Chanson d’Automne


Autumn Song or Chanson d’automne is a famous poem by Paul Verlaine; one of the best known in the French language. It was published in Verlaine’s first collection, Poèmes saturniens, published in 1866.

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon cœur
D’une langueur
Monotone.

It translates as: “The long sobs / Of the violins / Of Autumn / Wound my heart / With a monotonous / Languor.”

The poem earned its place in history during World War II. In preparation for Operation Overlord, the British had signalled to the French Resistance that the opening lines of Chanson d’Automne were to indicate the start of D-Day operations. The first three lines of the poem, “Les sanglots longs / des violons / de l’automne”, meant that Operation Overlord was to start within two weeks.

These lines were broadcast on 1 June 1944.

The next set of lines, “Blessent mon coeur / d’une langueur / monotone”, meant that the main operation would start within 48 hours and that the French resistance should begin sabotage operations especially on the French railroad system.

These lines were broadcast on 5 June at 23:15 – the rest is history.

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On The Internet


“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.”

– Robert Wilensky

Black Cap‏


In English law, the black cap was worn by a judge when passing a sentence of death. Although it is called a “cap”, it is not made to fit the head like a typical cap does; instead it is a simple plain square made of black fabric. When worn, it is placed on the head on top of the judicial wig, with one of the four corners of the black fabric facing outward.

The death penalty has now been abolished in England and Wales, but the black cap is still part of a judge’s official regalia, and as such it is still carried into the High Court by each sitting judge. It is worn every year on 9 November when the new Lord Mayor of the City of London is presented to the Law Courts.

Opening Principles of Chess


These general opening principles in chess can be followed to play a solid game in the opening stage of the game:

  1. Control the centre.
  2. Develop knights before bishops.
  3. Never move a piece twice.
  4. Develop both knights before the queen bishop.
  5. Do not bring out the queen too early.
  6. Do not develop exclusively on one side of the board.
  7. Castle sooner than later – remember the king’s safety.
  8. Clear the back rank (except king and rooks) and connect both rooks.
  9. Do not permit the opponent to open a file on your king after castling.
  10. Rooks belong on open files.
  11. Avoid exchanging bishops for knights early on.
  12. Avoid premature attacks – sometimes the threat is more powerful than the capture.
  13. Always try to realise your plan while preventing your opponent from realising his.

However, every chess player must remember there can be no mechanical thinking in chess. This means the above principles cannot be followed regardless of the other player’s moves. It is for this very reason some chess masters do not care for opening principles:

‘Note that I propose a few principles rather than provide a whole list of outmoded opening do’s and dont’s. I feel that such a list inhibits creativity in the opening, and inhibits beginners to play like automatons, almost never deviating from the Giuoco Piano. […]

Strong players will not always adhere to the standard principles – but they will have a reason if they do not. Indeed the real sign of a great player is the willingness to go against tradition, and play strictly in accordance with the specific position, whether this means sacrificing material, accepting horrific weaknesses, or whatever.

How to Survive the Opening

  1. Make only as many pawn moves as are necessary to develop your pieces.
  2. Put all your pieces on active squares as soon as possible.
  3. Arrange your pieces and pawns so that your pieces are not exposed to attack.
  4. Do not waste any time.

What Constitutes a “Good” Opening

  1. It must not lose by force.
  2. It should not involve too much simplification.
  3. It should be reasonably promising.’

– Burgess. G. 2002. Chess Tactics and Strategy New Jersey, United States: Castle Books (1997) p. 110-111

Moai‏ at Rapa Nui


Rapa Nui, the indigenous name of Easter Island, bears witness to a unique cultural phenomenon. A society of Polynesian origin that settled there c. A.D. 300 established a powerful, imaginative and original tradition of monumental sculpture and architecture, free from any external influence.

English: Ahu Tongariki, the largest platform a...

Ahu Tongariki, the largest platform and collection of Moai ever erected on Rapa Nui.

From the 10th to the 16th century this society built shrines and erected enormous stone figures known as moai , which created an unrivalled cultural landscape that continues to fascinate people throughout the world.

The moai known for their large, broad noses and strong chins, along with rectangle-shaped ears and deep eye slits. In reference to their bodies, they are normally squatting with their arms resting in different positions and are without legs.

They range in height from 2 metres to 20 metres and are for the most part carved from the scoria, using simple picks made from hard basalt and then lowered down the slopes into previously dug holes. The statues were carved by the Polynesian colonizers of the island, mostly between circa 1250 CE and 1500 CE.

In addition to representing deceased ancestors, the moai, once they were erected, may also have been regarded as the embodiment of powerful living or former chiefs and important lineage status symbols. Nevertheless, perhaps ironically, these giant monuments are still shrouded in quite some mystery.

Territorial Morphology


Do Norwegians feel curiously at home in Chile, and vice versa? Do South Africans have a strange affinity with Italians? And Filipinos with Maldivians?

They should, at least if they’re map nerds: each lives in a country with a territorial morphology – the study of the structure of territories; not to be confused with geomorphology, which studies the structure of land masses; the critical difference between both disciplines are the man-made borders that divide land masses into territories – that closely resembles the other’s.

