## What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Who was trying to kidnap Grunyard? April – July 2021

Lord Grunyard, of Lockbramble, had enemies. Those enemies were his brothers, the Lords Hallam of Wedmarsh, Kenward of Greystream, and Ravinger of Barrenburn. The specific complaint? Lockbramble’s swiping their populations. Grunyard, aware of his incompetence in running things, lets the people of Lockbramble run it themselves. And they do well, not least because Rory Red Hood is just that great at managing estates. And she has humiliated Lord Hallam before.

This should catch you up to early July 2021 in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If any news about the comic strip breaks, or you need a plot recap after about October 2021 you should find something more useful at this link.

Also, on my mathematics blog, I’m about to start another A-to-Z project. If you’d like to see me explain mathematics terms of your choosing, please, go over there and nominate something! These glossaries are fun to write and every so often I learn something about the thing I claim to know well.

# Prince Valiant.

## 11 April – 4 July 2021.

So his brothers arranged a joust between Sir Gawain, representing Lockbramble, and Sir Peredur, representing Wedmarsh et al. Sir Peredur has a reputation for treachery, and he does use an iron-cored lance to knock Gawain down. And then takes his mace to kill the fallen Gawain. Rory’s encouragement rallies him, though, and Gawain smashes his broken sword into Peredur. Peredur tries to kill him with a throwing knife. Gawain dodges, and “assures that [Peredur’s] sword arm is useless for months”. Peredur’s beaten, and humiliated, and out of the story.

During the joust, several of the brothers’ henchmen snuck off to kidnap Grunyard. This was the real plan all along. Prince Valiant had noticed them sneaking off, though, and in a fight at the brewery Valiant captured them all. As one of them’s the Captain of Lord Hallam’s guard the brothers can’t profess much innocence.

And so Lord Grunyard, with Valiant and Gawain backing him up, subject his brothers to … a trade accord. Lockbramble has farmland but needs labor. Wedmarsh has fish. Greystream has rapids that could provide mill power. Barrenburn has iron and copper. They can put all this together, right? And sure, his brothers proclaim how happy they are to get out of this with light commerce instead. And Grunyard is happy to back to his not paying attention to running the province.

So the 13th of June, Price Valiant decides that everything’s pretty well under control and he can head home by himself. Along the way he reflects on his past. Stuff like how he used to wade into streams and spear fish. It turns out it’s more fun to remember doing this stuff than to actually do it. Fair enough. During this nostalgic tour we’ve seen a lot of gorgeous pictures. We haven’t gotten to the new story yet, though. Feels like it’s going to start next week, though.

#### Next Week!

The dead walk! And try to assassinate witnesses! Plus, a comic strip art collector is obsessed with the Moon Maid! It’s Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy next week, if all goes as planned. See you then.

## What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Why send assassins after Rory Red Hood? January – April 2021

Lockbramble’s a small fiefdom in the north of King Arthur’s England. Its Lord is an amiable figurehead, happy to let the lands run as a self-governing community. This because he doesn’t want to do stuff, which, relatable. Also because Rory Red Hood, the spearhead of this movement, is really good at management. Camelot is willing to overlook all this irregularity, because Sir Gawain rather fancies Rory. Also she’s making a lot of money. But other lords, who are not getting money from all this, disagree.

So this should catch you up to mid-April 2021 in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If any news about the strip breaks out, or if you want the plot after about July 2021, a more useful post may be here. And, if you like to read about mathematics in the comic strips, you might find something fun in my other blog. Thanks for considering it.

# Prince Valiant.

## 17 January – 11 April 2021.

Prince Valiant and Sir Gawain were off in Lockbramble. Lord Hallam, of neighboring Wedmarsh, had sent bandits after Rory Red Hood. They’re not very effective. Durward, one of the bandits, was doing so under duress and he’s happy to move to Lockbramble if his family is safe. Valiant and Gawain are game for an evacuation/escort mission.

Wedmarsh’s Captain of the Guard catches them immediately. But they have a good lie to protect them. They assert that Durwood attacked their royal party, and though they slew him, the laws of Camelot give them rights to claim his family. Wedmarsh figures this sounds plausible so, what the heck. Durward and family are ultimately delighted. And Rory, speaking for Lockbramble, is too. Lockbramble’s prospering, but prosperity comes from people. So why not invite everyone who’s unhappy with their lot in life?

