the taming of the shrew

Shrews have a very high rate of metabolism and therefore need to devour enormous quantities of food. To be impressed by the appetite of a shrew you only have to capture one and try to keep it fed. You will soon weary of any attempt to catch enough worms, grubs and insects to satiate it and will have to resort to teaching the shrew to eat dog food and ground meat.

Elephant Shrew found here

C. Hart Merriam, an American mammalogist, once confined three shrews under a glass tumbler. Two of them promptly attacked and ate the third. Eight hours later only a single shrew, with a slightly bulging stomach, remained.

fat shrew found here

Gerald Durrell wrote about his delightful encounter with a shrew here

I witnessed an extraordinary comedy that almost seemed performed for my own special benefit. On the tree-trunk where I was sitting, out of the undergrowth, up over the bark, there glided slowly, laboriously and regally a giant land-snail, the size of an apple.

image found here

I realised that as the snail was making its rather vague progress along the trunk it was leaving behind it a glistening trail, and this trail was followed by one of the most ferocious and bloodthirsty animals, for its size, to be found in the West African forest.

image found here

Out on to the log strutted a tiny creature only as long as a cigarette, clad in jet-black fur and with a long slender nose that it kept glued to the snail’s track, like a miniature black hound. It was one of the forest’s shrews, whose courage is incredible and whose appetite is prodigious and insatiable.

Wedgwood black cigarette jar found here

Chittering to himself, the shrew trotted rapidly after the snail and very soon overtook it. Uttering a high-pitched squeak, it flung itself on the portion which protruded from the back of the shell and sank its teeth into it. The snail, finding itself unceremoniously attacked from the rear, did the only possible thing and drew its body rapidly inside its shell. The muscular contraction of the snail was so strong, that as the tail disappeared inside the shell the shrew’s face was banged against it and his grip was broken. The shell, having now nothing to balance it, fell on its side, and the shrew, screaming with frustration, rushed forward and plunged his head into the interior, in an effort to retrieve the retreating mollusc. However, the snail was prepared for his attack and greeted the shrew with a sudden fountain of greenish-white froth that bubbled out and enveloped its nose and head. The shrew leapt back with surprise, knocking against the shell as it did so. The snail teetered for a moment and then rolled sideways and dropped into the undergrowth beneath the log. The shrew meanwhile was sitting on its hind legs, almost incoherent with rage, sneezing violently and trying to wipe the froth from its face with its paws.

frothy minted sake found here

The whole thing was so ludicrous that I started to laugh, and the shrew, casting a hasty and offended glance in my direction, leapt down into the undergrowth and hurried away……

Published in: on June 18, 2012 at 8:36 am  Comments (62)  
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she had to eject it somewhere

An Environmental Health Inspector wrote this report in 1995 after viewing a performance by Stephanie Evans at the Ice House club

Princess Stephanie NOT Stephanie Evans found here

At 8:30pm Stephanie Evans appeared on stage. Approximately 35 people stood round the stage area to view Ms Evans on her back inserting ping pong balls in her vagina.  She then ejected the balls into the crowd where a small percentage of people attempted to catch the balls in their mouth or hands. Ms Evans agreed to autograph the balls after the show.

image found here

Pizza was available at all times and people ate during and after the show. Unlimited non alcoholic drinks were offered and most patrons had drinks on their table during the ping pong portion of the show. I served myself a slice of pizza from the delivery boxes on the bar. The temperature of the pizza was around 80 degrees F.

pizza art found here

At 10:15 Ms Evans re-appeared on stage. There were approximately 25 drink glasses on the counter that lined the stage from one end to the other being used by customers. There were no pizza slices on plates on the counter however there were people eating at several tables directly in front and to the sides of the stage.

old burlesque stage found here

Ms Evans sat in a large model of a champagne glass filled with liquid. She then rose out of the vessel and ejected water from her vagina into the crowd. Aim did not appear to be a concern. She repeated the actions several times and on the last occasion jumped out of the vessel and walked around the stage. It was obvious she had retained fluid in the orifice and was going to eject it somewhere.

Dita Von Teese found here

A customer was beckoned to move near her groin area whereupon she violently ejected the fluid she had retained directly in the customer’s face then walked back to the vessel to secure additional fluid. In order to observe the event I had to be in rather close proximity to the act but by now Ms Evans was ejecting fluid on almost everyone in the crowd and in order to avoid getting doused I left the establishment.

