“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” — Alfred Hitchcock
“London is the epitome of our times,” wrote Emerson, “and the Rome of to-day.” He never saw it from this angle, of course — by night, from the international space station. To the south are the “London Orbital” bypass, the M25, and below that the lights of Gatwick airport. Heathrow is just inside the M25 to the west. The Thames fans out to the east, and Hyde Park and Regents Park are two dark spots just west of the city’s center.
Encounter with a Newfoundland mermaid, recorded by Richard Whitbourne, 1610:
“Now also I will not omit to relate something of a strange Creature that I first saw there in the yeere 1610, in a morning early as I was standing by the water side, in the Harbour of Saint Johns, which I espied verie swiftly to come swimming towards me, looking cheerefully, as it had beene a woman, by the Face, Eyes, Nose, Mouth, Chin, eares, Necke and Forehead: It seemed to be so beautifull, and in those parts so well proportioned, having round about upon the head, all blew strakes, resembling haire, downe to the Necke (but certainly it was haire) for I beheld it long, and another of my companie also, yet living, that was not then farre from me; and seeing the same comming so swiftly towards mee, I stepped backe, for it was come within the length of a long Pike.
“Which when this strange Creature saw that I went from it, it presently thereupon dived a little under water, and did swim to the place where before I landed; whereby I beheld the shoulders and backe downe to the middle, to be as square, white and smooth as the backe of a man, and from the middle to the hinder part, pointing in proportion like a broad hooked Arrow; how it was proportioned in the forepart from the necke and shoulders, I know not; but the same came shortly after unto a Boat, wherein one William Hawkridge, then my servant, was, that hath bin since a Captaine in a Ship to the East Indies, and is lately there imploied againe by Sir Thomas Smith, in the like Voyage; and the same Creature did put both his hands upon the side of the Boate, and did strive to come in to him and others then in the said Boate; whereat they were afraid; and one of them strooke it a full blow on the head; whereat it fell off from them: and afterwards it came to two other Boates in the Harbour; the men in them, for feare fled to land: This (I suppose) was a Mermaide.”
Notable people who have had a fear of flying:
- Isaac Asimov
- Doris Day
- Aretha Franklin
- Jackie Gleason
- Kim Jong-Il
- Stanley Kubrick
- Loretta Lynn
- John Madden
- Matthew Sweet
- Billy Bob Thornton
The French for walkie-talkie is talkie-walkie.
Account of the death of a chimney sweep’s boy, taken in evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on Climbing Boys, 1817:
“On Monday morning, 29 March 1813, a chimney sweeper of the name of Griggs attended to sweep a small chimney in the brewhouse of Messrs Calvert and Co. in Upper Thames Street; he was accompanied by one of his boys, a lad of about eight years of age, of the name of Thomas Pitt.
“The fire had been lighted as early as 2 o’clock the same morning, and was burning on the arrival of Griggs and his little boy at eight. The fireplace was small, and an iron pipe projected from the grate some little way into the flue. This the master was acquainted with (having swept the chimneys in the brewhouse for some years), and therefore had a tile or two broken from the roof, in order that the boy might descend the chimney. He had no sooner extinguished the fire than he suffered the lad to go down; and the consequence, as might be expected, was his almost immediate death, in a state, no doubt, of inexpressible agony.
“The flue was of the narrowest description, and must have retained heat sufficient to have prevented the child’s return to the top, even supposing he had not approached the pipe belonging to the grate, which must have been nearly red hot; this however was not clearly ascertained on the inquest, though the appearance of the body would induce an opinion that he had been unavoidably pressed against the pipe.
“Soon after his descent, the master, who remained on the top, was apprehensive that something had happened, and therefore desired him to come up; the answer of the boy was, ‘I cannot come up, master, I must die here.’ An alarm was given in the brewhouse immediately that he had stuck in the chimney, and a bricklayer who was at work near the spot attended, and after knocking down part of the brickwork of the chimney, just above the fireplace, made a hole sufficiently large to draw him through. A surgeon attended, but all attempts to restore life were ineffectual.
“On inspecting the body, various burns appeared; the fleshy part of the legs and a great part of the feet more particularly were injured; those parts too by which climbing boys most effectually ascend or descend chimneys, viz. the elbows and knees, seemed burnt to the bone; from which it must be evident that the unhappy sufferer made some attempts to return as soon as the horrors of his situation became apparent.”
“All great men are monsters.” — Honoré de Balzac
The smallest number whose name is spelled with:
- 3 letters is 1 (one)
- 4 letters is 4 (four)
- 5 letters is 3 (three)
- 6 letters is 11 (eleven)
- 7 letters is 15 (fifteen)
- 8 letters is 13 (thirteen)
- 9 letters is 17 (seventeen)
- 10 letters is 24 (twenty-four)
- 15 letters is 103 (one hundred three)
- 20 letters is 124 (one hundred twenty-four)
- 25 letters is 1104 (one thousand one hundred four)
- 30 letters is 1117 (one thousand one hundred seventeen)
- 40 letters is 13,373 (thirteen thousand three hundred seventy-three)
- 50 letters is 113,373 (one hundred thirteen thousand three hundred seventy-three)
- 100 letters is 11,373,373,373 (eleven billion three hundred seventy-three million three hundred seventy-three thousand three hundred seventy-three)
If you feel kind of standoffish at parties, you might want to avoid Kruibeke for a while.
The mayor of that Belgian municipality, Antoine Denert, has created a Department of Tenderness, insisting that “people don’t cuddle anymore, and that’s the reason why there are so many conflicts.”
That’s, um, nice. Denert said he hoped to inspire other governments to reconsider their own policies, which rarely even get to second base. “Why not change the Ministry of Defense into the Ministry of Tenderness?” he asked helpfully. “The war in Iraq would never have started.”
In a disturbing show of civic enthusiasm, the mayor vowed to “set an example and start in my own village by caressing, cuddling, and kissing as many people as possible.” His wife’s opinion is not recorded.
In 1211, Emperor Frederick II of Germany raised dozens of children in silence, trying to discover the natural “language of God.” He never got an answer: The children never spoke, and all of them ultimately died in childhood.