Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bullshit, Part #1

In an email discussion with some friends last night about the numerous emails that use spurious facts to support demonisation of minorities, refugees and people receiving social security benefits, I mentioned that if something looked like bullshit, it usually is.

That started me wondering: how did bovine excrement come to denote nonsense and untruth?

Surprisingly, even T S Eliot gets credit as do the ANZACs . . .


According to Wkikpedia:

"Bull", meaning nonsense, dates from the 17th century, while the term "bullshit" has been used as early as 1915 in American slang, and came into popular usage only during World War 11. The word "bull" itself may have derived from the Old French boul meaning "fraud, deceit" (Oxford English Dictionary). The term "horseshit" is a near synonym. Worthy of note is the South African English equivalent "bull dust". Few corresponding terms exist in other languages, with the significant exception of German Bockmist, literally "billy-goat shit".

The earliest attestation mentioned by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary is in fact T S Eliot, who between 1910 and 1916 wrote an early poem to which he gave the title "The Triumph of Bullshit", written in the form of a ballade. The word bullshit does not appear in the text of the poem. Eliot did not publish this poem during his lifetime. 

As to earlier etymology the OED cites bull with the meaning "trivial, insincere, untruthful talk or writing, nonsense". It describes this usage as being of unknown origin, but notes the following: "OF boul, boule, bole fraud, deceit, trickery; mod cel: bull ‘nonsense’; also ME bull BUL ‘falsehood’, and BULL verb, to befool, mock, cheat." 

Although as the above makes clear there is no confirmed etymological connection, it might be noted that these older meanings are synonymous with the modern expression "bull" otherwise generally considered, and intentionally used as, a contraction of "bullshit".

Another theory, according to the lexicographer Eric Partridge, is that the term was popularised by the Australian and New Zealand troops from about 1916 arriving at the front during World War I. They were astonished at the British commanding officers' emphasis on bull. Bull was the term for attention to appearances - spit and polish, making everything just so, even when it was a hindrance to waging war. The Diggers ridiculed the British by calling it not bull but bullshit.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Quote: John Ruskin

"What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do." 

—John Ruskin 


From Wikipedia:

John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects ranging from geology to architecture, myth to ornithology, literature to education, and botany to political economy. His writing styles and literary forms were equally varied. Ruskin penned essays and treatises, poetry and lectures, travel guides and manuals, letters and even a fairy tale. The elaborate style that characterised his earliest writing on art was later superseded by a preference for plainer language designed to communicate his ideas more effectively. In all of his writing, he emphasised the connections between nature, art and society. He also made detailed sketches and paintings of rocks, plants, birds, landscapes, and architectural structures and ornamentation. He was hugely influential in the latter half of the 19th century up to the First World War. After a period of relative decline, his reputation has steadily improved since the 1960s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work. Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognised as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft.


Some other Ruskin quotes:

Do not think of your faults, still less of other's faults; look for what is good and strong, and try to imitate it. Your faults will drop off, like dead leaves, when their time comes.

It is far more difficult to be simple than to be complicated; far more difficult to sacrifice skill and easy execution in the proper place, than to expand both indiscriminately.

No person who is not a great sculptor or painter can be an architect. If he is not a sculptor or painter, he can only be a builder.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Amazing Places: Chand Baori

This may look like an Escher drawing but it is real, the world's largest stepwell.

Stepwells are wells or ponds where the water is reached by sets of steps. They may be multi-storied. Although they are most common in western India, they are also found in regions of South Asia, extending into Pakistan. Stepwells were developed to cope with seasonal fluctuations in the availability of water, the idea being that it was easier to manage and gather the groundwater, and for people to reach the water, with stepwells rather than with tanks

Chand Baori is a famous stepwell in the village of Adhaneri near Jaipur in India.

Constructed in 800 AD, it has 3,500 steps that are 13 stories high. The steps descend 30 metres into the ground and it is one of the largest and deepest stepwells in India. Three of the walls comprise stairs, the fourth has pavilions built atop each other with niches for statues. There is also a stage for performing arts and a room for the king and queen to stay. As indicated by the green water in the well, it is no longer in use as a working well. Readers may have seen it featured in The Fall and The Dark Knight Rises. I recall that it was also used as a challenge location in The Great Race.