Wet Men by Francois Rousseau found here

In my judgement, the act of ejecting water from the vagina onto any food then consuming the food could create a health threat. My suggested compliance action would be to prohibit the serving of any food or drinks during any show that involves fluid being violently ejected from a vagina.

the excitement of white shoes

Komodo Dragons are the largest living species of lizard growing up to ten feet (3 metres) in length.

image found here

“The Komodo’s sense of smell is its primary food detector. Its long yellow forked tongue samples the air, after which the two tongue tips retreat to the roof of the mouth, where they make contact with the Jacobson’s organs. These chemical analyzers “smell” prey such as deer by recognising airborne molecules. If the concentration on the left tip is higher than that sampled from the right, then the Komodo knows that the deer is approaching from the left. 

image found here

The muscles of the Komodo’s jaws and throat allow it to swallow huge chunks of meat with astonishing rapidity. A female who weighed no more than 50 kilograms was seen to consume a 31 kilogram boar in less than 17 minutes.  Komodos eat almost their entire kill including bones, hooves and swathes of hide. They also eat intestines but only after swinging them vigorously to scatter their contents and remove faeces. 

image from Big Tits Zombie 3D found here

Although males tend to grow larger than females, no obvious morphological differences mark the sexes. One subtle clue does exist: a slight difference in the arrangement of scales just in front of the cloaca, the cavity housing the genitalia in both sexes. Sexing Komodos remains a challenge to researchers; the dragons themselves appear to have little trouble figuring out who is who

Cross With Care image found here

A male initiates courtship by flicking his tongue on a female’s snout and then over her body. Before copulation can occur, the male must evert a pair of hemipenes located within his cloaca. He then crawls on the back of his partner and inserts one of the hemipenes, depending on his position relative to the female’s tail, into her cloaca. 

hemipenes found here

A variety of behaviors have been observed from captive specimens. Most become relatively tame within a short period of time, and are capable of recognizing individual humans and discriminating between more familiar keepers. Komodo dragons have also been observed to engage in play with a variety of objects, including shovels, cans, plastic rings, and shoes. 

animal shoes by Iris Schierferstein found here

Even seemingly docile dragons may become aggressive unpredictably, especially when the animal’s territory is invaded by someone unfamiliar. In June 2001, a Komodo dragon seriously injured a man when he entered its enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo after being invited in by its keeper. He was bitten on his bare foot, as the keeper had told him to take off his white shoes, in case they caused excitement in the dragon…..

white boot players found here

Published in: on June 7, 2012 at 8:16 am  Comments (51)  
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the fully qualified tantric lama

Recently I was reading about Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969), described as an anarchist, occultist, opera singing late bloomer. What a fabulous woman. Here, Janwillem Van De Wetering reviews a biography of her…..

image found here

“Setting out on this review, I feel a slight tremor of fear. Alexandra David-Neel, a bourgeois Parisian, became a fully qualified tantric lama in Tibet when she was 52 years old. Tantric Buddhism has been known to follow the left-handed, or demonic, way.

image found here

Do I dare to discuss a magic entity that is calmly gazing through the screen of my word processor, wearing a rosary necklace of 108 pieces of human skull, an apron of carved human bones, and holding a phurba, the higher-sphere crystal dagger that kills ghosts but may also seriously disturb or even switch off the regular flesh-and-blooded, by penetrating our astral bodies?

image found here

Mme. David-Neel was a compulsive traveler, an explorer, a feminist, a prolific and internationally popular writer and an acknowledged authority on Buddhist ritual. Her stay at Kum Bum monastery in Amdo Province made her familiar with spells. She did cause a sudden thunderstorm out of the blue to frighten bandits off while traveling across the arid highlands of the ”roof of the world,” she did warm herself by tumo, or ”pit of the stomach,” meditation, making flames embrace her when she ran out of fuel and food in deep snow, and on a lower spiritual plane, she did carry a modern automatic seven-shot pistol that she fired at least once, aiming at a brigand who tried to steal her last tin spoon.

museum near the monastery found here

Fortunately, she didn’t kill him. Practicing Buddhists try to avoid taking life. David-Neel did eat meat products, though, including the soles of her boots, and in a drafty tent at 50 degrees below zero she slurped maggoty stew cooked by a substance-abusing butcher. David-Neel traveled in a time when Britain ruled not only waves but also mountains. The British secret service was wary of the mysterious Frenchwoman who hobnobbed with Oriental princes and high lamas in palaces and fortresses where political plans were hatched.

