Hydromancy:   Divination by means of signs derived from water, its tides and ebbs.

a Don & Cathy

Don Graham and Cathy Richardson in Miami.

a train

Can I take this train to San Francisco?    Why would you want to?  It’s already going there.


He was a gyspsy. He had golden fingers, silver hands and crystal balls.


Paul Ryan:  Obama is not creating enough new jobs.      Obama: Hey, Paul, didn’t you just get a new job?


As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two.


Artist to model:   Here comes my wife, quick, take off your clothes!






Life stands before us like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes.


“Maybe your other models let you kiss them,” she said.   “I’ve never tried to kiss a model before,” he swore.  ”Really? How many models have you had?  ”Four.  A jug, two apples and a vase.”


We’ve got a deeply flawed political system with an insane overreaching extremist element, with a Supreme Court that is completely loony.


As long as I can lift a microphone, then I’ll still do it.


When it comes down to the music, it’s just you and the microphone. It’s not you and the record execs.




I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.

auto portrait

Wes Wilson’s self portrait?


I’m not funny. What I am is brave.

aeft handed


Luck to me is something else: Hard work.


If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.


It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.


Writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.



I’m sure that many people must feel this way:  I don’t listen to my music or look at photographs of me.  It’s just too painful.


Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you’re missing by going so fast. You also miss the sense of where you’re going and why,


I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older.  They are not young and energetic enough to get in trouble anymore, so they think they may as well start cramming for that final exam.


If you’re going to do something, make it right and make it as good as you can. Don’t waste anybody’s time, especially your own.



Not only do I not know what the problems are, I wouldn’t even know how to solve the problems if I did know.


The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool.


One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.   (True story.)


When I see the Ten Most Wanted list at the Post Office, I always think, hey, if we’d made them feel wanted earlier, they wouldn’t be wanted now.


In cartoons, the person on the left speaks first.

polly chris

To have a liberal temperament is a kind of  advantage, To be able to understand that someone you disagree with is not a terrible person but just somebody with whom you disagree.


You’re only given a slight dose of madness. You mustn’t lose it.


I prefer highs and lows to an even keel. Moderation has never been my strong point.


Billionaires are quoted as if the fact that they are billionaires gives them some kind of wisdom.


Comedy should be about attacking the powerful – the politicians, the Trumps, the blowhards. We shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable.


I’m too old to die young and too young to grow up.


I don’t like doing it. I like having done it.


I don’t know any jokes.  I wish I did.


If it’s the Psychic Channel, why do they need a phone number?


Other than the law of gravity, laws have never really worked out for me.


I feel awkward at parties.   Maybe you’re supposed to feel awkward at parties.



Brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid.   Brave means you’re afraid but you go ahead anyway.




I am probably a pseudo-intellectual.


Kim Nomad Anthea sidiropoulos

Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead.


Money can’t buy poverty.


I have to do something that is interesting, or else I am lost.


Women and humor are linked very closely.


Weather forecast for tonight:   Dark.


I have proved to my own satisfaction that I am a little crazier than I think.


I always wanted to be Ray Charles.


Sexual harassment at work… is it a problem for the self-employed?


I’m reading a book.   You know, it’s kind of like a web log, only longer.


When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, I turn away from it and go into darkness again.


Is it really that important?  I mean, it’s just rock and roll.  It’s not like it’s sub atomic physics or something.


The idea of having Australians upset at me is just awful.


I’ve only been talented about seventy-four percent of the time.


I had a normal childhood.  Maybe too normal.


Music, like most things, is about listening to other people.


Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.


The very existence of assault rifles proves that some time, somewhere, someone said, “Hey, I want those people over there to be dead, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”


My feet are all right, I guess. Kind of ordinary, but OK.


Women are interesting, not for the way they relate to men, but for the way they relate to each other.


I’m mostly an improviser.


She had charisma as a child but got over it by the time she grew up.



Start each day off with a smile and get it over with.


I cook with wine.  Sometimes I even add it to the food.


The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.



A rich person is nothing but a poor person with money.


Some things are better than sex, and some things are worse than sex, but nothing is quite like sex. Especially sex in all of its true glory, as seen on sites such as fulltube.xxx so regularly.


Horse sense is what keeps horses from betting on people.


I absolutely realize that a celebrity spokesperson is not ideal.


The glass is always half empty.  And cracked.  I think I just chipped my tooth on it.


Let’s be very honest about what this is about. It’s not about bashing Democrats, it’s not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston tea party was about, they don’t know their history at all. They don’t even know how to spell. This is about hating that a black man is in the White House.


Self-esteem comes from what you think of you, not what other people think of you.


I live in Brooklyn.


I think serial monogamy says it all.


To me, there is no greater act of courage than being the one who kisses first.

bhil's note

Mr. Putin, send us these three, and we’ll send you these three.


My family’s menu consisted of two choices:  take it or leave it.


The pen is mightier than the sword, and a lot easier to write with.


I’m a liberal inside a liberal’s body.


I’ve had a few arguments with people, but I never carry a grudge because I can’t remember anything.


Some of the funniest people I know are not screwed up in the head.


Golf is more fun than walking through a strip mall naked, but not by much.


I’ve learned sometimes you just have to take the bad from people.


Many jokes state an otherwise unpalatable truth.


If I can get a sanitized version of reality, I’ll take it.


I don’t understand why, in entertainment, the hours are as long as they are. It seems like everything takes forever, and no one can tell you why exactly.  And don’t get me started on sound checks.


I have only one real hobby… my wife.


If you could understand Morse code, a tap dancer would drive you crazy.


Adyson Graham

I’m a big believer in luck. The harder you work, the luckier you get.

narada lynn

I first fell in love with music when I was a little boy. When I first heard music, I felt the beauty in it. Then, being able to tap along on a table top and box was great, but my favorite thing to do was to watch records spin. I would almost get hypnotized by it. These things are what drew me in initially.


Rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something.


I’m a walker. I enjoy walking, which I think psychologically expresses my feelings of wanting liberation without exerting myself too much.


I used to do drugs. I still do drugs. But I used to, too.


Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance.


When I was a child, every book was a children’s book.


Not a day of my life passes without someone saying “Janis Joplin.”   That’s not bad.



I like being an old rock musician.  It’s like being an old soccer player.  I’m in the museums and that’s nice, but I’m no longer the person in the limelight, on the spot, doing that thing.


Turkey is the only country on two continents.



I think comedy comes from a low sense of self esteem, and I certainly have that.


I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.


You look just like you.


Tracey Ullman, Carol Burnett, Gilda Radner, Lily Tomlin… champions.



There are no black people in Afghanistan, so how will they know who to shoot at?


Fettucini alfredo is macaroni and cheese for adults.


I spent a large part of my youth in Asia and Europe where the history comes from.


If there is a god, her plan is a lot like not having a plan.


School doesn’t end when it ends. School is forever.


No matter how old you are there’s always something good to look forward to.


Realizing that no matter what success you’ve achieved, you can still make enemies makes you humble.



Life is a novel. You write a lot of it and someone else writes a lot of it, but you get to write the ending all by yourself.


As far as I’m concerned, ‘whom’ is a word that was invented to make everyone sound like a butler.

Aunt  Bea

Oh, no, it’s just Aunt Bea.     (Cathy Richardson’s way of singing, “Oh, no, it just can’t be” in I Need A Man To Love.)


Believe in yourself and try not to take anything personally.


I know this woman and her eyes are far more beautiful even than they are in this photograph.


Women aren’t as mere as they used to be.


Marriage is nature’s way of keeping us from fighting with strangers.


We’ve all made mistakes that are similar in just trying to get by or make some money or feel good about ourselves.


Nice to see fresh faces on the political scene in this country.


Banks have a new image. Now you have ‘a friend,’ your friendly banker. If the banks are so friendly, how come mine sold my mortgage to someone else to avoid having to comply with a foreclosure law?


A lot of people believe what other people say.


I don’t think anyone steals anything, but we all borrow.



Every war is won and lost.  Someone else’s pain and joy are as important as your own.


Everyone responds to kindness.

Sam Jersey Boy drawing

See you next week?


The Baroque


The age of the Baroque (1600-1750) was the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation which had happened in the century before.


The Reformation was a hard, biting, burning, purifying time of extreme measures, necessary, salutary in some aspects, but very difficult to live through.


The Reformationists burned books and monasteries and smashed statues and other “idolatrous” objects, scraping all of the art, ornamentation, fun and frivolity out of their religion.


In response to this dour, severe, doctrinal era, the Church embarked on a program of restoration, a new way of living that became known as the Counter Reformation.


The purpose of the Counter Reformation was aimed at remedying some of the abuses challenged by the Protestants earlier in the 16th century.


The Baroque which grew out of the Counter Reformation was an age of exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance and music.


The style began around 1600 in Rome and spread to most of Europe.


Concilium Tridentinum, the Council of Trent, who met in Trento, Italy,  between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods. was an embodiment of the ideals of the Counter Reformation and was considered to be one of the Church’s most important councils.


Trento was  then the capital of the Prince Bishopric of Trent of the Holy Roman Empire.


The popularity and success of the Baroque style was initiated by the Catholic Church which had decided at the Council of Trent, in response to the arid, purifying doctines of the Reformation, that the arts should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement straight into the hearts of the common people.

Pope Paul III Tiziano

The aristocracy cooperated with this goal because they saw the dramatic style of Baroque architecture and art as a means of impressing visitors and expressing triumphant power and control.  Tiziano (Titian) did this portrait of Pope Paul III (Paulus PP III), who was born Alessandro Farnese.


Baroque palaces are built around an entrance of courts, grand staircases and reception rooms of increasing opulence.

Baroque pearls

The term baroque, by the way, comes from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning misshapen pearl.  These misshapen pearls are beautifully dramatic in their irregularity.


These are still called baroque pearls today. The era is named for the pearl and not the other way round.


In the Baroque period, the Roman Church realized the power that art could have to inspire and, therefore, she became preoccupied with extravagance and display. There was a stagey, theatrical quality to the works in the Baroque which were often highly emotional and done in mixed media.  Much Baroque sculpture added extra-sculptural elements, concealed lighting, or water fountains, or fused sculpture and architecture to create a transformative experience for the viewer.

17 bernini ludovica

The intent was to overwhelm viewers, catch their attention, and make them want to see more. This is Ludovica by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the greatest sculptors of all time, whose talents were perfectly suited to the Baroque.


Entering a Baroque church where visual space, music and ceremony were combined inspired the loyalty of congregations.


The bigger and more beautiful the space, the more people wanted to enter it.

Santa Caterina Palermo

Complex geometry, curving and intricate stairway arrangements and large-scale sculptural ornamentation offered a sense of movement and mystery within the Baroque palace of worship.


It was the reverence for the church that provided funding for more and more building projects which, in turn, brought even more worshipers into the city –as many as five times the permanent population during a Holy Year.


With this boom in tourism, a continuing job opportunity arose for the citizens of Rome.


The construction industry soon became the largest employer in the city.

Jean-Philippe Rameau

Music filled these churches. The term “baroque” was, in fact, first applied to music. It was a perjorative term at first, as most labels are. An anonymous writer in the Mercure de France (May 1734) noted that the opera of Jean-Philippe Rameau, Hippolyte et Aricie, was “du barocque,” was endless dissonance, constantly changing in key and meter, and was a pastiche of every compositional device.  You know? What people always say about new music.


One hundred and fifty years, from 1600 to 1750, our Baroque period, is a long time in the history of music, however, and there has been much difficulty about  giving the same label to Monteverdi’s music and to Händel’s or to Henry Purcell’s.


The Church, in her zeal to appeal to the common people, wanted music that was simpler in texture than the polyphony of the Renaissance, so there was a need for a melody and accompaniment instead. The music of the Baroque, ornamented though it be, is basically a melody with chords supporting that melody.


The Florentine Camerata was a group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals in late Renaissance Florence who gathered under the patronage of Count Giovanni de’Bardi to discuss the arts, especially music and drama.


Their ideal was a classical musical drama that valued discourse and oration, and they deplored their contemporaries’ use of polyphony and instrumental music, discussing such ancient Greek music devices as monody, which consisted of a solo singing accompanied by a kithara.


The working out of this ideal, including Jacopo Peri’s Dafne (1597), considered to be the first opera, inspired Baroque music.


Ironic that a simple ideal of singing to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument spurred the growth of such a baroque form as opera.


Jacopo Peri’s L’Euridice was performed as part of the Marie de’Medici and Henri IV wedding celebrations in 1600.

Louis XIV Antoine Coysevox

Louis XIV personified the age of absolutism (L’état, c’est moi.) and his style of palace and manners became the model for the rest of Europe. The realities of rising church and state patronage created the demand for organized public music such as chamber music.


There was a gradual institutionalization of forms and norms, particularly in opera. As with literature, the printing press and trade created an expanded international audience for music.


The middle Baroque period in Italy saw the emergence of the cantata, oratorio, and opera during the 1630s, the bel canto style, one of the most important contributions to the development of Baroque, which was a new concept of melody and harmony that elevated the status of the music to one of equality with the words.


The florid, coloratura monody of the early Baroque gave way to a simpler, more polished melodic style, usually in a ternary rhythm.


These melodies were built from short ideas often based on stylized dance patterns drawn from the sarabande or the courante, the gigue, the pavane.


This harmonic simplification ushered in the recitative and the aria. The most important innovators of this style were the Romans Luigi Rossi and Giacomo Carissimi, who were primarily composers of cantatas and oratorios.


Jean-Baptiste Lully (Giovanni Battista Lulli) was a court composer, born in Firenze (Florence), to a family of millers. He used to say that a Franciscan friar gave him his first music lessons and taught him guitar. He also learned to play the violin.


In 1646, dressed as harlequin during Mardi Gras and amusing bystanders with his clowning and his violin, the boy attracted the attention of Roger de Lorraine, chevalier de Guise, who was returning to France and was looking for someone to converse in Italian with his niece, Mademoiselle de Montpensier. Guise took the boy to Paris, where the fourteen year-old entered Mademoiselle’s service and from 1647 to 1652 he served as her “chamber boy” (garçon de chambre).


Lully’s talents as a guitarist, violinist, and dancer quickly won him the nicknames “Baptiste“, and “le grand baladin” (great street-artist).


He did indeed grow into a great artist, and he collaborated with Molière on a series of comédie-ballets, and used this success to become the sole composer of operas for the king.


Lully knew what le roi Louis wanted, which explains his rapid shift to church music when the mood at court became more devout. His thirteen completed lyric tragedies are based on libretti that focus on the conflicts between the public and private life of the monarch.

arcangelo corelli

Lully’s near contemporary, Arcangelo Correlli, improved musical technique by insisting on better intonation.  The style of execution introduced by Corelli and preserved by his pupils was of vital importance for the development of violin playing. It has been said that the paths of all of the famous violinist-composers of 18th and 19th centuries Italy led to Arcangelo Corelli who was their “iconic point of reference” and he created a beautiful flow of melody in purely instrumental music, such as the concerto grosso.


Lully was the man at court, but Corelli published widely and had his music performed all over Europe.


The concerto grosso is built on strong contrasts— sections alternate between those played by the full orchestra, and those played by a smaller group.


There were sharp jumps between loud and soft.  Fast sections and slow sections were juxtaposed against each other.

antonio vivialdi

Antonio Vivaldi studied with Corelli and later composed hundreds of works based on Corelli’s trio sonatas and concerti.


Meanwhile in England, Henry Purcell produced a profusion of music and was deservedly popular in his lifetime. Purcell was a fluid composer, able to shift from simple anthems and useful music such as marches, to grandly scored vocal music and music for the stage. He was very prolific and was also one of the first great keyboard composers, whose work still has influence and presence. I played many of his pieces on the guitar and still love them. When I was 18, I used to go to a place called The Old Spaghetti Factory in North Beach on Sunday nights and listen to a small ensemble conducted by Donald Pippin play Purcell’s music.

dietrich buxtehude

Dietrich Buxtehude was not a creature of court but he a was church musician, holding the posts of organist and Werkmeister at the Marienkirche at Lübeck. He organized and directed a concert series known as the Abendmusiken, which included performances of sacred dramatic works regarded by his contemporaries as the equivalent of operas.


Johann Sebastian Bach was, of course, the towering figure of Baroque music.  During his life, he was better known as a teacher, administrator and performer than composer, being less famous than either Handel or Georg Philipp Telemann.


In 1723 Bach settled at the post he was associated with for virtually the rest of his life: cantor and director of music for Leipzig. His varied experience allowed him to become the town’s leader of music both secular and sacred, teacher of its musicians.


Bach composed a church cantata for every Sunday and holiday of the year. He also created the St. John Passion, the St. Matthew passion, the Christmas Oratorio and the Mass in B minor, works that seem to be divine.


Bach expanded the depths and the outer limits of the Baroque homophonic and polyphonic forms. He used every contrapuntal device possible and every acceptable means of creating webs of harmony with the chorale. His fugues, preludes and toccatas for organ, and the baroque concerto forms, have become fundamental in both performance and theoretical technique. He summed it all up and brought it forward.


These are all composers whose music I was playing in various recorder ensembles at the time that we began Big Brother and the Holding Company.


Georg Philipp Telemann was a particular favorite.  He was almost completely self taught and he had backed into a career in music.


In complete contradistinction to Bach, Telemann’s personal life was always troubled: his first wife died only a few months after their marriage, and his second wife had extramarital affairs and accumulated a large gambling debt before leaving him.


Telemann was one of the most prolific composers in history and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers. He remained at the forefront of all new musical tendencies and his music is an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles. Like Händel, Telemann knew everybody and did everything. Bach was his friend, but so was everyone.


Have you ever looked at a painting or a sculpture from before the age of photography and wondered if the subject really looked like that?  One way to verify such a question is to look at a depiction of a person by two different artists. Here is Giuliano Finelli’s portrait of Cardinal Scipione Borghese.

bernini scipio

And here is Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s depiction of the same man. Uncannily similar, aren’t they?  The bust above (Finelli’s) seems to depict a man who is more tired. His gaze is below eye level. Bernini’s portrait is more jaunty. Even the cardinal’s hat is at attention.

giuliano finelli

Finelli had worked in Bernini’s studio.


He was the “detail man,” perhaps more fascinated with dress and ornamentation than his mentor.

0900_ 048

Bernini’s virtuosity in carving marble and his ability to create figures that combine the physical and the spiritual make him one of the most important figures in the history of sculpture.


The Protestant Reformation (16th century) brought an almost total stop to religious sculpture in much of Northern Europe.  It was literally an iconoclastic age. Statues were smashed and church decorations were pulled apart.  Fundamentalism run rampant, as we see in our own time.


Partly in direct reaction to this iconoclasm, sculpture was deemed as important in the Baroque as it was in the late Middle Ages.  In the 18th century much sculpture continued on Baroque lines. The Fontana di Trevi was only completed in 1762 from a design by Bernini (1598–1680).  His architecture, sculpture and fountains are examples of the highly charged characteristics of Baroque style. The sculpture was cut deep in the Baroque to give a dramatic light and shadow effect.

man falling

Groups of figures spiraled around an empty central vortex, or reached outwards into the surrounding space.

bernini fontana 030

There were often multiple ideal viewing angles, and  a general continuation of the Renaissance move away from the relief to sculpture created in the round, and designed to be placed in the middle of a large space.


Even when he was actually doing a relief, Bernini made his subject virtually jump out of the frame. Notice how deeply the cuts are made in the piece, which gives an illusion of depth and heightens the emotion. The folds in the clothing are harmonized and have a personality of their own.

balthasar permoser-marsyas

Artists saw themselves as in the classical tradition, but admired the more “vulgar” Hellenistic and later Roman sculpture, rather than the more stately “Classical” styles.


The Baroque period had a distinctly popular aspect.  The eyelashes in this sculpture appear to be glued on.  Mixed media again.

carav rest on the flight into Egypt

Baroque painting is often identified with Absolutism, the Counter Reformation and the Catholic Revival, but it only began that way.  The existence of important Baroque art and architecture in non-absolutist and Protestant states throughout Western Europe underscores its widespread popularity.


Baroque artists chose the most dramatic point, the moment when the action was occurring. In the Renaissance, Michelangelo shows his David thoughtful and composed before battle with Goliath, but Bernini’s David is caught in the act of hurling the stone at the giant.


Baroque art was meant to evoke drama, emotion and passion instead of the calm rationality that had been prized during the Renaissance.

matthew Caravaggio

Baroque painters understood what Robert Crumb calls “the power of black.” Caravaggio painted directly from life and dramatically lit his figures against a dark background.  We used to call this “nightclub lighting.”  Here is Caravaggio’s depiction of the calling of Matthew, who was a tax collector, to come and follow Jesus.

matthew Hendrik Terbrugghen

And here is Hendrik Terbrugghen’s painting of the same subject.

artemisia gentilleschi 1620

Artemisia Gentilleschi’s beautiful paint it black version of Judith and Holofernes.


Rembrandt, who perhaps best caught the emotions of the soul as they play out on the face, also used the power of black, the chiaroscuro, in his work.

Giovanni Baglione sacred and profane love

Sacred and Profane Love by Giovanni Baglione is a truly remarkable painting, isn’t it?  I’m going to copy this one of these days.


The Council of Trent (Concilium Tridentinum 1545–63), in which the Roman Catholic Church answered many questions of internal reform raised by both Protestants and by those who had remained inside the Church, addressed the representational arts in a short and somewhat oblique passage in its decrees and demanded that painting and sculpture in church contexts should depict their subjects clearly and powerfully.


This return toward to a populist conception of the function of ecclesiastical art drove the innovations of Caravaggio and the Carracci brothers, all of whom were working (and competing for commissions) in Rome around 1600, although unlike the Carracci, Caravaggio was criticised for lack of decorum in his work.

Annibale, Ludovico, Agostino Carracci, Bolognese School

Annibale, Ludovico and Agostino Carracci.