It was built by King Chanda and was dedicated to Hashat Mata, the Goddess of Joy and Happiness. It was also used as a gathering place for locals during periods of intense heat, the temperature being 5-6 degrees cooler at the bottom.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Reader Comments / 5 Minutes of History: Kelly's Bush

Below are some recent reader comments.

Comments are not enabled on the blog site because the posts get inundated with spam. Persons who subscribe to this blog can email me a comment. 


From Byter Dennis, a retired architect, in respect of the pics of mosaic stairs and staircases"

These stairs may look pretty but they would be decidedly dangerous, particularly to the elderly.

I suggested to Dennis that the risk might be in the treads, not the risers, in that some pics only the risers had been decorated.

Dennis responded:

OK for the ones where treads were clearly defined but the ones like Coogee, London, Happonvilliers are definitely a no-no and a couple of the others would be very suss. I would not ever want to take responsibility for any of the designs shown, even if only marginally dangerous.


From Byter Dianne in Holland, in respect of the chicken Funny Friday

After reading your chicken funny stories I thought that you could add this one story that I read a couple of weeks ago. There was also a court case about it. 
They were advertising fresh eggs from free roaming chickens and just watching the money come in for the higher prices for those. They, the chicken farmers, asked a higher price for those healthy eggs from free roaming chickens.When it was checked it appeared that those poor chickens had a roaming area of a 4a by 4a 
Having been born and brought up on a farm, can just imagine the fun that those poor chickens must have had roaming on a space of 4a by 4a... 
Take care, Dianne

I asked Dianne what 4a meant in size and it was clear from her response that she was referring to what we call A4. Here is Dianne's reply:

4 a is often/always used here as the size of the page of copy machine page in length. It is 30cm. This is how much room each roaming chicken had. They wouldn't be doing to much roaming on that bit of space. 


From Byter Sue about the art of Cecelia Webber, who creates photographic flowers out of posed human bodies:

How bizarrely beautiful!


From Byter Donna about the house featured in Oz TV show A Place to Call Home:

We have been watching it with great interest, not only is the story good but Rachael & Brendan Powers are good friends of ours. They actually graciously allowed Glenn and I to hold our wedding reception in the beautiful stables and also had fabulous photos taken in the house and gardens. The house is amazing and they have done well to bring it back to its former glory considering it was extremely run down with rain pouring through the holes in the roof when they purchased it.


From Byter Robyn on Gough Whitlam's birthday:

Thank you for reminding me about Gough's birthday. I too remain a staunch supporter of his for the same reasons espoused by yourself. Oddly enough he was PM for a slightly shorter period than JG. 
I met Gough once when he attended the Hunters Hill branch meeting sometime in 1971 when I was then branch secretary and one Rodney Cavalier was president. Those were the days when ALP leaders were actually interested in the goings on of local branches and their members. At that stage the HH branch had achieved some notoriety for its involvement in the campaign to save Kelly's Bush and associated green bans. 
Even in old age Gough remains a larger than life character and huge intellect with a wicked sense of humour. They just don't make 'em like that any more.

I replied to Robyn that I had been intending to do a Bytes about Kelly's Bush so it's appropriate to say "It's time."


Gough Whitlam was elected Prime Minister in 1972.

In 1971 Billy McMahon was PM. The Vietnam War was in progress, conscription decided which 20 year olds would go to the war and both the political and social scenes were decidely conservative. The role of the monarchy was much greater than today, there were no boat people and communism was looked on as the great threat to democracy and our way of life.

Also in 1971 a group of women were trying to save Kelly's Bush, the last remaining undeveloped bushland in the trendy Sydney suburb of Hunters Hill. They called themselves the Battlers for Kelly's Bush and they had tried various appeals to various persons and authorities in charge - the local Council, the Mayor and the Premier of New South Wales.  All appeals had been unsuccessful.

The 5 hectares of bushland that made up Kelly's Bush was the last remaining natural bushland on the peninsula.  The land was owned by AV Jennings and had been earmarked for 147 units including 3 eight storey buildings.  When the Hunters Hill Trust objected it was scaled down to 56 units, which was approved by the Council. Later it was reduced further to 25 luxury houses. The site had prime location and magnificent views.

In 1971 there was limited environmental consciousness, no rights of challenge through the court by private citizens and little sympathy for those who wanted to stop progress and development. The Council was the body responsible for approving development.  If it gave approval, that was the end of it.  If it refused approval, the developer had a right of appeal.

