The standard story is that the carnivorous Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) plant’s name refers to the Roman goddess of love, without going into too much detail. Muscipula actually means mousetrap, not flytrap, but that’s not important right now (to quote Airplane! for no apparent reason).
Dionaea means “daughter of Dione”, i.e. Aphrodite, Venus’ Greek counterpart. This fixation on love goddesses gives some clue as to the real reason for the name; the filthy minds and sniggering schoolboy humour of 18th century naturalists. To them it was equally salient that it trapped and digested unsuspecting visitors (hence, flytrap) and that it had two touch sensitive, reddish lobes surrounded by hair… i.e. it reminded them of female genitalia. That link isn’t at all obscene, by the way, it just gives some more background information on the perpetrators of this Linnean lewdness.
I admit that I’m no gynaecologist, but I think it’s highly unlikely that any of their wives were harbouring anything like this down below…
… although apparently sex is what came to the minds of those mixed-up pervs when they saw an inviting Flytrap squeeze the life out of whatever foolish creature blundered into Venus’ clutches.
Sigmund Freud: “Please step into my office, gentlemen.”
I suspect this information may add a certain je ne sais quois to future Little Shop of Horrors viewings.
From Barnaby: Time for bed stories, a 1974 children’s book that belonged to me when I was an actual, genuine child. As opposed to the many stupid books I’ve bought since, as an adult. It’s still in my library, currently shelved between a book containing numerous photographs of Viking artefacts and a scientific textbook on human colour perception and cognition. QED.
Talking of colours, what a perfectly 70s palette the book’s cover has. And how hilariously gauche is the slogan “A Dean’s happy times book”. “Dean’s happy times” sounds like some kind of Withnail & I euphemism, but Dean is the publishing company, not some fellow who just happened to be having a suspiciously happy time making books for children in the 1970s.
Star Wars fans should also have a good look at Barnaby. You think Carrie Fisher pioneered the infamous Princess Leia do? Wrong. Barnaby was rocking the Danish pastry earmuffs in 1974. George Lucas is such a hack.
A sequel of sorts to Turning the tables from a while back; the Meiji-era Japanese version of contacting the spirit world through the medium of moving furniture and incomprehensible messages. Kokkuri consisted of three bamboo rods connected to make a tripod, with a round tray or lid balanced on top. As with the Western Ouija Board, three or four people would lightly touch the lid. One person chanted “Kokkuri-sama, Kokkuri-sama, please descend, please descend. Come now, please descend quickly.” Note that -sama is the level of honorific politeness above -san, a bit like saying “Mr. Kokkuri, sir” although there isn’t really a direct English equivalent. After about ten minutes of this, the person says “If you have descended, please tilt towards [somebody present].” If all was well, the lid would move and could be used as a way for whoever or whatever had “descended” to answer questions.
Kokkuri. From a 1912 book on hypnotism by Murakami Tatsugorō, ‘Saishinshiki saiminjutsu’.
I’ve mentioned before that I absolutely love Werner Herzog. Not so much his films, especially not his dramatic ones. What I love is his Nietszchean, über-miserablist persona as demonstrated in his documentaries and also shown beautifully in the video below about the making of his film/descent into madness/love-hate platonic affair with Klaus Kinski, Fitzcarraldo. I just find Herzog hilarious, especially having heard him talk about yoga or celebrities with the same carefully sculpted loathing as he expresses here for nature: “The trees here are in misery, the birds here are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain.”
“SQUAD!… CAMP IT– UP!”
Randy Shilts’ books about the misery and deaths of early AIDS sufferers (And the Band Played On) and the persecution of homosexuals in the US military (Conduct Unbecoming) are for the most part pretty grim, as one might expect. Before “don’t ask, don’t tell” the policy was “don’t even think about it.” Many innocent men and women were made to suffer because bigots were allowed to waste taxpayers’ money on harassing people whose sexuality had absolutely no bearing upon their ability to do their jobs, or on the USA’s security. And then we discover (in Conduct Unbecoming) this nugget of hilarious and positively Pythonesque absurdity, from the late 1970s/early 1980s:
“In the course of their investigation, NIS [Naval Investigative Service] agents made a startling discovery– that homosexuals sometimes referred to themselves as “friends of Dorothy.” This code term had originated in the 1940s and 1950s and referred to Judy Garland’s character in the film The Wizard Of Oz. Ever since, gay men had identified themselves as “Friends of Dorothy.” The NIS, however, did not know the phrase’s history and so believed that a woman named Dorothy was the hub of an enormous ring of military homosexuals in the Chicago area. The NIS prepared to hunt Dorothy down and convince her to give them the names of homosexuals.
[In gay bars frequented by military personnel] NIS agents were asking pointed questions about someone named Dorothy. When one unfortunate sailor acknowledged he was gay in order to get out of the Navy, NIS agents sat him down and told him that they knew all about Dorothy. What they wanted to know from him was how to find her. The sailor, who was too young to know the code, was baffled.”
This is the point where Graham Chapman should come in and tell them he’s ending the sketch because it got too silly. Rest assured that Shilts doesn’t miss his golden opportunity to use SURRENDER DOROTHY as a chapter title.
I’m pretty sure that even the most au fait user of gay slang would be baffled by somebody who seriously thought homosexuals were all in cahoots with each other merely by virtue of being gay, and that they were all receiving orders from some kind of underground lesbian linchpin of closet logistics. Presumably Dorothy would also be the chairwoman who ticked off items on the Gay Agenda, and set the exchange rate for the Pink Dollar, Pink Pound, etc. Not that this kind of ridiculous stupidity and ignorance has disappeared: far from it, as is proved by the continued prevalence of “you’d like her/him, s/he’s gay” and “you’re gay, what do gay people think?” type comments.
Right, now let’s see something decent and military. Some precision drilling.
Last week a friend of mine said “Hold on, you can’t just say you made a video for an Icelandic black metal band and then carry on with the conversation as if that’s normal.”
Yes I can.
Birgir from the band asked me, because he particularly liked the video mixes I did for my live show Magickal Realism. And he was open to the idea of giant rabbits and cardboard skeletons being totally metal. Kontinuum’s allbum is getting good reviews and I’ve already been described (approvingly) as bonkers by a German metal website, so I’d say that’s a pretty good result all round.