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  • 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
    Origins of the Two-finger Insult

    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 thought […]

    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 […]

    Scotland’s Sandy Pompeii May 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Scotland's Sandy Pompeii

    The Barony of Culbin was, in the early modern period, one of the richest agricultural lands in north-western Scotland. Up to sixteen farms worked this coastal territory of between three and four thousand acres under the rule of the Kinnairds. In the late seventeenth century, the rental of the estate was 2,720 Scots pounds – […]

    Roman Vampires? May 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Roman Vampires?

    Vampires in antiquity? Certainly, a creature that appears in Philostratus’ third-century Life of Apollonius of Tyana is reminiscent of Bram Stoker’s best or at least some of the 1970s Hammer House cast-offs. Philostratus tells us of Menippus a young, twenty-five year old philosopher ‘so beautifully proportioned that in appearance he resembled a fine and gentlemanly […]

    Last Words: Last Lies May 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Last Words: Last Lies

    Beachcombing has wasted literally days of his life looking at last words of the famous, the infamous and the simply anonymous. There is something so fascinating about utterances from the edge of the cliff. But how many of these gilded sentences are genuine? And how many simply the blather of post-mortem spin? Take Voltaire (obit […]

    Manned Kite Flight in Medieval China May 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Manned Kite Flight in Medieval China

    **This post is dedicated to Ricardo R. who put Beachcombing onto the Chinese kite** School’s out for ever! Well actually just for ten days before the summer students arrive and another course  is pushed off the cliff… Still for now it feels like for ever and Beachcombing is properly grateful. So much so that he […]

    Superman versus Hitler May 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Superman versus Hitler

    Oh those happy, innocent afternoons a few decades ago! Home from school /college Beachcombing would sit through the junk that British children’s television had to offer. He would quickly take in the news headlines on BBC 1 at 6.00 pm (cruise missiles, inflation, cricket defeats…) and then turn over at 6.02 pm to BBC 2 […]

    Shelley, the Cat, the Kite and the Bolt of Lightning May 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Shelley, the Cat, the Kite and the Bolt of Lightning

    Beachcombing thought that today he would combine a recent obsession – cats, with an older obsession – lightning and a coming obsession, kites. The party guilty for bringing these three unlikely subjects together was none other than Romantic brat extraordinaire Percy Bysshe Shelley (obit 1822 – ‘I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed’ […]

    Saving and Murdering in the Holocaust May 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Saving and Murdering in the Holocaust

    Beachcombing noted in this place a month ago – death-dealer of Kovno – that an important new book on Germany’s wartime atrocities is coming out: Hitler’s Foreign Executioners: Europe’s Dirty Secret by Chris Hale. CH argues in this work that subject populations of the occupied territories often partook enthusiastically in the Final Solution or ‘Outdoor […]

    The Leper Prince May 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Leper Prince

    Monarchies are not perhaps the worst systems of government. But they suffer from one serious drawback. Even the best dynasties – with immaculate DNA and good schooling – throw up an idiot or a weakling once a century and if that idiot/weakling coincides with a famine or a plague or a spot of class warfare […]

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