Wednesday, November 27, 2013


A week or so ago, Esme got clucky and we gave her some fertile eggs to sit on. (For the benefit of readers who may be getting puzzled at this point, Esme is not a batty old lady who lives with us and apparently thinks she is a chicken, but she is one of our Australorps). As a result, her character has completely changed: whereas before she was mostly interested in nicking inside when we weren't looking and asking for food, now she's more interested in just sitting, all day long. Geeze, chickens are exciting when they're clucky.... Anyway, she also apparently thinks she is now terrifying to humans who hove into her view. Allow me to demonstrate a simple scenario from her point of view.

SCENE: ESME is sitting valorously on her little nest of six or so eggs. A DESPICABLE HUMAN approaches. 

DESPICABLE HUMAN: Hello Esme, I thought you might like some grain and some water. (Placing in nest). 


DESPICABLE HUMAN: Shrieeeeeeeek! (Runs away in terror). 

In reality, though, when I walk up to Esme, she fluffs herself up and makes a pretty whirring sound in an attempt to intimidate me. It's hard to imagine anything less intimidating than a fluffy chicken making a pretty whirring sound.

Don't tell Esme that though, I wouldn't want her to feel insecure.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dubious liquids of questionable origin, or, adventures in Sumerian ale!

Apparently I'm all about the historical cookery lately. This surprises me as much as anyone as I am neither a historian nor a cook, but the results are right before me every way I turn. The other week I made a slipcoat cheese; this week, a failed attempt to make another cheese with fig sap instead of rennet instead left me with a very passable bowl of creamy cottage cheese. Yesterday I had a go at a variation on a traditional syllabub recipe: all things are relative, mind, as these days "a traditional syllabub recipe" could in fact mean a recipe I found yesterday on the internet, which, coincidentally, is exactly how it happened. And then, of course, there has been the odd Sumerian ale or two. Sumerian ale? Sure, and if you don't mention it, I won't.

Anyway, this whole historical cookery lark is great. It's a good way to make people sound incredibly impressed by relatively simple cooking procedures. (People may not actually be impressed, but people are generally wonderfully polite and nice and will take care to sound impressed, which is as much as anyone can hope for these days). For instance: let's say you've been cooking a stew for guests, but it's become burnt: well, simply throw in some oats and perhaps a little dust for added verisimilitude, announce "I was making a rudimentary Irish gruel such as the peasantry used to dine upon", and watch everyone compliment you through forced grins. Also, when you make something like a Sumerian ale (and, by the way, did I say that I'm making some?) you're really entering into an area of the culinary arts so fraught with uncertainty and dubious evidence and fragmentary records and lost traditions that not only do you not know what it's all about, but no-one else does either. Indeed in some cases, a la Donald Rumsfeld, you find yourself dealing with a subject in which you do not know what you do not know. This is wonderfully to the purpose, since in most cases you can simply make shit up and your guests will have to be polite to you about it. What's that, Ruprecht? The ale taste like pig vomit? Success!

Here's what we do know about Sumerian ale: it was made from barley, the first proper beer. The Sumerian method was to make cakes called bappir, which may have also contained grains other than barley; the cakes possibly were mixed with water, possibly with honey; possibly with a combination of both. They might have had other ingredients added as well: dates, spices like coriander and cardamom, pepper. The cakes could be stored for a long time, but sooner or later they'd be added to water - could be hot water, might be boiling - to make a kind of soup. You'll notice there's three "possiblys", one "might have", two "could bes", and one "might be" in this paragraph already: but besides that, we don't have many certainties about Sumerian brewing at all.

For my purposes, I tried  two recipes. The first was a variation on a recipe on the Maltose Falcons website, using barley that had already been malted (malted essentially means sprouted and baked to get the sugars that will convert into beer). For the second, I sprouted some barley grain myself and made the bappir cakes when they were sprouted. I omitted the customary invocations to the Goddess Ninkasi, since to work properly that may have involved customary sacrifices of sheep or something, and if we had a sheep or something, before it got time to sacrifice it we'd have given it a name, have knitted it clothes for Christmas, it would be sleeping on the bed with us at night, and the Baron would be looking at me very strangely if I tried any such customary customs. Besides which we don't have a sheep or something.

