Tag Archives: myth

Chickcharnie

When sightseeing on the Island of Andros, dear readers, keep your eyes peeled for a creature that Bahamian folk tales describe as a three-toed elf, a red-eyed man-beast or a birdlike creature with a lizard’s tail and a fluffy mane, that likes to hang upside down from trees. Quite monstrous really. And carry flowers or bright bits of cloth, with which you will, if rumors are to be believed, be able to charm the creatures– so long as you treat them respectfully. This is something you will surely want to do.

Why, you might ask? Well, it’s quite simple really. If you piss these touchy lil’ buggers off they’ll make your head spin right around. Right on around. Dastardly.

… Of course, should you treat the elf with respect, you may be blessed with good luck for the rest of your natural life—a boon not to be sneered at, in the author’s humble opinion.

Of course, some doubting souls claim that Tyto pollens, an extinct species that is distantly related to the Common Barn-owl ( Tyto alba), is the origin of the chickcharnie myth. Tyto pollens was a large, flightless burrowing owl rumored to have been territorially aggressive, though it coexisted with humans. Rapid deforestation by white explorers in the 16th century led, sadly, to this creature’s extinction… or just to the chickcharnie’s retreat from common view…

Whichever version of the story is true,  the author is ready to chance it, as some good luck– and a beach vacation– would be greatly appreciated.

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“The Cock is a Bird that Can Tell Time”

 

Copyright: Museum Meermanno, MMW, 10 B 25, Folio 36v

You cannot blame the author for the sheer volume of noteworthy cocks in the world. She is perfectly aware that she has already written about the Cock of Dawn, but that was from the Chinese tradition, and the author reserves the right to differentiate between Chinese and Roman cocks. Ahem. In any case, were you to blame anyone for the next double entendre, dear readers, it would have to be Pliny the Elder, who writes that cocks “were designed by nature to announce the dawn; by singing they awaken men.” Indeed.

They are also, he avers, quite the little oracles: omens and auspices can be read in the behavior of cocks. Indeed. The author once knew a man who swore he could predict the weather with his. True story.

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Dissertation Owls Asleep on the Job

Folkes, while the dissertation elves, tiny little owls that creep into grad students’ bedrooms to madly type pages whilst the tortured souls sleep, are on furlough,  I have been working furiously on my thesis. The result? A certain lack of Beastliness. And vocabularity.

This will be remedied shortly, just as soon as the Muse goes on strike again, as she (the fickle bitch) is wont to do.

– sj

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Happy Birthday to an Angry Old Canard!

 

Donald Duck is 75 today!

The angry old canard’s full name Donald Fauntleroy Duck, and his official birthady is recognized today to commemorate the release of his debut film, The Wise Little Hen for which, true to the bad luck for which he is famous, he didn’t even get a screen credit.

He was recognized in 1942, however, when he recieved an Oscar for his appearence in the short film Der Fuehrer’s Face in which Donald plays a worker in an artillery factory in “Nutzi Land,” and who can ever forget such classics as “How to have an Accident at Work?”

You can, dear reader? well, shucks. here ya go:

let’s face it, If there is one star on teh walk of fame that the author of Bv can get a real kick out of… it’s the Duck’s.

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Cockatoo love song

 

Cockatoos are known for their intelligence, their vocality, their general precociousness. And this bird, apparently going by the nomiker S. Elvis, is no exception. One might wonder where he came up with this particular mantra, but then…

In the author’s humble opinion, it is likely that every woman (and a fair number of men) has had this experience: you’re having a nice evening with your significant other, watching some television, when said mate begins to harrangue you with demands to “RUB the bird!!! RUB the BIRD!!!”

 

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Breaking News: Carnivorous Cushions Consume Cat

Apparently, dear readers, someone at the Huffington Post thinks that animal hijinks constitue breaking news… or at least, a worthwhile diversion from the ills of the breaking news…

The “Cute/ridiculous animal thing of the day” section is, of you enjoy the cute/creepy kitty videos portion of BV, right. up. your. alley. Thanks again to lowlyadjunct for this excellent find.

We (and by “we”, dear readers, I mean, of  course,  “I”) am sure that you will find the following video (which is, in the words of lowlyadjunct, “a video of a couch eating a cat and then spitting it back out again”) ample reason to check beneath your couch cushions. You never know what you might find under there…   

 

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Banana Slug: “hard” life.

 

To paraphrase Brittney Spears, this banana slug is not that innocent

To paraphrase Brittney Spears, this banana slug is "not that innocent"

Beloved by alumni of UC Santa Cruz, banana slugs seem to have a pretty good thing going. Sure, they’re slow and eat detritus on the forest floor. But they’re beloved.

