with wide shoulders and grasping hands. The third stranger was called Round-as-a-Rose, though he was very long and thin and somehow droopy. As the others talked, Round-as-a-Rose just curled up on the ground and went to sleep.

Unwin thanked them for their offer of help. He explained the first problem, which was to get into the castle. “Nothing could be easier!” they assured him. “We're experts at getting in where we’re not wanted.”

The heroes snuck under a wall where the shadows were darkest. Then Grips Hard picked up Round-as-a-Rose and climbed on the shoulders of Mighty Leaper, who jumped to the top of the high wall. They trailed Round-as-a-Rose down the wall and Grips Hard pulled up Unwin. Then they pointed Unwin at the Great Hall and told him that they would meet him there.

Unwin trotted quietly through the dark corridors. He kept passing odd bits of ironwork that looked like torture machines. He shuddered, thinking of what the children were going through. Finally, he found the Great Hall. It was a very large room with long dining tables. The tables had very white tablecloths, because the Ogre was very finicky and didn’t like dirt near him. At the tables, all the village children were chained to their seats. Rosemary wreaths adorned their heads, and they ate ginger and honey. This didn’t look so bad.

Unwin couldn’t see the Ogre anywhere, so he went on into the kitchen. The Ogre was at the far end, peeling potatoes. He stopped, and sniffed the air. “What’s that smell?” he growled.

“Um,” quavered Unwin, “a man?”

“No,” mused the Ogre, “it’s far worse than that. Bitter, with a hint of bog. Is that sewage? I think I’m going to nggnh –” He turned around and spied Unwin. “What are you doing in my nice clean kitchen?” he roared. “You’re spoiling my food!”
Unwin’s knees knocked together. “I can show you a better way to peel potatoes!” he pleaded. He remembered that he had a sword, and ran at the Ogre waving the sword wildly. He hit the Ogre on his hairy belly, but it just bounced off. The Ogre picked him up and, holding his nose, ran into the Great Hall. There was a large window over a sheer drop there. The Ogre really didn’t like Unwin’s smell, so he was going to throw him out.

It was then that the Ogre stopped. He dropped Unwin and scratched his belly with a puzzled expression. Then he scratched his back. Then the top of his head, and his ankle and his knee and his arm and – “Aargh!” he screamed. “The itch! The terrible itch!” He ran around the hall shouting and scratching himself – all the children ducked – and finally, to stop the itching, threw HIMSELF out of the window.
Just before the wailing Ogre disappeared from view, Unwin’s three friends jumped off his back. They had been very small, crawling about in his fur and making him itch. They were still falling, but Grips Hard caught on to the window sill, and Round-as-a-Rose caught on to his ankles, and Mighty Leaper caught on to his ankles. Then they all pulled themselves up and clapped each other – and Unwin – on the back. “Well done,” they said. And then they looked sad. “It’s been really great knowing you, Unwin,” they said, “but we have to go now.” Unwin didn’t understand this at all, but he thanked them, and released the children. They all went home and great was the rejoicing in the land.

Now, when the Ogre fell out of the window, he didn’t die. He bounced off some rocks into a fast flowing river that led into a waterfall and then a long way out to sea. When he finally got out of the water he was lost and couldn’t find his way home. The itching had stopped, though, so he was happy. In fact, he was happy for the first time in his life and ended up getting a job as a health inspector and part-time cook, which he enjoyed very much.

Because the Ogre didn’t come back, the villagers decided to set Unwin up in his castle where he could invent potato peelers and gyrocopters to his heart’s delight. Because the Ogre had left behind a great deal of money, they employed TWENTY servants to follow him around and tactfully keep him clean. Unwin enjoyed the company of the servants and all the children that visited him now. But he still missed his three friends, Mighty Leaper the flea, Grips Hard the louse, and Round-as-a-Rose the ringworm.

Many morals can be drawn from this story, O best beloved. I choose this one:

Sweets aren’t good for you; Ogres are mean; and dirt can be very friendly.

The End

Friday, September 16, 2005


Hmm. Opening up the form some gives:

How Can I Mourn?

