28 February 2011

Mysteries of the Orient

Fainting spells afflict Vietcong school children: “Since January 17, between 12 and 40 students faint every day at school, mainly between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.” The cause of the fainting is a mystery. Also a mystery is why these children are in school, when they could be in a factory making sneakers.

From Malayisa comes an amazing report of “spiritual fires” plaguing a house. The unusual blazes have left the entire nation baffled:
A weird "spiritual fire" broke out in a residential house at Jalan Pantai Cahaya Bulan, Kampung Barembang, Kota Bharu recently.
More than ten ulamas failed to put out the "fire" by way of reciting the Koran verses, and incidents of spontaneous fires burning the clothes continue to take place for more than twenty times thereafter.
[O]wner of the house, Zainab Sulaiman, 73, said even though the incidence of "spiritual fires" had somewhat slowed down after the ulamas offered the prayers, they still came for about four times. 
The mysterious phenomenon appeared again during day time for more than twenty times... 
The "spiritual fires" have burned the clothes, spoiled the food, turned on the gas cooker and burned the new school uniforms and veils of Zainab's two granddaughters, 11-year-old Nur Fartili and 13-year-old Wan Nurfatifa, making them unable to go to school. 
The incidents have lasted for 13 days now and many "supreme masters" have been consulted but to no avail. 
Zainab could hardly understand why such strange phenomenon could take place in her house, which was built on the land belonging to the Islamic Affairs Bureau...
Those poor girls. They must be miserable.

Ignis fatuus

“The foolish fire, is an Exhalation kindled by meanes of violent moving, when by cold of the night, in the lowest region of the ayre, it is beaten downe, and then commonly, if it be light, seeketh to ascend upward, and is sent downe agayne; so it banceth up and downe: Els if it move not up and downe, it is a great lumpe of glewish or oyly matter, that by moving of the heat in it selfe, is enflamed of it selfe, as moyst hay will be kindled of it selfe.”
- William Fulke (1563), A Goodly Gallerye: William Fulke's Book of Meteors, pp.10-13.

“There is some evidence that phenomena such as the Will o' the Wisp in England and Min Min Light in Australia are luminescing Barn Owls Tyto alba (e.g. Purdy 1908; Gurney 1908; McAtee 1947; Bunn et at 1982; Macnamara 1989). However, the source of the luminescence is yet to be resolved. The most common explanation for such luminescence is that the owls have become contaminated with luminous fungi that grow inside hollow trees (e.g. Bunn et al. 1982) although, for reasons discussed herein, that explanation is unsatisfactory. 
[...] 
Is there any reason why birds could not bioluminesce? In a private letter Peter J. Herring, editor of Bioluminescence in Action (Academic Press, London 1978) said, 'There is no fundamental reason why there should not he a self-luminous bird (or mammal or reptile) but none has been reported'... 
This paper considers four premises: 
1. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that one or more of the following are true.
2. Barn Owls are indeed luminous, as has been often reported.
3. Luminescence is intrinsic to the owls and does not arise from contamination with luminous fungi.
4. Luminous natural phenomena, such as the Will o' the Wisp and Min Min Light, represent sightings of luminous owls. 
Only the Barn Owl is considered in this paper, because all the evidence gathered points to that species…”
- Fred Silcock, "A Review of accounts of luminosity in Barn Owls Tyto alba," Australian Raptor Studies II - Birds Australia Monograph 3 (1997). 

14 February 2011

History Is a Great Dust Heap

The beautiful Greek undressed when she went to rest for the night, yet her bed wanted the delicate and refined ventilators - sheets. When she arose from her blanket covered plane of repose, to array herself in woollen, she had no stays, nor stockings to add to her comfort, and a buckle only, or a skewer instead of a paper of pins, to make her garments air tight. If this perfumed model of womankind, with her painted cheeks and lips and eyebrows, did not indulge in the luxury of the shift, neither had her lord any shirt, nor drawers, nor hose, nor buttons, nor handkerchief, nor pockets, nor lining to his cloak, nor gloves,-items essential to the perfection of the most common modern portable climate.
- Walter Bernan [Robert Stuart Meikleham], On the History and Art of Warming and Ventilating Rooms and Buildings: By Open Fires, Hypocausts, German, Dutch, Russian, and Swedish Stoves, Steam, Hot Water, Heated Air, Heat of Animals, and Other Methods; with Notices of the Progress of Personal and Fireside Comfort, and of the Management of Fuel, p.38.

06 February 2011

Super Bowl Notes

The Stadium

A Cyclopean tomb.

National anthem

Having free-jazz alpehornist Fritz Entegeliebter play it would be an improvement.

Commercials

Beneath a frantic surface the primary quality of the advertisements is one of exhaustion.

Halftime show

Bringing a herd of donkeys out to bray a bit then defecate on the 50 yard line would be an improvement.

The game

I met a double murderer once (wife, mother). We had a friendly conversation about football.

La Siècle de la Raison

The eighteenth century has been called the century of reason. I’ve never understood that: they’re all mad! They give reason a responsibility which it simply can’t bear, it’s too weak. The Encyclopedists wanted to know everything...But that direct relation between the self and – as the Italians say – lo scibile, the knowable, was already broken.
- Samuel Beckett.

I am willing you should call this the Age of Frivolity as you do, and would not object if you had named it the Age of Folly, Vice, Frenzy, Brutality, Daemons, Buonaparte, Tom Paine, or the Age of the Burning Brand from Bottomless Pit, or anything but the Age of Reason.
- John Adams.

02 February 2011

Zambia Report


Heightening  ethnic tensions in Zambia. The Nkoyas, Mbundas, Chokwes, Luyanas, Luba-Lundas, Luchazi, and the Muzungus are not getting along, and Harrison Musonda reports the Barosteians want to secede (I think the Barosteians are Lozis, but you never know).

China has been busy in Zambia - building Chinatowns, beating miners, shooting miners, “developing” the local media. It’s not only Zambia; everywhere you go in Africa there's a Chinaman with a tiny finger in a pie. China’s foreign policy must seem quaint to the progressive experts ("Minerals? We're way beyond minerals.") who oversee our State Department.

At a wedding in Zambia, a “jubilant” man’s attempt to “express happiness” reminds us silence is the perfectest herald of joy.