Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Idler, Monday, July 9, 2018

Sturm und drang

TONIGHT we'll know who will be in the Football World Cup final out of France and Belgium. Tomorrow night we'll know out of England and Croatia.

But – sturm und drang! - we're unlikely to know who will end up prime minister of the UK. Whether the UK is going to crash out of the EU. Or whether Brexit is going to be binned.

As noted yesterday, all four semi-finalists in the World Cup are members of the EU – an unusual outcome.

One of them – England – is a constituent part of the UK, currently convulsed by the resignation of Brexit Secretary David Davis and possibly facing a mutiny in parliament by Tory Brexiteers who are enraged by Prime Minister Theresa May's final blueprint for leaving the EU because it is not "hard" enough.

It's a fascinating parallel drama. Success in football accompanied by chaos on the home front.

One thing seems clear. Whatever happens between England and Croatia on the football field, England's footballers are a heck of a lot cleverer and in control of things than its politicians.


THREE rare books in Denmark dating from the 16th and 17th centuries have been found by scientists to be covered in a deadly poison.

X-ray analysis of the books, held by the University of Southern Denmark, has revealed a large concentration of arsenic on the covers, according to Sky News   .

The volumes were being studied because it had previously been discovered that mediaeval manuscript fragments had been used by bookbinders to make their covers.

In attempting to identify the Latin texts used, researchers found they were hard to read because of a heavy layer of green paint obscuring the letters.

The study of this green pigment layer revealed it to be arsenic - one of the most toxic substances there is.

Kaare Lund Rasmussen, an associate professor at the university, said: "The moment we put the X-ray beam on the green surface we saw the fantastically high amounts of arsenic."

The university believes the arsenic was applied to the books to protect them against insects and vermin.

On the other hand, what about the Russians?




THE other day, in the context of paper replacing plastics, we discussed the visual attributes of forest plantations as against plastic garbage littering every estuary and beach.

It rouses the ire of my old mate Frank Edwards, a nurseryman specialising in tropical varieties.


"Plantations are not forests!" he declares indignantly. "They are a sterile environment, greedy monocultures not to be called forests!

"If one wants to wax lyrical then biodiversity is key and Durban has its very own 'Food and Indigenous Forest Model', putting both plantations and plastic beaches to shame."

Yes, of course plantations are not forests. They are indeed sterile. But less unsightly than plastic litter.

Nobody would want to manufacture paper out of true forest.




Singalong shuffle

HEY, Finland is the place to be. At a place called Turku, when you hail a cab you don't pay, you tell the cabbie where you want to go, then sit back and sing.

The cabbie drives so long as you keep singing. If you stop, the cab stops and you have to get out, according to Huffington Post.

Actually this "singalong shuffle" is not general, it's on offer at the Ruisrock music festival, a promotion by a clean energy company named Fortum. The rides are in an electrically-powered BMW i3, the point being that the car is so silent you can sing without being drowned out.

It seems the rides are restricted to the festival ground so you can't get together an ensemble to get the cab from Finland to Cape Town, say, with non-stop renderings of The Good Ship Venus, She Waded In The Water, Girls Were Made To Hug And Kiss, and so on. But the Guinness Book of World Records is an option.

How about the Ruisrock festival as a project next year for the renowned choristers of the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties?


A NAVY psychiatrist is interviewing a potential recruit.

"What would you do if you looked out of the window ands saw a battleship coming down the street?"

"I'd grab a torpedo and sink it."

"Really? And where would you get a torpedo?"

"The same place you got your battleship."

Last word

I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals. I'm a vegetarian because I hate plants.

A Whitney Brown

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