image found here

She endlessly milked money out of Philip Neel, her hardworking husband. Showing a prudish image to her royalty-paying public, she hid an affair with a stagehand, a live-in relationship with a fellow artist in France and an invitation to be seduced on her future husband’s yacht in Tunisia. Perhaps, if we may follow her biographers’ hint, she participated in tantric sex, the free-for-all physical activity in which masters and disciples partake in order to raise their spirits toward detachment. She disapproved of this ”promiscuity of embarrassments,” but then, you see, she wasn’t really there, she was just hiding in a hayloft. (She peeked.) She had a violent temper that very few – indeed, only Aphur Yongden, her faithful associate, and, in her old age, her secretary, Marie-Madeleine Peyronnet -were able to handle.

homes for sale in Tunisia here

Calling herself a rational Buddhist, she tried to live well, taking a hot bath every day (a coolie carried the bathtub), eating gourmet meals (she never cooked herself), riding good horses and being carried by sturdy bearers. When Lhasa, the political and spiritual capital, couldn’t be reached that way, she walked, crawled, lived on boiled water and dirt, became seriously ill, begged, and pretended to be a servant to her servant (who later became her adopted son and companion, Lama Yongden, a source of much jealousy to her husband). She reached the forbidden holy city, the first foreign woman to ever do so.

Lama Yongden found here

In 1928 Alexandra legally separated from Philippe, but they continued to exchange letters and he kept supporting her till his death in 1941. Alexandra settled in Provence, and continued to study and write till her death at age nearly 101.

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 8:57 am  Comments (46)  
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the eternal swirl of penetrability

Alfred William Lawson, Supreme Head and First Knowlegian of the University of Lawsonomy, at Des Moines, Iowa, was in his own opinion the greatest scientific genius of his day. Martin Gardner devoted an entire chapter of Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science to Lawsonomy

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At the base of Lawsonomy, underlying the entire structure, was a theory of physics so novel that Lawson was forced to invent new terms to describe it. 

Lawson conceived of a cosmos in which there was neither energy nor empty space, but only substances of varying density moving toward each other through the operation of two basic Lawsonian principles—Suction and Pressure. The law governing this movement was called Penetrability.

suction image found here

The human body operated by means of thousands of little Suction and Pressure pumps. Air was sucked into the lungs, food into the stomach, and blood around the body. Waste matter was eliminated by Pressure. This “internal swirl goes on as long as the Suction and Pressure terminals are properly maintained.” When they cease to draw and push, the man dies.

pressure cooker cola braised ribs found here

Sex, as might be expected, was simply Suction and Pressure. “Suction is the female movement. Pressure is the male. Female movement draws in from without, and male movement pushes out from within. The attraction of one sex for the other is merely the attraction of Suction for Pressure.”

found here

Within the human brain, according to Lawson, were two types of tiny creatures called the Menorgs and the Disorgs. The Menorgs (from “mental organizers”) are “microscopic thinking creatures that operate within the mental system.” They are responsible for everything good and creative. 

Unfortunately, the Menorgs have opposed to them the destructive, evil activities of the Disorgs (“disorganizes”), “microscopic vermin that infect the mental system and destroy the instruments constructed by the Menorgs.” As Lawson expressed it, “a Menorg will sacrifice himself for the benefit of the body, but a Disorg will sacrifice the body for the benefit of himself.”

image found here

Just after he turned nineteen, Lawson became a pitcher for an Indiana ballteam. For the next nineteen years he worked in professional baseball, both as a player and a manager. Photographs taken at the time revealed a handsome, chiseled face, dark curly hair, high forehead, and dreamy eyes.

image found here

It was during his baseball career that Lawson became corrupted by friends. He began to earn money for money’s sake. Worse than that, he took to tobacco and liquor, and the eating of meat. His health failed. His teeth decayed. Then, at the age of twenty-eight, by a superhuman effort of will, he abandoned all these vices.