Aelbert Cuyp 1620-1691

Significantly, in the Protestant countries, genres like still life, landscape and paintings of everyday life were more important.  There wasn’t a lot of work for religious painters.


I love this virtuoso style of painting used in the depiction of ordinary life.

Diego Velázquez

This is a Spanish version of everyday life, Diego Velázquez’ Old Woman Frying Eggs.

Jan Lievens

Jan Lievens who reminds me of Frans Hals.


And Hals’ portrait of Willem Heythuijsen (1634).

duke of lema rubens

Peter Paul Rubens’ almost lubricious painting of a horse.

Tancred_and_ErminiaNicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin was the leading painter of the classical French Baroque style, although he spent most of his working life in Rome. His work is characterized by clarity, logic, and order. Poussin likes line more than color.

salvator rosa silence is better

Salvator Rosa is off in some beautiful mystic place by himself. Silence is better than talk, says his placard.

Caspar Netscher (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, c 1635-1684) Young Woman

Caspar Netscher, a Dutch artist, knows how to paint a pretty woman.


And two “surrealist” works, this one by Rembrandt van Rijn.

Jan Steen the world turned upside down

And this by Jan Steen, The World Turned Upside Down.


On 1 January 1660, Samuel Pepys began to keep a diary. He recorded his daily life for almost ten years. The women he pursued, his friends and his dealings are all laid out. His diary reveals his jealousies, insecurities, trivial concerns, and his fractious relationship with his wife. It is an important account of London in the 1660s and probably the best diary in the English language. The Baroque time in England is known as the Restoration because of the reinstatement of King Charles II to the throne, so I am not completely sure that any of these people would be considered “Baroque,” even though their lifespans fall within the period 1600 – 1750.


Two of my favorite people ever, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson, were born in the Baroque era, and much of Boswell’s work is Baroque and beyond. Many of the episodes he narrates are as scary, outré, melodramatic, passionate and emotional as any Baroque painting or sculpture, only they are real life and told in a style that is as precise and vivid as Bernini’s or Bach’s.


Boswell’s journals are amazing, real and in three dimension. He puts you there.  His Life of Samuel Johnson is the greatest biography in English and maybe in any language. I read it over and over and always find something new and worthwhile in it.

fanny burney

Virginia Woolf called Fanny Burney “the mother of English fiction,” and is she ever. She wrote four novels that are as good or better than anyone else’s and her narration of her mastectomy is probably more Baroque than anything you would want to read. It is a searing document, honest and terrifying. Madame d’Arblay, as she was known in later life, came from a noted family of musicians and her observations on music are most interesting.


Restoration literature includes both Paradise Lost and the Earl of Rochester’s Sodom, the high spirited sexual comedy of The Country Wife and the moral wisdom of Pilgrim’s Progress, so this time in England doesn’t always fit well with the Baroque period on the Continent.


John Locke wrote his Two Treatises on Government at this time which also saw the founding of the Royal Society and the chemstry, the experiments and holy meditations of Robert Boyle.


John Dryden, who practically invented literary criticism, is seen as dominating the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden. Not incidentally, newspapers and coffeehouses came into being at this time.


The official break in literary culture caused by censorship and radically moralist standards under that savage group of fundamentalists, Cromwell’s Puritans, created a gap in literary tradition, allowing a seemingly fresh start for all forms of literature after the Restoration.


During the Interregnum, the royalist forces attached to the court of Charles I went into exile with the twenty-year-old Charles II, and saw for themselves the Baroque arts of continental Europe.


Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin,  arrived at the court of Charles II, in September of 1675, upon his invitation. She was well known as a patron of literature and the fine arts.


Nell Gwynne, “pretty, witty Nell,” as Samuel Pepys called her, had a comedic talent and a shrewd understanding of her time. Pepys puts these words in Nell’s mouth:  ” ‘I was but one man’s whore, though I was brought up in a bawdy-house to fill strong waters to the guests; and you are a whore to three or four, though a Presbyter’s praying daughter!’ which was very pretty.”


Aphra Behn was not only the first professional female novelist, but she may be among the first professional novelists of either sex in England. Behn’s most famous novel was Oroonoko in 1688. This was a biography of an entirely fictional African king who had been enslaved in Suriname, where Behn had actually lived. She explores slavery and gender in a racy way. Vita Sackville-West called Behn “an inhabitant of Grub Street with the best of them.”


The most famous plays of the early Restoration period are the unsentimental or “hard” comedies of Dryden, William Wycherley, and George Etherege, which  celebrate an aristocratic lifestyle of unremitting sexual intrigue and conquest.


The term Augustan literature derives from authors of the 1720s and 1730s, who responded to a term that George I used for himself.


While George I meant the title to reflect his might, the literary people instead saw in the term a reflection of Rome’s transition from rough and ready literature to the highly political and highly polished literature during the time of Caesar Augustus, Imperator Caesar Divi F. Augustus (Caius Octavius).


Because of the aptness of such a  metaphore, the period from 1689 – 1750 was called “the Augustan Age” by critics throughout the 18th century, including Voltaire and Oliver Goldsmith, who “wrote like an angel, but talked like Poor Poll,” in the words of Samuel Johnson.


This was the time when the English novel developed into a major art form. Daniel Defoe, who had been a journalist writing criminal lives for the press, began to write fictional criminal lives in books like Roxana and Moll Flanders.


Defoe also wrote a fictional treatment of the travels of Alexander Selkirk called Robinson Crusoe (1719).

Jonathan Swift’s prose style is unmannered and direct, with a clarity that few contemporaries matched. He was a profound skeptic about the modern world, but he was similarly profoundly distrustful of nostalgia. He saw in history a record of lies and vanity, and he saw in the present a madness of vanity and lies. I read Gulliver’s Travels when I was ten and was amazed at Swift’s prose style. There is such a sensible precision to it that is perfect for making the unreal real as he did in that book.


Swift believed that Christian values were essential, but these values had to be muscular and assertive and developed by constant rejection of smooth talking marketers and bogus preachers. In A Tale of A Tub, Swift detailed his skeptical analysis of the claims of the modern world.


After his “exile” to Ireland, Swift reluctantly began defending the Irish people from the predations of English colonialism.  A Modest Proposal and The Drapier Letters actually provoked riots and arrests.  Swift, who otherwise had no love for Irish Catholics was outraged by the English abuses and barbarity he saw around him.


An effect of the Licensing Act was to cause more than one aspiring playwright to switch over to writing novels. Henry Fielding began to write prose satire and novels after his plays could not pass the censors.


The pious Samuel Richardson had produced a novel intended to counter the deleterious effects of the new novel in his Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740). Henry Fielding attacked the absurdity of Richardson’s book with two of his own works, Joseph Andrews and Shamela, and then countered Richardson’s Clarissa with Tom Jones. 


Laurence Sterne attempted a Swiftian novel, Tristram Shandy, which has always eluded me somehow, although I can see/feel that it is a very original work, much more adventurous and creative than Swift, but never really my cup of tea.  I took it as a cock and bull story.


Meanwhile, across the Channel and to the south, a Spanish Jesuit, Baltasar Gracián y Morales, S.J. (January 8, 1601 – December 6, 1658) was  the most representative writer of the Spanish Baroque literary style known as Conceptismo, of which he was the most important theoretician. His Agudeza y arte de ingenio (Wit and the Art of Inventiveness) is a poetic rendering of the conceptist style.


Gracián is now best known for the Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia, which was written in 1637.


The book is a collection of 300 maxims (aforísmos), each with a commentary, on various topics giving advice and guidance on how to live fully, advance socially, and be a better person.


A bad manner spoils everything, even reason and justice: a good one supplies everything, gilds a No, sweetens a truth, and adds a touch of beauty to old age itself.


The wise does at once what the fool does at last.


Beauty and folly are generally companions.


The sole advantage of power is that you can do more good.


Be content to act and leave the talking to others.


Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem.  Most things are judged by their jackets.


Friendship multiplies the good in life and divides the evil.


After the Renaissance which was the classical period of restraint and grace, the Baroque was twisted, emotional and extreme. The Baroque was the Hellenistic period of our time.

Ingres Portraits 4

After the Baroque came a short period of return to the classical ideal, Neoclassicism, which was a mostly French and rather short lived pastiche of Renaissance values which evolved into the Academic style of the 19th century.


After that, le déluge: impressionism, surrealism, Expressionism, the 20th century, Abstract Art, Pop Art.

Qui Legit Regit

Who reads, rules.

BBHC laminate sam


Aloft and Alow

BBHC Deutsch

Aloft and Alow

Nina Sophia

I’m happy to be alive, I’m happy to be who I am.


We just know inside that we’re queens. And these are the crowns we wear.

flute 7000 bce.gif

These flutes are about seven thousand years old.  The holes are in the same place where they are on woodwinds today.


The tallest building in the world is now in Dubai, the biggest factory in the world is in China, the largest oil refinery is in India, the largest investment fund in the world is in Abu Dhabi, the largest Ferris wheel in the world is in Singapore.

BBHC first poster Jan 66

One of my favorite times in life is after we’ve played the gig and we are driving home, tired and happy and contented. Soft conversation and companionship.


I’ve been imitated so well I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.


It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees, but neither one is a really a good time.


To read too many books is harmful?    Typical of something Mao Zedong would say.


You can have everything you want in life if you just help other people get what they want.

billie ella

Two people are inside us, the artist and the technician. You’re born an artist and then you have to grow the technician.


I cannot tell you how happy and in love with everything I am.

Sam Darby Donnie

I play music with good people so I can be inspired and so that I can inspire them.


So, are you praying to the Jewish Jesus, the baby Jesus in golden fleece diapers, the bilingual Mexican Jesús, the grown up Jesus or the ninja Jesus?


When virtue and modesty enlighten her charms, the luster of a beautiful woman is brighter than the stars of heaven, and the influence of her power it is in vain to resist. Akhenaton


God said to the angels, “I am going to create a beautiful land watered by a silvery river, with trees full of delicious dates, and I shall call this land Egypt. ” And the angels said, “Lord, don’t you think this is a little unfair to the rest of the world?”   And God said, “Just wait till you see whom I am giving them for neighbors.”


If paper beats rock, rock beats scissors and scissors beats paper, what beats everyone?   A redhead.


You feel touched and honored and alive when you give to someone.


Learning is exciting and it keeps you young.

tom cher

Happiness doesn’t come from applause. Happiness comes from believing that you have done something good and meaningful.

Lynn Asher

Why did the blonde smile in a lightning storm?  Because she knew that god was taking her photograph.


Are you not thinking what I’m not thinking?


Humility may be the mother of all the other virtues.


Or is it courage?  Is courage the mother of all virtues?  Hard to say.  What do you think?


Or gratitude?  Is gratitude the mother of all virtues?

John Sinclair

You have to be very courageous sometimes to have a positive attitude, because many foolish people assume that anyone with a positive attitude is naïve, uneducated, stupid, and there are a lot of foolish people, many of them rich and powerful.


I am comfortable telling people what my opinions are, but I have absolutely no need to convert them.  À chacun son goût.   I hope I am quoting that correctly. De gustibus non disputandum.  To each his own.  Suum cuique.  Whatever works for you.


I’ve never felt that I needed a lot of attention, but, then, I’ve never been to a psychiatrist either, so what do I know?


Better to be wise than smart.


You have to keep on living, even if it kills you.


If we all followed the Book of Leviticus, half the people in the United States would be executed tomorrow.


If there were a god, what would she think about the phrase, “holy war in the holy land?”

Lynn gamba

Doctor, I’ve been bitten on the leg by a werewolf!     Did you put anything on it?     No, he seemed to like it as it was.


Geek alert:   Calculus and alcohol don’t mix.     Don’t drink and derive.


Why did the tomato blush?    She saw the salad dressing.


How’s your millinery business going?   Oh, it’s sew, sew.     Berthe Morissot.


Did you hear about my favorite actress who just severed all her connections?   With her knife?     No, Witherspoon.


They were going to let her into Harvard, but she spelled Yale with a Six.

Elise corner

Elise corner.

Elise gold

Bachelors have consciences. Married men have wives.         Samuel Johnson


Why does Snoop Doggy carry an umbrella?      Fo’drizzle.


Hey… are you Jamaican? Because, JAMAICAN me crazy!


I was always too mature for my age – and not very happy. I had no young friends.  I wish I could go back to those days. If I could only live it all again, how I would play and enjoy the other girls. What a fool I was.        Maria Callas


Her surname is Shure. She said, “Do you think people know it?”  and I said, “Are you kidding? To musicians it’s like Coca-Cola or Frigidaire or Kleenex. The thing you have to worry about is that it will become so generic that you will lose the copyright.”


Shurely there must be things that you can do with a voice other than stand in front of a microphone and sing.

Kate Ko Samui

Kate Russo in Ko Samui, Thailand, playing some standards on the piano.


Cat says, “I would like a Bombay….  Martini,”  and the bartender says, “Why the long pause?” and she says, “Oh, I don’t know,  I’m just built that way.”


Better be wronged than wrong, better be cheated than cheat.


In my family tree, depending on which day it is, I’m either the bark or the sap.


We can’t add days to our lives, but we can add life to our days.


The more corrupt the country, the more laws it will have.

Cathy David Morgan

What do guitar players and a terrorists have in common?   They both destroy bridges.


I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.   J.S. Bach


It’s far easier to sing to 250,000 people than it is to sing to 25.


When I sing, I feel like when you’re first in love. It’s more than sex. It’s that point two people can get to they call love, when you really touch someone for the first time, but it’s gigantic, multiplied by the whole audience. I feel chills.


Be quick to pardon, quick to forgive, offer your hand as long as you live.


Being happy at home is the best happiness.

Bonnie Glenfarg

True friends, like Brutus, will stab you in the front.

Bonnie Glenfarg a

We were in Glenfarg, eastern Scotland, between Edinburgh and Perth, in 2006 with our family Carla Piliwale, Edd Hart, Barbara Joy Langer, Barry Melton, Jerry Donohue… that was a good time.


All my life I have read the books I wanted to read, with very little direction and purpose.  It has worked for me, but I don’t know that I would recommend it to anyone else.


You will never meet a rich person who tries to convince you that having a lot of money will make your life easier.


People in general are kind but not really just.


Everyday meet someone new, a new idea, a new beginning, a new direction.


Self confidence and ability usually go together.

Glenfarg map

To spend life with a beautiful, happy woman, is anything better?


Women naturally have so much power that for a long time every law and custom sought to subjugate them.  In fact, this is still the case, but it’s never going to work, I’ll tell you that right now.


Have you ever walked into a magnificent library and thought, “Oh, my god, I will never read a fraction of these books.”  It’s rather like standing on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.


Sarah with her daughter Adyson in the wilds of Florida.


If a great tragedy happens to you, it might be worth considering how much a greater tragedy you have escaped.


Let each be happy in her own way, for what better way is there?

map Glenfarg

When you choose to be a musician, an actor, a poet, you are going against the odds.  As Ruth Gordon said, Success is a refusal to face facts.


Somehow we were given life.   Now it is up to us to live life well.


We all have to die.  Is that a tragedy?  Is it a comedy?  It’s OK with me.  Living forever could be, well, a little repetitious, even for the most creative mind.


I always have that secret hope that somehow I am not completely ridiculous in the eyes of women.


Don’t stand back and think how scary it is.    Grab the bull by the horns, not the tail.

How you treat those who are “less” than you… animals, children, the homeless, is the measure of your character.

Piliwale Road Maui

Nothing is so good to see as the happiness of one’s wife.


When you lie in bed at night and you think of all those things from so long ago, things that you wish you could call back and improve, the chance is now. Be a better person now and pay it back. Pay it back ever so slowly. If you live long enough, maybe you can pay it back enough and forgive yourself.


Life is a big Otis Elevator.  Some are going up, some are going down, some just get on to take a ride and have a look around.


If you really love what someone else has done, say so, and then you join in the beauty of it.


Music is the art of mixing pleasure with truth.


Pass quickly through your sadness.  Don’t give it any power.

Sam Grass Valley

Don’t think too much about a new project. Begin it. Do it.


Men are loud and full of bluster.   Women take care of life and give it luster.


There is no such thing as a wrong note.


Women always know where things are… unless we’re talking about car keys.


Being poor is no disgrace, but it is a very inconvenient place.


A good marriage is as much about friendship as it is about love.


If you really want to remember something, try to forget it.


If you believe that people are generally kind and honest, then you are probably kind and honest.


Life is short. Read the best books you can find. Leave the trashy ones far behind.


Doing what you love is labor without weariness.


You can never be great by imitating. The best you can do is get very close to your model but you will never be better than your model by imitating.


Perhaps better to imitate many models and pull together a style of your own.

Claudia Sam

I hate zoos for the same reason that I hate jails.


If you lie to someone, you hurt yourself more than you do the person who hears the lie.


If you really want to remember something, pay attention to it, think about it, note all of its peculiarities.  Sing it.


Another good measure of a person is what she would do if she knew she were never going to get caught.

lib and cher

Do your utmost to find your way into a world of beauty.


If you go into politics you must learn the art of entering a room and knowing who is for you and who is against you.  Great way to live, right?


I watch Fox News the way I would watch The Three Stooges or some buffoon program like The Gong Show. How ridiculous are they going to be this time?  In twenty years, mark my words, if they run this stuff on TV it is going to look far more ridiculous than the most corny aspects of, say, I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners.  But just as entertaining.


Immortality… it just seems to go on forever.


There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.


I don’t like to go to the movies to see violence or some kind of spy thing with all kinds of information you have to assimilate to understand the plot.  First of all, it’s almost always the kind of information you want nothing to do with in your real life. Shady, murky, power without purpose, might without meaning, machinelike and without soul.

Pamela des Barres 68450-5

I want a film that is going to entertain me, yes, but I also want that film to make me a better person.


The future comes quickly, and, before you know it, it’s the past.


Are you reading this in the bedroom?


Passionate love?  When you figure out how to make that last, let me know.  Otherwise, it’s a spiritual love, work, companionship, respect for the other, kindness.


We’re all going to die, so how do you want to live?


I’m not asking what the future has in store, I just take each day as a gift and enjoy it.


Praise is like chewing gum.  Enjoy it but don’t swallow it.


Stay on an even keel, be sharp, be wise, be real.


Nothing lasts… not even unhappiness.


Write something and then try to take as many words out of it as you can and still retain the meaning.




You learn most about yourself in hard times.


When it’s an uphill climb, stay calm, stay level in your mind.


Good health, a good conscience and a comfortable house, every now and then a delicious mouse.


A garden and friends and books… I have everything I need.


Experience is as a good a name as any for our mistakes.


Even while striving, stay calm and keep driving.


Don’t say good things about someone unless you mean them, and, if you mean them, say them all the time and loudly.


I’m so smart that I often don’t understand a word I’m saying.


People are wrong when they say pop music is not what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That is what’s wrong with it.


It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.


Power without probity is pernicious.


Strength without scruple is sick.


Success is being able to do for a living that which makes you happy.


I never thought I would spend my life doing something fun.  Of course I never thought at all.


Inside I am still a geek, and maybe outside too.


You can do something great not by force, or even by talent, but simply by keeping at it.


It’s hard to fake creativity and humor.


All of us should be very thankful that life is unfair.


I like it when my avocations become my vocations.


I’ll go through life either in first class or in third, but never in second.


I read my favorite books over and over. I have probably read Boswell’s Life of Johnson ten times. And it’s not a little book in any sense.


There is a lot of craft behind comedy, but if comedy is done right, you never see the craft.


You can ask me almost anything and I will answer you as best I can.


I bet people never asked Edgar Varèse, “Hey, do you ever think of doing funny music?”


I try to do what is real, not ideal.


I travel so much that I love to be at home.


There are always two or three or four sides to every story.


What’s interesting about the process of playing music is how often you have no idea what you’re doing.


There’s a hidden link between absolute discipline and absolute freedom.


The old days were the old days and they were great days, but now is now.


If you practice a bit, you can be whatever kind of person you choose, so choose well.


Wit or pleasantry or humor is always to be encouraged… even puns.


People always think that performers are extraverts which is almost never the case in my experience.


Never go anywhere where you have to wear brown shoes.


I couldn’t wait for success, so I’ve gone ahead without it.


Finding fame later in life is much healthier.


If you ever see me in a social setting wearing any kind of sportswear, you’ll know I’m in trouble.


I’m not a royal family watcher… not really a watcher of any kind of celebrity, come to think of it.


It makes me happy when musicians get rich, because the odds against it are so great.



It’s a good thing I brought my library card, because I am checking you out.


I find it hard to relax around any man who’s got the second button on his shirt undone.


What do Alexander the Great and Sam the Ham have in common?     Their middle names.


I rarely leave my house.


I don’t want to associate myself with any specific group of politicians.


I did pick up a guitar once, but the strings hurt my fingers so I put it down again.


I’ve always been in the right place at the right time.  I put myself there.


When she started to play, Steinway came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano.


I’m Jewish, but I’m totally not.


Nothing is impossible. Some things are just less likely than others.


Of course there is other intelligent life in the universe, probably on hundreds, if not millions of planets. They are all so far away, however, that we may never find them. Space is immense. That’s a good name for it. Space.


I love to play with great guitar players.  Great guitar players make everything better.


I love criticism just so long as it’s unqualified praise.

BBHC Quicksilver Longshoreman's 26 July 1966

I’ve become a really honest person since I was a child, but I do have some overdue library fines.


Elise vogue

We’ll see you next week.


Sam Andrew

Monterey jazz

Big Brother and the Holding Company


Tools: part two

These are some of my tools:


When I go on the road with Big Brother and the Holding Company I take a set of pencils along and sketch in the mornings.

Winsor & Newton

Winsor & Newton brushes, although I’ll use anything that feels right, even a twig torn off a tree, which I have used many times.

JJ Hummingbird feathers

A Gibson Hummingbird guitar that Janis gave me. I use it for jazz mostly. It has a beautiful singing treble and a big throated bass.