And the answer is that serfs ditching bad rulers for good rather annoys their bad rulers. The surrounding fiefs figure they can use law too, and demand a knight’s contest of champions. After all, they can pay a great outlaw knight to fight for them, while Lockbramble only has … at least two of Camelot’s knights. How can Lockbramble hope to win?

So it’s Sir Peredur the Rover against Sir Gawain. Peredur comes with a reputation. The reputation’s of betraying Castle Beringar to the Saxons, a mark of his deviousness and treachery.

Peredur wins the first round, thanks to some luck and a hidden iron core to his lance. Gawain’s a bit better-prepared for the second round, which ends up a tie. Meanwhile, Valiant follows some of Lord Hallam’s henchmen.

And that’s where we rest at the middle of April, 2021.

#### Next Week!

Hippies! A coded All-Cops-Are-Bastards reference! Gas leaks! The Pouch! What more could you want in a story? Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy gets some attention next week, if my plans hold up. I’ll let you know.

## Fascinating coincidences of South West England

I was reading about the town of Pensford in Somerset, England, because hi there I guess we’ve only just met for the first time. That’s the sort of thing I do, is all. Pensford’s Wikipedia page has this to say about famous residents:

Philosopher and physician John Locke FRS 1632-1704, known as the “Father of Liberalism” lived in John Locke’s Cottage in Belluton within the parish of Publow with Pensford from shortly after his birth until 1647.

And, gosh but that’s a lucky coincidence on John Locke’s part. Just imagine the quarrels he might have got into if he had been living in Thomas Hobbes’s cottage instead. They probably still had the quarrels anyway, but they would have had to argue about who was in whose cottage too.

## Fairy Tales Are Why I Can’t Get Anything Done Today

I’m sorry, but I’m coping with what I learned from looking up the nursery rhyme “The Gingerbread Man” on Wikipedia. Apparently the story was first written down in 1875, in the Saint Nicholas Magazine. And its teller claimed they got it from a “girl from Maine”. What the heck? A bit of obvious silly nonsense like this is supposed to come from, like, some snarky pamphlet published during the English Civil War. And folklorists are supposed to not be perfectly sure what it all means, but they think it’s all about mocking John Pym’s management of the Providence Island Company or something. But this? This!

Hold on. Wait. That John Pym thing I completely made up and yet it kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, it would kind of fit all the metaphors and see? This is why I have an enthusiastic readership of dozen of people. I know, I can’t help myself. I have the idea that somewhere out there are people who want to hear snide jokes referring to the English Parliament of 1642 and maybe there are. And maybe they’re going to just explode in joy when they hear a joke that isn’t completely far off. Big deal. There’s like twenty of them and they’ve already made all the John Pym jokes they need.

Anyway. Back to what primarily has me a quivering ball of impotent rage (non-US-politics division). “The Gingerbread Man” only being first published in 1875. I mean, for comparison, the first time “The Gingerbread Man” was written down, Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was already ten years old. P T Barnum’s American Museum had been built, burned down, been rebuilt, and been re-burned-down. L Frank Baum was barely 24 years away from writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I’m sorry, I’m having trouble thinking of another circa-1875 cultural touchstone since I’m informed that 19th century superclown Dan Rice somehow does not qualify as known to anybody? Oh, here we go. Charles Dickens was already dead by then, and only after that does this story about a magic cookie running around teasing people about outrunning them gets written down?

You don’t suppose that could be causal, do you? “I hear Dickens died! Guess I’ll wait five years and then dash out that bit I was thinking of a gingerbread boy who runs off, but still gets eaten.”

Oh also apparently in the earliest versions the Gingerbread Man doesn’t call out “run, run, fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!” Instead he taunts with saying “I’ve run away from a little old woman, a little old man, and I can run away from you, I can!” So besides its other problems an America struggling its way out of the Panic of 1873 was still trying to learn how to make a taunt scan. I’m all kinds of discombobulated about this. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to be functional again.

All right, that’s not happening and not just because it’s 2018. Do you remember this episode of The Honeymooners where Ralph Kramden is feeling old, so he figures the thing to do is act all young? And he dresses up ridiculously and tries to dance to this ridiculous song called “The Huckle-Buck”? I do, because I’m of that cohort where reruns of The Honeymooners was the only decent thing on between reruns of M*A*S*H and reruns of Star Trek, and the song’s been running without stop in my head since 1986. Fine.

