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Feathers an' Fluff On:2020-07-24 12:21:35

The birds that lurk around our back patio down here in Texas are like that (I'm sure completely undeserved) stereotype of the American Tourist Abroad, you know demanding, aggressive, loud and, if Georgia has anything to do with it (the way she ladles out the bird seed and bark butter), overweight. And we have SO many different species, crabby cardinals, bossy blue jays, grotty grackles, rather cute finches of a reddish hew, one wren, two different types of woodpecker (leading me to ask 'How much wood would a woodpecker peck if a woodpecker pecked with his pecker?' and don't you wish I hadn't? ), dozy doves by the dozen (or as we call them pigeons), on occasion and when the rest are, for some inexplicable reason absent, a Cooper's hawk, and of course grillions of sparrows chirping noisily away: which, were I Dr Doolittle, I would understand to be saying: 'hello bird', 'hello other bird' 'hello other other bird' 'Now sod off the lot of you! This is my food! Mine!! MINE!!!' and so forth.... [over RudeBird1] they are SO demanding, I swear I recently heard one swearing in Morse Code, probably at me and certainly for not adding extra bird seed and bark butter to the vast heaps Georgia leaves them.
But, in spite of their noisy demands, this essay is in fact NOT about those fat and angry birds!
So let's forget those evil little buggers, 'cause actually it is about this:

No doubt you are familiar with that ancient Sumerian legend of Gilgamesh1; how he received from the goddess Inanna2 a ceremonial and quite possibly magical cloak woven from the bellybutton lint of virgin princesses, secretly harvested over the millennia at great personal danger to the harvester and embarrassment to the harvestee, by a process that, as I'm sure you can imagine, is both difficult and dangerous beyond all reckoning.
To begin, though, before the beginning, we must ask ourselves that central, omphalostic, if not actually omphaloskeptic, Question(-with-a capital-qw): "How did the bellybutton lint get there in the first place?" To answer this we must travel far through peer-reviewed journals till we arrive at that of Medical Hypotheses (Volume 72, Issue 6, June 2009, Pages 623-625) and Vienna's Atominstitut der Österreichischen Universitäten and the research of Georg Steinhauser and his seminal paper The Nature of Navel Fluff. To quote from the paper's abstract:

The hypothesis presented herein says that abdominal hair is mainly responsible for the accumulation of navel lint, which, therefore, is a typically male phenomenon. The abdominal hair collects fibers from cotton shirts and directs them into the navel where they are compacted to a felt-like matter. The most abundant individual mass of a piece of lint was found to be between 1.20 and 1.29 mg ([where] n [the sample size] = 503)

...and so forth, all of which suggests—apart from the utterly amazing information that over 500 people in Vienna were prepared to share the darkest secrets of their navels for this four-year long project—that those virgin princesses were either atypically hairy virgin princesses or more likely men in cotton shirts, not to mention drag.
This last, I'm sure, immediately draws the mind of the listener to parallel stories of the Greek world and in particular that of Achilles cross-dressing and draft-dodging on Skyros among the daughters of King Lycomedes—[over RudeBird2 Windowshutting] Wait a second! It's that damned bird again!!... There, I shut the window. Where was I? Oh, yes—as reported by by the Roman poet Publius Papinius Statius in his Achilleid.
Now whether this suggests that the Achilles story was based on a Sumerian habit of avoiding the draft in much less draughty virgin princess attire or was made up (if you'd excuse the pun) from whole cloth is a matter still open to scholarly debate.
But for our purposes it suffices to be aware of the origin, later influences and possible gender fluidity of Sumerian virgin princesses and now we can finally get to the pith and main point of our disquisition [over RudeBird3] and reveal the truly amazing and unexpected conclusion that...
Oh! Damn! I'm sorry, but I really have to leave off now—that bloody bird is banging on the window pointing at the bird feeder, and swearing again.....And after all this essay IS only a fluff piece
Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton


¹   𒄑𒂅𒈦, originally 𒄑𒉈𒂵𒈩

²   𒈹 or possibly, with a name like I-Nanna, his Grandma.

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