 …Just, you know, not by each other. In fact, as one intrepid UCSC PhD candidate put it, slugs

are constantly in an evolutionary arms race where males try to manipulate females into doing what they want them to do (for example, NOT mate with a new male) and females are constantly trying to prevent males from manipulating them.

 This is all a very messy—and uncomfortably familiar—business.  But if, dear readers, you are thinking you have caught the author in a gaffe, and that that banana slugs have developed an interesting solution to the battle of the sexes by evolving into hermaphrodites, problem solved, no muss no fuss… well then you are sadly mistaken. Because as you are by now perfectly aware, the end of the story is almost never the end of the story.

 And Banana slugs are not the nice, neat, nonexistent Barbie-genitalia sporting spontaneous generators we might like to imagine in our PG science textbooks. No, indeed. In fact, slugs are Simultaneous hermaphrodites, which means that they have both male and female primary sex characteristics. And boy, do they ever: an eight-inch slug can have an eight-inch long penis.  

Some of the male readers in the audience are doing some fast math and a little creative visualization in their mirrors, but don’t get overly excited, boys. Because even if the idea that the slugs mutually penetrate souds like a pretty good deal to you, you might be less excited to learn that sometimes a slug will also chew it’s mates member off after the deed is done.

 Chew it right on off. It’s called apophallation. And no, it doesn’t grow back.

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Echeneis: stubborn little bastard of a fish.

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Isidore of Seville, who is, let’s face it, quite the hero for BV, named it the “delay,” for obvious reasons In the 1st century CE, Lucan wrote of it as  “…the sucking fish / Which holds the vessel back though eastern winds.” 

This little sucker was the echeneis, a small fish no more than six inches in length, which made its home in the Indian Ocean, and is said to have clung to ships and delayed their passage. When this fish latches on to a seagoing vessel, the most Shakespearean of gusts or invocations thereof would not move the ship, which would seemed to have become rooted to a fixed point in the roiling sea.

This fish, dear readers, reminds me of someone… another stubborn little bastard. Who could it be? ah, well. It’ll come to me…

In any case, Pliny the Elder elaborated, noting that it is used for making love-charms, and spells to slow litigation, and that it can be used to hold back the birth of a pre-term fetus until term. “This fish” says Pliny,  “is not eaten.”  “Some say,” says Pliny,” that “this fish has feet.” Pliny is loathe to believe this last tidbit. It’s not particularly that the presence of feet is more far fetched than the efficacy of its presence in charms and spells, but simply that “Aristotle says it does not.” And it’s simply quite gauche to argue with Aristotle—at least, it was in the 1st century.

AHA! I remember now: who could resemble an impedance to progress impervious to either reason or pathos?

Why, it’s the author’s writer’s block, of course- her worst enemy while adrift in the rough seas of dissertation.

 

yes, it’s one of those days folks. Send the life rafts… And mind the echeneis.

 

 

 
 

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The missing link: Darwinius masillae, Sweet as Apple cider

090519-missing-link-found_big

 

 

The sound of the name “Ida” has suddenly become  sweet sweet music to paleontololical ears.

This is because “Ida,” a 47 million year old fossil hidden in a closet for 20+ years has recently been unveiled. Apparently, a team of amateur fossil hunters discovered the fossil, which was astonishingly intact (even down to stomach contents) in Germany  in 1983, but had no earthly idea—the dummies—what  they had on their hands.

Skip ahead 24 years, and the University of Oslo buys the fossil at auction for around a million dollars. There, Jorn Hurum of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway, names his prize “Ida” after his daughter, and  studies it in secret for two years. Until this month, when he revealed it to the world.  

Hurum believes that little “Ida,” barely the size of an average housecat, may prove to be the bridge between higher primates such as monkeys, apes, and humans. Oh yes, and lemurs.

The author of BV doesn’t know about you, dear readers, but she gets an odd sort of kick out of the notion that she’s distantly but directly descended from a lemur. In fact, several of her cousins have distinctly lemur-like characteristics, so it does not seem all that far fetched.    

According to National Geographic Ida, properly known as Darwinius masillae, “has a unique anatomy. The lemur-like skeleton features primate-like characteristics, including grasping hands, opposable thumbs, clawless digits with nails, and relatively short limbs. But there’s a big gap in the fossil record from this time period….”

Sadly, the author’s dreams of lemus ancestry were shattered a bit when she learned that researchers “are unsure when and where the primate group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans split from the other group of primates that includes lemurs.” And that according to one American  expert, Ida may not be “our grand, grand, grandmother, but perhaps with our grand, grand, grand aunt.”  Sigh. But that’s still pretty darned grand, isn’t it?

Ida’s European origins are intriguing to experts, because her extreme age and advanced evolutionary characteristics prove that “contrary to common assumptions…  the continent was an important area for primate evolution.” In fact, “This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists,” Hurum said: “it is the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next 100 years.”