How can I mourn when all the world is spring?
Understand - waking in the night I heard a bird
calling others out of shadow. They flung
their songs like children's balls
as light flooded the barren sky.

Can I weep, when the weeping of the world is a haze
of dew on severed grass? That grass still grows, dotted with daisies;
their knotted heads still open every morning.

When winter's aching gut unclenches,
when it sleeps with the sun-bellied cats or springs,
shaking its ears, away from sudden showers,
shall I clutch my own ache like a lover?
When blossoms bounce from angry, battered wood,
when new leaves are eyes fresh opening,
are mouths that gobble sunlight,
shall I lower my own? Shall I swallow laughter?

This gaudy riot calls me out. Forgive
me if I leave you, dear,
in that cold, silent dark.



I like this one better, I think. The other version was small and pretty and easy to understand - this fish, is a bit larger. I feel happy now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Eh, More Poetry

I wrote the octave (first eight lines) yesterday, and then got stuck on how I wanted to finish it. I finally appealed to my lecturer, and he had some good suggestions, though I suspect this will be damned by the poetry class as 'verse', dammit. It is, at least, an elegy to hand in next week. (Well, technically it's elegiac.) Thoughts?

On Being Asked To Write An Elegy

How can I mourn when all my heart is spring?
When, wakeful in the darkness, I have heard
The solitary singing of a bird
Call others out of shadow, heard them fling
Their songs like children's balls? How can I write
Of weeping, when the weeping of the world
Is hazing dew across my lawn, when furled
Dark leaves are gaping wide to gobble light?
When blossoms bounce from angry, battered wood
And sunny-bellied cats 'sleep in' for hours,
When winter's aching gut is spewing flowers
And shiny grass grows up for cattle food,
I have no time for elegies at all -
I'm busy, watching petals start to fall.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I Have Achieved

So, I've been sewing all day. I do mean all day - from just before ten in the morning to now, though with a sizeable wodge of time to eat lunch and nap on the lawn in the wonderful sunny weather.

I sewed:

- to put together the outside of the bodice of a dress I'm working on (in plum-coloured, fairly heavy material, with a lovely soft nap, empire-line, calf-length, gathered skirt, petticoats underneath)
- to attach the outside of the bodice to the inside (which is silky black taffeta)
- to connect under the armholes, both in the lining and the outside
- to attach the two front bits together (but the seams didn't need finishing because they were cut on the selvage)
- to attach the front bit(s) to the back bits, which took zigzagging and a line of top-stitching on each side, dammit.
- to attach the back bits together, though not all the way (for there must be room to step inside the dress, sort of thing)
- to do some fiddly bits that aren't in the pattern. Because I wanted them there. And I figured them out, and they worked, and the whole thing looks beautiful.

That's all. :-D :-D :-D


After posting the former, I followed the instructions in the sewing machine manual and mastered a very cool, quick, and efficient way of setting the gathering stitches. It needs Purl cord and an embroidery head, both of which I happen to have, and is NIFTY. (Thank you for your supportive comments ;-) I'll post a picture when it's done and I've worked out how to post images.)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Short shorts.

I'd like to say that I wrote the next bit of the Midwife's Tale for you, but I haven't, so you're getting a collection of very short quotes that I like.

The last man in the world sat in a room. There came a knock on the door.

Author Unknown.

A kerastion is a musical instrument that cannot be heard.

'Roussel', cited in LeGuin, U. K. (1997) A fisherman of the inland sea. London: Vista (Cassell Group)

Fin and his men were in the Harbour of the Hill of Howth on a hillock, behind the wind and in front of the sun ...

How Fin went to the kingdom of the big men. In J. Jacobs Ed. Celtic fairy tales. (1994). London: Random House.

Leafing through the Book of Days, the Recording Angel looked for my name and then commented: "Been sleeping in?"


Like velcro, but slurpier.

Leigh McLennon, quoted with permission.

I wish I could say that her perseverance was rewarded. But it wasn't; and one must keep to the facts.

Nesbit, E. (1908, this ed. 1986) The house of Arden. Great Britain: Puffin Books.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Thought You Might Find This Amusing...

