My father, who I loved and respected deeply, passed quite suddenly many years ago one August 12th. Now don’t worry, tissues not required, this isn’t going to be one of those sentimental posts as you will see in a moment, just setting a principle.
You see ever since that day I always know that when August 12th comes round that is the anniversary of his passing. Not that I do much to commemorate it or anything, but every year – same date – that’s it.
So why am I talking about something that happened in mid August now at the end of March?
Well, because they tell me this weekend is Easter and that always messes with my logic circuits.
Easter is a day that is honored by nearly all of contemporary Christianity to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which took place on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary.
So here’s a simple question.
If someone we know dies on a certain day of a certain month that date remains constant, it does not change, the anniversary is the same every year.
So why do we celebrate the Resurrection (death plus three days) of Jesus on such wildly varying dates?
For example in 2011 it was April 24th, last year it was April 8th, this year it is March 31st and next year it will be April 20th.
The only way that makes sense, is if the date we are told to celebrate has as little to do with the Resurrection and Christianity as have eggs, bunnies or candy.
It doesn’t seem to matter any more in America and many other western countries because the powers that be are intent on abandoning their Christian ethos for fear of offending those who refuse to abandon their religious beliefs. They are quite happy with the confusion.
It is, however, fairly clear if you do even a little bit of research on the subject, (and I encourage you to do your own research and not take my word for it), that most of the things people now commonly associate with Easter have in fact pagan, rather than Christian, origins.
And the pagan roots of Easter lie in the worship of pagan gods and in celebrating the spring equinox, which marks the end of winter and beginning of spring. Biologically and culturally, it represents for northern climates the end of a “dead” season and the rebirth of life, as well as the importance of fertility and reproduction.
References to a similar holiday have been found as far back as 2400 BC (that’s ‘B’ as in ‘before’ ‘C’ Christ) when, for example, the city of Ur apparently had a celebration dedicated to the moon and the spring equinox which was held some time during our months of March or April.“Ishtar”, which is pronounced “Easter” was a day that commemorated the resurrection of a pagan ‘god’ called “Tammuz”, who was believed to be the only begotten son of the moon-goddess and the sun-god. In other cultures he acquired different names, including “Osiris”, “Orpheus”, and “Dionysus”.
The Phrygian fertility goddess “Cybele”, was one of the most popular of these pagan gods, and worship of “Cybele” started in Rome around 200 BC. Ironically, a cult dedicated to her was even located on what is today Vatican Hill.
Even today modern Wiccans and neo-pagans celebrate “Ostara,” or “Eostre” which are derived from the Anglo-Saxon lunar goddess, “Eostre”.“Eostre’s” feast day is held on the first full moon following the vernal equinox – a similar calculation as is used for Easter among Western Christians. On this date the goddess “Eostre” is believed by her followers to mate with the solar god, conceiving a child who would be born nine months later on Yule, the winter solstice which falls on December 21st.
Two of “Eostre’s” most important symbols are the hare (both because of its fertility and because ancient people saw a hare in the full moon) and the egg, which symbolized the growing possibility of new life. Each of these symbols continues to play an important role in modern celebrations of Easter.
So Easter, like many other things the establishment encourages us to believe, is not quite what it purports to be.
I’ll leave the last word to someone smarter than me,
This is the twenty-first edition of the worst classified ads in the world, or at least that small bit of the world that I come into contact with. If you have as good or as bad as these please feel free to send them over.
Today’s significant number is fifty-seven, or treble nineteen if you are a darts enthusiast.
As usual there is more to it than meets the eye.
The Number Fifty-Seven 57
In the original complete King James Version of the Bible (not the abridged edition some use today), the 57th book is the Gospel of John.
The 57th word of the King James Version of the Bible’s Old Testament Genesis = it (light) – Genesis I.1-4
In the 57th Psalm, David praises God with his harp in a cave.
In Isaiah Chapter 57, God withholds peace to the wicked.