So I cooked the first on the stove on Thursday with the vague intention of making a one to two litre batch of ale. The soup soon took on a gooey browny black colour; its aroma, rich with coriander and honey and dates, was amazing. The bappir cakes seemed to soak up a lot of the water, and so in the end I added more water and drained off the cakes through cheesecloth into the pot. The result was a sticky, viscous, treacle like, rather warm liquid in the pot, which I supplemented with even more water because I didn't have the patience to wait for it to cool down and I'm a brewer I can do whatever I want and to hell with it. When it was cool enough, I scooped the top of another still-fermenting brew, stirred it in to the Sumerian ale with a my yeast stick (yes, I have a yeast stick, I bet you're jealous), and let the yeast and the brew get to know one another; by the morning it was bubbling away. On Saturday I did more or less the same with the second bunch of bappir that I'd made, though I stirred in some extra honey when I was making the soup, to give an added sweetness; and when the mixture was cool enough, I took a scoop of yeast from the top of the previous batch of ale.

So yeah, I made some Sumerian ale. No big deal, and it's not like I'm going to mention it anyway. Don't mention it.

Basically, when the ale is done, the plan is to share it with others while it's still fresh. In this way, a happy meeting of comrades drinking dubious liquids of questionable origin and making insincere compliments through forced grins will ensue, which will save me the trouble of having to do it all myself (giving yourself an insincere compliment is always awkward, and best avoided). And as we all know, dubious liquids of questionable origin and insincere compliments through forced grins are what civilisation is all about.

Yeah, okay, I probably will be drinking it alone.

Fig one: wild scenes anticipated at my house when the Sumerian ale is ready.

UPDATE!- Sumerians had fun while drinking. Sometimes too much fun.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Booze reviews

Stephen Harrod Buhner's book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers has been something of a classic in brewing circles for years, so perhaps it was inevitable that it would end up in my hot little hands. It is a fascinating book, with satisfying detail about medieval gruit brewing, traditional methods of mashing and sparging beer in Scandinavia, hints at traditional brewing technique in surviving fragments of folk poetry, etc.

But can I make a complaint? The book is full of inaccuracies, and they detract from the authority of the work overall. The Picts were not Scandinavian, nor had the Elder and Younger Eddas were not set in Britain. Lactobacilli is not yeast. Honey takes longer than four weeks to ferment!

The dwarves referred to in the Eddas are almost certainly the of the original tribes of Britain.

There is as far as I'm aware no such evidence that the Picts in Britain were the same indigenous people of Scandinavia displaced by the Germanic migrations.

Some commercial brewers in Belgium still use only wild yeasts in their fermentation of lambic... Indigenous beers contain scores more. Numerous species of Pseudomonas, Lactobacillus.... 

The first mistake I put up to lazy writing; this mistake probably is due to the same, but Buhner is a naturopath - this is really the sort of thing he should have picked up on.

Perhaps it's because of little mistakes like this that the recipes can sometimes seem a little questionable too. He tells us to ferment some meads "for 8 to 20 days", which just isn't enough for a mead as he actually explains in very helpful detail elsewhere - although part of the sugar in honey will ferment quite rapidly, the other part will take months to fully ferment. In another special mead recipe - a cyser, a honey and apple mead - he endorses bottle priming bottles (adding sugar when you bottle the mead to encourage a secondary fermentation) which combined with a cavalier approach to fermenting honey could be a recipe for disaster (and by disaster, I mean explosions (which can admittedly be quite fun, and provide anecdotes for the whole family)).