Jim Dunlop guitar pick, two millimeters thick. Takes a lot to wear one out.

Sam Andrew Kristina Kopriva

Gibson Les Paul, easy to play, good sustain, shhh, can you hear it?

Sam buscard face

Paul Reed Smith gave me this guitar. I love it.


I have several of these snail-like tuners. They cost about $ 20 apiece. I can put two or three in my pocket. They replace a tuner that I used, but did not own, in the 1960s. It was a Hammond Strobo-Con and it sold for about $ 450 in 1960s money ($ 4,500 today?). It was larger than a shoebox, it had pretty purple lights and it was really an oscilloscope.


Shortly after the oscilloscope experience came a tuner that you could plug into the amp and it would emit a constant and annoying A 440. We used that for a while. We were a string band, like a string quartet, so our tuning wandered, did it ever.

Tone Controls - Mesa Boogie Subway Rocket

Mesa Boogie Subway Rocket, tiny and terrific.


I have other tools: Books, books under the couch, on the floor, on my desk, in the bathroom, some even in bookcases, on the kitchen table, in the car, in my bag, on my night table, in the bed, under the bed, in the closet, everywhere.


And let’s not forget this computer. It’s organic.


There are two stages of prehistory, the Paleolithic which began about two million years ago, and then the Neolithic which took hold in the Near East (Mesopotamia) about 10,000 BCE.

paleolithic era tools_only_pic

The tools of the Paleolithic were very basic, of course, and mostly used for food gathering.


Neolithic tools were much more complex stone instruments used for agriculture and building.


Homo Sapiens was first in evidence about 500,000 years ago and before that there was Homo Erectus, a very successful tool making species which arose about two million years ago, who learned to make fire.

homo erectus

Homo Erectus


Homo Habilis (handy man), the first species of human being, coexisted with hominids such as Paranthropus and Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy).


Making tools and teaching the making of tools to others is practiced in all human societies.


In the Upper Paleolithic, about 30,000 years ago, people began to make bows and arrows and spear throwers. They domesticated the wolf.


They made beautiful paintings on the walls of caves like Chauvet.


Paintings with as developed a sense of perspective, shading and drama as we can make today, and they did them 35,000 years ago.


They did their painting in the dark. Well, maybe they used a hollowed out stone, poured in some animal fat and made a wick out of hemp or some other fiber. That’s not that much light, though, there underground far from the cave’s mouth. Seventy of these lamps, in all shapes and sizes, were found on the floor of Lascaux.


Neanderthals, who had bigger brains than we do, but who were not as tall, took care of their old and infirm and they buried their dead.


There was even something of a cult of the dead in the Middle Paleolithic (100,000 – 50,000 years ago).


Neanderthals were most likely absorbed into Homo Sapiens populations such as the Cro-Magnons.


Around 10,000 BCE, a surprising thing happened. In different parts of the world, parts that had no way of communicating with each other, people began to hit on the idea of growing their food and domesticating animals. In the Near East, India, Africa, North Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America this Neolithic Revolution fundamentally changed peoples’ lives.


This Revolution took two different roads: one went from gathering food to growing it, to plowing the fields.


The other path out of the Paleolithic went from hunting to herding and led to pastoral nomadism.


Where there was enough water, particularly in great river areas, agriculture prevailed.

old yurt scene mongolia

Where the land was too dry for farming, people kept herds of animals and led a nomadic life. Finding timberland for sale was not as easy as it is today either.


Mongols, Bedouins, the Sami (Lapp) people who still follow the reindeer, the people in the New World who domesticated llamas, all are examples of people who descended from hunters, not gatherers.


The people who settled in the great river valleys, the Nile, Mesopotamia (which means “in the middle of rivers”), the Indus-Ganges valley, the Yellow River valley, the Ohio Mississippi valley planted crops, were stable from year to year, formulated laws and customs and social classes, built cities, invented writing systems.


Civilization is all about water.


The Romans settled by the Tiber in the center of Italy.


They were the master engineers of the ancient world.


Technology is the world of farming, weaving, potting, building, transporting, healing, governing and, let’s not forget, glassmaking.


Glass objects have been recovered across the Roman Empire in domestic, industrial and funerary contexts. Glass was used mainly in vessels, although mosaic tiles and window glass were also produced. This is beach sand, the main ingredient in Roman glass.


Roman glass production developed from late Greek technical traditions, and was about the making of intensely colored cast glass vessels.


During the 1st century CE there was rapid technical growth in glassmaking and glass blowing. Colorless or ‘aqua’ glasses were important at this time.

roman glass

Production of raw glass was begun in one place and finished in another, and by the end of the 1st century CE large scale manufacturing resulted in the establishment of glass as a commonly available material in the Roman world, from everyday glass to technically very difficult specialized types of luxury products, which must have been very expensive.


At the beginning of the 1st century CE there was still no Latin word for glass. Vitrum came to be used and is the word that passed down into the Romance languages.


Glassmaking was a relatively minor craft during the Republican period (6th to 1st centuries BCE), although, during the early decades of the 1st century CE the quantity and diversity of glass vessels available increased dramatically.


This was a direct result of the massive growth of the Roman influence at the end of the Republican period, the Pax Romana that followed the decades of civil war, and the stability that occurred under Augustus.


Glassblowing, a major new technique in glass production which had been introduced during the 1st century CE. allowed glass workers to produce vessels with considerably thinner walls, decreasing the amount of glass needed for each vessel. Glass blowing was also considerably quicker than other techniques, and vessels required considerably less finishing, representing a further saving in time, raw material and equipment.


Although earlier techniques dominated during the early Augustan and Julio-Claudian periods, by the middle to late 1st century CE these techniques had been largely abandoned in favor of blowing the glass into shape.


Glassblowing is a glass forming technique which was invented by the Phoenicians around 50 BCE somewhere along the Syro-Palestinian coast.

Roman Glass Factory

The concentration of natron, which acts as a flux in glass, is slightly lower in blown vessels than those manufactured by casting. Lower concentration of natron allowed the glass to be stiffer for blowing.


The gaffer (glass blower) slowly blows into the tube and inflates the parison, the glass bubble. As it expands, the parison loses heat and becomes solid.


This is one of those beautiful changes in nature where a liquid suddenly becomes solid and is thus frozen forever. Amber, where sap becomes a jewel is one example. Using plaster of Paris where the whole mixture heats and suddenly becomes solid is another. Watching a drop of water almost fall from the eave of a house and then suddenly become solid ice is an example. In ceramics, the artist works with the watery clay which at one point becomes solid and will stay that way forever, which is an alchemy in itself. All of this change from a liquid impermanence to a solid forever lasting is so interesting to watch.


The two major methods of glassblowing are free-blowing and mold-blowing. Free-blowing involves the blowing of short puffs of air into a molten portion of glass (the gather) which has been spooled at one end of the blowpipe. This has the effect of forming an elastic skin on the interior of the glass blob that matches the exterior skin caused by the removal of heat from the furnace. The glassworker can then quickly inflate the molten glass to a coherent blob and work it into a desired shape.


Mold-blowing was an alternate glassblowing method that came after the invention of free-blowing, during the first part of the second quarter of the 1st century CE. A glob of molten glass is placed on the end of the blowpipe, and is then inflated into a wooden or metal carved mold. In this way, the shape and the texture of the bubble of glass is determined by the design on the interior of the mold rather than the skill of the glassworker, although it takes a great deal of skill just to blow this glass into that mold.


Single-piece mold and multi-piece mold were frequently used to produce mold-blown vessels. A single-piece mold allows the finished glass object to be removed in one movement by pulling it upwards from the mold. This method is for producing tableware and utilitarian vessels for storage and transportation.


A multi-piece mold is made in paneled mold segments that join together, thus permitting the development of more sophisticated surface modeling, texture and design.


This piece was blown in a three-part mold decorated with the foliage relief frieze of four vertical plants. After the discovery of mold-blown techniques during the Roman era, glass vessels were created and signed by individual makers, such as Ennion, and their superb works were appreciated by the buying public.


Ennion was one of the most prominent glassworkers from Phoenicia (Lebanon). He was renowned for producing the multi-paneled mold-blown glass vessels that were complex in their shapes, arrangement and decorative motifs.


Ennion signed this piece. The complexity of designs of these mold-blown glass vessels documented the sophistication of the glassworkers in the eastern regions of the Roman Empire.


Mold-blown glass vessels manufactured by the workshops of Ennion and other contemporary glassworkers such as Jason, Nikon, Aristeas, and Meges, constitutes some of the earliest evidence of glassblowing found in the eastern territories.


One of the main glassblowing centers of the Roman period was established in Colonia Agrippinensis (Köln Cologne) on the Rhine in the late 1st century BCE. Stone base molds and terracotta base molds were discovered from these Rhineland workshops, suggesting the adoption and the application of mold-blowing technique by the glassworkers.


Diatret glass from Köln would usually comprise a colorless glass cup, set in a cage of brightly colored strands of glass. The cage cup (Greek diatreton, also vas diatretum, plural diatreta, or “reticulated cup”) is a type of luxury vessel, found from about the 4th century CE. It is the pinnacle of Roman achievement in glassmaking.


Blown flagons and blown jars decorated with ribbing, as well as blown perfume bottles with letters CCAA or CCA which stand for Colonia Claudia Agrippinensis were also produced in Köln.


What generated the money to buy these luxuries? Mostly, it was the land, agriculture and the plow (plough). Some of the main parts of the plow are: 1. the handle c. the share (this is the part that digs into the earth). The coulter (4) looks like a knife and coulter means knife. It is the iron knifelike object that first breaks the soil so that the share can turn the earth over. 3. looks like a moldboard (mouldboard) which will turn the soil that the share has delved into, turn it and make it ready to receive the seed.


There is an old saying for peace, “beating our swords into plowshares.”


The sole (or slade) is the part of the plow that is flat and lies along the ground to make the furrow wider. Here a man is pouring seed into a funnel that will lead to the sole so that plowing and sowing can be done at the same time. This is a seed drill.


In the first century BCE, Virgil wrote about the Roman plow (plough) with an iron plowshare. “From its youth up, in the woods, the elm is bent by main force and trained for a plow stock, taking the form of a crooked plow: to suit this a beam is shaped stretching eight feet in front, while behind are attached two mold boards resting on the slade (or sole piece) with a double ridge.” This image shows the handles, the plowshare and the coulter in front of the share, and a wheel, the whole being pulled by a team of oxen.


In both Egypt and Mesopotamia the plow was little more than a forked branch dragged through the soil by a pair of oxen. The plowman held the two branches of the fork as handles and the junction was sharpened to a point which eventually became the share. A single pointed piece of timber formed a share and sole (B & C below). The share cut the soil and the sole pushed it aside to make a deeper and wider furrow.


The plow or plough was invented somewhere around 6,000 BCE once man started using animal power. In Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Indus Valley (Pakistan-India) man first harnessed the ox to the plow. The first plow is called the ARD. Part C is the sole of the plow. It helped to smooth the soil.


In English, as in other Germanic languages, the plow was traditionally known by other names, e.g. Old English sulh, Old High German medela, geiza, huohili, and Old Norse arðr (Swedish årder), all presumably referring to the scratch plow (ard).


The current word plow comes from Old Norse plógr, but it appears relatively late (it is not attested in Gothic), and is thought to be a loanword from one of the north Italic languages. Words with the same root appeared with related meanings: in Raetic plaumorati “wheeled heavy plow” (Pliny), and in Latin plaustrum “farm cart”, pl?strum, pl?stellum “cart”, and pl?xenum, pl?ximum “cart box”. The word must have originally referred to the wheeled heavy plow which was known in Roman northwestern Europe by the 5th century CE, and which today has evolved into other names like garden wagon or heavy duty wagon, bit still utilised for similar things.


The domestication of oxen in Mesopotamia perhaps as early as the 6th millennium BCE provided the draft power necessary to develop the larger, animal-drawn true ard. The earliest was the bow ard, which consists of a draft-pole (or beam) pierced by a thinner vertical pointed stick called the head (or body), with one end being the stilt (handle) and the other a share (cutting blade) that was dragged through the topsoil to cut a shallow furrow ideal for most cereal crops in that part of the world.


The ard does not clear new land well, so hoes or mattocks must be used to pull up grass and undergrowth, and a hand-held, coulter-like ristle could be used to cut deeper furrows ahead of the share.


Because the ard leaves a strip of undisturbed earth between the furrows, the fields are often cross-ploughed lengthwise and across, and this tends to form squarish fields (Celtic fields). The ard is best suited for loamy or sandy soils which are naturally fertilized by annual flooding, as in the Nile delta or in Mesopotamia, and to a lesser extent any other cereal-growing region with light or thin soil.

plow parts

By the late Iron Age ards in Europe were commonly fitted with coulters which is the knifelike piece of metal that cuts a thin line in the soil to make it easier for the share, the tip of the large metal piece behind it to enter the soil. Couteau is French for knife as is Italian coltello. The rest of the metal behind the share is the moldboard which turns the soil over and makes a good furrow.

roman coulter

This is a coulter from a Roman plow. The coulter dug its sharp nose into the muck and slime of the earth before the plowshare arrived. Do you know any Coulters? Do they fit their name? I know one Coulter, and this is the perfect name for her.


By the third century BCE the Chinese were using malleable cast iron plowshares called kuan which had a central ridge ending in a sharp point for soil cutting, and wings which threw the soil off the share and away from the plow.


The frame plow was the government recommended instrument and even literati urged this plow on agriculturalists. There was an adjustable strut which exactly set the plowing depth by changing the space between the blade and the beam.


Government and private foundries for casting iron farming tools were widespread in China. Iron was so common that ordinary people had iron cooking pots.


The moldboard, the twisted piece of the plow above the share, turns the plowed clods gently to one side so they don’t gum up the works.


This was used on the square framed turn plow that could turn heavier soils and virgin land. By the first century BCE these plowshares reached a width of over six inches.


Chinese plows were imported into Holland by Dutch sailors in the 17th century CE, and later Dutch plowmen were hired to drain the fens of East Anglia, so their “Rotherham” plows were adopted by the English. This design was then taken to America where, in the 19th century, steel frames were adopted. There was no single more important tool in the agricultural revolution.


Horses live on the steppes and grassy plains, so there were very few in Mesopotamia or Egypt. Oxen were probably the first draft animals in these regions. Notice that the yoke is tied to their horns rather than placed over the shoulders. This was the inefficient and even cruel earliest form of the yoke. The Chinese were the only people in ancient civilizations who designed an efficient draft animal harness.

Horse- Early Ox and Throat-and-girth

In the west, the throat and girth harness was used, an absurd arrangement that choked the horse as soon as she exerted herself. Animals so harnessed could only pull a very light load.

Horse Transition to the Breast-strap

In about the fourth century BCE, the Chinese put the harness across the animal’s chest, and later over the shoulders which put the weight of the load on the chest and collar bones. This is the trace harness. The pull is on the skeleton of the draft animal instead of on its throat.


This understanding of the efficiency of dragging a heavy weight may have come from the fact that humans did a lot of the heavy lifting and pulling in the Chinese culture (such as with barge pulling along canals) and humans can talk back and describe how the harnesses would actually feel.


The collar harness is the most efficient means of pulling something. A horse with a collar harness can easily pull a ton and a half. With the choking throat and girth harness, TWO horses can pull about half a ton.


The horse collar in China dates from sometime between the fourth and the first centuries BCE. This is a thousand years before its appearance in Europe.


A member of the equid family that did thrive in the desert areas of Mesopotamia was the onager, one of the largest species of Asiatic wild ass and also one of the fastest; adults have been known to reach speeds of over 40 miles per hour. This equid is now an endangered species.


Onagers were once abundant throughout China, Mongolia, and the Middle East, but it is estimated that only 600-700 now remain in just two protected areas of Iran.


When the yoke was improved by putting it across the shoulders of the animals, it became possible to use the onager as a draft animal. The yoke was a cross member to a single draft pole, which meant that there had a be a pair of animals, or sometimes even four.


The plow in Crete had only a single handle which gave the plowman a free hand with which to goad his oxen or onagers.


This type of plow may have been imported from Greece or Anatolia.


The plow with a share and sole was probably invented somewhere to the north of Mesopotamia since it was designed to dig deeper into the soil and so to make a better furrow for the seed. In the light soils of Mesopotamia and Egypt the older type of plow was sufficient because it didn’t matter in that light soil that the seed was shallowly planted.

Plough of Amaethon son of Don

Farther north, a plow that wouldn’t plant the seed deeply was useless, since a longer germination time was required. This new type of plow with share and flat, wide sole appeared in Mesopotamia a bit before 1000 BCE, but didn’t reach Egypt until nearly a thousand years later.


China had so many advantages over the west for so long and none more than in the design of the plow. For thousands of years millions of farmers in the west plowed the earth in a style that was so inefficient, so exhausting, so wasteful that it is heartbreaking to contemplate the long millennia of what may be humanity’s single greatest waste of time and energy. This character means “man.” The upper part is a field and the lower means a sword or knife and thus “force,” so a man is one who labors in the field.


One of the many ironies of history is that when the Chinese plow was finally brought to Europe and copied (about 1650 CE), there was an agricultural revolution which led directly to the industrial revolution and then to the predominance of the West over China.


The simplest and most widespread form of plow is called an “ard, which had a shallow plowshare, as we have seen, and is often preferred in windy areas with thin, dry soil.


Triangular stone plowshares have been found in China which date from 4,000 – 5,000 BCE, and they show that the Chinese used draft animals to pull plows as far back as the neolithic.

gulf of tonkin

Bronze plowshares from around 1,600 BCE have been found in Tonkin. China traded with this area at that time, and, indeed, still does today.


The first iron plows in the world were Chinese and they date from about 500 BCE. They were either solid iron or iron over wood, and were attached to the plow proper in a better way than in the west.


One of the major developments of the ancient Chinese agriculture was the use of the iron moldboard plows. Though probably first developed in the 4th century BCE and promoted by the central government, they were popular and common by the Han Dynasty. A major invention was the adjustable strut which, by altering the distance of the blade and the beam, could precisely set the depth of the plow. This technology did not reach England and Holland until the 17th century, sparking an abundance of food which, as noted above, was a necessary prerequisite for the industrial revolution.

lamp 2nd cent bce

The Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) of China, which corresponds roughly with the Roman period of dominance in the west, witnessed some of the most significant advancements in premodern Chinese science and technology, some of the most significant advancements anywhere on the planet at any time. Remember those ceramic lamps in the west? Here is a Chinese lamp from about the same time.


There were great innovations in metallurgy in China. The Han period saw the development of steel and wrought iron by use of the finery forge and puddling process.


Drilling deep boreholes into the earth, the Chinese used not only derricks to lift brine up to the surface to be boiled into salt, but also set up bamboo-crafted pipeline systems which brought natural gas as fuel to the furnaces.


It only takes a moment’s thought about the all too clear superiority of Chinese technology to the west for so many thousands of years to ask a question that Joseph Needham asked maybe as early as the 1930s. Why, given this millennia advantage in science, did China simply stop developing somewhere about the time of the western Renaissance? What happened? This is the famous Chinese question, and one could ask it equally about the Indian and the Arab cultures. They were so far ahead when we were in the “Dark Ages,” what happened? Why did they stop? I have never heard a really satisfactory answer to this question. Is there some kind of internal clock that governs the evolution of cultures, and, if so, what time is it in the west?


Joseph Needham (1900–1995) did his work at Cambridge University and was author of a masterpiece, Science and Civilisation in China, a monumental work in 24 volumes. Doctor Needham noted that the “Han time (especially the Later Han) was one of the relatively important periods as regards the history of science in China,” and, he may well have added, the history of science for all of humanity.


Smelting techniques in the Han time were enhanced with inventions such as water wheel powered bellows. The resulting widespread distribution of iron tools facilitated the growth of agriculture.


For tilling the soil and planting straight rows of crops, the improved heavy-moldboard plow with three iron plowshares and sturdy multiple-tube iron seed drill were invented in the Han, which greatly enhanced production yields and thus sustained population growth.


The method of supplying irrigation ditches with water was improved with the invention of the mechanical chain pump powered by the rotation of a waterwheel or draft animals or human power, which could transport irrigation water up to elevated terrains.


The waterwheel was also used for operating trip hammers in pounding grain


and in rotating the metal rings of the mechanical-driven astronomical armillary sphere representing the celestial sphere around the Earth.


The Han Chinese had hemp-bound bamboo scrolls for writing, which were already better than anything we had in the west, yet by the 2nd century CE they had invented the papermaking process which created a writing medium that was both cheap and easy to produce.


Before the Han period people scratched characters on shells and bones and on bronzeware.


The material dictated the shape of the writing.


The Eastern Han court eunuch Cai Lun created a process in 105 CE where mulberry tree bark, hemp, old linens, and fish nets were boiled together to make a pulp that was pounded, stirred in water, and then dunked with a wooden sieve containing a reed mat that was shaken, dried, and bleached into sheets of paper.

868 ce earliest printed book

The world’s first printed book is the Diamond Sutra (868 CE).


The invention of the wheelbarrow in China aided in the hauling of heavy loads.


There are wheelbarrow designs in China that we still have not exploited, tools that are capable of transporting a thousand pounds of material by one person.


The junk and stern-mounted steering rudder enabled the Chinese to venture out of calmer waters of interior lakes and rivers and into the open sea.

grid map

The invention of the grid reference for maps and the relief map allowed the Chinese to better navigate their terrain. There were some Chinese maps that were only a grid and the names of places were simply placed on the grid with no background whatsoever. No color, no details, no nothing except for the grid which was enough.


Chinese medicine used new herbal remedies to cure illnesses, calisthenics for the maintenance of physical condition, and regulated diets for avoidance of disease. The first traces of therapeutic activities in China date from the Shang dynasty (14th–11th centuries BCE). Joseph Needham speculated that acupuncture might have originated in the Shang dynasty, but most historians now make a distinction between medical lancing, bloodletting, and acupuncture in the narrower sense of using metal needles to treat illnesses by stimulating specific points along circulation channels (“meridians”) in accordance with theories related to the circulation of Qi. The earliest Chinese evidence for acupuncture in this sense dates to the second or first century BCE.


