Recent blog entries for marnanel

10 Feb 2016 (updated 10 Feb 2016 at 17:05 UTC) »


"Mikrokosmographia" by Helkiah Crooke (1576-1635) was the first book in English to use the word "clitoris". Oddly, there's not much of the book online [edit: there's a blog!] But here's page 238, where he explains about orgasms, lesbians, and squirting. I've modernised the spelling a bit.

"Although for the most part it hath but a small production hidden under the Nymphes [==labia], and hard to be felt but with curiosity, yet sometimes it groweth to such a length that it hangeth without the cleft like a man's member, especially when it is fretted with the touch of the cloaths, and so strutteth and groweth to a rigidity as doth the yard of a man. And this part it is which those wicked women do abuse called Tribades (often mentioned by many authors, and in some states worthily punished) to their mutual and unnatural lusts.

The use of this part is the same with the bridle of the yard [==the frenulum of the penis]; for because the Testicles of the women [==ovaries] are far distant from the yard [==penis] of the man, the imagination is carried to the spermatical vessels by the motion and attrition of this Clitoris, together with the lower ligatures of the womb, whose original [==the cervix] toucheth, cleaveth and is tied to the leading vessels of the seed. And so the profusion of their seed is stirred up for generation, for which business it was not necessary it should be large. Wherefore although by this passage their seed is not ejaculated, yet by the attrition of it their imagination is wrought to call that out that lieth deeply hidden in the body, and hence it is called "aestrum Veneris" & "dulcedo amoris". For in it with the ligaments inserted into it is, the especial seat of delight in their veneral embracements, as [Renaldus] Columbus imagineth he first discovered.

For Nature [...] hath given to all creatures both the instruments of conception, and hath also infused into them a strange and violent kind of delight, that none of the kinds of the creatures should perish but remain ever (after a sort) immortal. And truly it was very necessary that there should be a kind of pleasant force or violence in the Nature of mankind to transport him out of himself, or beside himself as it were, in the act of generation; to which otherwise (being master of himself) he would hardly have been drawn; which ecstasy (for it is called a little epilepsy, or falling sickness) is caused by the touch of the seed upon the nervous and quick-sensed parts as it passeth by them."

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Syndicated 2016-02-09 19:41:27 (Updated 2016-02-10 16:32:15) from Monument

swearing allegiance to Peter Ustinov

conversation between me and Tim, many years ago:

Marn: I've never pledged allegiance to the Queen... well, unless you count the Cub Scout promise. Come to think of it, though, I've sworn allegiance to her husband.
Tim: ?!
Marn: When you start at Cambridge, you have to promise allegiance to the chancellor, and the chancellor is Prince Philip. So presumably I'm still under an oath of allegiance to him.
Tim: ... that's wonderful. I wonder whether that means I've sworn allegiance to Peter Ustinov.

- Prince Philip was chancellor of Cambridge at the time of this conversation; he isn't now.
- Peter Ustinov was chancellor of Durham at the time; he's now dead.
- the Cambridge matriculation oath is currently: "I promise to observe the Statutes and Ordinances of the University as far as they concern me, and to pay due respect and obedience to the Chancellor and other officers of the University."
- the Cub Scout promise is currently: "I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God, and to the Queen, to help other people, and to keep the Cub Scout law."

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Syndicated 2016-02-06 16:25:19 from Monument

"Who listens to the radio through a bleedin` satellite anyway?"

I don't understand all the physics, but I read Justin Smith's as much for his writing style as the technical stuff. Here's a sample:

"If you`re using the Sky free channels (as opposed to Freesat) in order to receive all the available free channels sometimes need a Sky card . At the moment this is quite cheap but it is only available from Sky and anyone who has had dealings with them can testify that it can be a frustrating business..... In fact when Which? researched call centres in Jan 11 they found Sky was the worst, and they`ve got some decent opposition in that department, particularly Royal Mail, and (ironically) BT, plus all the broadband providers, obviously. That`s the modern trend, companies don`t actually want to talk to their customers, not unless it`s a voice activated computer. I never talk to them. Well actually I do, I swear at them till they put me through to a human being. You should try it, it`s very satisfying.

Some of the of the programmes on Freeview are not available on Freesat. As far as I am aware Dave or the UK History channel are not available on Freesat although the situation could change so you are advised to check. Apparently UKTV History changed its name in March 09 to “Yesterday”, and it also changed its Freeview MUX allocation. Yet another example of name changing bollox. Isn`t all this digital TV complicated enough......

On the other hand there are a few more channels on Freesat than on Freeview. So you might get 120 odd channels of crap *, instead of the 80 odd channels of crap on Freeview. Big deal. So you can waste even more time going through the TV guide confirming there`s nothing actually worth watching anyway. Life`s wonderful.

* Remember they aren`t all TV channels, some are radio channels. Who listens to the radio through a bleedin` satellite anyway ? That`s what I want to know. Whatever next ? Gas companies selling electricity ? And I bet they`d charge too much for it. The world`s gone mad."

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Syndicated 2016-02-03 23:45:18 from Monument

The Dolorous Stroke, which is not about sex

Q: How does the term 'dolorous stroke' fit into the stories surrounding the search for the Holy Grail?

Answer (by me):

The Dolorous Stroke was when Sir Balin stabbed King Pelles in the genitals with a spear. This was even more unfortunate than it sounds, because the spear had also been used to stab Jesus during his crucifixion, and was therefore magic, and Bad Things begin to happen.