Yeah so it turns out this was an actual song and actual dance craze that actually happened in actuality. “Actuality” is what we call “reality” when we got the sentence started off using “actual” instead of “real” and have to commit to that for the rhetorical value but it’s easier to keep typing instead of erasing three words. Anyway, I had gone my entire adult life figuring “The Huckle-Buck” was just this catchy plausibly dance-craze-ish song made for The Honeymooners so it wouldn’t get in the way of Ralph Kramden’s discovery that to stay young you most need some stories about ridiculous stuff you did as a youngling. And now I find out he was actually doing something actual — hang on. Not doing that again. But now I find out he was genuinely trying to get in on the dance craze of … eight years earlier? Hang on, that would be like me trying to get in touch with the young by listening to whatever the dance craze of 2010 was. What were people dancing to back then? Lemme go and check.

No, Wikipedia, I do not believe the summer dance sensation of 2010 was Lady Gaga’s “Gingerbread Dance”.

I’m going to bed and hide under it.

If The Dick van Dyke Show‘s “Twizzle” was a real thing I’m never coming out again ever.

## In Which My Calendar Wants Me To Do The Unthinkable

I continue to use up my 2018 hard-won Peanuts strip-a-day calendar at a rate of a bit under one strip per day (they don’t have Sunday pages). And it still has activities on the back. Last week it suggested this:

Unscramble the following letters to reveal this April word.
grimepints

I shall do no such thing. “Grimepints” is a magnificent word. It’s as perfect a collection of phonemes as I’ve encountered in a long while. It would make the world a worse place to “unscramble” those letters into some word that is lesser in every way to “grimepints”.

Furthermore, I choose to believe that Grimepints is, besides a perfect word, also the name of a City of London meeting-hall built in 1475. There the Guild of Pandy-Whelkers, established during the reign of King Edward II, still conducts all its business, including the biennial Benefit for the Sick Infants of Needy Croft-Coddlers. They pay a rent of 6/8 plus “four fynne & true kernels of nutt-megg, the niewest to bee hadd” per annum. And I am working up a history of the building and the Guild’s charming yet dotty history as my Patreon exclusive for the month. So nag someone you otherwise like into reviewing a subscription to something! But unscramble “grimepints”? I would sooner cancel springtime itself than commit such an offense to the language.

## Is Ray Davies A Normal Person?

My love and I got to discussing this the other day. I forget how. But I’d like to lay out the arguments for and against.

Pro Ray Davies being a normal person: If many of his lyrics are a guide to his mental state, he’s fairly sure he’s either crazy or just barely holding it together. The only thing that could possibly be more universally true is if he realized how every evening he was tired and sad about the way the day had gone.

Con Ray Davies being a normal person: He spent decades as the front man for one of the world’s most popular and influential rock bands. This is unusual behavior, exhibited by only about five percent of the population, thus, not normal.

Pro: Again going by his lyrics, he mostly would like modern life to stop being quite so much and leave him alone to drink his tea. It is easy to suppose that like the rest of us, he is gradually doing fewer things online because it’s getting to be too much work to do a password reset every time he forgets what his Picarto or Twitch account should be. Also he’s never able to keep straight whether the ID is his full e-mail address or just rdavies0644. This is further normal behavior.

Con: Was propped up statue-like at the center of the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony for the world to sing at, a thing that almost nobody can expect to ever do.

Pro: He made use of the assonance between “slave” and “lathe” for one line in Second-Hand Car Spiv, and there’s almost nothing more natural than that. Maybe rhyming “moon” with “spoon” in all those merry songs about how you mix celestial bodies into your milk and stir it all up.

Con: He knows which of the birds in the comic strip is Shoe. I know, too, but I recognize that’s my personal eccentricity and that it’s not shared by anyone I ever meet.

Pro: As a white guy spent much of the 1970s arguing with bare acquaintances about what exactly is a “rock opera” versus “concept album” and who had the first of them. Granted, yes, this would often be after he had snuck out to a party dressed as the schoolboy-in-disgrace or whatever he was performing on stage and thought people didn’t recognize him, but who wouldn’t do that in the same case? And it was important to let him make arguments about how yes, there was that thing by that band that was before Tommy that he never heard either and no he is not thinking of Days of Future Passed and he has a whole presentation he can give about this. It wasn’t in dispute, but aren’t your best longwinded rhetorical arguments about stuff that wasn’t actually in dispute too? Thank you.