Fifty-seven is the sixteenth discrete semiprime and the sixth in the (3.q) family.
Although 57 is not a prime number, it is jokingly known as the “Grothendieck prime” after a story in which Grothendieck supposedly gave it as an example of a particular prime number.
As a semiprime, 57 is a Blum integer since its two prime factors are both Gaussian primes.
57 is a 20-gonal number.
It is a Leyland number since 25 + 52 = 57.
57 is a repdigit in base 7 (111).
57 is the atomic number of Lanthanum (La), the first of the Lanthanides. Lanthanum is a silvery white, malleable, ductile rare-earth metal.
Messier object M57
Messier object M57, is a magnitude 9.5 planetary nebula in the constellation Lyra, also known as the Ring Nebula.
The New General Catalogue object NGC 57, an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Pisces.
STS-57 was a Shuttle-Spacehab mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour that launched 21 June 1993 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
On board were Ronald J. Grabe(Commander), Brian Duffy (pilot), and Mission Specialists G. David Low (Payload Commander), Nancy J. Sherlock, Peter J. Wisoff and Janice E. Voss.
During the course of the ten-day flight, the astronauts successfully conducted scores of biomedical and materials sciences experiments inside the pressurized SPACEHAB module. Two astronauts participated in a spacewalk and EURECA (European Retrievable Carrier) was retrieved by the crew and stowed inside Endeavour’s payload bay. EURECA was deployed from the Space Shuttle Atlantis in the summer of 1992 and contains several experiments to study the long-term effects of exposure to microgravity.
In books, music and movies
In the first storyboard draft for Pixar’s film Cars, the main character, a race car named Lightning McQueen was going to have number 57 as his racing number, in reference to director John Lasseter’s birthdate, January 12, 1957. But in the final cut, Lightning’s racing number changed to 95.
The climax of the movie Eraser occurs on Pier 57
C-57D is the designation of the spaceship featured in the movie Forbidden Planet, and is referenced in the movie Serenity as well.
Passenger 57, is a film starring Wesley Snipes
There are supposed to be 57 movie references in the movie Scream
Havana 57 is a 2012 movie depicting mainstream Cuban life in 1957 and illustrating the destruction Cubans have endured since the Castro regime took power in the Revolution
Summer of Fifty Seven is a 2005 novel by Stephen C. Joseph, M.D.
Marvel Comics’ character Vision debuts in issue #57 of The Avengers
The Fabulous 57 were disk jockeys on WMCA 570 Radio, New York during the 1960s
Agent 57 is the name of the master of disguise in the television series Dangermouse
Exit 57, a sketch comedy show that aired on Comedy Central from 1995-96 featured Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, Jodi Lennon, Mitch Rouse and Amy Sedaris
The 57th Overlanders is a fictional brigade mentioned in the television series Firefly.
West 57 was a weekly news-magazine show on CBS, 1985–89, hosted by Meredith Vieira
The Cartoon Network program Metalocalypse has a fictional television station WHYK-57
The Robot Chicken sketch “Pluto Nash Day” notes that 57 people at 20th Century Fox Studios died amid rioting and suicide
A Robot Chicken parody of the NBC TV series Heroes uses the episode title “Chapter Fifty-seven: Uncle Glen”
Studio 57 was a dramatic anthology series in 1954, starring Brian Keith and Carolyn Jones
Incident on 57th Street is a song by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, from their 1973 album, “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle”
57 Channels (and Nothin’ On), a song by Bruce Springsteen, from his 1992 album “Human Touch”
“57” is the name of a song by Biffy Clyro on their 2002 debut album, Blackened Sky
Model Shure SM57 is considered the workhorse of recording microphones
Slick 57 is an Alternative country band
Studio 57 Productions, record label of Andy Warstar and the Warstars, which produced Alien Porkchops in Brisbane
57th Street is a novel (1971) by George Selcamm about professional musicians, the forces that drive them to search for perfection and recognition along with the hunger for love.
