Friday, August 31, 2012

Wild Hair

When last I got unnecessarily pontifical on the subject of historical health and beauty, I mentioned that the Egyptians shaved their heads and wore wigs instead, and the sculptural, colorful, conditioning use of clay in hairdressing.  This week, running across an interesting article in which the importance of hair arose in its context as a spiritual accessory, I decided to come back to the subject a little bit.

The Amish piece relates a story about cutting someone's hair because they have sinned.  Cultures across the world and tales across time have venerated and set religious laws and practices around the growth, the barbering, the styling of hair.  Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume kicks off entirely because of a grey hair.  In history (and in The Ax and the Vase), there is a great Frankish legend about the woman who offered an enemy of the Long-Haired Kings the choice between a blade to cut off his head, or a blade to tonsure his hair - he could keep his head, but he could not keep this powerful symbol of authority.

Posh Spice models the Croyden Facelift

Hair can also be a beauty tool.  There is a joke on both sides of The Pond (and, unkown to me, possibly in other areas than the UK and US) - the Croyden or the Jersey Facelift.  This is when someone pulls their hair so tight their face gets tight too - I have, honest to goodness, known a sort of punk-goth model personally, who played up a strong resemblance to Debi Mazar by keeping her hair pulled back like that - and who stopped, and cut it 20s-bob short when her grandmother told her she might be causing herself future wrinkles!

Say what you will, but look at Elizabeth Woodville's portrait above, and consider the legend that she held onto remarkably youthful beauty well past the age when most women of the 15th century generally did.  That tight hairdo of hers might have served a vanity of purpose.  She famously seduced a younger man who was a king ...

... and the hair-pulling strategy has other known exemplars.  Marlene Dietrich, also famed for an almost eerie ability to maintain strangely youthful looks into her *seventies*, had small braids plaited in a perimeter around her face, then pulled and tied these back in an artificial facelift.  Covering the result with a wig, her face and hair synthesized something of the physical charms she had in her youth.

From the film "Just a Gigolo" - 1978

There's more to life than cosmetic appeal, and there's far more to hair than its role as a crowning glory.  Its power isn't often expressed in modern, Western culture the way the Amish crime illustrates, but make no mistake that people don't still invest enormous emotional and symbolic power in their tresses.  Beards, mohawks, braids, almost anything we can do to or refuse to do with our hair can be imbued with special meaning.

Throughout my life, I have witnessed the implicit power of hair - we no longer like to acknowledge its importance beyond the objective - but how many women have you known who sighed with freedom when they discussed cutting long hair they'd had since childhood, and reveled in the psychic pleasure of "letting go" of the weight, well beyond grams and ounces, their long hair had come to represent to them?

When I was little, long hair was everywhere - on men and women - and represented a sort of held-over flower child aesthetic, softness, naturalness, sexiness.  That last adjective has often associated itself with hair, and indeed, women of my mother's generation have a certain disapproval of long hair.  Throughout my adult life, certainly my mom has always wished I had more conservative, shorter hair.  "Republican" hair, I've always jokingly called it, if only mostly to myself - but certainly one's styling does tend to communicate certain things like this.  There *is* a certain sort of stiffness in GOP style.

Having reached middle age, the excessive length of my own hair is more nonconformist with every passing year.  I'll never be a short-haired woman, I think.  I've gone short before (every ten years or so, somehow, I have ended up with a Mackenzie Phillips shag, though I have never actually wanted the cut!), but it's not the sort of freeing experience for me it is for so many.  My hair is no trap - it is something I luxuriate in (and Mr. X always has, too, to be sure).

Yet even I do cherish a plan - someday, when there is enough white in there (I am not going grey, but am blessed with the tendency of my maternal line - going silver-white, rather than salt-and-pepper; I would have the classic skunk-streak, actually, if I weren't so vain as to dye), I will strip the dye, cut it in a blunt pageboy at my shoulders, and get a body wave.  No old lady blue fro for me ... I hope.

The real controversy and power of hair is most vociferously expressed, probably, in men.

As I've always liked my own hair long, I've always rather liked the long-haired boys, too.  I grew up in the seventies, when "short" hair looked like this:

I married a musician in the 80s, whose hair was so richly golden and softly looping, all the women I was friends with professed they would kill to have his hair.  His pat speech (kids would get cheeky with him about his hair on a regular basis!) had to do with Jesus and George Washington's hair being long - I believe most long haired men have used this at one point or another, at least in our day and age.  I've heard this from a comedian (maybe Stephen Colbert? I am old, and my memory is spotty) just within the past week.

X once heard a kid - a friend of his own kids - yanking on mommy and whisper-screeching "THERE goes a BAD man!"  Often, children are actually very much attracted to X, actually - he has a sort of special buddy powers with most people, and children are no exception - but they do serve as a barometer of the judgments we're taught starting early.

Plus, in a ponytail and long black coat, X *does* tend to resemble every drug dealing murderer ever cast on TV.  Hah.

Long hair is almost expressly a sensual thing.  I don't mean promiscuous, and I don't even mean sexual.  But the unavoidable fact is, the softness, the fragrance, the physical touch of long hair is an everpresent physical stimulus.  I use mine for climate control - long enough to be a literal cape, if I catch a chill.  At my core, whatever it means, I am a long-haired person.

I might skip Marlene's extremities ... even with the evidence of how it seems to have worked!  My vanity, it seems is flagging with old age.  Heh.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On Deck

The joy of being the only admin in the building continues.  Four comfortably-compensated professionals spent part of two days setting up a video conference, which is a case of making magic happen given less than one day's notice.  This morning, nobody appeared and the call spontaneously disconnected after a few minutes' non-engagement.

The whole thing was nobody's "fault" - it was all a failure in communications through a group not in direct lines with the right parties.  The result was four people striving hard to provide the best service we could, to no result.

Even without fault to find, though - when I think of the man hours wasted out of all our salaries, and the priorities pushed around to make nothing happen, it's hard not to consider how literally valuable proper communications skills really are.  I wonder how much *effective* work we could have done, had someone just contacted the single solitary participant we did all this for (yep - all this was for ONE participant to have video capability - and that person was working from home today, because they had no idea this was being done).

I did contact that person this morning, once I was told who it was (everyone else was still saying "we will find out where the communications broke down").

I love my job, and have immense loyalty for my employer, but the baffling habit ingrained throughout the culture there, whereby communication is rarely direct, confounds and maddens me.

One more day on deck as the only admin in the house - and then, ironically enough, LABOR DAY.  Yeesh.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Jaw-Dropping ... Entertainment

Staying home today for what was planned to be R&R time off, I've felt headachey and dizzy, and not even really worked on the revisions I should be doing in the absence of doing anything else.