It is probably worth mentioning here that our man from the Italian/Austrian Ötztal, Ötzi, had a number of tattoos that don’t seem to be decorative, but seem to coordinate with acupuncture points that the Chinese were studying. Ötzi lived 5,300 years ago near Bolzano, Italy. There is so much that we don’t know. It’s rather exciting. Did early Europeans have any notion of acupuncture? Ötzi’s “tattoos,” which were pin pricks accented by the charcoal on the bone points, seem to suggest that they did.


Authorities in the Chinese capital were warned ahead of time of the direction of sudden earthquakes with the invention of the seismograph that was tripped by a vibration-sensitive pendulum device. In 132 AD, Zhang Heng, a great scientist in the Eastern Han Dynasty, invented the seismograph – the earliest instrument in the world for forecasting and reporting the movement of an earthquake.


The instrument is decorated with tortoises, birds, dragons, toads and other animal images. If there was an earthquake, the copper ball inside the seismograph dropped out from the mouth of one dragon and fell right into the mouth of the toad below. (There are eight dragons representing eight directions.) From the falling direction of the ball, one could judge where an earthquake might be happening.


In ancient Chinese philosophy, the dragon symbolizes Yang, while the toad symbolizes Yin. Thus, it constitutes the dialectic relationship between Yin and Yang, upwards and downwards, and movement and stillness. How accurate were these instruments? Who can tell? It might be better to listen to the animals out in the yard. (The Chinese did this too.)


Han-era Chinese advances in mathematics include the discovery of square roots, cube roots, the Pythagorean theorem, Gaussian elimination, the Horner scheme, improved calculations of pi, and negative numbers. Remember that the Han era coincides rather closely with the height of Roman civilization. Can you imagine doing this kind of mathematics with Roman numerals, with no place made for the zero?


The Han-era Chinese also employed several types of bridges to cross waterways and deep gorges, such as beam bridges, arch bridges, simple suspension bridges, and pontoon bridges. Many of them are still being used.


The bureaucracy in China, which was unimaginably strong and ubiquitous, at first aided and initiated the growth of science and technology. In fact, it was often bureaucrats themselves who were inventors, or at least instigators and promoters of new technologies, but later officials actively prevented change and innovation.


The slowing down of the amazing Chinese advance of civilization happened about the same time as the protestant reformation in the west, which, in loosening the hold of the Church on scientific inquiry (as in the case of Galileo), spurred the development of technological advance and ushered in the agricultural and industrial revolutions which have lasted for three and a half centuries now (1650-2000 CE). The 21st century may see a new flowering of Chinese science. It is difficult to tell at this point whether the Chinese people are going to move from Communism to a new kind of secularism which will foster a reëxamination of ideas and values in China, or whether a totalitarian spirit aided by information technologies will stifle any new growth.


Evidently people are beginning to invent again in China in the arts and in the sciences because of new prosperity and new confidence.

Shanghai 1

China is showing that it only took a short nap and is now awakening after a brief three and a half century siesta. Her history is measured in millennia. Ours in centuries. Maybe there is no Chinese question. Maybe it has already being answered.


We’ll see you next week.



Tools: part one


To Ergaleio: sign on a shop in Athens says “The Tool” written out in Greek with tools.


Many, many hand axes have been found in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.


Such axes were made by Homo Erectus, the first tool making creature.


These people loved making handaxes. They made them for practical use, yes, but also for the sheer creative joy of it. They made hand axes that were far too large for normal use, just because they liked the form. At least that’s what it looks like from this distance. They made Acheulian hand axes in all sizes and varieties. These were the first tools that are recognizable as such.


This is a hand axe that was found near Gray’s Inn Road, London. It is 350,000 years old.


John Frere (10 August 1740 – 12 July 1807) was an English antiquary and a pioneering discoverer of paleolithic tools in association with large extinct animals such as elephants.

John Frere

He used the Gray’s Inn hand axe and one he found in Hoxne, Suffolk, to illustrate the antiquity of human culture at a time when many people thought the world was 6,000 years old. Actually, many people still do think that the world is 6,000 years old and they carry around misspelled signs to insist upon their belief.


Hand axes were made from flint or any other stone that would take a sharp edge. Flakes were hammered off using another stone, and the flakes themselves were used to make smaller tools such as scrapers and knives.


This is called flint knapping or pressure flaking and it is a technique that can make a tool of great precision and beauty.


About 25,000 years ago, people learned how to control the shape of the flake from the parent block so that long, narrow blades could be made into knives, chisels and gravers.


Maybe those two feet long Acheulian hand axes were made simply as the source for these flake blades.


Bone and antler tools were shaped by abrasion and cutting.


They could be polished with sandstone, so there is ample evidence of several step manufacture here that required planning ahead.

stone lamp

A soft stone could be hollowed out


and a lamp made using animal fat and a wick of twisted vegetable matter.


This is a wooden sickle (Thebes, 1300 BCE) with a flint blade in the shape of a cattle jawbone. Perhaps jawbones were originally used to harvest cereal crops.


The silica in the strong stems of the crop often wore down the flints, leaving behind a deposit or gloss.


A tool kit from 14,000 years ago could contain a sickle for harvesting wild wheat or barley, a cluster of flint spearheads, a flint core for making more spearheads, some smooth stones (maybe slingshots), a large stone for striking flint pieces off the flint core, a cluster of gazelle toe bones which were used to make beads. Leaves and herbs were often carried as medicine.


Remember Ötzi who was found in the ice in Italy near Bolzano?


He is a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived about 5,000 years ago. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps (hence Ötzi) near the Similaun mountain and Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. He is Europe’s oldest natural human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic Europeans. His body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.


Seventy objects found with Ötzi. They include a cape of woven grass; a bearskin cap; a goat-hide coat; leather leggings and loincloth; shoes with bearskin soles and deerskin uppers, filled with grass; an unfinished longbow, and a deerskin quiver containing 14 arrows (only two of which were finished); a backpack frame of hazel and larchwood; a copper axe with a wooden haft and leather bindings; a dagger with a flint blade and an ashwood shaft in a woven grass sheath; and some containers of sewn birchbark.


The axe’s haft is 60 centimeters (24 in) long and made from carefully worked yew with a right-angled crook at the shoulder, leading to the blade.


The 9.5 centimetres (3.7 in) long axe head (blade) is made of almost pure copper, produced by a combination of casting, cold forging, polishing, and sharpening. It was let into the forked end of the crook and fixed there using birch tar and tight leather lashing. The blade part of the head extends out of the lashing and shows clear signs of having been used to chop and cut. At the time, such an axe would have been a valuable possession, important both as a tool and as a status symbol for the bearer.

otzi knife

Ötzi’s knife measured 5.2 in in total length. The handle was made of ash, the blade was flint and the sheath of woven lime wood bast. A string was attached to the back of the knife.


Ötzi also had a tool designed for flint knapping, also called a retoucher, because one could pressure flake the knife blade or the projectile points with it, and so sharpen them.

Oetzi's pressure flaker 010

It consisted of a piece of lime tree branch, which was pointed on one side. On the pointed side a hole was drilled, into which a bone plug (stag antler) was inserted with which the knapping was done.


A quiver of arrows was also discovered alongside Ötzi. It was made of leather, and held 14 arrows made of viburnum sapwood. Two of the arrows were completed. They had flint tips, held with birch tar and bindings. The other 12 arrows were unfinished. In the quiver several pieces of antler were also discovered.

Ötzi was also carrying an unfinished yew bow. The stave was 72 inches long.


Ötzi also carried two birch bark containers possibly used to carry some other items. They were about 5.9 in to 6.0 inches in diameter and about 7.8 inches in height. They were stitched together using tree fiber. Tests have shown that one of them contained maple leaves as well as spruce needles and charcoal, probably an ember for fire making. The leaves were most likely medicinal.


He had a long belt with a pouch on the side. In the pouch he had several flakes of flint, a 2.8 in long bone awl, and a small drill. The majority of the pouch was filled with tinder fungus. Some traces of iron pyrites were also found, indicating that he was perhaps using a flint and steel method of fire lighting. We will leave Ötzi for now, but I plan to see him when I next pass through Bolzano.


This is a metate, also referred to as a “piedra de moler” (grinding stone), this tool is related in lineage to the molcajete, and was used by the Mayans and Aztecs.

comal y metate

The metate is used to grind corn and for mashing ingredients to make salsas, purees, and chocolate. La mano is the cylindrical part that you hold in your hands.


There is an idiom in Mexican Spanish, Echar comal y metatewhich literally could mean “throw the tortilla oven and the corngrinder,” but it really means what we mean when we say “chew the fat.” It means chismear which is to gossip. It would be natural to do a lot of talking while grinding and baking.


A quern is a hand-mill for grinding corn or other grains. The simplest kind consists of a large stone with a cavity in the upper surface to contain the corn which is then pounded, rather than ground, by a smaller stone.


The more usual form of quern consists of two circular flat stones, the upper one pierced in the centre, and revolving on a wooden pin inserted in the lower. A handle is attached to the outer edge and used to turn the stone while corn is dropped into the central opening.


Millstones come in pairs. The base or bedstone is stationary. Above the bedstone is the turning runner stone which actually does the grinding.


The runner stone spins above the stationary bedstone creating the “scissoring” or grinding action of the stones.


A runner stone is generally slightly concave, while the bedstone is slightly convex. This helps to channel the ground flour to the outer edges of the stones where it can be gathered up.


The runner stone is supported by a cross-shaped metal piece (rind or rynd) fixed to a “mace head” topping the main shaft or spindle leading to the driving mechanism of the mill which can be powered by wind, water, animal, man.


The Greeks invented the two main components of watermills, the waterwheel and toothed gearing, and were the first to operate undershot, overshot and breastshot waterwheel mills.



Undershot water wheel developed for watermilling since the 1st century BCE.

mill overshot


Overshot water wheel used for watermilling also since the 1st century BCE.



Breastshot water wheel used for watermilling since the 3rd century CE.



The first water-driven wheel is probably the Perachora wheel (3rd c. BCE), in Greece.


The earliest written reference is in the technical treatises Pneumatica and Parasceuastica of the Greek engineer Philo of Byzantium(ca. 280?220 BC).


Those portions of Philo of Byzantium’s mechanical treatise which describe water wheels and which have been previously regarded as later Arabic interpolations, actually date back to the Greek 3rd century BCE original.



The sakia gear is, already fully developed, for the first time attested in a 2nd century BCE Hellenistic wall painting in Ptolemaic Egypt.


People needed to clear the land for crops, so you would think that the earliest dwellings would be made of timber.

making sun baked mud bricks-rs

In Mesopotamia, however, the earliest building material was sun-dried brick bricks which before 5,000 BCE were molded by hand and looked like stones or even loaves of bread.


Brick molds were made very early.

20120215-brick making

Mud in almost liquid form was packed down into the molds which were then removed so that the new brick could sit in the hot sun to dry.


Brick molds were used at least as far back as 6,000 BCE in Anatolia (Turkey).


And now I must describe how the soil dug out to make the moat was used, and the method of building the wall. While the digging was going on, the earth that was shoveled out was formed into bricks, which were baked in kilns as soon as sufficient number were made; then using hot bitumen for mortar, the workmen began at revetting the brick each side of the moat, and then went on to erect the actual wall. In both cases they laid rush-mats between every thirty courses of bricks. – Herodotus, i. 179 (of Babylon). The method of making bricks used to take days, but thanks to companies that supply cement brick machine, what used to take days now takes just a few hours.

clay floor

The floor of the dwelling was made of a carefully laid layer of clay and it was soon discovered that clay could be hardened by firing which ushered in the age of pottery.


The earliest cooking vessels were probably made of wood or a hollowed out stone or gourds or shells.


Right up into the 19th century, native Americans like the Miwoks of the San Francisco bay area boiled water in tightly woven baskets for the processing of acorns.


The earliest pottery we know already shows advanced techniques such as the addition of sand or crushed rock to prevent shrinkage during drying and also to prevent breakage.


Potters seldom used just one clay mixture and they paid a great deal of attention, of course, to the properties of the finished product.


People had burnished the walls and floors of their brick and clay houses and they likewise burnished their pottery by rubbing it with a stone.


In the beginning, a base of the pot was molded over a shape of a hemisphere, perhaps the bottom of an old pot, and then rings of clay were added.


The first potter was the sumerian-babylonian Aruru the great, the almighty gentle mother god of the earth and birth, who created humanity from clay. She molded mankind out of clay using a god as pattern and breathed life into him with her divine exhalation. In Sumerian mythology, Aruru (also known as Ninmah, Nintu, Ninhursaga, Belet- ili or Mami) was the almighty mother goddess of the earth and birth.

She created the first man out of clay (adamah = the female soil). She confected seven mother-vessels for women and seven for men. « The shapes of humanity are formed by Aruru » as say the Assyrians.


This is the Sumer tree of life (qaballah). In Sumerian and Babylonian mythology, Adamu was the first man.



The gods tricked Adamu and his descendants out of immortality – not wanting man to be immortal like the gods – by telling him that the magic food of eternal life was poisonous to him, and as such Adamu didn’t eat it and so didn’t become immortal.


The word “ceramics” comes from the Greek keramikos (?????????), meaning “pottery”, which in turn comes from keramos (???????), meaning “potter’s clay.” This is the Ishtar gate which is made of glazed ceramics.


The Ishtar gate is now at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Ceramic potter's wheel

The potter’s wheel was probably invented in Mesopotamia by the 4th millennium BCE.


The oldest pottery vessels come from East Asia, with finds in China and Japan, then still united by a land bridge, from between 20,000 and 10,000 BCE, although the vessels were simple utilitarian objects. This pottery fragment is from a layer dating approximately 20,000 years old in the Xianrendong cave in south China’s Jiangxi province.


For thousands of years, small ceramic lamps were used to illuminate homes and temples. Hundreds of these lamps have been excavated, most of which are no more than a simple saucer-like vessel. Earlier lamps were wheel-thrown, while later lamps were formed from clay rolled into a sheet and pressed into a mold. Wicks were generally made of flax or hemp and were draped over the edge of the lamp. Olive oil was the preferred fuel, but other vegetable, nut and animal oils were also used.


Corinthian and Attic ware was superior to anything being produced in the west at this time and there are several reasons for this.


The potter’s wheel was no longer low and close to the ground. Now it was a large flywheel raised about a foot and a half and was turned by an assistant seated opposite the potter.


Once the object had been shaped and dried it was put back on the wheel, smoothed and shaved to give it a very fine surface.


The red and black were made by a sophisticated process that involved a very fine clay material and an elaborate sequence of firing.


The clay slip that was used for the black was clay, water and an alkali (probably leach from wood ash). This mixture was allowed to stand so that the crude parts sank to the bottom and only the fine particles were suspended and they were poured off and the water evaporated out. This was then used to paint on the pot or plate.


The object was then put in the kiln and fired to around 1000 degrees centigrade when the openings in the furnace were closed which blackened the entire surface of the pot.


When the kiln had cooled down to 800 degrees or so, the apertures were reopened. The areas that had been painted with the slip stayed black but the unpainted parts slowly lost the black and turned red.


This is all easy to say and very difficult to do. There was a lot of trial and error, and only in recent years have potters been able to duplicate this process.


Pottery was produced in enormous quantities in ancient Rome, mostly for utilitarian purposes. It is found all over the former Roman empire and beyond. Monte Testaccio, a huge waste mound in Rome, was made almost entirely of broken amphorae used for transporting and storing liquids and other products, mostly Spanish olive oil, which was landed nearby and used as the main fuel for lamps, as well as for use in the kitchen and washing in the baths.


The major class of fine Roman pottery is the red-gloss ware often made in Italy and Gaul and widely traded, from the 1st century BCE to the late 2nd century CE, and traditionally known as terra sigillata.


Sigilla is Latin for the little figures that are, for example, in a cameo ring. There was actually a holiday called Sigillaria where people in Rome exchanged these little figures.


Sigilla is the origin of our word “seal,” probably because of the similarity between a cameo ring and a seal ring. The word sigilla is a Latin plural, but the singular sigillum was never used.


This terra sigillata bowl was made in Valladolid, Spain.


The usual way of making relief decoration on the surface of an open terra sigillata vessel was to throw a pottery bowl whose interior profile corresponded with the desired form of the final vessel’s exterior.


The internal surface was then decorated using individual positive stamps (poinçons), usually themselves made of fired clay, or small wheels bearing repeated motifs, such as the ovolo (egg-and-tongue) design that often formed the upper border of the decoration.


Sometimes the maker used a stylus to add details and embellish the work.


When the decoration was complete in intaglio on the interior, the mould was dried and fired in the usual way, and was subsequently used for shaping bowls. As the bowl dried, it shrank sufficiently to remove it from the mould, after which the finishing processes were carried out, such as the shaping or addition of a foot-ring and the finishing of the rim.


The details varied according to the form. The completed bowl could then be slipped, dried again, and fired.


Jugs and jars, were seldom decorated in relief using moulds, though some vessels of this type were made at La Graufesenque by making the upper and lower parts of the vessel separately in moulds and joining them at the point of widest diameter.


Relief-decoration of tall vases or jars was usually achieved by using moulded appliqué motifs (sprigs) and/or barbotine decoration (slip-trailing).


The latter technique was particularly popular at the East Gaulish workshops of Rheinzabern, and was also widely used on other pottery types.


By about 5,000 BCE there were farming villages throughout the Tigris-Euphrates valley, the Levant, Anatolia, mainland Greece and on, perhaps, a few islands in the eastern Mediterranean.


A little after 5,000 BCE in this same area, there came a whole set of technological advances that were to influence the whole life of humankind. People in these early farming communities decorated the walls of their homes. They decorated their tools. They decorated themselves too. There was a sense of liveliness and even of merriment in the culture.

SS46 limonite

The search was on for colors. Yellow ochre or limonite and red ochre or hematite are ores of iron.


Ores of copper are malachite, the green mineral, and the blue mineral, azurite.


Copper occurs as a metal in ore deposits and it was easy to find the green pigment which was used as eye shadow.


Brightly colored minerals, the red and yellow ochres and the blue and green ores of copper were ground to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle and then using animal fat as a binding medium, people began to make rouge and mascara.


Perhaps the search for these colors is what first led people to find out about copper and iron about seven thousand years ago.

copper mirror

Copper was not like other “stones” that people knew. It couldn’t be chipped or flaked but it could be hammered into shape. Only a little bit of hammering, though, would make the copper brittle and it would break. It was soon found that heating the copper to where it was red hot would allow the metal to be hammered some more and then it could be heated again. This process is called annealing. Annealing is the process by which you heat steel to create different metals and can be one common process when it comes to commercial heat treating of different metals. These different metal-altering processes discovered some time ago, are still commonly used today in various industries. Stainless steal is a by-product of steal which is a great example. There are two methods to heat such a solid metal. But which is better and cost-effective? Is it tempering vs annealing? There are only two documented ways to heat such a material.


Copper the metal is rare in ore deposits and the ore deposits themselves are scarce, and could be found mainly in the mountains of eastern Turkey and Syria, in the Zagros mountains (western Iran), in Sinai, in the mountains of the Arabian desert east of the Nile and on Cyrprus whose very name means “copper.”


Copper occurs as native copper in these places and was known to some of the oldest civilizations on record. It has a history of use that is at least 10,000 years old, and estimates of its discovery place it at 9000 BCE.


A copper pendant was found in northern Iraq that dates to 8700 BC. There is evidence that gold and iron from meteors (but not from iron smelting) were the only metals used by humans before copper.


The history of copper metallurgy is thought to have followed the following sequence: 1) hammering and working of naturally occurring copper 2) annealing, 3) smelting, and 4) the lost wax method.


In southeastern Anatolia, all four of these metallurgical techniques appear more or less simultaneously at the beginning of the Neolithic c. 7500 BCE.


Agriculture was independently invented in several parts of the world (including Pakistan, China, and the Americas) and, similarly, copper smelting was invented locally also in several different places.


Smelting was probably discovered independently in China before 2800 BCE, in Central America perhaps around 600 CE, and in West Africa about the 9th or 10th century CE.


Investment casting was invented in 4500–4000 BCE in Southeast Asia. Carbon dating has established copper mining at Alderly Edge in Cheshire UK at 2280 to 1890 BC.


The Bronze Age (bronze is copper with a little bit of tin added) began in southeastern Europe around 3700–3300 BCE, in northwestern Europe about 2500 BCE.


Copper was the metal first used to make tools and weapons. (Remember Ötzi’s axe blade?) Pure copper is, however, soft and not ideally suited to the purpose. It was discovered that, by alloying copper with tin, a much more durable metal could be produced: bronze.


The Bronze Age ended with the beginning of the Iron Age, 2000–1000 BC in the Near East, 600 BC in Northern Europe. The transition between the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age was formerly termed the Chalcolithic period (copper-stone), with copper tools being used with stone tools, but the term has gradually fallen out of favor because in some parts of the world the Calcholithic and Neolithic have the same beginning and end.


Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, is of much more recent origin. It was known to the Greeks, but became a significant supplement to bronze during the Roman Empire.


Pottery and glass will last through conditions that would soon destroy leather and wood, so we know far more about glass than we do about how leather was used, for example.


Around 2,000 BCE, Egyptian faïence, the oldest glazed soapstone ornaments, was beginning to be replaced by a completely “synthetic” material, glass.


White sand was mixed with natron, a naturally occurring form of sodium carbonate, and shaped and heated so that the whole mass was fused.


Blue glaze was applied to this synthetic core. The fusion of the quartz and soda with the admixture of a little lime to make the concoction stable is pretty much how we still make glass today.


The Mesopotamian makers didn’t even know that they needed to add lime to ensure a stable glass, because the lime was already there in the other raw materials.