Pelles becomes unable to have sex, and he is therefore unable to have a son to be the next king. However, he has a daughter named Elaine, and he decides he'll use her sexuality instead.

Elaine has been trapped in a bath of boiling water by a sorceress. Sir Lancelot arrives, being all heroic, and gets her out of the bath, "naked as a needle" as Malory puts it. Pelles and Elaine get Sir Lancelot drunk, and Elaine uses her magic ring (honestly) to trick Lancelot into having sex with her. "Wit you well that Sir Launcelot was glad, and so was that lady Elaine that she had gotten Sir Launcelot in her arms." says Malory.

Next morning, Lancelot is angry because he thinks his strength depended on his being a virgin. I have no idea why-- girl cooties or something. Elaine then "skips out of bed all naked" (Malory is getting quite excited here) to tell Lancelot that she's pregnant. Pregnancy tests have evidently become less quick and reliable since the days of King Arthur.

Lancelot jumps out of the window and runs off. Nine months later, Elaine bears a son, Galahad, who has the same hangups about virginity as his father, and is insufferably priggish in every version I've read.

Elaine then vanishes from the narrative, since she's just a plot element. I would have said that the story was only interested in you if you have a penis, but then again there's Pelles.

Anyway, Pelles is frustrated and sad and infertile, and because of the magic, the kingdom starts becoming frustrated and sad and infertile as well. So Pelles has nothing to do except sit outside his castle fishing, and holding on to his long wooden rod all day. This is why Pelles is called the Fisher King.

When Galahad grows up, he becomes a Knight of the Round Table, and goes in search of the Grail along with all the others. Guess what? Pelles was actually looking after it the whole time. Lancelot and Galahad both find it, but Galahad gets to keep it because he's a virgin.

Now we find out why Pelles wanted Galahad to be conceived:

Galahad finds the same spear as before, which is now bleeding. He cures Pelles by thrusting the spear into the wound between his legs. No, seriously. Suddenly Pelles is no longer sad and frustrated, and the land becomes fertile again, and everyone's happy. But Galahad is still totally a virgin, of course.

(Bear in mind that these stories have been told over and over again for a thousand years, and the details change in the telling. Sometimes it's Percival rather than Galahad who finds the grail, for example.)

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Syndicated 2016-01-30 23:08:02 (Updated 2016-01-30 23:20:04) from Monument

Maths joke

It all began with a family trip to Königsberg...
Seven Bridges for Seven Brothers

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Syndicated 2016-01-22 22:18:44 from Monument

This is Godot

"This is Godot.

Godot is not here.

Godot is somewhere else.

Be like Godot.

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Syndicated 2016-01-21 16:31:39 from Monument

horsewhipping for Jesus

On 23 January 1867, the Rev. Edward Dodd, a fellow of Magdalene College Cambridge and the vicar of St Giles' church, was caught and publicly horsewhipped by the Rev. J Sumner Brockhurst, of Emmanuel College, as Dodd was leaving formal hall. When asked by a court to explain his actions, Brockhurst said that Dodd had said grace without mentioning the name of Jesus, because a Jewish man was present, and that any reasonable person would have whipped Dodd under such provocation. The court did not agree.

The "Saturday Review" said that this was the result of "muscular Christianity". This was a movement among certain evangelicals at the time, who were worried that religion in general was losing its focus on Jesus by trying to be nice to everyone. (I suspect there was a fair amount of misogyny mixed in: trying to accommodate people was seen as womanly, weak, and unworthy of men.)

Article in the "Spectator":

Article in the "Saturday Review":

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Syndicated 2016-01-19 12:41:05 (Updated 2016-01-19 12:44:40) from Monument

Disasters and retreats

I'm reading Orwell's essay "The Lion and the Unicorn", and this bit made me laugh out loud:

"English literature, like other literatures, is full of battle-poems, but it is worth noticing that the ones that have won for themselves a kind of popularity are always a tale of disasters and retreats. There is no popular poem about Trafalgar or Waterloo, for instance. Sir John Moore's army at Corunna, fighting a desperate rearguard action before escaping overseas (just like Dunkirk!) has more appeal than a brilliant victory. The most stirring battle-poem in English is about a brigade of cavalry which charged in the wrong direction."

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Syndicated 2016-01-19 10:35:50 (Updated 2016-01-19 10:38:05) from Monument


"Duff" was originally an alternative pronunciation of "dough" (cf "enough").

So it also came to mean a kind of pudding, "plum duff". And hence you could be "up the duff" if you were pregnant, just as you might "have a bun in the oven".

From the sense of "dough" it also came to mean flour, and then to chaff, or useless stuff. Hence "duff" meaning useless or broken.

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Syndicated 2016-01-19 10:16:09 from Monument

ECUSA was not expelled

A document got leaked from the Primates' meeting and now the media is in a flap. People are saying that the Episcopal Church of the USA has been suspended or something for allowing same-sex marriage. It hasn't. Read the document yourself, but here's a summary:

1) The meeting has applied (minor and temporary) sanctions against ECUSA for imparing catholicity by making a controversial step without discussing it first. (I myself think these sanctions are a mistake, because we could have discussed it forever, and this is a matter of justice.)

2) The Anglican communion has exactly the same composition as before. ECUSA is not expelled. ACNA is not admitted.

3) Section 4 is groundbreaking: the Primates' meeting has not affirmed that marriage is between one man and one woman, merely noted that this is a majority opinion.

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Syndicated 2016-01-14 22:54:03 from Monument

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