Tuesday, 24 August 2021

spare him his life from this monstrosity

Starting on this day in 1975 and continuing for the next three weeks, Queen recorded their innovative, multi-segmented epic with ballad, guitar solo and mock opera—and notably for the genre, classified as symphonic rock by some, without refrain, Bohemian Rhapsody (previously), at Rockfield studios in the Welsh town of Monmouth. The operatic conceits, the chorus and the braggadocio, were present in some of Freddie Mercury’s earlier compositions, notably “My Fairy King” and bandmates, their individual vocal part drilled over the course of weeks ten to twelve hours per session, laying down successive overdubbed tracks.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

the life of ฯ€

Whereas astrophysics suggest that extending out the significant digits to thirty-nine decimal places would be at the level of precision to measure the circumference of the known Universe to within the breadth of a hydrogen atom, we quite enjoyed the overkill and ambition, as reported by the Guardian, of a team of Swiss mathematicians that have calculated out the transcendental, irrational number, also known as Archimedes’ Constant and whose use of the Greek letter to symbolise it first attributed to Welsh professor William Jones in 1706, to sixty-two trillion places for the accomplishment in itself plus the bonus facts and anecdotes. Not only is it fiendishly useful to understand and is embedded in all sort of applications, there’s quite a bit of lore attached to pi. There’s its elegance in comprehending a bit of the Cosmos, cameo appearances and an infamously misguided attempt in 1897 by the Indiana state legislature to round it up to 3.2 and be done with it.

Sunday, 11 July 2021

would you stay if she promised you heaven?

The eponymous tenth studio album from Fleetwood Mac released on this day in 1975—referred to as their White Album—includes such hit tracks as “Say You Love Me” and “Over My Head” and the below single who takes its title from a strong-minded Otherworld figure from the Welsh legendarium the Mabinogion. Reportedly live performances of Rhiannon took on the earnest theatricality of a possession and exorcism with Stevie Nicks more engrossed by the story of the character the more she learned about her.

Saturday, 10 July 2021


Coined by Welsh mathematician and physician Robert Recorde (*1512 – †1558), the equal sign (see also) entered common parlance on this day in 1557, and while not inventing +, he introduced the addition sign to England at the same time.
Wanting to avoid repetition in his treatise The Whetsome of Witte, he refers to the shorthand expression of balance as Gemowe lines—twin ones from Latin gemellus, Gemini. Appointed Comptroller of Mines and Monies under Edward VI and Queen Mary in Ireland, Recorde suffered libel from suit of a political enemy and died in a debtors’ prison, but not before leaving a legacy including authoritative works on algebra and geometry as well as the frequently cited Urinal of Physick.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

home counties

Via Language Hat, we are directed towards a map of the historic counties of the nations of the United Kingdom with the toponymic nomenclatures (see also here and here) revealed, which despite being from a lending institution seems pretty accurate. Click through to enlarge. We especially enjoyed learning that Peeblesshire (Tweeddale, Siorrachd nam Pรนballan) means the place with tents, Buteshire (Siorrachd Bhรฒid in the Firth of Clyde) means Island of Fire and that Cheshire is simply Roman Town.

Monday, 1 March 2021

dewi sant

Patron of poets, vegetarians and the Welsh, Saint David (*500) is fรชted on this day, the occasion of his death in 601 at an advanced age. David’s monastic rules prescribed that the monks had to plough their own plots of land without the aid, abuse of draught animals and adopt ascetic practises that avoided meat and beer—giving rise to his associated symbol, the leek. The saint’s other iconography includes a flag—sable a cross or—representing the nation the same way the crosses of George, Andrew and Patrick stand for England, Scotland and Ireland respectively though this alternate banner (engrailed rather than offset) is not as prevalent as the Red Dragon. Reminiscent of the admonition “Be kind to small things” it is reported that David’s last words were “Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd”—“Do ye the little things in life,” a well-known saying in Wales.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

bounty day

Celebrated on this day, the anniversary of the arrival of the mutineers (previously) on the remote, uninhabited island of Pitcairn in 1790, the population of four dozen decedents of the original settlers hold a re-enactment of their landing and burn effigies of the ship and one of the eight surnames (the McCoys died out in 1973), is honoured with the title “Family of the Year,” with the ceremonies concluding with a communal feast and ball. One of the smallest polities in the world (the community of the International Space Station I suppose would best the Pitkerners), the British Overseas Territory is governed by a representative of the Queen based in Wellington, New Zealand (over five-thousand kilometres distant) and a mayor appointed by a citizens’ council. Electricity is provided by diesel generators for fifteen hours daily and all residents share one internet connection (.pn—with Norfolk—being the top-level domain, the most traffic generated when a marketing campaign for Hunger Games presented it as the country code for Panem). Since 2015, same-sex marriage has been legalised, although there are no known people in such a relationship.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021


flotus: the story and legacy of the wooden Melania Trump sculpture in Slovenia 

lightening never strikes twice: a meteorologist debunks some weather myths 

we shall come rejoicing: digging out the sheep—rescued after a heavy snowfall  

photobomb: animals interrupting wildlife photographers 

draw a tattoo of a mailbox: in a reversal of sorts, compete with other human sketch artist to prove to an AI who is the most accomplished—via Waxy 