57 is the model name of a Maybach car
Bugatti also produced models designated T57 including
Chevrolet model 57, better known as the ’57 Chevy
The Romnian ARO IMS-57 was produced from 1957 until 1959; around 2000 units were made. It is considered that ARO IMS-57 was inspired from the Russian model GAZ
USS Lake Champlain (CG 57)
USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), a Ticonderoga class cruiser in the United States Navy and the third ship to be named Lake Champlain
HMS Andromeda (F-57)
HMS Andromeda was a Leander-class frigate of the Royal Navy. She took part in the Falklands War and The Second Cod War and was sold to India in 1995, where she was renamed INS Krishna. She was finally decommissioned in May 2012 at Mumbai, 44 years to the day after her launch.
USS MITSCHER DDG 57
The USS Mitscher is a United States Navy guided missile destroyer.
A replacement for the Douglas B-26, the Martin B-57 was a light tactical bomberand a by-product of the English Electric Canberra, the first British-built jet bomber, initially flown in 1949.
Testing of the 2 imported Canberras revealed design faults that could affect the safety, utility, and maintenance of the future B-57. Then, one of the British planes crashed; Martin’s subcontractors could not meet their commitments; and the J65 prototype engines consistently failed to satisfy USAF requirements. In June 1952, further test flights had to be postponed for a year because of continuing engine and cockpit troubles. As a result, the Korea-bound B-57 did not fly before 20 July 1953, just 7 days before the conflict ended. Production of the crucial RB-57 (reconnaissance version) was also delayed and only entered service in mid-1954
Delivered too late for combat in Korea, the RB-57 in May 1963 and the B-57 in February 1965 began to demonstrate under fire in Southeast Asia the basic qualities justifying the Canberra’s original selection. In 1970, other reactivated and newly equipped B-57s, known as Tropic Moon III B-57Gs, were deployed to Southeast Asia, where they made valuable contributions until April 1972.
The FN Five-seven, trademarked as the Five-seveN, is a semi-automatic pistol designed and manufactured by FN Herstal in Belgium. The pistol is named for its 5.7-mm (.224 in) bullet diameter, and the trademark capitalization style is intended to emphasize the manufacturer’s initials—FN.
The Five-seven pistol was developed in conjunction with the FN P90 personal defense weapon (the weapon carried by SG-1 in the TV series “Stargate SG-1” and the FN 5.7×28mm cartridge. The P90 was introduced in 1990, and the Five-seven was introduced in 1998 as a pistol using the same 5.7×28mm ammunition. Developed as a companion pistol to the P90, the Five-seven shares many of its design features: it is a lightweight polymer-based weapon with a large magazine capacity, ambidextrous controls, low recoil, and the ability to penetrate body armor when using certain cartridge types.
Sales of the Five-seven were originally restricted by FN to military and law enforcement customers, but since 2004, the pistol has also been offered to civilian shooters for personal protection, target shooting, and similar uses. Although offered only with sporting ammunition, the Five-seven’s introduction to civilian shooters was met with vocal opposition from gun control organizations such as the Brady Campaign, and the pistol has been subject to ongoing controversy in the United States.
The Five-seven is currently in service with military and police forces in over 40 nations, such as Canada, France, Greece, India, Poland, Spain, and the United States. In the United States, the Five-seven is in use with numerous law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service. In the years since the pistol’s introduction to the civilian market in the United States, it has also become increasingly popular with civilian shooters
Heinz 57, is a brand of sauce, and the number of varieties of foods claimed to be produced by the H.J. Heinz Company. In 1896, Henry John Heinz noticed an advertisement for “21 styles of shoes.” He decided that his own products were not styles, but varieties. Although there were many more than 57 foods in production at the time, because the numbers “5” and “7” held a special significance for him and his wife, he adopted the slogan “57 Varieties.” Thus, a new advertising campaign was launched for Heinz 57 Varieties— and the rest is history!
