On Classic Literature


“A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”

– Mark Twain

Ceremonial Officers of England


In modern-day Britain, there are a great number of governmental, judicial and servile positions which are largely representational; that is to say, they are mainly or wholly ceremonial and have no function outside the upholding of a certain tradition – often at great financial cost to the public.

All the offices which are discussed below are related in some way to the British monarchy, and although historically they were some of the most powerful positions in the British government, the holders of the majority of these offices do not have any political power today – which, arguably, makes their upholding even more indefensible.

“Any kind of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you are born and brought up under that sort of arrangement you probably never find it out for yourself, and don’t believe it when somebody else tells you.” – Mark Twain

Great Officers of State (incomplete)

  • Lord High Steward
    The officer who carries St. Edward’s crown during the coronation of the British monarch.
  • Lord High Chancellor
    The custodian of the Great Seal of the Realm.
  • Lord President of the Council
    The minister who presents new business to the Privy Council (the council which advises the British monarch about affairs of state).
  • Lord Great Chamberlain
    The officer in charge of Buckingham Palace.
  • Lord Privy Seal
    The custodian of the monarch’s Privy Seal.
  • Lord High Constable of England
    The ceremonial chief of the Royal Army.
  • Earl Marshal
    The officer who is charge of organising Royal funerals and coronations.
  • Lord High Admiral
    The titular head of the Royal Navy.

Ceremonial Officers (incomplete)

  • Lord Lieutenants (and their Deputies)
    The monarch’s personal representative in a Lieutenancy.
  • High Sheriffs (and their Undersheriffs)
    The monarch’s judicial representative in a Reeve.
  • Stewards, Chancellors, Admirals, Keepers, Receivers, Solicitors, Wardens, Surveyors, Auditors and Heralds of the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall
    The Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall are the rental properties of the British Monarch and the Prince of Wales respectively.
  • Kings of Arms, Heralds, Pursuivants and Inspectors
    The officers of arms manage heraldic and armorial matters and participate in Royal ceremonies.
  • Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
    An officer who is titularly responsible for the defence of Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich.
  • Warden and Marker of the Swans
    These officers concern themselves with swan welfare on behalf of the British Monarch, who holds the title ‘Seigneur of the Swans’, and owns all mute swans in Britain.

Royal Household Officers (incomplete)

  • Royal Bodyguards, Yeomen and Archers
    These are the ceremonial bodyguards of the British Monarch. Their commanders are known as Gold Stick and Silver Stick.
  • Chief Butler of England
    This office organises the coronation banquet for each newly crowned British Monarch.
  • Mistress of the Robes
    This office manages the clothes and jewellery of the Queen of England.
  • Pages of the Backstairs, Presence and Honour
    These are titles given to the people who serve dinner to the British monarch, announce guests at events at Buckingham Palace, and carry the Queen’s train at official occasions.

“One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.” – Thomas Paine, Common Sense

On The Majority


“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

– Mark Twain

Missouri


Missouri was named after a tribe of Sioux Indians called the Missouris. While often mistranslated as ‘muddy water,’ the word actually means ‘town of the large canoes.’

Most people who are vaguely familiar with Missouri probably think of a place where all the festivals are named after a fruit, vegetable, or grain; where most local gas stations sell live bait; and, where everyone ends their sentences with an unnecessary preposition. E.g. “Where’s my coat at?” or “If you go to the mall I wanna go with.”

According Business Insider research, in 2014, Missouri was considered one of the ‘most normal’ States in the US. Now, before we discard Missouri as one of the most – if not the most – average, unassuming, bland, vanilla US State, consider the following points:

  • In 1865, Missouri became the first slave state to free its slaves.
  • Missouri is known as the “Show Me State”, and the state animal is the Mule.
  • The tallest man in documented medical history was Robert Pershing Wadlow from St. Louis. He was 8 feet, 11.1 inches tall.
  • In 1811, New Madrid, Missouri was struck by the most powerful earthquake in US history; it was felt over 1000 miles away.
  • The state musical instrument of Missouri is the fiddle and the state folk dance is the square dance.
  • At the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, Richard Blechyden, served tea with ice and invented iced tea.
  • In 1904, St. Louis, Missouri hosted the first Olympic Games held in the US. It lasted for four and a half months. ‘Climbing a greased pole’ was one of the events. Also, during the marathon almost half of the runners got heat stroke.

