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The Cornbeef Sandwich that Almost Destroyed a Spacecraft… September 20, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Cornbeef Sandwich that Almost Destroyed a Spacecraft...

Today astronauts have it easy when it comes to lunchtime.  They open  their MandMs or unpack a fabulous meal whipped up down at ground control – in 2006 celebrity chef, Rachael Ray even prepared them Swedish meatballs. Then there are the views… Life doesn’t really get much better. But ‘back in the day’ when the […]

Ten Thousand Romans in Turkmenistan September 19, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Ten Thousand Romans in Turkmenistan

There are many reasons for which individuals have travelled a long way from home in history: money, love, fear… But a vitally important and generally overlooked motive is imprisonment. Soldiers taken in battle have often (and very sensibly) been moved from where they were captured to the furthest possible point from their own country to avoid […]

The Treasure Message: A Challenge September 18, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Treasure Message: A Challenge

Beachcombing has a long-standing interest in the reliability of oral legend. Over how many decades can a piece of information be passed from mouth to mouth – without recourse to writing – and yet survive intact? So an example: a young Athenian fights in that city’s golden year, 490 BC, against the Persians. For how […]

Dowsing for Submarines September 17, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Dowsing for Submarines

Beachcombing, in his hoarding way, has been storing up references to the military use of dowsing over the past months: indeed, he has already posted on the question of British dowsing for machine guns in the Second World War and hopes to come soon to the fraught question of dowsing for land mines this fall. […]

‘English As She is Spoke’ September 16, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
'English As She is Spoke'

Beachcombing offers today not a review but a celebration of Pedro Carolino’s O Novo Guia da Conversação, em Português e Inglês, em Duas Partes, [A New Guide to Conversation in Portuguese and English in Two Parts] (1855). This was a translation of an earlier and absolutely competent Portuguese French conversation guide by José da Fonseca […]

The Nine Unknown – An Invisible Library September 15, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
The Nine Unknown - An Invisible Library

In Beachcombing’s ergot, ‘invisible libraries’ are books or collections of books that have never existed except in the fantasies of readers. And today he has a cracker. In Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier’s Morning of the Magicians there appears a description of the Nine Unknown Men of India and their notebooks. For those who do […]

Life on Mars and Other Stories September 14, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Life on Mars and Other Stories

Beachcombing has always had a bit of a thing about Percival Lowell (1855-1916) word-smith, Orientalist (author of Noto, 1891) and Ivy League rebel. And of all Lowell’s accomplishments none stand as high in Beachcombing’s estimation as Lowell’s  theories on Mars set out in three books – all happily now available in pdf form: Mars (1895), Mars […]

Arthur’s Grave at Glastonbury September 13, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Arthur's Grave at Glastonbury

Beachcombing thought that he would recall tonight the first recorded archaeological dig to take place in the United Kingdom. The place? The magical abbey of Glastonbury on the fringes of the Celtic fringes. The time? Probably 1191, though different accounts give slightly different dating clues. The find? The body of Arthur, Lord of the Round […]

The Tiv and Hamlet September 12, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
The Tiv and Hamlet

Laura Bohannan (aka Elenore Smith Bowen) was an anthropologist who came out of Oxford in the late 1940s. She did research with her husband Paul among the Tiv of Nigeria and the pair published several books on this federation over the next two decades. However, Bohannan also gave a remarkable BBC radio talk entitled, depending on […]

A Medieval Coin in New England Soil September 11, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
A Medieval Coin in New England Soil

After much interest in the long-travelling Helgö Buddha Beachcombing is pleased to introduce a more controversial wrong-place piece, an eleventh-century Viking coin that allegedly ended up in New England’s soil several generations before Columbus. The Maine Penny, as it called, was found by an ‘amateur’ (an ugly word for archaeologists) at the Goddard site near the mouth […]

Review: A Handbook on Hanging September 10, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Review: A Handbook on Hanging

Beachcombing recently stumbled upon and cannot now shut up about Charles Duff’s A Handbook on Hanging: Being a Short Introduction to the Fine Art of Execution (1928) in a Nonsuch reprint.*  Yes, it gives a caricature of the history of hanging, while also communicating the case for and against abolition back in the days when the […]

Curse Thy Neighbour September 9, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Curse Thy Neighbour

Beachcombing was thinking about war today (as you do) and immediately the generations (actually three semesters) fell away and he saw one of his favourite students, a Southern Baptist, giving a passionate and articulate Christian justification for killing: it was a long list that began with Genesis 15 and ended, triumphantly, with Matthew 10, 34 […]

Tom Wintringham and Lenin’s Tractor September 8, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Tom Wintringham and Lenin’s Tractor

Of all the intellectual perversions of modern times perhaps none was as bizarre and perhaps none had more serious consequences than the fawning attitude of some western democrats towards the Soviet Union and its satellites from the 1930s to the 1970s. The paeans of nonsense that there were written about Lenin and Stalin now beggar […]

Image: Pius XII in a bombed out Rome September 7, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
Image: Pius XII in a bombed out Rome

What would have happened if photography had been invented not in the early nineteenth-century but a hundred years before Columbus crossed the waters blue? Well, Beachcombing imagines Franciscan monks running around with tripods and dark rooms being built next to monastic kitchens. The Church would have monopolised this new technology, not as an art, but […]

Eating Roadkill September 6, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Eating Roadkill

Beachcombing’s village of Little Snoring is on a busy road and Beachcombing has long learnt to avert his eyes as various poor mammals appear inert before him on the tarmac. But knowing the infinite ingenuity of his fellow human-beings Beachcombing was only partly surprised to learn last week that there is a literature dedicated to the […]

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