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  • Converting Martians May 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Converting Martians

    ***This post is dedicated to Ypres Soup*** When scientists speculate today about whether intelligent life exists on other worlds the  questions that come up reflect typical modern preconceptions: Will they like us? Will they dress like us? Will they eat us? Etc etc. And these questions have changed little since the late nineteenth century when […]

    Marco Polo Meets a Dragon? May 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval

    Beachcombing still mouse hunting so a brief and curious passage in Marco Polo 2, 40. It is an extract that scholars – depending on their proclivities – try and ignore or enjoy overly. Leaving the city of Yachi, and traveling ten days into a westerly direction, you reach the Province of Carajan [modern Yunnan on […]

    Blind Mice and Licking Knives May 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Blind Mice and Licking Knives

    Beachcombing is writing this post with a certain anxiety. The moment he finishes it he is going to have to clean out a small priest-hole, hidden at the back of his study, where a family of country mice have settled. The Beachcombing’s don’t have a cat – thankfully – but these mice foolishly refuse to […]

    Google Burns the Library at Alexandria May 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Google Burns the Library at Alexandria

    Imagine a visit to the universal library: a building in which all books, manuscripts, scrolls, rolls and tablets from all civilisations and all ages have been placed next to each other on shelves running for tens and tens of miles. When Borges and others wrote about this fabulous place in generations past theirs was only […]

    Last Words of the Executed May 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Last Words of the Executed

    Beachcombing will not deny it: he’s been in a real Last Words mood recently. So when a friendly book dealer sent him Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed he was hardly going to complain: even if, by a bizarre error of the printer’s art, the index had ended up being bound in the […]

    Against All Odds May 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

    Another in the Weird Wars series: what victory in military history was achieved against the greatest odds? First some ground rules. 1) The two armies have to have comparable technologies. So the British and Empire troops at Rourke’s Drift (1879) were outnumbered by something like twenty to one by their Zulu adversaries. However, the British […]

    A Frightening Roman Cat May 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Frightening Roman Cat

    ***This post is dedicated to Invisible who sent the reference and the picture in*** Beachcombing was going to do a post on early parachutes today but he got caught up, instead, in a disturbing cat portrait and legend thanks to an email from Invisible. This nasty little moggy – look at it! – will simply […]

    True Lies May 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    True Lies

    Beachcombing has recently been reading and enjoying David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory has Shaped Modern History. For those who have not heard of the book, AD takes an unremittingly hostile look at the many conspiracy theories that have characterized the last two broken centuries. Beach certainly doesn’t always like DA’s caustic tone. But, […]

    William Herschel and Trees on the Moon May 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    William Herschel and Trees on the Moon

    Born in Hanover,  but living in Britain for most of his adult life, William Herschel (obit 1822) was a celebrated astronomer in the century after Newton. WH has crossed Beachcombing’s radar not just because of his great achievements – discovery of Uranus etc – but because of some of his more curious speculations. For centuries, […]

    Air Mines on the Salonika Front May 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Air Mines on the Salonika Front

    It has been a while since Beachcombing has added anything to his weird wars tag – though past ww posts including Bats Fight Japan, the Last Scalping in History and the Soccer War of 1969 have been among his most popular. Today, in any case, he thought he would pay tribute to the balloonatics, the […]

    Bad Ass One-Liners from the Epic Tradition May 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Bad Ass One-Liners from the Epic Tradition

    There is, across the world, an epic literature, sometimes in prose more often in poetry, celebrating the deeds of men who lived, in happier times, caught between the gods and the earth. The ‘shapers’ who sang the heroic ages of the world – in pre-Christian Scandinavia, Homeric Greece, prehistoric India… – had none of our […]

    Occam’s Razor and Flying Bombs May 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Occam's Razor and Flying Bombs

    Beachcombing always feels niggles of annoyance when Occam’s Razor comes up. It is not that he dislikes the principle of succinctness per se: indeed, most of the time this principle is a useful brake on our imagination. After all, if Beachcombing opens his door in Little Snoring and finds no tiger then it is surely […]

    Origins of the Two-Finger Insult May 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

      The sun is in the heaven, term is over and with the good luck that characterises him Beachcombing has come down with a cracking summer cold. Indeed, as he walks up and down the stairs he feels as if his head is banging on the walls on either side. In this emergency situation he […]

    Giving Corpses Acrid Enemas May 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Giving Corpses Acrid Enemas

    Beachcombing has a substantial file on individuals being accidentally buried alive and a second file full of strategies employed to avoid such unpleasantries. Being buried alive is, after all, something of a human preoccupation. Thrillers end with heroes in tiny underground boxes, cinema epics – including a notable recent effort – have been filmed in […]

    Vampire Mermaids and Migraines May 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Vampire Mermaids and Migraines

    A Roman charm from, of all places, Carnuntum in the Alps offers one of the earliest recorded cures for migraine. Written on a piece of silver (and badly eroded) it does not discourse on low-dairy diets or darkened rooms. Rather… Well, Beachcombing will quote from the translated Greek: ‘Antaura came out from the sea. She […]

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