pallas_athena: (tarot)
For the huge full moon tonight, I thought I would collect all the moon-similes from the first bit of Oscar Wilde's Salomé.

***************

THE PAGE OF HERODIAS
Look at the moon. How strange the moon seems! She is like a woman rising from a tomb. She is like a dead woman. One might fancy she was looking for dead things.


THE YOUNG SYRIAN
She has a strange look. She is like a little princess who wears a yellow veil, and whose feet are of silver. She is like a princess who has little white doves for feet. One might fancy she was dancing.

*************

SALOME
How good to see the moon! She is like a little piece of money, a little silver flower. She is cold and chaste. I am sure she is a virgin. She has the beauty of a virgin. Yes, she is a virgin. She has never defiled herself. She has never abandoned herself to men, like the other goddesses.

************

THE PAGE OF HERODIAS
Oh! How strange the moon looks. Like the hand of a dead woman who is seeking to cover herself with a shroud.

THE YOUNG SYRIAN
The moon has a strange look! She is like a little princess, whose eyes are eyes of amber. Through the clouds of muslin she is smiling like a little princess.

************

HEROD

The moon has a strange look to-night. Has she not a strange look? She is like a mad woman, a mad woman who is seeking everywhere for lovers. She is naked too. She is quite naked. The clouds are seeking to clothe her nakedness, but she will not let them. She reels through the clouds like a drunken woman. ... I am sure she is looking for lovers. . . . Does she not reel like a drunken woman? She is like a mad woman, is she not?

HERODIAS

No. The moon is like the moon, that is all.

*****************
pallas_athena: (Default)
So by this point, we've all read about the spread of invasive Burmese pythons in southern Florida leading to the decline of native mammals, particularly those of appropriate size for pythonic convenience food. Fans of Pogo will be particularly dismayed that the scaled invaders have all but wiped out the opossum from the swamps there. Thankfully, it looked as though the creatures were too cold-sensitive to spread as far north as the Okefenokee, but then this happened:

Burmese pythons: Could the snakes move north?

During two cold snaps that hit Florida in winters that started in 2009 and 2010, many pythons survived by burrowing into the earth and by finding deeper, warmer water to ride out the low temperatures. Dozens of snakes perished and were disposed of by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but what didn’t kill those that survived might have made them stronger, Dorcas said.

“We just had a major selection event for cold-tolerant pythons,” Dorcas said. Fish and Wildlife predicted that a new generation of Burmese pythons on the edge of their non-native range can adapt and “expand to colder climates.”


Two excellent things about this story:

1. The reporter's surname is "Fears."

2. It talks about natural selection. And evolution. In Florida. Silly, everyone knows they don't have evolution there. (They don't have climate change either, which is a relief, given the potential consequences in a state whose highest point is 345 feet above sea level.)

So if natural selection isn't affecting the snakes, what is? The obvious answer lies with God, Whose intention moves all things. Having created the Burmese python milennia ago, He has recently provided them with an exodus from the land of Burma. It is written that this involved one of the pythons throwing down its staff which immediately turned into a bearded Jewish guy. The Lord then brought about its importation to the US as a pet, dividing the Atlantic ocean en route. When the pythons had completed their time in servitude, God divinely inspired the owners to abandon them in the wilderness. After some years of wandering and subsisting on manna in various furry forms, their Creator has hearkened unto their prayers and armoured them in righteous resistance to the elements.

The theological implications of this development are, frankly, staggering. Apart from anything else, it is now evident just who God's chosen species are. If this seems far-fetched, ask yourself this: who was the only person in Eden who didn't eat the forbidden fruit? Sure, the Serpent invited the gullible humans to chow down, but in no source does it say that the reptile itself ingested any. A fruit-eating snake would be kind of weird in any case, right? God's subsequent curse upon the Serpent is strangely harmless [King James version, here we go]:

--Upon thy belly shalt thou go: Snakes do this anyway

--and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: This happens when you're crawling around on your belly. Note that God does not prohibit the Serpent from eating any others of His creations it happens to find tasty in addition to dust.

--and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Well, given what just happened they were hardly going to be future BFF, were they?

Less of a curse, more of a pat on the scaly back for a job well done. In any case, it would seem that the Creator Of The Universe has now amended this last clause to "He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt crush him into an easily-ingestible lump within thy coils thus to swallow him, and then thou shalt have a bit of a nap the while his brethren do make an B-movie about thee."

And who does that B-movie feature? That's right. Ice Cube. Ice Cube... cold-resistant serpents... At least now we know what God was smiting us for.