The synthetic (glass) core (for taking the blue glaze) could be overheated and molten and many examples have survived where the heating ceased just before the core melted and became a shapeless form.


It is probable that the discovery of glass came from seeing the faïence and core (glass) melt into a blob too many times.


A little before 2,000 BCE, true glasses appeared in Mesopotamia, but the glassmakers weren’t sure at first just what they had.


Instead of molding the new material while it was hot, they treated glass at first as if it were a precious decorative stone and mostly cut and polished it while it was cold.


There were many experiments and we soon see a small amount of lead in the glazes on the faïence.


The effect of lead in a glaze or a glass is to give it a greater clarity and brilliance. Who was the first person to add lead to glass? We don’t know, but she may have been a potter since she would have been used to adding lead to her ceramics glazes. From about 1,500 BCE on, lead is not used as a metal (which is too soft for weapons and too, er, “ugly” for jewelry) but as an ingredient in glass, pottery and even bronzes. Lead is a medium. Only now, in the first decades of the 21st century are we finally ridding ourselves of this very useful but very poisonous material.


Lead, aside from adding brilliance, materially altered the cooling behavior of the glass. Glass without lead will shrink and crack as it cools, but the addition of a large quantity of lead will significantly decrease shrinkage, allowing the maker to, say, apply a glaze to an earthenware surface.


The Mesopotamians probably became fully aware of the benefits of lead a bit before 1,000 BCE. The Gate of Ishtar has that shining, glorious beauty because the ceramic tiles were glazed with lead.


In Egypt and Mesopotamia (which, always remember, is not a culture but a geographical place of many cultures) glassmaking became increasingly sophisticated.


Small glass bottles in both areas were made by dipping a friable core of sand and some organic adhesive into a crucible of molten glass and then the friable core was broken out.


Another way to make a small bottle began with that disposable core and then bits of broken glass and finely ground glass material covered the core. The whole was then inserted into the hot oven for fusion


In both methods the core was extracted at the end of the operation leaving a hollow glass bottle.


Copper ores gave a turquoise hue to the final product, and cobalt blue (another copper ore) gave a darker shade.


Iron ores, as we have seen, provided yellows and reds, and the addition of tinstone resulted in a white, opaque glass.

egypt meso map

Threads of differently colored glass could be roped in delicate patterns on the surface of the new object and, while still hot and plastic, could be rolled gently over the flat surface, making beautiful , fluid patterns that would last forever.

Sadigh Gallery Ancient Roman Glass

The glass unguent bottle was a familiar object in the wealthier homes of Mesopotamia and Egypt.


The small bottles had other uses. In Cyprus, people have found many small glass containers shaped like the dried head of an opium poppy.


Not just any opium poppy, but one that has been slit and bears the scar where the papaverous juice has flowed out to relieve the pains of our passage through this life.


This was the aspirin bottle of that time. Opium was taken, and still is taken, to relieve hangovers, headaches, menstual cramps and a myriad of other ills.


Opium was even used to keep the baby quiet.


Many, many of these scar faced glass bottles have been found in graves to alleviate the longueurs of a passage to another world.

BBHC publicity

Talking of other worlds, I’m going to visit one now and do some playing.

Sam sailing

Bon voyage till next week.




Origin:    1895–1900;     zero + th

Zeroth can be kindergarten. It’s the 0th dimension. The ordinal number before the first.  The zeroth.

January 0th is another name for 31 December.

Clara Bellino and Charlie Watts


Being numbered zero in a series; also : Zero 1 the zeroth power of a number.

Two blondes walked into a bar and started arguing about whether an order-of-magnitude estimate is sometimes also called a zeroth order approximation, and the bartender says, “What is this, some kind of joke?”


Rearrange the letters to spell out an important part of the human body which is even more useful when erect.  PNESI  The people who answer SPINE will be familiar with the zeroth law.

The zeroth law states that if two systems are each in thermal equilibrium with a third system, they are also in thermal equilibrium with each other.


Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.


You’re supposed to respect your elders, but its getting harder and harder for me to find any now.


A and C are in equilibrium following the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics.


Irony is the opposite of wrinkly.


Zero-based numbering is numbering in which the initial element of a sequence is assigned the index 0, rather than the index 1 as is typical in everyday circumstances.


A rabbi was suddenly possessed by a wave of mystical rapture, and threw himself onto the ground before the Ark proclaiming, “Lord, I’m Nothing!”
Seeing this, the cantor felt profoundly moved by similar emotions. He too, threw himself down in front of the Ark, proclaiming, “Lord, I’m Nothing!”
Then, way in the back of the synagogue, the janitor threw himself to the ground, and he too shouted, “Lord, “I’m Nothing.”
The rabbi turns to the cantor and whispers, “Look who thinks he’s Nothing!”


In some cases, an object or value that does not (originally) belong to a given sequence, but which could be naturally placed before its initial element, may be termed the zeroth element.


There is a remote tribe that worships the number zero.   Is nothing sacred?


What do you get when you cross a pigeon and a zero?  A flying none.


In some mathematical contexts, zero-based numbering can be used without confusion, when ordinal forms have well established meaning with an obvious candidate to come before “first”; for instance a “zeroth derivative” of a function is the function itself, obtained by differentiating zero times.


Nothing is better than this.

Zeroth:   The impression that you get from someone before you actually meet them, including impressions made by clothes, style, and rumors.

From what she was wearing and what I heard about her, the zeroth impression I got was that she was a hard case, but when I met her she was intelligent, decent and kind.


Reince Priebus dismissed any controversy over Mitt Romney’s crack about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate as “nothing” and called on the political class to learn to take a joke.


A zeroth law is usually so important that the other laws cannot function without it, yet so obvious that nobody thought it needed stating.


Isaac Asimov’s Zeroth Law of Robotics: A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm.


Good luck on that one. That’s a dream, and, I hope, a reality.  It’s only a matter of time before computers surpass us in intelligence and ability. We can only hope that they develop an equal abitlity in ethics and morality, although if they are copying our ethics and morality, we should shudder.


Let us hope that the machines are kinder to us than we have been to each other, although, why should we deserve such treament?

Anyone who has read the slightest amount of our history knows that we have no basis for begging for mercy from a stronger power as computers will be, and sooner than we think.


What may we offer up to the sweet goddess of the universe that she should assure us of any kind treatment whatsoever?  Can you think of anything?


What did 0 say to 8 ?        Nice belt!


How do you insult a mathematician?   You say: “Your brain is smaller than any ε > 0″


Life is complex: it has both real and imaginary components.


Why must President Obama prove who he is and where he was born?   Be honest and give your answer.


If it’s zero degrees outside today and it’s supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold is it going to be?

There are 10 kinds of mathematicians in the world.  Those who understand binary and those who don’t.


Angles:   I’m not trying to be obtuse, but you’re acute.


I am equivalent to the Empty Set when you aren’t with me.


What is the shortest mathematicians joke?  Let epsilon be smaller than zero.

What caused the Big Bang?  God divided by zero.


A mathematician is a blind person in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.


A mathematician, a physicist and an engineer were traveling through Scotland on a train when they saw a black sheep. “Aha,” says the engineer, “I see that Scottish sheep are black.”  ”Hmm,” says the physicist, “you mean that some Scottish sheep are black.”  ”No,” says the mathematician, “all we know is that there is at least one sheep in Scotland, and that at least one side of that one sheep is black.”


How are dogs and marine biologists alike?   Dog wag their tails and biologists tag their whales.

Why can’t a gorilla play a guitar?  She’s too sensitive.


She looked at the score and it said “tacet,” so she took it.


How do guitar players generally greet each other?    Hi, I’m better than you.   (That’s supposed to be a joke.)


What happened to the elephant who ran away with the circus?   The police made her bring it back.


A museum visitor was admiring a tyrannosaurus fossil, and asked a nearby museum employee how old it was. “That skeleton is sixty-five million and three years, two months and eighteen days old,” the employee replied. “How can you know that so specifically?” she asked. “Well, when I started working here, I asked a scientist the exact same question, and he said it was sixty-five million years old—and that was three years, two months and eighteen days ago.”

A solar panel and a windmill walked into a bar full of oil men, and were never seen again.

sepia toned windmill

How do you feel about windmills?     Big fan.


What’s worse than raining cats and dogs?   Hailing taxis.


Why did the philharmonic disband?  Too much sax and violins.

Hey, this is in Seine!


Fowl play:     How do you identify a bald eagle?   He has a comb over.



What happened to the lab tech when she fell into the lens grinder?  She made a spectacle of herself.


He stopped her because she was going too slow. “But, officer, the sign said 21.”  ”That’s the highway number, ma’am.”  ”Oh, I’m glad you didn’t see me five minutes ago. I was on 205.”


Nobody is perfect until you fall in love with her.

Who was that piccolo I saw you with last night?   That was no piccolo, that was my fife.


What’s the difference between an electric guitar and a chain saw?   Chainsaws sound better in small ensembles.


These pots were smoked on the kiln floor.


Hey, is that my cheese?   That’s nacho cheese!


She worked hard all of her life to be known, and now she wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.

For every truth there is an ear somewhere to receive it.  For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it. For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it.


Our Lord was a shoving leopard, I mean, a loving shepherd.


Then there was Pam, too smart to be a ham, too beautiful for Sam, could have kissed her, but I missed her, damn!


Ham and Eggs: A day’s work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.


English muffins aren’t English, French fries aren’t French. Sweetmeats are sweet, Sweetbreads are meat.

A vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?


String quartet: a good violinist, a bad violinist, an ex-violinist, and someone who hates violinists, all getting together to complain about composers.

Guy can’t find the necktie he needs to get into the club. In desperation he throws a set of jumper cables around his neck.  Bouncer says, “Well, you can come in but don’t start anything.”


You know you’re a roller coaster enthusiast when some guy screams “You S.O.B!” and You instantly think “huh, Son of Beast, where?

Much unnecessary labor is involved in the number of demisemiquavers.  We suggest that many of these could be rounded up to the nearest semiquaver thus saving practice time for the individual player and rehearsal time for the entire ensemble.


Two things necessary to keep a redhead happy.  One is to let her think she is having her own way, and the other is to let her have it.


I hate those little Russian dolls.  They’re so full of themselves.


A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history – with the possible exception of handguns and tequila.

“Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.”    – A film company’s verdict on Fred Astaire’s 1928 screen test.


“Brain work will cause women to go bald.”      Berlin professor   1914


I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go read a book


If god had intended us to drink champagne, she would have given us stomachs.


A kiss is persecution for the child, ecstasy for the youth and an homage for the old.

Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in vodka.


I always forget faces, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.


A kiss is the contraction of mouth due to the expansion of the heart.

Harvard Business School announced that, in recognition of his massive tax cuts coupled with rising costs of war, they were awarding President Bush an Honorary Doctorate in Deep Doo-Doo Economics.

A kiss is a process which builds a solid bond between two dynamic objects.


What do you call bears with no ears?   B.


A Chinese man walks into a shop with a parrot on his shoulder, and the shopkeeper says, “Hey, where’d you get that?” and the parrot says, “In China. They must have a billion of them there.”


Dick Cheney was riding on a camel and he stopped at a small oasis.  He got off the camel, lifted its tail and looked at the camel’s butt.  A guy comes over and says, “What are you doing?” Cheney replies, “About two miles back I heard someone say, ‘Look at the two assholes on that camel.’”


Elephant to naked man:  How can you pick up peanuts with that thing?


Two goats out behind a movie studio eating old movie film:   “Pretty good, huh?” says one to the other.  ”Yeah, but I prefer the book.”


A thief held up a man at gunpoint:  Give me your money.   You cannot do this. I am a congressman.    Thief says:  In that case, give me my money.


Give a man a fish and he will eat for a while.   Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.


I love you once, I love you twice, I love you more than beans and rice.

A kiss is the juxtaposition of two orbicularisoris muscles in the state of contraction.


My husband and I married for better or worse.  He couldn’t do better and I couldn’t do worse.


How do you make a hot dog stand?   Steal her chair.


She walked up to the bartender and asked for a double entendre, so he gave her one.


So, why was Wolgang Amadeus Mozart a little scratchy about his chickens?  They kept saying “Bach, bach, bach, bach, BACH!”


The Pennsylvania Game Commission has charged a man with going deer hunting with a handgun in a Wal-Mart parking lot. He is being charged with reckless endangerment, but may plead guilty to the lesser charge of being a redneck.


How many books have you read in your life?   How should I know?  I’m not dead yet.


“The Beatles? They’re on the wane.”         The Duke of Edinburgh in Canada, 1965.       (His Grace was perhaps a few crumbs short of a crouton.)


Ashley Judd announced she will not be running for Senate in Kentucky against Mitch McConnell. And Mitch McConnell announced he will not be co-starring in any romantic comedies.


Remember George Bush’s plan to put a man on Mars?   Why not?  It’s not like we had an enormous debt or failing economy or anything like that.


Collect stacks of paint brochures and hand them out as religious tracts.


A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory.


The gene pool could use a little chlorine.


VODKA :   It’s not just for breakfast anymore.


Smile. It’s the second best thing you can do with your lips.


I got this ukulele for my husband.      Good trade!


A kiss is the shortest distance between two lips.


Why do elephants drink so much?     To try to forget.


North Korea is now threatening the United States with all-out war. What did Dennis Rodman say to these people? What did he do?


Who wrote Huckleberry Locomotive?   ChooChoo Twain.


They who drink beer will think beer.


Cop:  How high are you?   No, no, officer, it’s Hi! How are you?


What happened when the bomb detecting dog wrote her autobiography?  It shot to the top of the best smeller list.


What’s harder to catch the faster you run?      Your breath.


Come on, feet, start walking.


Why is an elephant big, gray and wrinkly?  Because, if she were small, triangular and plastic she would be a guitar pick.

Melissa Etheridge

I have actually sung onstage with this estimable person.  She’s the one who should have played Janis Joplin in the film, but, alas and alack, it didn’t happen.


Convincing my dog that I really threw the ball is the closest I will get to being a real magician.


A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.


People smile in the same language.


A kiss is the reaction of the interaction between two hearts.


How can you tell the difference between an elephant and a grape?   The grape is purple.

Sam le Gueeque

We’ll see you next week.


How Latin Became French


The Romans left their language behind everywhere they went.  They didn’t force anyone to learn it. Everyone wanted to speak Latin, the language of opportunity and success.


In time, Latin, became Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Romanian.


And also Catalan, Occitan, Provençal, Languedocien, Romanche, Corsican, Wallon, Venetian and Sicilian.


Rome began as a muddy, swampy village surrounded by the brilliant Etruscan civilization on one side and the no less prestigious Greek colonies on the other.


The history of Rome begins like a fairy tale with a prince and a goddess and continues with legendary stories and historical realities.


Aeneas ( Αἰνείας, Aineías, derived from Greek Αἰνή meaning “to praise”), the son of the prince Anchises, and Venus Aphrodite, brings his colony from Troy to Italy, as Virgil tells us in Book One of the Aeneid.


Two newborns, Romulus and Remus, are abandoned along the Tiber and suckled by a she wolf. Romulus kills Remus and becomes the first king of Rome.

The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Giambologna

There is a rape of young women from the nearby Sabine people. The women are kidnapped to populate Rome.


A great sewer (the Cloaca Maxima) is built to drain the marshes and the Forum is created, which becomes the center of Roman life.


There is a revolution (509 BCE) and the monarchy is abolished to make way for the Republic.  The government is headed by two consuls elected by the citizenry and advised by a senate. A constitution based on the separation of powers and checks and balances is developed. Public offices are held for one year, and dates in Roman history are often stated to be when so and so was consul.


The Republic will last for five centuries (from the 6th to the first century BCE) to be succeeded by the Empire which will also last for five centuries until the fall of the Western Empire in 476 CE. The Empire’s beginning is usually dated from the declaration of Julius Caesar as permanent dictator in 44 BCE.


Rome conquered Transalpine Gaul (Provincia Narbonensis now called Provence) in 120 BCE and northern Gaul in 58 – 50 BCE, so the Romans were in Gaul longer than they were anywhere else.


Romans were farmers in the beginning and their language was based in the soil. The verb CERNERE (to see, to discern), for example, originally meant “sift.”


COLERE or INCOLERE which is found in the word “agricola,” farmer, originally meant cultivate, but Caesar uses it in the opening sentence of his book to mean “live” or “inhabit.”

De bello Gallico

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres: unam quarum Belgae incolunt.  All Gaul is divided into three parts: one of which the Belgians inhabit.


The verb PUTARE originally meant prune or trim. Look where it is now: compute, dispute, repute, deputy, putative.


DELIRARE originally meant to leave the LIRA, the furrow.  The word became delirium, delirious, délirer. That’s leaving the furrow with a vengeance.


RIVALIS was an adjective for RIVUS, the bank of a river ( rive gauche).  Two people who shared the water in that river were rivals.


A PAGINA was a grape arbor, a group of vines arranged in a rectangle. Then it became a page of papyrus, a page containing one column of writing.


LIBER (book) originally was the tissue between the bark and the tree. The first books in Europe were written on “beechen” tablets. (Buch in German originally meant the beech tree as does our “book.”)

olive pluck

LEGERE   Cueillir  To pick, pluck, gather, harvest.  This word LEGERE later took on the meaning of levy, draft, and a LEGIO (legion) is called that because the soldiers were levied upon the general population.


The past participle of LEGERE is LECTUS, so all of the elect, lecture, dialect,  select, lectern, collect meanings come from LEGERE also.


LEGERE became the word for “read.” Lire, leer, leggere (Italian).  When you read, you are harvesting words and meanings.


The people in France (Gallia, Gaul) finally spoke Latin, of course, but before they did they loaned some of their words to the Romans. CARRUS (a chariot with four wheels) was Gallic, as was BENNA, a kind of wagon with four wheels, which became benne the word in French for “bucket” or “scoop.”


Other Gallic words brought into Latin were ALAUDA, lark, alouette; BECCUS, beak; CAMBIARE, exchange, barter (which became “buy” in Italian and Spanish).


BRACAE, breeches, britches, pants. The Romans didn’t wear them, but the Celts did. They lived in a colder climate. The word became brache in Italian and bragas in Spanish. In modern French it’s braies.


There were two Latins, the Latin of the intellectuals URBANITAS and the Latin of the streets and fields RUSTICITAS.


The Latin of Cicero (3 January 106 BCE – 7 December 43 BCE) was a dead language even when it was alive. There was an agreement not to change it, and, remarkably, no one changed it for centuries. I can read Latin from the time of Cicero, but can only read my own language, English, in Beowulf , written almost a thousand years later, with great difficulty when I can read it at all.


RUSTICITAS, the Latin language of the people, changed constantly all through Roman history.


The extensive use of elements from vernacular speech by the earliest authors (Plautus, for example) and inscriptions of the Roman Republic make it clear that the original, unwritten language of the Roman monarchy was an only partially deducible predecessor to vulgar Latin.  Very early on, this sermo rusticus (also known as sermo plebeius, sermo vulgaris, sermo cotidianus or just sermo usualis) already had many of the features of French, Spanish, Italian and the rest.


Here are some pairs of words that have the same meaning from upper and lower Latin. Guess which ones came down into French:  AEQUOR and MARE (sea); AGER and CAMPUS (field); CRUOR and SANGUIS (blood); EQUUS and CABALLUS (horse); LETUM and MORS (death); SIDUS and STELLA (star); TELLUS and TERRA (terrain, earth, soil); MAGNUS and GRANDIS (big); FERRE and PORTARE (to carry, to transport).  This would be easier to tell with Spanish or Italian. With French this is a little harder to see because French has changed more than any other Romance language.  In fact, French is the most Germanic of the Romance languages. The very word “France” comes from the Franks, a Germanic tribe.


For the word “house,” the Romans had at least four terms:  DOMUS (domicile) was the house and everything in it.  AEDES (edifice) just meant the building itself.  VILLA denoted a farm or agricultural property, and CASA was a cabin or a (thatched) cottage.  Which term came down into the Romance languages?  The humblest, of course. CASA is exactly the same in Portuguese, Italian and Spanish and in French when you say “chez nous,” you are using the Gallic form of CASA.


When I lived in New York, there was a restaurant around the corner from me called La Chaumière, which is the exact French translation of the Latin CASA.


There are books, or tablets, really, from Roman times where people are taught what and what not to say.


One of the most well known is the Appendix Probi, which reads like a schoolmaster’s spelling correction book. It would be as if today a teacher published a manual with some of the following strictures:  say is not, don’t say ain’t; say You gave it to whom, don’t say You gave it to who; say Where is that? don’t say Where is that at? ; say He and I did it, don’t say Him and me did it; say between her and me, don’t say between her and I.  (I hate to write these and I can feel the pain of the person who wrote the Appendix Probi. It’s a losing battle, and it always was.)


These correction books are a vivid snapshot of a language in evolution.  Say VIR (man) not VYR. Say SPECULUM (mirror) not SPECLUM. Say VINEA (vine) don’t say VINIA.


Say COLUMNA (column) not COLOMNA.  Say NUNQUAM (never) don’t say NUNQUA.  Say HOSTIAE don’t say OSTIAE (proof that the H was already beginning to disappear.)


Città della Pieve         City of the People

Città della pieve

Say RIVUS (bank of a river) not RIUS (“river” in Spanish is “rio.”); Say PLEBES not PLEVIS (b and v were already beginning to be confused. Big Brother played in an Umbrian town called Città della Pieve. Pieve is what PLEBES, people, had become by the time we got there. (The LATIN L became I in Italian. Clara = Chiara.)

ile de la cite

Say CIVITAS (city) not CIVITÀT (ciudad is Spanish for city) and certainly not CITTÀ.  Say AQUA not ACQUA. Say PAUPER MULIER (poor woman, pauvre femme) not PAUPERA MULIER (changing third declension adjectives and pronouns to the first and second declensions).


