The Library of Obscure Wonders

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Month: November, 2012

The Devil’s Toenail

Fossil Oyster

Gryphaea – Devil’s Toenail – Oil on Canvas. If you happen to know someone who might like a pretty picture of a shell on the bedroom/lounge wall you can buy it here –, probably best not mention the devil’s toes though.

This is the fossilised shell of a now extinct oyster from the Jurassic period. Found on the coastlines of Britain, they are called Devil’s Toenails because they look like they might possibly be just that!

It used to be believed that taking crunched up Devil’s Toenail as medicine could relieve a bad back and help cure rheumatism.

My favourite example of the devil is given in The Karamazov Brothers by Dostoevsky. He appears to one of the brothers in a hallucination. He is a gracious, dignified gentleman, educated but fallen on hard times, his clothes are tatty and run down. He  says what he dreams of being is the fat 18 stone wife of a merchant  “and to believe everything she believes”. Then he wouldn’t have to worry, no responsibilities or guilt, just live in luxuary and believe oneself to be a good christian “my ideal is to walk into a church and light a candle in all sincerity”. I can see the devil having that point of view, and in his well made but hole ridden shoes he would have curled deformed toenails that look very much like this.

Bird Radio

A modern one man band.

He’s a very busy man. We are only just getting him to perform with us on Wednesday before he and Chiara Ambrosio fly off to New York together to do a tour of the States the next day.

His music is both medieval and contemporary, etherial and earthy. I envy the way he manages to coordinate so many things live on stage in a song, playing a red suitcase as a drum, operating a loop pedal, playing flute, singing. Some looped music can become quite hypnotic, but Bird Radio manages to be very much there, and engaged with the audience.

His persona is friendly and draws the audience into his world where nursery rhyme and original material mix in surprising ways.

In this video (by Chiara) of the song Who Killed Cock Robin he looks quite fierce and aggressive, but really his stage persona is very loveable.

SMOO – Filthy and loveable

A dirty word that I’m not supposed to say or (and)  something cuddly and loveable like a teddy bear – this is some of what the Urban Dictionary tells me about the word SMOO. It is also the name of the duo combining Ivor Kallin and John Bisset and it suits them well. I’m told they’re like a Scottish version of Derek and Clive with guitar (but not as we know it), and  a little bit of the Goons thrown in. I never listened to Derek and Clive or the Goons but I know I thought SMOO were hilarious! Gifted, filthy, loveable and telepathic.

They’re performing at the Library’s Curious Contraption night Downstairs at the Vortex this Wednesday (7thNov) for free. Here is a video John sent me just to confuse you, it is not much like what I saw them do at Klinker, but its good too.