The Language of Gormenghast

The recrudescent malkins of the calid garde-manger

Last week I stopped into the second hand bookstore that’s opened down the road and purchased the copy of Titus Groan that’s been taunting me in the shelf by the window. Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy is something I’ve meant to read for years so I figured that with a copy of the first book so convenient I might as well get on with it.

The somewhat eccentric bookseller (despite being a new establishment the store is doing a very good job of being rambling, cramped and musty with a slightly gnome-like proprietor – the way all bookshops should be!) reminisced about the first time he read the book while looking for my change. He told me not worry about words I couldn’t understand because I should be able to figure out most of them from context.

As such I was somewhat primed to watch for words I didn’t understand, and have kept a list of them as I go. I’m about halfway through and have hit six of them so far, which I think is pretty good going. The list (and the definitions) are as follow…

Recrudescent – My first reaction to this word was that it could mean almost anything. The actual definition is “breaking out again” or “renewing”.

Calid – I guessed that this means ‘clammy’, it actually means ‘hot’. Which makes sense when you think of the words ‘calorie’ and ‘calorific’ or perhaps the Italian ‘caldo’.

Fumid – I assumed this meant ‘full of fumes’, which in fact it does. Excellent!

Garde-Manger – My sketchy knowledge of French, combined with context, led me to assume that a garde-manger is a pantry. It’s actually a cool and well ventilated area of a kitchen used for the preparation of cold foods – although it seems more commonly used to refer to a chef that works in such an area.

Ichadbod – I am of course familiar with the name Ichabod, but in the book it’s used to describe a semi-ruinous section of the castle. I can’t find a definition online supporting this use, but I presume it’s a reference to the Hebrew meaning “the glory is departed”. Nice one Mr Peake!

Malkin – From context it was clear that this means ‘cat’.

Expect an update to this list when I’ve read some more – assuming I run into any other new words that is.

Tlot Tlot Tlot Tlot Tlot Tlot Tlot Tlot Tlot (Should I go on?)

A musical diversion

I was thinking the other day about Tlot Tlot.

Tlot Tlot were a Perth band from (I think) the 1990s. I don’t know that much about them to be honest, in fact I only know one of their songs. But that one song is a doozy.

Imagine you put the members of They Might be Giants and Barnes and Barnes in a room with a honky-tonk piano, a mixing desk and several sound effect CDs. Then got them slightly drunk. They might come up with something like that one song – a work titled Box of Gods.

Box of Gods is hard to pin down. It seems to be some kind of attack on either religion, or the commercialisation of religion (or maybe both). It’s stuffed full of wacky sound effects, distorted vocals and lyrics so nonsensical that it’s hard to tell if you’re hearing them right. But it’s energetic, crazy and catchy as hell.

Now, your odds of finding a copy of it (or the album it’s off Pistolbuttsatwinkle’atwinkle) are probably pretty low, but because I’m a generous guy I thought I’d post the lyrics (insofar as I can make them out). This will also have the effect of increasing Tlot-Tlot’s web presence by at least 10%, which has to be a good thing 🙂

So here we go…

Box of Gods – Tlot Tlot

(Playing tennis, in the Herald…)

(Bop! Bop! Bop!)

You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down,

Now wouldn’t it be funny, if you could purchase,
Religion on a stick?
And wouldn’t it be funny, if you could buy,
A god to get you by?

(Playing tennis, in the Herald Sun)

You bought me a box of gods (Bop! Bop!),
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods (Bop! Bop!),
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down,

Now wouldn’t it be funny, if you could purchase,
A god soap on a rope?
Wouldn’t it be funny, watching your father,
Break down into a lather?
And wouldn’t it be useless, to buy a used car,
From a man with an honest face?
And wouldn’t it be horrible, to scrub the bathroom floor,
With holy water purchased by the case?

(Just make sure, you wash behind your ears!)

(Bop! Bop!)
(Bop! Bop!)