His first book, a novel called Born Again was written about this experience. It is one of the worst works of fiction ever printed, but Lawson claimed “many people consider it the greatest novel ever written by man.”

image found here

Soon after he published it, Lawson began a career in aviation. In 1908 he established the first popular aeronautical magazine, Fly. From 1910 to 1914 he edited another magazine called Aircraft, a word he coined himself. He introduced it into the dictionary as editor of the aviation section of a revised Webster’s. 

image found here

In 1919 he invented, designed, and built the world’s first passenger airliner. It carried eighteen people, and although there was considerable doubt as to whether it would fly, Lawson himself piloted it from Milwaukee to Washington and back. In 1920, he built a twenty-six-passenger plane, and made a handsome profit flying it around the United States. It was the first plane to have sleeping berths.

image found here

His books Direct Credits for Everybody, and Know Business, detail the basic tenets of the “Lawson Money System.” He proposed that he gold standard be abolished. “Valueless money” was to be issued, not redeemable for anything. Parades and mass meetings of his followers were held in dozens of midwestern cities;  the largest was in Detroit in October 1933. The floats, carrying plump and elaborately costumed women, were so preposterous that unless there were photographs you wouldn’t believe them. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find any).

Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade found here

In 1942, Lawson purchased the University of Des Moines. The school, which included fourteen acres, six buildings, and dormitories for four hundred students, had been closed since 1929. He called it the Des Moines University of Lawsonomy. Lawson’s opinion of American education was low. “You don’t begin to get bald on the inside of your heads until you start to go to high school,” he once declared, “and you don’t get entirely bald until you pass through college.”

bald head design art found here

He placed a high premium on bodily vigor, and recommended an elaborate set of health rules. He believed in a diet without meat, consisting mostly of raw fruits and vegetables. “All salads,” he once wrote, “should contain a sprinkling of fresh cut grass.” The head should be dunked in cold water upon arising and before going to bed. He also believed in sleeping nude, and changing bed sheets daily.

nude by Modigliani found here

He was against kissing. “Can you think of anything filthier than a man and woman with their faces stuck together and spitting disease microbes into each other’s mouths?” “Alfred Lawson never hated nor harmed a man, woman, or child in his life,” wrote Lawson. “In days gone by when anybody struck harmfully at this writer, he merely took hold of the offender and threw him to the ground to show his superior strength and ingenuity, and then rose with a friendly smile to show there was no hatred in his system whatsoever. “

Published in: on April 25, 2012 at 6:47 am  Comments (50)  
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putting his body on the line

Richard Glover is a columnist with the Sydney Morning Herald, who, last year, wanted to rid himself of warts…..

warthog walking stick found here

A month or so ago, I confessed to having a couple of doozies on my left hand. I’d visited several doctors who tried to defeat them in vain. I was forced to conclude medical science was not up to the job.

medicine man found here

Cue 137 readers who have kindly written about the wart-defeating method used in their household.  I’m now able to present at least 30 different cures and – by statistical analysis – list the Top Three Folk Remedies.

Karen recommends the sap from a poinsettia bush. Trevor, Kathryn, two Davids and a Rowley recommend the sap from the milk thistle weed. Bill recommends breathing on them. Fiona recommends homeopathy; Lyn prefers echinacea; and Georgie says to take two kelp tablets a day for three weeks.

learn to make poinsettia cookies here

Caro then invites me to urinate on my hand first thing in the morning. I decide against including this method in my study, however many votes it receives.

Sandie recommends vitamin E oil. Belinda and others advocate aloe vera. Mick suggests taping a piece of onion over them for a few days. Henry cites the same technique but using a slice of lemon. Jenny substitutes oranges and, in her cure, you eat them. 

purple onion skunk found here

As I open the letters and emails, things are getting weirder. Anne, Alicia and Keith all recommend fetching a snail from the garden and rubbing the mucus over the warts each day. Mary instructs me to spit on them first thing in the morning, then offers the helpful addendum: ‘‘P.S. You cannot use another person’s spit.”

snail graffiti found here

Barbara says she had a wool-classer boyfriend in the 1950s and he, along with the shearers, never suffered from warts because of the lanolin in the wool. I should give that a go, she says – the lanolin, not the shearer boyfriend.

image found here

Lynne says hers disappeared sometime during a 16-hour labour, giving birth to her first son, and suggests I close my eyes and fantasise I’m giving birth.

Tracy was told by her mum to rub the wart with raw meat then take the meat outside and bury it in the garden. Beverly has the same rub-then-bury technique but hers uses a potato. Barnie does the same but using the furry bit inside a broad bean pod.

image found here

In the 1950s, Frank lived in a small country town in which the cure was to ask a local called ”Old George Kearns” to stare at your warts, at which point they would fall off. If Old George wasn’t around, you’d tell his son, who’d ask his father to think about your warts when he arrived home. As soon as he got around to it, the warts would disappear.

