Here Be Monsters…

Sorry this post is a day late, and probably a hundred words short. A big boobrie came and took it.

Aye, be careful with that search

A boobie, according to this interesting page of creatures of Scottish folklore, is

[a] gigantic black bird, which is supposed to have lived in the lochs of Argyllshire. It had webbed feet and fed on cattle.

[For more whimsy, don’t forget to check out the Apoplexy Tiny Letter.]

And of course, it only makes sense that a monster should have been stealing my homework yesterday. It was, after all, Halloween.

Ray and Kathy's 2016 costumes
Cartoonist Clay Jones notes this year’s #1 costume originated in Greenville, SC

Even in the few years I’ve been back in Scotland with Mrs Stroke Bloke, I’ve noticed a change in Halloween. When we first moved here, it would take some looking to find a pumpkin. Now, they’re got pride of place at the front of the supermarket. I was out in town on Saturday night, and student-age types were all over the place in costumes.

When I was a kid here in Edinburgh, Halloween costumes were almost exclusively for kids, and we carved our  lanterns out of turnips. They were legendary for being a pain in the arse – and dangerous – to carve, but from experience I’d say the same is true for pumpkins. Admittedly, the latter allow for a little more artistic expression. But they don’t really get that terrifying shrunken head aspect.

Yer Great Pumpkin cannae help ye now, ya wee choob

I stumbled across  post on the social meeds today, wherein some Scots were losing it over the Americanization of Halloween. I’m very leery of this type of thing, which too often degrades into an ironically uninformed set of rants about the ignorance, consumerism, and insularism of the average American. I’d wager that few of the correspondents had read The Federalist Papers or, say, Thomas Geoghegan’s book of American labor, Which Side Are You On or Richard Rorty’s history of leftist thought in twentieth century America, Achieving Our Country.

Anyway. Having set my mind on writing about Halloween, I had the phrase Here Be Monsters in my head as a title. But I didn’t know its origin.

Like, *all over* the place
Here be monsters.

Ian Wiki tells me that

Here be dragons” means dangerous or unexplored territories, in imitation of a supposed medieval practice of putting dragons, sea serpents and other mythological creatures in uncharted areas of maps.

Like the Lenox Globe above, on which the term appeared around the east coast of Asia.

Another thing I’m leery of is unthinking nationalism and nostalgia.

But were you really?

Nevertheless, I wonder if it’s a shame that for the kids round here, the past is a place where be monsters. That they’ll have a Halloween that’s a little less possessed of scary magic, and effort. Decades later I still fondly remember Halloween being a time of guising, when trick-or-treat actually did mean you had to tell a joke or sing a song; dookin for apples; or eating a treacle-covered scone hanging from a rope with no hands. A let’s face it, Sexy [insert name of costume here] is a tricky prospect up here as October turns to November.

There, Halloween spirits! Have I gained your mercy? Can I post now? Or will I suffer the same fate as that wee nyaff Linus…?

You Blockhead!
Oh good grief
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3 thoughts on “Here Be Monsters…

  1. Two things come to mind when reading your post this week, Ricky

    1: I think there could be pre-requisites for posting on social media. For instance, you suggest a idiosyncratic overview of the american founding documents and modern leftist history before complaining about the commercialization of halloween. Great. Grab the Zinn and lets bitch about pink power rangers masks in Slough. Perhaps this is an idea which could be extended, though. Not in a way which is correlated (so don’t, say, read the history of the pentagon papers before you complain about reporters using wikileaks documents) but completely random (like you have to have read Great Expectations before you can make a comment on the new Kanye album’s relevance to modern society). All policed by a rather sprawling and inaccurate near-sentient AI algorithm running on “the cloud”. Or maybe that’s just a good idea for a crappy short story.

    2: Speaking of Dickens: Jesus, Ricky. Carving a turnip? Were you also forced to pull on your hair and ask quietly for another slice of warm haggis? How did you even do it and keep your fingers intact? Or were there just lots of injuries from down the ol’ turnip mill?

    Anyway, be well. Sending thoughts across the ocean…

    1. I love this idea! Learning for learning’s sake to access the hive mind! But how, exactly, would the algorithm work? If I listened to Dylan and The Dead, would that permit me to comment, or disqualify me from commenting, on the nomination process for the Nobel Prize in Literature?

      Ah, a slice of cold haggis from the icy kitchen drawer at the but’n’ben, masquerading as a savoury flapjack. Those were the days! No wonder I’m being nostalgic.

      Thoughts right back atcha, pal. As always.

      1. I think it is important, to become a true autodidact/hipster idiot that you learn things outside your sphere of inquiry. So I really like the idea of radically non-correlated pre-requisites.

        Like say you want to write a comment like “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both corrupt, so I’m voting for the successful business person”. There’s lots of things you could read which are, say, fact based and prove that’s a dumb thing to say. But those already exist and are easy to find. Pointing you at, say, the excellent reporting by David Farenthold in Wapo on the Trump foundation, say, won’t make a difference. And pointing you at some self-reinforcing article about how trump isn’t corrupt is even worse.

        So before you can write a comment like that, how about you have to listen to some Messian; or read a short article on the quantization of electrical charge due to electrons; or vote for a favorite Garth Brooks song; or try and make a recipe for a delicious south american vegetarian sausage substitute. If you do one of those three, then you can post about the election.

        I”m being a bit facetious of course. But not that much. Perhaps if we all expanded our horizons a bit we could be less contentious. The other seems less scary if you eat their sausages. (… must … not … twss …) and if, perhaps, the east coast elites listened to a bit more Garth and the self styled ‘real americans’ knew the difference between spanish and mexican chorizo, things would be better.

        It’s sort of like when R’s flipped to gay marriage when they realized their kids or relatives were gay. You can easily claim thats objectionable and theres a fundamental moral principle which would make you for, and I agree with that to an extent, but you know, they changed their minds in the end.

        Rambling. Will stop posting. May we all survive the next week.

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