Born to be wild

Western Polecat (Mustela putorius)
Western Polecat (Mustela putorius)

Helga Hofmann Wild Animals of Britain & Europe
translated by Martin Walters
Collins Nature Guide, HarperCollins 1995

As we drove down a country road yesterday morning a familiar form crossed in front of us: a polecat. We recognised it by its colouring, the distinctive dark mask over its face, and by its size. What we weren’t familiar with was its gait, because the only previous time we’d seen one was after our field had recently been mowed for hay, and by then the poor creature was quite dead. The cat appeared interested in it, mainly because of the strong scent it had left behind — the second element of its Latin name Mustela putorius means ‘smelly’. We left it for other carnivores to feast on or for a passing buzzard to carry away. To identify it was just a matter of moments Continue reading “Born to be wild”

Empathy for the rebel

Jason disgorged by the dragon of Colchis, with Athena and the Golden Fleece:  vase figure in Vatican Museum
Jason disgorged by the dragon of Colchis, with Athena and the Golden Fleece:
vase figure in Vatican Museum

Robert Ludlum The Bourne Identity
Orion Books 2004 (1980)

I’m not a violent person. I grew up watching American TV serials where the Lone Ranger shot revolvers out of baddies’ hands (who then merely had a sprained wrist to nurse) or comedies such as The Three Stooges which — like a Tom and Jerry cartoon — allowed the victims to recover with a shake of the head after a potentially life-threatening concussion to the brainbox department. Violence was depicted, the consequences papered over. I was uncomfortable with it, but that was all that was on offer.

These days, as it has been for several decades now, violence is more graphic in entertainment media, whether films, comics or video games. Not just villains are hurt but innocent bystanders and targeted victims. The alarm is raised every so often about how the consumption of this vicariously experienced violence without appreciation of the consequences stunts one’s capacity to exhibit empathy and how it can encourage sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies. I mention this not to stir up more argument and controversy but to contextualise my normal avoidance of thrillers in whatever form. Continue reading “Empathy for the rebel”

Celts, cults and comprehensiveness

Newport church, Pembrokeshire
Newport church, Pembrokeshire

James MacKillop Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
Oxford University Press 1998

The tag “Celtic” is one of those catch-all but often meaningless labels that are a lazy shorthand for anything mystical, fey or even implicitly racial. Too often it is used by those profoundly unaware of its scholarly origins in linguistics or cultural history, so it is refreshing to have this Dictionary written by a specialist displaying his undoubted expertise in linguistics, literature, archaeology, history and comparative religion. Continue reading “Celts, cults and comprehensiveness”

Fluttering by

buddleiaCharles A Hall: Know Your Butterflies. 
Richard Ward Illustrator. 
A & C Black Publishers Ltd 1970.

In late August the two buddleia on the south side of the house are thronged with butterflies, fluttering by and supping with relish, and it’s easy to understand why this plant is usually referred to as the ‘butterfly bush’. Especially plentiful are Red Admirals, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshell. I always thought Red Admirals were so called because of their stripes but I may have been mistaken, because elsewhere I’ve read that they were originally called ‘Admirable’ because of their bright colours; in fact in most of the ones we see the reds are closer to a deep orange. The Peacock is aptly named due to its distinctive eye-spots while the Small Tortoiseshell has alternating light and dark stripes on the leading edge of the wings, though it never stops long enough for me to spy the blue half-rounds on the trailing edges. Continue reading “Fluttering by”

End of Watchmen Tag-team Review

Watchmen is one of the most acclaimed graphic novels ever. To whet your appetite for a forthcoming review, here is a chronicle of the exercise Lizzie Ross and I indulged in on Twitter: a tag-team commentary in chunks of 140 words or less (including the hashtags #Watchmen and #tagteamreview).

Lizzie Ross

blue-bird-wallpaper-freeCalmgrove and I have spent nearly 3 weeks tag-team reviewing Alan Moore’s Watchmen (1986, 1987) via Twitter. No easy task. I think we both chewed metaphorical pencils to shreds as we worked to squeeze our reviews into Twitter’s 140-character message limit. As Calmgrove put it in a tweet to me, “Watchmen unexpectedly rich, complex/reviewing hard”.

If you’ve been reading my tweets in the sidebar, you’ve gotten only one side of the conversation. As a special treat for our fans and followers, here are our tweets, in order, first to last. If you haven’t read Watchmen, I suspect these won’t make sense to you, but perhaps they’ll make you curious enough to pick up the book. Definitely worth it.

DC HeroesLizzie Ross ‏‪ 15 Aug #tagteamreview starts today. inspirational photo. #watchmen nothing like these guys.

Chris Lovegrove 15 Aug Ch 1 Time running out for ex-vigilantes. Will they abandon lethargy to seek…

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