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Mass Hysteria and Ancient Theatre March 6, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Mass Hysteria and Ancient Theatre

Another birthday party visit for Little Miss B this afternoon: birthday parties are rapidly becoming, along with potty training, bad Disney and the satanic Little Miss Kitty, the worst things about parenthood. Beachcombing is forced, in any case, to limit himself to a quick post on Lucian of Samosota today. Now, to get down to […]

Cobblers: a UFO in Palazzo Vecchio? March 4, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Cobblers: a UFO in Palazzo Vecchio?

The Madonna col bambino e san Giovannino was painted in a hazy month sometime at the end of the fifteenth century. It hangs today in a corner room on the highest story of Palazzo Vecchio. Its artist – the work is ascribed to Sebastiano Mainardi, Jacopo del Sellaio or one of half a dozen other […]

Bierce’s Second Act February 18, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Bierce's Second Act

Poor F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed, in a novel that he could not finish, that there are no second acts in American lives. However, Beachcombing has always wondered about a possible exception in Ambrose ‘Bitter’ Bierce ‘the Devil’s lexographer’, short-story writer, journalist, poet, sceptic and general stand-up guy. Bierce had, by any standards, an undeservedly crappy […]

Childhood, Memory and Lies February 15, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Childhood, Memory and Lies

  Beachcombing usually limits autobiography in this blog to the absolute minimum: just enough to give a blurred soap opera of his life. However, today, in part to celebrate his ninth anniversary with Mrs B and in part because, as previous posts have shown, he is obsessed by the limits of memory, he has decided […]

Prospero the Etruscan and Lying Historians February 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
Prospero the Etruscan and Lying Historians

Liars and history go together like a horse and carriage. Beachcombing gave a chance reference to Herodotus as ‘Father of Lies’ in yesterday’s post. ‘Pseudo-’ and ‘Mythic-History’, typically found in tribal societies, are porkies by modern standards. But most interestingly, at least for Beachcombing, are the scholars/antiquarians who betray the very rules that they claim themselves to […]

Total Eclipse February 12, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
Total Eclipse

  A reader – Moonman to friends – has written in to remind Beachcombing of the old ‘cover thy face’ trick whereby ‘the civilised’ with knowledge of an eclipse, show their power over the elements by ‘ordering’ the sun to disappear in the presence of the unenlightened. Beachcombing knows this trick from Hergé’s Prisoners of […]

Diodorus’ Island February 10, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Diodorus' Island

Perhaps next to Forgotten Kingdoms Beachcombing should set up a tag on Invisible Kingdoms: realms that very likely only ever existed in the imagination of ancient and medieval writers. There would be Atlantis, of course, the land of Prester John, the Seven Cities of Gold and El Dorado. And to these it would be a cinch […]

Atlantean ‘Flying Boats’ February 7, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
Atlantean 'Flying Boats'

Beachcombing sometimes likes to jot down contents lists for books that he will never write: a further rather melancholy contribution to his Invisible Library collection. He has recently been playing around with Old Atlantis: A Miscellany of Atlantean Madness. The work would have three parts: a bibliography of every book every written on the lost Continent – […]

Lavoisier Blinks February 6, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Lavoisier Blinks

Today a continuation of the decapitation series with the life and unusual death of Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1794). Lavoisier was a dreamy French chemist responsible, in part, for the metric system and a few other crimes against humanity (‘hydrogen’, the elementary table…). The facts of Lavoisier’s death are, meanwhile, suitably enough, a mix of brutal […]

Irish hang-women January 17, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Irish hang-women

Richard Clark in his remarkable Capital Punishment in Britain has a story that has been buzzing around and around in Beachcombing’s head for the last six months. In his chapter on hang-men RC notes, in a final short section, that ‘Ireland allowed women to be involved with executions and two were’. He records a female assistant executioner who […]

Atlantis in the Far East January 15, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
Atlantis in the Far East

Naive Beachcombing set out in an earlier post his ambition to create a list of all the locations in the world that have been claimed over the years as the ‘true’ Atlantis. However, while writing this piece over Christmas he ran into a problem that he had not frankly anticipated. There are just so many places that […]

The Ass Who Became a Saint January 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Ass Who Became a Saint

Yesterday Beachcombing visited the doghead legend of St Christopher and today, in sympathy for that early canine holyman he thought that he would recount the remarkable canonization of an ass. The version that Beachcoming is about to give appears in a rather obscure but very worthwhile book: The Life and Adventures of Nathaniel Pearce (1831) describing the doings of […]

The Dog-Headed Saint January 12, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
The Dog-Headed Saint

  St Christopher is in many ways a typical early eastern saint. He was for many years a prisoner of war: check. He was a Roman soldier when he turned to Christ: check. His staff miraculously took to life and began to bloom: check. An angel – Raphael no less – gave him the gift of speaking […]

Jean Hill Misremembering Kennedy November 30, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Jean Hill Misremembering Kennedy

  What lying dogs we are! Beachcombing is referring to humanity’s extraordinary ability to warp and deform both our immediate perception of the world and also our memories of those perceptions. You don’t believe Beachcombing? Then take the extraordinary case of Jean Hill (obit 2000). Jean – aka ‘the Lady in Red’ – was an […]

Dear Lord and Father: Songs Against Songs November 29, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Dear Lord and Father: Songs Against Songs

Music is strangely resistant to bizzarism. Certainly, after years of reading Beachcombing has only about five pages of scribbled  notes on music in an exercise book and most of those about rock, pop and other post-war perversions. Did Mozart, Purcell, Bach and the rest never get up to anything peculiar? It does not seem possible and yet their […]

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