It's worth seeing this all in proportion though. There's lengthy notes on the making of South American corn and millet beers, a sample from the Kalevala providing a sort of origin story about the brewing of the first beer, and recipes for such delicacies as "Nettle Beer", "Wild Lettuce Ale", "Spruce Beer", "Finnish Sahti", "Pine Needle Beer", and many others; he hasn't tried them all but many he has, either in his naturopath practice or just as an enthusiast. And I like his gung-ho approach to brewing and his suspicion of the use of hops (they're a great ingredient but there are plenty of other herbs out there). So it's all in all a pretty awesome book, although perhaps much better for throwing up new ideas about brewing and challenging accepted practices than being a definitive guide. And if there are any other brewers out there reading this who've read and used Buhner, I'd be interested to know what they think.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The most interactive blog post in the world

Link to the poll of the cat gif of the survey for the image of the chocolate bar

that is a button that leads to the penguin.

Feel free to comment on the link to the poll of the cat gif of survey for the image of the chocolate bar that is a button that leads to the penguin, or the link, or the poll, or the cat gif, or the survey, or the image of the chocolate bar that is a button, or the penguin, in the comments.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The greatest Thing ever written

Richard Wagner's Thing cycle is on in Melbourne at the moment, apparently. I only learned because the other day I spoke to Mum on the phone and she asked me when the thing was on and I said "I don't know, I think it's next year", and she told me it was on in a few days and it turned out she was right though of course it makes me wonder why she asked when it was on if she already knew anyway.

Of course, Wagner's Thing is one of the most famous pieces of music ever written, which is why most people today have never heard of it and those who have, like me, probably don't plan to do anything about it anyway. The Thing cycle is so named because it's about a thing. It starts on a river somewhere where some people or maybe just some things are swimming about a thing, which turns out to be the thing that the whole cycle is about, but at this moment it's just a thing, and a elf of pixie or dwarf or somesuch comes along and steals the thing from the other things that are doing things about the thing. Clear so far?

There's a lot of song and dance about the thing*, including up in heaven or somewhere, and a bunch of Valkyries (I should explain, for those who wish to know, Valkyries are I'm not sure) go for a ride. I don't know why they go for a ride but it's something to do with the thing. Then heaven burns down, which has something to do with the thing as well but I wouldn't really know because although I have listened to bits of the Thing I've never listened to the thing all the way through, but it's all very exciting, apparently. Also, incest.

So you can see why a lot of people make quite a thing about the Thing. The Thing has been performed all over the world for over a century,which is certainly something, though I'm not sure what. After all, just compare the historical legacy of Wagner's Thing with the work of a contemporary of his, The Huh, by Someone-or-other. See? Nobody has ever heard The Huh or even knows who Someone-or-other is. And if it has been maliciously suggested from time to time by uncultivated parties that "Wagner's music is better than it sounds", then at least we can say that, and not "Wagner's music isn't better than it doesn't sound", which is what people say about poor old Someone-or-other today. So there is that. Which takes us back again to the thing. Which was.... what was I talking about again?

Ladies and gentlemen, Richard Wagner's Thing.

*Subsequently, critics have made a lot of song and dance about this lot of song and dance.

The underarms of my keyboard

There is so much hair in my keyboard, that by now I am certain that not all of it can have got in there by falling. My keyboard must be growing hair of its own accord. It is clear, my keyboard is undergoing puberty, and soon it will have hairy underarms, a deeper voice and/or breast growth. It is fortunate that I have not undertaken the time-honoured method of cleaning the keyboard by accidentally spilling coffee all over it, as this would only be likely to cause a teenage temper tantrum.

It makes me wonder, though: will I attain a keyboard stage of development, and start developing keys all over my body? It hasn't happened yet.... but you never know.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tyrannical tastes

It occurred to me the other day that it might be a rather fun idea to have a museum or gallery exhibition of artworks collected or favoured by tyrants and dictators all over the planet. Dictators have an artistic taste, all right: a bad one. Saddam Hussein collected science fiction artwork while sponsoring monstrous monuments to himself to bestride city squares and gaze in a visionary fashion out over the desert. Stalin instructed Shostakovich to write music for the people while happily dispatching with large portions of said people on a whim. Later communist leaders cheerfully funded heroic Soviet artworks at the same time filling up their capitals with hideous concrete squares as a convenient means for disposing of the citizenry.