So what can we, the faithful, learn from this dire peril into which our Maker has cast us? The lesson is clear, for it is written:

Upon that day when a film crew be gathered together in My name, and J.Lo be among them, yea and Jon Voight also, and he that was in The Royal Tenenbaums, you know, the blond guy, and the script doth verily suck worse than the special effects, such that the result be a two-hour abomination unto My sight: and I do send unto thee My warning, saying,
O Man, release not this piece of shit where it may afflict the eyes of filmgoers, for even My prophet Liam Neeson could not save this trainwreck, seriously, thou shalt DAMN WELL LISTEN. Else shall that state which most resembleth an detumescent wang be smitten with fearful plagues of superevolved cold-resistant Burmese pythons, yea, and also tempests, Jeb Bush and mosquitoes the size of chickens. Thus saith the LORD.


Well, I've done my part in spreading the word... HAVE YOU???
pallas_athena: (Default)
The BBC site is claiming that the first known valentine in English has been found among the Paston letters. Sent by 17-year-old Margery Brews to her future husband John Paston, it's been dated to 1477. Text here; John evidently sent an answer, getting a further reply from Margery.

From the BBC site:
It is a letter, written from a young woman to her love, and is the first mention of the word Valentine in the English language. [...]

"It might not necessarily be that nobody had used Valentine in any context before, but this is probably one of the first times it was written down," says British Library curator Julian Harrison.


That last is, of course, WRONG. Come on, guys, I'm only a lousy BA in English and even I know that Chaucer's Parlement of Foules, in which a number of talking birds hold a huge celebration of St Valentine's Day, predates this letter by almost a century. (Current best guess: about 1382-ish.) There are fifteen manuscript sources for the poem.

Chaucer's poem, admittedly, does not use the word "valentine" as a noun denoting either a letter or a person (or bird), but it invokes the saint, and the day as a festival of love, several times. Here's the final song, as all the birds leave with their newfound mates:

Qui bien aime a tard oublie.

Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake,
And driven away the longe nightes blake!

Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte; --
Thus singen smale foules for thy sake --
Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake.


Wel han they cause for to gladen ofte,
Sith ech of hem recovered hath his make;
Ful blisful may they singen whan they wake:
Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres weders over-shake,
And driven away the longe nightes blake.
pallas_athena: (Default)
Last night on my way home from a film, I stopped to stroke a black cat when I noticed a grounded bumblebee.

The bumblebees now emerging are queens who have spent the winter hibernating. They are heavy and fly rather drunkenly, and they are all looking for a place to nest where they can lay eggs and hatch out some friends. Flight takes a lot of energy for a queen bumblebee, and if they haven't eaten enough they can easily become grounded.

This particular bee was attracting the black cat's attention in a way that boded no good for either of them, so I took off one shoe and tried to coax the bee to sit on it, thinking I could at least put her into a windowbox or something. This worked rather too well: the bee crawled determinedly inside the shoe and sat there. I held the shoe toe-downwards, thinking she'd fly out towards the light, but nothing doing. She had found an ideal nesting spot, and nothing was going to budge her.

So, watched by a perplexed black cat, I hobbled one-shod to the nearest garden square. Under a blossoming cherry tree, I held up my shoe and peered into it. Fuzzy black bee legs were visible towards the toe. I decided to take the insole out, hoping the bee would come with it.

She did, and I heard her angrily buzzing. But where was she? I looked around fruitlessly until I realised the buzz was coming from very near the back of my neck, and getting louder.

We'll just draw a discreet veil over what happened next. All you need to know is that the bee was safely dislodged and I eventually retrieved my shoe, insole and jacket from the various places they'd ended up. The moral of this story is... I have no idea what the moral of this story is. Do you?

I'm heading back to DC tomorrow; for the next two weeks, someone else will have to rescue London's stranded bumblebees (as well as cat petting, dog-scratching, random street-singing and my other usual duties.) I trust you will do your best.
pallas_athena: (Default)
Days spent in Cornwall: 4
Trips to Eden Project: 2
Beaches visited: 1
Pieces of sea glass found: 6
Parties attended: 1

Rainy days: 1
Poems read aloud on sofa with pile of books between me and [livejournal.com profile] suetekh: 8 (at least)
Elegant collages made by [livejournal.com profile] suetekh: 1
Poems elegantly illustrated by [livejournal.com profile] suetekh: 1
Comic strips about man-eating plant pencilled by me: 2
Watercolour portraits of Batman: 1
Admiration for new Doctor Who: Surprisingly high

Sunny days: 1
Toads rescued out of storm drain: 3
Newts rescued out of storm drain: about 12
Satisfaction of carrying bucket of crawling amphibians through Eden Project crowds to the pond: High
Successful ascents of 50ft rock climbing face: 2
Horrible fear of death: Maybe, a bit
Adrenaline: YEAHHHHHHH

Days out in Truro: 1
Tea shops open in Truro: 0
Lurid charity shop dresses purchased as consolation: 1

Being back in London with no [livejournal.com profile] suetekh: Sad.

