21 January 2019



STRAWBS (AKA The Strawbs) English rock band founded in 1964 as a bluegrass group. However, they gradually moved into folk rock, progressive rock, and even a flirtation with glam rock.

They have gone through many different member lineups, but their long-time leader and most active songwriter is guitarist and singer Dave Cousins (guitar, dulcimer, banjo, vocals). I discovered them through other similar British bands of the early 1970s such as Fairport Convention, Fotheringay and Steeleye Span. An early line up of Strawbs included vocalist Sandy Denny who was later lead singer of Fairport Convention and Fotheringay.

When they formed as a bluegrass band in 1964, they used the name the Strawberry Hill Boys. This is when the founding members were at St Mary's Teacher Training College which was located at Strawberry Hill in London. (No connection to an American cheap amd popular wine of the era called Strawberry Hill.)  For a 1967 concert, they needed a shorter name to fit an onstage display, so they just shortened theirs to the Strawbs.

They are best known for their hit anthem "Part of the Union", which reached number two in the UK charts in February 1973, and "Lay Down" a popular FM radio progressive rock hit. from the same LP.

I saw the band on a tour they did with Supertramp (promoting Crime of the Century) while Strawbs were promoting their Hero and Heroine album.

The band has remained active in the 21st century recording and touring in two lineups. The acoustic band is with Cousins, Lambert and Cronk. There is also the entirely original Hero and Heroine/Ghosts electric line-up from 1974 of Cousins, Lambert, Cronk, Coombes and Hawken.

They will be featured on the blue cruise in February 2019 along with Justin Hayward, The Zombies, Todd Rundgren, Dave Mason, Steve Hackett, Alan Parsons, Procol Harum, Al Stewart, Wishbone Ash and (inexplicably) Poco.

Their official website is www.strawbsweb.co.uk

04 January 2019

Ultima Thule

It is more difficult to get the public interested in celestial objects when they have names like "2014 MU69." Astronomers tend to name things initially and officially in that way but "sexier" names seem to come later more and more.  (see this about that)  This is a good thing. This site asks, "What's in a name?" A character from Shakespeare might say it doesn't matter, but I say it matters a lot.

The NASA team that works with the New Horizons exploratory spacecraft gave 2014 MU69 a nickname of Ultima Thule. Much better.

Thule was a mythical island that appeared on some old maps as being at the edge of the known world. It was also labeled as "Tile" on at least one map from 1539 called the Carta Marina. This was a map of what Nordic sailors knew about the world. They placed Thule near the Faroe Islands.

The Faroe Islands are not mythical. They (AKA Faeroe Islands) are a North Atlantic archipelago located 200 miles (320 km) north-northwest of United Kingdom and about halfway between Norway and Iceland. Today they are an autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark with a total area iof about 540 square miles and a population of over 50,000.

The direct translation of Ultima THule is “beyond Thule” and is a very fitting name for something beyond the edges of our currently known world.

If you want to know a bit more about the space exploration side of Ultima Thule, check out this post on one of my other blogs. 

Thule (TILE) near the Faroe Islands - Carta Marina map, 1539.

28 December 2018

Word of the Year

The Oxford Word of the Year for 2018 is "toxic" which is defined as "poisonous."
The collocates (words habitually used alongside toxic) include: chemical, masculinity, substance, environment and even a toxic relationship.

"Toxic" first appeared in English in the mid-seventeenth century. The etymology tracks its poisonous roots. It came from the medieval Latin toxicus, and back to the Latin toxicum, which has origins in the Greek toxikon pharmakon  which was the lethal poison used by the ancient Greeks for smearing on the points of their arrows. It is odd that pharmakon, meaning poison, did not move into Latin here, but toxikon did. The Greek word for "bow" was toxon., though it would seem that a word for arrow would have made more sense for the poison's use.