The Town Scryer is a mixed bag of humor, socio-political observations and ephemera from the perspective of a eclectic Pagan veteran of the counter-culture.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Warning Signs of Art

Found at twentytwowords

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Only Recorded Topless Duel

    From the English quarterly, "The Chap" by way of


'The most intriguing duel fought between women, and the only one that featured bared breasts, was between Princess Pauline Metternich and the Countess Kielmannsegg in August 1892 in Verduz, the capital of Liechstenstein. It has gone down in history as the first "emancipated duel" because all parties involved, including the principals and their seconds, were female.

The fight was organised and presided over by the Baroness Lubinska, who had a degree in medicine (a rarity for a woman in those days) and was prepared to minister to any wounds incurred. Before the proceedings began, the baroness pointed out that many insignificant injuries in duels often became septic due to strips of clothing being driven into the wound by the point of a sword. As a precaution, she prudently suggested that both parties should fight stripped of any garments above the waist.

Another reason for duelling topless was that this was to a "first blood" duel and not a duel to the death. The lack of upper clothing would make it easier for the seconds to decide when the blood had been drawn and thus call a halt to the fight. No men were to be present, so there was no threat of titillation.....

After a few trifling feints and thrusts, a wild slash from the princess struck the countess on the nose and drew blood. Seeing the injury she had caused, the shocked princess threw both hands up to her cheeks. Just then, the countess lunged and pierced the princess through her right forearm. The sight of the resulting blood caused the respective seconds to faint. The footmen and coachmen, who had been ordered to stand some distance away with their backs toward the action, heard the cries and ran toward the women to render aid. Baroness Lubinska, however, decided the male servants had more salacious motives and attacked them with her umbrella, shouting: "Avert your eyes, you lustful wretches!".....

Most contemporary accounts of this historic event fail to mention two important things: the winner of the duel (Princess Metternich) and the reason why the women came to arms in the first place - they disagreed over the floral arrangements for an upcoming musical exhibition. Bared breasts, even in the 19th century, were bigger news than anything else.'

Derek Ware  

Illustration from wine-loving-vagabond

Why It Is A Bad Idea To Anger Your Tattoo Artist

    Or at least if you do, get the work done by someone else.

      Ryan Fitzgerald has been sued for $100,000 by his ex-girlfriend, Rossie Brovent. She claims that he had agreed to tattoo a scene from Narnia on her back. What was actually rendered there was a depiction of a steaming pile of excrement with several flies hovering above it.

     Evidently Mr. Fitzgerald had learned that she had been cheating on him with a long-time friend of his and rather than confront her, had begun to hatch a scheme for revenge. At first she had tried to have him charged with assault, but he had the foresight to have her sign a consent waiver stating that the design was "at the artist's discretion".

    Coincidentally, the finished product does match some critics review of the second Narnia film.

Be seeing you.

Source: early-onset-of-night

"Folks, Don't Try This At Home."

Man jailed for inflating co-worker’s rectum 

     A CARPENTER’S assistant blasted pressurized air up his friend’s rectum, rupturing his large intestine, because he was seeking a pleasant change that would break the monotony of hard work, a Nicosia court has said.
The foreign EU national who is a father of two, was jailed for 45 days last week after admitting that in October last year he had seriously injured his friend who required surgery and a lengthy stay in hospital to recover.

More at the link.

Serenade To a Pachyderm

       Every so often I come across a story that brings a smile to my lips and a little moisture to my eyes because it epitomizes the gentle beauty and kindness that humanity is capable of at its noblest. Such things are seldom deemed newsworthy and I do not find them often. This story is one such.

     Mr. Paul Barton gave himself an unusual fiftieth birthday present. He celebrated by dragging a piano up a mountain in Kanchanaburi, Thailand so that he could play Beethoven for a group of blind elephants that live there.

     "'I had to drag the piano up a mountain - I have a really bad back, but I wanted to make the effort so I could feel like I had undergone a personal challenge"

     The concert was part of an attempt by Mr. Barton to raise money for an electrified fence for the sanctuary.