Île de la Cité WAS Paris for a very long time.  Nôtre Dame was begun in 1163.  In 1963, I stood in a large group of people right about here and we heard and saw a son et lumière presentation of the catheral’s 800 year old history.  In Latin her name would be Nostra Domina.


The accent circonflexe in French very often tells you that an s was there originally: île, hôte, août, hâte, arrêt, bête, fête,  forêt.  Put an s into each of these words and you will see very quickly what they mean.


For a linguist these prescriptive “corrections” are a delight, because in almost every case, what the people are taught NOT to say is what they are actually saying (otherwise why bother to correct them?) and these “mistakes” will be passed down into French and the other daughters of Latin.


Some rules from these early prescriptive wordbooks:  Say AURIS, don’t say ORICLA.  Say FRIGIDA, don’t say FRICDA.  Say CALIDA, don’t say CALDA.  Say MENSA, don’t say MESA. These rules show you what people were saying (and spelling) then.

appendix probi

Guess which forms came down into the Romance Languages?  MESA, you know, if you live in the Southwest of the United States.  ORICLA became oreille, oreja.  FRICDA became froid.  CALDA became chaud.


A thoughtful person might be encouraged here to think of terms and forms that are forbidden in English today, and to consider how our own language is evolving.


Comparatives in Latin:  DOCTUS is wise, knowing, learned.  DOCTIOR is more wise, more knowing, more learned.  DOCTISSIMUS is the most learned.


In French, however, these comparatives were made by using Latin MAGIS (more) and PLUS (plus). More than my own life.  Docte. Plus docte. Le plus docte.


Je n’en ai plus.   I just don’t have any more.  That’s it, I just can’t do any more.


Adverbs:   IN SIMUL ensemble, AB ANTE avant, DE EX dès


When my wife Elise is in Germany, she can be heard to say, “Den Schlüssel der Toilette, bitte?” and the person at the gas station will say, “Der Schlüssel ist hier.”  When Elise asks for the key to the bathroom, she uses the accusative case, because implied in her request is Ich will (I want the key to the bathroom), because “key” is the object of the sentence. The woman answers, “The key is here (der Schlüssel) which is the nominative case because “key” is the subject of the sentence.


German is an inflected language. The words can change form according to what function they perform. It’s the key to another world.


In English we have cases too, although we don’t call them that, and they are mostly seen in pronouns. He goes to the store. “He” is in the nominative case. He took his book. “His” is in the genitive case.  I saw him. “Him” is in the accusative case. He, his, him are all referring to the same person, but the words change according to their function.


So, English is an inflected language too, but not as inflected as German, and neither of them is as inflected as Latin.  You have probably noticed that “whom” is disappearing, so that dative/accusative case will be gone forever when the last person says it.


In Latin, for “Flavia picks a rose,” you can say Rosam Flavia leget. Or you can say Flavia rosam leget. Or you can say Leget Flavia rosam, or even Leget rosam Flavia, or Flavia leget rosam. They all mean Flavia picks a rose and the word order is not important because Flavia is in the nominative case and she is the subject of the sentence. Rosam is in the accusative case, and, wherever rosam is in the sentence, it will always be rose as the object of the sentence.


Similarly, to say “Flavia loves the color of the rose,” you can say Flavia colorem rosae amat, or Rosae colorem Flavia amat, or Colorem rosae Flavia amat or Amat Flavia rosae colorem. They all mean Flavia loves the color of the rose.  This is Classical Latin, the language of Cicero and Caesar.  The word order (syntax) is unimportant because each word has an ending that tells its function. Flavia is the subject of the sentence. Amat is the verb. Colorem is the object. And rosae is the genitive. It means “of the rose” no matter where it is in the sentence.


In the Latin of the street (RUSTICITAS), however, the endings of words, because they were almost always unaccented, began to be lost with people speaking quickly, mumbling, being drunk, being excited, being lazy… the endings dropped away early. So now what happens to the syntax? The order of the words in the sentence becomes more than important; it becomes absolutely necessary to the meaning of the phrase.

pedro y pablo hoy

Paulus Petrum verberat means Paul hits Peter. It’s the same if you say Petrum Paulus verberat, but not if the endings in Paulus and Petrum both become -u as they did early on in street Latin. If Paulus and Petrum become Paulu and Petru, then Paulu has to go first and Petru has to follow the verb for the sentence to be most clear. Paulu verberat Petru. And the -t in verberat was lost early too, so the sentence looks like Paulu verbera Petru.  This is beginning to look a lot like Spanish, French or Italian, isn’t it?


Flavia rosam amat (Flavia loves the rose) now begins to be said Flavia ama rosa, and if you say Flavia loves that rose, the sentence, even in Roman times, can be said Flavia ama(t) (il)la(m) rosa(m). Flavia ama la rosa. Then the sentence looks very much as it would in Spanish or Italian.  Flavia aime la rose, as the people in Gallia would say.


In Classical Latin, murus (wall) is the subject of the sentence (nominative). Muri means “of the wall” or wall’s (genitive). Murum is the wall as the object of the sentence (accusative) and muro means “to the wall” (dative). So, there are four cases, murus, muri, murum, muro.


By the third century BCE, people in the street were saying muro(s), muri, muro, muro, and they weren’t pronouncing the s in the first case, so the word sounded the same in all the cases. We know this because of writing on tombstones, graffiti, and other places where uneducated people would write. And now to emphasize the words they would say THAT wall, rather than just wall. That = ille in Latin, and so they said (Il)le mur. Le mur is the wall in French.


Here is a message on a tombstone, date unknown:  Hic quescunt duas matres, duas filias  numero tres facunt et advenas II parvolas qui suscitabit cuius condicio est. Jul. Herculanus. There is a joke here, “two mothers, two daughters make the number three.”  OK, it’s not a big joke, but it’s on a tombstone, where jokes are in short supply. Let’s be grateful.


There is a later inscription on a tomb in Gallia:  Hic requiiscunt men  bra ad duas frates  Gallo et Fidencio qui fo  erunt fili Magno…  Both of these inscriptions show that the old declension (case) system was disappearing and would soon disappear altogether.


So, now, articles became necessary. In late Latin the definite article (the) was taken from the word for “that” ille, illa. For the indefinite article (a) the word for “one” was used. Unus, una. “The widow” is la vidua and “a widow” is una vidua.    La veuve, une veuve.

mundo en café

Now prepositions become important. They are needed to show the relationships of the words to each other. The dative case is gone, so you have to say “to the wall,” as you do in English. Or “on the table,” or “with the drink.”  The world had changed.  (That’s the world… in the bubbles.)


Frederick the Great of Prussia and Voltaire made a bet who could write the shortest sentence in Latin.  Frederick wrote Eo rus. (I’m going to the country.) Voltaire replied I (Go).


The French philosopher Jacques Derrida received a doctorate honoris causa from Oxford University and he wrote his discours de réception in Latin.


There were several words for “blonde” or “white” in Latin. Our friend Flavia above was so named because she was blonde (FLAVUS yellow). Also ALBUS meant white as did CANDIDUS but the French took their word BLANC from the Germanic languages.  The Romans, too, borrowed “blond” from the Germans very early and Roman women bought great quantities of blonde hair from the north.


There were four or five ways to say “blue” in the mother language:  CAERULEUS denoted the color of a cloudless sky.  CYANEUS was a darker blue. CAESIUS, a gray-blue, a greenish blue, especially used for the color of eyes, and then there was GLAUCUS “between green and pale blue,” and VIOLACEUS, blue tending to violet, but in about the seventh century CE, the French borrowed *blao from the Germanic language.


So, when did French become truly French and not a mélange of Latin and Gallic? One boundary date might be the Oaths of Strasbourg (842 CE) taken by two grandsons of Charlemagne, Louis le Germanique and Charles le Chauve to swear assistance and fealty to each other against their brother Lothaire.


These Oaths were written in the langue romane and the langue germanique. The only copy we have is from a century later, but the document is invaluable for linguists.


Pro deo amur et pro christian poblo et nostro commun saluament d’ist di en auant, in quant Deus sauir et podir me dunat, si saluarai eo cist meon fradre Karlo, et in aiudha et in cadhuna cosa, si cum om per dreit son fradra saluar dift, in o quid il mi altresi fazet, et ab Ludher nul plaid nunquam prindrai qui meon uol cist meon fradre Karle in damno sit.


In today’s French this would be:  Pour l’amour de Dieu et pour le salut commun du peuple chrétien et le nôtre, à partir de ce jour, autant que Dieu m’en donne le savoir et le pouvoir, je soutiendrrai mon frère Charles de mon aide et en toute chose, comme on doit justement soutenir son frère, à condition qu’il m’en fasse autant, et je ne prendrai jamais aucun arrangement avec Lothaire, qui, à ma volonté, soit au détriment de mon frère Charles.


This is the way the Oath reads in la langue germanique:  in godes minna ind in thes christânes folches ind unsêr bêdhero gehaltnissî fon thesemo dage frammordes sô fram sô mir got geuuizci indi mahd furgibit sô haldih thesan mînan bruodher sôso man mit rehtu sînan bruodher scal in thiu thaz er mig sô sama duo indi mit ludheren in nohheiniu thing ne gegango the mînan uillon imo ce scadhen uuerdhên


oba karl then eid then er sînemo bruodher ludhuuuîge gesuor geleistit indi ludhuuuîg mîn hêrro then er imo gesuor forbrihchit ob ih inan es iruuenden ne mag noh ih noh thero nohhein then ih es iruuenden mag uuidhar karle imo ce follusti ne uuirdhit.


In la langue romane, notice that the original is much more concise than the modern French.  This is because of the survival of some cases and other similarities to Latin.

yes languages

The copyist seems to have hesitated over the written form of final unaccented vowels. For aiudha (help) and cadhuna (each), he writes a.


Sometimes a, sometimes e:  fradra, fradre (brother).


Sometimes e. sometimesd o: Karle, Karlo (Charles).


In Latin, the future of LAVARE was lavabo, lavabis. In French (and similarly in the other daughters of Latin) the verb “to have” (avoir) was used to make the future: laver + ai = I will wash; laver + as = you will wash; laver + a = she, he, it will wash; laver + (av)ons = we will wash; laver + (av)ez = you will wash; laver + ont = they will wash.


Sometimes a Latin word would come into French twice, once very early and then another time very late. The same thing happened with English and, in fact, some of the pairs are the same, such as frail and fragile (frêle et fragile)  from FRAGILEM.


SECURITATEM sûreté et sécurité.  FABRICAM came into French early as forge and then later as fabrique. FRIGIDUM froid et frigide. GRACILIS grêle et gracile (slender, slim).  CADENTIAM chance et cadence. POTIONEM poison et potion. MUSCULUM moule (mussel) et muscle. MONASTERIUM moutier (obsolete) et monastère. MINISTERIUM métier et ministère. TABULAM tôle (sheet metal) et table. CLAVICULAM cheville (ankle) et clavicule. AUGUSTUM août et auguste.


Sometime early in the fifth century CE, Egeria, a Spanish nun, set out to visit as many as possible of the places mentioned in the Bible. This was in effect the first of many, many Christian pilgrimages and she decided to write about what she had seen.

4x5 original

The manuscript was discovered at Arezzo in 1887 by Italian scholar Gamurrini. Egeria’s descriptions of the way she was received by local dignitaries in her travels suggest that her standing in the Church was high.


No other author of her time or for long after wrote in such a lively and conversational style. It is like hearing her talk.`She writes in Latin, but it is a Latin far removed from the villas of Cicero and Caesar. Her language, the syntax, the simplicity, the excessive use of definite and indefinite articles, is well on its way to becoming French, Italian, Spanish. She’s chatty.


Cum ergo descendissimus, ut superius dixi, de ecclesia deorsum, ait nobis ipse sanctus presbyter: ecce ista fundamenta in giro colliculo isto, quae videtis, hae sunt de palatio regis Melchisedech…. Nam ecce ista via, quam videtis transire inter fluvium Iordanem et vicum istum, haec est qua via regressus est sanctus Abraam de caede Codollagomor regis gentium revertens in Sodomis, qua ei occurrit sanctus Melchisedech rex Salem.


When we had gone down from the church, as I said above, the holy priest spoke to us: You see those ruins in the fold of that hill, they are of the palace of king Mechisedech…. That path which you see passing between the river Jordan and the village, that is the way by which holy Abraham came back from the slaughter of Codollogomor, king of the peoples returning to Sodom, where holy Melchisedech king of Salem met him.


She continues:   Tunc ego quia retinebam scriptum esse baptizasse sanctum Iohannem in Enon iuxta Salim, requisivi de eo, quam longe esset ipse locus. Tunc ait ille sanctus presbyter: ecce hic est in ducentibus passibus; nam si vis, ecce modo pedibus duco vos ibi. Nam haec aqua tam grandis et tam pura, quam videtis in isto vico, de ipso fonte venit. Tunc ergo gratias ei agere coepi et rogare, ut duceret nos ad locum.


Then because I remembered that it is written that Saint John had been baptizing in Enon near Salem, I asked of him how far away the place was. Then the holy priest said: It is two hundred yards away; if you wish, I will lead you there on foot. The stream which you see in the village, so large and clear, comes from that source. Then I began to thank him and ask that he should take us to the place.


This was a woman who loved to travel and who loved people. Her use of words such as HIC, IPSE, ISTE and ILLE and priest’s use of ECCE are pointing forward to la langue romane.  They are attention getting and attention directing devices that are always a feature of ordinary life. Professors and academics are used to being the center of attention, and listened to, but everyday people have to build a few HEY! moments into their speech even to hope to be heard. HIC, IPSE, ISTE, ILLE, ECCE are all look at me words that call for attention.


Egeria would not have been out of place in Chaucer’s collection of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury a thousand years later.


The Gallia of the Romans began to form her own language(s). The names for them were each based on the word “yes.”  The languages of the former Gallia Narbonensis (Provence) had a word for “yes” that was originally HOC, “this.”  If someone said, “Did you go to the market today,” and you wanted to affirm this, you simply said HOC, this.


In Latin there was no word for “yes.” People simply said “thus,” which was SIC and this evolved into “si.


In the French of today there is this “si,” but it is only used to contradict a negative statement. If she says, “You weren’t at Monterey, were you?”  I can answer, “Si, j’y suis êté.” (Yes, I was there.)


Of course, the Latin SIC (thus) came down into all of the other Romance Languages as the word for “yes.” In Portuguese:   Sim.  Eu gosto muito.  (Yes, I like it a lot.)  Spanish:  Si, señor. Italian: Ma, si, lo sai che sei più bella della Avril Lavigne, davvero eh!  (But, yes, you know it, that you are more beautiful than Avril Lavigne, really, eh?)

Lindsay Duncan plays Servilia of the Junii

In the north of Gallia, which we can almost call France now, the phrase for “yes” was HOC ILLUD, which is something like “this that,” but it meant “yes,” and the language of Gallia Septentrionale, northern France, became known as la langue d’oïl, the language of oui. The language of HOC ILLUD.


In the 9th century romana lingua (the term used in the Oaths of Strasbourg of 842) was the first of the Romance languages to be recognized by its speakers as a distinct language, probably because it was the most different from Latin compared with the other Romance languages.


A good number of the developments that we now consider typical of Walloon, the language spoken in the environs of Belgium, appeared between the 8th and 12th centuries. Walloon “had a clearly defined identity from the beginning of the thirteenth century”. In any case, linguistic texts from the time do not mention the language, even though they mention others in the Oïl family, such as Picard and Lorrain. During the 15th century, scribes in the region called the language “Roman” when they needed to distinguish it. It is not until the beginning of the 16th century that we find the first occurrence of the word “Walloon” in the same linguistic sense that we use it today.


In the south of Gallia, the language was called langue d’oc, the language of HOC, which was how they said “yes” in the South. This speech became known as OCCITAN.


Oc was and still is the southern word for yes, hence the langues d’oc or Occitan languages. The most widely spoken modern Oïl language is French (oïl was pronounced [o.il] or [o.i], which has become [wi], in modern French oui).


Very early on, differences between the languages of the south and north became marked.


These differences still exist today and there have been many movements to make southern dialects (Provençal, languedocien, occitan) into languages in their own right, especially in the 19th century and especially by the writer Frédéric Mistral.


In the South, they said:   cantat   aqua  pratu(m)          In the North, it was  chante  eau  près.


By late- or post-Roman times Vulgar Latin had developed two distinctive terms for signifying assent (yes): hoc ille (“this (is) it”) and hoc (“this”), which became oïl and oc, respectively. Subsequent development changed “oïl” into “oui”, as in modern French. The term langue d’oïl itself was first used in the 12th century, referring to the Old French linguistic grouping noted above.


In the 14th century, the Italian poet Dante mentioned the yes distinctions in his De vulgari eloquentia. He wrote in Medieval Latin: “nam alii oc, alii si, alii vero dicunt oil” (“some say ‘oc’, others say ‘si’, others say ‘oïl’”)—thereby distinguishing at least three classes of Romance languages: oc languages. oui languages and si languages.


This is part of the story of the Prodigal Son in various dialects. Modern French:  Son fils lui dit alors: Mon père, j’ai péché contre le ciel et contre vous; je ne mérite plus d’être appelé votre fils. Mais le père dit aux serviteurs: Allez vite chercher la plus belle robe et l’en revêtez, mettez-lui au doigt un anneau, des souliers aux pieds. Amenez le veau gras et tuez-le, mangeons et faisons liesse.


And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.


And now in Picard, one of the langues d’oïl:  Sin fieu ly dit: Min pere, j’ai grament péché conte I’ciel et conte vous; et jenne su pu dinne d’éte apelai vous fieu. Alor I’pére dit à ses gins: Allez vite qére s’première robe et fourez ly su sin dos; mettez ly un aniau au douet et dés solés à ses pieds. Amenés aveucque I’viau cras et tuélle, mingeons et faigeons bonne torche.


Walloon:   Et I’fils li diha: Pere, j’a pegchi conte lu ci et conte vos: ju n’so nin digne d’ess loumé vos fils. Mais l’pere diha atou ses siervans: appoirto bin vite su pu belle robe et tapo li so l’coir et metto li onne bague et des solés èze pis. Et allézo prinde lu cras vai et sul touo et s’magnans et s’fusans gasse.


Morvandiau (Nièvre):   Et son fiot ly dié: Men père, y ait pécé conte le ciel et conte vous aitout, y n’ mairite pu d’eitre aipelé voute fiot. Anchitot, le père dié ai sas valots; aiportez vias sai premère robbe et vitez ly, boutez ly enne baigue au det et das soulés dans sas piés. Aimouniez aitout le viau gras et l’tuez: mezons et fions fricot.


And now we go to the langues d’oc. Here is the tale in the dialect of Auvergne:   Et son fiot ly dié: Men père, y ait pécé conte le ciel et conte vous aitout, y n’ mairite pu d’eitre aipelé voute fiot. Anchitot, le père dié ai sas valots; aiportez vias sai premère robbe et vitez ly, boutez ly enne baigue au det et das soulés dans sas piés. Aimouniez aitout le viau gras et l’tuez: mezons et fions fricot.


Gascon, the language of Cyrano de Bergerac:   E soun hil qu’eou digouc: Moun pay, qu’ey peccat cost’oou ceo é daouant bous: nou souy pas mes digne deou noum de boste hii. Lou pay que digouc a sous baylets: Biste, biste, pourtat sa pruméro raoubo é boutats l’oc; boutats lou la bago aou dit, e caoussats lou. Amiats lou bedet gras, é tuats lou: minjen é hascan uo gran’ hesto.


Provençal as spoken in Marseille:   Et soun fieou li diguet: Moun païré aï peccat contro lou ciel et contro de vous, noun siou pas digné d’estre appelat vouestre fieou. Alors, lou péro diguet à seis domestiquos: Adduses sa premiero raoubo, et vestisses lou; mettes-li une bague oou det et de souliers eis peds. Adusés lou vedeou gras et tuas lou, man- gens e faguem boumbanco.

Francken, Frans the younger (1581-1642) - Prodigal Son, detail

Franco-Provençal (Swiss, Valais, Saint-Maurice:   Son meniot la y a det: Mon pere y ai petchia devant le chel et devant vo; ye ne sey pas digno ora d’être appèlo voutrom fi. Mais le père a det a son valets: Apporta ley to de suite sa première roba e la fey bota; metté ley ona baga u dey é dé solar è pia; amènà le vè grà é toa lo; mindzin é fézin granta tchiéra.


These languages still exist.


SUBIUNGO is Latin for “I subjoin,” I add to, and the subjunctive mood is so named because it is primarily used in subordinate clauses. Il faut que tu vienne. (You have to come.) If faut que j’y aille. (It’s necessary that I go there.)


In Latin all conjugations and irregular verbs have four tenses of the subjunctive: present, imperfect, perfect and pluperfect. French normally uses only two of these tenses, although Spanish and Italian and the other linguae romanae rusticae positively revel in all tense subjunctive usage. Quisiera un café, por favor. (I would like a coffee, please.)


When I was young and silly, I used to use the imperfect and pluperfect subjunctive just for laughs: J’aimerais que vous me servissiez 100 F de gasoil.


Or:  Madame, réfléchîtes-vous à ma proposition car il faudrait que vous prissiez une décision immédiatement pour que je vous livrasse au plus tôt et que vous fussiez en mesure d’apprécier les services de mon appareil.


At the time I was taking a course in 18th century literature and reading people like  Marivaux, Voltaire and madame de Sévigné, all of whom were comfortable with the all the subjunctives and used them in an often humorous and even schpritzy style.  (Schpritzy = avec esprit.)

Venus and Cupid

J’étudie la carte du Tendre, je participe aux fêtes galantes, je suis l’observateur “statufié” des tableaux de Watteau… et de Boucher.


In Latin, the past tense is called the “perfect,” because it has been thoroughly done, perfected, finished.  I was = fui. You were = fuisti. It was = fuit. In spoken French this perfect past (or passé simple as it is known) is not ordinarily used in speaking, but it is in writing, especially in novels.


