Thursday, July 29, 2010

From the Department of Appropriate Names

I've been reading The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk, about the rivalry between Russia and Britain in central Asia in the nineteenth century. This passage amused me:
Ellenborough's scheme for the clandestine survey of the Indus did not, however, meet with universal approval in India. One of it's severest critics was Sir Charles Metcalfe, a member of the all-powerful Supreme Council, and former Secretary of the Secret and Political Department.

Who would have thought that the Supreme Council of the East India Company would be all powerful? Rather sadly, although the India Office Records refer to Political and Secret Department records, the Department itself would have been called just the Political Department. The fact it was the Secret and Political Department seems to have been a secret.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jane Austen's Fight Club

Partly due to things I'm doing at the moment, this amuses me greatly, even if I am the last person on the internet to see it.

(Is it churlish to note that it looks more 1920s than 1810 to me? It is? Oh dear.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blogiversary IV

4 years ago today I started this blog. To quote from my initial post:
Hopefully, this blog will never have anything of interest in it, and, even if I make a mistake and it does, only three people will ever read it. Which begs the question of why I'm doing this.

It's good to see that I've kept fairly closely to my initial concept. The only difference is that as some posts get crossposted to Facebook, more than three people read some of them. Anyway, here's a few highlights:

The Trial Part 1 and The Trial Part 2, which I think are still pretty funny, although they have been overtaken by recent events.

This apostrophe challenge.

The following post tells us the origin of the Spring Bank Holiday.

I criticised a Tarzan novel.

There's a series of posts about that scourge of the sealanes, piracy, beginning here.

I woke up next to a copy of a Ken Hom recipe book.

I created a sitcom called Stan and the fag machine.

I found a Tom Clancy spin off novel on the train. And read it.

I've had a go at bibliomancy.

I made In The Style Of French Onion Soup for a dinner party.

My brother became the future love messiah.

I began to put up some stuff from the Secret Diary of Major Squick.

I reread the James Bond novels.

Plus apologies, pop music, books, food, and the odd fairytale. Now on to year 5.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Non-mediocre Post

So blogging software allows people to become followers, in an attempt to make blogging more social network-y, in accordance with the usual plan:

1. Make blogging more social network-y
2. ?
3. Profit!

Slightly surprisingly this blog has followers, and, in accordance with the rules of social networkiness, I've tracked them back to their blogs[1]. This lead me to this post on Men to Avoid, which is uncomfortably familiar, especially number 4:

4) see's life as a Broadway musical (the guy who breaks out into song at any available moment, asks you to announce him before he enters rooms in a 'non mediocre' way; and thinks the best way to avoid an argument is to sing a ballad from the Pirates of Penzance). You will always be the supporting role in his life, or even an audience member with season tickets - not to mention the associated stress of attending to such a 'huge talent'.

Uh oh. Christal A aka is an Australian and as far as I know doesn't know me or any of my friends but that's worryingly spot on.

[1] This probably is called re-following or something. I may ask the 14 year olds I work with to explain it to me.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Keep My Despair In An Old Bottle

I put my despair in an empty champagne bottle and corked it. Then I locked it in a box and locked that box in six other boxes, like a Matryoshka doll.

I gave the keys to seven sisters, each more beautiful than the next. They each promised to give the key only to whoever answered their riddles. Their riddles, their inheritance from their grandfather, are the most fiendishly difficult, as well as pointless and aggravating, puzzles ever brought back to the waking world.

The boxes I gave to their brother, who hid them in a cave on a mountain which can only be found by one guide. Sadly this guide was stolen from his home when only three nights old and has not been seen since[1].

I realise, of course, that these precautions are worse than none at all, as any hero worth his salt will find this quest not only irresistible, but will find his eventual victory inevitable. Because of this, next to the bottle I have left a note. Before drinking from the bottle of my despair this hero can read my final warning:
You're welcome to it

[1] I apologise for this not making any sense, but I have cribbed this bit from a classic source.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Something Tolkien Left Out

I'm reading Millennium by Tom Holland, a popular history of Europe in the 10th and 11th century. On page 220 I came across this quote:
A harsh world it will be, whoredom rampant,
An axe-age, a sword-age, shields shattered,
A wind-age, a wolf-age before man's age tumbles down.
The Völuspá

That sounds familiar:
Forth, and fear no darkness! Arise! Arise, Riders of Theoden! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword day... a red day... ere the sun rises!
(from 3:45)

and also:
Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!

(quotes from IMDb. I'd always heard it as "An hour of wolves and shattered shields", but that's just me, and the whole thing with Wargs and also Fenris)

I think we can all be sure that Tolkien was familiar with the Völuspá. So why did he leave the bit about whoredom rampant out of The Lord of the Rings?