Pandagyric

Feb. 4th, 2010 07:38 pm
pallas_athena: (Default)
Washington DC's firstborn panda, Tai Shan, is being flown to China today. Here is a photo gallery displaying his many significant achievements.
Of pandas, monkeys and nostalgia )
pallas_athena: (Default)
Tsutomu Yamaguchi, only known survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, has died aged 93.

Knut Haugland, explorer (notably on the Kon-Tiki mission) and leader of commando raids for the WWII Norwegian Resistance, died on Christmas Day aged 92.

They do not make guys like these any more.

In other news, it's still fuck-off cold (that is, so cold that it can only be ameliorated by swearing. A lot.) To find out exactly how ball-shatteringly cold it is, go to Fuck This Weather and enter your cold-as-all-fuck location.

Attempts to warm up by looking at Shirtless Superheroes ground to a halt when all the muscular torsos started looking sort of same-old-same-old. (except Nightcrawler, obviously.) So from there, I went to these images from the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, which could heat a whole city with their sheer awesomeness. Also, some fun snow sculptures from Northern China. Enjoy!
pallas_athena: (Default)
I got back to London this morning, and I have to say the weather feels positively balmy compared to the past week in DC-- extremely cold, with a biting wind like Odin's own surgical knife. Factoring in the windchill, it was well below zero Fahrenheit (that's fuck-off cold, Centigrade users! See, I know [zero = freezing] has a certain logic, but [fuck-off cold] is a much more elusive measurement, neatly pinned down by the Fahrenheit system.)

[livejournal.com profile] speedlime and I went to see a movie the other night. Afterwards, I emerged from the building with one sleeve damp from having washed my hands. By the time we got to where the car was parked, my sleeve was crisply frozen. Fuck-off cold.

I was impressed, though, by the sight of snowbound Britain as my flight landed today. As I type, there are flurries falling in London, but not quite settling-- in the centre, at least.

I was going to try and fight the jetlag, but a hot bath and some comic books suddenly look like a much better idea. Abnormal service will resume shortly, true believers.
pallas_athena: (Default)
Leipzig was amazing, but I don't feel quite ready to write about it yet. In the meantime, here are some interesting animal behaviour links I mostly stole from MetaFilter:

A new way to keep the cat off the kitchen worktop [Page contains embedded video, but no sound]

Camel versus bin. Did you know that the bin is the ancient enemy of the camel? Neither did I. But this young one does.

Ursula Le Guin is famous for the clarity and insight of her writing. Now the world-renowned author of Earthsea and Changing Planes brings us... Cat T'ai Chi.

Do you have a cat or other creature-companion? Post a photo in the comments, will you? I miss my cats.

(Also: YouTube video of a playful baby anteater.)
pallas_athena: (Default)
Leipzig was amazing, but I don't feel quite ready to write about it yet. In the meantime, here are some interesting animal behaviour links I mostly stole from MetaFilter:

A new way to keep the cat off the kitchen worktop [Page contains embedded video, but no sound]

Camel versus bin. Did you know that the bin is the ancient enemy of the camel? Neither did I. But this young one does.

Ursula Le Guin is famous for the clarity and insight of her writing. Now the world-renowned author of Earthsea and Changing Planes brings us... Cat T'ai Chi.

Do you have a cat or other creature-companion? Post a photo in the comments, will you? I miss my cats.

(Also: YouTube video of a playful baby anteater.)
pallas_athena: (Default)
For some time now, I've been cultivating little jade trees from cuttings off my big jade tree (which, itself, started life as a leaf that fell off someone else's.) The current crop are all grown up, and now the windowsill is getting crowded.

So: Would anyone like a free jade tree? I've got about seven ready to go to new homes. Jades are very low-maintenance: they're indoor plants; they like some sun; they only need to be watered once a week at most, and can go as long as a month without water. I've never bothered with fertilizer or anything, and they've always done fine.

Obviously, this offer is limited to people in the UK, but you don't have to be a Londoner-- I will happily bring a jade tree to any convenient rendezvous point.