I nearly squee'd when Jimmy Doohan cropped up in his guest run at TNG (LOVE Jimmy Doohan), then after that I caught Frank Langella on DS9.  An accident of my multi-track streaming habits, but such a lovely one.

For my early evening's entertainment, we've moved on to a little something called "Angel".  Not sure how I ran across it - probably an algorithm at Netflix - it is a period piece, after all.

As satires go, it's interesting.  As romance goes, it's execrable and risible, of course.  As a story about a WRITER goes ... it's autoerotic in the extreme.  Mary Sue hates this girl, for being too successful, and having too self-satisfied a pouty-pouty-pout-mouthed pout.  It's the story-of-a-writer aspect which actually informed my watching, and in fact made it possible for me to watch at all.

This film goes well beyond escapist fantasy and into delirium.  The costumes, the color schemes and saturation, the hilarious rear projections, the giddy Victorian homoerotic overtones, the ostentatiously silly plot and characters.  The astonishing cleavage.  The appallingly bad climactic smooch-age.  The birds, the cats, the wolf hound(s).

For your histfic lover, it's almost an antidote to those cliches and must-haves so many productions, good and bad, come equipped with (did I mention the costumes, the dreamy color?).  It's odd, though - as candy-coated as so much of it is in terms of production, the end result isn't actually all that funny.  Not everyone involved, perhaps, knew it was a satire.  You spend the first twenty minutes thinking, "Surely this is a joke" - not "Oh this is a good joke!"  There's fun in the honeymoon montage, and the early-70s-sitcom "oh your pet died" switcharoonie, but there is a certain cognitive dissonance in those facets which are actually earnest.

Watch this one for the hilarity of the depiction of the publishing industry.  Watch it for the eye candy.  Watch it with someone, or a whole group of writers (SBC - we should really have movie night!)

(As a side note - right to the end, the extent to which this resembles "Lillie", Francesca Annis' portrayal of The Jersey Lily is pretty amazing.  Sadly, no Peter Egan here though.  I love Peter Egan.

My Conference

It's coming!  New digs this year; I'll be very interested in this.  And new timing; it used to be the sessions began Friday and went through Saturday, but this year it'll be Saturday/Sunday.  I'm excited, and very intrigued by some of the opportunities these changes may bring!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Product Diss-Placement

If there has been a worse beauty product than nail polish strips in the past 25 years, I would be amazed.  Holy crap - glad I spent only eBay price (under $5 for a dual package) rather than the NINE BUCKS the drugstores want to charge for these failures.

(Ed. to add - Oh good!  They're also a gooey pain in the butt to remove.  Perfect.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Richard's Grave

(Wasn't that nice?  I spared you all the "my kingdom for a--" pun or reference!)

This article is one of those that gets me wanting to find out what comes nest.  It's oddly Shakespeare-tastic, considering what The Bard did for Richard III's reputation (calling the play both an "honor" - clearly someone hasn't READ its fairly dishonorable depiction of the king- and stating that said play is what gets a King of England (and an infamous one, at that - whether one agrees with the Tudor assessment of his character or not) famous ... not that being King of England might get one noticed).  Still, the point is of interest - they're looking for Richard.

(Hey, I wasn't going to leave you completely pun-free, right?)


The older I get, the more private I want to be - which is why, for the past month and a half, I haven't really been posting about my life.  The week after Siddy had her last visit to the vet, I was in a car accident.  I'm okay, but the fallout from that has been less than a gas.  The judge, when I went before him not so long ago, was good enough to pretty much scoff visibly that I'd been charged with reckless, and that was knocked down very significantly - but it's still no fun, particularly having been the victim in another accident only six months ago.

Shortly after all this, I got a call from the doctor, telling me I needed to come in for a follow up from what are usually boring exams.  This is, necessarily, scary as crap.

At the time, I chose to tell nobody but X.  I know I can trust him; I am sick of being the source of worry and drama for my mom in particular, and I am REALLY sick of having too many things to point out about my personal life, at work.  From a person who, in my twenties, probably would have milked any one of these terrible things for attention, I've become ... well.  An actual grownup - of sorts, anyway.


An interesting side effect of not instantaneously broadcasting each and every detail of my life is that, oddly enough, people don't know what is going on with me.  I have backfilled a few people in on the cancer scare, in particular (waiting until afterward, with my mom and my brother both, made for far more gratifying conversations than we otherwise might have had during that week), and at least one reaction has been, "Why didn't you call me?"

Well.  Because my friends and family are so generous as it is, I have felt enough like a vampire with them that to do so was anathema.  And what would calling have done, anyway?  Just more sponging.

X was more than there enough for that, and I am grateful he is a person I can share things like this with and not feel I'm sucking life away.  It's hardly the first major malfunction he's helped me deal with this year - or in the past ten - and it was enough to get me through those days.


Even so ... stress levels have been, with all these things, I think understandably pretty damned high.  I'm regulating now, but have been doing so via a concentrated campaign of strategic time off of work, some calculated *accomplishments* at work, pouring a lot of energy into revisions - which has been incredibly rewarding - and letting time pass, as it is wont to do.  Gossamer, too, bless his buttery-soft little fuzzy bum, has been doing all he can to take care of me.

So yesterday, when it was time to finally go pay the bill and pick up the cremains of my dear beloved Sid-oh-knee, I expected it to be sad - but I did not expect to \burst into tears in front of everyone in the waiting room at the vet.

But the dear little old lady who came in with her dear, curly old dog, called him "Monkey" affectionately (and his real name was Brian - which is almost unbearably awesome).  And right at that moment, the employee of the office came out of the back with the urn - and everyone recognized what it was - and looked at me all "aww"  - and someone said, "Oh, I am so sorry" and the technician or assistant hugged me.

I took my baby girl's earthly remains in my arms, and burst into tears.  She was SO good, and I never was quite worthy of her, best girl.

Goss has been so unbelievably loving this week.  Today we dozed, and he slept on my collarbone, up under my chin.  It was warm and sweet on a rainy day.  He's curled up next to my knee as I type now.

What I ever could have done to deserve the love of the people *and* animals who've loved me, I sure don't know, but I live to live up to it, and hopefully almost even earn it.


The rain is falling against the windows, and I am safe and blessed and warm in a beautiful home I can call my own.  Health is mine, and that is amazing.  The house is clean, and I am indulging an immensely relaxing day.  It is dark, and the season tips toward a new one gracefully.  Erick may not be nearby - but what I have is still more than most can count as their own.  Not least - in those people who put up with me ... and have taught me not to be a yipping hysteric about everything in my life.  I'm so grateful for their love, and that they do care.

Peace be with all of you.  Lord.  It is night.

