mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 I've been enjoying reading Catherine Horwood's Potted History: The Story of Plants in the Home.  Overall, I've learned a lot, although as usual there's a strong focus on the nobility and the middle classes, with the working class surfacing briefly for discussions of geraniums, florists' flowers, and charitable works.   By Chapter 12 on p.150 the author has visibly run out of steam, and begins rushing through the 20th century.  There's a paragraph on WWI from the perspective of an indoor-plant nursery, after which she claims that post-war middle-class homes switched their attention from indoor gardening to outdoor (males) and cut flowers (females).   I get that conservatories were Right Out, but Horwood claims that between WWI and WWII the only widespread houseplants were cactus and rubber-plant.   "These, said the Architectural Review in 1952, had become the clichés of the 1920s and 1930s as much as the aspidistra had been of the Victorian era."

This casts a new light on the enormous cactus in Busman's Honeymoon: it's surprisingly modern and chic for the crusty and cheap old bachelor who owned the house.

According to Horwood, other indoor plants returned to favor only when a fad was imported from Scandinavia in the late 1940s (with an assist from Constance Spry).

Does this seem plausible to you?  I get that plant fashions come and go, but the idea that for twenty-five-something years the plant-loving Britons grew nothing indoors but forced bulbs, cactus, and rubber-plant comes as a surprise.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
From "Night".

Night! the pulse of the great city lies still. The echo of hurrying feet has long since died away. Softly falls the moonlight on those quiet dwellings; yet, under those roofs are hearts that are throbbing and breaking with misery too hopeless for tears; forms bent before their time with crushing sorrow; lips that never smile, save when some mocking dream comes to render the morrow's waking tenfold more bitter. There, on a mother's faithful breast, calm and beautiful, lies the holy brow of infancy. Oh! could it but pass away thus, ere the bow of promise had ceased to span its future—ere that serenest sky be darkened with lowering clouds! ere that loving heart shall feel the death-pang of despair!

Note that I copied this extract from an 1888 book of French composition; this was a list of essays for students to translate into French . Suggested translations are included as footnotes: "Are hearts that are throbbing and breaking with misery too hopeless for tears = il y a des cœurs qui palpitent et qui sont brisés par des malheurs si grands qu'ils ne sont plus capables de faire couler les larmes. "
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
(Who was, by the way, a suffragist, and one of the founders of the first women's professional club in America.)


I HAVE never, in any temperance discussion, written or spoken, heard or seen any mention of this class of inebriates; and yet the drunkards on tea are just as surely sapping the foundations of life, as the devourers of whiskey or gin. That women only, or mostly, are the victims, does not lessen the importance of my statement. I say mostly, for I have in my recollection at least two literary men of note, who primed themselves on strong green tea, without sugar or milk, for any literary effort, when overtasked nature flagged. One of them became in consequence subject to distressing fits, and has since deceased.

But it is the women who practise this form of inebriation of whom I would now speak. The working-girls, the sempstresses, the tenders in shops, who, being able to pay but slender price for board, get badly-cooked, poor food, and, in consequence, often three times a day, call for the fatal "cup of tea," which, for the moment, "sets them up," as they call it, and enables them to shoulder again the load they have dropped, till another fit of exhaustion overtakes them, worse than the preceding, to be followed by a repetition of the same pro-tem. remedy. Then follow indigestion, headaches, sleepless nights, and the usual long train of miseries, which any physician who has ever been called upon to prescribe for these overworked, underfed unfortunates, will immediately endorse. Tea to the working-girl, taken in this way, is like the "corner-grocery-drink" to the working-man, and just as deadly in its results as if it sent her reeling through the streets, as rum does him; although she neither sees, knows, nor would admit it, any more than he would. Sometimes, when you speak to them about it, they reply, "But I must have something to keep me up; I have no appetite for food; I am so tired all the time, and tea makes me feel so good."