The Midwife’s Tale

The last feather of ash crumpled onto the flame-hearted coals. The Thief of Night and Day stirred them with a charred stick, his bony face thoughtful. “Who’s next?” he asked. Brother Pearl, who still shivered in his soggy habit, his draggling hair covering the lump on his forehead, just sneezed and blew his nose on his sleeve. Sir Topaz stood forth proudly, straightened his stiff lace collar, and chanted:

More I shall tell you of my long questing:
Once, under oak tree I, coolly resting,
laid down my coat to the soft ground - billowing
folds of fine velvet, a scarlet pillow - and
clad in my shift – silk, of bright burnt orange -
yawning I-

The Thief sighed, and crimped his eyes shut.

The last feather of ash crumpled onto the flame-hearted coals. The Thief of Night and Day stirred them with a charred stick, his bony face thoughtful. “Who’s n-“

“I seen him!” cried the woman like a bundle of laundry. “Just now! He snitched a minute off’f us. Oi!” Her button eyes, the shiny black and the milky pearl, glared at the Thief, who looked innocent and bewildered and then said, “Prove it.”

I suggested quickly, “Perhaps you could grace us with a story, ma’am.”

She snorted, but looked slightly mollified. “I’m the midwife,” she said, “Mother Mallow’s me name, an’ I’m a one that sees much in me daily business. Well. Me friend the doctor, he said, ‘When one oft walks in the Valley of the Shadow carrying forth new buds of life into this world of tears and light, one develops excellent ocular facilities.’ I just says, ‘Good eyes,’ an’ that settles it. An’ good eyes I got indeed, for spotting that the babe’s birth cord is strangling it or the first hint of clamminess that shows the mother, bless her, is taking a wee downturn, and I got hands quick an’ strong for hauling them back up out o’ the Valley. An’ if, while in my patients’ house, my good eyes an’ quick hands might make off with the odd silver spoon or bottle o’ summat fiery, well my patients ain’t complaining A he ha hi ha hu,” she cackled.

“Well. One night, a rainy night, a night when you can almost see the mother of storms wailing overhead an’ weeping for her little lost kiddies, a body knocks on my door. A little brown man he is, very ordinary, in a brown coat and a brown cap and spectacles.

“ ‘There’s need of you, Mother Mallow,’ he says in his deep, dark voice. Then he lowers his specs an’ I see his eyes ain’t brown, no, they’re lighter, like a gold coin in mud, or tree-amber, or a beastie’s eyes. I ain’t complaining mind – a hire is a hire, an’ I got to live. So I says, ‘How far?’

“ He says back, quick as you please, ‘Three breaths,’ and while I’m wondering at this he takes my hand and pulls a little fan of three feathers out of his pocket. He breathes on the first one – brown and speckledy from a chicken – and we’re flying! Over the fields, over the Askin river with its mill, over the hills and far away…”

Brother Pearl coughed, and the midwife glared at him.

“… ‘til we land halfway up a mountain, teetering on a little rainy slippy ledge, so I let out a little scream (as you would do, gentles, no doubt). He says, all deep like, “Calm yourself, Mother Mallow,” and blows on the next feather, a little black one from a corbie. Then we’re off – me clinging and wailing, him very stern (in a little, brown, ordinary way) through the storm and lashing winds, over dark lakes and great forests, ‘til we land on the slenderest branch of the wavering tip of the tallest tree in the forest and I’m snivelling and crying and weeping but he pries me fingers off the wood, says ‘Calm yourself, Mother Mallow,’ blows on the last feather, and we’re off again. It was a red one, with a glow ‘round the edges like fire. Dunno where it came from.

So we land halfway up another mountain, this time on soft grass – well, sloshy grass – by a neat little house, and my little brown man is saying, all serious, ‘She who has need of you lies under this roof,’ but his voice is quavering something terrible. I think to meself, ‘Magic flying feathers or no magic flying feathers, that’s one nervous daddy-to-be.’ I says, ‘Calm yourself. And boil water.’ Then I pick up me skirts, la di da, and sashay on in.

