Issue #607 - 26th March 2021
|^ WORD OF THE WEEK
^ ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
Friday 26th March - William Caxton printed his translation of Aesop's Fables, 1484. Artist Mary Beale born, 1633. Architect John Vanbrugh died, 1726. The first Henley Royal Regatta was held, 1839. Poet Robert Frost born, 1874. Actress Jan Sterling died, 2004. Purple Day in Canada and the US. Saturday 27th March - Juan Ponce de Léon reached the northern tip of the The Bahamas on his first voyage to Florida, 1513. King James VI and I of the United Kingdom died, 1625. Composer Johann Ernst Ebelin born, 1702. Typhoid Mary, the first asymptomatic carrier of a disease to be identified in the US, was put into quarantine for the second and final time, 1915. Soprano Maria Ewing born, 1950. Archaeologist Elisabeth Schmid died, 1994. International Whisk(e)y Day. World Theatre Day. Sunday 28th March - Artist Raphael born, 1483. The foundation stone of Valetta, capital of Malta, was laid, 1566. Ivan the Terrible, first Tsar of Russia, died, 1584. Teacher Ángela Ruiz Robles, inventor of the precursor to the electronic book, born, 1895. US President George H.W. Bush posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to Jesse Owens, 1990. Pianist Moura Lympany died, 2005. British Summer Time begins. Monday 29th March - Edward of York defeated Queen Margaret at the Battle of Towton to become King Edward IV of England, 1461. Adventurer Jørgen Jørgensen born, 1780. Queen Victoria opened the Royal Albert Hall, 1871. Parapsychologist Harry Price died, 1948. Actress Marina Sirtis born, 1955. Filmmaker Agnès Varda died, 2019. Tuesday 30th March - The people of Sicily rebelled against the Angevin king Charles I, 1282. Artist Francisco Goya born, 1746. Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, died, 1806. Fashion designer and dandy Beau Brummel died, 1840. The US bought Alaska from Russia, 1867. Singer-songwriter and actress Dana Gillespie born, 1949. Wednesday 31st March - Roman Emperor Constantine married Fausta, daughter of retired Emperor Maximian, 307. Philosopher René Descartes born, 1596. Artist John Constable died, 1837. The Vienna Concert Society rioted during a performance of modernist music, 1913. Singer-songwriter Kate Micucci born, 1980. Lawyer and ecofeminist Bella Abzug died, 1998. World Backup Day. Thursday 1st April - Crown Prince Jin Chengdi became emperor of the Eastern Jin dynasty at the age of four, 325. Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of England and France, died, 1204. Physician William Harvey born, 1578. The Wrigley Company was founded in Chicago, 1891. Writer Anne McCaffrey born 1926. Swimmer Karen Muir died, 2013. April Fools' Day. Fossil Fools Day.
^ THE WISDOM OF...
This week, Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil's Dictionary:April Fool, n. The March fool with another month added to his folly.
^ FILM QUIZ
A selection of quotations from films released in the same year. Answers next issue or from the regular address.
Last issue's quotations were from films released in 1998:
- Penny Pingleton, you know you are punished. From now on you're wearing a giant P on your blouse every day to school so that the whole world knows that Penny Pingleton is permanently, positively, punished.
- How could he be afraid of heights? He's so tall!
- - As soon as we get settled, we'll build you a darkroom in the basement, okay?
- My whole life is a dark room. One big dark room.
- Don't play with that wand! It holds vast powers. Only a real sorcerer can use it, not a stupid peck like you.
- - You don't know how hard it is being a woman looking the way I do.
- You don't know how hard it is being a man looking at a woman looking the way you do.
- I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way.
- Lady, I never walk into a place I don't know how to walk out of.
- Okay, girls, that was absolutely perfect without really being any good at all.
-- Spice World
- You still don't understand, John. You were never a boy. Not in this place.
-- Dark City
- After tonight, the three of us are not to be seen together ever again.
-- Wild Things
- I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. One.
-- City of Angels
^ WEIRD WORLD NEWS
Strange stories from around the world, some of which might be true...
- Last year the wild goats of the Great Orme in Wales hit the headlines after straying down into Llandudno and being photographed roaming streets emptied by the first lockdown. They have returned, and because COVID restrictions meant that they were not given routine contraceptive injections last year, there are more than ever. With businesses due to reopen people are being warned to watch out for them on roads. ● A video posted online recently shows a cat playing table tennis. Rather than use a paddle Quincy the cat batted the ball back with his paws, at times getting the better of his human opponent. ● The heavy rainfall in Australia has not only temporarily changed the colour of Uluru and created spectacular waterfalls down its sides and gullies, it has brought plagues of mice, spiders and snakes fleeing the water into people's homes.