And what does all this science mean for us laypeople? Well, dear readers, it’s really quite simple: you may now commence with Germanic-monkey jokes. At your leisure.

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Banker Invests in Duckling Futures.

Joel Armstrong , a 43-year-old banker in Washington state, had been been watching a mother duck  nest on a ledge outside his office window for  35 days, so he was not surprised to see them when he got to town on saturday for the city’s annual Lilac festival. 

He was, however, surprised to see two of the little yellow bundles launch themselves from their preciptous perch.  The mother duck, who stood watching at ground level, might have anticipated the worst– had Armstrong not stepped up to the plate.  

Because Armstrong  channeled his inner A-Rod by rushing to the scene, fielding each fuzzy yellow pop-fly handily as they launched themselves into the air and hurtled towards the ground.

Emboldened by their fellows’ good fortune, four more hatchlings followed suit. Armstrong’s catching arm was strong: he lowered each one safely to the impatient mother duck, who seemed to approve of Armstrong’s technique. (Armstrong ultimately had to use a ladder to retrieve the final two ducklings, who were more risk-averse, or less enthsiastic baseball fans, than were their brothers and sisters.)   

 Finally the mother duck and Armstrong, task completed, led the ducklings, side by side, down two blocks of the parade route to the Spokane river, hearkening to the resounding cheers of the approving parade-goers who lined both sides of the street, providing witness to Armstrong’s infield skills- neglected since grade school, but the best investment this banker ever made.  

(the link below is to video of the event)

http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=7618021

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Bovine rampage in Norway: Revenge of the Beef

250px-CH_cow_2

 

In 2002, a series of bizzare bovine incidents in the Norweigian countryside alarmed residents, and alerted us to the  possibility that cows are beginning to strain at the agricultural tether.

The first victim, 23-year old Stian Skoglund, was “bashed and trampled by a furious cud-chewer” according to one publication.  

The incident occurred when Skoglond noticed that one of the cows he was attempting to gather for milking appeared “uneasy.” Apparently under the delusion that he had psychic animal powers, Skoglond “made eye contact with the animal” and “tried to calm it.” Unsurprisingly, the cow “became provoked:”

 “The cow butted me and I fell,” Skoglund reported. Frightened, our failed animal mesmerist scrambled to his feet and tried to make a dash for it, but the cow, undettered, knocked him to the ground. Pleased with her work, she then began—according to the same  Norwegian  English- language publication—to  “hop and trample him,” ceasing only when her victim gave up the fight and played dead.

Skoglund suffered a shattered leg, several broken ribs, numerous lacerations, and multiple contusions. He later wondered whether the attack was done in retaliation for his part in hauling away the body of a calf that had died days earlier.

“Maybe,” quoth our budding animal psychologist, “it was her motherly instincts being aroused. I’ve also heard that I shouldn’t have made eye contact with her, that only provokes them.”  

No shit, Stian.

Other incidents include a 45-year-old farmer who was hospitalized after a cow charged his wife (The farmer found himself in this unfortunate position after he attempted to wave his arms and distract the cow from its attack on his wife), and a nearby farmer who was trampled to death by rampaging bulls.

But by far the most shocking occurrence, dear readers, was the incident of the cow who fell  from the sky and died, nearly taking a car full of Norwegian travellers with her.

The story begins like a joke, with four men traveling in a car and debating the source of “a large shadow in the sky.” Was it a bird? No. a plane? No. nor was it a caped adventurer. It fell to earth with a mighty thump, mere feet in front of the moving vehicle.

Driver Olav Kjeldstad reported that, having barely managed to avoid hitting the mysterious object, he stopped the car and he and his three passengers looked behind them to where a cow lay in the road; according to one passenger, the fallen bovidae bovinae “only managed a few moos before dying.”

Kjelstad admitted that he “was pretty shaken afterwards” but also admitted– with typical Norse pragmatism and an inborn appreciation for dramatic subgenre–  that “we had a laugh as well;” the entire situation, he said, “was tragicomic.”

Perhaps  Kjelstad should have loaned his well-thumbed Companion to Norse Drama to poor Stian Skoglund,  upon whom the subtleties of tragicomedy were clearly lost.

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Money Might Not, But Barnacle Geese Do (grow on trees)

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 Source: British Library Images Online Copyright Copyright 2004 British Library / Used by permission Manuscript description British Library, Harley MS 4751, Folio 36r

What medieval-inspired bestiary would be complete without the Barnacle Goose?  According to Sir John Mandeville, who wrote in the 14th century CE, this fantastic creature is–or was– a species of goose that grows on trees. Not in trees, mind you. On trees.