Not sure what a jade tree is? Here's one. Their proper name is Crassula ovata; they're also sometimes called "money trees" or "friendship trees."
pallas_athena: (Default)
For some time now, I've been cultivating little jade trees from cuttings off my big jade tree (which, itself, started life as a leaf that fell off someone else's.) The current crop are all grown up, and now the windowsill is getting crowded.

So: Would anyone like a free jade tree? I've got about seven ready to go to new homes. Jades are very low-maintenance: they're indoor plants; they like some sun; they only need to be watered once a week at most, and can go as long as a month without water. I've never bothered with fertilizer or anything, and they've always done fine.

Obviously, this offer is limited to people in the UK, but you don't have to be a Londoner-- I will happily bring a jade tree to any convenient rendezvous point.

Not sure what a jade tree is? Here's one. Their proper name is Crassula ovata; they're also sometimes called "money trees" or "friendship trees."
pallas_athena: (Default)
It's been a beautiful day in London-- sunny and warm. As I write, there's the thinnest sliver of a new moon setting in the west, with Venus above. Even with the London light pollution, I can make out the outline of the old moon glowing redly: a phenomenon rather poetically known as Earthshine.

And now clouds have hidden all. I was supposed to be rehearsing today, but I have a cold and had to stay home and be silent. An opportunity for a recital this weekend came up, but I had to decline, since no voice means no ability to prepare. All this is good news for readers of [livejournal.com profile] gawain_project, however.

Today's two stanzas were goddamned hard -- lots of technical terms for various pieces of armour, and since I know some of my readers are armour geeks, I had to get it right. Luckily the poet seems to have known what he/she was talking about, even if everything is overlaid with impossible amounts of gold, gems and silk (this is a medieval romance, after all.)
Amusingly, I discovered what I think are a couple of errors in the "scholarly" editions I'm referring to. Clearly, more English academics should hang out with armour geeks.

I don't know about you, but I sure could use two minutes' worth of inspiration.
pallas_athena: (Default)
It's been a beautiful day in London-- sunny and warm. As I write, there's the thinnest sliver of a new moon setting in the west, with Venus above. Even with the London light pollution, I can make out the outline of the old moon glowing redly: a phenomenon rather poetically known as Earthshine.

And now clouds have hidden all. I was supposed to be rehearsing today, but I have a cold and had to stay home and be silent. An opportunity for a recital this weekend came up, but I had to decline, since no voice means no ability to prepare. All this is good news for readers of [livejournal.com profile] gawain_project, however.

Today's two stanzas were goddamned hard -- lots of technical terms for various pieces of armour, and since I know some of my readers are armour geeks, I had to get it right. Luckily the poet seems to have known what he/she was talking about, even if everything is overlaid with impossible amounts of gold, gems and silk (this is a medieval romance, after all.)
Amusingly, I discovered what I think are a couple of errors in the "scholarly" editions I'm referring to. Clearly, more English academics should hang out with armour geeks.

I don't know about you, but I sure could use two minutes' worth of inspiration.

White noise

Feb. 2nd, 2009 11:02 pm
pallas_athena: (Default)
In the absence of fencing class tonight, I layered up and went snowwalking after sunset in Hyde Park.
Stopping by woods on a snowy evening )
Midway through my walk, I felt the snow end: the northeast wind died away and all was still. The temperature rose above freezing, and on my way home the texture of the snow underfoot, even the untrodden stuff, was palpably heavier and wetter. By tomorrow afternoon it may well all be gone.

I'll miss it: the way it changed the shape and sound of everything and made London look clean for a minute or two.

White noise

Feb. 2nd, 2009 11:02 pm
pallas_athena: (Default)
In the absence of fencing class tonight, I layered up and went snowwalking after sunset in Hyde Park.
Stopping by woods on a snowy evening )
Midway through my walk, I felt the snow end: the northeast wind died away and all was still. The temperature rose above freezing, and on my way home the texture of the snow underfoot, even the untrodden stuff, was palpably heavier and wetter. By tomorrow afternoon it may well all be gone.

I'll miss it: the way it changed the shape and sound of everything and made London look clean for a minute or two.
pallas_athena: (Default)
The sun was shining when I got the bus out of London yesterday. In the Thames Valley, we drove into hard rain. By the time I got to the rehearsal venue in Oxford, snow was swirling in the light of the streetlamps.

One singer after another staggered into rehearsal looking increasingly frozen. I handed out chocolate and positioned them under warm stage lights. (I tend to bring chocolates to rehearsal. If I'm going to work people like dogs, I figure the least I can do is provide a sugar rush.)