There is a French writer named Raymond Queneau. He wrote Zazie dans le métro and many other funny books that play with language.


The first book of his that I read was Exercices de Style where he takes a very simple story and tells it in many different styles: Métaphoriquement, Rétrograde, Surprises, Rêve, Pronostications, Hésitations and so on.


One of the versions of the story is Passé Simple where he uses only that tense. The usual tense for description is the imperfect, so it is strange to read all that Passé Simple.


Ce fut midi. Les voyageurs montèrent dans l’autobus. On fut serré. Un jeune monsieur porta sur sa tête un chapeau entouré d’une tresse, non d’un ruban. Il eut un long cou. Il se plaignit auprès de son voisin des heurts que celui-ci lui infligea. Dès qu’il aperçut une place libre, il se précipita vers elle et s’y assit.


Je l’aperçus plus tard devant la gare Saint-Lazare. Il se vêtit d’un pardessus et un camarade qui se trouva là lui fit cette remarque: il fallut mettre un bouton supplémentaire.


This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it if you read French, or maybe even if you don’t read French, because it does take that simple tale and tell it over and over again in many different modes, so it is quite educational.


trous de culs

And, speaking of end, here are a couple of trous de culs américains. What they don’t know would fill a number of very large volumes.

the end

sam france

Au revoir.   À la prochaine.


A Heterogeneous Assemblage

In Australia, the number-one topping for pizza is eggs.  In the United States, it’s pepperoni.  I like the one in Italy called Caprese, goat cheese and tomatoes.

Fanfaronade:  fulsomeness, from Spanish fanfarrón, a word that was probably an imitation of the blaring blowhardedness and braggadocio of  bigheaded braggarts.

Stop the presses!   Dirty Harry’s last name is Callahan.

Reading too many underground comic books?   The name of Jabba the Hutt’s pet spider monkey is Salacious Crumb.

The famous Dragnet theme was actually composed by Miklos Rosza for the 1946 film noir classic The Killers.

The total number of bridge hands is 54 octillion.

General Lew Wallace’s best-seller Ben-Hur was the first work of fiction to be blessed by the Pope.

Lassie, the TV collie, first appeared in a 1930s short novel entitled Lassie Come Home, written by Eric Mowbray Knight. The dog in the novel was based on Eric Knight’s real-life collie Toots.

People in Iceland read more books per capita than any other people in the world.

The book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not mention the name of god.

Arnold Schönberg was a triskaidekaphobe. He died thirteen minutes from midnight on Friday the thirteenth.

Tabloids, chronicles and gazettes were what they called newspapers in the 19th century.

The word is WAY older than that:  In Irish police stations in the nineteenth century, couples were charged with being Found Under Carnal Knowldege, which the police abbreviated calling it a F.U.C.K. charge.

A sultan’s wife is called a sultana.

The real name for lead poisoning is plumbism.

The word byte is a contraction of “by eight.”

Only words we use now that end in -gry are angry and hungry.

There are solid reasons for both of these facts:  Native speakers of Japanese learn Spanish more easily than English.  Native speakers of English learn Spanish more easily than Japanese.

Give him 2.54 centimeters and he’ll take 91.44 centimeters:     10 October is National Metric Day.

A beverage in China called white tea is simply boiled water.

Ray Kroc bought McDonald’s for $2.7 million in 1961 from the McDonald brothers.

And just why would you want to do that?   Beer foam will go down if you lick your finger and then stick it in the beer.

Vegetarians make up four percent of the US population.

Bananas don’t grow on trees.  They grow on rhizomes.

Coffee is the second largest item of international commerce in the world.  Statements like this drive me crazy, because then I always have to wonder what is the FIRST largest item of international commerce in the world.  You don’t know, do you?

Less than three percent of Nestle’s sales are for chocolate.

The liquid inside young coconuts can be used as a substitute for blood plasma in an emergency.

Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying.

Rice is grown on more than ten percent of the earth’s surface and is the main food for half of the people of the world.

Salt is the only rock humans can eat.

Playing cards in India are round.

More people use blue toothbrushes than red ones.

A flush toilet exists today that dates back to 2,000 BCE.

Most people button their shirts upward. Not me, though.

Totally Hair Barbie is the best-selling Barbie of all time.

The yo-yo originated in the Philippines where it is used for hunting.

The side of a hammer is called a cheek.

The average lead pencil can draw a line thirty-five miles long or write approximately fifty thousand English words.

People in China sometimes leave firecrackers around the house as fire alarms.

It takes a plastic container fifty thousand years to start decomposing.

Dueling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are blood donors.

In Cleveland, Ohio, it is illegal to catch mice without a hunting license.

Most burglaries occur in the winter.

Abdul Kassam Ismael, Grand Vizier of Persia in the tenth century, carried his library with him wherever he went.  The 117,000 volumes were carried by 400 camels trained to walk in alphabetical order.

A golden razor found in King Tut’s tomb was still sharp enough to be used.

In 290 BCE, Aristarchus suggested that the sun was the center of the solar system.

Candidus is Latin for shining white. All office seekers in Rome were obliged to wear a certain white toga for a period of one year before the election. They were said to be candidati and one hopes that they were candid in their speeches, but, well, probably not.

Two dogs were among the Titanic survivors.

Robert E. Lee wore a size 4 1/2 shoe.

Olive oil was used for washing the body in the ancient Mediterranean world.

New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote, in 1890.

The words of the Japanese national anthem, dating from the ninth century CE are the oldest of any nation’s songs. but the music is from 1880.

Built in 1697, the Frankford Avenue Bridge, which crosses Pennypack Creek in Philadelphia, is the oldest U.S. bridge in continuous use.

Printed on the book that the Statue of Liberty is holding is “July IV, MDCCLXXVI.”  The statue’s mouth is three feet wide.

The main library at Indiana University sinks more than an inch every year because when it was built, engineers failed to take into account the weight of all the books that would occupy the building.

The Future’s Museum in Sweden contains a scale model of the solar system. The sun is 105 meters in diameter, and the planets range from five millimeters to six kilometers from the sun. This particular model also contains the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, still to scale, situated in the Museum of Victora, Australia.

The Angel Falls in Venezuela are nearly twenty times taller than Niagra Falls.

All the dirt from the foundation to build the World Trade Center was dumped into the Hudson River to form the community now known as Battery City Park.

San Francisco cable cars are the only mobile national monuments.

The largest object ever found in the Los Angeles sewer system was a motorcycle.

If you bring a raccoon’s head to the Henniker, New Hampshire, town hall, you are entitled to receive ten dollars.

In 1980, a Las Vegas hospital suspended workers for betting on when patients would die.

I had no idea that I was ever that close to forty-seven czars.  Forty-seven czars are buried in the Kremlin which is just across the square from where we stayed when we played in Moscow.

“Czar” is the Russian rendering of “Caesar,” just as Kaiser is the German version. “Kaiser” is very close to the classical Latin pronunciation of “Caesar.”

Says here the Romans originated the practice of giving presents at Christmas, which was known to them as the Saturnalia, but the veneration of the Egyptian god Horus who was born on 25 December and who had twelve days of worship probably included presents too.  Horus was born of a virgin and he had twelve apostles.

Sister Boom-Boom was a transvestite nun who ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1982. S/he received more than twenty thousand votes, if you look closely she looks very much like the shemales linked here.

Hmmm.    Pope Adrian VI died after a fly got stuck in his throat as he was drinking from a water fountain.

According to the ceremonial customs of Orthodox Judaism, it is officially sundown when you cannot tell the difference between a black thread and a red thread.

Wives and husbands in India who desire children whisper their wish into the ear of a sacred cow.

A third of Taiwanese funeral processions include a stripper.

Not even real foam?   NERF, the popular foam children’s toy company, doesn’t actually stand for anything.

Ted Turner owns five percent of New Mexico.

Time to go online.   It takes about 63,000 trees to make the newsprint for the average Sunday edition of The New York Times.

The most dangerous job in the United States is sanitation worker. Fire fighters and police officers are a close second and third, followed by leather tanners fourth.

The sale of vodka makes up ten percent of Russian government income.

In most advertisements, including newspapers, the time displayed on a watch is 10:10.

Vanilla is used to make chocolate.

Sixty percent of big-firm executives say the cover letter is as important as, or more important than, the résumé itself when you are applying for a new job.

John Dillinger played professional baseball.

Anise is the scent on the artificial rabbit that is used in greyhound races.

It takes three thousand cows to supply the NFL with enough leather for a year’s supply of footballs.

Nearly all sumo wrestlers have flat feet and big bottoms.

Meteorologists claim they’re right 85% of the time.

Astronauts in orbit around the earth can see the wakes of ships.

A manned rocket can reach the moon in less time than it took a stagecoach to travel the length of England.

A neutron star has such a powerful gravitational pull that it can spin on its axis in one-thirtieth of a second without tearing itself apart. A pulsar is a neutron star, and it gets its energy from its rotation.

A full moon always rises at sunset.

The first computer ever made was called the ENIAC. A silicon chip a quarter-inch square has the capability of the original 1949 ENIAC computer, which occupied a city block.

The tail section of an airplane gives the bumpiest ride.

Gold was the first metal to be discovered.

One out of five trees in the world is a Siberian larch.

During the time that the atom bomb was being developed at Alamogordo, New Mexico, applicants for routine jobs like janitors were disqualified if they could read.

All organic compounds contain carbon.

Hydrogen is the most common atom in the universe.

One hundred seven incorrect medical procedures will be performed today.

Moisture, not air, causes superglue to dry.

The smallest unit of time is the yoctosecond.

A baby blue whale is twenty-five feet long at birth.

The only two mammals to lay eggs are the echidna and the platypus. The mothers nurse their babies through pores in their skin.

In 1859, twenty-four rabbits were released in Australia. Within six years, the population grew to two million.

Human beings and the two-toed sloth are the only land animals that typically mate face to face.

At least one species of lizard is known to reproduce by parthenogenesis.

A dragonfly has a life span of four to seven weeks.

A square mile of fertile earth has thirty-two million earthworms in it.

No wonder they put up the seagull monument.   A large swarm of locusts can eat eighty thousand tons of corn in a day.

There is an average of 50,000 spiders per acre in green areas.

The poison arrow frog has enough poison to kill about 2,200 people.

Marine iguanas, saltwater crocodiles, sea snakes and sea turtles are the only surviving seawater adapted reptiles.

The tuatara lizard of New Zealand only has to breathe once an hour.

A chameleon’s tongue is twice the length of its body.

Snakes, like cows, cannot activate their vitamin D without the presence of sunlight.

A group of geese on the ground is called a gaggle, but in the air they are called a skein.

A group of goats is called a trip.

A group of hares is called a husk.

Kangaroos in a group are known as a mob.

A tribe of rhinos is called a crash.

A group of toads is called a knot.

A bale of turtles, a clowder of cats, a gam of whales and a streak of tigers.

A parliament of owls.

We’ll see you next week.

Big Brother and the Holding Company


Composing Music

I started writing melodies and songs when I was about this age, just as all the other babies do.

Some babies don’t stop singing songs and painting pictures. They remain babies in this sense (and perhaps in other senses as well) all their lives, whether they move onto piano stools or hold an instrument in their hands.

Writing about writing music is strange because we all played music long before we evolved rules for making music.

Art cannot be explained, but technique can, so I’ll talk a bit about the technique of composing music.

First comes rhythm. That happens when your heart starts beating. If I had it all to do over again, I would have played drums for a couple of years right at the beginning, say, when I was six or seven. I bought my own drum kit after reading reviews on websites like Instrumentfind.com and it was one of the best things I’ve ever bought.

If you play guitar, try muting the guitar strings with your fingering hand and and playing all kinds of rhythms with you strumming hand. This way you’ll concentrate on the rhythm alone. When you get something good going, start playing a few notes or chords in that rhythm. Maybe look into getting some dj equipment to mix your sounds together, creating something unique through your music.

Melody is mysterious and sacred. There are rules for writing melodies and they are good, but the best melodies come from somewhere inside you. They are almost like a gift.

Sing it first. You should be able to sing any melody that you write. Melodies should sound inevitable. A melody is like a line in drawing. Very simple but it is the foundation to everything.

Every time I take a long walk, there is a song that goes with me. My feet hit the ground and that is the basic rhythm. Then, a melody comes out of me whether I want it to or not. That is the theme of my walk. This melody is so obsessive that sometimes I want to run away from it, so I do. I invent a second melody. It is worth noting here that fugue means “flight.”

As I walk, I improvise a countermelody that is busier than the first melody. One of these melodies comments on the other, sometimes in a spirited and witty fashion, sometimes plodding along. I hear both melodies together even though I am “writing” them (imagining them) sequentially.

The sound of your feet walking along the ground can be subdivided by two, three, five, six, seven, anything. You don’t have to stick to 4/4 or 3/4. If you’re willing to wait long enough, your feet will beat out an 11/8 tempo, if you want them too. I wrote a song called Godzilla of Love in 11/8 while I was out walking.

The first melody that comes to me on a walk can be derivative, childish, or an outright imitation of someone else’s song, but the counterpoint, the second melody that goes with the first, is more often original, even eccentric, odd, uninhibited, fugacious.

Before the walk is over, I try the counter melody in every style I can think of.

Go ahead, make a melody of ten, twenty notes, I’ll wait. Some rules for melody making: stepwise motion is good with occasional leaps. Mainly, though, just be loose and natural. Don’t worry about whether it’s original or not. That part will take care of itself.

Another rule is to keep the melody human. Try to have the entire range of the melody within a tenth, that is, an octave and a third. You don’t want to write to the extremes of a voice, or any other instrument for that matter. Good to have everyone comfortable. Especially the singer. If the singer or the instruments want to get wild, good, but give them a melody, a coherent, structured frame for their elaborations.

I can sing this range, and probably most people have a range of more than a tenth, but a vocal in a nice, easy compass will often sound the best and most natural. If you are writing for someone else, try to work well within her range, so she is comfortable and happy. Keep it to an octave and a third.

Find out the strengths of your singer and accent her best ideas.

When we started Big Brother, I was playing a lot of Bach and the above composition appealed to me. Herr Bach used this motif (the first five notes) in many places in his music. I put it in G minor and used it as the organizing theme for Summertime, along with an idea I got from Nina Simone about weaving classical lines through a popular tune. (She did it on another Gershwin tune, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.)

A friend showed me this minor descending line which I put in the root of the chord and transposed it to G minor and that was the rhythm part for Summertime, all of which worked well with Janis Joplin’s amazingly beautiful voice.

There are melodies everywhere. I was once in a post office in Moscow writing postcards home and people would walk through a gate to get to the back of the counter.

When the rusty gate swung slowly to and fro, its creaking played something like this, a blues melody of maybe six notes, rich in texture because of the wood in the gate. When the gate sung back into its original position, it played the melody backwards.

Once you have the original melody in mind, the second melody can be found intuitively, or by the rules, or by a combination of the two.

There are many rules for setting a second melody against the first, and many people have spent a lifetime organizing, clarifying and understanding these principles which came to be called polyphony or counterpoint.

If the second melody is closely parallel to the first, it is usually called a harmony part. It makes a series of chords with the first melody. Here the voices are moving closely together, mostly in thirds and sixths, which are inverted thirds.

Here the soprano, alto, tenor and bass are moving much more freely in relation to each other.

Here they imitate each other as if they were echoes.

Remember singing Row, Row, Row, Your Boat while the other side of the room sang the same tune but starting when you reached the second line? This is called a round or a catch. It’s a very simple form of counterpoint.

Sophisticated examples of the round are called canons, fugues, inventions.

Finding the second melody to go with the first can be done intuitively, with a great deal of study, or, ideally, intuitively and with study.

In the early jazz groups in New Orleans, everyone in the band played “lead,” that is, each person played a melody, and all the solos worked together beautifully, because the band agreed on the chord changes before they began. The chord changes were the organizing principle. Every body knew the tune and the harmony and they played their variations on the tune all at the same time.

Let’s say you agreed to do a piece of music where the chord changes were C E7 F F#dim C/G A7 D7 G7 with, say, two beats per chord change. Each musician could play a solo in this framework, a solo that took account of these harmonies, and if they all played their solos at the same time, this would be a natural counterpoint, as in early jazz around 1910 in New Orleans. This is a glorious sound, happy and free and more than a little giddy.

In the music of J.S. Bach and Palestrina there are many voices singing different melodies and counterpoint was the technique for learning how to do this, a technique that could take years of delightful study to master. In this style, it seemed as if the different voices moving against each other create the harmony (the chords) as an afterthought rather than having the chords dictate the boundaries of the melody as they do in jazz and rock and roll. It’s a kind of reverse freedom from the New Orleans style.

Sixteenth century polyphony took the same approach as early jazz only backwards. Instead of the chords creating the harmony, the individual voices created the chords. Depends which way you look at it. Vertical or horizontal. You’re looking at the same phenomenon, but vertically or horizonatally? Improvising musicians answer this question more or less subconsciously every time they play. Is the melody line more important or is the chord matrix more important? What will guide the music more, the melody or the harmony?

The difference between harmony and counterpoint is whether you perceive the two or more voices as vertical (harmony) or horizontal (counterpoint).

Monophony, then, is one melody, simple. Homophony is a melody supported by chords, which are, in effect, many voices working in parallel. It is probably homophony that we hear most often, especially when we listen to popular music. Polyphony is two more or less independent melodies played together.

Counterpoint is polyphony, two or more different melodies played at the same time. This is a very potent technique, especially in popular music where it is rare.

One of the first records I owned was by Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. They did a lot of contrapuntal playing, two truly independent melodies played against each other. The effect was beautiful, especially with a baritone saxophone and a trumpet with such different ranges and textures.

King Oliver hired a very young Louis Armstrong for his group and they did a lot of playing in thirds, incredibly swift playing. They also played counterpoint when they soloed together.

So, then, the idea is come up with a beautiful easy to sing melody and then set another melody against it.

An often used approach is to make the first main melody a soprano part and then to put the the counter melody in the bass.

Then the idea is to thicken each melody part with “inside” harmonies for the alto and tenor voices.

In a symphony orchestra, this will often mean that the violins have the first melody, the basses, way down below, the second, and other instruments will fill out the space between, but, of course, any combination of instruments can perform any of these functions. This is a matter of arranging and orchestration.


Say you have this chord (C, E, Bb, D# and Gb), a C7b5#9 chord: In the strings, this could be the bass viol playing C, the ‘cello playing E, the viola playing Bb, second violin playing D# and the first violin playing a Gb. Any family of instruments, the strings, the woodwinds, the brass can play this set of tones, or all of them could play it. Who plays what is called orchestration. How they play it and where they pass it off to another family of instruments in the orchestra could be called arranging. All of this together is composing for a large group of musicians, an orchestra.

Explore the rhythms. Try a lot of different times for the melodies, 4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 6/8, 5/4.

Begin the meldoy right on beat one, then try it entering before the first beat, then try beginning it in the middle of the measure. Where the melody enters can make a big difference.

Let’s say you have a decent melody played by a soprano instrument, and, then, for the basses, you have a good counter melody. Now, you have to give the inside voices something decent to play. This can be a challenge.

You want to enrich the lives of second violinists, viola players, and second chairs everywhere, by writing some fun things in the middle, that won’t, however, upstage the soprano melody and the other idea in the bass.

It’s a good idea to know how to play every instrument, at least a little, and that way you will be acquainted with each player’s strengths and weaknesses.

There are families of instruments, often with the same fingerings, but in different sizes, so this puts them in different keys.

The violin is the soprano string instrument, agile, capable of playing quick passages and she often carries the melody.

The violin’s range is four octaves, although it might be good at first not to use the top octave.

Stay in this three octave range at first. The violin player can use natural and artificial harmonics, and these are fun to write and play.

The viola is the alto voice of the strings and, indeed, music for the viola is written in the alto clef. Artificial and natural harmonics are available for all stringed instruments.

That bottom note is sound of the third fret, fifth string of the guitar, an octave below middle C.

The ‘cello is the tenor voice of the strings. The name ‘cello is an abbreviated form of violoncello. This is an expressive and beautiful instrument.

The guitar and the trombone are also tenor instruments and are quite close in range to the ‘cello.

A ‘cellist learns to read three clefs and so does someone who writes music for her.

The double bass (bass viol, string bass, upright bass, bass fiddle, doghouse bass, contrabass, standup bass, bull fiddle) is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2. The double bass is a standard member of the string section of the orchestra and smaller string ensembles.

Notice that the bass strings are the same as the four lowest strings of the guitar (E,A,D,G) but an octave lower. The guitar is a transposing instrument in that its music is written an octave higher than it actually sounds. The bass range sounds an octave lower than it is written.

Thus, the string family has its soprano, alto, tenor and bass instruments.

Most of the other instrument families in the orchestra have their separate ranges also.

Many of these are transposing instruments because of their different sizes. When they play their C, it is not the C that a piano plays. When the Eb alto saxophone plays a C, the sound you hear is Eb. This is because people wanted to keep the same names for the same fingerings on instruments of different sizes.

The guitar is an instrument ‘in C,’ that is, when it plays a C, that C sounds the same as the piano C. It’s a “real” C. In my first band, I had two saxophone players, an alto and a tenor. One of the first questions they asked me was, “What key is the guitar in?” This was a very surprising question to me, so I answered, “I don’t know, it must be in E, because there are a lot of Es on it.” After some going back and forth, we realized that the guitar is a concert instrument and thus in C.

When the guitar plays a C, that is a real C, but the guitar is a transposing instrument in that the music for it is written an octave higher than it sounds.

The best place to see a few members of the guitar family is in a mariachi band. I see a requinto, a guitarrón and of course a tenor guitar, which is the main one we know.

This is a charango from Bolivia.

The charango has several tunings or afinaciones. (Afinado is in tune. Desafinado is out of tune.)

When I was 18, I played a silver Eb clarinet, which has always been used in military bands, but was brought into the concert orchestra at the beginning of the 20th cenntury. Berlioz was probably the first to use it. Schoenberg, Varèse and Berg also wrote for the Eb clarinet, which has a hard, biting quality.