- Jekan Thanga, a professor at the University of Arizona in Tuscon and a group of his students have suggested using 3-4 billion-year-old lava caves on the Moon to store a depository of biological samples - seeds, spores, sperm and eggs - from a wide range of species which could be used to restore biodiversity in the event of a catastrophe hitting Earth. Their proposed archive would be tended by robots and powered by solar panels. ● A sonic boom heard across South West England last week has been attributed to a meteorite after dashcam footage of a fireball streaking across the sky over Jersey emerged. ● NASA has announced details of the first test flight of the Ingenuity helicopter carried aboard the Perseverence rover on Mars. The 4lb (1.8kg) machine will be the first helicopter to fly on another planet when it takes to the air in early April. Perseverence is currently trundling its way to the area designated as the 'airfield'. ● Black holes lie at the centres of galaxies and are usually static within their galaxies, so astronomers were puzzled to detect a supermassive black hole - one several million times the mass of the Sun - moving through space at 110,000 mph (177,000km/h). They speculate that it is either the result of a collision between two black holes or part of a binary black hole system, pulled by the gravity of its partner. ● First it was Chris Hadfield perfoming Space Oddity aboard the International Space Station, now scientists have explained the spiders from Mars. The 'spiders', technically called araneiforms, are black spider-like markings on the surface of the planet. Using the Open University Mars Simulation chamber scientists put frozen blocks of carbon dioxide on the low-pressure simulated Martian landscape where it sublimated on the heated ground (caused by the Sun in the Martian spring), - turning from ice straight to gas which bubbled through cracks in the ice leaving similar markings on the surface. [If astronomers discover a black star next week... -Ed]
- It has long been known that in the move from hunter-gathering to farming rice was first cultivated in China, grains in the Middle East and maize in Mexico. An international team of scientists have found evidence that 10,000 years ago humans were growing squash, cassava and maize in what is now northern Bolivia. The area today is a savannah with raised mounds that are covered in trees, but the team found that almost 5,000 of them were inhabited and used for crops in a time when the land around them frequently flooded. ● Canadian scientists studying rocks deep below Baffin Island near Greenland have discovered evidence of the North Atlantic Craton, which was a part of the Earth's crust reaching from Scotland to Northern America until it broke apart 150 million years ago. The discovery has added 10% to the known extent of the craton. ● Ten years ago scientists began studying fossilised trees found in an abandoned quarry in Cairo, New York. They have now determined that they are the remains of three species, Cladoxylopsids, Archaeopteris and another yet to be identified. The tree fossils are thought to be 386 million years old, 2-3 million years older than the previous oldest-identified specimens, found at Gilboa, also in New York State. The site has also yielded the fossil remains of fish, suggesting that the forest flooded. ● In 1883 antiquities dealer Moses Willhelm Shapira announced the discovery of fifteen fragments of a manuscript in a cave near the Dead Sea and claimed that they were the 'original' biblical book of Deuteronomy. The fragments were sold to the British Museum for £1m ($1.37m) but were subsequently declared to be fakes, sold on, and disappeared. Now scholar Idan Derschowitz claims to have recreated them from C19th transcriptions and drawings, and to have linguistic, archival and literary evidence that they in fact dated to the time of the First Temple, as early as 957 BCE, making them the oldest-known biblical artefacts. The wherabouts of the Shapira Scroll today is unknown.
- A man has been convicted in Carlisle Crown Court of stealing £8,296.09 ($11,372) from Solway DAF, his employer, by creating a Paypal account linked to his company credit card. He used the money to buy car parts, tools, a lawn sprinkler, videogames and a Bluetooth speaker as well as 48 bottles of Bottega Gold Prosecco for his wedding reception, at which his boss was a guest. Andrew Dickinson was given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months. ● Customs staff at Chennai International Airport in southern India recently became suspicious of two men with oddly-shaped heads who had flown in from Dubai. Realising that they were both wearing wigs the officers pulled back the hairpieces to find packets of gold paste and cash taped to the men's bald heads. Further searches also found gold fragments and other illicit (but unspecified) items hidden in their socks and inserted up their rectums. The gold and currency was valued at $382,943 (£279,354).