Now wouldn’t it be funny, if you could purchase,
A costume just like this?
And wouldn’t you be better off, if you weren’t,
All thumbs and two left feet?

(Pin yourself, on the cross, in the Herald Sun)

You bought me a box of gods (Bop! Bop!),
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods (Bop! Bop!),
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down,

You bought me a box of gods (Bop! Bop!),
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods (Bop! Bop!),
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I –

You bought me a box of gods (Bop! Bop!),
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods (Bop! Bop!),
I brought you down, I brought you down,
You bought me a box of gods,
I brought you down,

(Bop! Bop!)

That’s your lot for the day! 😀

The Peanut Twenty-One-Hundred

Recipe time!

Follow these instructions to create the drink sensation that’s sweeping the nation – the Peanut Twenty-One-Hundred!

Ingredients: A 250ml to 500ml bottle of Coke (diet, zero, vanilla, whatever strikes your fancy really). A packet of peanut M&Ms.

Method: Drink (or otherwise dispose of) one fifth to one quarter of the Coke. Drop five to ten peanut M&Ms into the bottle. Enjoy the show (and clean up any mess). Once the Coke has turned an unearthly shade of brown, drink it (carefully). When finished, eat the chilled and marinated M&Ms from the bottom of the bottle.

This recipe bought to you by the Foundation for the Worst Possible Things You Can Ever Put into Your Body.

A Most Significant Anniversery

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

It was 150 years ago today Darwin published his book explaining exactly what was going on. If I had time I’d compose an eloquent tribute, but as I don’t, the following quote will have to do…

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Indeed Charles, indeed.

Airstrip One

It just keeps getting worse…

You know, Big Media’s attack on democracy just keeps getting worse. Not content with “three strike laws” that allow a media conglomerate to cut off someone’s internet access by merely accusing them of copyright infringement (yes, that’s right, under these laws if Time-Warner or someone wants to throw you off the net all they have to do is say you’ve infringed their copyright three times, and you’re off – no trial, no burden of proof, no appeal) they’re now getting the UK government to set up a system where the Secretary of State can just make up and enforce laws about copyright without debate or approval by any other part of government.

Or to put it plainly…

What that means is that an unelected official would have the power to do anything without Parliamentary oversight or debate, provided it was done in the name of protecting copyright. — Cory Doctorow

You can read the full details from the link above, including some pretty disturbing things the new powers are intended to do.

If you live in the UK and care about either democracy or the future of the net, get in touch with your MP now!

Found in Space – Again

Another entry…

By the time a species achieves interstellar flight it has usually developed a sense of aesthetics so refined that exposure to poor design causes nausea, lethargy and (in extreme cases) death. As such the post-humans of Nova Eritrea had long divested their culture of all but the very highest in art and architecture, and had no inkling of the dangers contained in the ancient data device they found in a derelict spacewreck orbiting a nearby star… A year later fourteen billion Nova Eritreans were dead, taken by what the chroniclers would call “The Plague of the Lovely Lady Lumps”.

Boing Boing 100-word fiction competition

Found in Space

Things I’ll do for a new computer, honestly…

When the joint European probe finally arrived at Lagrange Point four most commentators expected to find at least something. Interplanetary dust. A few rocks. Maybe even some ice – although almost everyone agreed that was a long shot. What we didn’t expect was shoes. Eight of them. Not pairs either – single shoes, floating idly in the gravitational void. Once the initial shock passed, the ESA set it all off again by announcing that they each had a desiccated human foot inside. Well, all apart from one. They said that contained a bear paw, but I mean – come on – that’s just crazy…

Boing Boing 100-word fiction competition

Can on a String

Bah!

I’d just like to say that Vodafone suck.

Well OK, maybe I suck a bit as well. But the end result is a big ball of suck which is rather pissing me off, and as Vodafone are the bigger target I’m going to blame them.