Women Writing War

Recently, I've seen a number of blog posts, articles, and marketing blurbs focusing on women who are writing stories set in or directly putting their characters into war or battle sequences.  This is spanning from WWI and back to Alexander the Great, and if the attention I'm seeing indicates market viability (can't help but think it does) it certainly won't hurt me once I have revisions completed and begin querying again.  Take a look at this piece, which shows a nice breadth of examples.

Interestingly, some of these works are marketed not by their settings (martial conflict) but by their characters (women's stories) - but it looks like, more and more, that trick is trumped by the fact that some women are writing from the point of view, or centering on, male protagonists.  Alexander was Mary Renault's subject starting over thirty years ago, women's prominence in this type of historical fiction is gaining, and in fantasy women have been able to increase their presence for at least the past decade or so.

Hooray for women!  *Working away on those revisions*

When Ignorance was reviewed, Roberts noticed it was not described as a story about war, but a story about women. It is this critical misapprehension that Roberts suggests has led to the perception that women don't tackle war in their fiction.
"Jane Austen is often attacked for not being interested in the big issues but when I read her novels, I see she is writing about the battle of Waterloo, men coming home from war, and how middle-class women are dependent on these men."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Speaking of Historical Myths

One of my "FAVORITE" movies ...  Ugh.  As if Mel Gibson weren't bad enough - bray-fart.  Deliver me, always, from that flick.

One Way to Keep the TBR Pile Manageable ...

... is to lust for freakishly expensive books.

Ooohhhh my beloved medieval myth-busting tome.  Wait for me - I'll come back for you someday!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

GOP Going Medieval

I try not to post news-cycle-of-the-moment links, comments, or snarks to speak of here, but this past weekend's news just got relevant in this commentary on how medieval Todd Akin's ignorance is.

We'll just leave the inevitable observations Diane would like to make, about how this is yet more demonization of the past, unspecified, shall we?  I figure you guys know what I am thinking by now.  And the real demons here are only denizens of the past in their own wishful thinking.


I will point out two observations:

  1. "The notion ... can be traced back to the Middle Ages. At this time the scientific and medical texts of Greek and Roman antiquity were being translated and appropriated by European doctors and philosophers" ...  Here is the thing.  GREEK AND ROMAN ANTIQUITY occurred some time before the medieval period.  Thank you for playing "Ain't That Medieval Times?".)
  2. The MODERN Zimbabwean suggested method to curb the spread of AIDS is for women to shave their heads and *not bathe* - to become unattractive, so men will not desire them.  Also, female genital mutilation is a great idea - don't tell the Tea Partiers about this one, m'kay?

Let's reiterate a major campaign denial, shall we?  THERE IS NO WAR ON WOMEN.

Oh, my achin' head.

Beautiful Body Art

It would be nice if I were capable of stopping to intelligently remark on the gorgeous breadth of visual arts touched upon in this article and video (don't skip the video, the images really are impressive) - but they put "tattoo" in the headline, I see a few of them - and my stunted, adolescent-boy's mind goes right to trying to make up some sort of glib joke about archaeologists digging up early 21st century tramp stamps in future centuries, and frankly I become completely useless.

Also, apparently I write excessively long run-on sentences.  See what Teh Intarwebs does to my wee, paltry little brain?  Terrible.  Medieval News is probably sad I am trying to direct traffic toward them.

More Barbarian Myth Debunking

This time (and not for the first time!) in the perception of the Vikings.  A very nice expanded article is available at The Scotsman, for those who want more.

Me Talk History One Day

Voice, in histfic, is an OFT-discussed point of style, and it's amazing just how hard it can be to find the right mode of expression for a period.  Here is a very good, very amusing post on the subject, rich in yummy details too.  Courtesy of The History Girls - A. L. Berridge.

Excerpt - Kim Rendfield

Enjoy this sample of The Cross and the Dragon, courtesy of Unusual Historicals.  Being an unusual piece of and purveyor of history myself, I like to advocate these things.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012



In the Never Knew THAT Existed Department ...

"Next to Godliness" Came Later

Thanks to the excessively charming Day Al Mohamad, I've been cruelly tempted into doing exactly that sort of thing I adore to do - going on about some silly subject of which I have a bit of knowledge and on which I have a deeper perspective than the day-to-day.  Following on the heels of Immaculate Misconception, let's look at some of the actual methods human beings have used over time to keep clean.  Thanks to the knowledge I've gained, I'll disclaim at the top that most of my own knowledge is unfortunately Western-centric, and almost entirely Euro-centric, in fact.  My interest in American history has never been lively, and I admittedly considered it a follow-up to those things which did appeal to me (Arthuriana, Roman, and European/British history), so understand that everything I say is informed in this context, more or less.  Any attempt to display diversification in my approach to humanity may be doomed to failure, so please forgive me when I try, and forgive that trying for being limited.

The oldest personal hygiene products humans have ever used - might be what we consider today to be dirt.

Perhaps the earliest cleaning agent (as opposed to medium - which tends oftenest to be water) was sand.  Even today, we know the phrase "scoured by sand", and scouring is one heck of a means of cleaning.  Sand has been used for everything from washing hair to clothes to pots and pans, and the pot-and-pan application is hardly extinct.  Clay and mud, too, have always held a place in, particular to the purposes of this post and its predecessor, personal hygeine.  Clay is still used in hairdressing, and various silts, muds, and clays continue to hold quite the hallowed place in spa treatments and the like.  Clay-fine mud makes a remarkable moisturizer - and, in times and places other than the suburban United States, quite the sunscreen as well.  Ask any pig who's had its melanin bred away why it wallows and "dirties" up that pink hide.

Clay is a fixative and a moisturizer, a paint and hair coloring, a body-builder in hair under management - and, above all, a matrix for sculpture.  The beauty in what the ignorant might call "dirt" goes back by far longer than the history of soap (whose earliest recipes consisted of oils and ashes - another component we today might call "dirt" as well).  It also spreads farther across the world than the imagined habitation of Tarzan the Ape Man, and is used across more of the body than many Westerners even feel it is polite to remember we own.

Self-beautification with things some of us narrowly define as "dirt" is bold, exuberantly symbolic, powerfully striking - and all done with materials many of us have forgotten, or prefer not to remember, or think is just something to wash away.  It is artistry with earth itself.

Of course - in many places, especially warmer ones, depilation held more prominence than hairdressing.  Shaving and plucking came along early, and have stuck with us just as long as mud masks and cleansing.  It is said Caesar himself (did you know his name basically means "good hair"? ironic, as he was famously bald in middle age) had all his body hair plucked.  Egyptians, particularly of higher rank, shaved their heads - male and female - and many of those hairstyles we see in relief sculptures were meticulously crafted wigs.  The art of wigmaking was highly prized in many of the pharaonic eras, and hygeine was carried even farther with the use of wax perfume cones, balanced on top of the head, to melt down over the neck and body, moisturizing and scenting (particularly nobility and largely women) through the heat of a long Egyptian day and langorous evening.