    ( From their web page): Elephant’s World, founded by Dr. Samart Prasitphol, is a sanctuary for sick, old, disabled, abused, illegal and street elephants, who will receive the rest and joy that they deserve. They can enjoy themselves in their own natural environment here until their last breath.

 For more on Elephant's World see:

     For a short clip of Mr. Barton playing for the elephants: youtube clip

     Be seeing you.


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Pimp of Wall Street

    One of my favorite plays is a little gem called, "The Madwoman of Chaillot". It was also made into a wonderful film in 1969 starring Katherine Hepburn, Danny Kaye, and...almost everyone. It speaks to our current social and economic troubles quite eloquently. The following is an example.

“What?” she demanded.  “What are you hiding from me?”

“Nothing, Countess.  It is you who are hiding.”  The Ragpicker spoke sadly.  “The world has changed since the time you knew.  Even the people are different.  No one is involved with anyone else any more.  The world is no longer beautiful.  No one is happy.”

The tears in her eyes were brighter than the paste gems in her bracelets.  “This is true?  The world is not beautiful?  The world is not happy?  Why wasn’t I told?”

“Because you’ve been dreaming a long time, Countess.  And nobody wanted to disturb you.  Today, the world is full of faceless people.  People who look back at you with gelatine eyes.  Once you stop dreaming, you can see them quite clearly.  They were here today.”

“But who are these people?  What do they do?”

“They do nothing, Countess.  They feel nothing, make nothing, give nothing.  The poets, the jugglers, the innocents, all are disappearing.  The world’s been taken over by the pimps.  The rest of us are finished.  They want to make us all like them.”

Slowly, behind the teardrops in the Countess’s eyes, anger began to glow.  “Are you all cowards?  If these men are the cause of the trouble, all we have to do is get rid of them.”  She looked about her slowly at each of her old friends.

“Some of us have tried,” Roderick muttered.  “They’re too strong.  There are too many of them.  They have all the power, and they’re greedy for more.”

“If they’re greedy, they’re lost!”  And now the Countess was smiling.  “I know exactly what to do."

     Be seeing you.


Pandemic Ready Super-Flu Waits


Somewhere in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, locked up safely we hope, in the bowels of a medical research facility, lies a man-made virus that could alter the course of history and kill millions if loosed upon the world.

     Scientists have modified the H5N1 "Bird Flu" into a strain that is easily transmissible between ferrets. Ferrets it seems are the animals that most closely mimic the human response to the flu. If the virus were to be released in a heavily populated area, or mutate into a similar form in nature, it is likely that a major pandemic would result, killing millions.

     "In a 17th floor office in the same building, virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center calmly explains why his team created what he says is "probably one of the most dangerous viruses you can make"—and why he wants to publish a paper describing how they did it. Fouchier is also bracing for a media storm. After he talked to Science Insider yesterday, he had an appointment with an institutional press officer to chart a communication strategy."

     It seems to me that as soon as he publishes DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Kind of like the show "Eureka", but for weapons.) and similar agencies in other countries will be hard at work growing this as a shiny new weapon. The will claim that they have to do this to defend against the other fellow's super virus. 

     And so it goes. And so it goes.

     "NSABB chair Paul Keim, a microbial geneticist, says he cannot discuss specific studies but confirms that the board has "worked very hard and very intensely for several weeks on studies about H5N1 transmissibility in mammals." The group plans to issue a public statement soon, says Keim, and is likely to issue additional recommendations about this type of research. "We'll have a lot to say," he says.

"I can't think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one," adds Keim, who has worked on anthrax for many years. "I don't think anthrax is scary at all compared to this."

   All quotes from Science Insider. Please read the entire article at the link.

     Be seeing you.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The New (ahem) Wii Controller

      “After three years of development, the men of Britain can at last get gaming while they pee.”