There was little or no consideration of conservation or environmental issues, no statements of environmental effects or assessments of environmental impact and no involvement of residents or the community.

With the Premier of NSW about to sign to rezone the land from open space to residential to enable the development to proceed, the women sought the help of the NSW branch of the Builders Labourers' Federation (BLF), a trade union of construction workers.

To the horror of the Hunters Hill Trust, which had supported the women, they had sought support from a union with avowed communist leaders - Jack Mundey, Bob Pringle and Joe Owens.  Middle aged women did not do that sort of thing in 1971, especially when Australia was fighting a war against communism.

The BLF, however, believed that the labour movement should involve itself in all struggles of the working class, not just struggles over wages and working conditions. The BLF asked the Hunter's Hill women to call a public meeting at Hunter's Hill and show that there was community support for the request for a union ban on the destruction of Kelly's Bush. Over 600 people attended the meeting, which formally requested a ban. This ban was called a green ban, an environmental and conservation ban, to distinguish it from a black ban - a union action to protect the economic interests of its own members. By imposing a green ban the union was acting against the immediate economic interests of its members for the sake of a wider community and environmental interest.

AV Jennings declared it would nonetheless build on Kelly's Bush by using non-union scab labour.

Building workers on an office project of AV Jennings in North Sydney sent a message to AV Jennings:

'If you attempt to build on Kelly's Bush, even if there is the loss of one tree, this half-completed building will remain so forever, as a monument to Kelly's Bush.'

AV Jennings backed down, saving Kelly's Bush but also setting the scene for confrontation between the BLF and developers. In the process, Jack Mundey and the BLF were demonised by the press, by politicians and by the developers.

In 1973, Hunters Hill Council unsuccessfully sought funding to buy the whole of Kelly's Bush, but by 1976 a newly elected council again voted for residential zoning. In 1977, the incoming Premier Neville Wran announced that no development would take place at Kelly's Bush, and a long period of inactivity followed. Doubts about prospective home sites were raised in 1978 when low-risk radioactive waste material from the old tin smelting furnace was found on the land.

The Battlers for Kelly's Bush and the unions continued their resolute fight until 4 September 1983 when Premier Wran announced that the government had purchased Kelly's Bush for open space, saying this 'represents a victory for environmentalists generally'. Control of the bush was handed over to Hunters Hill Council on 30 December 1993, and a plaque unveiled to commemorate the conservation victory.

Kelly's Bush remains for the use if the public and is part of the Great North Walk.

35 year renunion, 2006
Pictured above with Jack Mundey AO (centre) are, l to r, Kellys Bush battlers Monica Sheehan, Miriam Hamilton, Kath Lehany, Dr Joan Croll, Christena Dawson and Trude Kallir. Guest speaker Mr Mundey, then Secretary of the BLF, campaigned strongly against the development plans for Kelly’s Bush in last wHunters Hill back in the 1970s.

Mr Mundey spoke to a crowd at the Hunters Hill RSL as part of the National Heritage Festival Program Week and was joined by six original battlers.

Mr Mundey also formally opened the exhibition, dedicated to the Kelly’s Bush battle, housed at the historic Vienna Cottage. “Kelly’s Bush is embedded in the history of urban environmentalism in Australia and I am glad to have been a part of that,” he stated.



A 4 year wave of green bans followed that stopped 3 billion dollars of development, approximately $18b in 2005 terms.


Green bans saved from demolition and redevelopment such areas and features as Wolloomooloo, the Rocks, Centennial Park, Victoria Street in Kings Cross and parts of Glebe.


The green ban movement sought to preserve the character of working class suburbs and the availability of low cost housing fro the original residents.


Many of the aims and policies of the BLF and its green bans movement were subsequently adopted by the State and Federal Labor Governments and enshrined in legislation.

According to one author on the subject, "The Green ban movement in Sydney and Melbourne of the early 1970s, led by the Builder Labourers Federation, was the most profound external indication of the need for planning reform". In 1977 an editorial from the Australian quoted “bans were an inevitable result of official attitudes which regarded people as irrelevant factors to development”.

Community concerns came to be incorporated in the planning and consent process, heritage restrictions were introduced and developments were scaled down. The community was also brought into the planning and evaluation process.


The Green Bans led to the Wran government introducing two acts, The Heritage Act 1977 and The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, which overhauled and replaced the previous planning regimes and procedures.


A large number of sites that were the subject of green bans were acquired by the State and Federal governments and preserved.


