“Almost Too Strange for Credence”

We all went over to Mannheim, and dined at the hotel where, seventeen years before, I, being fourteen months old, was given away to my aunt, who was also my godmother, to live with her forever as if I were her own child, and never to see my own parents, as such, any more. … When we returned to the station in the evening, we had a long time to wait for the train. On the platform was a poor woman, crying very bitterly, with a little child in her arms. Emmie Penrhyn, who was tender-hearted, went up to her, and said she was afraid she was in some great trouble. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘it is about my little child. My little child, who is only fourteen months old, is going away from me forever in the train which is coming. It is going away to be adopted by its aunt, who is also its godmother, and I shall never, never have anything to do with it any more.’ It was of an adoption under exactly the same circumstances that we had been to Mannheim to keep the seventeenth anniversary!

— Augustus Hare, The Story of My Life, 1896

Pulp Friction

Each February, the residents of Ivrea, Italy, throw oranges at each other. On the three days preceding Shrove Tuesday, thousands of costumed “revolutionaries” battle an “aristocracy” by hurling citrus fruits. Supposedly this commemorates a droit de seigneur drama in the 12th century, but in practice it’s just a bunch of people throwing oranges.

Eight hundred miles to the west, they’re throwing tomatoes.

Giglioli’s Whale

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Amphiptera_pacifica.jpg

In 1867, off the coast of Chile, zoologist Enrico Giglioli spotted a whale with two dorsal fins, a feature unheard of in any known whale.

A similar whale was spotted off Scotland in 1868, and another more than a century later near Corsica.

If “Giglioli’s whale” exists, it’s been spotted only three times, and no specimen, living or dead, and has ever been captured.

See also MacFarlane’s Bear.

Help Wanted

H. Hamilton, once the proprietor of Payne’s Hill, near Cobham, Surrey, advertised for a person who was willing to become a hermit in that beautiful retreat of his. The conditions were, that he was to continue in the hermitage seven years, where he should be provided with a Bible, optical glasses, a mat for his bed, a hassock for his pillow, an hour-glass for his timepiece, water for his beverage, food from the house, but never to exchange a syllable with the servant. He was to wear a camlet robe, never to cut his beard or nails, nor ever to stray beyond the limits of the grounds. If he lived there, under all these restrictions, till the end of the term, he was to receive seven hundred guineas. But on breach of any of them, or if he quitted the place any time previous to that term, the whole was to be forfeited. One person attempted it, but a three weeks’ trial cured him.

— Robert Conger Pell, Milledulcia, 1857

The Bach Motif

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:J_S_Bachov_Kriz_B-A-C-H.JPG

Bach’s name forms a musical motif. The German note B is equivalent to the English B-flat, and H indicates B natural. So if you revolve this cross counterclockwise, the note at the center takes successively the German values B (treble clef), A (tenor clef), C (alto clef), and H (treble clef).

Bach himself used the four-note motif as a subject in The Art of Fugue, and it’s appeared since in works by Schumann, Liszt, Rimsky-Korsakov, Poulenc, and Webern.