     The urinal-based video game system uses infrared sensors to enable users to steer down a ski slope while knocking over penguins or perform other simple actions by aiming their urine to the left, right, or center.

     Research reports that sales at the bar used for the market test rose 40% - 50%. Presumably because the patrons wanted to recharge the controller?


    Additional information and a video link at: rawstory

     Be seeing you.

Living a Once-Popular Fantasy

           From: wine-loving vagabond

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

And We All Sang "Waltzing Matilda"

    There was a short item in the news today from Japan. I'll add a link to the story at the end, but the main thrust is this: TEPCO reduced the sub-contract work force at Fukashima by 60% because there is nothing left they can do. 

    "the next thing to do is to check the state of container vessels pressure vessels, define the actual point of the leakage of contaminated water, and action to stop the leakage, but there is zero plan / idea how to manage it."

     It then goes on to say that the damaged reactors are way too hot to work in and that isn't going to change.

    What this implies is that it won't change in centuries. Unless, of course, the melted core actually reaches the ground water table. Then it might get a lot worse.

     Meanwhile our government and the French government refuse to abandon nuclear power and continue to talk of building new plants without addressing the issues that caused the Fukashima plants to fail.

     The Fukashima plant disaster put an enormous amount of radioactive material into the air and water. If you eat fish that was imported from China, or even canned tuna, or if you just breathe the air, there is a chance your children will die a little earlier because of this than if it didn't happen. There are dozens of other industries that all poison us...just a little. Thing is, you add them all together and the total isn't little at all.

     In 2009, for the first time, the average life span of an American actually declined by a few months. This was quickly dismissed as a statistical anomaly. I don't believe it was. I think it was a warning of things to come if we continue to trade away environmental protection for jobs and economic benefits that never really materialize.

     Asthma is a good example. I am an asthmatic. When I was a small boy fifty years ago I was one of a very few in my grammar school. Now it seems like every child I know carries an inhaler. Every respiratory specialist that I talk to says it is likely environmental pollutants and possibly food additives that make the difference.  Smoking has been drastically reduced. We can't blame second hand smoke any more.

     In the 1959 film about the aftermath of a nuclear war, "On the Beach", one of the most powerful scenes had most of the characters at a large party as a lethal cloud of fallout drew nearer by the day. The scene ended with a lone voice singing the last verse of "Waltzing Matilda"

     Up jumped the swagman, sprang into the billabong
     "You'll never take me alive!" said he
     And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
     "You'll never take me alive." said he

     The following is the closing shot of the film.


     Be seeing you.

A Different Kind of Grave Robbing

    When a man walking among the graves at a cemetery in Elmhurst, Ill., near Chicago, suddenly jumped into his car and sped off one day this August, a worker jotted down his license number and called the police.

    A few days later the police followed that car to a different cemetery and watched as the driver stole 51 bronze vases attached to grave markers in about 15 minutes. He then drove to a scrap metal yard where they learned he had already sold hundreds of the bronze vases. (The most recent price I could find for scrap bronze is about $2 per pound. The vases are said to cost about $600 to replace.)

     The bad economy has led to a boom in scap metal scavenging. Where once people only took the aluminum cans from my apartment dumpster, they now take even the bottles. They no longer care about the high weight for only a few cents. Many cities report the yellow brass end plugs are being stolen from fire hydrants. In some places even man hole covers are no longer safe.

     For more see Wall Street Journal

Be seeing you.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Steam Punk Star Trek?

On Giving and of Thanks

I remember when I was just a boy, he would come to our door soon after the leaves fell in Autumn, looking for odd jobs. I am ashamed to say I have forgotten his name, but I remember him well. Grandmother always found some work for him, leaves to rake or rain gutters to clear...whatever needed doing that could be done in a few hours time. When he was done she would let him wash his clothing in the laundry room and clean up in the bathroom. He was treated with the same respect accorded any other person. Grandmother had raised a family during the depression and knew how capricious  fortune was. Afterwards he would join us at table for supper. I remember he taught me how to read hobo signs.
After supper she would pay him a fair wage for his labor and he would thank her and go back to where he and the other men of the road were camped over behind the cannery near the place where the railroad made the long curve and the trains slowed enough for a man to catch a ride.

