Sunday, July 8, 2018

On the Turkey Trot Trail

I drove to Mt. Falcon yesterday to have a short hike on Turkey Trot Trail.  The temperature was climbing rapidly toward 90 degrees.

It was such a hot day that a rabbit was reluctant to leave its shady patch on the trail until I approached within ten feet.

The top section of Turkey Trot Trail, with its rich cover of trees, is a comfortable place to hike.  Here is a picture that looks back at this shaded top section.  The bottom section of the trail is rocky and fully exposed to direct sun, altogether resembling a parched Death Valley creek bed down the mountain.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Difficult Hike at Golden Gate State Park

My younger son invited to me to one of my favorite state parks: Golden Gate State Park (no relation to the Golden Gate bridge).  The weather was excellent -- partly cloudy with temperatures in the high 50s.  Everything was great except for my level of fitness.  Too much food and too much idleness over the past six months had made me fat and lazy.  The six mile hike ended up taking us (that is, me) 3 and 1/2 hours.  I devoted at least 30 minutes of that time hunched over trying to recover my breath.

My son was a good sport about wasting half a day on a mildly strenuous hike that he would have finished in two hours without breaking a sweat.

My son and I originally planned to hike the 6.7 mile Mountain Lion Trail starting at the Nott Creek parking lot.  (Marked on the following park map with symbols of mountain lion paws.)  When it became obvious that I was running out of energy, we decided to take a short cut down Burro Trail (symbolized by the back end of a burro).  Finally, we gave up on trails altogether and took the park's jeep trail (shown as the black line) back to Nott Creek.

Despite my fitness deficiencies, I still derived some pleasure in getting out of town and enjoying the park.

For example, I enjoyed the footbridges.  Every footbridge in the park has its own design.  Some are built from tree trunks split down the middle.  Some are built from stout rough-hewn boards.  Some are cute little bridges like this one, which appeared to be constructed from garden edging logs from Home Depot.

There is a beautiful creek in the park.  My son speculated that gold flecks might get washed down from Windy Peak and deposited in the pool shown in this photo.  As we had neglected to bring a sluicing pan, we could not investigate.

One of the joys of hiking in the woods is discovering new plants and animals.  Here is my first observation of a plant that I have christened the Rocky Mountain Snowball Cactus based on its size and shape.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Back to Roxborough State Park

My last walk at Roxborough State Park was cut short because of rain.  I returned today to finish the South Rim Loop.

I got a late start.  It was about 2:30 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time or 1:30 p.m. sundial time.

I did a quick check of the park map.

And then hit the trail.

There were many butterflies flying about and many wildflowers.  Here is a sample of both.

The park is known for its fascinating red rock formations.

I saw one animal on the trail, a sleepy squirrel that moved about six inches off the trail as I approached.  He felt safe enough in the weeds to stay put.  I could have leaned over and tapped him on the head.

I liked this formation -- two parallel limestone ridges sandwiching a greensward.

End of the trail...    (Funny, the walk felt like 6 miles.)

Ashley Sterne The Sugar Shortage

Ashley Sterne began his writing career with comic editorial pieces for London Opinion.  Here is an early piece from the time of the Great War.  The piece was republished on 13 May 1916 in the Taranaki (New Zealand) Herald. 

Vocabulary Notes: 
Demerara: a large-grained, somewhat crunchy, raw cane sugar with origins in Guyana (a colony formerly called Demerara)
Rufescent: tinged with red
Greengage: a pale green plum
Saccharous: (archaic) relating to sugar

Warning to sensitive readers: There are touches of Political Incorrectness in the second and fifth paragraphs.

The Sugar Shortage
(By Ashley Sterne in London Opinion)

The Royal Commission that has been sitting on Cargoes has reported that a great deal of the space in our holds which might be occupied by copper and iron ores for Sweden has been selfishly monopolised by us for the conveyance of sugar for our own use; and that this has got to stop.

Already various suggestions have been made in the press by “Harassed Housewife,” “Mother of Seven,” and other pseudonymous females; but none of them appears to have hit the right nail on the head — which is what usually happens when a woman handles a hammer.  The most practical scheme for enforcing sugar economy that I have yet heard of has emanated from my own grocer, who recently executed my order for 14 lbs. of Demerara by sending me 12 and charging me for 15.