Once we got past scouring with sand, and the early soap formulations, we began grooming ourselves with a will.  Combs came first, but we have had brushes for almost every purpose - cleaning of ourselves, very small parts of ourselves, and our beloved self-decorating clothing, domiciles, and even animals for a long time as well.  Combs were innovated by being carved from ivory, from sandalwood, and hairdressing - an activity almost certainly born out of the necessity of de-lousing and de-tangling - grew, as a social activity, to become part of social presentation.

Pliny was aware of soap, but not its application to a person's skin - that, we find discussed in Latin, as an occurrence among those filthy Barbarians, the CELTS, and in Gaul.  Yes, ladies and germs, the Romans were ignorant of this method of bathing until well after Caesar died.  The famous Galen extolled German soap as the best, no less.

Not everybody was into the soap bag - and soap wasn't the only game in town by a long shot.  Hit up Northern Europe and you find saunas.  Similar to the Roman bathing ritual (a multi-process event, and no small one), the skin was treated to heat and cool.  The Romans went from cool and dry to ever-warmer rooms.  The Scandinavians moved from the heat of the sauna ... and closed up their pores with  - well, the cold with which most of those environs were so abundantly endowed.  Sound "skin science", that, actually - heat it up, open the pores, sweat out whatever's icky, then rinse it all off and finish the process with a good, tight seal.  Probably did wonders for medieval acne.

Clovis I, in "The Ax and the Vase" spends rather a lot of time in grooming (well, or in being groomed - in certain now-cut chapters, first by his mother - and in later periods, by slaves of the body).  He was one of the Long Haired kings, reges criniti, a line of Frankish rulers whose charisma and power were distinctively wrapped up in their long hair.  (I swear, this is not why I wrote about Clovis ... !)  Archaeology tells us that hairdressing even going back as the bronze age in Britain could be pretty rich stuff - clips and bindings of gold, copper, and braiding and care were displayed in many northern and Celtic tribes.  The myth of the filthy Viking or Migration Period hordes is one with staying power, but not one with actual legs to stand on.

Part of the issue I have with the "everyone was dirty until 1900" theory is this:  at no time in history, ever, in any context or aspect of our humanity, has "everyone" been ANY one thing.  Human beings cover, if it possible to even conceive it, a vastly wider and more myriad spectrum than the straight line model I referred to in Immaculate Misconception between "clean" and "dirty".  Even that spectrum is wrongly considered as a straight line, because nothing is so easy to quantify.  The array, then, of all those aspects of dress, bathing, self-decoration, habitation, diet, elimination, animal husbandry and proximity, remediation of human waste (where we put it and how), and all those things which feed into the modern, limited, myopic definition of "clean" would be impossible to place on a single graded line, with one state at one end, another at the other, and all possibilities neatly aligned in between.

There have ALWAYS been people who, through slovenliness, ill health, inability, ignorance, or the progression of age, smelled or appeared offensive to other people.  There have ALWAYS been those of more privilege or fastidiousness, who lacked certain obviously "dirty" qualities.  And there are always days most of us fall more toward one end of the stinky-toleration level or the other.  There has never - ever - been a period in history during which every living human being could automatically be ranked as filthy - even by modern standards, frankly - and certainly not all at one level.  If I encountered a 14th-century beggar stricken with, but not yet dead of, the plague, I imagine the scent would be something.  But if I met her cousin, say maybe The Wife of Bath, I'd be able to tell a distinct difference - even if the WoB still seemed stinky by my standards.

The question is, though - just how stinky were people, really?

Americans like to sneer about Europeans (see also:  the French) who don't shave (horrors!) and who waft either garlic or a bit of personal musk, and judge them "dirty".  Imagine what our bodies would smell like to essentially everyone in history, though, who ever lived before current American standards became so dominant (for us).  Chemical perfumes, oddly lotioned skin, dyes and even clothing spun from plastic and unnatural fiber.  We would not smell like human beings - and, frankly, we probably wouldn't smell exceptionally good.  Most of the scents we take for granted are pretty cheap, and an awful lot of them (try Monday morning in any corporate high-rise elevator) are ovewhelming.  Many of us get actual headaches from the colognes and body splashes so many modern "civilized" humans ladle on indiscriminately.

Try parading a smoker, who's tried to cover up that smell with perfume, in front of an ancient peasant, and see whether they don't curl up their nose in horror.

Or a person devoid of their own oils and sweat, marinated in the latest celebrity signature scent - not smelling like a *person* at all - and see if this doesn't cause outright suspicion, if not even hostility.

The relativity we work from, formulating "dirty Barbarians" in the modern mind, ironically, was largely born of that very period many of us sneer about now, the Victorian era (you know I'd get to "cleanliness is next to Godliness" sooner or later, right?).

Even better, the fear of bathing we presume was symptomatic of a thousand years of European peasantry was in fact itself born late.  People across the continent and the British Isles were in fact well acquainted with bathing, even if not in full-body-immersion style, but definitely in that manner, for centuries, if not millennia, before The Black Plague.  The medical establishment of the time attempted study of this scourge, but, oddly enough, it was not treated in the way a modern disease is, and this is key to the understanding of the way the culture changed, even as the population was devastated by death.  By the time one had symptoms of Plague - it was almost certainly a death sentence.  Treatment was essentially ... cruelly ... not worth it.

(Don't mind the forward-slash "Smallpox" notation - this is a famous Plague illustration) 

It was, perhaps ironically, the Church who began to advise its flock in the means to prevent contraction of the disease, and bathing was a clear casualty in this period.  In 1348, even common folk expected to bathe once a week, often by full-body-immersion, in the way we'd recognize as "bathing" today.  This practice involved both exposure to cold and wet, but also nudity, and these things took on a relative menace, in a time when the friend you spoke with just this morning appearing by evening as a corpse.  Everything did.

And so, we found workarounds, and even that time-honored "shortcut" (or entirety of personal ablution, as the case really can be, and not just in post-Plauge Europe), the Whore's Bath, sometimes saw its own short-cutting.  (The WB is the standing cleansing, not necessarily even in a state of complete undress, in which we spot clean the ampits and groin.  Foot washing has always held a special and symbolic place in the human heart, but as hygeine goes, it's less vital in the role of stink-control than those areas with the most glands.)