One problem with such an exhibition, of course, would be where to put it all. Sure, you could accommodate a national orchestra here or there, maybe even a crowd doing synchronised dancing for the glory of their dear leader (whoever he or she may be) but what about the "Palace of the People", funded by Rumanian leader Ceausescu, requiring four square miles of Bucharest, including 27 churches and synagogues and countless homes? Perhaps the exhibition could take place in this building, although, come to think of it, the building itself might have to be housed in the proposed Chess City of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. And there would have to be room for all of the many Presidential palaces belonging to Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gadaffi, and friends - complete with lurid, gold-plated toilets, opulent chandeliers, and replete with the pilfered wealth of their respective lands.

The favourite subject for dictatorial art, inevitably, seems to be the dictator's themselves - as if all the architecture and sculpture and poetry and song of their land inevitably has to emanate from their own glorious form; these would all, of course, find a place at such an exhibition. Think of all those statues of Hussein, and so on. The absolute best example of the dictatorial art genre would have to be the golden statue of Turkmen dictator Sapurmurat Niyazov, which rotated so that it was always facing the sun. The statue was apparently removed in 2006, which is I think rather a pity: it would have been excellent to dry clothes on.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday arts: portrait of a cat and a chicken

Portrait of a cat and a chicken
Harriet and Griselda
Beneath the outdoor table -
I took a picture with my poem
As soon as I was able. 

The above portrait was drawn by the artist TRAIN, Timothy, on seeing his cat (Harriet) and his chicken (Griselda) sitting together underneath the table. Not feeling that camera or acrylics would do the moment justice, he took the unusual step of using rhyme and meter as his medium. While reflecting some of Train's early influences from the abstract excrementalists and the famous Parisian artistic trio "The Two", it is of primary interest as an early example of Train's middle period*, although admittedly not as famous as his later notorious work "Landscape with Two Onions and a collapsing Neutron Star". Train also prepared for this work with brief sketch:

Light and shade, light and shade, 
Some oblongs and a square.
A blob or two, a splodge will do -
Feathers, whiskers, hair.

*Or perhaps a middling example of his early period, according to some critics.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

(About cheese)

These days, I find that if I want to talk with someone about cheese I have to start the conversation myself. This is odd, as what else would people want to talk about besides cheese? It feels strange having to shoulder the burden of opening conversations (about cheese) entirely on my own, but funnily enough, I find few people have much interest in talking at length (about cheese). As every person skilled in the art of conversation ought to know, cheese is a remarkable subject, which is why I am remarking on it right now; but it is also a delicious one. And, best of all, it is not an easy subject to exhaust: if you eat a cheese, it will eventually disappear; but you can keep on eating the conversation forever: it is the cut-and-come again puddin' of conversation.

Thankfully, you, good people of the internet, have highly developed concentration skills and are able to talk about cheese at great length, too, which is why I feel quite happy to announce to you that I made a slip-coat cheese the other day. This is an announcement I have made a number of times to a number of parties. "I am going to make a slip-coat cheese", I said to the Baron, who was inexplicably at that time still sleeping. "I am making a slip-coat cheese", I said to the lady at the shops, who was at that moment unfortunately distracted by another customer who scandalously actually wanted to buy things. "I made a slip-coat cheese", I said to my mother on the phone, though whether I called her to announce that fact or whether she called me to let me make my glorious announcement who can tell.

At this point in the cheese-based conversation, I was usually surprised by the polite lack of interest of the person being spoken to about cheese. "Just what is a slip-coat cheese", is the question I'm sure they would have asked if they were going to ask a question, but of course I told them anyway: a slip-coat cheese is an old type of English cheese, made from lightly pressed curds and wrapped and rewrapped in cheesecloth several times a day for about a week, until it doesn't stick to the cheesecloth anymore (it "slips" the "coat", in other words); at this point it will be ready. I found a recipe in an old book of recipes (Martha Washington's cookbook, no less), and the notes directed me to several similar recipes in Digby. So between the two of them, I was quite able to develop a workable modern version.