- Charterfields auctioneers are selling "a single page signed job application from 1973" in an online auction. While it is not clear from the document what job or company the application was for, the name of the applicant is. It was written and signed by Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, when he was at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. At the time of reporting the highest bid for the A4 paper was $26,493 (£19,000). The page was last auctioned in 2018, when it sold for over $175,000 (£127,661). ● British artist Sacha Jafri has spent 8 months by himself in a deserted Dubai hotel ballroom creating the world's largest artwork, measuring 17,000 square feet (1,600m2). He had planned to sell it off as 70 lots but a French cryptocurrency businessman has bought the entire work for £45m ($62m) which will go to UNICEF, UNESCO, Dubai Cares and the Global Gift Foundation to help disadvantaged children around the world. ● Street artist Banksy's Game Changer, depicting a child playing with a nurse doll held in a superhero pose, which appeared in a Southampton General Hospital foyer during the first wave of the pandemic has been auctioned by Christie's for £14.4m ($19.7m), a record price for a Banksy work. The proceeds plus "a significant portion" of Christie's premium fees will go to the Southampton Hospitals Charity. ● The first tweet, sent by Twitter founder Jack Dempsy - or at least a nonfungible token (NFT - viz. previous issue) for it - has been auctioned for the Ether cryptocurrency equivalent of £2.1m ($2.9m) to Sina Estavi, a chief executive of tech firm Bridge Oracle, who declared that in years to come "people will realize the true value of this tweet, like the Mona Lisa painting". ● After the sale of digital artwork Everydays: The First 5000 Days (reported on in the last issue) for $69,346,250 actor/comedian/alimony payer John Cleese offered an iPad line drawing of the Brooklyn Brdge (credited as by "Not-John-Cleese") for $69,346,250.50. Yes, that's 50c (36p) more. At the time of reporting the highest offer was $35,671.20 (£26,022).
- The US makers of Cinnamon Toast breakfast cereal have found themselves entangled in an online spat with a man who claims to have found shrimp tails, dental floss and rat droppings in a box of their cereal. ● Taiwanese officials have asked people to stop visiting government offices to change their names after a restaurant offered free all-you-can-eat sushi meals to anyone whose name on their official ID card includes 'Gui Yu' ('Salmon' in English). Dozens of people quickly applied to change their names, at a cost of around NT$80 (£2.19; $3), with new names taken including (in English) "Meteor Salmon King", "Kuo Salmon Rice Bowl" and "Salmon Fried Rice". Most of the people who changed their names planned to change them back after claiming their free meal, doubling the amount of paperwork for civil servants.
- California resident Jennifer Little was moving furniture in her ground floor bedroom when she found a manhole in the floor. Her husband went down it (in reports Jennifer said she would have done were it not for "the huge spiders") and discovered a bomb shelter complete with bunk beds, cabinets, a urinal, a dry storage room and ventilation. The couple initially assumed that it had been constructed during the World War II Japanese attack scares, but then learned that the house was built in 1951, dating the shelter to the cold war and the threat of nuclear attack. While the odds of nuclear strikes are now significantly reduced, as one TikTok comment put it, "if there's a zombie apocalypse at least ya'll be safe."
- If you have ever had trouble manoeuvering a car spare a thought for the captain of the Ever Given, a 1312'- (400m-) long 200,000 tonne container ship operated by Evergreen Marine, which ran aground and became stuck across the Suel Canal as it was heading from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean in the early hours of Tuesday morning. While speculation initially suggested engine failure as the cause, Evergreen issued a statement saying that strong winds had caused the accident. The ship blocked the entire width of a section of the canal, leading to long tailbacks on a waterway through which 10% of global trade sails. While tugs worked to free the ship, which was estimated as taking up to two days to complete, the Suez Canal's operators had to open up an older channel to divert ships around it.
- Fifteen volunteers have been sealed into a French cave as part of an experiment into understanding 'deep time' - the perception of time without access to external indicators like day and night, or clocks. The eight men and seven women are seeking to "learn the links between our brains and time, as well as the capacity of functional synchronisation within a group". They have a dynamo-driven light for emergencies and four tons of supplies, and are wearing sensors to allow researchers outside the cave to monitor them. Barring emergencies they will emerge after forty days. ● Two schoolgirls whose families called the police after they did not return home and whose phones had died preventing calls to them being connected, sparked an all-night search before being found early the next morning by a passer-by who saw them waving for help from a locked train carriage parked at the station. They had taken the train home to Balloch in Scotland after a day out in Glasgow but had fallen asleep and went unobserved by train staff before the train was locked up for the night. They were cold, hungry and scared but otherwise uninjured. Police Scotland are investigating the incident.
- The Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland which has lain dormant for 800 years began erupting last Friday. A fissure volcano, unlike Eyjafjallajökull which caused disruption to air travel across western and northern Europe in 2010, Fagradalsfjall, on the Reykjanes Peninsula, just 25 miles (40km) from Reykjavik, the eruption consists of earthquakes, lava fountains and flows. At the time of writing it is diminishing, but further eruptions are predicted. Vulcanologists studying the eruption released a video of themselves using the heat from the lava to cook sausages for their lunchtime hot dogs.