“Prop(osition) 57”, is one of a number of anti-ketchup packet groups on Facebook designed to bring attention to the shortcomings of take-out condiment packaging; its name is a reference to Heinz Co., which debuted a new design in test markets in early 2010
57 is the name of a fast food dinner in Pereira, Colombia
Tiffanny produces a stylish wristwatch model t57
57 is the number of the French department Moselle
The Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway, New York City, has 57 floors.
Carnegie Hall is a concert hall located at West 57th Street & 7th Avenue in Manhattan, New York City.
57th Street & 6th Avenue is an IND subway station in Manhattan, New York City.
57 is the code for international direct dial phone calls to Colombia
British scientist John Dalton (1766-1844) who developed the atomic theory of matter, kept a meterological journal for 57 years from 1787 to 1844.
The Sweet Fairy Rose is a cupped flower that opens flat into a rosette shape has 57 petals. It is 16 inches tall with mauve light lavender color, and is exceedingly fragrant.
During the Crusades, the Knights Templar (founded 1118) who could not attend choir were required to say the Lord’s Prayer 57 times a day.
In 1970, Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002) crossed the Atlantic (3270 nautical miles) from Safi, Morocco to Barbados in 57 days on a reed papyrus boat.
And finally, Barack Hussein Obama, two term President of the United States of America thinks the country he is in charge of has 57 states.
One of my blog friends, Kenton over at the Jittery Goat, wrote a post recently as part of the daily prompt series about the first book/story he read that gave him an interest in reading and writing. His choice was a good one, “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
On a few occasions I have been asked the same thing and it is a very good question to put to anyone who is interested in either reading or writing or both.
When I was growing up the main influence as regards reading and writing was school. I’m sure that is the same for many of you. I was both fortunate and unfortunate here.
For a few years I had an excellent English teacher. Someone who was interested in the subject she taught, but someone who was equally interested in passing on her enthusiasm for reading and writing to her pupils. She was a great teacher and a great influence on her pupils. One could not but develop a taste for English literature, for exploring other writers and for writing too.
Now for the bad news.
As happens in schools, as you progress through the grades sometimes your teachers change. And unfortunately mine did.
I got lumbered with the most awful teacher there has probably ever been. Another woman, but this woman was one of those self-absorbed dullards who would probably have made any subject the most boring and tedious thing in the world.
She could take the most exciting story and just drain the life out of it. With poetry she did the very same, just killed it stone dead with her monotonous voice and her complete lack of feeling for the subject.
Watching the proverbial paint drying or concrete setting was real exciting stuff compared to this woman’s classes!
Sadly, for a few years she turned me, and I would guess almost all her pupils completely off both reading and writing. I will never forgive her for that.
However time passed and although I’m not sure how exactly it happened, I got the urge to start to read again. Perhaps to ease myself back into it I decided to start with some short stories rather than a long book or novel.
And what a great choice that turned out to be.
The first story I read in my new life as a reader once again was called “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”. It was a tale set during the American Civil War and was written by Ambrose Bierce, who himself was a veteran of that war, and a gentleman of whom you will hear a lot more in future fasab posts.
And so I have been reading and writing ever since, mostly for my own amusement and occasionally, as in this blog, also for the amusement of others.
I’d be interested to find out what you make of this story so I have reproduced it below. If you are unfamiliar with it, or want to refresh you memory if you have read it before, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.
And when you are finished let me know what you make of it.
AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE
A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the ties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners–two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain.
A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as “support,” that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest–a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.
Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground–a gentle slope topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway up the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators–a single company of infantry in line, at “parade rest,” the butts of their rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock.
A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.
The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good—a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well fitting frock coat. He wore a moustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.
The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart one pace.
These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place by the weight of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former the latter would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties. The arrangement commended itself to his judgement as simple and effective. His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged. He looked a moment at his “unsteadfast footing,” then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream!
He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift–all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith’s hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality.
He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by– it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each new stroke with impatience and–he knew not why–apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the trust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.