Con: Even today we can’t be completely sure he isn’t going to release Preservation Act III. Do you know anyone who’s working on that still? Are you? Exactly.

Pro: Does not regularly speak with legendary Kinks founder Dave Davies. Most people can hope to have a conversation with Dave Davies at most once, possibly twice before they die, and so does Ray Davies.

Con: Ray Davies’s mailing address has way too many things in it:

```Sir Raymond Davies OBO
Solempne House
2 1/2-A Daunger Gyse Lane Without
Shrieval Pudding
Gebetan-Dream-upon-Mere under the Bridge
Southwark
Grimshire 00 18 463 11 00
Rutland Boundings
Lesser Notts and Glos
Greater Notts and Glos (Ceremonial)
North London, Greater London, England, UK, FRS, BAAS N10 3NU ZERO ZERO ZERO DESTRUCT ZERO
Green
```

Pro: Yeah, but every British address looks like that. Nobody has ever successfully sent a postcard to anyone in Britain and that’s why.

Con: Feels no thrill when he notices in the closing credits of The Price Is Right how the second contestant was found to be ineligible and thus could not receive the patio furniture they’d won in their Item-Up-For-Bid.

And now to add it all up please make a computer-y beep-bop-boop noise for a few minutes, and then reduce your answer by an appropriate amount. In sum we find that Ray Davies is not in fact a normal person, but only because he hasn’t yet given up on his DeviantArt account. The subject may be reviewed after ninety days.

## On Licking The Science, 1666 Edition

I got to this part in Jenny Uglow’s A Gambling Man: Charles II’s Restoration Game. The book is about King Charles II and Britain, mostly England, in the 1660s. And this is from right after the Great Fire of London.

It was a scene of horror, but also one of wonder, a natural curiosity drawing the observant men of the Royal Society. In the broken tombs in St Paul’s, they observed the mummified bodies of bishops buried two centuries before, while in the tomb of Dean Colet, a more recent burial, his lead coffin was found to be full of a curious liquor that had conserved the body. “Mr Wyle and Ralph Greatorex tasted it and it was a kind of insipid taste, something of an ironish taste. The body felt, to the probe of a stick which they thrust into a chink, like brawn.”

I grant this sounds daft that someone would go into the still-smoldering ruins of London after the greatest fire it had yet known, locate a corpse that hadn’t been destroyed, see that it was secreting some fluid, and declare, “I gotta lick that!” But that’s just what chemists had to do, back in the days before real professional laboratories with clear analytical protocols and even a concept of analysis existed. Everybody doing chemistry had to rely on touch and scent and taste. It helps us remember why Louis Pasteur was the first chemist to ever live to be 34 years old.

## In Which It Turns Out I’m Just A Fool Who Got Fooled, Foolishly

So the other day I mentioned the English sport of competitively dancing while the opposing team throws a beer-soaked rag at you and I supported that by linking to Wikipedia’s entry about the English sport of competitively dancing while the opposing team throws a beer-soaked rag at you. There I figured the matter rested, since England has all sorts of things to do and they will include things like hitting each other on purpose. Also I swear I saw this show where there was a football match that had gone on at a public school for over a century now without either team scoring or being expected to score, but I can’t find the reference now and for all I know somebody’s gone and scored.

Anyway, my love came across this and figured that can’t possibly be. And then went and actually read the article and came to the conclusion that it didn’t make any sense, and the more you looked at it the less sense it made. And read the citations, all of which made very little sense and the less the more you looked at them. And the comments, which in the least sensible thing of all, don’t make the reader despair of the concept of humanity.

So there we have it. The whole thing looks to be a hoax, more or less. At least, it started out as a prank perpetrated for the comedy show It’s A Square World and it’s sort of stumbled on from there. I should have known, since the whole of England is pretty much a prank that got going so successfully that sometime around when they pulled the “Parliament of Bats” and nobody called them on it they realized they were stuck holding an actual country. I suppose dancing while the opposing team throws a beer-soaked rag at you isn’t likely to have such far-reaching global implications. Still, I feel a fool for not going and actually checking and I can only thank my love for showing where I was fooled. It was called the Parliament of Bats because attendees weren’t allowed to take their swords in with them, not because they were small flying mammals, which is all the more shame.

## Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

New pen day! It’s new pen day! Everybody has new pens and they’re feeling so good that even thought we called off work early the index was up something or other, who cares, it’s new pen day and everything can be all right with the world!

