Showing posts from 2015

Get thee to a nunnery

'Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?'

In Hamlet, the eponymous hero tells his mistress Ophelia: 'Get thee to nunnery!' But Ophelia does not heed the command of her lover. Instead, she drowns herself in a lily pond.

Yet what if she had? What if Ophelia had hied herself to a distant convent and taken holy orders? What would have befallen her? 

What follows is an account of....


Having quit the palace of Elsinore, the fair Ophelia arrives at the nunnery and is ushered into the hallowed chamber of the Mother Superior, who explains to Ophelia that if she wishes to enter the Sacred Order she must take a strict vow of silence. 
"Under the vow you will only be permitted to speak TWO WORDS once every ten years," the Mother Superior tells Ophelia. "Are you willing to be bound by this unbreakable rule?"
"I am, Holy Mother," replies Ophelia.
"Then welcome, my child," says the Mother Superior…

Holbein's The Ambassadors & Shakespeare's Richard II

The Ambassadors, by Hans Holbein the Younger, was painted in 1533. In addition to being a double portraiture, it is famed for the long greyish mark twisted slantwise across the bottom of the picture, which, viewed at an acute angle from the edge of the frame, appears as a human skull seen in perspective.

A reference to this or similar paintings can be found in Shakespeare's play Richard II, in which the character Bushy uses it as a simile:

For sorrow's eye, glazed with blinding tears,
Divides one thing entire to many objects, 
Like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon
Show nothing but confusion; eyed awry
Distinguish form.

Zo d'Axa and his Political Ass

In the year 1898, the French anarchist and satirist, Zo d’Axa, decided there were so many phoney asses in his country’s National Assembly that they were scandalously devaluing the currency. 

So he decided to present to the electorate a real ass, a pure, genuine, thoroughbred, white donkey that he baptized NUL [None], and invited the people to:
'Vote Nul and make your voices heard!'

In a series of articles Zo solicited his compatriots to support Nul as their elected representative:

'In our endeavours we have tried to find a master that no one dreamed of. .... Now, the honour has fallen on me to present the Master of the People. Please be sympathetic. The ass for whom I seek the suffrage from you, my fellow citizens, is a most charming accomplice. A loyal and excellently shod donkey with a silky coat, delicate hamstring, and a most beauteous voice.'

The day of the election arrived, and lo! from atop the hill of Montmartre, Nul swept forward, imperiously seated on a chariot, l…

Doing the gemba walk

In Japan they have a word - kaizen. The word means ‘good change’ and has been adopted by Japanese and international corporations as a term for business management and productivity.

They have another word - gemba. The word means ‘the real place’ and is used by the Japanese police for the scene of a crime. 

Gemba too been adopted by business in the phrase the genba walk, used to describe managers who prowl the work area looking for problems to solve and to keep the workers on their toes. 

Napoleon Bonaparte - Portrait of a dictator as a young writer.

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s first and last novel, Clisson et Eugenie,was published in France in 2007 and in English translation in 2009. 

Set in 1795, the action of the 17-page epic novella centres around a young French general of Corsican origin who spends several weeks in an enchanting residence near Lyon. He is 26 years old and weary of making war, and finds solace from his melancholy in the arms of 15 year old Eugenie. 

Seven years of bliss follow, and then the general, now 33 years old, is called once more to the service of his country. Then, tragically, he is wounded in battle and sends news of his misfortune to Eugenie through one of his officers. But alas the officer does not return and his beloved Eugenie does not write to him. 

Feeling doubly betrayed, our hero launches himself headlong into the next battle, and is killed by a thousand wounds.

Artificial Intelligence - Jesus needs you!

'I think the development of full Artificial Intelligence could spell the end of the human race. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow, biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded.'  
Stephen Hawking's dire warning has fallen on stony ground for Florida pastor Reverend Christopher Benek. Far from it, Rev. Benek believes that we should embrace robots as our brothers and even convert them into Christians.

'I don't see Christ's redemption limited to human beings,' he said in an interview. 'It's redemption of all creation, even Artificial Intelligence (AI).'

He also surmises that AI may one day 'lead humans to new levels of holiness.' 

He could have a point. But why limit ourselves to baptising robots? What about robot marriages (or at least civil partnerships)? Inter-AI marriages - a photocopier to a shredding machine? Will we need Pre-natal Clinics f…

Elvis has left the galaxy

In the City of Ottawa in Canada there is an organization called The Elvis Sightings Society. 

The three founding members set up the society in 1989 as they believed that 'contrary to popular opinion (and petty details such as police and coroners' reports) the King was very much alive'.

Of course, sightings of Elvis have been made around the world since his untimely 'death' in 1977. But all were either deluded, fraudulent or genuine cases of mistaken identity. 

Because we can now exclusively reveal that Elvis was in fact abducted by aliens from a nearby galaxy and taken to a planet where he now works as a waiter in a downtown restaurant.

Elvis is content in his new life, the more so as the aliens are all generous tippers, and he hopes to rise to the position of head waiter before too long.

Acknowledgement: Details on Elvis Sightings Society from their website

The day the World's Biggest Diamond was found

On a sunny day in January 1905 Thomas Powell made his regular descent down the Big Hole diamond mine in South Africa. 

Little is known about this humble employee of Premier Diamond Mining Company. But what is known is that on that January day he emerged from the mine brandishing the largest diamond ever to be ripped from the bowels of the Earth. A diamond so large that it filled his entire hand and weighed in at an astonished 621 grams. 

Thomas took his trophy to his foreman Frederick Wells. Frederick took it to the mine owner Thomas Cullinan. Thomas C. took it to an expert for confirmation that it was indeed what he thought it was. The expert took it... No, the expert didn't take it anywhere. But he confirmed that it was definitely a diamond. And then the terrible question arose - What shall to do with it?

After two years a buyer for the world's largest diamond emerged in the shape of the South African government. The politicians in Pretoria had decided that it would be a nice p…

Dawn Rose - a melodrama of unrequited whatsit

Episode One
O, my aching heart!

Dawn rose majestically over the golf course, hitched up her skirt and headed for the club house. She glanced at the luminous dial on her watch. Two-thirty in the morning.   What was she doing at this unearthly hour? Fleeing from her demons? Or was it fate had brought her to this place at this ungodly hour? She glanced up at the stars, but they gave nothing away. O, my aching heart! she screamed aloud. Her heart? She could hear it - boom! boom! - pounding inside her chest. But was it truly her heart she could feel and not her merciless soul deriding her for her inconsequential existence? My life, she thought, an unstamped letter lost and abandoned in life’s sorting office. If he wanted to leave why didn’t he just leave? Go back to his wife and his brats if that’s what he wanted. Why did he have to prostrate himself over the railway line and wait for the night express to tear him asunder? Her soul convulsed at the thought of it and she tried to shield herse…

Happy Bedford Day! ... Death thou shalt die!

It was the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt that started the fashion. To vanquish the ravages of Time and rend themselves Immortal, they decreed that their mortal remains be embalmed and then wrapped in strips of linen, a process known as mummification.

Centuries later the practice was back in fashion, this time using a process of cryogenics whereby the body of the defunct is frozen at an ultra-cold temperature in the hope that one day science will be able to once more restore the subject to life.

The first person to be frozen this way was Dr James Bedford, a psychology professor at the University of California. 

His rise to Immortality  began in 1965 and was sparked by an advertisement of the Life Extension Society (LES) looking for volunteers for a new technique of cryogenics that the organisation was pioneering.

Dr Bedford duly presented himself as a candidate for the exciting new experiment, and on 12 January 1967 became LES's and the world's first frozen mummy.

The first stage of the…