Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac

March 29, 1876: After the Snark

Lewis Carroll,  aka Charles Lutwidge Dodson, was known primarily for his books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. He did write several other books including A Tangled Tale, Sylvie and Bruno and one of his last works, The Hunting of the Snark, which was published on March 29, 1876.

The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony in 8 Fits) is classic Lewis Carroll nonsense verse in which a crew of ten characters – a Bellman, a Boots, a Bonnet-maker, a Barrister, a Broker, a Billiard-marker, a Banker, a Butcher, a Baker, and a Beaver – set out to hunt the Snark, an animal which may turn out to be a highly dangerous Boojum.

After crossing the sea guided by the Bellman’s map of the Ocean—a blank sheet of paper—the hunting party arrives in a strange land. There its members split up to hunt the Snark: “They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care; / They pursued it with forks and hope; / They threatened its life with a railway-share; / They charmed it with smiles and soap.” Several odd adventures later, the Baker calls out that he has found a Snark, but when the others arrive, the Baker has mysteriously disappeared.

They hunted till darkness came on, but they found

Not a button, or feather, or mark,

By which they could tell that they stood on the ground

Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,

In the midst of his laughter and glee,

He had softly and suddenly vanished away –

For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

Carroll’s poem has been variously interpreted as an allegory for tuberculosis, a mockery of a notorious Victorian court case, a satire of the controversies between religion and science, the repression of Carroll’s sexuality, and an anti-vivisection tract. Or perhaps it represents a “voyage of life,” “a tragedy of frustration and bafflement,” or “Carroll’s comic rendition of his fears of disorder and chaos, with the comedy serving as a psychological defense against the devastating idea of personal annihilation.” Right.

Dash It All

This day in 1990 marked the beginning of the Hyphen War in Czechoslovakia. Although the USSR had fallen a year earlier, the official name of the country was still the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. President Václav Havel proposed merely dropping the word Socialist from the name, but Slovak politicians wanted another change – the spelling of the name with a hyphen (i.e., Republic or Federation of Czecho-Slovakia ), as it was spelled from Czechoslovak independence in 1918 until 1920, and again in 1938 and 1939. President Havel agreed to the change, but the Czechoslovak parliament in typical political fashion resolved that the country’s long name was to be spelled without a hyphen in Czech and with a hyphen in Slovak.

This solution was found to be not only dumb but unsatisfactory, and less than a month later, the parliament reversed itself. Problem not solved. Although the Slovaks were demanding a hyphen, the Czechs called it a dash. The Czechs usually use the same term for both; Slovaks use different terms. Thus the Hyphen War began. Oddly enough, the Czechs did not call it the Dash War.

While the Hyphen War was not really a hot war (nor a cold war), it demonstrated differences between Czechs and Slovaks about their identity, that perhaps they really weren’t meant for each other. The slippery slope: the frequent bickering over minor issues, the trial separation, and in 1992, both sides said yes to splitsville. The country was split into two states – the Czech Republic and Slovakia – in what is called the Velvet Divorce (or for some, the Vel-vet Divorce).

 

 

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Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac

MARCH 25, 2018: WAITER, THERE’S A LOBSTER ON MY WAFFLE

Today is International Waffle Day, a tradition that is celebrated worldwide but mostly in Sweden. It’s a day to enjoy – guess what? – eating waffles. The day may have arisen out of confusion. Waffle Day in Swedish, Våffeldagen, sounds a lot like Our Lady’s Day,Vårfrudagen, (you really have to be on a street in Stockholm to get the full effect), a Christian holiday also WAFLOBknown as Annunciation (the third Monday after Pronunciation), when the Archangel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary she was pregnant. Mary was understandably upset and did what any virgin would do upon being told she was pregnant – stuffed herself with waffles. Waffle Day also coincides with the beginning of Spring, another traditional day for eating waffles in Sweden. Therefore, if you see a Swede eating waffles today, you don’t know if it’s religious or secular or just hunger.

More interesting facts:

Waffles were made with cheese and herbs in ancient Greece.

The familiar grid pattern of today’s waffles originated in the Middle Ages. Some waffles had fancier designs such as coats of arms,  landscapes and portraits of Middle Age people.

Waffles were so popular that they were even sold from street carts (by strange looking men who eventually switched to selling chestnuts and large pretzels).

In the late 1800’s, Thomas Jefferson returned from France with a waffle iron.  It’s unclear how he got it through security.

Many folks in Britain celebrate International Waffle Day by eating rutabagas which are known there as Swedes.  There is no International Rutabaga Day.

There is, however, a Lobster Newburg Day – and it’s today!

Lobster Newburg, lobster with a sherry and cognac infused, egg-thickened cream sauce, was first served at New York’s Delmonico’s in the 1870s. Delmonico’s was not only the first formal dining restaurant in the United States, it was the first to serve hamburger, the creator of Baked Alaska, the creator of Eggs Benedict, and of course the creator of Lobster Newburg.  A waffle topped with Lobster Newburg, anyone?