conspiracist ideation: what to do about QAnon

Saturday, 5 December 2020

hobby-horse and the hoodening

Via the always intriguing Strange Company we are directed towards one explanation of the common apirition in the southern Welch Yuletide custom called Mari Lwyd (Y Fari Lwyd) of parading around a horse’s skull on a pole whilst draped with a cloak decorated with ribbons and sashes as an aspect of wassailing and ritual entreaties to one’s neighbours for food and drink—a sort of call-and-response called the pwngco. You’ve been pwn’d.  Some conjure it represents a remnant of once widespread mystery plays that featured a popular subgenre regarding Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt, with Mari Lwyd representing the donkey that bore Holy Mary—one proposed etymology, though this is disputed, with Grey Mare being more likely, especially given the preponderance of similar hooded animal parades spread across the British Isles that reflect a syncretion (see also) of ancient, pre-Christian rites. Much more detail about this custom at the link up top.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

read mean tweets

Obloquy is, to most men, more painful than death; that is one reason why, in times of collective excitement, so few men venture to dissent from the prevailing opinion.

—Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays, 1921

Thursday, 25 June 2020


A demonym—or the above Latin form—is the word that gives the name that residents of a particular country, city or town use to describe themselves and their affiliation.
Denizens (gentile) of the north-eastern French town on the Moselle ร‰pinal are known as Spinaliens. That’s pretty awesome and French naming-conventions are reliably uniting—the glottonyme Allemands being for example Berlinois, Bonnois or Hanovriem (see also endonyms and exonyms). Less straightforward but delightful formations occur in the British isles—including Glaswegian, Man of Kent, Loiner (from Leeds), Liverpudlian, Mancunian, Novocastrian or Paludian (from Slough).

Monday, 25 May 2020


With the act of union adopted by the recalled Rump Parliament on this day in 1659 following the resignation Richard Cromwell after the chaotic death of his father Oliver Cromwell, England and Wales were declared a republican Commonwealth, a maneuverer that set in motion the restoration of the monarchy from exile in 1660 with the proclamation one year to the day later that heir Charles II had been the lawful regent since the death of his predecessor, constitutionally the undoing of all that had transpired in the preceding nineteen years.
In May of 1649, the original Rump Parliament (also called the Long Parliament) took power after the trial and execution of Charles I and this sitting legislature was dissolved in 1653 with executive powers vested in the Army Council, which then elevated Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector of a united British isle—Scots and Irish resistance finally suppressed at the time during what was referred to as the third civil war that ushered in this second, brief republic—Cromwell’s government itself became untenable after a term of five years, punctuated by rampant purges, Irish genocide, cronyism (with political succession an afterthought and apparently a dynastic one was acceptable), harmonisation with religious authorities and the shuttering of the theatres.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

๏ฌ€ont ๏ฌ€amily

A commission from the Welsh government has netted a sleek, unifying typeface for its public services and signage that reflects Cymraeg and its unique orthographic characteristics (see also) with its range of diagraphs expressed in dedicated ligatures based on the textura of the country’s oldest manuscripts including the thirteenth century epic The Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest) that recounts the heroic cycle of poems of Llywarch Hen and the struggle against the incursion of the Anglo-Saxons in the Mabinogion, the earliest collection of prose of the British isles, and The Black Book of Carmarthen (Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin, both distinguished by their location and the colour of their vellum bindings) that addresses various subjects including the Arthurian legend and Merlin (Myrddin).

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

the matter of britain

Former Prime Minister Teresa May made the executive decision to rule out withdrawal from the European Union—not excusing her window-dressing a fools’ errand and Pyrrhic victory—absent an agreement on terms of future trading relationships and remained steadfastly committed to this goal knowing that forestalling negotiations could result in the dissolution of the United Kingdom.
Now with a new prime minister and no closer to reaching a deal, first ministers of Scotland and Wales are respectively calling for another independence referendum (Boris Johnson is stating that he will deny the country the chance to re-visit this once-in-a-generation vote and that the question is a settled matter) and threatening to stage crippling protests over the negative economic impact that will render domestic sheep and their agricultural industry in general unmarketable. Northern Ireland, which like its sister countries with the exception of England voted in favour of remaining a member of the EU, has raised the spectre of reunion with the Republic of Ireland over the economic impact of Brexit and the very real possibility that leaving may necessitate the unwelcome return a physical barrier on the isle—a sentiment fuelled also by the prospect that London may need to impose direct rule on the region in the interim. Closing the border in violation of the Good Friday Agreement would also threaten the trade deals with the US that the UK has banked this whole ordeal on. Winning is sometimes easy, whilst governing is the real challenge.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

all would be well if, if, if—say the green bells of cardiff

By touching coincidence, we are acquainted through the help of the always brilliant Nag on the Lake to the haunting lyrics of the American folksinger and political activist Pete Seeger’s ballad “The Bells of Rhymney,” sourced to Welsh miner turned poet Idris Davies on the same day that the worse mining accident in the history of the UK occurred one hundred and five years prior, the Senghenydd colliery disaster (1913).
Following the structure of the English nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons (Say the bells of Saint Clement’s),” Davies and Seeger count off the communities visited by hardship and loss throughout resource-rich but exploited land. In Glamorgan, Wales, the coal mines referenced above near Caerphilly have their own stanza in the original verse:

They will plunder willy-nilly,
Say the bells of Caerphilly.