Old George found here

And Anne says she’d get an empty washbasin, take it into the backyard at night and wash her hands in moonlight.

What was the cure most often recommended? Banana peel, white side pressed against the wart and then fixed in place with sticking plaster, as suggested by 12 readers.

Each day I strap two bits of peel to my hands. They have an amazing effect, rapidly eating away the warts, somewhat assisted by a bit of action with a pumice stone.

image found here

Nine days into my experiment, the warts are almost gone. I had intended to test the aloe vera cure and the milk thistle cure but I won’t have a chance.

What to do about the rough patch left behind? Thoroughly converted to the world of folk cures, I grab an empty washbasin and head out into the darkened backyard.

It’s nothing washing my hands in moonlight won’t fix.

Published in: on April 16, 2012 at 9:22 pm  Comments (53)  
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the pursuit of fish and fetish

Mary Kingsley (1862 – 1900) was an English writer and explorer. She was the daughter  of doctor, traveller and writer George Kingsley and the niece of novelists Charles Kingsley and Henry Kingsley.

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Dr. Kingsley died in February 1892 and Mrs. Kingsley followed a few months later. Freed from family responsibilities and with a small inheritance, Mary was able to travel as she had always dreamed, her reason for going being “the pursuit of fish and fetish“. 

image found here

As Kingsley set off on her first trip to Africa she was referred to a new “French book of phrases in common use in Dahomey.” The opening sentence of the book was “Help, I am drowning.”, followed by “Get up, you lazy scamps!” This was shortly followed by the question “Why has not this man been buried?” and its expected answer “It is fetish that has killed him, and he must lie here exposed with nothing on him until only the bones remain.”

image found here

Mary landed in Sierra Leone on 17 August 1893 and pressed on into Angola . She lived with local people who taught her necessary skills for surviving in the African jungles, and often went into dangerous areas alone. She longed to study ‘cannibal’ peoples and their traditional religious practices, commonly referred to as fetishes during the Victorian Era. 

While in Gabon, Mary Kingsley travelled by canoe up the Ogooué River where she collected specimens of previously unknown fish, three of which were later named after her. After meeting the Fang people and travelling through uncharted Fang territory, she climbed 13,760 ft Mount Cameroon by a route not previously attempted by any other European. Her adventures also included a crocodile attacking her canoe and being caught in a tornado.

more tornado images here

Once when staying in a Fang hut, a violent smell alerted her to a bag suspended from the roof. Emptying the contents into her hat, she found a human hand, three big toes, four eyes, two ears and other portions of the human frame. She showed no squeamishness, saying “I learnt that the Fang will eat their fellow friendly tribesfolk, yet they like to keep a little something belonging to them as a memento.”

you can purchase this cannibal hat here

She travelled in West Africa wearing the same clothes that she habitually wore in England: long, black, trailing skirts, tight waists, high collars, and a small fur cap. These same clothes saved her life when she fell into a game pit, the many petticoats protecting her from being impaled on the stakes below. Later that same day, returning to her moored canoe, she found a hippopotamus standing over it and “scratched him behind the ear with my umbrella until we parted on good terms.”

mouth of a hippo found here

When she returned home in November 1895 Kingsley was greeted by journalists who were eager to interview her. Reports in the papers portrayed her as a “New Woman”, an image which she did not embrace. She distanced herself from any feminist movement claims, arguing that she had never worn trousers during her expedition.

Women in trousers found here

Mary Kingsley upset the Church of England when she criticised missionaries for attempting to change the people of Africa. She defended aspects of African life that had shocked many English people, including polygamy. For example explaining the “seething mass of infamy, degradation and destruction going on among the Coast native… as the natural consequence of the breaking down of an ordered polygamy into a disordered monogamy“.

image found here

Here she describes the process of bartering with natives with a certain sense of humour. “All my trader stuff was by now exhausted, and I had to start selling my own belongings, and for the first time in my life I felt the want of a big outfit. My own clothes I certainly did insist on having more for, pointing out that they were rare and curious. A dozen white ladies’ blouses sold well. I cannot say they looked well when worn by a brawny warrior in conjunction with nothing else but red paint and a bunch of leopard tails, particularly when the warrior failed to tie the strings at the back. But I did not hint at this, and I quite realize that a pair of stockings can be made to go further than we make them by using one at a time and putting the top part over the head and letting the rest of the garment float on the breeze.”