But there should be equally effective and less drastic methods of controlling the sugar traffic, and by way of example I cite that of the Worshipful Company of Swiss Rollers and Doughnutters that is already taking active steps, I understand, to curtail the amount of jam employed in — and hence to restrict the quantity of sugar required for — the manufacture of these inflating comestibles.  I know that there is a popular belief that neither Swiss rolls not doughnuts actually contain jam; but this is an error.  If you bisect a doughnut, and then examine it through a microscope, you will observe a small crimson stain and about half-a-dozen tiny pellets of mahogany embedded somewhere near the centre, which upon being subject to spectrum analysis, will undoubtedly proved to be of the rufescent jams.  Similarly, if you unwind a coil of Swiss roll and examine the exposed surface closely, you will notice a thin green, gelatinous deposit which, if carefully removed with a cataract-knife and dissolved in water, will react to the Board of Trade’s test for greengage jam.

Further, the Amalgamated Society of Hardbakers and Peppermint-Droppers has decide to diminish the quantity of saccharous material in normal use, and to include in lieu thereof a more generous percentage of fish-glue and Portland cement in its product — a course of action that should certainly command the undying gratitude of the entire dental profession.

But admirable as these examples are, it is by individual effort that the greatest economies must be effected; and herein, I am afraid, the ladies will feel the coming scarcity more acutely than the men will.  A girl will go with us to a matinee, and think nothing of masticating her way through about a stone of chocolate cream, several slabs of cocoanut ice, and a fathom or so of barley-sugar in the course of the afternoon; and yet afterwards repair to a tea-shop and put five lumps of sugar in each cup of tea she drinks.  In view of this fact I foresee a rather thin time coming for the damsel who does not immediately determine to take her sweet-accustomed molar rigorously in hand, and train it to swallow the bitter pill of self-denial.

It is evident that the problem of the coming sugar shortage must be looked squarely in the face, taken promptly by the horns, and — if possible — nipped in the bud.  We must adopt as our motto that of the bloater-smokers of Yarmouth: “What cannot be cured must be endured.”  But, at the same time, I have roughly formulated a scheme whereby our endurance shall not be unduly taxed.  Briefly my idea is to make an organised effort to increase our native honey supply.  Honey is a most capable understudy for most of the roles played by jam — for instance jam-role.  There are doubtless many men over military age who would be only too willing in the face of the present emergency to become bee-herds, and attend to the distribution at our homes of a daily supply of honey.  Thus the absence of sugar and jam from our breakfast-tables and the faces of our offspring will be rendered barely noticeable.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Ashley Sterne In the Next Weak Programmes

I hesitated to transcribe this parody radio program (or programme, as the British have it) by Ashley Sterne, because it consists of puns and allusions that almost impenetrable to any modern reader who is not knowledgeable regarding public figures of the 1930s.  (The light-hearted Hitler reference is a bit disconcerting.)  Nevertheless, in the relentless spirit of the literary completist, I offer my readers this Ashley Sterne column from the 1934 Christmas number of World Radio.


Chosen by Ashley Sterne


A Rossini-Verdi Composite Opera
All Night.  Swiss Cottage, relayed by Appleby and Shooter’s Hill.  “William O’Tello,” conducted by Frank Can’t-tell.

Unrecorded Records
7.0 p.m.  Radio-Luckybag.  Gramophone Recital by Christopher Stein.  Jack Petersen singing “The Last Round Up;”  Henry J. Ford singing “Ole Man Flivver;”  Lady Astor singing “O, Play to me, Tipsy;”  Hitler singing, “I’m Danzig with Tears in my Eyes;”  Sam Small singing “Holloway, Awake, Beloved;”  and Victoria Grasshopper singing “Little Gnat, You’ve Had a Buzzy Day.”

Newly Discovered Work by Chopin
8.15 p.m.  Warsaw, relayed by Seesaw.  “Nocturne in the Old Kent Road.”  Played by Rashmanenough.


A Cannibal Banquet
Opening Time till Closing Time.  Christmas Island, relayed by the Club-Sandwich-Islands.  Running commentary by Big Chief Rubbatummi.  Receded by a Tom-tom recital by Uncle Bones (of Margate), and followed by a cowrie-shell collection on behalf of the Widows of Shipwrecked Mariners.

Shykovski’s “Nut-Cracker” Suite
6.30 p.m.  Barcelona, relayed by Brazil.  Conducted by Munkinutz.