He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. “If I could free my hands,” he thought, “I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader’s farthest advance.”
As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man’s brain rather than evolved from it the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.
Peyton Farquhar was a well to do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician, he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with that gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in wartime.
Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in the aid of the South, no adventure to perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.
One evening while Farquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Farquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.
“The Yanks are repairing the railroads,” said the man, “and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order.”
“How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?” Farquhar asked.
“About thirty miles.”
“Is there no force on this side of the creek?”
“Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge.”
“Suppose a man–a civilian and student of hanging–should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel,” said Farquhar, smiling, “what could he accomplish?”
The soldier reflected. “I was there a month ago,” he replied. “I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tinder.”
The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.
As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened–ages later, it seemed to him–by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity.
They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness — of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river! — the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible!
He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface — knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. “To be hanged and drowned,” he thought, “that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair.”
He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort! — what magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor!
Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. “Put it back, put it back!” He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire, his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!
He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck.
He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf–he saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass.
The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies’ wings, the strokes of the water spiders’ legs, like oars which had lifted their boat — all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water.
He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.
Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a gray eye and remembered having read that gray eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had missed.
A counter-swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking at the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears.
Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieutenant on shore was taking a part in the morning’s work. How coldly and pitilessly — with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing tranquility in the men — with what accurately measured interval fell those cruel words:
Farquhar dived — dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dull thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.
As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther downstream — nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually.
The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning:
“The officer,” he reasoned, “will not make that martinet’s error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!”
An appalling splash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, DIMINUENDO, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps! A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken an hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.
“They will not do that again,” he thought; “the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me–the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun.”
Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round — spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge, fort and men, all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color — that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made him giddy and sick. In few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream — the southern bank — and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of Aeolian harps. He had not wish to perfect his escape — he was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.
A whiz and a rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.
All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman’s road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation.
By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famished. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which — once, twice, and again–he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.
His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them.
His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue — he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!
Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene — perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forwards with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon — then all is darkness and silence!
Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.
If you prefer to listen while you do something else, here is an audio version of the story:
An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part one of four
An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part two of four
An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part three of four
An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part four of four
I did a few posts recently about the resignation of pope Benedict and the election of Francis I (here and here ) and that reminded me of something that happened in the way distant past of the internet. In fact it became the first internet hoax.
I am sure a great many of you are far too young to remember this, so here is the story.
Sometime in early 1994 a press release began circulating around the internet claiming that Microsoft had bought the Roman Catholic Church.
The press release, allegedly from the Vatican City itself, announced that this was “the first time a computer software company has acquired a major world religion.”
The release also quoted Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates as saying that he considered religion to be a growth market and that, “The combined resources of Microsoft and the Catholic Church will allow us to make religion easier and more fun for a broader range of people.”
The deal would allow Microsoft to acquire exclusive electronic rights to the Bible and would make the sacraments available online.
Similarities were drawn between the business practices of Microsoft and the Catholic Church’s historical conversion efforts, claiming that throughout history the Church, like Microsoft, had been “an aggressive competitor, leading crusades to pressure people to upgrade to Catholicism, and entering into exclusive licensing arrangements in various kingdoms whereby all subjects were instilled with Catholicism, whether or not they planned to use it.”
At the time very few seemed to get the joke. Stained Glass Windows 3.1 was not in fact about to be launched, but still many people telephoned Microsoft’s public relations agency to inquire if the news was true.
In the end it got so bad that Microsoft had to issue a formal denial of the release on December 16, 1994.
A follow-up hoax release announced that in response to Microsoft’s acquisition of the Catholic Church, IBM had bought the Episcopal Church.
Since then hoaxes on the internet have gone from strength to strength, from end of the world scenarios, thru Nigerian 419 scams to the plethora of “warn all you friends about this new deadly virus (that doesn’t really exist)” hoaxes.
People were dumb, are dumb and will get dumber!
