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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Quiz Question (11): Mother Goose

(I have recycled this question from my previous blog in 2006, because it created a lot of interest at the time. It would therefore be easy to cheat by looking at that blog and it would be easy to find the answer by Googling these lines anyway. But you wouldn't do that, would you?)

Can you complete this children's rhyme with the 'literary' last line?

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn;
Wire, briar, limber lock,
Three geese in a flock.
One flew east,
And one flew west,
And .......?

In the unlikely event of no-one getting the correct answer I will post it in the comments in a few days!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Naming of Parts by Henry Reed

Henry Reed

This is one of my all-time favourite poems. It was written in 1942 during the War and it has various ways of being interpreted. I feel that there are two voices speaking. The first one is an army instructor, rather drily and somewhat sarcastically putting some new conscripts through their paces in learning about a particular weapon and the second voice is that of a young recruit (which I have italicised).
The recruit’s mind is wandering as he notices all the signs of spring-time around him. His mind is doing what a young man’s mind will do in spring-time and everything he is thinking has a secondary sexual connotation. The more you read it the more of these hints will be picked up. (‘Cocking bolt’, ‘we can rapidly slide it backwards and forwards’, ‘assaulting and fumbling’ and so on).
Henry Reed has not used punctuation to distinguish the two voices and make our job easier but it is clear what he intends. Rather clever don’t you think?

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
     And today we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
   Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
   Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
   They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance, Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards
and forwards,
   For today we have naming of parts.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Van Morrison: Sweet Thing
Sweet Thing
(Click on the above to listen. Open another window if you want to listen and follow the lyrics!))
And I will stroll the merry way
And jump the hedges first
And I will drink the clear
Clean water for to quench my thirst
And I shall watch the ferry-boats
And they'll get high
On a bluer ocean
Against tomorrow's sky
And I will never grow so old again
And I will walk and talk
In gardens all wet with rain
Oh sweet thing, sweet thing
My, my, my, my, my sweet thing

And I shall drive my chariot
Down your streets and cry
'Hey, it's me, I'm dynamite
And I don't know why'
And you shall take me strongly
In your arms again
And I will not remember
That I ever felt the pain.
We shall walk and talk
In gardens all misty and wet with rain
And I will never, never, never
Grow so old again.
Oh sweet thing, sweet thing
My, my, my, my, my sweet thing

And I will raise my hand up
Into the night time sky
And count the stars
That's shining in your eye
Just to dig it all an' not to wonder
That's just fine
And I'll be satisfied
Not to read in between the lines
And we will walk and talk
In gardens all wet with rain
And I will never, ever, ever, ever
Grow so old again.
Oh sweet thing, sweet thing
Sugar-baby with your champagne eyes
And your saint-like smile....

Van Morrison has a reputation as a grumpy old curmudgeon but with a body of work like he has nobody could seriously doubt his commitment to his art. Ever the contrary one, he say's 'it's just a job'! If you still doubt my word listen to 'Into The Mystic'.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Spotlight on a Website (2):

Wolframalpha is a brilliant site for nerdy lovers of trivia. So obviously not me then. However if you pop over to take a look you will end up being fascinated. Possibly.
The link I have made is to the 'examples' page where you can see lots of the kind of thing at which this site excels.
For example you can enter the date of your birth to learn lots about that day (sunrise, sunset, phase of the moon, day of the week, famous anniversaries etc) but that's just a small part of what you could find out.
Here are some examples of what other stuff is there:
If you click on 'Food and Nutrition' you can enter any amount and type of food and you will get a comprehensive breakdown of it's nutritional value; and when I say comprehensive I mean really comprehensive.
If you click on 'Colors' (sorry, fellow-Brits, it's US spellings there) you could enter any colour and get a complete analysis of it's properties including it's complimentaries, it's wavelength(!), how it's mixed and it's HTML values.
Other topics include Health & Medicine, Weather, Money & Finance, Places & Geography, Music, Education, Physics and loads of other nerdy stuff.
Have fun and report back here!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Painting of the Month (11) November 2010: Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonard, Dining Room in the Country (1913)

I love the paintings of Pierre Bonnard. They radiate a sense of domestic bliss in sumptous colours. This is also the reason why some critics, while enjoying his work, place it only in the second rank of great paintings. But I don't care what critics think; these paintings make me feel good to contemplate them. He painted his wife many times in what has been described as a 'post-coital' situation. However I still see an innocent charm even in those pictures. (See below)
I think we should make our own minds up what we enjoy in works of art and not necessarily pay obesiance to high-minded critics!