Thursday, 19 November 2020


Bad Astronomy brings the sad news that the venerable, colossal radio telescope in the forests of Puerto Rico will be decommissioned after sustaining successive damage deemed irreparable. In operation since 1963 and achieving a range of observational accomplish-ments aside from being a cultural bulwark with many cameos Arecibo was moreover a representative, inspiring ambassador to the stars (beaming out one of our few missives to a neighbouring cluster of stars) as well as for aspirational Earthlings. We applaud efforts to improve and expand and appreciate the most noble of undertakings carried forward but it is nonetheless disappointing to be losing such an icon and engine of discovery and seeing this mantle disrobed—I have been a bit distraught in recent weeks over the character of this revamped Space Race, having known that the American and Russian sections of the ISS were separate physically and ideologically for some time, I thought nevertheless that the sense of cooperation rose above minor compatibility issues until pointed out to me that international is a misnomer and to the exclusion of China.

vin de primeur

Thanks to our faithful chronicler we are reminded that today—the third Thursday of November—has been set aside as the universal release date of the season’s Beaujolais nouveau, in a tradition among vintners of that region in Burgundy in the Saรดne Valley that dates back to Roman times with toasting another successful harvest first among the grape-growers formalised in the 1960s from a friendly competition among winemakers to get their vintage first to market. “Le Beaujolais est arrive!” giving the certified varietal (see also) a uniform time of first uncorking. The shelf life of these wines is only one to two years.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

twinkle, twinkle

We are treated to an albeit abridged but nonetheless thoroughgoing history of the asterisk from Keith Houston’s Shady Characters, beginning with a frustrated librarian of Alexandria called Zenodotus who was determined to make a version of the epics of Homer as close to their original form as possible before centuries of editing, commentary and poetic license had turned the text into the unruly document that Zenodotus and colleagues were now heir to. In order to pare down the Iliad and the Odyssey, Zenodotus devised tracked-changes and version control, first introducing a range of proofreading or editor’s marks, to begin with a dash (—) in the margins to indicate a line to be excised, later named the obelos—that is, a roasting-spit. 

Having left us the literary legacy of dividing the poems into books, glosses of unusual words, a form of labelling and alphabetical indexing so scrolls did not need enrolling to know the contents, many duplicate verses obelised and a calculation of the time that passes in the course of the war and homecoming, a century later, grammarian Aristarchus of Samothrace took up the mantle of Homeric scholarship and stewardship and expanded the vocabulary of the critical symbols, with his asteriskos—little star and not to be confused with the asterism, to signal duplicate lines or something appearing elsewhere. With the conditional, footnoted sense developing over the millennia, the subtext was that for a a line with an * attached, there was more to the story. Other marks in the system which also indicated punctuation, breath and pronunciation, the sigma and antisigma (ฯน, ฯฝ) for what’s interchangeable, a dotted diple (>·) or an asteriskos/obelos combination to indicate an editorial disagreement and spurious authenticity. Our comic Gallic heroes are of course named in reference to these annotations. Much more to explore at the link up top.

mudd’s women

Via Boing Boing, we enjoyed this appreciation of the signature costuming and stylish, imaginative apparel of Star Trek TOS and this fashion show of some of the greatest alien accessorising—see also from a very different paracosmThe whole revue is worth checking out but we especially like this scene from “The Gamesters of Triskelion” from the second season—wherein the core crew of the Enterprise are abducted and made to do gladiatorial battles for the entertainment of energy entities, the Providers. At the bidding of the master, drill thralls Tamoon and Shahna are attempting to train Uhura. The outfits from “Amok Time” are pretty fantastic as well.

let me reach, let me beach, far beyond the baltic sea

Via Miss Cellania, we are directed to one of the more recent renditions from bardcore band Hildegard von Blingin’ (previously here and here), Enya’s Orinoco Flow, reworked with medieval instrumental as a sort of sea shanty—which Sail Away kind of always was. Geography and locations mentioned are altered to mostly align with the boundaries of Western Europe during the Middle Ages.  More of these covers at the links above.

your daily demon: haagenti

Great president of the infernal realms, forty-eighth in the calendar of demi-weeks and ruling from this date until the twenty second (the twenty-ninth degree of Scorpio, this demon whom presents as a griffin is well-versed in the alchemical arts, hermetical magic according to the Ars Goetia and other sources, and can aid in and impart wisdom regarding the transmutation of baser metals into more precious ones and water into wine and for whom cats are sacred, preferring a more feline aspect when compelled by an exorcist to assume human form. 


Tuesday, 17 November 2020

hugh of lincoln

Venerated by the Catholics on 16 November and the Anglican church on this day, and arguably the most popular English saint after Thomas ร  Becket, the bishop and Avalon native established the first Carthusian charterhouse off the mainland in 1179—financed as part of the penance of Henry II for the murder of Becket in lieu of going on crusade, and is considered the patron of the sick, shoemakers and swans—the iconography and associated legends stemming from his lasting friendship with a swan from the village of Stow, who was very protective of Hugh (see also) and would attack any strangers that approached him and guarded Hugh when he slept.  

i am not a crook

On this day in 1973 during a press conference delivered at the Contemporary Resort Hotel at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida Richard Nixon made the declaration addressing his declining job approval ratings with the pall of the Watergate scandal eroding public trust and confidence (see also) to an Associated Press annual convention being held there. The rather impromptu one-hour live broadcast was wide-ranging and was specifically prompted in response to a question raised by one of the wire service’s reporters regarding Nixon’s taxes and self-dealing, launching into the line of questioning, “I have earned every cent—and in all my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice… People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”