I have reproduced below the original hoax announcement.
Would you have fallen for it?
If you are reading this blog I doubt it. But read it anyway for amusement value.
By the way, the authors of these hoaxes remain unknown – good for them.
Here it is:
MICROSOFT BIDS TO ACQUIRE CATHOLIC CHURCH
By Hank Vorjes
VATICAN CITY (AP) — In a joint press conference in St. Peter’s Square this morning, MICROSOFT Corp. and the Vatican announced that the Redmond software giant will acquire the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for an unspecified number of shares of MICROSOFT common stock. If the deal goes through, it will be the first time a computer software company has acquired a major world religion.
With the acquisition, Pope John Paul II will become the senior vice-president of the combined company’s new Religious Software Division, while MICROSOFT senior vice-presidents Michael Maples and Steven Ballmer will be invested in the College of Cardinals, said MICROSOFT Chairman Bill Gates.
“We expect a lot of growth in the religious market in the next five to ten years,” said Gates. “The combined resources of MICROSOFT and the Catholic Church will allow us to make religion easier and more fun for a broader range of people.”
Through the MICROSOFT Network, the company’s new on-line service, “we will make the sacraments available on-line for the first time” and revive the popular pre-Counter-Reformation practice of selling indulgences, said Gates.
“You can get Communion, confess your sins, receive absolution — even reduce your time in Purgatory — all without leaving your home.” A new software application, MICROSOFT Church, will include a macro language which you can program to download heavenly graces automatically while you are away from your computer.
An estimated 17,000 people attended the announcement in St Peter’s Square, watching on a 60-foot screen as comedian Don Novello — in character as Father Guido Sarducci — hosted the event, which was broadcast by satellite to 700 sites worldwide.
Pope John Paul II said little during the announcement. When Novello chided Gates, “Now I guess you get to wear one of these pointy hats,” the crowd roared, but the pontiff’s smile seemed strained. The deal grants MICROSOFT exclusive electronic rights to the Bible and the Vatican’s prized art collection, which includes works by such masters as Michelangelo and Da Vinci. But critics say MICROSOFT will face stiff challenges if it attempts to limit competitors’ access to these key intellectual properties.
“The Jewish people invented the look and feel of the holy scriptures,” said Rabbi David Gottschalk of Philadelphia. “You take the parting of the Red Sea — we had that thousands of years before the Catholics came on the scene.”
But others argue that the Catholic and Jewish faiths both draw on a common Abrahamic heritage. “The Catholic Church has just been more successful in marketing it to a larger audience,” notes Notre Dame theologian Father Kenneth Madigan. Over the last 2,000 years, the Catholic Church’s market share has increased dramatically, while Judaism, which was the first to offer many of the concepts now touted by Christianity, lags behind.
Historically, the Church has a reputation as an aggressive competitor, leading crusades to pressure people to upgrade to Catholicism, and entering into exclusive licensing arrangements in various kingdoms whereby all subjects were instilled with Catholicism, whether or not they planned to use it.
Today Christianity is available from several denominations, but the Catholic version is still the most widely used. The Church’s mission is to reach “the four corners of the earth,” echoing MICROSOFT’s vision of “a computer on every desktop and in every home”.
Gates described MICROSOFT’s long-term strategy to develop a scalable religious architecture that will support all religions through emulation. A single core religion will be offered with a choice of interfaces according to the religion desired — “One religion, a couple of different implementations,” said Gates.
The MICROSOFT move could spark a wave of mergers and acquisitions, according to Herb Peters, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Baptist Conference, as other churches scramble to strengthen their position in the increasingly competitive religious market.
My goodness! What started off at a quick amusing look at classified ads that went horribly wrong, has turned into a major series on the fasab blog. And it seems to be quite popular too. Thanks to everyone who calls in to read these.
And why shouldn’t they be popular? They show the raw stupidity of people. Don’t forget that usually a lot of time and effort is spent “perfecting” these horrors before they are sent for publication.