The Lobster Quadrille (from Alice in wonderland)

“Will you walk a little faster?”
Said a whiting to a snail,
“There’s a porpoise close behind us,
Treading on my tail. ”
See how eagerly the lobsters
And the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle –
Will you come and join the dance?
So, will you, won’t you, won’t you,
Will you, won’t you join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you,
Won’t you, won’t you join the dance?

“You can really have no notion
How delightful it will be
When they take us up and throw us,
With the lobsters, out to sea! ”
But the snail replied, “Too far, too far!”
And gave a look askance –
Said he thanked the whiting kindly,
But he would not join the dance.
So, would not, could not, would not,
Could not, would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not,
Could not, could not join the dance.

“What matters it how far we go?”
His scaly friend replied,
“There is another shore, you know,
Upon the other side.
The further off from England
The nearer is to France –
Then turn not pale, beloved snail,
But come and join the dance.

Will you, won’t you, will you,
Won’t you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, won’t you,
Will you, won’t you join the dance?

Will you, won’t you, will you,
Won’t you, won’t you join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you,
Won’t you, won’t you join the dance?

 

Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac

JULY 25, 1853: AND MY OTHER BROTHER JOAQUIN

AND MY OTHER BROTHER JOAQUIN

He was an infamous cutthroat bandit. Or he was a 19th century Robin Hood. One thing was certain, Joaquin Murrieta was a notorious figure in California during the California Gold Rush of head1the 1850s, and he was well outside the law. Maybe he was twins, the good twin who was driven by Anglos from a rich mining claim, his wife raped, his half-brother lynched, and Murrieta himself horse-whipped (they knocked him down, stepped on his face, slandered his name all over the place).  Or the evil twin, an occasional horse thief and a bandit who attacked settlers and wagon trains in California, killing over 40 people in the process.

By 1853, California authorities had had enough of him. In a bill passed in May 1853, the legislature authorized hiring 20 California Rangers, veterans of the Mexican-American War, to hunt down the so-called five Joaquins — Joaquin Botellier, Joaquin Carrillo, Joaquin Ocomorenia, Joaquin Valenzuela and Murrieta.

Early on the morning of July 25, 1853, the rangers attacked Murrieta’s outlaw camp. Caught by surprise and badly outnumbered, eight of the bandits were killed, including Murrieta and his right hand man, Three-Fingered Jack (presumably his three fingers were on his left hand). To prove they had indeed killed Murrieta, the rangers cut off his head along with Jack’s three-fingered hand, preserving them in whiskey until they could exhibit them to the authorities.

The rangers received a $6,000 reward, and made some nice residual profits by taking Murrieta’s head on tour throughout California, charging a buck to see it (it’s uncertain if they charged extra for Jack’s three fingers).

Eventually, the head ended up in San Francisco Museum, where it was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1906. Today all that remains is a plaque near the intersection of State Routes 33 and 198 marking the spot where the outlaw lost his head.

“The executioner’s argument was that you couldn’t cut off something’s head unless there was a trunk to sever it from. He’d never done anything like that in his time of life, and wasn’t going to start now.

The King’s argument was that anything that had a head, could be beheaded, and you weren’t to talk nonsense.

The Queen’s argument was that if something wasn’t done about it in less than no time, she’d have everyone beheaded all round.

It was this last argument that had everyone looking so nervous and uncomfortable.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac

November 26, 1865: O Frabjous Day

On a summer afternoon boat trip in the early 1860s the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson told the three Liddell sisters – Lorina, Alice and Edith – a story that featured a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure. The girls loved the story, and ten-year-old Alice asked Dodgson to write it down for her. In November of 1864, Dodgson gave Alice the handwritten manuscript of the story called Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, with his own illustrations, dedicated as “A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer’s Day”.

A year later on November 26, 1865, he gave the book to the world with a new title, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.  The book in which Alice falls down a rabbit hole into a world filled with outlandish anthropomorphic characters was not a big success at the time; it has since become a giant of “children’s” literature and Lewis Carroll’s language and logic have become fixtures in modern culture and literature.

Alice as depicted by Rev. Dodgson
Alice as depicted by Rev. Dodgson

“I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir,” said Alice, “because I’m not myself, you see.”

From the original by Tenniel
From the original by John Tenniel

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Alice by Arthur Rackham
Alice by Arthur Rackham

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where –” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

alice charles pears
Alice by Charles Pears

They drew all manner of things — everything that begins with an M . . . such as mousetraps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness — you know you say things are much of a muchness.

Alice by Charles Robinson
Alice by Charles Robinson

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.

Alice by George Soper
Alice by George Soper

The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday-but never jam today

Alice by Harry Rountree
Alice by Harry Rountree
alice disney
By Disney Studios

Speak roughly to your little boy
and beat him when he sneezes!
he only does it to annoy,
because he knows it teases!

By Mervyn Peake
By Mervyn Peake