After Seeger’s introduction of the sad lament, several other artists produced cover versions of the song—most famously The Byrds but also John Denver, Bob Dylan, Murray Head, The Band, Robyn Hitchcock and Sonny and Cher in 1965.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

panda, cyborg, jesus

Though the libretto to the leitmotif “Duel of the Fates” (the recurring theme from the Star Wars prequels) is reportedly a fragment of an ancient, fourteenth century Welsh poem Cad Goddeu (Battle of the Trees) about the legendary enchanter, Gwydion fab Dรดn, who animates the trees of the forest to do his bidding translated and then performed in Sanskrit (unlikely), our thanks to Miss Cellania for revealing to us the true lyrics.  Follow the bouncing ball.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

peer of the realm

Marquess of the baronet of Anglesey (Ardalydd Mรดn), privy counsellor to the courts of Victoria and Edward VII and nicknamed “Toppy,” Henry Cyril Paget (*1875 - †1905) lived a short and by the reckoning of his of his fellow royals a destitute and squandered one. At age twenty-three Paget married his cousin Lilian Chetwynd and the same year came into his title with the death of his father and inherited extensive estates throughout England and Wales. Paget had the chapel of the family’s country seat converted into a one hundred-fifty seat theatre (modelled off the Dresden Opera) and staged everything from elaborate costume dramas to cabaret for invited audiences.
Paget’s plans to tour with his theatre company, already mortgaging some of property to fund the excursion, was a step too far and she had their marriage annulled—though later cared for him at his death in Monaco, bankrupt and suffering from a prolonged illness (he’d always been somewhat restrained by a weak constitution) and possibly eager to win the right to hold onto some of his prized-possessions at Monte Carlo. All of it, the jewels, private custom rail cars for his actors, the clothes, the costumes—even his dogs, were auctioned off. Neither gambling nor lovers seemed to be the cause of Paget’s downfall, however—only a rather innocent though irresponsible propensity for profligacy and performance—also nicknamed the Dancing Marquess, Paget had a signature slinky snake dance that he would do no matter what the occasion, the later which none faulted him for. Even if the obituaries in the newspapers as well as the heir (another cousin) who inherited what was left of the Anglesey lands plus the debt were harsh, that heir ordered destroyed all of Paget’s diaries and correspondence, so we’ll never know if there was more to the story. Whatever the case, the people in his troupe as well as those associated with the family manors genuinely cared for their eccentric lord and patron.

Monday, 21 May 2018

leave the driving to us

Informed via Slashdot that Estonia from 1 July on will make its public mass-transit services essentially fare-free throughout the country—following similar though not encompassing schemes in Paris and Wales—I was relieved to learn that others, even politicians and city-planners, also realise that the future of driver-less, chauffeured transportation has always been with us, even if collective solutions are not as sleek and smug as reinventing the wheel.
Tallinn too has been addressing last-mile conundrums with automated mini-buses to supplement its network as well. Implementation is surprisingly inexpensive, even factoring in on the lost revenue (which might for a time be recouped from tourists), whose blow is dulled by the fact that one can eliminate the administrative cost of managing ticket sales and inspections—not to mention reduced air-pollution, less congestion and increased mobility and self-determination for an ageing rural population.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

national treasure

Things Magazine directs our attention to a special exhibit that showcases the UK National Gallery’s recollection of the evacuation of its collections during World War II to an abandoned slate quarry in Snowdonia for safe-keeping. Paintings, sculpture and other artefacts were stored in the cavernous shafts of the Manod mines near the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales from 1941 to 1945, fulfilling Winston Churchill’s pledge that “not one picture will leave this island.”

Friday, 9 June 2017

strong and stable or disunited kingdom

Castle Mayskull’s gamble backfired with her calling an ill-advised snap, general election in order to reinforce a mandate that her party had already secured to withdraw the UK from the European Union and discourage future referenda on devolution and secession.
The Conservative Party has lost a few seats in Parliament’s House of Commons which brings the critical number to retain an absolute majority. Rebuffing calls to resign as Prime Minister—having squandered her mandate, should the incumbent insist on staying and no coalition can be brought together to support her, she risks precipitating a constitutional crisis and dissolution of government. So called hung Parliaments have occurred in the past but with the political landscape being in such turmoil and congregations so polarised over it seems unlikely that an alliance will be forthcoming and the days to follow will be anything but tidy.  This miscalculation, which drew younger voters in greater than expected numbers to the ballot, threatens to reverse the course of negotiations for a Brexit deal and possibly the decision to leave in the first place and is already boding greater economic disruptions than experienced after the referendum.