Wednesday, July 27, 2016

notes from the beach

Greenhead fly: used without permission from Yankee Mag
After discussing what a group of flying insects is called (swarm) we got to talking about how some groups of animals have names more specific to the species; a Crash of Rhinoceros or a Murder of Crows, for example. So we tried to think of what group of greenhead flies my be called. So I came up with a Sickness of Flies. Later in conversation, the word plague came up in a different context and I suggested that it could also be a group of flies. I then went to look it up, assuming that it may already be established. I found on Wikipedia that it is a Business of Flies. I get it, they're buzzing busily away, but I don't think 'business' gets at the unwholesomeness of them.

A little while later I got to thinking that greenheads may be closer to horseflies see below so I looked for a suitable horse related word. Herd, haras, or stable didn't seem to work--although a variation of the second option, a Harass of Horseflies does have some promise. I however went to The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for what I needed. There are various interpretations but the one I chose is one of the names attributed to the first horseman on the white horse, which gives me: a Pestilence of Horseflies.

So I did a little reading and greenheads are, in fact, a type of horsefly. They populate salt marshes, just like the huge tract of land directly behind the house we're staying in, and they are looking for a blood meal so that they can continue to lay eggs (200 eggs or so at a time!) I say continue to lay eggs, because its just the females that bite, and they only bite after they lay their first batch of eggs. Prior to that: vegetarian. They feed on nectar, etc.

Two last points: the season is apparently mid-July to mid-August (bully for us) and, they prefer to tear you open so that the can lap up the freely flowing blood, rather than poke you like a mosquito. Their mouthparts are so delicate that you don't feel them rip open your skin until they vomit up some digestive juices and anticoagulant onto the wound, which your body recognizes as foreign, and reacts with pain. That's why you're already bleeding when you swat at them.

Edit: Just to be clear, I may not in fact have been the person that actually came up with each of these brilliant ideas, I assume that it was a group effort, for which I am simply taking the credit. 

They say that history is made by the victors, but it may be that history is actually made by the people who write it down.


Sunday, July 10, 2016


So, its The Silmarillion again, eh?

I looked back and found that its only been three years or so since I read this last time. I also see that I read The Hobbit a few months earlier as well, but I didn't go on to read The Lord of the Rings then. It may be ten years or so since I've read them, but that probably has a lot to do with the movies that were made recently. So maybe I'll read them again, now that enough time has gone by that I don't see Legolas and Aragorn memes everyday on the internets.

I've read that Tolkien wanted to create a mythology for England, in the grand traditions of Greek, Roman, Asian, and Norse mythologies. Tall order, but I think he may have done it; and its in The Silmarillion that we can see this more so than in The Lord of the Rings. What smacks more of a mythology that an origin story after all? Buts its more than that; Quenta Silmarillion is the history of Middle-earth, and specifically the story of the Silmarils, whereas the book begins with Ainulindale and Valaquenta: 'The Music of the Ainur' and 'The Account of the Valar', respectively. These two chapters are short, but packed with information about the beginnings of the world. They are, together, like the narration at the beginning of a Shakespeare tragedy; they set the groundwork for the sorrow (and the joy, and triumph) that follows the formation of this new world from out of the void.

So I'm about half way through this re-read, and I had to put some notes down about it, having just finished 'Of Turin Turambar.' One of the most crushingly sad tales in this book. Not daunted by that description? Then there's more for you in the 2007 volume titled The Children of Hurin. The tale in The Silmarillion is just an abbreviated version of all that befalls Hurin's family once Morgoth actively pursues cursing him and his kin for standing up to him and siding with the elves.

More to come!