“I’ll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missouri”
– Abe ‘Grandpa’ Simpson

  • Samuel Clemens, more familiarly known as Mark Twain, author of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was born in Florida, Missouri and grew up near a place called Hannibal. Other famous writers from Missouri include T.S. Eliot and Maya Angelou.
  • On March 18, 1925, Missouri was hit by the most destructive tornado in US history, at least 695 people were killed, over 15,000 homes demolished, and ninety percent of the city of Annapolis was destroyed.
  • President Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar, May 8, 1884. Harry Truman was the only U.S. President to hail from Missouri. After he left the White House in 1953, he and his wife Bess moved back to the Independence home they shared with his mother-in-law and lived off his $112.56 monthly Army pension.
  • Some of the names of Frontier Missouri chewing tobacco include “Scalping Knife,” “My Wife’s Hat,” “Lock and Chain,” and “Wiggletail Twist.”
  • In 2007, St. Louis, Missouri was dubbed ‘the most smoker-friendly city in the US’ by Forbes Magazine.
  • Dr Pepper was introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. 7-Up also was invented in St. Louis.
  • To appeal to as many voters as possible, politicians sometimes pronounce “Missouri” two different ways—Missouree and Missourah—in the same speech. The Missourah pronunciation is usually more prevalent in rural areas.

Why did the Chicken Cross the Road?


‘To get to the other side’ is a bit too simplistic. So, to remedy that, here are a number of interesting and more original replies to this famous – and surprisingly old – anti-humour riddle joke:

‘There are ‘quips and quillets’ which seem actual conundrums, but yet are none. Of such is this: ‘Why does a chicken cross the street?’ – The Knickerbocker, or The New York Monthly, March 1847, p. 283

Douglas Adams: 42.

Aristotle: To actualize its potential. It is the nature of chickens to cross roads.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken-nature.

Julius Caesar: To come, to see, to conquer.

Howard Cosell: It may very well have been one of the most astonishing events to grace the annals of history. An historic, unprecedented avian biped with the temerity to attempt such an Herculean achievement formerly relegated to Homo sapien pedestrians is truly a remarkable occurrence.

Salvador Dali: A melting fish.

Charles Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees. After all, chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically disposed to cross roads.

Jacques Derrida: What is the difference? The chicken was merely deferring from one side of the road to other. And how do we get the idea of the chicken in the first place? Does it exist outside of language? Also, any number of contending discourses may be discovered within the act of the chicken crossing the road, and each interpretation is equally valid as the authorial intent can never be discerned, because structuralism is dead.

Rene Descartes: It had sufficient reason to believe it was dreaming anyway.

Bob Dylan: How many roads must one chicken cross?

Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn’t cross the road; it transcended it.

Epicurus: For pleasure.

Michel Foucault: It did so because the discourse of crossing the road left it no choice – the police state was oppressing it.

Sigmund Freud: The chicken was obviously female and obviously interpreted the pole on which the crosswalk sign was mounted as a phallic symbol of which she was envious, selbstverständlich. However, the fact that you are at all concerned about why the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: The eternal hen-principle made it do it.

Stephen Jay Gould: It is possible that there is a sociobiological explanation for it, but we have been deluged in recent years with sociobiological stories despite the fact that we have little direct evidence about the genetics of behaviour, and we do not know how to obtain it for the specific behaviours that figure most prominently in sociobiological speculation.

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.

Heraclitus: A chicken cannot cross the same road twice.

Adolf Hitler: It needed Lebensraum.

David Hume: Out of custom and habit.

Doug Hofstadter: To seek explication of the correspondence between appearance and essence through the mapping of the external road-object onto the internal road-concept.

James Joyce: To forge in the smithy of its soul the uncreated conscience of its race.

Carl Jung: The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and therefore synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.

Immanuel Kant: Because it would have this be a universal law.

Martin Luther King: It had a dream.

Gottfried von Leibniz: In this best possible world, the road was made for it to cross.

Machiavelli: So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken’s dominion maintained. In any case, the end of crossing the road justifies whatever motive there was.

Karl Marx: To escape the bourgeois middle-class struggle. It was a historical inevitability.

Sir Isaac Newton: Chickens at rest tend to stay at rest. Chickens in motion tend to cross the road.

Moses: And the LORD spake unto the chicken, “Thou shalt cross the road.” And the chicken crossed the road.

Pyrrho the Skeptic: What road?

Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

B.F. Skinner: Because the external influences which had pervaded its sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own free will.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The chicken, sunlight coruscating off its radiant yellow- white coat of feathers, approached the dark, sullen asphalt road and scrutinized it intently with its obsidian-black eyes. Every detail of the thoroughfare leapt into blinding focus: the rough texture of the surface, over which countless tires had worked their relentless tread through the ages; the innumerable fragments of stone embedded within the lugubrious mass, perhaps quarried from the great pits where the Sons of Man laboured not far from here; the dull black asphalt itself, exuding those waves of heat which distort the sight and bring weakness to the body; the other attributes of the great highway too numerous to give name. And then it crossed it.

Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.

Kurt Vonnegut: There is no “why”, there only “is”. So it goes.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The possibility of “crossing” was encoded into the objects “chicken” and “road”, and circumstances came into being which caused the actualization of this potential occurrence.