So modernity has this constructed memory, of Elizabethans or the denizens of Versailles, decked out in possibly filthy Bitchin' Velvets wafting around oranges jammed full of cloves, pouring perfume down their necks or decolletage, and powdering like mad over every possible other sin.

I would hardly venture to say NOBODY practiced these cosmetic half-truths.  I know what the bodkin was for (*).

But it might just be some of them did long not to itch so much, or couldn't stand the smell of the pomanders themselves, or just had a different standard, and perhaps tried to prevent their wigs becoming home in the first place for the vermin they had to kill with jeweled scimitars in the second place (*get the functional picture, then?).  It might be that the lesser the finery, the easier to wash - and same for the woman or man as well.  Some of the heaviest powder-ers died of lead poisoning, anyway.

Eventually, we came to the place where any evidence of human biology, at least the olfactory kind (see Well Cut Through the Body for reference to wardrobe and the evidence of sexual enhancement, or Ancient Knickers for the possibility of early alluring lingerie), as morally outrageous.  With this, sadly, has come both a judgmentalism of any culture not adhering to what may or may not really be all that healthy a "civilized" obsession - and of the past, which we have presumed out of hand to be entirely composed of filth and dirt.

It makes me want to shop for German soap.

And it makes me feel dirty, the baggage - and considerable moralism, not to mention cultural elitism - we've attached to the simple method of personal ablution.  I think it stinks.

But I do love the fresh scent of sandalwood, too.

Monday, August 20, 2012


The temp this morning was down to seventy-one; the year is turning, the days are shorter already.  Humidity is up - but in promise for autumn, not in the stultification of summer.

Per my last post, got some very good editing done this weekend.  I also got the house clean, and tried to have work done on the car - but there is more yet to be done.  On Sunday, I picked up three paint samples - having spent some time with mom Friday, picking up acres of swatch chips.  $130 in sales on eBay went through over the weekend, and all were paid as of this morning.

Tonight, I've been watching TNG - some very good eps, I have to say, including Famke Janssen's well-known turn - getting all the shipping ready, and putting up some blobs of paint; each color, each wall.  I've been cuddling, and being snuggled by, Gossamer, which is joyous and wonderful.  He's sitting on my right arm even as I type now, kneading on my belly and watching the screen eagerly.

Today, I wore mocha velvet, and was comfortable, soft, and felt good in my skin, but my head was really bad.    Tomorrow, a soft, long dress and more work to be done.  Autumn is coming.

I hope it actually grows cool this year.  I missed cold seasons last year.



Saturday, August 18, 2012

Immaculate Misconception

This post is a companion post to today's earlier piece, Bitchin' Velvet.

Fresh from the bath, smelling of sandalwood and the rich perfume of my shampoo - feeling frank relief and joy in being clean, in my clean house - now seems the perfect time to write this post.

For one reason or another, the concept of cleanliness, specifically personal hygiene and bathing, have been cropping up a bit recently.  As I've mused about costume (see BV link above), I've also been thinking about bathing - its history, its place in our culture over time, its myths above all, and its biological necessity.

As we like to project on the denizens of the past certain attitudes, behaviors, and silly costumes (histfic has often been a vehicle for simple consumption porn, as much as anachronistic sexuality), we also like to make assumptions about how things "really" were, entirely apart from pretty taffeta.  One of the most popular areas of sneering, leering, and peering speculation is the subject of bathing.

Historical productions tend to fall at one extreme of the spectrum of immaculate-to-filthy.  Books and other entertainments striving for "gritty realism" tend to ladle grime over a character and ruin extras' teeth in the name of truth - because, everyone knows, human beings were all utterly disgusting until two generations ago.  That and, of course, there's a brand of "genuineness" we like to admire (from a safe, upwind distance) in a heroic character "all muck and muscle" ...

This profile always reminds me of my ex husband.
(Him, not her.)

Those works presenting fresh, daisy-like heroines or dashing, leather-scented but clean-as-the-outdoors leading men have a tendency to present history for its purty fantasies rather than as anything in-depth enough to really think about.

As is always the case, the truth lies somewhere beside the point of production design.  For one thing - there are more ways to clean oneself than full-immersion baptism, and one can effectively stay clean focusing on certain obvious areas.  For two, there is a lot of room in between the extremes - which people like to forget.

Like I could have used any other image ...

"Baby, can I wash your back?"
They even look like they're surrounded in suds

Even today, the idea of daily, soap-and-water, full body dunking in steaming hot water is not only culturally unrealistic in considerable swaths of our globe, but outright wasteful in more of it than actually eschews the practice.

Biologically speaking, we weren't designed with this sort of bodily function presumed nor built in.  The first thing most women, in particular, do after bathing is to moisturize.  Because ablutions strip all the oils from our skin.  Soap is a detergent, and detergents cut through oil, removing the natural emollients our skin would generate, left in an undisturbed state.  All that oil we were taught to "fight", the whole t-zone of women's faces which has supported generations, now, of industries in acne-fighting, blotting paper, miracle cleansers, powders and cosmetics, is part of the functioning of normal human skin.  That area of our faces, particularly in northern and colder climes, is most likely to be exposed and chapped by cold.  The oil it builds up *really* fights those things our bodies encountered for millennia before we civilized ourselves into a whole new crop of skin conditions.

Of course, I say all this in a state of chemically aromatic "cleanliness" - as properly defined by the culture I live in today.  I say it as a FAN of certain perfumes, of soaps, of moisturizers and shampoos.  I say it as a woman who offers, as one of the longest-standing little personal compliments between us, the praise of Mr. X, that he is "immaculate".

But even if we don't admit it, there's a secret corner in most of our hearts where we understand the fabled quote of Napoleon to Josephine - essentially, "I'm coming home - don't take a bath, lover."  That un-admitted part of us that recognizes a wordless bit of business from "Portrait of a Lady" where Nichole Kidman takes off her boot and sniffs it - or a certain moment from SNL's Superstar skits.


In Rome, not necessarily that place the popular imagination goes when it thinks about filthy history, bathing was accomplished not with detergents, but oils - and scrapers.  There's a great scene in the BBC's "I, Claudius" episode one, where Tiberius and his brother discuss the ultimate state of friendlessness - in terms of the dearth of someone to clean your back for you.  The social aspect of bathing is lost to us today, but makes for a pretty interesting study - and it was hardly lost, in those years they like to call "dark ages".

The modern inability to recognize as cleanliness any state not resulting from the application of Dial to every inch of the body is incredibly widespread, and remarkably silly.  It's not just in the murky (mucky) past human beings have used other methods of personal hygeine.  Take a look again at my Swabian with the topknot - not a drop of Prell to be had, and yet his hair GLEAMS even all these centuries later.

If you don't squick, and really look, that hair is really beautiful.  And all without aid of civilized methods of ablution we only invented with mass-marketing ...