Carol Concert
8.0 p.m.  Bucharest, relayed by Buckhurst Hill.  Arranged by Carroll Gibbons and Billy Caryll.  The Worchester Philharmonic Club singing “Good King Worcestersauce;”  the Oswaldtwistle Choral Society singing “The Twistletoe Bough;” followed by solos from Arnold Sebastian Bachx’s “Isthmus Oratorio” sung by Ina Souez.

Beetrooten’s Chloral Symphony
10.0 p.m.  Medicine Hat, relayed by all chemists and druggist.  Conducted by Annie Sthetik.


Coronation of the Sulphate and Sulphuret of Magnesia
All Day.  Glaubersalzburg, relayed by Mudbaden.  Running Commentaries by Herr Hauard, the Lord Marshall, and by their Excellencies the Manganese Ambassador and the Swedenborgian Minister.

Rollicking Russina Comedy by Tchoke-off
1.0 p.m. — 11 p.m.  Tobolsk, relayed by Kamschatka, Nijni-novgorod, and Earlswood.  “Three Sister-Seagulls in a Cherry Orchard.”  Dmitri Skratchanitch as Nokisblokoff, Olga Samova as Skarlatina.

An Act from the Kaffir Circus
8.30 p.m. ad nauseum.  Jerusalem, relayed from Hampstead.  A hand-to-hand Talk on the Mining Market between Izzie Apfelbaum and Rube Schweinfleisch.

Verdigri’s Opera “False-Stuff”
9.0 p.m.  Paddington.  Teddie Brown as False-Stuff; Padrick Waddington as Slender.


Song-Cycle (with Bawl-Bearings)
7 p.m.  Teheran, relayed by Alsoran.  Squeeza Lemon’s “In a Purley Garden.”  The words adapted from “The Ruby At” of Michael Arlen.

Fun on a Lightship
8 p.m.  Helsinki.  A wooden sea-shanty, performed by an Elder Brother of Trinity House and his Buoys.

Item from an Antarctic Concert
10 p.m.  All Antarctic Stations, Third-Class Waiting Rooms, and Chile.  Organised by Eddie Pola and Pola Negri.  Relayed from Elephant Island.  Purcell’s “Trumpet Voluntary,”  conducted by Tuskanini.

Unheard Work by Schubert
10.15 p.m.   Wien, relayed by Weib and Gesang.  The “Unbegun Symphony.”  Incompleted and unorchestrated by Paul Cleanoffsky, and non-conducted by Sir Henry Wood and his Insulators, including Dorothy Silk and Billy Cotton.


A Chinese Playlet
All Day and All Night.  Hong-kong, relayed by King Kong.  “Bung-Ho” a tragedy by Hi-tid-li-hi-ti.  Wun Yung Kow as Too Long Tung.

New Work by One-Egger
7.0 p.m.  Zermatt, relayed by Dohrmatt and Bathmatt.  Variations for Alphorn and Shoehorn on an old Swiss folk-song, “Oh dear, what can the Matterhorn.”

A Never-Too-Oftenbach Opera
8.0 p.m.  All stations on the underground.  “Tails of Hoffmann,” produced by Sydney Kyte and conducted by John Barcarolli.

Surprise Item
10 p.m.  Madrid, relayed by Yarmouth and Finnish Common Wave.  Cast-a-net Recital and Herring Fishing Bulletin.


All in the Day’s Shirk
6.30 p.m.  Naples, relayed by Saffron Hill and Soho.  Signor Occhi-Pocchi describes a day in the life of a Macaroni Calibrator.

A Newly Discovered Opera by Smetana
8.0 p.m.  Prague, relayed by Blague.  “The Buttered Bread, or, Half a Wife is Better than no Bride.”  By arrangement with the Hohlmiel Breadcasting Corporation.  Well-known Bohemian loafers in various roles.  Baton wielded by Stuckwangler.

Billets Doux
9.30 p.m.  Poste Restante Parisienne.  Revue, featuring Enid Stamp-Taylor and Billet Leonard, readdressed from the Dud Letter Office, Mount Unpleasant.

In Thun To-Night
11 p.m.  Bernve, relayed by Chard and Burnt Ash.  Excerpts from his Visitor’s Register by a Swiss hotelier.