Sure enough, inside on the bed is a little brown woman – at her time and looking scared. She’d reached the Valley of the Shadow y’see, an’ that’s hard. Together, we did what was needful. Tricky work it was, too. I almost lost ‘em both, which don’t happen often,” Mother Mallow said with pride, “but we hung on tight, we did, and finally I was holding a disgusting, bloody clot of baby up to his mum, about to say ‘Inne just the most beautiful?’ when bubbling up from I don’t know where came these words: ‘Son of the bright side and the right side, he must look for the light side.’ Whatever that meant.

“Well, his mum thanks me all proper like, and while I’m cleaning us all up, she gives me a jar of ointment and tells me to rub it on the little one, which I do (everybody’s got their rituals – sometimes it’s rub the kiddy’s feet with coins, sometimes it’s bury the afterbirth under a tree … you know.). But as it happens, an eyelash gets in me eye and I rub it with the gucky hand and my did it sting! My eye’s all tearing up and I can hardly tell when it’s stopped, ‘cause everything looks different. The kiddy’s glowing golden, and when I look at his mum, she ain’t no little brown woman anymore – she’s a lady as beautiful as, as, as a warm ginger biscuit, broken in half and shared with the baker. An’ that’s a very beautiful thing.

“So the little brown man comes back in with about the twelfth pot of hot water, but he looks the same, ‘cept his ears have gone pointy with fluffy tips, but I don’t let on I see them, either, ‘cause I don’t want to get in no trouble. And he’s all thank’ee, thank’ee, and hustling me out the door (but he fills me pockets full of gold, first) an’ taking me back home.

“An’ what do you know – it’s still raining. And howling. And wailing. And I look up, an’ guess what - I really do see the Mother of Storms sitting up there in the sky yowling like nobody’s had troubles like hers and lashing the houses with her hair. I give her what-for and she just stops with a surprised little gulp A he ha hi ha hu I go to bed, then, just as the sun comes up, with the pretty little birdies yodelling.

“But that ain’t the interesting bit.”

To be continued?

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Well-Known Song, With Annotations

I'd like to sum up each Philosopher's Philosophical views with a few pithy sentences, but Philosophy rarely works like that, and I am not smart enough or arrogant enough to try and make it. What follows is a bit about each one, some information on the figurative language used in the song, the references I used (so you can track my research if so desired), and a handful of interesting links right at the bottom.

The Bruces’ Philosophers Song

Immanuel Kant(1) was a real pissant(2)
Who was very rarely stable,
Heidegger(3), Heidegger was a boozy(4) beggar(5)
Who could think you under the table,
David Hume(6) could out-consume
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel(7),
And Wittgenstein(8) was a beery(9) swine(10)
Who was just as schloshed(11) as Schlegel.(12)
There’s nothing Nietzsche(13) couldn’t teach ya
’Bout the raising of the wrist(14),
Socrates(15), himself, was permanently pissed.(2)

John Stuart Mill(16), of his own free will(17),
On half a pint of shandy(18) was particularly ill,
Plato(19), they say, could stick it away,
Half a crate of whisky(20) every day.
Aristotle(21), Aristotle was a bugger(22) for the bottle(23),
Hobbes(24) was fond of his dram(25),
And René Descartes(26) was a drunken fart(27),
“I drink, therefore I am.”(28)
Yes Socrates(15), himself, is particularly missed,
A lovely little thinker,
But a bugger(22) when he’s pissed.(29)

by Eric Idle(30)

The Annotations

1. Immanuel Kant: German, born in Prussia. "Kant as a young man was quite gregarious and enjoyed attending social events about town. He also regularly invited guests over for dinner, insisting that company and laughter were good for his constitution. It was only after befriending the English merchant Joseph Green that Kant began living a very regulated life: according to some stories neighbours would set their clocks according to the time Green and Kant finished their daily get-togethers." WK. The comment in line two is highly unfair.

2. Piss ant: Piss: 1. urine 2. alcohol (slang); Pissed: drunk; Pissant: "inconsequential, irrelevant, small, unimportant, worthless." OSD.