We Interrupt these Posts

... to provide a pointless interlude ...  (I liked something from an email to X.)

It’s that kind of August, now, which actually feels like late summer when I was a kid, the way it is supposed to feel.  The nights are just a little bit cooler; we’ve had a day or two down to the eighties, and humidity is high but less punishing.  It feels like Richmond summer ... just hinting, just whispering, that some day soon it will give way to autumn again.  In places near water, or in shade that stays still, the humidity almost promises cool; a scent, a subliminal shift.

This time of year, my dad must have loved, because it led the way to his favorite time - the beginning of a year with new students, the cooling breeze, the fall-wet wind, the acrid scent of fallen oak leaves, and the dream of drives in the country, the mountains with us, with mom, a tang of cider, the scratch of wool and excitement of new class.  He'd spend August with his family - a dip at the pool after supper - a surprise trip to the amusement park - a spontaneous drive - a day with him at the quiet campus - a night with a sitter, while he took mom out somewhere ...  And then when the year began, he was so energized in his work ...


This interlude comes at a time I have been under a bit of stress.  Losing Sid was so hard, and I still miss my girl so much.  Dreamed of her this week, it was so bittersweet.  I can *hear* her voice - feel her chin plopping on the bed to get me up.  The sound of her soft snore - or her "underwater" barking, in her sleep - is still so vivid, so beautifully with me.

Spending this August with me is the tiny, sweet, soft ball we know now as Gossamer.  I was unutterably lucky in this little guy.  He is such a *nice* kit, such a sweet, temperate beastie.  So easygoing you can handle him any way you like and he is relaxed and trusting and accepting.  But also he's playful, he's hilariously funny.  And so cute.  His coloring is as soft as his fur, his temperament, his little gaze.

He's not a furniture scratcher, but he is turning out a bit of a jumper.  Three times yesterday, I found him on top of the fridge.  Whether he can get down on his own is unknown to me, but he sure can get up.  Little baby scamp.

He's such a little BOY.  Like a cartoon, he runs ahead and peeks back at me 'are ya comin' ma? are ya comin'?' - and his little white sneakers bonk around the house, velvet when they touch you, and thumpy when he's being rambunctious.

He's fairly quick to warm up to people; needs a minute or five on his own terms to nuzzle your ankles, but once you've let him have that freedom anybody can scoop him up, and the purr box will go, the perfect compliment.

He has snot-green eyes, but they really are adorable.  He's learned The Meaning of that Blue Bottle of Water in the living room (the one I squirt him with if he happens to come too close during dinner), and is learning the rules of behavior very obediently.  He has a sweet scent about him; I love nuzzling his unbelievably soft coat.  He has a teeny meow, he doesn't use very much.  He's a snuggly napper and a cuddly kneader, good with his nails when he is close up on you.  He drools.  It's to-die-for adorable, that, and probably only something I will ever get from him.  He's a little buddy.  I'm grateful, and aware how fortunate I am.

He had an astounding growth spurt the second and third week I had him, but he's still a little guy.  My little baby boy.  Watching him learn, grow, and move is so much fun.

Having him nap up against my hip is just peace in a pair of little white velvet paws.

Bitchin' Velvet

For those readers who may not be familiar with a cultural construct typified in a concept I like to call "the bitchin' Camaro", there is a use of this adjective which evokes a dude (it is *always* a "dude", man) who may have a mullet, is almost certainly smoking a Marlboro (it is always a Marlboro, man), and is wearing acid wash jeans tight to the ankle.  He may have heard about the memo that 1990 has come and gone - but he doesn't care.  And he drives a Bitchin' Camaro, thinking it's gonna get him "some tail".

Bitchin' jacquard

The "bitchin'" this guy embodies is the way a lot of historical productions treat their design these days, most especially costuming.  Films, miniseries, and shows touching on flashbacks or actual historicals seem to be populated, at our point in pop-culture history, with metal heads and emo lovers, endowed with crappy extensions (sorry, but as a lover of long-haired men, an actor given "long hair" by way of kanekalon always pretty much looks like a guy endowed with a bad fake mullet) and two-to-four days' stubble growth, wearing amazing costume design with all the historical authenticity of Prince after a particularly sweaty concert.

I'm focusing on men, you notice, and may want to sneer that I'm leaving the picture incomplete.  True.

The women in these productions, you see, are given SUPERIOR extensions.  Almost preternaturally glossy, thick, romance-novel tresses tend to unrealistically abound.  Unbound.  Of course.  Oddly, the costume design on women, I notice, is often poorer, historically speaking.  I think this is because the authentic look for certain periods seems cooler to our current sense of style, for men - as long as we give them the "bitchin'" look to keep it edgy, or goth, or dirty, or whatever.  Authentic-with-lace is acceptable, as long as an actor is given a sheen of sweat, his laces are undone at the neck, his doublet carelessly loosened or entirely open - as long as we have the fake rockstar "hair" and some anachronistic modern sexual posturing to go with it.

Women's costuming, though ... has to be enhanced - actually changed, to suit current sensibility.  To watch a film today is to believe that decolletege' was de rigueur at every hour of the day, for all possible occasions (especially one's own wedding - hah), for something approaching the ten centuries up to and including ours.  Corsetry and that "well cut through the body" look have never, ever gone out of style - even in periods known for a more billowing, or at least less midriff-conscious silhouette.

This isn't new - but it amuses me that designers right now almost certainly presume to a higher level of "authenticity" than one saw in historical productions in, say, the 50s or 60s when (just for fun) Liz Taylor used to run around in inexplicable bouffant styles or hideous swim cap styled headgear, as if THAT were remotely believable:

The Inexplicable Swim Cap
A Mid-Century Modern Sunburst Wall Clock as Hair Decoration

(The less I say about trends in makeup, then OR now, the better - it all follows on this rant anyway.)

I think my personal favorite throw-authenticity-to-the-winds idea of feminine costume design in recent memory is the body paint, nude gold lipstick, and fishnet fantasy from "The Mummy" (a movie, by the way, I actually enjoy - let it always be understood that my willingness to enjoy a production is as distinct from my willingness to dumb myself down to its caprices in design):


My point isn't so much that I would bother to call designers or makeup artists to go for authenticity.  Very few viewers of these productions truly prefer to give up the eye-candy aspect for rigorous veracity, after all.

This is just one of those areas in which a lot of fans get to, and love to, play Guitarist for a sort of fun.  Even as we lust after the insanely beautiful taffetas, and maybe think about how we will get to dress for Hallowe'en ...

This post will have a companion post in the upcoming Immaculate Misconception ...