The two nation’s capitals, Oslo and Santiago, are 7,900 miles (12,700 km) apart; the maximum distance between two locations on Earth, half the circumference of the Earth at the equator, is 12,450 miles (20,036 km). Although they’re on opposite sides of the globe Chile and Norway are each other’s type, morphologically speaking: elongated to the extreme.

From east to west, Chile on average is just 150 miles (240 km) wide, which is the distance from London to Manchester, or New York to Baltimore. But from north to south, it measures 2,700 miles (4,300 km), which takes you from London to Tehran; or New York to Los Angeles. This makes Chile the world’s most stretched-out country – 18 times longer than it is narrow.

24/iv mmxiii


A game very similar to golf was played in ancient China more than five hundred years before its first known mention in Scotland.

Ferret

A Ferret

Goldfish are much more intelligent than they look and enjoy music.

Nobody knows where the word golf comes from.

The world record ferret legging (keeping a live ferret in your trousers) is 5 hours and 26 minutes.

Tish, the world’s oldest known goldfish, was 43. He was won at a funfair in Doncaster in 1956 and buried in a yoghurt pot in the garden of his owner in Thirsk, Yorkshire in 1999.

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Unknown Facts About The Kama Sutra‏


The exact origins of the Kama Sutra are quite vague, but it was written between the 1st and 4th centuries AD by a man called Vatsyayana, who lived in the North Indian city of Benares – now called Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India.

It was first translated into English by the 19th Century British explorer Sir Richard F. Burton in 1876. Born in 1821, the adventurer, who spoke 25 languages, came across the Kama Sutra in Bombay in 1842 and became fascinated with Indian erotica. Following a visit to a prostitute, Burton, who had three Indian mistresses said:

“We British never knew of this kind of love-making. Had we known, we would not have ruined the lives of so many British virgins.”

Kama Sutra Illustration

Kama Sutra Illustration

In 1883 Burton risked prosecution and imprisonment under the Obscene Publications Act after publishing 250 copies of the Kama Sutra privately in Britain. The book did not become legal in Britain until 1963.

It was written in the ancient Sanskrit language. In Sanskrit, Kama means desire and Sutra means rules. In the context of the book “desire” includes singing, reading, poetry and dancing as well as sex.

The Kama Sutra contains a total of 64 sexual positions. Vatsyayana believed there were eight ways of making love, multiplied by eight positions within each of these. In the book, they are known as the 64 Atrs.

Only about 20 per cent of the book is devoted to sexual positions. The remainder gives guidance on how to be a good citizen and insights into men and women in relationships, a bit like Men Are From Mars & Women Are From Venus.

The Kama Sutra describes making love as “divine union”. Vatsyayana believed that sex itself was not wrong, but doing it badly was sinful.

Lovers who suffer from medical complaints such as back pain and arthritis are warned not to attempt some of the Kama Sutra’s positions. Vatsyayana states: “They predispose for rheumatic pains and sciatica.”

After Burton published the Kama Sutra the prudish British Raj banned the book in India. At the same time they also stopped temple prostitutes and child marriages.

The Kama Sutra may have originated in India, but in 1996 the authorities there clamped down on the film “Kama Sutra – A Tale Of Love” and demanded that 14 explicit scenes were cut before it was fit to be shown to Indian audiences.

Kama Sutra Illustration

Kama Sutra Illustration

Code breakers also find the Kama Sutra fascinating as it contains instructions  for making messages unreadable – one of the earliest books to do this. The Kama Sutra included encryption as an art a woman should study, presumably to help her make secret meetings with her lovers.

Kama is the Hindu god of love. The word also refers to the pursuit of love or pleasure, one of the four aims of life in Hindu traditions. Kama is always depicted as a handsome youth, shooting arrows of love that produce love. His wife is Rati.

According to the book a man becomes irresistible to women if he ties the bone of a peacock or hyena which has been covered in gold to his right hand.

It recommends both biting and scratching as ways of improving love-making, but insists on high standards of cleanliness. It states:

“The qualities of good nails are that they should be bright, well set, clean, entire, convex, soft, and glossy in appearance. The defects of teeth on the other hand are that they are blunt, protruding from the gums, rough, soft, large, or loosely set.”

The Kama Sutra also gives tips on the best ways to arrange a house. It suggests that people will be happiest if they have a pot for spitting in, a lute hanging from an elephant’s tooth, a soft bed and pots of flowers

A chapter is devoted to methods of seducing and getting away with sleeping with other men’s wives. But at the end Vatsyayana does admit that men shouldn’t make love to married women.

The book contains an early recipe for Viagra. It suggests that sparrows eggs boiled in milk and then mixed with clarified butter and honey will do wonders for a man’s love life.

There are 10 methods of kissing in the Kama Sutra (including) – the nominal kiss, the probing kiss, the touching kiss, the straight kiss, the bent kiss, the turned kiss, the pressed kiss and the greatly pressed kiss – and four ways to administer the kiss. That gives a total of 40 different ways to kiss a lover.

In April 1998 former president Bill Clinton was handed a copy of the Kama Sutra as he did a walk-about with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Cretien after the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile.

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