3. Martin Heidegger: German. Nazi: "Heidegger not only cooperated with the educational policies of the National Socialist government but also offered it his enthusiastic public support." PP.

4. Boozy: Booze: alcholic drink UK.; Boozy: adjective

5. Beggar: One who must beg for the essentials of life; Euphemism for 'bugger' (22) UK.

6. David Hume: Scottish. "Critics of religion during Hume's time needed to express themselves cautiously. Less than 15 years before Hume was born, an 18-year-old college student was put on trial for saying openly that he thought Christianity was nonsense, was convicted and hanged for blasphemy. Hume followed the common practice of expressing his views obliquely, through characters in dialogues... So masterful was Hume in disguising his own views that debate continues to this day over whether Hume was actually a deist or an atheist." Hume inspired Immanuel Kant. WK.

7. Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: German. Born in Stuttgart. Became professor of philosophy at Heidelberg in 1816. HEGEL. Unsure whether he obtained any dueling scars during his tenure.

8. Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein: Austrian. Pre-and-concurrent-philosophical occupations included: old-money-inheritor, soldier, village school-teacher, divestor-of-all-worldly-wealth, architect. "Belief that language can perfectly capture reality is a kind of bewitchment, Wittgenstein now proposed. Thus, philosophy is properly a therapeutic activity, employed to relieve the puzzlement generated by (philosophical) misuses of ordinary language." WITT.

9. Beer: Fermented alcoholic beverage brewed from malt and hops. DD.

10. Swine: 1. a hog or pig. 2. a coarse or beastly person. WB.

11. Schloshed: Probably 'sloshed': Drunk. (from the 1900s!) UK.

12. Karl Wilhelm Friedrich von Schlegel: German
or possibly his brother:
August Wilhelm von Schlegel: German WK.

13. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: German. Wrote: Thus Spoke Zarathustra. 'Zarathustra' is the German name for the Persian prophet 'Zoroaster', who apparently founded the world's first monotheistic religion.

Sample quotes:

- "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you."
- "Through life's school of war: that which does not kill you only serves to make you stronger."
- "Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil"

14. Raising of the wrist: Slang. Equals 'raising of the mug (of alcohol)', held in hand, connected to wrist. I had an interesting discussion with my poetry lecturer as to whether this figure of speech is technically synecdoche ("the part instead of the whole, as in 'fifty head' for 'fifty cattle'" PM) or metonymy ("the substitution of the name of an object for that of something else, usually a larger concept, to which it is related. Examples are 'scepter' for 'sovereignty', 'the ring' for 'boxing', and so on." PM). I'm leaning towards metonymy right now.

15. Socrates: Greek. At around age seventy committed suicide by taunting a jury of several hundred men into granting him a death sentence and then drinking hemlock one month later.

16. John Stuart Mill: English. "John Stuart Mill was born in Pentonville, London... He was given an extremely rigorous upbringing, and was deliberately shielded from association with boys his own age. His father, a follower of Bentham and an adherent of associationism, had as his explicit aim to create a genius intellect that would carry on the cause of utilitarianism and its implementation after he and Bentham were dead.

His feats as a child were exceptional; at the age of three he was taught the Greek alphabet and long lists of Greek words with their English equivalents. By the age of eight he had read Aesop's Fables, Xenophon's Anabasis, and the whole of Herodotus, and was acquainted with Lucian, Diogenes Laërtius, Isocrates and six dialogues of Plato (see his Autobiography). He had also read a great deal of history in English and had been taught arithmetic."

17. Free Will: An oft revisited philosophical problem. Issues include: Determinism vs. Indeterminism, Moral Responsibility, Free Will + Omniscient/Omnipotent God, the Problem of Evil (Omniscient/Omnipotent/Omnibenevolent God) etc. WK.

18. Shandy: A drink made of beer and lemonade. DD.

19. Plato: Greek. One of Socrates' 'students' and the actual writer of most of the Socratic dialogues (other Greeks occasionally wrote them down, but not Socrates himself). These days, it is hard to tell where Socrates leaves off and Plato begins in the dialogues.