Friday, August 17, 2012


"O happy people of the next generation, who will not know these miseries and most probably will recon our testimony a fable!"
        --Petrarch, May 1349

Pejorative Period Names

I feel this way about the so-called "Dark Ages" too:

"The Middle Ages is an unfortunate term. It was not invented until the age was long past. The dwellers in the Middle Ages would not have recognized it. They did not know that they were living in the middle; they thought, quite rightly, that they were time's latest achievement."
        — Morris Bishop 

Stay tuned for my more detailed post about the history of bathing and so on ...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wait, Wait

... Paul Ryan supposedly loves Rage Against the Machine ... ?  I don't guffaw easily, but dang that's pure comedy gold, that is.

(If you don't hit the link, you are seriously missing the joke here, kids.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ask Me About Sandalwood Combs!

... c'mon, I dare ya.  Because the archaeological evidence I researched personally, in attempting to build the "Barbarian" world of Clovis I was a treasure trove of knowledge about the fineness of their cultural arts AND their standard of hygiene, self-decoration, and personal appearance ...

Ahh, I never will forget the Swabian Topknot (great link for further images and pithy commentary here):

His skin care might not look like much a millennium later, but check out how amazingly the hair has held up!  White Rain's got nothing on these people.

Found a link today at Historical Fiction Online, and this article reminded me of all that.  What DID the Vikings really look like?  Take a peek and see if you find out.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Happy Lefties Day!

From that bastion of unassailable factoids that is Twitter, I learn that it is Left Handers day today.  Ahh, the fond memories I have, of my brother and sister-in-law, both lefties, planning to have southpaw babies and (as my bro put it) raise a line of "sinestral genii" ...

Boy was he ticked when the big'un failed to turn out as sinister as they thought!  (How's it going with the smaller one, these days?  Any left-handed promise there?)

Medieval Business Ethics

There are those who refer to nearly any century previous to our own as "the Dark Ages" - like the ignorant, dirt-eating troglodytes we are.  Get a load of this, get a load of Mitt Romney, and tell me who is unenlightened.

“A medieval businessman would surely be impressed by the successes of his modern descendants, but he would also despise them as men without honor or virtue.” --Laura Stokes

Poop in Archaeology

Ladies and gents:  the "Ladies" and the "Gents" in archaeology ...

It may be the company I keep, but the association in my mind between the science of archaeology and the exploration of ancient doodoo is always close to the surface, even when I'm trying to fool my readers into thinking I'm a grownup.

Hey, nobody's fooled anyway.  And the more Teh Intarwebs produces articles and links on the subject - the more it looks like the two really are one.

(Who else is thinking it?  "Toilet in Cologne" ... c'mon, you with me?)

Define "It" - Histfic and Historianism

The Tudor Tutor has a very good post observing the tension between fiction and claims of historical accuracy, between author-dom and historian-dom.  Some histfic authors claim to be historians.  (I am not one of these.)  Where do you fall on the spectrum of definition of the term "historian"?

On Ray Bradbury - and On Mars

This is a great post with some nice vids too - hope you will enjoy it all!  These are really wonderful.

Thanks to Day Al-Mohamed for finding most especially that second clip, the first is wondrous, the second is entertaining and fascinating.

Carolingian Source Material

Pity I picked the wrong darn century!  Might not stop me getting distracted by these books (like my TBR piles aren't high and numerous enough already) ...

Thank you, Kim!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


136,966.  Not my worst go at the MSS.

Sometimes It's the Little Things

This Tweet wasn't in my own timeline, as I long since unfollowed UberFacts.  But it was re-tweeted by someone I do follow, so I happened to see it.  I actually did follow UF at one point, but one too many blatantly sexist "facts" (and one too many "facts" of a veracity on the order of that old saw about women over 35 meeting a man versus the likelihood of being struck by lightning) took care of that.

Don't believe things just because you've heard them more than once, and don't believe them just because you encounter them at all.  Trying to define the here-assumed empirical connection between humor and loudness is itself not a slam dunk.  The rest is simply a cheap gender insult.  And therefore boring.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Netflix Agenda?

I'm at the Deep Space 9 season 1 episode, "In the Hands of the Prophets" and here is the description:

A Bajoran woman in religious garb observes Keiko O'Brien's class and calmly objects to Keiko's secular methods of instruction.

This reads as being remarkably biased, to me - particularly as the "calmly" objecting religious leader in question goes on to become one of the greatest villains in the series, possibly in the Trekverse overall, over the course of the series (not to mention other media!).  The entire point of the episode was to point to the bigotry and narrowmindedness of this particular person (not the faith of the Bajoran people, which is actually treated with more depth and respect than any other spiritual thread in the Trekverse), so this description, beyond being disingenuous, seems outright revisionist.  It's weird.

Is Netflix yet ANOTHER entity out to foist its punishing morality upon us?  Are we going to have to have gay kiss-ins like at Chick-Fil-A?

Medieval Dogs

The canines of medieval illumination:

To my niece:  I know you think medieval art is lame (or you used to anyway!), but I kind of love this.  At least it's better than the dog tooth "purse".


If I'm not pretty honest about my shortcomings, weaknesses, and failures - someone else will be, for me.  That's a punishment I prefer not to earn.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

YELLOW Journalism

Those notorious kings of yellow journalism, National Geographic, have really gone too far with their reality TV offerings.  This is the price we pay when ANY person or culture or society can be put up for sale for entertainment purposes.  On the one hand, I find it difficult to believe NG is genuinely a villain, nor the producers of this series.  On the other, though, the extent to which sensationalism and certain aspects of "reality" TV DO have a place, even on PBS, is unquestionable.  It does make money.  And that is sad.  Because then, even the naive, and even those who would scorn the reality sluts (LINK****) of the infotainment landscape become susceptible to a blurry and barely navigable path ... leading - where, exactly?

NG's logo:

It does have that unfortunately-colored rectangle, after all.

Music, Privilege, Cultural Appropriation, and My (Lack of) Cool

A friend and I got in a chat about music recently, and it illustrates about me one of those "I contain multitudes" aspects which I cultivate and love for keeping me from sinking into (pop-/cultural) stagnation, but of which I tend not to make a very public point.  I tend to be extremely sensitive to my state of privilege and the extent to which moving outside its generally-defined boundaries  is less a mark of nonconformity or sensitivity, and more a mark of cultural appropriation.  So, while I sometimes enjoy surprising people by knowing diddly-squat about those things outside my prescribed limits (and knowing nothing about, say, Josh Grobin and many of those things I am supposed to give a crap about), I never ever claim ownership nor expertise on art, and particularly music, especially that born of those lacking the level of entitlement my pigmentation and luck confer on me.