IN BRIEF: Students studying a "science of happiness" course at Bristol University have been found to be happier than students not taking the course. ● A 50-year-old male Japanese biker used photo editing software on selfies to make himself look like a young woman for the purpose of getting social media likes. ● A Japanese company is offering paid leave to staff to grieve when their idols (favourite pop stars) 'graduate' (retire) or get married. ● A study published in the Journal of Religion and Health into the longevity of Catholic bishops and priests for whom worshippers would offer prayers for recovery when sick has found that there is "no effect of the number of received prayers on life duration" so the hypothesis promulgated by believers that prayers can affect health and life "was not confirmed". ● Physicists at CERN's Large Hadron Collider have seen results that, if confirmed, may rewrite the Standard Model, the accepted understanding of the way three of the four fundamental forces in physics interact. ● A rare "tsunami cloud", thousands of feet high and miles wide, which looks like an approaching tidal wave, has been photographed off Wales. ● Three Russian airmen aboard a Tu-22M3 long-range bomber were killed after their ejector seats accidentally activated as they carried out pre-flight checks while the plane was on the ground at an airbase 90 miles (145km) southwest of Moscow. All four crew members were ejected and their parachutes failed to open because of the low altitude. The fourth man survived and was hospitalised. ● Madame Tussaud's Waxworks in San Antonio, Texas, has had to remove their sculpture of twice-indicted former president Donald Trump because people kept attacking it. Their statues of other former presidents have been damaged or defaced shortly after they left office (Barack Obama's needed its ears replaced six times) but this is the first one to have to be removed. ● John Ratcliffe, National Intelligence Director under twice-indicted former president Trump, claims that the US will soon release "evidence of UFOs moving at non-human speeds and breaking sound barriers [sic] without a sonic boom".
CORONAVIRUS ROUND-UP: Idaho resident Ammon Bundy was due in court on charges including that he trespassed at the state capitol building during protests against COVID-19 restrictions last summer, but Bundy, the leader of the far-right People's Rights group, refused to wear a face mask to enter the court building so guards stopped him at the door. After a three-hour standoff between guards and Bundy's supporters he was arrested and now faces an additional charge of failing to appear in front of a judge. Bundy is representing himself, so his lawyer could not apologise in court... ● A customer who ordered a dozen custom face maks from a Minnesota arts and crafts store sent them back with a letter complaining that "I ordered a dozen custom masks from you, however you only sent me 12"... ● Galveston, Texas, woman Terry Lynn Wright, 65, who went viral after a bank guard's bodycam video of her shouting at him after she refused to put on a face mask in the bank or leave "what are you going to do? Arrest me? That's hilarious!" [he subsequently did] was arrested again six days later after refusing to put on a face mask in an Office Depot store.
UPDATES: Hundreds of thousands of dollars raised by Reddit trading tips community members involved in the recent GameStop trading incident have been donated to charities working to support endangered species including gorillas, pangolins, sea turtles and elephants. ● Mark Ponder, arrested for taking part in the US Capitol riot on January 6th told the FBI when interviewed that "You cannot stand if someone is going to take it from you, if you are going to get robbed. And you go to work every day and you go outside and somebody robs you. That's something you can't take, right?" Ponder should know about robbery. He was convicted of bank robbery and stealing a taxi, forcing its driver and passenger out of the car, on separate occasions in 2008. More than 300 people have been charged over the attempted insurrection so far, with the FBI expecting at least 100 more to be.
Politician John Magufuli (President of Tanzania [2015-death], 61), racing driver Johnny Dumfries (John Crichton-Stuart, 7th Marquess of Bute, 1986 F1 Lotus team, 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours winner, 62), soccer player Peter Lorimer (Leeds United, Scotland, Toronto Blizzard, 74), conductor James Levine (New York Metropolitan Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, 77), aerospace engineer Glynn Lunney (Project Mercury, Project Gemini, Apollo program, 84), actor George Segal (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Just Shoot Me!, The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, 87).
^ DUMBLEDORE BEAR'S LOTTERY PREDICTOR!
Dumbledore Bear, our in-house psychic predicts that the following numbers will be lucky:10, 23, 35, 40, 43, 46[UK National Lottery, number range 1-59]
You can get your very own prediction at http://www.simonlamont.co.uk/tfir/dumbledore.htm.
^ AND FINALLY...
It was Monday afternoon and the children were having a free drawing class where they could draw whatever they liked. As the teacher walked around the room she looked at their drawings. "That's a very pretty horse, Little Mary. Little Robin, that's a very fast-looking car. Little Simon, that's quite a fierce bear you've drawn," she said, before getting to Little Jennifer's desk where she looked puzzled. "What are you drawing, Little Jennifer," she asked.
Little Jennifer looked up. "Well, Miss, I went to Sunday School yesterday so I'm drawing God."
"But nobody knows what God looks like," the teacher said.
Little Jennifer smiled as only she could. "They will in a minute, Miss!"
^ ...end of line