“Surrealist Landscape”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Metamorphosis_of_Narcissus.jpg

On the pale yellow sands
Where the Unicorn stands
And the Eggs are preparing for Tea
Sing Forty
Sing Thirty
Sing Three.

On the pale yellow sands
There’s a pair of Clasped Hands
And an Eyeball entangled with string
(Sing Forty
Sing Fifty
Sing Three.)
And a Bicycle Seat
And a Plate of Raw Meat
And a Thing that is hardly a Thing.

On the pale yellow sands
There stands
A Commode
That has nothing to do with the case.
Sing Eighty
Sing Ninety
Sing Three.
On the pale yellow sands
There’s a Dorian Mode
And a Temple all covered with Lace
And a Gothic Erection of Urgent Demands
On the Patience of You and of Me.

— Lord Berners

Jeannot’s Knife

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1197069

A French tradition asks: If the handle of a certain knife is replaced whenever it is worn out, and its blade is replaced whenever it becomes worthless, does the knife itself become immortal?

In his 1872 short story “Dr. Ox’s Experiment,” Jules Verne mentions a curious tradition of marriage within the Van Tricasse family:

From 1340 it had invariably happened that a Van Tricasse, when left a widower, had remarried a Van Tricasse younger than himself; who, becoming in turn a widow, had married again a Van Tricasse younger than herself; and so on, without a break in the continuity, from generation to generation. Each died in his or her turn with mechanical regularity. Thus the worthy Madame Brigitte Van Tricasse had now her second husband; and, unless she violated her every duty, would precede her spouse — he being ten years younger than herself — to the other world, to make room for a new Madame Van Tricasse.

Is this a series of distinct marriages — or one immortal union?

Cheers

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tate_Britain_(5822081512)_(2).jpg

In 1985, workers renovating London’s Tate Britain art gallery discovered a handwritten message behind a wall in the rotunda dome:

This was placed here on the fourth of June, 1897 Jubilee year, by the Plasterers working on the job hoping when this is found that the Plasterers Association may be still flourishing. Please let us know in the Other World when you get this, so as we can drink your Health.

It was signed “W. Gallop, F. Wilkins, H. Sainsbury, J. Chester, A. Pickernell, Secretary.”

Words and Numbers

A common error resulting from bad penmanship is the substitution of letters for figures, or the reverse: thus, in the report of a coal-market, where the writer intended to say that there was an over-supply of egg size, the types laid that there was an over-supply of 299; similarly, where a writer described a house with zigzag staircases, he was made to give it the extraordinary number of 219,209 staircases. In an obituary notice of Sidney Godolphin Osborne, the London Times described him as the author of the celebrated tract ‘No Go,’ when what the writer meant was the tract No. 90. But no similar excuse can be urged for the printer who made Tennyson’s famous lines read,–

Into the valley of death
Rode the 600.

— William Shepard Walsh, Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities, 1909

Misc

  • Only humans are allergic to poison ivy.
  • GUNPOWDERY BLACKSMITH uses 20 different letters.
  • New York City has no Wal-Marts.
  • (5/8)2 + 3/8 = (3/8)2 + 5/8
  • “Ignorance of one’s misfortunes is clear gain.” — Euripides

For any four consecutive Fibonacci numbers a, b, c, and d, ad and 2bc form the legs of a Pythagorean triangle and cdab is the hypotenuse.

(Thanks, Katie.)

History Brief

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thure_de_Thulstrup_-_L._Prang_and_Co._-_Battle_of_Gettysburg_-_Restoration_by_Adam_Cuerden.jpg

Meade brought his troops to this place where they were to win or lose the fight. At noon all was in trim, and at the sign from Lee’s guns a fierce rain of shot and shell fell on both sides. For three hours this was kept up, and in the midst of it Lee sent forth a large force of his men to break through Meade’s ranks. Down the hill they went and through the vale, and up to the low stone wall, back of which stood the foe. But Lee’s brave men did not stop here. On they went, up close to the guns whose fire cut deep in their ranks, while Lee kept watch from the height they had left. The smoke lifts, and Lee sees the flag of the South wave in the midst of the strife. The sight cheers his heart. His men are on the hill from which they think they will soon drive the foe. A dense cloud of smoke veils the scene. When it next lifts the boys in gray are in flight down the slope where the grass is strewn thick with the slain. … Oh, that there were no such thing as war!

— Josephine Pollard, The History of the United States Told in One-Syllable Words, 1884

Double Act

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richard_Mansfield_Jekyll.png

In October 1885 Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife woke him out of a troubled sleep, and he cried, “O, why did you wake me? I was dreaming such a fine bogey tale.”

“One man was being pressed into a cabinet, when he swallowed a drug and changed into another being,” he told an interviewer later. “I awoke and said at once that I had found the missing link for which I had been looking so long, and before I again went to sleep, almost every detail of the story, as it stands, was clear to me.”

He wrote out the tale in three days and presented it to his wife, who said he had overlooked the allegory at the heart of the idea. He grew angry, paced his room, and reappeared. “You are right,” he said. “I have absolutely missed the allegory, which after all is the whole point of it.” He threw the manuscript into the fire and spent another three days rewriting it. In all he wrote 64,000 words in six days.

As he crossed to the United States in September 1887, he had an early intimation of the book’s fame: The ill-tempered pilot of his boat had been nicknamed Hyde, and his better-natured partner was called Jekyll.