The Condenser

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Encounters with the Fauna of Costa Rica, or The Toad Befriended

Posted by Dave
The casual tone with which an English explorer might describe his harrowing adventures has certainly become a well-known cliché. Regardless, it can be truly delightful to take in a little of the real thing. So put on your smoking jacket, pour a snifter of brandy, and settle down in a wingback chair by the fire - Arthur Stradling has a tale to tell of his trials in the Costa Rican jungle, courtesy of an 1890 issue of Longman's Magazine.

Image of some dare-we-say-typical 19th c. explorers courtesy of Wikipedia

Go and live there; inhabit that picturesque adobe dwelling for twenty-four hours, either with or without jungle fever, and your enthusiasm will possibly be considerably modified. The breeze, tepid and languorous, brings little refreshment to the heavy steaming atmosphere, charged by blazing sunshine in brief alternation with torrents of rain; deadly miasms from the rot-laden lagoon steal like ghosts through the moonlit night; and every type of winged and creeping abomination that earth produces there teems and swelters in luxuriant virulence. Great hairy tarantula-spiders, centipedes a foot long, and scorpions like miniature lobsters had their being in the banana-leaf thatch above me; land-crabs burrowed up through the fungus-grown floor to visit my couch; huge toads and venomous reptiles came frankly in at the door. Alligators and enormous serpents infested the lagoon hard by and might be expected at any moment. I did not see an anaconda while I was there, but a blow from the tail of an alligator struggling with some creature it had captured actually broke away some of the wall of my hut one night. Beastly bats sailed in occasionally, and were found by daylight pendent and pugnacious overhead, while more than once a yell, a scuffle, and a rush proclaimed the disturbed intrusion of some unidentified delegate of the cat tribe. Respiratory air seemed to have acquired a third constituent in addition to its normal oxygen and nitrogen in the stifling clouds of mosquitoes which filled the darkness— and a Central American mosquito is as merciless an organism as any of its accursed kind found outside the Arctic circle, which is saying a good deal. Strange things whizzed and buzzed and boomed through the obscurity, dropping with a sharp thud as though shot, or alighting with sticky feet, reluctant of dislodgment, on one's face; all night long there was a rustling and a crackling and a creeping suggestive of unseen invertebrate horrors all around; walls, floor, and roof crawled and were horrent with hideous animation. I am a naturalist by instinct, and can love and cherish the meanest reptile, but I would not voluntarily of forethought and design choose a hut in a Costa Rican swamp as a shelter for my sick-bed during the delirium of intermittent fever.

If you care to see a sample of my companions at this halcyon period of my career, go to the London Zoological Gardens and inquire in the Reptile House for Ambrose; and you will Cud him in the third glass case in the lobby, a giant toad who fills a soup- plate, and who took up his quarters in a corner of that den of mine and did good service by snapping up vast quantities of insects, rats, and other minor objectionable fauna. He and I became close friends, and I brought him home with me, after prolonged wandering to and fro.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Condenser Bijou Theatre Presents Eva Tanguay's "I Don't Care" (1922)

Posted by Meg
Sometimes we don't play moving pictures in our theatre. Today you'll be serenaded by the "girl who made vaudeville famous," Ms. Eva Tanguay. It really is unfortunate we don't have film of her performances, because her act consisted of erratic dancing, extravagant costumes, out-of-tune singing, and generally insane behavior. Incredibly, this made her one of the highest paid performers of her day, earning $3,500 a week (and that's 1910 money!).

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