image found here

Published in: on February 26, 2012 at 9:41 pm  Comments (56)  
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gravy first, then meat

In 1998, The Independent published this interview with Daisy de Cabrol, Madame La Baronne

Daisy, the Windsors and Fred found here

At 83, Madame La Baronne remains sprightly. She talks at a hundred miles an hour with an almost preposterously posh accent and uses charmingly old-fashioned words such as “automobile”. Lunch is like taking a trip back in time. It is also proof that Madame La Baronne still knows how to entertain in style. She has hired a lady from the village to cook up a three-course feast and the wine is served from grand crystal decanters. She rings a little bell at the end of every course to summon her manservant, then scolds him in English for the heinous crime of bringing the meat in before the gravy.

antique crystal dog decanter found here

Her husband, Fred de Cabrol, who died in July 1997, was also from a wealthy aristocratic family. The couple bought their house in Grosrouvre in 1950. In the bathroom, the toilet is strangely but skilfully hidden under a table which is attached to the wall at one corner and swivels out of the way when nature calls. The piece de resistance, however, is the barn, which has been transformed into a grand sitting-room. A sculpture of a deer sits atop the huge fireplace. On a beautiful cabinet sits a glass case filled with multi-coloured stuffed birds. On the walls there are numerous deer heads.

Budapest Hall of Hunting found here

The Cabrols were friends of  the Windsors whom they met at a dinner party in Paris. In 1947, they received an invitation to stay at their house on the Cote d’Azur. “We were astonished to find such luxury after the deprivation of the war,” she recalls. “Even at that time, two years after the war, people didn’t eat much, but they had so much food and there were fresh sheets every day.” The Cabrols would often go to the Windsors’ renovated windmill at Gif-sur-Yvette to the south of Paris for Sunday lunch. She also recalls singing “Clair de Lune” with the Duke, sword dancing after dinner and the Cabrol children entertaining the Windsors by playing the guitar.

image found here when I googled Gif-Sur-Yvette

In her scrapbook is the cover of a French magazine with a photo of the Windsors arriving at one of her balls. It was held at Paris’s Palais des Glaces and took three months to prepare. Charlie Chaplin was one of the guests. The Begum Aga Khan turned up in a flouncy feathered number and a young Madame Mitterand was on the organising committee. The composer Henri Sauguet wrote some music especially for the evening, Nancy Mitford composed sketches and everybody skated on the ice.

Begum Aga Khan found here

There are also invitations for receptions given by the Queen, to the wedding of Princess Grace of Monaco, Maria Callas’s autograph and a poem by the French society hostess Ghislaine de Polignac, entitled “Advice to a foreigner on how to succeed in Paris”. It ends with the line “C’est chez Pam qu’on va B—–R” which translates as “For a F–K, you go to Pam’s”. The Pam in question is the late American ambassador to France, Pamela Harriman.

Pamela Harriman found here

“There were three or four balls a year, mainly in the spring,” Madame recalls. “Nobody would ever dream of socialising in Paris after the Grand Prix horserace at the end of June. People who stayed in the city after that would close their shutters to pretend they had gone away.” Many of the balls were costume affairs. To one, she went disguised as a tree. To another, as the wife of Louis XIV, and once her husband dressed up as French ceramicist Bernard de Palissy and she as one of his plates.

Palissy plate found here

The dreaded Elsa Maxwell, who had a vitriolic gossip column in America and served as the Windsors’ social secretary, was also fond of the Cabrols, as was Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos. They once went on holiday with him and the actor Douglas Fairbanks on his yacht. “We travelled from the Riviera to Greece, but Niarchos refused to stop the boat for us to bathe. Every day, there was a huge tin of caviar, but after eight days, it became a bit of a nightmare. Nobody can eat caviar for eight days in a row!”

Icon Caviar found here

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 9:16 am  Comments (43)  
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thirteen men of the requisite nerve

The number thirteen fills some people with superstitious fear while others believe it is lucky. And then there are those who are determined to overlook other dates that crop up in their lives and concentrate on just this one

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“Captain William Fowler died yesterday of apoplexy. He had apparently been in splendid health when he retired on Monday evening but when called in the morning he was found to be unconscious and died shortly thereafter.