Now I know you're all fascinated by this, so just to make things more interesting, I'll give you the recipe:
2 litres milk, 400 mls cream, 1 tablespoon culture, 1/3 teaspoon rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup non-chlorinated water.
1. Milk milk and cream, heat to about 30 degrees celsius. (Don't worry about being too accurate because I wasn't).
2. Add culture, stir for a minute or so. Keep milk at 30 degrees celsius for an hour. (Stick the mixture in a pot and stick the pot in a sink or larger pot of water that you can keep replenishing to keep the temperature constant. This is more gentle than using a direct heat source like a heat pad; water disperses the heat).
3. Add rennet, stir for a minute or so. Keep milk at 30 degrees for an hour (using method in 2, above).
4. By this time the milk should have clabbered (curdled). Scoop the curds out into a cheesecloth bag and hang to drain for a few hours.
5. Line a cheese mould (or any old plastic pot with holes poked in it so long as it is strong enough to hold the curds) with cheesecloth. Stick the curds in, fold the cloth over the top, put a lid of a jam jar or some shit like that on top, and stick a weight on top of that. Maybe the rest of the jam (still in the jam jar obviously). I dunno, turn the cheese over after a couple of hours if you like to give it a nice shape.
6. Take the cheese out of the mould, rewrap it in a clean cheesecloth, and put it on a board to drain and dry. Keep on turning the cheese and changing the cloth three or four times every day, and when the cheese is ready and has formed a rind on the outside, it will slip out of the cloth without sticking. 

Wasn't that interesting post about cheese interesting? Gee it's great talking about cheese.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A little talk

Every year the Dan O'Connell Saturday poetry readings have a Dead Poets Day where, for once, poets read poems by others, poets who have gone before. The event this year was last Saturday. Because poetry is all about breaking the rules and I'm a rebel man I can do what I want I actually wrote something for the occasion. Not even a poem: a speech.... 

A little talk about Death

Thank you for coming to Dead Poets Day at the Dan. Some of the best poets are dead: there ought to be more of them. Wait. Dead Poets will live on the open stage at the Dan, but only for five minutes. You will have your chance to be temporarily dead in front of a temporarily dead audience who may also be poets. I think that's right. If you enjoy death, you might enjoy poets too, however I would not want to mistakenly suggest that I am making light of the situation and anyway many of the temporarily poetical have later gone to have successful careers as dead people so that's all right I think. Other themes that will feature today: malnutrition, suicide, tuberculosis, and cancer. If you are a fan of these things you may also be a fan of our readers, who have many other talents. Will we all get together in the break and possibly attempt to maybe raise a zombie poet who will hypothetically gorge on the metaphors, rhymes and brains of those of us who have the decency to be politely dead? That will be something fun to look forward to or maybe not. This is going to be a great day, but please don't die. Now A___* is going to kill me and then I will hand the mic over and then the day will begin hooray. Thank you for my time.

*A___ - Dan MC on Saturday.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Dufflepuds and jiggery pokery: review of Voyage of the Dawn Treader

So last night I finally got to watch Voyage of the Dawn Treader, several years after I bought the DVD and several more after it was released in cinemas. I'm a bit of a C. S. Lewis nut really so it's surprising that I've taken this long to watch it, but perhaps not so surprising that I found the film all wrong.

Now I can understand that the director and writers like to take a bit of liberty with the plot of the books to make them filmable. In Prince Caspian actually I think this all worked superbly - it was a war movie, with many of the key battles being fought by animals: there's nothing more thrilling than seeing an army consisting of leopards and hawks besieging the castle of an enemy by night. Another thing entirely happened in Voyage though; things seem to be going okay when Eustace and Edmund and Lucy are plonked unceremoniously into a Narnian ocean. Eustace is agreeably disagreeable, when they are rescued Edmund suggests "maybe you could throw him back in", and there's a minotaur on board. What? That's not in the book. But anyway, minotaur schminotaur; his inclusion on the boat is not particularly significant to the plot either way, apart from making Eustace faint right at the beginning.