Despite being openly communist and being demonised in the public consciousness, the BLF worked with, and was often sought out, by residents, community groups and professional associations as the last defence against unwelcome or undesirable development when other avenues had failed.


Green bans influenced local NSW planning structures as well as national planning systems. “The Green ban movement in Sydney and Melbourne of the early 1970s, led by the Builder Labourers Federation, was the most profound external indication of the need for planning reform’. In 1977 an editorial from the Australian quoted “bans were an inevitable result of official attitudes which regarded people as irrelevant factors to development”.


By its deregulation in June 1974 and long before the Kelly's Bush issue was settled, the Builders Labourers Federation had imposed 42 Green Bans to save housing, buildings and bushland. Later, Petra Kelly cited the Sydney Green Bans as her inspiration for launching the world's most successful Green Party in Germany.

· In 1975 Mundey and other NSW leaders of the BLF were expelled from the union by the federal leadership under Norm Gallagher, who was later to be convicted of corrupt dealings with developers (but subsequently overturned on appeal). The BLF was permanently deregistered in 1986 for corruption after investigation by a Royal Commission.


Jack Mundey is today respected and revered, although some still consider him a communist ratbag. He has been awarded a number of university doctorates for 30 years of service to the environment. He is the Chairperson of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales. In February 2007, the Geographical Names Bioard of New South Wales renamed a portion of Argyle Street in The Rocks "Jack Mundey Place" in recognition of his leadership 'in the fight to preserve such significant sites in the historic Rocks area'. Mundey continues to act in development issues, and in 2012, joined the action to preserve Windsor Bridge from further development


Jack Mundey addressing workers, c 1973

Jack Mundey arrested after protesting about the proposed Rocks development.

Jack Mundey in The Rocks, present day

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pulitzer and World Press Photographs of the Year - 1963

Continuing the list of the winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Photography, from inception in 1942; and the World Press Photograph of the Year, from inception in 1955.


Year:  1963

Award:  Pulitzer Prize for Photography

Photographer:  Hector Rondon Lovera

Photograph:  Aid from the Padre


The 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Photography was awarded to Hector Lovera for his photograph of a priest holding a wounded soldier in the 1962 insurrection in Venezuela. This photograph was also awarded the 1962 World Press Photograph of the Year and was the subject of the Bytes on the 1962 awards.


Year:  1963

Award:  World Press Photograph of the Year

Photographer:  Malcolm Browne

Photograph:  Suppression of Buddhists in Vietnam


Malcolm Browne, who died in 2012 aged 81, was for many years a journalist with the New York Times and was awarded a Pulitzer for his writings on the early part of the Vietnam War. Nonetheless he is today best remembered for his photograph of a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, who set himself on fire in protest against the South Vietnamese government’s persecution of Buddhists.

In a 2011 interview by Time, Browne commented that:

"Along about springtime (1963), the monks began to hint that they were going to pull off something spectacular by way of protest ... 
The monks were telephoning the foreign correspondents in Saigon to warn them that something big was going to happen. Most of the correspondents were kind of bored with that threat after a while and tended to ignore it. I felt that they were certainly going to do something, that they were not just bluffing, so it came to be that I was really the only Western correspondent that covered the fatal day."

Browne’s photograph was distributed worldwide, focusing attention on the government of Ngo Dinh Diem and its repressive policies. President Kennedy was moved to comment that “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one."

Duc’s sacrifice was recorded on film, as well as being the subject of Browne’s photograph. Amazingly, he remained still throughout his horrifyingly painful ordeal. See it at the following link but be warned, the image is horrific:

According to journalist David Halbertstam:

I was to see that sight again, but once was enough. Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think ... As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him

The head of the Secret Police in South Vietnam  was  Ngo Dinh Nhu, the brother of Diem.  Madam Nhu, the wife of the head of the Secret Police, commented that the Buddhist monks had done little to assist their cause beyond having “barbequed” one of their own and hypocritically having used “imported petrol": 

Although Diem announced reforms to pacify the Buddhists, the reforms were not implemented. Instead, with Buddhist protests continuing, government troops raided Buddhist pagodas, killing monks and damaging shrines. Quang Duc’s preserved heart was stolen. Several more monks immolated themselves in protest. Diem was eventually toppled by an army coup with Diem being assassinated.