He and his kind are all gone now. The diesels recover speed too quickly and don't have to slow as much as the old steam engines. Only the young and nimble can ride the rails. 

There are plenty of others out there who are his brothers in spirit. You see them every day...or you would if you didn't try so very hard not to see them. The buskers and the panhandlers and the homeless wanderers are all around us. Every year there are more of them. There is another layoff at a plant or another old hotel that rents by the week is torn down to make room for condominiums.

This year I would like to ask you who read this to give to my favorite charity. I learned about it from Jon Carroll, a fine columnist who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle. It is called "The Untied Way". It has no board of directors or officers. 100% of all money donated goes to those in need.

It works like this: Go to the ATM and make a withdrawal. It should be enough that it stings just a little, but not so much as to cause serious regret. You will now have a small pile of crisp twenty dollar bills. Some of you will only have two or three. That is all right. Now go forth into the core of your city and give a twenty to the next busker or panhandler you meet. Repeat until the pile is gone. It is that simple.

Some of them will thank you. Some may not. Some may even weep. Some of them may not be deserving. So what? Many of those who are wealthy are not deserving. It is an imperfect world. I guarantee you will make someone feel a little better for a while...and you will find that perhaps your own burden feels a little lighter too. You probably won't actually save anyone with your twenty dollar bill, but there is a small chance that you will be there at just the right time to make the big difference. I am sure the odds are better than they are for winning the lottery. 

Think of it as a karmic lottery ticket.

Or look at it this way. Times are bad. Most of us are closer to the edge than we want to think about. Things go wrong and you might need him to show you how to get by one day. Might be nice if he remembers you fondly.

Be seeing you.

Hobo sign image from:

Do Not Try This At Home...Ever

Believe it or not, this is the accused, not the victim.

A Miami Gardens transgender woman was arrested on charges of practicing medicine without a license after police learned that she had performed a makeshift buttock enhancement surgery by injecting the posterior of the hapless patient with a witch's brew of "fix-a-flat", cement, mineral oil and super glue. 

More super glue was then used in place of sutures to seal the incision.

Police have asked other people who may have had the same procedure to contact them with assurance that they have done nothing wrong. There is an extremely high risk of infection.

Be seeing you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Better and Cheaper Than Bombs

In July 1948, 27-year-old Air Force lieutenant Gail Halvorsen was flying food and supplies into West Berlin, which was blockaded by the Soviet Union. One night he encountered a group of hungry children who had gathered near the runway to watch the planes land.
“They could speak a little English,” he recalled later. “Their clothes were patched and they hadn’t had gum and candy for two or three years. They barely had enough to eat.”
Halvorsen gave them two sticks of gum and promised to drop more candy for them the next day from his C-54. He said he’d rock his wings so that they could distinguish him from the other planes. Then he returned to the base and spent the night tying bundles of candy to handkerchief parachutes.
Over the next three days he dropped candy to growing crowds of West German children. He had wanted to keep the project secret (“It seemed like something you weren’t supposed to do”), but when a newsman snapped a photograph Halvorsen began receiving boxes of candy from all over the United States, many with parachutes already attached. Halvorsen went home in February 1949, and the blockade was lifted three months later.
In 1998, when Halvorsen returned to Berlin, a “dignified, well-dressed man of 60 years” approached him. He said, “Fifty years ago I was a boy of 10 on my way to school. The clouds were very low with light rain. I could hear the planes landing though I couldn’t see them. Suddenly out of the mist came a parachute with a fresh Hershey chocolate bar from America. It landed right at my feet. I knew it was happening but couldn’t believe it was for me. It took me a week to eat that candy bar. I hid it day and night. The chocolate was wonderful but it wasn’t the chocolate that was most important. What it meant was that someone in America knew I was here, in trouble and needed help. Someone in America cared. That parachute was something more important than candy. It represented hope. Hope that some day we would be free.”

