Monday, 25 August 2014

Late Summer Miscellany — Mass Stupidity, Occasional Brilliance


Richard Attenborough, actor and film director, has just died. He was after all 90.


On this day in 1914 the invading Germans, quite deliberately and knowing exactly what they were doing, destroyed the great library of Leuven University.


On this day in 1609 Galileo demonstrated his telescope (he didn’t actually invent it but he improved it, and had the imagination to point it at the stars) to the great and good of Rome. (It was Rome wasn’t it? Anyway somewhere important in Italy; excuse my ignorance.) The cardinals however refused even to look through it, lest they saw something that cast doubt on the church’s teachings about the nature of the universe.


At one time, when a gentleman thought himself insulted by another gentleman, he challenged him to a duel. Duels were usually conducted in rural areas, to avoid the attention of the authorities with their trifling objections to people killing each other.

On one occasion, duellist number one strode into the railway ticket office and bought a return to, let’s say, Hicksville. He affected not to notice when duellist number two approached the ticket window, but when he heard the words ‘Single to Hicksville’ he couldn’t resist saying ‘Aha! Not too confident about coming back?’

‘On the contrary,’ replied duellist number two: ‘I always use my opponent’s return half.’


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