Category Archives: The Editor Gets Drunk and Opines on Things

A Canard for Creationists

The Presse Grayloise relates the following story:– “A discovery of great scientific importance has just been made at Culmont (Haute Marne). Some men employed in cutting a tunnel which is to unite the St. Dizier and Nancy railways, had just thrown an enormous block of stone by means of gunpowder, and were in the act of breaking it in pieces, when from a cavity in it they suddenly saw emerge a living being of monstrous form. This animal, which belongs to the class of animals hitherto considered to be extinct, has a very long neck, and a mouth filled with sharp teeth. It stands on four long legs, which are united together by two membranes, doubtless intended to support the animal in the air, and are armed with four claws terminated by long and crooked talons. Its general form resembles that of a large goose. Its membraneous wings, when spread out, measure from tip to tip 3 metres 22 centimetres (nearly 10 feet 7 inches). Its colour is a livid black; its skin is naked, thick, and oily; its intestines only contained a colourless liquid like clear water. On reaching the light, this monster gave some signs of life, by shaking its wings, but soon after expired uttering a hoarse cry. This strange creature, to which may be given the name of living fossile, has been brought to Gray, where a naturalist, well versed in the study of paleontology, immediately recognised it as belonging to the genus Pterodactylus anas, many fossil remains of which have been found among the strata which geologists have designated by the name of Lias. The rock in which this monster was discovered belongs precisely to that formation, the deposit of which is so old that geologists date it more than a million of years back. The cavity in which the animal was lodged forms an exact hollow mould of its body, which indicates that it was completely enveloped with the sedimentary deposit.” Of whatever genus the above animal may be, the whole story bears a strong indication of belonging to the genus Canard, as indeed is estimated by the Latin name assigned to the animal.

 The Morning Chronicle, Monday 4 February 1856

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Editor’s Note: The kind assistance of Mr Google has revealed to me the existing popularity of this story. Should any intrigued reader care to investigate further, he or she will at once note that the usual source cited is the Illustrated London News, Saturday 9 February 1856, and, furthermore, that the story is regarded in certain circles as EVIDENCE AGAINST EVOLUTION.

The Illustrated London News did indeed reprint the story upon that date, but the said publication used only the text that here falls within the quotation marks. It did not repeat The Morning Chronicle’s astute concluding statement as to the nature of the tale.

This is not to say that the News’s editor intended to report the events as factual. He gave the story the headline “Very Like a Whale,” in a clear reference to the exchange in Hamlet, Act III, scene ii, in which the protagonist describes the shapes of clouds. Hamlet’s companion, Polonius, agrees with whatever he says, mindful that such interpretations are fanciful and indicative of INSANITY.

My own humble opinion on the subject of Pterodactylus anas is that it came from among the strata to which geologists – and indeed everyone else – can easily designate the name of LIARS.

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Meme, part One

Upon my entrance into the world of blog-making, two visions arose before me like the ghostly miasma issuing from a dunghill on an autumn morning.

The one, a mirage of fame, women and Pounds Sterling – all of them drawn towards me by my magnetic wit, literary panache and tolerable visage (which the looking glass flatters me is no worse than the next gent’s, and given the accompaniment of several thousand a year could well attract the notice of the more fickle among the fairer sex.)

The other, a prediction born out of DESPAIR – or, to give it its other name, REALISM. My humble blog would surely sink to the depths of the internet, like a piece of beef-gristle in the ‘gravy’ of my landlady’s arse-awful stew. This second circumstance overtook me and I resolved to continue the upkeep of An Extraordinary Incident purely for my own amusement – for God¹ knows I enjoy little enough of that.

It came to pass, however, that an erudite young man by the name of Amateur Casual, Esq, took notice of my efforts and invited me to complete a ‘meme’. This word I had ne’er before encountered – did it rhyme with ‘dream’, and therefore mock me? My dreams are dark and bring me strange visions of my only² love, roaming the offices of the Illustrated Police News in naught but a nightgown of a delicate cut…

Or should the word ‘meme’ be pronounced ‘Me! Me!’ and consign one to the utter depths of internet solipsism?

These thoughts plague me, and I, to my compounded despair, see that I have spilt too many of my tortured imaginings onto this page without having done the actual meme. I shall do it tomorrow, for tomorrow may bring with it the hope that eludes me today, though such a possibility is…something or other… I’m quite tired now.