Be seeing you.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Last Sikh Swordmaster

     The last remaining master of the Sikh martial art Shastar Vidiyah is 44 year old Nidar Singh Nihang. He was taught by an 80 year-old guru from northern India. Nidar has devoted his entire life to the art and holds master classes around the world.

    Now he is looking for a pupil to take under his personal tutelage so that the the art will survive in the next generation. He currently resides in Wolverhampton in England.

     Shastar Vidiyah was developed in the 17th century when the Sikhs were under attack from hostile Moslems and Hindus. The Sikhs were disarmed by the British after the second Anglo-Sikh war of 1848-1849 and the art was driven underground, resulting eventually in its current rarity.

     For more see: and Wikipedia

     Be seeing you

The Man Who Discovered Pluto Gets to Go There At Last

Clyde William Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930. In the course of his career he also discovered hundreds of asteroids and stars. It is therefore fitting and uncommonly cool that approximately one ounce of his ashes, (he passed in 1997), are aboard the New Horizons spacecraft, which was launched in 2006 and is due to make a near pass at Pluto in 2015.

The inscription pictured above reads, 
 "Interred herein are the remains of Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system's "Third Zone". Adelle and Muron's boy, Patricia's husband, Annette and Alden's father, astronomer, teacher, punster, and friend.
Clyde W. Tombaugh

Nicely done.

Be seeing you.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Marketing 101

Back in 2003 Molson's placed this ad in Cosmopolitan:

Then they followed by running this ad in various men's magazines:

                                    (click to enlarge)
(from twentytwowords)

Proof the War On Drugs Has Gone Too Far


 This wasn't in the U.S.A. but we have been equally absurd.

     The Nigerian comedy actor, Babatunde Omindina was detained at Lagos's international airport as he was preparing to board a flight to France. The drug enforcement agency, upon getting a positive result on a test for drug ingestion, detained him for 24 days while authorities scrupulously examined the contents of 25 bowel movements before finally determining that he was not, in fact, smuggling any contraband.

     The frail, and somewhat emaciated looking actor was finally released from custody with the well wishes of the judge.


Images From The Front

Be seeing you.
All images from wine-loving vagabond

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Never Anger the Barmaid

In 1808, Napoleon, running out of scenic holiday destinations to invade, somehow totally forgot about his neighbor to the south, Spain. So that year he dispatched his troops, kicking off the Peninsular War.
Only 20 years old and working as a barmaid in the town of Valdepenas, Juana Galan was not expecting a surge of French soldiers to come storming through her village. But on June 6, that’s exactly what happened. At that time, most of the men were fighting Napoleon’s forces elsewhere in the nation. Juana, unfazed by things like rifles and Frenchmen and French riflemen, began organizing the women in her village to form a trap for the approaching army.
When the army arrived, Juana and her friends were ready. They dumped boiling water and oil on the French troops, which by all accounts will instantly take the fight out of pretty much anyone. Then Juana, armed with only a batan, beat back the heavily armed French cavalry with her squad of village women, almost none of whom were armed with guns.
The French retreated, giving up on capturing not just Juana’s town but the entire province of La Mancha, leading to ultimate Spanish victory. Today, she is seen in Spain as a national hero, a symbol of resistance, strength, patriotism, feminism and hitting shit with a stick.

Be seeing you.

"They All Laughed At Me, But I'll Show Them!"

                          "Before I kill you, Mr. Bond..."

          "Don't be silly, Dear. What could possibly go wrong?"

          "Don't be silly. What could possibly go wrong?"

 All images from My ear-trumpet has been struck by lightning. Check 'em out!

     Be seeing you.

Once Wild Horses

     "They scarf potato chips and whole bags of marshmallows late in the night, leaving behind trashed campsites and ruined tents. They break into stranger’s coolers and make off with watermelons. They carelessly turn on water spigots and leave them running.