A while back, after a dinner date with a friend was almost totally screwed up by the fact that I wasn’t contactable, I reluctantly bought a mobile phone. I went with Vodafone for reasons that I can’t quite remember, but seemed sensible at the time, and until recently have had absolutely no problems with them. But a while back my credit card expired, and a couple of weeks after that my phone ran out of prepaid credit…

To use a credit card to top up your Vodafone prepaid credit, the card has to be registered with Vodafone. No problem, except that it’s apparently impossible to register a new credit card when you’re out of credit. Making a call – even one to a Vodafone support number – on a creditless handset diverts you into Vodafone’s recharge system, from which it is completely impossible to get to any option allowing you to register a new credit card. Attempts to do so throw you into an endless loop of account options, the only way to break out of which is to admit defeat and hang up.

After dealing with this nightmare a few times I had the bright idea of calling customer support from my landline. This worked up to a point – the point where I was put through to an operator with an accent so thick I could barely understand a word he said (I think he might have been a Romanian who was taught English by a native Irish Gaelic speaker who learnt the language from Billy Conolly DVDs).

He asked me a series of questions, starting with the basic name, date of birth and address. Then he asked me for my PIN number. Now, sure, this is something I really should know, but I don’t – which is the reason I was calling up customer support rather than going online to register my credit card number in the first place.

This wasn’t a problem, because there were a bunch of other questions he could ask to confirm that I’m who I said I was. For instance what “fodo-eyed” did I use to register the sim card? After some backing and forthing I figured out he meant “photo id” and told him I used my passport.

He checked his computer and said sorry but I didn’t use my passport – which came as quite a surprise to me since it’s the only photo id I possess.

But that was OK, because there were other questions he could ask. Like what were the last three numbers I called? I checked my handset and discovered they were to my parents, and to Vodafone’s support number. He checked his computer.

No, apparently those weren’t the last three numbers I called.

But that was OK, because he could instead ask me what plan I was on. I said I had no idea but it was the basic prepaid one. How much did I pay the last time I recharged? I said I thought it was about $30. How much credit did I get from that? I said about $100. And when did I last recharge? I said I thought it was some time in August.

Apparently none of that matched with my account. But that was OK because there was one more question he could ask. He brought it up on his computer…

…and then couldn’t ask it because the computer wouldn’t tell him what it was.

Having exhausted all his options he said the only thing I could do was to take the handset and some photo ID into a Vodafone shop and they could register my new credit card there.

Fantastic. So I now have to drag myself in to a Vodafone store and produce identification just so I can pay them money. Hooray!

Honestly. I’d be better off with a can on a string.

Fly Season, Beetle Season

Biological controls for the win.

The fly season is on us again.

Way back before Europeans screwed things up, Australia didn’t really have a problem with flies. Water being scarce down here, animals didn’t waste it on excrement – kangaroos and other native animals generally produce small, dry pellets unsuitable for flies’ purposes. The only place flies could breed was in animal carcases and while there were enough of these to keep the flies in business, there were never enough to let them breed up to plague proportions.

Then the Europeans turned up and brought with them all those water squandering northern hemisphere animals like cows and horses and sheep – which wandered around the continent dropping big steaming pats everywhere. The flies thought that they’d died and gone to fly heaven and Australia became a place where you couldn’t open your mouth in summer without three or four dozen of the damn things plunging in and trying to claim your lungs in the name of all flykind.

After decades of this kind of thing the government finally decided to do something about it. They engaged in years of trials and careful testing (we at least learnt a lesson from the cane toad fiasco) and eventually a species of small, inoffensive dung beetle was imported from Africa and distributed across the country. Confronted with massive piles of excrement that the ecosystem was totally failing to deal with the beetles thought they’d died and gone to beetle heaven and got on with what they do best – rolling it up into balls and burying it.

Result? Fly numbers plummeted and summer became bearable again.

Except for October.

You see the flies start breeding in late September. The dung beetles don’t start breeding until late October. This means that for one month of the year the flies are back in force and we all suffer.

But hey, at least we can comfort ourselves remembering that all of summer used to be like that.