# 105

## Snip, Snap

My love discovered on Wikipedia the old English game of snap-dragon (“also known as snapdragon”), and it’s a bundle of wonderful things. The game, apparently, was one in which you poured brandy into a wide, shallow bowl, set it on fire, and then try to grab raisins out of the brandy. Only a cheater would fail to put raisins in. And yes, you might get burned, but that’s … I guess that’s the dragon part of things. It was popular from about the 16th through the 19th centuries, which reminds us that was also the height of competitive shin-kicking. Which is not even my joke but was part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games alongside beating each other with cudgels. Also competitive dancing while the opposite team throws a beer-soaked rag at you.

Anyway, there’s a lot that’s wonderful about the article so I recommend you read it yourself. If you can’t be bothered, fine, but do please enjoy this low-scale edit war playing out in tossing a heap of sentences onto each other and sprinkling [citation needed] tags on the opponent’s pieces:

Nevertheless, children often burnt their little hands or mouths playing this game,[21] which may have led to the practice mostly dying out in the early 20th century.[citation needed] In some families, this tradition continues to be practiced and enjoyed even into the 21st century.[citation needed]

## Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose six points today when traders looked in on TrekBBS and discovered how many people are honestly, sincerely concerned for the actor who played Kes on Star Trek: Voyager. She’s been going through some rough times and had some legal trouble and it looks like she’s getting through it and it’s just really heartwarming to see how many people care and wish her well and, you know, for everything that’s wrong with the world right now, people worrying about the person who played Kes is the sweet sort of thing we need.

# 91

## Oddball News Review: The Man Who Paints Cows

Based on the Reuters article The Man Who Paints Cows.

Headline: Well done. If there’s anything more immediately obviously amusing than painting a cow, it’s painting multiple cows. Oh, a jerboa has novelty value, but nobody knows what a jerboa is, and in any case they don’t have nearly as much material to paint, what with being small? I think? I’m pretty sure they’re one of those mutant little mouse critters in southeast Asia or Peru or something like that. Cows might be used a lot but they hit the sweet spot of promisingly funny to start with and not being strained. Rating: 6/8.

Story: Disappointing. The story reveals that John Marshall paints pictures of cows, not on cows directly. Well, where’s the fun in that? Anyone who wants to paint a picture of a cow can do so. We’re even encouraged to, with popular books in the arts and crafts stores with names like How To Draw Cows and 40 More Cows To Draw and Here’s Some Cows You Missed Before, Do You Maybe Want To Draw Them Too? and Why Are You Hurting The Feelings Of These Undrawn Cows.

If he were painting cows, that is, using cows as canvas, that would be remarkable. It takes something special to go up to a cow and dab paint on it. Mostly it involves being able to paint before the cow loses patience with the whole business. Also it takes some reliable paint, paint that can stand up to being licked by a cow (painted or neighboring). So the article content is most disappointing. Rating: 2/12.

Picture: This story of a man in East Sussex, England, United We Guess Kingdom is illustrated by a stock Reuters photograph of “Dairy cows [eating] gras in a paddock on the New South Wales south coast near the town of Nowra, Australia, September 5, 2014”. While they still remain cows, they are two-year-old photographs of cows on a continent that hasn’t got anything to do with the painting at hand. Rating: 7/4.

Overall: 15/24. May be re-submitted at the end of term.

## Dogs Make News By Acting Like Dogs

You might have seen this on Reuters in which case I’m sorry but you probably already thought of my jokes about it. I hope we can still be friends. Anyway at England’s Manchester Airport they’re reviewing their team of drug-sniffer dogs just because in seven months of work they never found any smuggled drugs. To be fair this compares well with my track record of finding illicit drugs.

And it isn’t like they found nothing. According to a review the dogs did manage “multiple accurate detections, but most were of small amounts of cheese or sausages, wrongly brought back by returning British holidaymakers and posing minimal risk to UK public health”. And they’re reviewing how it is the project spent £1.25 million on dogs who recovered somewhere around 181 kilograms of meats. I’m a bit unsure about it myself. I would think you could train dogs to sniff out smoked meats and cheese without much more advanced training than saying, “Who’s a good doggy?” while waving a slice of pepperoni. You could do this in an empty room and a good doggy would appear, and then follow you around, pleading for more. I suppose they did get six dogs, and that’s got to be more pricey than one. Still, it seems like there’s something missing here.