In his Travels, Sir John writes that

 I told them of as great a marvel to them, that is amongst us, and that was of the Bernakes. For I told them that in our country were trees that bear a fruit that become birds flying, and those that fell in the water live, and they that fall on the earth die anon, and they be right good to man’s meat. And hereof had they as great marvel, that some of them trowed it were an impossible thing to be.

We moderns might be inclined to trow it impossible, too. Yet is it possible that the barnacle goose finds its equivalent in recent college graduates, who find themselves suddenly adrift of the parental money tree, and must function on their own or perish?  Indeed, the author sees many subtle similarities. Barnacle goslings grow on trees that overhang bodies of water; the young birds hang from their sprouting-points by their beaks.  When the birds are “ripe,” they fall. The fortuitous ones, which fall into the water, float and find themselves well on their way to healthy, productive adult lives. But those that fall on land– or go to graduate school– face a harder fate. Some die. The 14th century besties apparently all died, as there simply aren’t many tree-growing geese running about these days.

Yet today’s hapless little geese, who unerringly choose graduate studies in something “esoteric” like “Medieval English” or “Philosphy,” may in fact return to the life-giving tree well into adulthood, until the tree at long last shouts:

“Enough already! how long does a dissertation TAKE, anyway?

sigh.

take it from the author of BV, dear readers. major in something useful, like billiards, or graft.

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No, It’s not a Typo; It’s the “Cock” of Dawn.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have  Chinese folklore to thank for next entry: the celestial cock, aka the “cock of dawn.”

<< The author respects all cultures and will not resort to infantile murrmerings about the word “cock”. But, dear readers, it’s gonna be difficult.>>

The Cock of Dawn, or so it is said, is a “magnificent golden three-legged cock” <<ahem>>.  According to myth,  he lives in the mile-high Fu-Sang tree in the Land of Sunrise.  It is believed that he is the ancestor of all worldly cocks <<ah-ahem>>, that he crows exactly three times a day (to mark the sunrise, zenith, and sunset) and that his red comb signifies the sunrise.

According to a legend  describing the conjunction of yin and yang, the God of the immortals (Tung-hua Ti-chun) gave this bird to a lucky fellow named Shen-i, who rode the back of the celestial cock <<oh, come now, we are all mature adults here, lets be serious>> to the heat of the midday sun, where, it is said, he attained perfect happiness.  Just him and his golden three-legged cock. (Until he set up regular visits with his wife, who was living over on the moon at the time.)

…In all seriousness,  dear readers, it is a lovely story and we should not be swayed from its import by our puritanical, repressed, juvenile obsession with naughty bits. And yet… one cannot help but wonder whether, on the occasional lonely night on the moon, Shen-i’s wife didn’t long for a little celestial cock of her own.

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Humanatee: A dying breed

seen here without a school, this humanatee may never find a home

The humanatee is an ancient, intelligent beast, most often found in large “schools,” though members of far-flung schools frequently gather together in large, gregarious groups called “conferences.” During these  sporadic expeditions, humanatees may demonstrate dominance by flashing the “TT” position. These strange creatures then show off to potential mates by uttering strange, unintelligible  sounds in rapid succession.

Infighting and promiscuous behavior is not uncommon in conferences.

But dear readers, the humanatee, contrary to appearances, is not its own worst enemy. The humanatee is among our worlds most endangered species, and though abundant, is seriously threatened by the rough economic waters currently plaguing our shores and those the world over. Worse, funding for conservation programs has recently been cut dramatically, leading some experts to wonders whether there is adequate habitat  in today’s academe for the humanatees.*

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Catobelpas: Head of an Ox, Tail of a snake, Bad dinner date.

To all of the singletons reading this entry: the author of BV would like to caution you about the Catobelpas, for according to Pliny the Elder, this next member of our medieval bestiary series, which is  “of moderate size and inactive with the rest of its limbs, only with a very heavy head which it carries with difficulty and it always hanging down to the ground” is also “deadly to humans, as all who see its eyes expire immediately.”

Others, like Edward Topsell, the 14th century author of The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes, rejected notions that the beastie’s breath was the actual culprit, writing that despte its diet of poisonous herbs, “it is more plausible, that like the cockatrice, he killeth by seeing, than by the breath of his mouth, which is not competible to any other beasts in the world.”

Charming.

It is perhaps not terribly unfortunate that the Catobelpas has gone the way of the DoDo.

…And yet… if the author of BV’s  experience in the dating world is any indication,  there may be a significant subgroup of human descendants of the Catobelpas: individuals who slouch, hang their heads, and eat poisonouos herbs (read: garlic) at the dinner table are in no short supply in today’s dangerous dating tundra.

So,  readers: be forewarned! Should you suspect your dinner companion of being just such a shaggy-haired specimen, then when s/he at long last raises his heavy head and gaze at you with his bloodshot eyes, and ask if you want to split the bill, Do. Not. Make. Eye contact.   

Pay for your food and run.

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