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322862.  Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:13 am Reply with quote

So it is transformed into a mythconception?

BBC7 use that countdown (as described in the email, or something very like) as their ident for their SF slot.

322898.  Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:52 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
there's been a ballistically-caused vulpicide

This is now my favourite phrase du jour.

323332.  Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:00 pm Reply with quote

I've been meaning to ask about this, ever since somebody put up a rather jolly little fox/firearms picture when something else turned out not to be true. Is there some extremely well known phrase about shooting foxes that an expensive education has mysteriously failed to aquaint me with?

323360.  Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:16 pm Reply with quote

Yes indeed - in fact it's just the kind of thing that an expensive education is supposed to set you right on. The image is that of a hunt in full cry after a fox, expecting a five-mile point across open grassland, hounds in full cry, excellent prospects all round ... and then somebody shoots the fox.

323361.  Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:17 pm Reply with quote

Ah, thanks! But my cheap foreign education also failed to acquaint me with it...

It's not in Brewer either, although apparently "to grin like a shot fox" is to be smugly satisfied. Which is odd really, because I wouldn't have thought that shot foxes found the experience especially delightful.

323559.  Thu Apr 24, 2008 4:47 am Reply with quote

96aelw wrote:
Is there some extremely well known phrase about shooting foxes that an expensive education has mysteriously failed to aquaint me with?

A refund is surely in order. Plenty of lawyers in the Yellow Pages. Make them give you your stolen years back!

323683.  Thu Apr 24, 2008 6:19 am Reply with quote

The first fire extinguishers were glass balls, filled with a saline solution, that were to be thrown at the fire. They were invented by a German physician called Fuches. (there should be something here about Fuches' Balls).

(mentioned here, but there's not much on the web)

This is quite good from wiki:

The first automatic fire extinguisher of which there is any record was patented in England in 1723 by Ambrose Godfrey, a celebrated chemist. It consisted of a cask of fire-extinguishing liquid containing a pewter chamber of gunpowder. This was connected with a system of fuses which were ignited, exploding the gunpowder and scattering the solution.

Fighting fire with FIRE!

323696.  Thu Apr 24, 2008 6:36 am Reply with quote

There was some discussion of Fire Extinguishers here, when it was jokingly suggested that we might save this stuff for Series F 97652

323866.  Thu Apr 24, 2008 10:16 am Reply with quote

Matches seem to have worked by sulphuric acid rather than friction to start with; a Frenchman called Jean Chancel is widely credited with inventing the first match in 1805, which worked by dipping the thing in a bottle of sulphuric acid (and who doesn't carry a bottle of sulphuric acid about their person?), on which it burst into flame. A later refinement was the Promethean, which had a small glass bulb on the end containing sulphuric acid. The outside, as with the end of Chancel's match, was covered in sugar and potassium chlorate. Break the glass, and the thing ignites; Darwin, amongst others, favoured the teeth as a means of achieving this:

I carried with me some promethean matches, which I ignited by biting; it was thought so wonderful that a man should strike fire with his teeth, that it was usual to collect the whole family to see it.

Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle.

325718.  Sat Apr 26, 2008 6:07 pm Reply with quote

I've found a book of Indian sign language, published in 1926, which includes a short section on smoke signals:
As the signals were visible to all, unless they had a secretly understood significance they would be conveying the information alike to friend and enemy. There were, however, certain more or less recognized abstract smoke signals, of which the following are a few. One puff meant ATTENTION. Two puffs meant ALL'S WELL. Three puffs of smoke, or three fires in a row, signifies DANGER, TROUBLE OR A CALL FOR HELP.

Universal Indian Sign Language by William Tomkins

345264.  Mon May 26, 2008 2:03 pm Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
And now, prostitute racing from Rome ...

Fred the Monk has provided more info on this event. I'll just quote his e-mail, shall I?
The event in question is known as 'the feast of the chestnuts' and can be found in "At the Court of the Borgia being an account of the reign of Pope Alexander VI written by his Master of Ceremonies Johann Burchard". An excellent bedtime read if ever there was one.

Johann Burchard
Burchard was born c. 1450 at Niederhaslach, now Bas-Rhin, Alsace, France. Of humble origins, he was educated by the collegial chapter of St. Florent in Niederhaslach and eventually became secretary to the Bishop of Strasbourg. Burchard was ordained a priest in 1476 and moved to Rome in 1481.

Nominated Protonotary Apostolic in 1481, he was appointed Master of Ceremonies to Pope Sixtus IV in 1483, having bought the office for 450 ducats. He held it until his death on 16 May 1506, successively acting as Ceremoniere to Innocent VIII (1484-1492), Alexander VI (1492-1503), Pius III (1503) and during the early years of Julius II.

Burchard's importance derives from his Liber Notarum, a form of official record of the more significant papal ceremonies with which he was involved. ...

The Feast of the Chestnuts
This is the translation of the relevant passage by Geoffrey Parker for the 1963 Folio Soc edition:

On Sunday evening, October 30th, Don Cesare Borgia (the Pope's bastard son) gave a supper in his apartment in the apostolic palace, with fifty decent prostitutes or courtesans in attendance, who after the meal danced with the servants and others there, first fully dressed and then naked. Following the supper too, lampstands holding lighted candles were placed on the floor and chestnuts strewn about, which the prostitutes, naked and on their hands and knees, had to pick up as they crawled in and out of the lampstands. The Pope, Don Cesare and Donna Lucrezia were all present to watch. Finally, prizes were offered silken doublets, pairs of shoes, hats and other garments for those men who were most successful with the prostitutes. This performance was carried out in the Sala Reale and those who attended said that in fact the prizes were presented to those who won the contest.

Now tell me that isn't a solid gold, ready-made TV format? Britain's Got Talent? Bah!

345574.  Tue May 27, 2008 4:05 am Reply with quote

Cool, good stuff. Any ideas for a question? I really like Mat's "how do you start a prostitute race", though perhaps it's too obvious that we're looking for a punchline.

Where is the best place to watch prostitute racing?

F: Max Mosley's house.

345593.  Tue May 27, 2008 4:33 am Reply with quote

Maybe something like:

How did Pope Alexander VI celebrate the Feast of the Chestnuts?

345678.  Tue May 27, 2008 5:55 am Reply with quote

Of course, that doesn't mention prostitute racing in the question.

Do we have a year for the race?

345695.  Tue May 27, 2008 6:11 am Reply with quote

You're right: my mantra is, if you want them to talk about prostitute racing, ask them about prostitute racing. I just thought on this occasion you might hope for something like this:

SF: How did the Pope celebrate the Feast of the Chestnuts?
Guest A: Huge conker fight?
Guest B: Telling a lot of really old jokes?
SF: No. Prostitute races.
Several guests: Prostitute races?!

... and then you're away.


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