Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eclectic Ephemera I

New Feature!

I've had portions of this list for several weeks now (hence the outdated Christmas links) when I still thought of calling this feature 'A Hodgepodge of Ballyhoos'. But that is too whimsical and this blaag is about wonder before whimsy (although whimsy certainly has its place... I daresay I personally rank it third among feelings, after wonder and nostalgia)

But nevertheless this feature shall consist of little titbits of intriguing know-how from the Internet or elsewhere, things that don't quite merit a lengthier discussion but which nevertheless are striking. Take a gander:

[The idea for this feature is definitely NOT cribbed from the excellent and more cleverly named “Instantiations of Nift” on Scott Siskind's blog. Of course not.]

Originally this feature was slated to appear on Sundays, which is more fitting considering basic Abrahamic mysticism and hermetic philosophy. Numerology based on this original intent dictates that there shall be seven items per week.

Bonus: A traditional Sami storehouse in northern Finland. I am absolutely certain that the frightful image of Baba Yaga's house, with its walking chicken legs, came from Russians who headed too far into the northern, liminal forests and saw some of these frighters.

1.A (somewhat lacking) history of the letter g. Even I couldn't tell you why our most fundamental but least penetrating symbols change like this over time. The vagaries of endless history, I suppose. Perhaps the Greeks couldn't quite remember how that Sidonian scribble looked... and since then it's been all about creative typography, I suppose. Here is a great article on the same subject from a Freemasonic perspective.

2.In other circumstances I'd call it nationalism, but Nova Roma transcends such base urges. The entire micronation is solely based on nostalgia. This is wonder in its most clear and basic sense. But it's still weird (For the record, SCA is not nostalgic. It is wistful).

3.“Why did the chicken cross the road” may be the first joke most children learn. They hear it and repeat it, never realizing that it is the most common of all postmodern, intertextual jokes. The joke, like all jokes, defies expectations—but by turning a humorous setup into a mundane result. By nature it disappoints. By nature it isn't funny. And by nature it doesn't make sense unless you already understand the idea of a joke, and the sorts of jokes this one references. Hence the deep irony that it is the first joke children learn. They assume it's funny, because they know that it is a "joke." But it isn't, that's the point, and this is utterly lost on them.

4.Literary plurals for animals have a long history (They are called 'terms of venery,' to be proper).

Birds have the best. Parliament of owls, murder of crows. Thus writers turn something so mundane as a couple of pigeons hanging out into the charming and expressive. Very fey. You can see a great list here. Here's some other good ones:

a. A piteousness of doves, an exalting of larks, a pandemonium of parrots, an ostentation of peacocks, an unkindness of ravens (Hey Schuyler, look at that unkindness flying overhead!), a kaleidoscope of butterflies, a fever of stingrays. Some of these may be spurious, but who cares?

While we're on the subject, I formally propose that a bunch of giraffes are not a herd; they are a hullaballoo. This word perfectly fits their nature.

5. At this week's SAG meeting, which ultimately dragged out for over thirty hours, a lengthy discussion broke out over whether they should extend the prescribed meeting length by three hours.

The discussion to extend the meeting by three hours lasted eight hours.

I find this much more hilarious and whimsical than they did.

6. This one's a bit more on the 'creepy' side. A woman's husband recently died. She buried his cellphone with him and still calls him regularly just to chat. In fact, she had his number inscribed on the stone. She also still covers the bill.

7. According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States strongly considered bailing out Christmas. After all, Santa Claus is 'too big to fail'. Proof that even the stodgiest, most matter-of-fact paper in the country still has time now and then for the marvelous. Witness also that NORAD, one of America's most powerful military organizations, manages to find time each year to track Santa Claus for the sake of children's happiness.



  1. If you ever get the chance (which translates to, "you should visit me sometime when we're grownups and I'm living in Stockholm"), check out Skansen, a wildlife park/open-air museum which preserves other goofy Nordic/Sami buildings (a la the Cloisters in NYC):

  2. Holy crap that house is freaky.