20. Whisky: "a strong, intoxicating liquor made from grain ... In the United States, whiskey is made of corn or rye; in Scotland, Ireland, and Great Britain, whikey is often made of malted barley ... (short for obsolete 'whiskybae', variant of 'usquebaugh' WBD. People make whisky from corn?!? I shudder to think.

Grain Whisky is made from unmalted barley, wheat or maize produced as a continuous process in a column still. Malt Whisky applies to whisky made entirely from malted barley. Malt is barley which has germinated by soaking it in water, then germinated, traditionally on a wooden or stone floor or more commonly nowadays in large rotating drums or Saladin boxes with automatic turners. Malting converts the stored starch into soluble compounds such as the sugar maltose which allows fermentation. Then drying the malt over a furnace stops the germination. By adding peat to the furnace a peaty aroma and taste is transferred to the malt." IJ.

21. Aristotle: Greek. A student of Plato (who was one of the students of Socrates). Among other things, tutored Alexander the Great. Invented syllogisms. WB.

22. Bugger: "... is an expletive used in vernacular British English, Australian English, and New Zealand English. When used in context it still retains its original meaning, implying sodomy; however it is now more generally used to imply dissatisfaction (bugger, I've missed the bus) or used to describe someone whose behaviour is in some way displeasing (the bugger has given me the wrong change). The word can also used amongst friends in an affectionate way (you old bugger) and is also used as a noun in Welsh English vernacular to imply that one is very fond of something (I'm a bugger for Welsh cakes). The character Unlucky Alf from The Fast Show always said "Awwww bugger" whenever something went wrong.

The phrase bugger off means to run away, and when used as a command it means "go away" or "leave me alone". Bugger all means "Nothing"...

The word is derived from the French word Boulgre, derived from "Bulgarian" (meaning the Bogomils of Bulgaria), who Catholic propagandists said were practicing 'buggery'. WK

23. Bottle: Bottles can be made from skin (animal, I hope), stoneware, earthenware, glass, metal, or plastic. They are containers for holding liquids, and can have narrow or wide necks. WB. If Aristotle had lived today or in the past few centuries, and had had a liking for champagne, he might conceivably have drunk it out of a:

* bottle (aka. Imperial) (750 ml) or a
* Magnum (1.5 L)
* Jeroboam (3 L)
* Rehoboam (4.5 L)
* Methuselah (6 L)
* Salmanazar (9 L)
* Balthazar (12 L)
* Nebuchadnezzar (15 L)
* Melchior (18 L)
* Solomon (25 L)
* Primat (27 L) WK.

24. Thomas Hobbes: English. A contemporary of Rene Descartes, Francis Bacon, and Ben Jonson. WK.

25. Dram: 1: A small weight. 2: a) An apothecary's dram: 8 dr./oz. b) In avoirdupois weight: 16 dr./oz. 3: Fig. A small amount of anything (also drachm). However, here it is probably 4: A small drink of intoxicating liquor. WBD.

26. Rene Descartes: French. Descartes, "also known as Cartesius, was a French philosopher, mathematician and part-time mercenary." WK. Invented the Cartesian Co-ordinate System (By this we mean, all graphs with X/Y axes are descended from this man.) Famous for uttering three small Latin words: "Cogito ergo sum"("I think therefore I am.)"

27. Fart: 1. The gas expelled due to anal flatulence. Originally s.e. from 1250s, but deemed slang from 1800s. 2. An unpleasant and objectionable person. Cf. 'old fart'. UK.

- 'old fart': Noun. An elderly, old fashioned and tedious person. Derog. UK.
- 'raspberry': Noun. A flatulent imitative sound made with the lips and tongue, either expressing derision or used humourously for its rude associated qualities. From the rhyming slang raspberry tart meaning 'fart'. {Informal}

28. "I drink therefore I am": That would be "Bibo ergo sum." SP.

