Not a human or a fish but a salamander, the olm lives in caves in Slovenia. This truly uncanny-looking creature is adapted to living in total darkness, with no eyes and pale, unpigmented skin that looks pink – hence the nickname human fish. It may live to be 100 years old and can go without food for six years. No wonder the freaked-out locals in the 17th century took it to be some kind of dragon baby.
The Language of Birds is a section of the British Library sound archive where you can find out that ‘There are only two species of bird that use sound to convey to man the unique message: “Follow me and I’ll lead you to a bees’ nest” ‘ and listen to them doing it (Windows Media Player required). The cunning black-throated honeyguide flies to the nearest village, makes a sound like a beehive, and lures a villager to come and open up the hive for it. Then they divide the spoils between them. A rare example of man and bird working in total harmony.
You can also listen to Sparkie Williams, the ‘most famous British budgerigar’, trained by Mrs. Mattie Williams of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who had a six-year working life as a character actor (two accents: “Geordie” and “refined”). Here he is reciting “Jack and Jill’ in a voice which I would guess is the refined version: sounds a bit like a middle-aged woman from Newcastle playing a polite Dalek.
The explanation is in Japanese, but the swimming snake robot speaks for itself…
Posters considering the future delights of Chinese space travel, from here.
This vintage fashion site gives an insight into a time when people wore properly complicated clothes, and made them themselves. It’s got everything you need to know, from how to tie an alsatian bow, rules for the wearing of veils, to decorating your hat with vulture wings, wheat and glass fruits.
A Snub-Nosed Person Should Not Wear a Turban.
Records to teach your underachieving canary to sing properly – as collected on this site, which also has mp3s of canaries singing with marimba bands, crow-calling records (“the trick is to create as much of a riotous bedlam as possible”) and a stern woman telling you how to train your parakeet to talk.
Mechanically embroidered banners for friendly societies, from this site. Click on the thumbnails to see a larger image.
It’s good to have this very useful method of divination clearly explained, in this book from the 1920s, as the author promises that “those who can tell fortunes are always assured of social success”.
The symbolism of tea-leaf reading seems to be very specific and extraordinary: Cecily Kent provides pictures of the contents of sample tea cups to help. Eg:
As the interpretation section observes, “The symbols here speak for themselves and need no explanation”.
This cup was “turned”, it says, by a well-known authoress, and its sinister appearance is accounted for by the fact that she was mentally arranging a murder for her new book at the time of the reading. Could this be… Agatha Christie’s cup of tea?
This example is a bit more helpful:
Interpretation: doll plus toadstool equals a warning against a bad habit of gossiping when feeling bored in society – the stuffed head of the deer showing the distress caused by such unguarded talk.
The combination of symbols you really want is is a Rhinoceros, an Overcoat, a Steamer and a Large Letter I. This means a voyage to India, through which much will happen which will lead to you becoming famous.
I hope that’s clear now.
You can still buy a paperback version of this book here