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His death recalls the old Thirteen Club and its strange rites and ceremonies. The number thirteen was interwoven with Captain Fowler’s life and his good fortune made him regard it as a mascot rather than as a numeral of ill omen.

He graduated from Public School No. 13 when he was thirteen years old and became a printer’s apprentice but soon left that employment to become a builder in partnership with architect John Trimble. The firm erected thirteen buildings including several theatres and Barnum’s Museum.

Barnum’s Museum found here

When Captain Fowler was twice thirteen years of age he was chosen to command the Twelfth Regiment of the NYSM and was at the head of this company until 13 April 1861. During his time as a soldier he was in thirteen battles. He resigned his commission on 13 August 1863 and on the thirteenth of the following month he took possession of a house he christened Knickerbocker Cottage. For nearly 20 years he kept the cottage and then on 13 April 1883 it was sold.

image found here

Captain Fowler belonged to thirteen secret and social organisations and was a thirty second degree Mason. He was also thirteenth on the membership roll of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. In 1880, Captain Fowler threw down the gauntlet to fate and set about organising the Thirteen Club.

Shriners found here

Thirteen men of the requisite nerve agreed to meet on 13 September 1881  for the first banquet of the club. It was held at Mills Hotel No. 1 because there were thirteen letters in the name. Twelve of the men arrived early. The hall was arranged to defy superstition with items on the table in a series of thirteen. Spilled salt was everywhere and to enter they had to pass under crossed ladders.

image found here

Long the twelve waited for the missing member. When the hour grew late and it seemed the banquet would be a failure, a happy idea struck the captain. One of the coloured waiters, the whites of whose eyes were already showing, was drafted. Trembling like a leaf, he was dragged to the table and told he should become a member. Despite his howls he was put through the first rites of initiation and was just being shoved through the ladders when the missing guest arrived. 

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The meal cost thirteen cents and consisted of thirteen courses, the final of which was stewed prunes. 

image found here

Published in: on February 6, 2012 at 7:12 am  Comments (49)  
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circumambulator of the globe

John “Walking” Stewart (1747 – 1822) was an English traveller and philosopher.

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He’d shipped out to Madras as a young clerk for the East India Company in 1763, only to decide that – as he announced brusquely in a resignation letter – “he was born for nobler pursuits than to be a copier of invoices to a company of grocers, haberdashers and cheese mongers“. 

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And he was right: joining an Indian prince as a secretary, he rose through the ranks to become an army general and a chief minister for the Nabob of Arcot – before  throwing it all over to walk alone across Persia, Abyssinia, Arabia and Africa before wandering into every European country as far east as Russia.

Nabob of Arcot found here

When he reached London he was dubbed by the incredulous press “Walking Stewart”. Never was there a more apt name; for he later hiked through Lapland and down into central Asia, and after sailing to New York walked all the way down to Paraguay. 

Paraguayan pineapple found here

He wouldn’t talk of his fabulous travels; instead he was always distributing bizarre pamphlets he’d privately printed, bearing titles like “The Roll of a Tennis Ball Through the Moral World“. Stewart’s works exhibit a naive arrogance, frequently asserting that their author is the “only child of nature” to have ever lived.

Vintage Child of Nature found here

The few who could read past their strange diction and publication date – for Stewart had invented his own calendar – found all sorts of curious ideas inside. He saw nothing wrong with prostitution, and considered it a typical city business like lamp lighting or driving a taxi, indeed, he saw little wrong with sex, and believed that there should be promiscuous intercourse so that the population might not become redundant.

unusual calendars found here

Stewart had a notion of preserving his pamphlets for posterity. He asked that his readers, when done reading him, bury his books in their gardens at a depth of seven or eight feet. They were to tell no one else of the location; but on their deathbeds they were to breathe the secret to a trusted few. These fellows would keep the burial place secret until their own deathbeds years later, and would communicate it again – down through the centuries, a secret society of philosophers passing down the sacred memory of the location of Stewart’s writings. 

buried books found here

But it occurred to him that his works might eventually prove unreadable because the English language might one day molder away. Thereupon he decided that first his readers should translate the works into Latin and then bury them. 

After retiring from travelling, Stewart eventually settled in London where he held philosophical soirées and earned a reputation as one of the city’s celebrated eccentrics. He was often seen in public wearing a threadbare Armenian military uniform—a souvenir, one assumes, from his many adventures.

Armenian children in army uniforms found here

Published in: on January 22, 2012 at 7:58 am  Comments (48)  
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