Here To-day and Gone To-morrow

The history of the MS. of Smetana’s opera, The Buttered Bread, is a most romantic one, for it possesses the distinction of having been lost no fewer than fifty-seven times, fifty-three by Smetana himself and four times by his typist, Fraulein Pumpernickel.  Some of its subsequent recoveries have been well-nigh miraculous.  In 1872 it was found in a disused butter-churn in a Burmese diary.  Five years later it was returned with four of Mr. Gladstone’s shirts from the Hawarden Temperance Laundry.  In 1890, Mr. J. N. Maskelyne suddenly produced it from a borrowed top-hat, out of which he had previously extracted nothing but bowls of goldfish.  Last summer it was again rediscovered by a retired fog-signalman of Leighton Buzzard, who found it in a trouser-press which had formerly belonged to Georges Sand.

In the same receptacle were found the rough sketches for a concerto for four cathedral organs and a police whistle, an oleograph portrait of Queen Victoria being not amused at something, a recipe for toad-in-the-hole, and a writ of Habeas Corpus made out in the name of a Mrs. Amelia Dinwiddie, of Steeple Bumsted.

The Russian Ben Travers

T’Choke-off, whose latest farce will be broadcast on Wednesday is the author of 3,097 farces in all, including adaptations for the Russian stage of our own Mr. Robert Browning’s “rollicker,” A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon, and P. Bysshe Shelley’s no less hilarious Prometheus Unbound.  Tchoke-off’s method of work is characteristic of the man, for he is not a playwright by profession, but a designer of stomach-pumps.  All his MSS. are written in tincture of iodine on very thin slices of cheese.  His most recent work has been written three times.  The first version was eaten by mice, and the second inadvertently converted into a Welsh rabbit by Muck, his cook.

A Schubert Anecdote

Schubert omitted to start his “Unbegun Symphony” in the year 1818.  At that time he was giving the fascinating Caroline Esterhazy lessons on the double-bassoon, and in a letter to Messrs. Francis, Day and Hunter, who had just undertake a threepenny edition of “The Erl-King,” Schubert complains that he has already not had the opportunity to complete unbeginning the first movement.  Asked on day by his friend Mayrhofer in what key he hadn’t begun to write it, Schubert replied: “G sharp minor.”  “Why?” asked the poet.  “What a fatuous question!” was Schubert’s retort.  “Why don’t you ask W. G. Grace why he never scored ninety-three?”

[W. G. Grace was a cricket champion.  A century (100 points) is considered an outstanding cricket score.  All the same, the humor of the punch-line is unclear to me.]

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ashley Sterne Was Radio Known in Shakespeare’s Day?

Here is a comic essay by Ashley Sterne, published in World Radio on 14 December 1928.

Was Radio Known in Shakespeare’s Day?

Right at the very outset I think this question may be answered in the affirmative; for although there are no absolutely direct allusions to radio in Shakespeare’s plays, there are many very significant sentences scattered through them which clearly suggest to me that the great dramatist was thoroughly familiar with radio in all its branches.  I have, in fact, evolved a little theory of my own, showing how Shakespeare became an addict to wireless — a theory whose possibilities were suggested to me after a discussion I had the other day with a friend, a pro-Bacon fanatic, who pointed out to me that that delightful little oral test for sobriety which comes in Love’s Labours Lost — I refer to the word “honorificabilitudinatibus”— can be anagrammatized into the sentence, “It is I — I, F. Bacon — build in it.”  This, my friend explained, was Bacon’s cryptic method of announcing to the world that his identity as rightful author of the play was “built in” (or, as we should say, immured, or concealed) beneath this sesquipedal monstrosity.

It is, however, no part of my present task to plunge into the Bacon-Shakespeare controversy, but it has occurred to me that if the author (whichever of the two he was) of the plays intended cryptically to convey information on one vitally important matter, he might similarly have acted with regard to another.  Anyway, that is the assumption I have worked upon, and so, by means of reference which may easily be interpreted to refer to radio, I have constructed the following hypothetical little story, the protagonist of which I will call Bacspeare in order to avoid treading on anybody’s corns.

Bacspeare, then, like so many of us, began his radio experiences with a small, home-made crystal set.  In Othello (Act V. sc. 2) he refers to “one entire and perfect chrysolite” — an obvious allusion to a particularly effective crystal he had obtained; while in The Merchant of Venice (Act IV. sc. 1) he makes mention of “a harmless necessary cat” — “cat,” of course, being the term employed, owing to the exigencies of metre and scansion, to express the necessary (and harmless) “cats whisker.”  That there were kind-hearted speculative builders in Shakespeare’s day is proved by the line in Henry VIII (Act IV. sc. 2), “Give him a little earth for charity!” obviously indicating his intention of providing for the needs of a prospective tenant with a listening set.