The Time interview referred to above can be read at:

That interview, an extract of which is reproduced below, strikes me as justifying the frequent impression that journalists and photographers are unfeeling and uncaring, concerned only about the story or photograph:

Paul Witty: Tell me about that morning. You certainly weren’t expecting something so dramatic but you felt drawn because of a call the night before? 
Malcolm Browne: I had some hint that it would be something spectacular, because I knew these monks were not bluffing. They were perfectly serious about doing something pretty violent. In another civilization it might have taken the form of a bomb or something like that. 
The monks were very much aware of the result that an immolation was likely to have. So by the time I got to the pagoda where all of this was being organized, it was already underway—the monks and nuns were chanting a type of chant that’s very common at funerals and so forth. At a signal from the leader, they all started out into the street and headed toward the central part of Saigon on foot. 
When we reached there, the monks quickly formed a circle around a precise intersection of two main streets in Saigon. A car drove up. Two young monks got out of it. An older monk, leaning a little bit on one of the younger ones, also got out. He headed right for the center of the intersection. The two young monks brought up a plastic jerry can, which proved to be gasoline. As soon as he seated himself, they poured the liquid all over him. He got out a matchbook, lighted it, and dropped it in his lap and was immediately engulfed in flames. Everybody that witnessed this was horrified. It was every bit as bad as I could have expected. 
I don’t know exactly when he died because you couldn’t tell from his features or voice or anything. He never yelled out in pain. His face seemed to remain fairly calm until it was so blackened by the flames that you couldn’t make it out anymore. Finally the monks decided he was dead and they brought up a coffin, an improvised wooden coffin. 
Paul Whitty:  And you were the only photographer there? 
Matthew Browne: As far as I could tell, yes. It turns out that there were some Vietnamese that took some pictures but they didn’t go out—they’re not on the wires or anything like that. 
Paul Whitty:  What were you thinking while you were looking through the camera? 
Matthew Browne: I was thinking only about the fact it was a self-illuminated subject that required an exposure of about, oh say, f10 or whatever it was, I don’t really remember. I was using a cheap Japanese camera, by the name of Petri. I was very familiar with it, but I wanted to make sure that I not only got the settings right on the camera each time and focused it properly, but that also I was reloading fast enough to keep up with action. I took about ten rolls of film because I was shooting constantly. 
Paul Whitty: How did you feel? 

Matthew Browne: The main thing on my mind was getting the pictures out. I realized this is something of unusual importance and that I’d have to get them to the AP in one of its far flung octopus tentacles as soon as possible. And I also knew this was a very difficult thing to do in Saigon on short notice.
To further emphasise what I said about photographers and journos, have a look at the pic below, no further comment needed . . .

Friday, July 26, 2013

Funny Friday

A mixed bag of humour today, folks, with some attention to the Royal Bub . . . 


...and some quickies, courtesy of Sickipedia:


Prince William revealed today that he changed his first nappy.

Unfortunately, it was the Queen's.


I for one am sick to death of hearing about this baby, and I think everyone else is too.

Perhaps not the best words to say to my newly pregnant girlfriend.


The Queen has called St Mary's Hospital several times today looking for an update on the royal baby.

So far, four nurses have committed suicide.


I've been trying to buy a train ticket online for over an hour now and I'm getting pissed off.

It keeps asking me, 'Where do you want to go?'

So I click on the icon that says 'Home' and then it makes me start again.


We had a power outage last week and my PC, TV and games console shut down immediately, so I had to talk to my family for a few hours.

They seem like nice people.


"Hi, I'm Jane," she said.

"I'm Christopher," I replied, "but everyone calls me Dick for short."

"How do you get Dick from Christopher?" she asked.

"You ask nicely," I said.


All Jay-Z's problems have been undone by his brother, Ctrl-Z.


I've just made the best recipe for tofu ever! 

Simply brush generously with extra virgin olive oil before lightly tossing it in the bin.


Mel Smith's death has been reported on BBC News, Channel 5 News, Sky News, CNN and the News at Ten.

But not the 9 O'Clock News.


I'm no Tour de France expert but it seems that the best way to win is to wear a yellow t-shirt


My wife pointed out that our son is a hairdresser, drives a Mazda, and loves musical theatre. 

If he's not careful, the guys he has stay for sleep overs will think he's gay.


My mate Steven who shares the same name as me, thought it funny to erase the letters 'St' from my pencil case. So during break I did the same to his.

Now we're even.


Recently, my wife and I got a stuffed elephant for our living room.