The Eb clarinet is written a minor third lower than it sounds.

I have played in a few clarinet ensembles and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The clarinet has a large range and sounds beautiful in its lower (chalumeau) register which is woody and rich, and, in fact, sounds quite a bit like that old gate in the post office in Moscow.

I once played the bass clarinet in a wind ensemble as a kind of a stand in for the basset horn on a Mozart piece.

This was actually the music that Salieri was somewhat unethically perusing in Amadeus. when Mozart’s wife Costanze was delightedly eating the tettarelle di Venere that Salieri had offered her as a bribe.

Tettarelle di Venere means tits of Venus and they must have been delicious because Stanzi was completely distracted.

The bass clarinet is written in the treble clef a major 9th higher than it sounds, and it is a strong bass in the woodwind group. The lower octave is full and rich and the bass clarinet is often used as a solo instrument. It can be doubled with the ‘cello or bass to provide strong clarity to a bass line.

The flute in C needs to have a nice quiet background for its lower and middle registers.

However, the high register is strong, clear and brilliant.

The alto flute is the next extension downward of the C flute after the flûte d’amour. It is characterized by its distinct, mellow tone in the lower portion of its range. It is a transposing instrument in G and, like the piccolo and bass flute, uses the same fingerings as the C flute. The tube of the alto flute is considerably thicker and longer than a C flute and requires more breath from the player. This gives it a greater dynamic presence in the bottom octave and a half of its range.

The high register of the alto flute is not really needed, but the low register has a better quality than the regular C flute.

The oboe, a double reed instrument of the woodwind family, is a descendant of the medieval shawm, which sounded remarkably similar. Oboes are the sopranos of the woodwind family and are a double reed instrument made from a wooden tube roughly 60 cm long, with metal keys, a conical bore and flared bell. The oboe sound is produced by blowing into the (double) reed and vibrating a column of air. The sound is piercing and otherworldly. The oboe was called the hautbois (haut [“high, loud”] and bois [“wood, woodwind”]) in the time of Händel, and this is still the best name for it. Before the advent of electrictronic devices, the oboe was the one who gave the A to the orchestra for tuning.

The oboe is a melody instrument and doesn’t sound well playing inner voices of chords, because it has that penetrating, individual voice. The best range for the oboe melody is a D below the staff to a Bb a line above. Don’t give the oboist a lot to do. The player has to breathe more often than those who play other instruments, probably because s/he is blowing into that double reed.

The English horn (cor anglais) is a large oboe used mainly for expressive solo passages.

The lower octave and a half of the English horn sounds the best and it goes well with violas, ‘celli and the lower clarinets.

This is a double reed instrument. The music is written in the bass clef except for very high notes which are written in the tenor.

The bassoon is the bass of the woodwind family but it is a good melody instrument which almost always makes me feel giggly for some reason. I love the sound.

Bassoons and clarinets are a good blend. Two bassoons and two French horns sound good also. All three registers, low, middle and upper, are good.

Contrabassoon is very low like the bass viol and it sounds an octave lower than written.

The main function of the contrabassoon is to strengthen the bass line.

The point here is that the contrabassoon needs a simple part with plenty of rests. The best use is for ensemble playing.

There are many kinds of trumpets in many different keys, but the one most used today is in Bb.

Double and triple tonguing are not difficult for the trumpets, but don’t have them do it for a long time.

Music for trumpet is written one step higher than it actually sounds.

The trombone is also in Bb and it is a tenor instrument.

Music for the trombone is written mostly in the bass clef and sounds as written.

If you’re going to write music for the trombone, it might be a good idea to play the instrument yourself or to have a friend who does because there are places where it is not good to write wide skips into and out of (like the 7th position, for example, especially from there into the 1st position).

Three trombones sound well as a unit.

The bass trombone in G is notated in the bass clef and sounds as written.

As the name indicates, humans originally used to blow on the actual horns of animals before starting to emulate them in metal.

This original usage is still retained in the Shofar, ram’s horn, which has an important role in Jewish religious ritual.

Early metal horns were less complex than modern horns, consisting of brass tubes with a slightly flared opening (the bell) wound around a few times. These early “hunting” horns were originally played on a hunt, often while mounted, and the sound they produced was called a recheat. Change of pitch was effected entirely by the lips (the horn not being equipped with valves until the 19th century). Without valves, only the notes within the harmonic series are available. The horn was used, among other reasons, to call hounds on a hunt and created a sound most like a human voice, but carried much farther.

The horn (also known as the corno and French horn) is a brass instrument made of about 12–13 feet (3.7–4.0 m) of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. A musician who plays the horn is called a horn player (or less frequently, a hornist). In informal use, “horn” refers to nearly any wind instrument with a flared exit for the sound.

Descended from the natural horn, the instrument is often informally known as a Horn in F or French horn. However, this is technically incorrect since the instrument is not French in origin, but German.

Therefore, the International Horn Society has recommended since 1971 that the instrument be simply called the horn. French horn is still the most commonly used name for the instrument in the United States.

Pitch is controlled through the adjustment of lip tension in the mouthpiece and the operation of valves by the left hand, which route the air into extra tubing. Most horns have lever-operated rotary valves, but some, especially older horns, use piston valves (similar to a trumpet’s) and the Vienna horn uses double-piston valves, or pumpenvalves.

A horn without valves is known as a natural horn, changing pitch along the natural harmonics of the instrument or by actually building new sections, called crooks, into the instrument. As you might imagine this is a very slow process and is usually done at the beginning of the piece, or during longish interludes.

Three valves control the flow of air in the single horn, which is tuned to F or less commonly B?. The more common double horn has a fourth valve, usually operated by the thumb, which routes the air to one set of tubing tuned to F or another tuned to B?.

Triple horns with five valves are also made, tuned in F, B?, and a descant E? or F. Also common are descant doubles, which typically provide B? and Alto F branches. This configuration provides a high-range horn while avoiding the additional complexity and weight of a triple.

The bass clef is used for the lower register of the horn and the treble clef for the upper.

These instruments fall into the soprano, alto, tenor and bass ranges. They can be the voices for chords and those chords can change in harmony.

For hundreds of years, in the era of what is known as common practice (1600-1900 CE), chords in music tended to move in fourths and fifths.

That is, if you were dealing with a C chord, the most likely place it was going was to an F chord. In the key of C, here is a very well traveled road of harmony: C F Bdim Em Am Dm G7 C. You see? This is up four notes (or down five notes) every chord change. This is still a very strong pull in music. It’s called the circle of fifths. Much miusic is still being written with these chord changes up four notes or down five. This motion is usually taught in chapter one of the harmony books.

For three hundred years or so, chords tended to move COUNTERclockwise around this circle. They still very often move in this motion.

Then came the twentieth century and chords started to go anywhere they wanted. C could go to C# and then to D#. C could go to F#, an interval that was called diabolus in musica (the devil in music) for centuries. In Big Brother we do a song called It’s Cool that uses C to F# as an organizing principle.

The world grew smaller because of radio and recording and we all heard non Western music that sometimes seemed to have no chords, or chords that didn’t move in a circle of fifths at all.

The piano with its ease of playing, say, a C13#5b9 chord gave way to the guitar which was much more comfortable with a basic C chord or a C7 chord, and because this chord was simple, it had a power that the more complicated harmony did not. Most painters will tell you that a primary color will have an impact that eludes a blended hue. Both primary and blended have their place, of course, but by 1900 in classical (serious) music and by 1960 in popular music a need was felt for simple, basic harmonies. So in simple terms, piano sheet music paved the way for new harmonies and tunes to emerge.

Chords began to be built in fourths and fifths rather than in thirds.

Because we were listening to folk music and folk blues, we began to think modally. In the song Down On Me, the chord changes are D C G A, which has nothing to do with the circle of fifths, and the “dominant” chord in this progression, which would have been A not so long ago, was now C.

We began to hear and play songs like this. Here, as in Down On Me, the “dominant” chord, instead of being an A7, as it was for Mozart, is a C chord.

Harmonies (chord progressions) became extremely simple or nonexistent. This is almost a basso ostinato (obstinate bass) part in that the bass plays the same figure for a long time. We began to play long pieces, such as Hall of the Mountain King that had one chord, E minor, or, really, E modal. Over this E sound, we would play a melody in any scale, really, but very often in something like E F G A B C D E. In classical harmony this would be a Phrygian mode, but we didn’t think of it that way, and would just as often play a G# as a G natural or a Bb instead of a B natural. This was not planned, but instinctively felt.

Bass lines rather than guitar/piano chords began to organize such ideas as G Bb C G Bb Db C G Bb C Bb G G.

This progression, which seemed to be in every other song in the 1950s, and now too, fell out of use in the 1960s. When I was eighteen, I called these chords The Fabulous Four although I thought of them as C A minor F and G. Doo Wop chords.

In the 60s, we were just as likely, more likely, to play these which we would have called C Ab Bb F .

These harmonies aren’t based on the major scale as C A minor F and G are. They are modal or based on minor (Aeolian, Phrygian, Mixolydian) modes.

Recognize this? Definitely mixolydian mode. Dumbed down a little bit for the beginner. For a long time, every guitar player knew this riff.

This song by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer (Jack Hammer?) used the minor and major modes together.

Often there was no third at all in the rhythm parts which often sounded like a jack hammer.

The bridge (what the Beatles called the “middle”) of the tunes often went into a different time signature.

We could look into this further, but it might be time to make up some music of your own.

Try something different.

Thank you for being here and I’ll see you next week.


Clerisy Heresy

Clerisy:  German clerisei   Latin clericia    Educated people as a group,  scholars.

“After the Revolution, a learned body, or clerisy as such, gradually disappeared.”           Samuel Coleridge   1834

Nova is new and no va is “it doesn’t go,” so you might want a Nova but you don’t want it to no va. This is not a trivial consideration if you are trying to sell cars in South America.

Because of snowfall, for a few weeks each year K-2 is taller than Mount Everest.

The D in D-day stands for “day.”  The French for D-day is J-jour.      Peter Albin was born on D-day.

The earliest document in Latin in a woman’s handwriting is an invitation to a birthday party from the first century CE.  This was found in either Hadrian’s or Antonine’s wall, I can’t remember which.  Hadrian’s, I think.

The most common given name in the world is Mohammed.

Drinking water after eating reduces the acid in your mouth by 61%.  You ever get the feeling that they just make these statistics up as they go along?

The McDonald’s at the Skydome in Toronto is the only one in the world that sells hot dogs.

Canadians don’t pronounce the second ‘t’ in Toronto.   This is one of the tests they use in spy movies.

The citrus soda 7-Up was created in 1929. 7 was selected because the original containers held seven ounces. “Up” told you which way the bubbles go.

In Denmark, they found out that Carlsberg lager tastes best at 510 to 520 cycles per second. Let’s see, A is 440, so that would make it… hmmm, let me think about that.

Australian chemist John Macadamia discovered the Macadamia nut, probably because he was one.

Awww, no, really?  Eating raw onions is good for unblocking a stuffed nose.

Pomology is the study of fruit. Once in Ravenna, I wanted to ask for the red fruit behind the counter and said, “Poma?”  ”Mela,” she said, not unkindly. Well, it’s pomme in French.

Adam and Eve might have eaten an apricot. More plentiful there near Baghdad where they lived.

Somebody alert the Who:   There are more brown M&Ms in plain M&Ms than in peanut M&Ms.

Two million different combinations of sandwiches can be created from a Subway menu.  I stick with one, Veggie Delight, or whatever you call it. Elise and I split a foot long, and make of that what you will. Lots of mayonnaise and mustard on whole wheat.

Jung and easily Freudened:  Fortune cookies were invented in America by Charles Jung in 1918.

An army travels on its stomach:  Almost 425, 000 hot dogs and buns and 160,000 hamburgers and cheeseburgers were served at Woodstock ’99.

Passing wind?   Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before they go into space because passing wind in a space suit damages it.

My friend Andrew Perrins should know this:  Worcestershire sauce is basically anchovy ketchup.

Because it feels so good when I stop:   In every deck of cards, the King of Hearts is sticking his sword through his head. That’s why he is often called the Suicide King.

Beats the hell out of In God We Trust:   A penny made in 1727 was the first to bear the words United States of America. It was also inscribed “Mind your own business.”

Also dicey for doing business in South America… Colgate in Spanish means “go hang yourself.”

Something to remember when you’re tuning your alto saxophone:      Most toilets flush in Eb.

Jeans were named after Genova, Italia, and denims were named after de Nîmes. And we in Big Brother and the Holding Company just did interviews at our old house in Lagunitas, which is now owned by the very gracious heirs to the everybody wearing copper studded trousers enterprise.

If done perfectly, any Rubik’s Cube combination can be solved in seventeen turns.

Camera shutter speed B stands for “bulb.”

Oops!   The Ramses brand condom is named after the great Pharaoh Ramses II, who fathered more than 160 children.

I must be in the other 32%:   According to a market research survey, 68% of consumers who receive junk mail actually open the envelopes.

I am so sorry to see her go:   In Alaska, it is illegal to shoot at a moose from the window of an airplane or other flying vehicle.

The Midwaste:  In Indiana, it is illegal to ride on any public transportation for at least thirty minutes after eating garlic.

Well, who says they’re wrong?   Sumerians thought that the liver made blood and the heart was the center of thought.

The things that happen in Okinawa:   In 1281, the Mongol army of Kublai Khan tried to invade Japan but they were ravaged by a hurricane/typhoon that destroyed their fleet. This typhoon was called “divine wind,” (KamiKaze) by the Japanese.

So much for malpractice suits:   Surgeons in ancient Egypt who lost a patient during an operation had their hands cut off.

What about bees?   Romans believed that birds mated on 14 February.

Hey, mama was American:   Winston Churchill was born in a ladies’ room during a dance.

People in their 20s are going to ask, what is that?   Kotex were first manufactured as bandages during World War II.

So, THAT’S why:   When the Titanic sank, there were seventy-five hundred pounds of ham onboard.

Robert E. Lee was the only person to be graduated from West Point without a single demerit.

They made them way before that:   Evidence of shoemaking  exists as early as 10,000 BCE.

Los flamencos:   The Spanish Inquisition once condemned the entire Netherlands to death for heresy.

So, why is there no Saint Euripides?     Euripides was the first person on record to denounce slavery.

Taphyphobia, fear of the tomb,  all the Victorians had it. The fear of being buried alive. This was the reason for the graveyard shift. They wanted to make sure someone was there all the time… just in case.

Makes me think of my mother:   Het Wilhelmus, the national anthem of the Netherlands, is an acrostichon, the first letters of each of the fifteen verses represent the name Willem Van Nassov.   The Netherlands and the United States both have anthems that do not mention their countries’ names.

The highest motorway in England is the M62 Liverpool to Hull. It reaches 1,221 feet above sea level over the Saddleworth Moor.

We’ll see:  The Hoover Dam was built to last two thousand years. The concrete in it will not even be fully cured for another five hundred years.

Now, if we could only get Sarah to do that:   The University of Alaska stretches across four time zones.

And the town of Blaine has five letters. Think about that:   If you divide the Great Pyramid’s perimeter by two times its height, you get pi to the fifteenth digit.

Sigh of Relief department:   Three Mile Island is only 2.5 miles long.

America, fuck yeah!   Central Park is nearly twice the size of Monaco.

Maine is the toothpick capital of the world.

If you lived in a monastery, these hours would be important to you:   matins, lauds, prime, tierce, sext, nones, vespers and compline.

Oh, yeah?  There’s one in Italy that has a vial of the Blessed Mother’s milk:   A temple in Sri Lanka is dedicated to one of the Buddha’s teeth.

Ain’t life grand?   The three most valuable brand names on earth are Marlboro, Coca-Cola and Budweiser.

You sure it’s not more? What about Congress?    Organized crime is estimated to account for 10% of the United States’ national income.

Baseball’s home plate is seventeen inches wide.

Soccer is played in more countries than any other sport.

You have a better idea?  Ben Hogan’s reply to a question about how to improve one’s game:  Hit the ball closer to the hole.

Boxing rings used to be round.

A hockey puck is one inch thick.


Oh, come on, you can do better than that.   The only bone not broken so far during any ski accident is the one located in the inner ear.

Leonardo da Vinci invented the scissors, and they were probably left handed since he was.

Something I’ve always wondered about…  An inch of snow falling evenly on one acre of ground equals about 2,715 gallons of water.

You’d think that would damage his space suit.   Buzz Aldrin was the first man to pee his pants on the moon.

You can add this to that 55 limit:   Earth is traveling through space at 660,000 miles per hour.

They are seriously underestimating the singularity:   Experts at Intel say that microprocessor speed will double every eighteen months for at least ten years.

Vegetarian alert:    The Venus Flytrap can eat a whole cheeseburger.

It takes one fifteen to twenty year old tree to produce seven hundred paper grocery bags.

The electron is the fastest thing in the world.  That’s what the U.S. Bureau of Standards says anyway.

Iron nails cannot be used in oak because the acid in the wood corrodes them.

A jiffy is an actual unit of time: 1/100th of a second.

A baby bat is called a pup.

Every single hamster in the United States comes from a single litter captured in Syria in 1930.

The male fox mates for life and if the female dies he remains single for the rest of his life.

The female fox, however, is differently constructed. If her mate dies,  she finds a new one.

Eighty percent of the creatures on this planet have six legs.

The male gypsy moth can smell the virgin female gypsy moth from eight miles away.

Mosquitos are attracted to people who have recently eaten bananas.

Toads don’t have teeth, but frogs do.

A newly hatched crocodile is three times as large as the egg from which it has emerged.

Snakes can digest bones and teeth, but not fur or hair.

A group of finches is called a charm, and right now there is a charm outside my window.

Difficult for a pig to see a charm of finches. It is physically impossible for swine to look up at the sky.

Dinosaurs lived on earth seventy-five times longer than humans have so far.

The Latin name for moose is alces alces.

That cat around your house can hold her tail vertical while she walks, but wild cats can’t.

The killer whale isn’t a whale at all. It’s the largest member of the dolphin family.

Priorities:   The eyes of some birds weigh more than their brains, and their feathers can weigh more than their bones.

The male bellbird of Central and South America makes a clanging sound like a bell which can be heard from miles away. The loudest bird in the world.

Albatrosses can sleep even when they’re flying.

The great horned owl can turn its head 270 degrees.

There are more species of fish than mammals, reptiles and birds combined.

Tuna swim nine miles an hour forever, really. They never stop because if they stop they suffocate. They need water moving past their gills. A fifteen year old tuna has probably traveled a million miles in her lifetime.

Dolphins jump out of the water to conserve energy. Easier moving through air than water.

A shark doesn’t even have to be born to be dangerous. An ichthyologist was bitten by a sand tiger shark embryo while he was examining its pregnant mother.

Makes sense:   A male sea lion can have more than one hundred wives and often goes months without sleeping.

There is no record of a nonrabid wolf attack on a human.

A male Indian elephant waits until he’s twenty-one before he starts fooling around with a female elephant.

That part of the horse’s foot between the fetlock and the hoof is called the pastern.

Know what a geep is?  A cross between a goat and a sheep.

Camel’s milk does not curdle.

An armadillo can walk underwater.

What’s the definition of an optimist?   A guitar player with a mortgage.

How do you make a chain saw sound like an electric guitar?          Add vibrato.    (That’s a D chord, by the way. They must be going to the bridge.)

Americans spend more than $5.4 billion on their pets each year.  That can’t be true. We spend more than that at our house alone.

Cows in India have a Bill of Rights.

Hope the air conditioner works.  It would take more than 150 years to drive a car to the sun.

Hey, I just did that.  Two out of five husbands tell their wives daily that they love them.

Sweden has the least number of murders annually.

Sadistics, I mean, statistics:   More than 50% of Americans believe in the devil, and about 5% claim to have talked to her personally.

It wasn’t for me:  the safest age of life is ten years old.

22,000 checks will be deducted from the wrong bank account in the next hour.

George Washington had to borrow money to go to his own inauguration.

Senator Eagleton alert:   Abraham Lincoln had a nervous breakdown in 1836.

Gerald Ford was once a male model.

Mutti, ich bin zuhause!   Ronald Reagan once wore a Nazi uniform while acting in a film.

Leon Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico with an ice pick.

Louis XIV bathed once a year, whether he needed it or not, and he had a thousand wigs, including a special “tubby wig” for bath time.  No, no, I just made that up.

Catherine de Medici was the first woman in Europe to use tobacco. She took it in a mixture of snuff.

All of Queen Anne’s seventeen children died before she did.

Van Gogh did it to his left ear.  His Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear shows the right one bandaged because he was looking in a mirror to do the painting.

Napoleon did his battle planning in a sandbox and he was afraid of cats, who were probably doing some sandbox planning of their own.

Marco Polo was born on the Croatian island of Korcula.  We saw these beautiful islands when we traveled to Mostar in Bosnia.

Louis Armstrong and Telly Savalas died on their birthdays.

Roseanne Barr used to be the opening act for Julio Iglesias.

That’s because they practiced:  The Beatles performed their first U.S. concert at Carnegie Hall.

Gandhi took dance and music lessons in his late teens.

The song “I’m a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokohama with my Honolulu Mama Doin’ Those Beat-O, Beat-O Flat-On-My-Seat-O, Hirohito Blues” was written by Hoagy Carmichael.

The tango originated as a dance between two men for partnering practice.

Samuel Beckett’s play Breath was first performed in April 1970. The play lasts thirty seconds and has no actors or dialogue.

And who better? Cheryl Ladd played both the singing and talking voice of Josie in the 1970s Saturday morning cartoon Josie and the Pussycats.

Mickey Mouse is a Scorpio.

The second unit films movie shots that do not require the presence of actors.

OK, well, all right, then, see you next week.

I was not at Woodstock, but I might as well have been since I wouldn’t have remembered it anyway.