And then they get to the Lone Islands and things start going screwy. Not only do they have to deal with slave holders, but apparently a killer fog right out of John Carpenter. By the time Caspian and Scrubb and the Pevensies win the island back two completely useless characters, for very little reason other than eliciting our sympathies, are forced with a little effort on the scriptwriter's part into the plot and onto the Dawn Treader. Like the minotaur they play a part of very little significance after in the plot, so you wonder why the scriptwriters went to the time and effort in the first place.

Then it's on to the Island of the Dufflepuds (Eustace's transformation into a dragon is reserved for later) and another extraneous plot element is introduced; some jiggery pokery nonsense about the killer fog coming from a Black Island and the seven swords of the seven lost lords being lain on a table being the only way to stop the Black Island from doing whatever it is doing. There's very little explanation and very little reason for this, again, apart from giving the plot more of a generic Hollywood kid's adventure feel.

It's all very strange to me; why lay down a new plot on top of a book that already has a perfectly good plot? Instead of going in search of seven lost lords, Caspian and his mates all of a sudden find themselves picking up the swords, one by one, so they can go on to stop the power of this Black Island. What I really love about the original book is the unfolding sense of discovery, enchantment, and desire - the battles with the slavers and the threat of the Dufflepuds is quickly dispensed with in the first third of Lewis' book, to be replaced by a journey into the unknown; the search for the lost Lords gives it purpose but doesn't detract from (rather, it adds to) the mystery and enchantment. And why, above all, have this stuff about the magical swords - putting a kind of Deus Ex Machina into the plot of a film which already has Deus Ex Machina all over it?

There is, thankfully, a lot of stuff the film does do well: Eustace is a great character and we get a lot of opportunities to see how horrible he is. His transformation into dragon and finally back into boy is good. (It is however much better in the book: when Eustace becomes boy again, Aslan repeatedly leaps upon him and tears the dragon skin off him in an incredibly vivid and visceral scene that demonstrates Lewis's allegory about sin and redemption excellently). Lucy's temptation by the beauty spell (and guilt, and retribution by Aslan) is also good. Several other plot points from the book are dragged together, though they are done so quite skilfully. It all makes you wonder, though: why did they bother with all that magic sword mumbo jumbo? Why fiddle with a perfectly good plot to make it into a slightly less good plot?

Thursday, November 07, 2013


For my sins, today, I was flung into the world of the Chicago Manual of Style, their referencing system and academic bibliographies (is there any other sort?). Academic bibliographies throw up all sorts of wonders: the occasional little pile up of quote marks, with the title of a referenced work referencing the quote of another work - or the author of a non-referenced work being referenced due to a reference to them in a referenced work (if that makes sense), making you wonder whether to reference them or if there are already too many references (yes). The best bits, of course, are where the author of the work that the bibliography is attached to gracefully descends from their authorial heights to reference themselves, in the third person, in the same bibliography: don't we all want to do that, really?

Funnily enough, the very first reference that I had to file away in the bibliography was a real puzzler. It almost drove me insane, and I'm still not sure I tackled it in the correct way. It posed a very particular problem:

How, precisely, does one go about referencing a defunct UK law in the Chicago referencing system? The law in question was a very important law, and led to a very significant circumstance that was mentioned in the work to which the bibliography was appended. It really ought to be mentioned. But how?

Pondering on this, I got a little crazy. Then I got frightened: would I be able to even get past the first reference? Then I got an itchy head. Then I got distracted by a picture of a cat on facebook. Then I got the handy idea of asking everyone else about it. Then I got distracted by all the answers or should that be then I got answered by all the distractions that people came up with. Then I got down a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, edition 14, that,bizarrely, happened to be on my desk (no, I don't know how it got there, either). Then I got up and got a biscuit. Then I got back in my chair and checked my email. Then I decided: I would reference it in any damn way that I felt like.

But how exactly did I feel like referencing a law again? Not very much, thank you. In the end, I opted for writing the name of the law down in the bibliography, somewhere in the middle. I think I mentioned 'parliament' too, to note that that is where it originated from and give it a lovely sense of variety, adding a homely touch to an otherwise plain computer screen. You're welcome.