"It'll be great!" I said. "It'll be a huge talking point at our dinner party this weekend."

But nobody mentioned it.


So Detroit is bankrupt and the unpaid police officers are considering going on strike.

In other news, OCP have built a robot police officer...

Limerick spot:

An old archeologist, Throstle,
Discovered a marvelous fossil.
He knew from its bend
And the knob on the end,
'Twas the peter of Paul the Apostle.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Quotes: Edmund Burke

"Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour."

- Edmund Burke (1729-1797), "Reflections on the Revolution in France" (1790)

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

- Edmund Burke

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

10 Baby Factlets

Dear Kate

If you are reading this, congratulations to you and Wills on the birth of your baby.





I love this one:

Some years ago there were several married undergraduates at Cambridge, and on discovering that "many of their wives were lonely" Launcelot Fleming, then dean of Trinity Hall, arranged a tea party in his rooms so that the wives could meet each other. However, several had to turn down the invitation as prams and babies were not allowed into the college. In order to solve the problem, the college authorities called the babies "honorary cats".

- Michael Hauser-Raspe, Cambridge, UK. 29 January 2005


Babies don't have kneecaps, rather they have a structure of cartilage that resembles kneecaps. They usually don’t develop them fully until after six months. 


Air fresheners may cause diarrhoea and earache in babies say scientists. They found that infants in homes where air fresheners and aerosols were used every day were 32% more likely to suffer from stomach and ear complaints. 


When babies are born, they have 300 bones. Adults have 206. Bones fuse together during growth to come up with the new number. 


Queen Victoria bore nine children. By 1901, they had given her over forty grandchildren, including George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Alexandra, the Tsarina of Russia.


Seventeenth century queens laboured and delivered their babies in public. In 1688, the bedroom of Mary of Modena, wife of James II, was crowded with over seventy onlookers, who were making sure that the pregnancy was genuine and that a boy was not smuggled in concealed in a bed pan!


The first midwife’s oath was sworn by Eleanor Pead, in Canterbury, in 1567. Her duties included treating women of all classes equally, reporting illegitimate arrivals and refraining from the use of witchcraft.


Women had always used herbal remedies to ease their labour pains, particularly the oils of roses and lilies. Stronger pain relief was forbidden and in 1591, midwife Ursula Kemp was burned at the stake for prescribing opium to a labouring mother.


The idea of dressing girls in pink and boys in blue is a relatively modern idea. Until the 1920s, pink and red were considered, strong, masculine colours while blue was seen as softer and more feminine.


Unlike William and the Windsors, it took Henry VIII twenty-eight years and three wives in order to beget a legitimate male heir to the Tudor dynasty. Fertility issues were always considered to be the fault of the woman; no one would dare question the King’s ability to procreate, except perhaps Henry himself!


Your program for the line of succession:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Opening Paragraphs

There was an additional delay in posting Bytes in the last day or so in that I have swapped to a new laptop and everything was being transferred from the old one. I am having to reset various items so be patient with any glitches, readers.


Today's Bytes consists of 10 opening paragraphs from books. The sources are at the end. See how many you get right . . .



It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.



If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two haemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.



The boy with the fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon,. Though he had taken off his school sweater and trailed it now from one hand, his grey shirt stuck to him and his hair was plastered to his forehead. All round him the long scar smashed among the creepers and broken trunks was a bath of heat. He was clambering heavily among the creepers when a bird, a vision of red and yellow, flashed upwards with a witch-like cry; and this cry was echoed by another.



Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.



Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me knocking peoples hats off-then I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings toward the ocean with me.



I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair – it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi-presentable.



It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters.



In the name of God, who is abundant in mercy and compassion! Praise be to God, the Lord of the universe, the most merciful and compassionate, the Sovereign of the day of judgment. Thee alone we worship, and from Thee alone we seek help. Guide us to the right path—the path of them to whom Thou hast been gracious—not of them with whom Thou art angry, nor of them who have gone astray. Amen. 



It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.



Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

1. "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens (1859) 


2. "The Catcher in the Rye" by J. D. Salinger (1951)


3. "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding (1954)


4. "Lady Chatterley's Lover" by D. H. Lawrence (1928)


5. "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville (1851)


6. “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E L James (2011)


7. "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen (1813)


8. The Koran


9. "1984" by George Orwell (1949)


10. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" by J K Rowling (1997)