Subsequent trouble with his aerial ensued, for in The Tempest (Act I. sc. 2) he euphemistically anathematises it as “my quaint Ariel!”  I suggest that Ann Hathaway made it “quaint” by hanging the washing on it, and so interfering (since damp clothes are conductors of electricity) with the insulation.  The trouble, however, was only temporary, for later on in the same scene Prospero is made to exclaim, “It works.  Come on, Thou hast done well, fine Ariel!”

At a later period it is obvious that Bacspeare introduced a thermionic valve into his set, and at once experienced trouble with it — his “glow-worm,” as he prettily and poetically termed it.  In Hamlet (Act I. sc. 5) we have a thinly-veiled reference to the running-down of his accumulator in the words, “The glow-worm … ‘gins to pale his uneffectual fire,” whereafter it is evident that he called in the local radio-expert to locate the fault from the line in the same play (Act II. sc. 2), “Find out … the cause of this defect,” a task which I imagine the electrician carried out a la Harry Tate, for Bacspeare was assuredly alluding to the incident when he wrote (ibid., Act III. sc. 4), “’Tis sport to have the engineer …”

Next came upon the scene that familiar “fan” friend, whom we all know so well: the fellow who always insists on “improving” our set for us, whether we want him to or not.  Bacspeare’s friend clearly wanted to increase the range of the set, at which the dramatist was at first manifestly delighted, since in King John (Act II. sc. 1) he somewhat modestly says, “I am not worth this coil that’s made for me.”  However, he subsequently experienced difficulty with it, becoming exasperated and petulant.  At least, that is how I interpret the little outburst of temper in The Tempest (Act I. sc. 2), displayed in the protest, “Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil would not infect his reason?”

That he eventually become the possessor of a thoroughly efficient and powerful set is demonstrated in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act II. sc. 1), where he says, “I’ll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes!” meaning to imply, of course, that in that time he could successively pick up all the stations east and west of him, until he had completed the earth’s circumference.  In addition, he had similarly acquired a very satisfactory loud-speaker, as is shown by the line in Henry VIII (Act IV. sc. 2), “I wish … no other speaker.”

Such is the story I have constructed to prove Bacspeare’s possession of a receiving-set, as fully equipped as anything we have to-day.  Let me now go on to show what a zealous listener he was to the daily programmes.  Take the Children’s Hour.  To what else can he have been covertly alluding in Hamlet (Act I. sc. 5) when he exclaims, “Oh, my prophetic soul! My uncle!” or in A Winter’s Tale (Act IV. sc. 2) when he speaks of “songs for me and my aunts” — as clear a reference to the chorus-songs which are sometimes broadcast and in which the children listening are invited to join, as you could hope to find.

Again, I feel quite sure that Bacspeare had a B.B.C. Symphony Concert in mind when he wrote the line in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Act II. sc. 1), “Faith, thou hast some crotchets in thy head now!” while I am equally sure that he was voiding his disappointment over an unsuccessful attempt to broadcast the song of the private nightingale belonging to some Beatrice Harrison of his day, when he sadly repines in Two Gentlemen of Verona (Act III. s. 1), “There is no music in the nightingale!”  Also it seems quite apparent that certain prominent actors in his time were enticed from their legitimate sphere in the theatre to perform before the microphone, as witness the line in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act II. sc. 1), which speaks of “certain stars shot madly from their spheres.”

Further, it is not too much to infer that at least two well-known present-day personalities in the radio world had their counterparts in Bacspeare’s day.  His whimsically apt description of Queen Mab in Romeo and Juliet (Act I. sc. 4) “in shape no bigger than an agate…” clearly refers to the Tudor prototype of the B.B.C’s present dramatic critic, whose meagre and attenuated frame is a constant source of anxiety to his many friends.  Similarly, the allusion in Henry V (Act IV chorus) to “a little touch of Harry in the night” is evidently intended to imply the existence of some Elizabethan John Henry.

Finally, Bacspeare was transparently alluding to television experiments when he wrote in Measure for Measure (Act II. sc. 2) the words, “his glassy essence — like an angry ape — plays such fantastic tricks,” while I think that we may safely conclude that he was summing-up the television position of the day when he observed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act V. sc. 1), “The best in this kind are but shadows.”

And that’s that.  I end as I began, by affirming that radio undoubtedly was known in Shakespeare’s day, an assertion which, by virtue of the hidden lights I have now produced, I trust I have successfully and incontrovertibly Q.E.D.’d.