Then I got up and got five more biscuits. Gosh, doing bibliographies is hard work.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Highbrow eyebrows

Peter Hitchens, brother of the late lamented Christopher Hitchens, has the most fantastic eyebrows. Look at them! Twin hedgerows on the forehead of destiny.

But with great eyebrows comes great responsibility. Can Hitchens really say he has used his eyebrows for good? Heaven help us all if he deploys his fluff in the service of evil.

Here is a picture of former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Menzies, using his eyebrows to devastating effect. We see here a furrow in combination with a lifting of one eyebrow in order to persuade some unnamed minor American official of the splendour of the Australian Commonwealth.

How can we ever have doubted that nice Mr Menzies? In contrast, here is Peter Hitchens weakly attempting to lift a flaccid eyebrow but completely failing in the attempt.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH, HITCHENS. Either learn to use your eyebrows properly, or they will be taken and donated to someone who truly recognises their potential. Use them or lose them, Hitchens. Use them or lose them.

Monday, November 04, 2013

William Shakespeare, Alexander Waugh, hot gay sex, and time machines

"Researching a new book on Shakespeare's sonnets", writes Alexander Waugh (him, the one who came after Auberon (you know, the one who came after Evelyn)) "I stumbled upon an astonishing piece of hitherto unnoticed evidence.... suffice to say that William Covell... revealed in words not especially ambiguous by Elizabethan standards that 'Shakespeare' was a nom de plume used by the courtier poet Edward de Vere". He goes on: ".... almost every intelligent educated person concedes, at very least, that there is a genuine authorship problem".

Crikey! Putting aside the merest hint of the whisper of a likelihood of a possibility that Waugh may just be cranking up a tired old historical theory in order to up sales for his latest book, just what is the "unnoticed evidence" in "words not especially ambiguous", that is, "by Elizabethan standards" that he's referring to? Possibly this:
William Covell’s epistle appended to *Polimanteia, or the meanes lawfull and unlawfull to judge of the fall of a Commonwealth, against the frivolous and foolish conjectures of this age* (1595) which offers a printed marginal note containing “Sweet Shakspeare” near the text “Oxford thou maist extoll thy courte-deare-verse” which of course means Shakespeare is Oxford via an anagram for “courte-deare-verse”.
Er, right ho then. But before we acclaim De Vere as the author of all that play stuff and sonnet stuff and other stuff, the author of that blog post points out that "courte-deare-verse" anagrammatises not only to "our de Vere - a secret", but also many other phrases.

Anyway, after reading this piece by Waugh, I had a little toddle around the sites myself. Like Greg Hunt, I only use the finest evidence Wikipedia has to offer, and it certainly had something to offer in this instance. Shakespeare died in 1616. De Vere, the poor sausage, carked it some 12 years before, in 1604. And turns out that several of Shakespeare's plays - including King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest - were written, according to dating by scholars, after 1604. So to write all those plays on the sly, De Vere had to either rise from the grave before putting pen to paper again, or pop into the time machine a month or so before his scheduled death, go forward a couple of years, and write them. Which puts rather a dent in the the "authorship question" that Waugh is trying to fire up, don't you think?

Then again, a fun alternative little theory that Alexander Waugh might like to entertain is that Shakespeare had hot gay sex with Edward de Vere, wrote about it at length in his sonnets, and had this William Covell chap hint at it as a shared secret in his book. What do you reckon? Such a lubricious detail might help to sell a few copies of the latest work from the Waugh clan too....

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Considered reflections on the occurrence of Spring Racing Carnival

Or, a grown up nursery rhyme
Horsey worsey horsey worsey horsey worsey gallopatrot
Drink a shandy drink a brandy get quite randy
Horsey worsey gallopatrot
Snog your partner pash your cash smooch your hooch and drink a lot
Horsey worsey horsey worsey horsey worsey gallopatrot
Champagne bubbles boyfriend troubles grumble rumble fumble fall apart -
Horsey worsey gallopatrot
Evening over spew all over so hungover
Horsey worsey horsey worsey horsey worsey gallopatrot
Gallopatrot gallopatrot gallopatrot
Email: timhtrain - at -

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