I normally try and sleep on the bus ride back to London, but this time I was glued to the window. The hills of the Ridgeway were blanketed in white, with more coming down. Every one of the branches by the side of the road was bowed down under its load of snow.

By the time we got to chilly, soggy London suburbia, the snow wasn't settling any more. I'm glad I saw it, though. I wonder if there will still be any when I head out today?
pallas_athena: (Default)
The sun was shining when I got the bus out of London yesterday. In the Thames Valley, we drove into hard rain. By the time I got to the rehearsal venue in Oxford, snow was swirling in the light of the streetlamps.

One singer after another staggered into rehearsal looking increasingly frozen. I handed out chocolate and positioned them under warm stage lights. (I tend to bring chocolates to rehearsal. If I'm going to work people like dogs, I figure the least I can do is provide a sugar rush.)

I normally try and sleep on the bus ride back to London, but this time I was glued to the window. The hills of the Ridgeway were blanketed in white, with more coming down. Every one of the branches by the side of the road was bowed down under its load of snow.

By the time we got to chilly, soggy London suburbia, the snow wasn't settling any more. I'm glad I saw it, though. I wonder if there will still be any when I head out today?
pallas_athena: (Default)
Good things that have happened recently:

--Went to Kew Gardens with my music-college friend Pete. It was a sunny day, and we spent a lot of our afternoon walking barefoot on the soft, cool grass. We climbed the 18 meter high tree-walk, found an escaped iguana in the Princess of Wales greenhouse, and enjoyed the Philadelphus grove by the pagoda.
Philadelphus are in bloom in the UK right now. They're one of my favourite summer shrubs: the Americans call them "mock orange," since they smell very like orange blossom. If you see one, do pause and smell it.

--Yesterday I flew from London to Washington DC. I do this all the time, but yesterday's journey was especially pleasant: [livejournal.com profile] velvetdahlia was nice enough to join me for a pre-airport lunch and then came to Heathrow with me! It was lovely to have company for a chore that I usually do on my own. Also, Terminal 4 was... wait for it... calm and civilised. BA have moved most of their flights to Terminal 5, so at T4 there were almost no crowds or queues for anything. It was eerie.

--When I got to DC, [livejournal.com profile] speedlime was waiting for me with all the latest news and gossip. As I waved goodnight to her from my parents' front porch, a firefly flew directly in front of my face and flashed at me. I am home.

--Today I had a good rehearsal with [livejournal.com profile] quesadelia for our duet recital on the 28th. We sang through duets from Cosí fan Tutte, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Lakmé and der Rosenkavalier. It all went surprisingly well, considering that my ears are still in a different time zone.

London is a city of uncertain affections, a city I have to run to keep up with, whose moods are sometimes unbelievably generous but often unbelievably arsey. DC, by contrast, is a friendly beast who puts its head under your hand to be petted as soon as you get in the door. So the door creaks and the house is in disrepair: it's inhabited by love.
pallas_athena: (Default)
Good things that have happened recently:

--Went to Kew Gardens with my music-college friend Pete. It was a sunny day, and we spent a lot of our afternoon walking barefoot on the soft, cool grass. We climbed the 18 meter high tree-walk, found an escaped iguana in the Princess of Wales greenhouse, and enjoyed the Philadelphus grove by the pagoda.
Philadelphus are in bloom in the UK right now. They're one of my favourite summer shrubs: the Americans call them "mock orange," since they smell very like orange blossom. If you see one, do pause and smell it.

--Yesterday I flew from London to Washington DC. I do this all the time, but yesterday's journey was especially pleasant: [livejournal.com profile] velvetdahlia was nice enough to join me for a pre-airport lunch and then came to Heathrow with me! It was lovely to have company for a chore that I usually do on my own. Also, Terminal 4 was... wait for it... calm and civilised. BA have moved most of their flights to Terminal 5, so at T4 there were almost no crowds or queues for anything. It was eerie.

--When I got to DC, [livejournal.com profile] speedlime was waiting for me with all the latest news and gossip. As I waved goodnight to her from my parents' front porch, a firefly flew directly in front of my face and flashed at me. I am home.

--Today I had a good rehearsal with [livejournal.com profile] quesadelia for our duet recital on the 28th. We sang through duets from Cosí fan Tutte, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Lakmé and der Rosenkavalier. It all went surprisingly well, considering that my ears are still in a different time zone.

London is a city of uncertain affections, a city I have to run to keep up with, whose moods are sometimes unbelievably generous but often unbelievably arsey. DC, by contrast, is a friendly beast who puts its head under your hand to be petted as soon as you get in the door. So the door creaks and the house is in disrepair: it's inhabited by love.

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