I guess the surprising thing is that in seven months British holidaymakers only bring something like 181 kilograms of illegal meat back home through Manchester. I mean, that’s not nothing. The Apollo 17 mission only brought 110 kilograms of moon rocks back. But there were just the two astronauts on the moon, and the whole trip took less than two weeks, and there was just the one of it. Also they probably declared their rocks and didn’t land in northern England. And for another comparison, the early “Schreibkugel” model typewriter which Friedrich Nietzche owned weighed only 75 kilograms. But if the British holidaymakers are sneaking a lot of other meats in, then how are the dogs missing them? Definitely a scandal here.

## When Swords Dance And Porridge Explodes

Jerome Friedman’s The Battle Of The Frogs And Fairford’s Flies keeps being a source of just wonderful incidents and I had to share some more with you because you’ll just see at that. This one is drawn from the 1645 chapbook Strange And Fearful News From Plaisto In The Parish Of Westham, Plaisto being a totally real place and not the result of someone being challenged to say where it took place and bluffing, desperately, “Place … uh … to” and feeling bad for getting stuck with that answer. According to the Strange and Fearful News for one month Paul Fox, silk weaver, “a man of an honest life and conversation” suffered from a haunted house. I don’t know where his conversation enters into things.

The first problem was that a sword started dancing around the house. Fox handled by locking it up. I suppose if I saw a sword dancing around my house I’d try locking it out of the house altogether, but that strategy didn’t really work with a pretty determined mouse that kept getting into the kitchen last year. It didn’t work so well for Fox, though, because the sword came through the door and continued to dance.

The sword got joined by a cane, that hopped around the sword, and here I’m stumped. I can imagine putting an enchanted sword to some practical use, if it could refrain from dancing some. After all, 1645 was before documents had begun to protect themselves by warning not to fold, spindle, or mutilate them, so if you got, say, a phone bill you could chop it into tiny bits because it was obviously a scam, it being the mid-17th century and all. But a sword with a cane just seems one long dancing inanimate object too many to use. Maybe we aren’t getting the whole story. Maybe the sword, despite love of dance, was getting up in years and needed the cane for support. Or maybe the cane feared for its safety in the rough community of 1645 Plaisto.

But the sword and cane settled down — I bet they were friends and got into chatting about old times — and Fox seemed fine with all this until he started hearing a hollow voice banging on the door and demanding, “I must dwell here”. Told it could just go off and dwell somewhere else, it came back the next day and smashed his windows by hurling bricks, canes, oyster shells, pieces of bread, and “other things” at the house. I suspect the spirit didn’t quite know what it was doing. Breaking windows by using bricks is efficient enough, but, oyster shells? That’s a hard way to break a window, and pieces of bread? Was the spirit unable to find wads of kitten fur to throw instead? Or maybe bread meant something different back then, and throwing a “piece of bread” was slang for throwing a Roundhead or a Member of Parliament or something. Also, whose side was the dancing cane on?

Possibly the cane danced this one out, since a boulder weighing “half a hundred weight”, which if I know anything about English measures means it could weigh anything except fifty pounds, jumped out of the garden where it’d been content to all appearances for decades and tumbled up the stairs into the middle of the room. Fox had someone take it back out into the yard, but it just came right back up the stairs again. I assume the rock had just had enough with all the cane-dancing and bread-throwing and decided to pick a fight with scissors.

Fox stuck it out a while, suggesting you could just haunt a silk-weaver’s house for weeks before he’d get impatient with it. Or maybe he figured dancing swords were more interesting than the other pastimes of 1640s England, such as dying of plague or accusing people of being Anabaptists. But there’s limits to anyone’s patience, and his was reached sometime after a pot of porridge got splattered around the room and the spirits started pulling his family’s hair and knocking their heads. He eventually moved to a new house, where the spirit followed, and he moved back to the first place, figuring, I guess, why not?

By the time the pamphlet was written, Fox was still having trouble with house-haunting, but everyone was confident it wasn’t witchcraft. I don’t know what became of him or his house; maybe he came to appreciate having a bread-throwing ghost around. Hard to say.

## When Philosophers Roamed The English Countryside

So I’ve been reading Jerome Friedman’s The Battle Of The Frogs And Fairford’s Flies, about the chapbook and pamphlet reporting of paranormal or supernatural events during the era of the English Civil War and Commonwealth, because why would you not read a book like that? I want to share one of its reports, from 1647’s The Most Strange And Wonderfull Apparition of Blood in a Pool at Garreton.