The old plea of the drunkard the world over. Look at these weary women, with dark circles about their eyes, nervous almost to insanity, ready to "cry" at the slightest notice, the blue veins on their temples looking as if they were painted outside the skin. Look at their long, thin, sick-looking fingers, and their slow, weary steps, from which all the spring and elasticity of youth has long since departed. See them swallowing "pills" by the dozen, and trying every quack medicine afloat, instead of resisting the enemy which has done all or two-thirds the mischief.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 I was noodling around, as one does, and I stumbled over the Google Book of the  1911 book, The Composition of Certain Patent and Proprietary Medicines.   It does what it says on the tin, and boy, howdy.  Some highlights:
  • Black Cloud Healing Mixture: Mercuric chloride 1 oz, oil of tar 1 gal, turpentine 1.5 oz, phenol 5 oz, wood alcohol 1 gal.  [Given the poisonousness of wood alcohol, this can't have been for internal consumption.  I'm guessing this might have been sold to treat syphilis chancres?  [personal profile] oursin  will know.]
  • Blue Bell Bright Sunshine Tablets: corn starch, zinc phosphid, nux vomica [the plant from which you get strychnine], cantharides [Spanish fly], glycerin, damiana, and arsenic more than 1 part per hundred thousand.
  • Boy's Friend: An antiseptic solution of zinc sulphate, boric acid, hydraxatin and lysol to be used as an injection.
  • (This one's for [personal profile] legionseagle ) Carbolic Smoke Balls,  small round balls wrapped in red cloth.  The balls contain 310 grams of a gray powder consisting of glycorrhiza (licorice), and flour, one of the veratrums (probably white hellebore),  and an unidentified tar product.
Over and over you see "medicines" containing morphine, cocaine, or opium; mercury, lead, or zinc compounds; prussic acid; colloidal silver; strychnine; all invariably (if liquid) borne on a sea of alcohol.   Then there are things I find just plain odd: beef and steel tonics, three different celery tonics that don't actually contain celery; and, of course, laxatives in everything, even products not marketed as laxatives.

Wouldn't it be nice if the FDA were allowed to regulate supplements again?

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 ... by which I mean Person A slipping something into Person B's food or drink; accidents, industrial problems, and medical murders are outside the scope of this essay.  

Classically, poisoning was seen as a woman's weapon; manly men just stabbed you or whapped you over the head or strangled you, as one does.   Poisoning was sneaky and evil because you didn't, however briefly, see it  coming.   For 17 years in the 16th century,  poisoning was prosecuted as high treason and earned you death by boiling.  (Presumably without arsenic or other additives.)   Anybody who reads Golden Age murders will be intimately familiar with the varying symptoms of arsenic, strychnine, digitalis, and various substances unknown to science -- the last being also outside our scope.

Nowadays you're much more likely to be shot (in the U.S.) or blunt/pointy/flammable objected (elsewhere) than poisoned.    This makes murder mystery authors sad.  What happened?
  1. Easy divorce
  2. Improved availability of contraception
  3. Physical mobility of the population
  4. Regulation of poisonous substances
  5. The birth of forensic medicine
For much of English and American history, most of the population were stuck wherever they were brought up.  In particular, many people lived in multi-family houses, with the resource-controlling ancestors, descendants, and a passel of babies all stuffed together under one roof.   If you couldn't stand your mother-in-law, too bad; she was going to be sneering at the dinner table until she passed on, and frankly she was healthier than you were.  If your husband was beating you or just driving you up a tree, too bad; "till death do us part" was pretty much the rule, unless you were male, very very wealthy, and able to buy a divorce.    If you kept having babies you couldn't feed, abortion was haphazard and depended on knowing the right people/plants.  

All of these problems were most easily solved by murder.  You couldn't move away; you couldn't divorce and remarry; you couldn't stop the babies coming.  (For babies, there was the bonus that you could insure them and collect the money.)  You were stuck with your family.   If female, you were at least supervising and very likely cooking the meals.  The solution was obvious.    The solution was made even more obvious when you consider that most households contained lethal substances for killing flies, rats, and weeds.   You would naturally keep arsenic around to solve these problems, as well as for cosmetic uses.   You got arsenic -- or strychnine, or prussic acid, or whatnot -- by strolling up to the apothecary and requesting it.   If questioned, you'd just explain that you wanted to get rid of rats; you would prudently not append "Like the one I married".

Irritant poisons, like arsenic, do nasty things to the digestive system, causing noxious substances to issue from both ends.   However, in a pre-sanitation age, people died of gastrointestinal ailments all the time.  If no doctor is called, or if the doctor isn't suspicious, there's no reason to think that the guy who just died was poisoned.  (Strychnine being a quite spectacular exception.)   Even if the servants or the doctor are suspicious, the only way to prove that the food was poisonous is -- if somebody saved the food or the fluids -- to feed them to an unfortunate animal, usually a dog.   

So, motive, means, and opportunity.   The authorities tried to give the poisonee (or his/her estate) a sporting chance by regulating the sale of certain poisons.  Arsenic had to be colored so that it was easily distinguishable from sugar or salt or whatever; people who bought certain poisons had to register at the place of purchase.   The major change, however, was  the invention of forensic testing; Wikipedia has a nice summary of the progress in detecting arsenic.  (Readers of Dorothy Sayers's Strong Poison will be  familiar with the Marsh test.)   Detecting arsenic and other inorganic chemical compounds happened fairly early; detection of strychnine, digitalis, and so on required substantial advances in chemistry.  As sanitation moved on, there were far fewer "gastroenteritis" deaths, and so poisonings were less-well camouflaged.   By the mid-19th century, at least in urban areas, poisoning somebody had a higher, if by no means absolute, risk of sending you to the gallows.