Friend:        i actually rediscovered one very good song recently
Friend:        not sure if you would like it though
D:               ohh what?
D:               Unless it's greasy contemporary country I'm probably in
D:               :-D
Friend:        its a hip hop song, but done with piano
Friend:        and its more moving than most
Friend:        its brings most people to tears or goosbumps
D:               I love hip hop.  And rap.
D:               It's a little sad, but I love Ice T and Snoop
Friend:        lol
Friend:        not really sad there, more funny
D:               well it might make THEM sad!
D:               :-)
Friend:        lol
D:               Nas is a good one for giving the occasional emotional goosebump too
Friend:        oh yeah he is
D:               That is one SMART man
D:               Who is this?  I'm not recognizing
Friend:        group by the name of atmosphere
D:               very nice
Friend:        he does a number of soulful songs
D:               His voice is sharp
D:               A lot of hip hop has become so produced its essence is lost
Friend:        which is why i hunt down the good ones
Friend:        k'naan is also a good one
D:               but you go back and listen to OLD scool - Rakim, or some of the guys like Nas who eschew new production and glitz
D:               it can really get you
D:               Rakim is dizzying.  
Friend:        need to look him up
D:               Definitely
D:               "Lyrics of Fury" will not lull you or feel beautiful but I think it's probably elementally Rakim
D:               he's failry early - and you can hear the forms which have since been used and debased
D:               It's perhaps a bit odd for me as a middle-aged, privileged white woman to act like I know anything, but when I really started listening I also did some reading as well because I wanted more than just to graze the edges.
D:               "It Was a Good Day" is a hair-raising song whose popularity sometimes obscures its power I think.  Coolio has done the same to himself.  He has serious talent but his hooks are so infectious you can miss it.

At the end of the day, it's all very self-congratulatory for a woman like me to preen about ... not precisely being a woman like me ... but it doesn't make me something *else* in any honest sense.  The culture of rap and hip hop aren't the fashion accessory some have succeeded in making out of it, and I don't want to be the insufferable dilettante accessorizing with cred I cannot legitimately earn.

So I like what I like.  Sometimes, I make a point of learning a little bit about it, out of respect and interest (this moves far beyond music; as a history and research geek, I've studied everything from the art and histopry of sari, to 19th-century jewelry, to the history of Catholicism in an effort to understand different things).  But usually, I just like what I like.  The Ices T and Cube can do with that what they like, which would probably be ignoring nits like me.  But I hope it legitimizes me, if not as a member of something I'm not, then at least as a consumer - and a member of the *whole* world I do live in.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Historical Fiction Markets

It's always a pleasure to find historical fiction anything like my own doing well (and winning prizes!).  Here we have three men at war - written by women.

Of All Days ...

... for mom to forward this to me, today was probably a very good pick.

Music is one of those gifts G-d gives to us to give each other with the full awe and magnificence of the free will He gave us first.  Marvelous.  In the truest sense. Also - I love bassoons.  I sat and held the softest, warmest little kit on my chest, watching this - and he watched too.  And it was great. Even if it *was* an ad for a bank.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Reading a paper about the significance, variety, and use of food in Anglo-Saxon England (though I believe in credit where do, I am not citing this as I'm about to be unnecessarily snarky), this sentence appeared:

"(T)he majority of Anglo-Saxons would have partaken in products from breweries, including children."

Of course, we all know what is MEANT here.  But we also know this is a gate, and it's wide open, and there are a bunch of jokes over there rushing through the open gate to escape smarty-pants writers (but archaeological amateurs) like me.

These jokes wouldn't be possible if the sentence said, "The majority of Anglo-Saxons, including children, would have ..." etc.

Hey, but feel free to "comment" your joke below!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Research Travel

Ahh, the dream of being able to actually go to those places I write about ...

Research and Coveting

Even when the research is over, sometimes you still go back - maybe, while editing, to be sure you got something right, or maybe to refine a point as you rewrite.  Whatever the case, there's always something new to be found, and not always for the book.

For instance - for my walls:

"Education of the Children of Clovis"  Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Comment Here ...

... on the pitch in the works.

The critique on the old pitch, which this is meant to addrss - Clovis isn't "in" this pitch, there's no sense of him and no immediacy.  I think the SBC have me on the right track, but

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bro Link

Because I am, at heart, essentially a fourteen-year-old boy in a lot of ways, my brother and I recently passed a good half hour or so giggling our hearts out about this.  Apparently, a completely unironic (and unaware ...) use of the phrase "Succulent Balls" - fun!

When Self Esteem = Cosmetic Surgery

This makes me heartsick for our "culture" and the children we inflict it upon.

“Beautiful” is bullshit, a standard created to make women into good consumers, too busy wallowing in self-loathing to notice that we’re second class citizens.

I can't even add further comment.  Just read the link, it says what it sets out to.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Olive You, British Cuisine

Archaeology is always interesting, but the conclusions we can reach about the LIFE led by those who left us its artifacts are the fascniating part.  I always have been a sucker for backstory.

In which the Brits were eating olives before the Romans were thought to have brought those treats up the Isles' way ... and a few more odd points of canine archaeology, as well.  (That last link might not be fun for the squeamish or tender-hearted, but a few sacrificial details in the first two probably make good indicators of its content.)


Perhaps the best Gossamer quote from Looney Toons is when Bugs distracts the monster by going into chatterbox mode, treating the giant as if he were a beauty parlor client and saying, "Such an INteresting monster deserves an INteresting hairdo!" and setting up a permanent wave with sticks of dynamite.

I don't let him do it consistently, but I have let Goss knead around on my head a couple times.  Today it just felt nice - I had a headache (hey, it must be high summer time), and he has velvet paws, my little boy.  Short one Mr. X to give me a proper head rub, I let the little guy do his kneading thing.

I came away with such an interesting hairdo.  It reminded me of the 80s swoop.


One of those things a certain stripe of middle-aged, middle-class white women like me are attached to - apart from the privilege of our position - is the privilege of our bodies.  For those of us not blessed with ill health and a fetish for the attention we are trained that may bring, there is an expectation of wholeness, even as the minor cracks and complaints of advancing age prove to us, really, how minor our physical quibbles really are.

Threaten that, and we wig out.

It's been a long time since I was a solitary spiritual fool, looking at the full moon and taking the Roman implications of my given name too seriously.  Still can't help but notice the big, golden thing is hanging out outside the window.  It's a good thing the praying for tonight has been farmed out to Mr. X.


Edited 8/3/2012:  Privilege intact.  One less lesson of humility to bother to learn.  Today.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


137,942.  I've hit a patch I already edited, so now am officially more than halfway through the MSS!  So.  Not a great dip in word count, BUT a nice piece of progress I'd like to celebrate.  There's a lot of need for celebration.