Zeno of Elea: To prove it could never reach the other side.

Greek New Year


Contrary to modern time beliefs, celebrating the advent of the New Year on January 1st in the cold and the dead nature of winter time is among the most universal celebratory traditions.

The custom of marking the beginning of the New Year is 4,000 years old and has its roots in ancient Babylon in Mesopotamia. From the very ancient city of Babylon these customs were passed on to ancient Greece.

Ancient Greeks were not that much into celebrating the New Year rather than the “sickle of the new moon” upon recognizing the visible new moon as the beginning of each month, a custom held in honour of Selene, Apollon Noumenios, Hestia and the other household Gods, also known as noumenia.

In Athens, however, there was an epigraph found reading of a religious ceremony that used to take place on the beginning of the New Year, or better said on the last day of the outgoing year, which involved only a small number of people. The celebration was a sacrifice of the outgoing officials to Zeus the Saviour and Athena the Saviour, which aimed at ensuring the blessings and favour of the two gods for the coming new year.

“The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it” – Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

In modern-day Greece, one will traditionally find a Greek family around the dinner table with an extra pacesetting for St. Basil; people eating vassilopita, a is sweet and savoury bread that is baked especially for the occasion with a gold or silver coin put in it; people hanging onions or pomegranates on to their front door to symbolise fertility; people collecting mossy stones as a good omen or talisman; and people practising kalo podariko, that is, the tradition of First Footing – it is believed that the first person who sets foot inside a home in the New Year determines the kind of luck that the household will experience the rest of the year; therefore, it is believed that a First Footer should be a person with a kind and loving heart, and as such, a child is often made a First Footer as they are often associated with having pure, innocent and honest hearts.

Taxonomic Hierarchy


In biology, every organism has several taxonomic classifications; these classifications are taken from the taxonomic hierarchy. This hierarchical tree displays how all Earth organisms are related to each other.

Biological ClassificationTo illustrate this hierarchical tree, imagine a daffodil, ladybug, goldfish, human, cat, fox, jackal and dog.

Regio
Out of the three Domains that make up Life on Earth, the Eukarya is the most diverse domain. (The other two Domains are that of the Archaea, a group of single-celled organisms, and that of the Bacteria, very small organisms whose cells do not have a nucleus.)

This Eukarya Domain includes all organisms with complex cells, or a single cell with a complex structure; in these cells the genetic material is organized into chromosomes in the cell nucleus. Obviously, this includes the life forms listed above.

Regnum
The Eukarya Domain is made up of Kingdoms; the Animal Kingdom being the most well known. This Kingdom includes all the animals listed above, from ladybug to dog, but excludes a plant like the daffodil.

Phylum
The Animal Kingdom is made up of Phyla; the Phylum Chordata is one of the most interesting Phyla because it includes all vertebrates. That is to say, all mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds – to name a few – are part of this Phylum. Note that the ladybug is not part of this Phylum.

Classis
The Chordata Phylum is made up of Classes; the Mammal Class being the most dominant on Earth. Humans, cats, foxes, jackals, dogs and all other animals who suckle their young are part of this Class. This excludes the goldfish.

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
– Mark Twain

Ordo
The Class of Mammals is made up of Orders; if we take the Order of Carnivora, the carnivores, we would exclude human beings (who are the story telling member of the Order Primates, in the Family of the Hominidae, of the Genus Homo). This leaves us with the cat, fox, jackal and dog.

Familia
The Order of Carnivora is made up of Families; the fox, jackal and dog are part of the Family Canidae. That is, all dog-like animals. This excludes the cat.

Genus
The Family Canidae is made up of Genera. (The term comes from the Latin genus meaning “descent, family, type, gender”; from the Ancient Greek: γένος, “race, stock, kin”.) In our example, the fox is part of a different Genus than the jackal and the dog.

Species
The Genus Canis is made up of Species; the most widely accepted definition of a species is ‘the largest group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring’. That brings us to the difference between a jackal (canis aureus) and a dog (canis lupus), who are part of the same genus, but are different species.

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
– Groucho Marx

Hoi Polloi


In Ancient Greek, hoi polloi means ‘the many’, or ‘the majority’. In English, it means the masses or common people in a derogatory sense.

“When red-headed people are above a certain social grade their hair is auburn.” – Mark Twain

In the Ancient World however, it was not a derogatory term. It was used by Thucydides in his History of the Peloponnesian War. The term was used to praise the Athenian democracy, contrasting it with hoi oligoi, meaning ‘the few’; from which we get the word oligarchy.

Hoi polloi is sometimes used incorrectly to mean ‘upper class’, i.e. the exact opposite of its normal meaning. It seems likely that the confusion arose by association with the similar-sounding but otherwise unrelated word hoity-toity.