Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some 'I'll bite yer legs off' moments in mythology

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and sometimes fiction is stranger than other fiction. In this case, myth is weirder than the Monty Python version, which was weird enough.

As a kid I read every myth and legend I could get my hands on, except the British ones. For some reason Matter of Britain and / or Morte d'Artur just gave me hives. Possibly because it was positioned to me as a romance – doomed Art and Jennifer and their friend Lance and all their machinations. I read Lord of the Rings, of course, and loved it to an unnatural extent. And I loved Monty Python. Who else could think up the Black Knight, who fought on when all his limbs had been sliced away, threatening to bite our heroic ker-nig-h-t on the legs? Who could think up the Killer Bunny, the fluffy cave-dweller that dismembered the Grail seekers with its flying attack?

Recently I obtained from a second hand shop a rather dry tome called Nine Lives—Cats in Folklore, by Katharine M Briggs.  One story she details is from The Vulgate Merlin – of which I had never heard – as detailed by a Lady Wilde.  It concerns a killer cat.

Apparently, a fisherman had promised his next catch to God, but when he caught it, he thought it would be better to eat it himself. And so he promised the next catch to God, and you can guess what happened. And so, when he cast the net the third time, he drew out a coal-black kitten. Thinking it would make a good ratter (as you do) he took it home. It's not entirely explained why the cat was living underwater, but a rapid Google search to get me up to speed on Arthurian legend leads me to believe it was his kitten, and he had been feeding it on Sirens' milk. And feeding cats on Sirens' milk is apparently much like getting your Gremlin wet and/or feeding it after midnight.

Well, the Devil Cat caused so much damage that Merlin mentioned it to King Arthur as something he ought to be doing something about.  Merlin, the King and his knights set off to the Lake of Lausanne, where they found that all the people had fled, because no one would live there for fear of the kitty. 

Merlin showed him a deep cave with a wide mouth, set in the mountain.  And here I'm going to switch to Lady Wilde's actual words. Since Briggs quoted them and they are already on the internet at Library Ireland, I'm assuming they are out of copyright.
"And how shall the cat come out?" said the king.

"That shall ye see hastily," quoth Merlin; "but look you, be ready to defend, for anon he will assail you."

"Then draw ye all back," said the king, "for I will prove his power."

And when they withdrew, Merlin whistled loud, and the cat leaped out of the cave, thinking it was some wild beast, for he was hungry and fasting; and he ran boldly to the king, who was ready with his spear, and thought to smite him through the body. But the fiend seized the spear in his mouth and broke it in twain.

Then the king drew his sword, holding his shield also before him. And as the cat leaped at his throat, he struck him so fiercely that the creature fell to the ground; but soon was up again, and ran at the king so hard that his claws gripped through the hauberk to the flesh, and the red blood followed the claws.

Now the king was nigh falling to earth; but when he saw the red blood he was wonder-wrath, and with his sword in his right hand and his shield at his breast, he ran at the cat vigorously, who sat licking his claws, all wet with blood. But when he saw the king coming towards him, he leapt up to seize him by the throat, as before, and stuck his fore-feet so firmly in the shield that they stayed there; and the king smote him on the legs, so that he cut them off to the knees, and the cat fell to the ground.

Then the king ran at him with his sword; but the cat stood on his hind-legs and grinned with his teeth, and coveted the throat of the king, and the king tried to smite him on the head; but the cat strained his hinder feet and leaped at the king's breast, and fixed his teeth in the flesh, so that the blood streamed down from breast and shoulder.

Then the king struck him fiercely on the body, and the cat fell head downwards, but the feet stayed fixed in the hauberk. And the king smote them asunder, on which the cat fell to the ground, where she howled and brayed so loudly that it was heard through all the host, and she began to creep towards the cave; but the king stood between her and the cave, and when she tried to catch him with her teeth he struck her dead.

The cat's feet were still in the hauberk and the shield; and rather than get them out of the shield, they left them in as a trophy. But the feet left in the hauberk were put into a coffin and kept.

The Monty Python crew were well-versed in the classics - at least they went to the right university for it - so they may indeed have read the story of the Killer Cat. Their version is a little more hilarious, though.

I can't find a copy of The Vulgate Merlin on line, so I'll have to take Lady Wilde's word for it. Her book is ANCIENT LEGENDS, MYSTIC CHARMS, AND SUPERSTITIONS OF IRELAND WITH SKETCHES OF THE IRISH PAST, 1888

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Income inequality

So, when I say that income inequality is bad, why do I say that? If everyone gets a basic wage, who cares if someone gets more?

This TED talk explains how corrosive income inequality is. It's 16 minutes long, but it delivers the goods.

(Via More Words Deeper Hole)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Steppin' Razor

The Kills, playing Peter Tosh's Steppin' Razor acoustic.

And the Kills playing Steppin' Razor with just a tad of amplification.

I love this band.

The other part of the medley seems to be Willie Cobbs - or Bo Diddley - or whatever, but how come that murderous riff disappeared in the Kills version?

This T S McPhee version is the one I grew up with.

Occupy Wall Street

I'm not actually at Wall Street, and so I'm not technically Occupying Wall Street, but I just wanted to post that I am one of the 99%.

This website has more than thirty graphs that show why income inequality today is not just slightly higher than in previous eras, but radically different.  And it's not from Radical Marxist Instigator Weekly, it's from Business Insider. Every single chart shows we're not going through some readjustment or growth, but a change to a different way of life.

They ate all our money. They vacuumed it up. We don't have it. It went to banks. Then they claimed they were too big to fail, and got bailed out. They went on to pay outrageous bonuses on their non-existent profits.

Now I hear bankers on the radio explaining how our pensions and 401ks are unsustainable and we must expect them to be downsized. I heard them on BBC World Service today, in fact, explaining how our greediness must be curtailed.

I'm not greedy. I've paid into Social Security all my working life. To hear some lackey roar about how I feel "entitled" and I need to be disabused of the notion annoys me. They took our wage increases for the last thirty years, 401(k)s, they took our mortgages, they got a trillion dollar 'bail-out', and now they want our pensions and Social Security. No. Too much already.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Orange Claw Hammer

Never heard this before. Captain Beefheart in Dylan mode and Frank Zappa in Paul Simon mode, tackling a Beefheartesque folk song.

Hollis Brown must be turnin' in his grave.

Eyes of Providence

Jimmy Page, wearing a shirt with an eye-in-the-pyramid design on the back. (That's Bill Graham, the famous promoter, with him.)

This shirt also starred in The Song Remains the Same.

And here's Alison Mosshart. (Picture found on Tumblr, so no credit for it.)


Best buddies!

(That last one is Ross Halfin's, if you can't 
tell by the watermark.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

999, as it were.

How would tax burdens change if we were to go to Cain's SimCity 999 mix, you ask. Well, it would mean the rich paying so much less tax that you will get tired of scrolling down before you find out how much.

If your scroll finger is youthful and refreshed, try here.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Hidden kitty

Most of my acquaintances said it took them an instant to find the cat in this picture. I have to say it took me five minutes.

It is really there, and not at all hiding.


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