And now we come to mobility, divorce, and contraception.   Trains made it far easier for the middle classes to move from one city to another; labor migration to the cities made it easier to move from one house/apartment to another.  Again for the middle classes, the gradual loosening of divorce laws made it much more possible to get away from your horrible spouse.   And contraception  made it possible to prevent a crowded house before rather than after the birth.  Banning the insurance of infants removed a financial incentive. Put all these together, and it's much harder to write a cozy poisoning in 2015 than in 1925.

I highly, highly recommend Katherine D. Watson's Poisoned Lives: English Poisoners and Their Victims and Deborah Blum's The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York if you want to know more about the sociology of poison in the United Kingdom and the USA.

Comments containing corrections and recommendations for  further reading gleefully expected.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
I bought, for 99 cents, the 1984 edition (previous editions 1977, 1966, 1963) of Sunset Breads: Step-By-Step Techniques. I'm very glad to have it; it has the 1970s can-do attitude toward bread, rather than the 2014 "if you can't do it the way they did it in Breton village X, which I visited last week, why are you bothering?" attitude. It has recipes for kugelhof, Anadama date bread, anise bread, "Arab pocket bread", Armenian peda bread, and Armenian thin bread, and that's just the A's.

It also has this.
Mushroom Batter Bread

Look what mushroomed up for dinner—a savory batter bread, its fanciful shape announcing its surprise ingredient. Baked in a coffee can, the mushroom-flecked batter billows airily over a foil collar attached to the can rim.
After the bread is baked, you slice off the “cap” of the mushroom—you can cut it into thick wedges, and the “stem” into neat round slices. Either shape is delicious.

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 pound mushrooms, minced
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon each parsley flakes and instant minced onion
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water (about 110°)
2 3/4 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
Solid vegetable shortening

in a small frying pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are soft and all liquid has evaporated. Add milk, sugar, parsley flakes, instant minced onion, thyme, and garlic salt. Heat to 110°.

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add mushroom mixture to yeast mixture. Beat in 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the egg. Gradually beat in more flour (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups) to make a very heavy, stiff batter that is too sticky to knead. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (45 minutes to an hour).

While dough rises, prepare pan: Grease a 1-pound coffee can well. Fold an 18 by 22-inch piece of heavy-duty foil in half crosswise. Crumple in edges of foil to form an 8-inch diameter circle; crimp edges up to make a 1-inch-high rim.

I very much regret being unable to show you the picture of the coffee can,  garnished with a tin-foil wedge cantilevered out from the top opening to support the mushroom.

Grease foil with shortening and center the circle over the can opening. With scissors, punch a hole in center of foil, then cut from center to edges of can opening in several places to form triangular flaps. Remove foil from can. Grease foil between the two layers so flaps stick together; then grease all remaining surfaces of flaps. Place foil over top of can and press flaps down around inside of can (see illustration).
Press flaps of foil down around inside of can to secure collar.

After dough has risen, stir down, then spoon into prepared can; top of dough should hold flap tips against inside of can. Place can on a shallow baking pan for easier handling. Let rise in a warm place, uncovered, until mushroom cap measures about 7 1/2 inches across and is about 2 1/2 inches above top of can (30 to 45 minutes).

Bake on lowest rack in a preheated 350° oven for about 50 minutes or until well browned. Immediately remove from can, let cool for 5 minutes, and gently peel off foil collar.

To slice, cut off mushroom loaf’s stem near the cap, then slice individual pieces from cap or stem. Makes 1 loaf.
Hey, [personal profile] movingfinger , the book has a recipe for a braided bread whose individual strands are whole wheat, dark pumpernickel, and white dough.  Remember those?  For a while, I think it was the law  that no potluck could proceed without one of them.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
When my husband and I moved into our first house, my mother helped me unpack the kitchen. She insisted that we line the drawers and cabinet shelves with wax paper. I went along with this, because what did I know about housekeeping? The stated purpose was that when the cabinets became dirty, you could whisk out the wax paper and put in a new set, thus avoiding having to scrub the shelves. (Clean out the cabinets. Ahahahahaha.) Eventually the wax paper became tattered and we ripped it out, then put the glasses and dishes flat on the shelves like the sluttish housekeepers we are. That was the end of that. Three moves later, the dishes shamelessly flaunt their unsafe intimacy with the vinyl.
That’s the point. If your shelves are covered in vinyl, two things will never happen: the dishes won’t sink into the paint, and you won’t ever have to scrub painted (or otherwise) wood. Because of this, you won’t find shelf paper at -- I nearly said your five and dime -- Bed, Board, and Basket. (There are scented drawer liners, but they’re a feminine frippery rather than a necessity.)
painted cabinet with chrysanthemums I just bought an early 20th century music cabinet with slide-out shelves. I’m going to be using it to store fabric, so I decided to look up drawer liners on Ebay. While I was refining my search phrases,I stumbled into a world of wonderment: shelf edging.