Apparently, for four days the pond water in the town of Garreton in Leicestershire grew ever-darker, turning, some thought, to blood; cattle would no longer drink from it, though fish from the pond tasted fine. And then, the pamphlet-writer reported, “philosophers” were called in.

I know, I know, I know what the original author meant by philosophers. And yet I can’t help figuring the decision to bring philosophers in went something like this:

John Thwapper: “The water hath turned to blood! Quick, summon a philosopher!”

Jake A-Plummet (whose family got the name for an ancestor renowned for his ability to fall): “Kantian or Neoplatonist?”

Jack O’Wort: (looking up from his meal of blood-water fish) “We … we need the cattle to drink the water, so that’s a utility. Best summon a utilitarian, eh?”

Mary Chortle: “We need the water to change. Obviously there’ll be no help for us save from a Pre-Socratic.” And when everyone around her just looks confused, she scowls at what a lot of idiots are in her town and cries out, “Thales of Miletus, ye fools!”

And I realize you’re probably not laughing at that, but somewhere I’ve made a philosophy major giggle, so this is all worth it.

Anyway, the book doesn’t say what the philosopher was able to do about it, but the pamphlet-writer concluded — with some grumbling that philosophers distracted from the wonderfullness of the event, so apparently only after they got involved did the water turning to blood kind of suck? — that the real thing to be learned from this apparition was that the English Civil War caused a lot of people to die, and more of his countrymen needed to understand this, which suggests he figured a lot of the English people had somehow missed the War. Maybe they thought it was some unusually fertile year for frogs or something.

## Calais Chronicle: A Great Swarm of Bees

I happend to be reading F J Levy’s Tudor Historical Thought, because I want whatever computer tries to predict my reading habits over in the university library to explode already. Levy writes a bit about how the tradition of chronicling had declined in the 15th and 16th centuries, with records that were kept turning to more conversational or chatty or simply oddball items, rather than things of historic import. He quoted one, no doubt because he knew it’d amuse the reader too, though he also pointed out the chronicler didn’t attempt to interpret it as a portent of anything, even though it’d seem to be rich with potential meaning:

1509, the 24. of Awgust, the 1. of Henry the Eighth, ther came a grete swarme of bees, and light on the bole undar the wetharcoke of S. Nicholas steple in Caleys, at xi. of the cloke, and at tyll iij. in the aftarnone.

I suppose I’m more inclined to chuckle at this because I have a circle of friends who find a sudden interjection of bees into the conversation to be funny. A sudden surprise can provoke a laugh — that’s part of what makes shock humor exist at all — and I must agree the word “bees” has a bit of a smile to it, a bit of childhood glee, at least when you’re not afraid the referent is coming after you. At some point it becomes a kind of in-joke: one laughs at “bees” because one is expected to laugh at “bees”, and it’d be rude to do otherwise.

Of course, one laughs at jokes because that’s the correct thing to do in response to a joke; so, if familiarity and friendship and fatigue have turned the word “bees” into something you laugh at, has that sufficed to create a joke?

I’m also curious whether the chronicler meant that the ball was unusually lighted, or whether he meant the bees alighted on the ball.

## The Subjectiveness of Puns

I’ve been reading John Pollack’s The Pun Also Rises, which is a better book than the limp title implies. The book doesn’t quite live up to its subtitle about explaining “How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and made Wordplay More Than Some Antics”, and it inexplicably fails to mention the short story in which Isaac Asimov put forth a great theory about where jokes come from and why people groan at puns. Pollack also describes live pun contests, which sound like the sorts of pun cascades that mark the point at which I escape online comment threads. (I like puns, or at least don’t mind them, but every pun cascade is somehow the exact same cascade every time.) Well, it’s his fun.

But there’s a lot of punning going on, and talk about puns throughout their historical traces. One of them particularly delighted me so I thought I’d share it; it’s from the reign of King Charles II of England:

As the story goes, when the king was told that his jester, the playwright Charles Killigrew, could pun on any subject, he issued a challenge and commanded that Killigrew “make one on me”.

Instantly, Killigrew quipped that this was impossible, because “the king is no subject”.

I like it, certainly, and yet it still leaves the question whether this is actually a pun or just shifting between senses of a word.