In a Word

ambilevous
adj. “left-handed on both sides”; clumsy

Three Riddles

From Henry Dudeney’s 300 Best Word Puzzles:

  1. What is that from which you may take away the whole and yet have some left?
  2. What is it which goes with an automobile, and comes with it; is of no use to it, and yet the automobile cannot move without it?
  3. Take away my first letter and I remain unchanged; take away my second letter and I remain unchanged; take away my third letter and I remain unchanged; take away all my letters and still I remain exactly the same.
Click for Answer

Enfant Terrible

https://www.google.com/patents/US2422254

Anthony Peronti wasn’t messing around when he designed this baby carriage, a sheet-metal torpedo with welded fenders and a tanklike tread:

With the above described construction I have provided a baby carriage which will move easily and quietly over any type of surface and by virtue of the flexibility of the springs, curbstones, door-steps and other minor obstacles can be negotiated without tilting the body of the carriage and with a minimum of jarring or discomfort to the passenger.

He filed the patent in November 1945, so perhaps he’d been inspired by the battlefield.

Kids Today

I am astonished at the foolish music written in these times. It is false and wrong and no longer does anyone pay attention to what our beloved old masters wrote about composition. It certainly must be a remarkably elevated art when a pile of consonances are thrown together any which way.

I remain faithful to the pure old composition and pure rules. I have often walked out of the church since I could no longer listen to that mountain yodeling. I hope this worthless modern coinage will fall into disuse and that new coins will be forged according to the fine old stamp and standard.

— Samuel Scheidt, to Heinrich Baryphonus, Jan. 26, 1651

Unquote

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Forbidden_fruit.jpg

“Adam was but human — this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” — Mark Twain

The Oberlin–Wellington Rescue

On Sept. 13, 1858, ex-slave John Price was accosted on the streets of Oberlin, Ohio, by a U.S. marshal, who took him to nearby Wellington, hoping to return him to Kentucky as a fugitive. Ohio was a free state, but the federal government had committed to helping slaveholders retrieve their runaway slaves.

When word of Price’s abduction spread, a large crowd of Oberlin townspeople surrounded the marshal’s hotel and demanded his release, eventually breaking in to return him to Oberlin. Thirty-seven of the rescuers were indicted, including black abolitionist Charles Langston, who made this impassioned speech at his trial:

But I stand up here to say, that if for doing what I did on that day at Wellington, I am to go to jail six months, and pay a fine of a thousand dollars, according to the Fugitive Slave Law, and such is the protection the laws of this country afford me, I must take upon my self the responsibility of self-protection; and when I come to be claimed by some perjured wretch as his slave, I shall never be taken into slavery. And as in that trying hour I would have others do to me, as I would call upon my friends to help me; as I would call upon you, your Honor, to help me; as I would call upon you [to the district attorney], to help me; and upon you [to Judge George Bliss], and upon you [to his counsel], so help me GOD! I stand here to say that I will do all I can, for any man thus seized and help, though the inevitable penalty of six months’ imprisonment and one thousand dollars’ fine for each offense hangs over me! We have a common humanity. You would do so; your manhood would require it; and no matter what the laws might be, you would honor yourself for doing it; your friends would honor you for doing it; your children to all generations would honor you for doing it; and every good and honest man would say, you had done right!

This was met with “great and prolonged applause, in spite of the efforts of the Court and the Marshal.” Langston was convicted but given a reduced sentence of 20 days. His eloquence was hereditary, apparently — his grandson was Langston Hughes.

Now Showing

In 2005 Toronto artist Brian Joseph Davis assembled more than 5,000 film taglines into one long narrative.

This version, read by voice-over artist Scott Taylor, is only an excerpt — the whole thing runs to 22 pages (PDF).

Overtime

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Armand_Kohl22a.jpg

Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?

— Bertrand Russell, “In Praise of Idleness,” 1935

Promoted

Eric Clapton grew up believing that his grandparents were his parents and that his mother was his sister. His real father had deserted the family, and they had adopted this fiction in order to spare him the stigma of illegitimacy.

“It occurs to me that the family had no real idea of how to explain my own existence to me,” he wrote in his 2007 autobiography, Clapton. “The guilt attached to that made them very aware of their own shortcomings, which would go a long way in explaining the anger and awkwardness that my presence aroused in almost everybody.”

One other striking detail from that book: He mentions that buying a yacht at age 60 was “the first time in my life I had to borrow money to pay for something.” This seems to mean that, ever since stardom had found him at age 18, he could simply acquire anything he wanted.

Sensible Nonsense

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jabberwocky.jpg

“Jabberwocky” works wonderfully in German — writer Thomas Chatterton offered this translation to Macmillan’s Magazine in 1872:

Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Räth’ ausgraben.

»Bewahre doch vor Jammerwoch!
Die Zähne knirschen, Krallen kratzen!
Bewahr’ vor Jubjub-Vogel, vor
Frumiösen Banderschnätzchen!«

Er griff sein vorpals Schwertchen zu,
Er suchte lang das manchsam’ Ding;
Dann, stehend unten Tumtum Baum,
Er an-zu-denken-fing.

Als stand er tief in Andacht auf,
Des Jammerwochen’s Augen-feuer
Durch tulgen Wald mit wiffek kam
Ein burbelnd Ungeheuer!

Eins, Zwei! Eins, Zwei! Und durch und durch
Sein vorpals Schwert zerschnifer-schnück,
Da blieb es todt! Er, Kopf in Hand,
Geläumfig zog zurück.

»Und schlugst Du ja den Jammerwoch?
Umarme mich, mien Böhm’sches Kind!
O Freuden-Tag! O Halloo-Schlag!«
Er chortelt froh-gesinnt.

Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Räth’ ausgraben.

In The Philosopher’s Alice, Peter Heath calls this “easily the best” of the poem’s many translations. “In no other language is elaboration of structure so readily compatible with entire absence of meaning.”