Rangers are dealing with a problem that has all the hallmarks of a classic beach-week bender, but the culprits aren’t rowdy teens. They’re Assateague Island’s famous wild horses."

     Lately however, they aren't quite as wild as they used to be. In fact, they have become addicted to junk food. They have been mooching off the locals for years, but lately they have become both brazen and cunning.

     “I didn’t believe it until I saw it,” Kicklighter said. “Two horses put their youngest, cutest pony in front of a car, and then the older horses went around to the windows to panhandle for food.”

     More at: Washington Post

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fukashima Resident's Urine Radioactive

More than 3 millisieverts of radiation has been measured in the urine of 15 Fukushima residents of the village of Iitate and the town of Kawamata, confirming internal radiation exposure, it was learned Sunday.

Both are about 30 to 40 km from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which has been releasing radioactive material into the environment since the week of March 11, when the quake and tsunami caused core meltdowns.

"This won't be a problem if they don't eat vegetables or other products that are contaminated," said Nanao Kamada, professor emeritus of radiation biology at Hiroshima University. "But it will be difficult for people to continue living in these areas."
Kamada teamed up with doctors including Osamu Saito of Watari Hospital in the city of Fukushima to conduct two rounds of tests on each resident in early and late May, taking urine samples from 15 people between 4 and 77.
Radioactive cesium was found both times in each resident.
Radioactive iodine was logged as high as 3.2 millisieverts in six people in the first survey, but none was found in the second survey.


Be seeing you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Mixed Bag

    As late as the 19th century it was common practice to use goats as a wet nurse for human infants.

 An 18th-century account Valenze found of a hospital in Aix, France:
The cribs are arranged in a large room in 2 ranks. Each goat which comes to feed enters bleating and goes to hunt the infant which has been given it, pushes back the covering with its horns and straddles the crib to give suck to the infant. Since that time they have raised very large numbers in that hospital.
     (From The Daily Beast, appropriately enough.)

    This may possibly explain why the female is called a "Nanny Goat".


       In other news, it seems that a pair of Queen Victoria's bloomers sold at auction for 9,735 pounds.

      The identity of the winning bidder was not disclosed.

         Photo from


        Meanwhile the Republican Senate minority filibustered the infrastructure jobs bill, effectively killing it in its current form. In the House however, they managed in a flurry of activity to re-affirm that "In God We Trust" is still the national motto.

     Presumably this means we are to trust that God will create new jobs as they show absolutely no inclination to do so.

      Be seeing you.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Coming Attractions

   Anonymous is in the news a lot lately. They are a part but not, I hasten to add, by any means all of the Occupy movement. They have been a larger part of the movement from banks to credit unions. At the same time they have outed a child porn ring and are threatening to expose a Mexican drug cartel.

    They have become a cultural phenomenon.

     You all know what happens to cultural phenomena, don't you.

     Right now, or at least very soon, someone will develop an action/adventure/crime drama TV series pilot about a group of masked cyber-vigilantes who bring down criminals too rich and powerful for the police, or even the Feds to catch. They will do this by revealing their darkest secrets at the end of each episode when they release a clip with all of the evidence on youtube.
     One of them will be either a "rogue cop" or an ex-cop. He will be blond and ruggedly handsome. He will always have two days growth of beard. One of them will be a hot-but deadly woman, as beautiful as she is mysterious. The third member will be the uber-geek who can penetrate any computer system by tapping a computer keyboard for ten seconds--fifteen tops.  They will all report to an older tough-but-fair curmudgeon who has no idea what a computer is but somehow is in charge of the group because of something dark and sad in his past that haunts him.

     The studio executives will snap it up and congratulate themselves on how relevant and edgy the new program is. Cigars and brandy will be passed around as they congratulate each other on creating just the thing to recapture the youth demographic.

     What they will have actually "created" is NCIS Cyberspace.

     Anonymous will immediately attack their web site.

     Be seeing you.