29. "But a bugger when he's pissed": Actually he probably wasn't. The dialogue The Symposium discusses various forms and theories of love and ends with one of the characters (Alcibiades, based on a real person) explaining why he is in love with Socrates. He then recounts the time when he, as a very beautiful boy, tried to seduce the fellow. Having finally maneouvred the man into coming to dinner and then ... staying the night, this is what happened:

"I gave him a shake, and I said: ‘Socrates, are you asleep?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘Do you know what I am meditating? ‘What are you meditating?’ he said. ‘I think,’ I replied, ‘that of all the lovers whom I have ever had you are the only one who is worthy of me, and you appear to be too modest to speak. ... To these words he replied in the ironical manner which is so characteristic of him:—‘Alcibiades, my friend, you have indeed an elevated aim if what you say is true, and if there really is in me any power by which you may become better; truly you must see in me some rare beauty ... But look again, sweet friend, and see whether you are not deceived in me. The mind begins to grow critical when the bodily eye fails, and it will be a long time before you get old.’ Hearing this, I said: ‘I have told you my purpose, which is quite serious, and do you consider what you think best for you and me.’ ‘That is good,’ he said; ‘at some other time then we will consider and act as seems best about this and about other matters.’ Whereupon, I fancied that he was smitten, and that the words which I had uttered like arrows had wounded him, and so without waiting to hear more I got up, and throwing my coat about him crept under his threadbare cloak, as the time of year was winter, and there I lay during the whole night having this wonderful monster in my arms. This again, Socrates, will not be denied by you. And yet, notwithstanding all, he was so superior to my solicitations, so contemptuous and derisive and disdainful of my beauty—which really, as I fancied, had some attractions—hear, O judges; for judges you shall be of the haughty virtue of Socrates—nothing more happened, but in the morning when I awoke (let all the gods and goddesses be my witnesses) I arose as from the couch of a father or an elder brother." SY.

However, The Symposium ends with the narrator passing out drunk in the middle of the night, only to wake in the morning to see Socrates still awake, cheerfully sharing an enormous cup of wine with two others while arguing a debate with them. As dawn comes, he puts them all to bed, has a bath and goes about his regular day. Truly he was the Philosopher for this song.

30. Eric Idle: Either "the nicest of the six members of Monty Python" or "the sixth nicest member of the old Monty Python group..." EI. For more information check the references.


PM: Stillman, F. (1966) The poet's manual and rhyming dictionary. London: Thames and Hudson
SP: Stephanie Pegg, Nascent Latin Translator and Beloved Sister
WB: Barnhart, C. L., Barnhart, R. K. (Eds.) (1985) The world book. Chicago: Doubleday Inc.
WBD: Barnhart, C. L., Barnhart, R. K. (Eds.) (1985) The world book dictionary. Chicago: Doubleday Inc.

Interesting Links:

A study of The Galaxy Song

Eric Idle, Himself

More Python Philosophers
Historical Roots of the Genre
The Almighty Wikipedia's Own Sanctified Annotations

Saturday, September 03, 2005

By Request

All Cats Are Grey

In the dark the grey iron knot
that is your hair loosens, tumbles,
releases pins to my fingering hands.
In the dark the grey tweed armour
that is your coat sits stolid on its hanger,
and your grey cashmere shell lies,
resting, in the place I laid it.
Your harsh voice purrs.
In the dark the candle's fragile light touches,
gently, all the tight-strung bones of you, reveals,
tenderly, all your own tenderness.
You are beautiful in the dark.
In the dark you can love me.


The harsh wood opens
surprised, white-petal eyes, flutters,
to the wind, light red-leaf lashes, weeps,
if it will, soft rain-drop tears.

A hidden blackbird flings,
up and out, its laughing songs and daisies scatter,
sunlike, bright heads across the lawn.

And soon I will go,
to a place of cut stone where I will help them plant,
quietly, a box from which rises
nothing at all.

After reading these, you've probably noticed a consistent funniness about the line-breaks and verbs. In the second Colours poem, I was bunging the line-breaks so the lines generally started with a verb, because I had to put them somewhere. It gave an interesting effect, and I've been playing with them some more.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

Beware linguists!

by e. e. cummings

In other words, it's a really beautiful day and I don't want to go to Phonetics class ...