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¹ I do not believe the said gentleman exists, but I have a fondness for the idea of him, and like to include him in my expressions of despair wherever possible.

² My only love so far, that is – I do not mean I should forsake all other, should any other care to become available.

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They will never get him now

SINGULAR INCIDENT IN STRANGEWAYS.
A SMART POLICEMAN.

About noon on Friday a singular and exciting incident was witnessed in Strangeways. Two soldiers were seen running from new Bridge-street towards the Assize Courts, pausing now and again as if in doubt, and occasionally peering through the shop windows on either side of the way. It turned out that they had been escorting a prisoner who had contrived to make his escape. While the soldiers, who looked thoroughly scared, were meditating a descent into one of the shafts of the new sewer now in course of construction in Strangeways, a constable in the county force sat on the top of a tramcar going townwards and commented on their proceedings.

“They will never get him now,” said the policeman.

At that moment a man in plain clothes, having the appearance of a labourer, crossed from the footpath to the tramway, and without undue hurry got on to the car and took a place inside. The policeman promptly descended, and a minute later his fellow-passengers saw him rolling in the middle of the road under the railway viaduct with the man who, so to speak, had just stepped into his arms. The prisoner struggled desperately, but was at length overpowered and secured until the soldiers came panting up to resume possession.

Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, Saturday 12 August 1893

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Editor’s Note: I am greatly obliged to the inestimable Mr Amateur Casual at The Victorianist, who has considered this humble blog worthy of being “tagged” in a “meme”. I am to dredge from my archives – like so many crushed oyster-shells from the clinging mud of the Thames – seven posts worthy of renewed attention.

I may point out that the majority of my posts gained NO ATTENTION WHATSOEVER ‘pon their first appearance, so I shall be only too glad to haul them into the roseate light of dawn and present them before my subscribers, (and may I address you directly, subscribers, and say that I am eternally grateful to both of you for your patronage of my work – perhaps one day we shall be the triumvirate of a new world order).

At the present time, however, I am happily (at least, as happily as one of my melancholic and poetic nature can expect) engaged in the only social habit that – in Mr Peacock’s words – the disappointed spirit never unlearns. Oh, Mr Co-operative’s cheapest bottle of Rioja, thou art the only styptic to a bleeding heart! Therefore I shall cogitate upon the meme for some time, and shall endeavour to complete it at some point in that abyss of potential (nay, inevitable) disappointment – THE FUTURE!

For now, my friends (though friendship is but a mayfly that began its day’s existence in innocence yet collided with a steam locomotive after no more than a minute) I shall…

I have forgotten my intention in starting the previous paragraph. Oh Morpheus, embrace me, for I am doomed to have no other bedfellow but thee.

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From the Editor


Dear Reader

What a lark, eh? An illustrious historian of my acquaintance has induced me to step into the glorious blogging empire and charge my humble pen to the purpose of entertaining the masses.

As I gnawed on the last crust of this month’s solitary ha’penny loaf, my heart awakened with joy at the prospect of fame and – more to the point – fortune.

A blog? thought I. Why, the genius of the idea! Within the space of two posts, I should have publishers clamouring to award me a substantial advance for An Extraordinary Incident: The Book. No more this draughty garret for me! No more should I be snubbed by the hostesses of literary soirées and forced to sit forever alone on the one crate I have not yet burnt for warmth. No more should I be obliged to make incisions about my person for the purpose of obtaining sufficient blood to write in, ink being beyond my means in these troubled days.

Imagine my consternation, then, when my esteemed companion informed me that one must blog for no recompense at all save the attention of a few persons on Mr Twitter’s Patent Self-promotion Apparatus, who might deign to re-tweet one’s posts provided one is available at all hours of the day to simper over their own 140-character droplets of wisdom.

Well, blow that for a game, said I – I scribble for cash alone.  A few ‘Likes’ in Zuckerberg’s Directory of Minor Acquaintances’ Visages will not keep the ravening wolf from the door, even if the same wolf should be bitterly disappointed at the meagre pickings to be found within my lofty abode.

I therefore continue to scratch out my living writing of the sensational circumstances surrounding others’ lives and deaths. On this blog (for I now appear to have been saddled with it after all), I beg leave to share with you some of my inventions reportage and that of my fellow newspaper drudges across the nation.

I remain, (forever at this rate), everyone’s servant, including

Yours

Impoverished Hack

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