redwork French kitchen utensils bluework Dutch boy Back when most kitchens had rows of open shelves, the shelf edges were a long blank space, and therefore an ideal canvas for decoration. At first ladies embroidered edgings (the first is German, the second French.)

The ingenious makers of paper lace saw a market and filled it (German again).Green German pressed-paper lace

End shelf nudism! At some point, the American Royledge company stepped in. Their innovation was shelf paper with an integrated edging. You put the paper in, then folded the edge down, killing two frills with one stone. ClickAmerica has more reproductions of Royledge ads. My suspicion is that shelf edgings were killed off by the ubiquity (at least in the U.S.) of kitchen cabinets.
 
I expect several of you to tell me that of course you line your shelves. However, how many of you clothe their edges?


In case, as usually happens, I have utterly messed up embedding, an imgur album (with bonus pictures!) follows. Edit: Ironically, Dreamwidth is breaking the imgur embed.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
That 'most precious relic' of Old English, the tedious Saxon romance of Beowulf, gives us some clues to the sleeping habits of a thousand years ago.

Lawrence Wright, Warm & Snug: The History of the Bed, 1962.

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
 To begin with, this is Not My Period;  I know nothing at all about 18th-century Scotland.   That means that most historical errors will whiz straight over my head, as will errors in dialect and setting.   These are the things that I did notice, and that annoyed me enough to annotate.  Entries are in  unpunctuated lower case, as I was pecking away tediously on the Kindle app.

"the runcible spoon had not been invented yet ..."
wtf does she think "runcible" means?

"he smashed the quivering trunk [of a cherry tree] several times more, causing a delirious shower of pale-pink petals to rain down upon his head"
a month ago they were picking cherries

"noticing details of my surroundings with a peculiar intensity: the small stained-glass inset over the bar, casting colored shadows over the ruffianly proprietor [innkeeper] and his wares,"
as if 

"a low-necked gown of heavy cream-colored satin, with a separate bodice that buttoned with dozens of tiny cloth-covered buttons, each embroidered with a gold fleur-de-lis.  The neckline and the belled sleeves were heavily ruched with lace, as was the embroidered overskirt of chocolate-brown velvet.   The innkeeper was half-buried in the petticoats he carried, his bristling whiskers barely visible over the foamy layers."
no nonon [Words failed me.]
 
"complete to white asters and yellow roses pinned in my hair"
not in 1745 [Note:  All yellow garden roses descend from rosa foetida and other Mideastern and Asian imports. Although rosa foetida was kept in botanical specimen gardens, 18th-century garden roses are -- duh -- rose-colored, in shades from pale pink to pink to cherry. I am also suspicious of asters blooming in midsummer, as they're a purple fall flower here, but it's a big ol' genus.]
 
[Claire and her Highlander are being married by a priest] "I take thee, Claire, to be my wife ..."  "... to love, honor and protect ..."
should be in Latin you moron

Tansy and eglantine had taken root in the cracks, and waved in precarious yellow flags against the stone
eglantine is a shrubby white rose 

bottles of ale that Jamie had thoughtfully lifted from the well in the inn yard as we left.
doubtful [surely at this period ale would be in casks in the cellar; no innkeeper would be bottling his own and leaving it unattended]

had already found the pile of starched handkerchiefs
?  [the one piece of body linen it's very uncomfortable to starch] 

slowly drew the knife in a semicircle under one breast.  The homespun came free and fell away with a flutter of white chemise, and my breast sprung out
stays [says it all, really]

[18th-century Scot]  "I don't run either, Sassenach," he said gruffly.  "Now, then.  What does 'fucking' mean?"
seriously?

There was one flower in the bouquet, a crushed primrose, whose thorny stem had pricked my thumb.
er, no.

[same Scot, of his older brother] "I thought he was God, or at least Christ."
heresy

argyle socks revealed.
I doubt it.   [socks weren't knitted in fancy patterns at this period, other than stripes and, for formal wear, clocks at the ankles.]

L'Grimoire d'le Comte St. Germain
de + le = du [Furthermore, you don't need to elide "le" in front of a hard consonant].

"Watercress,", he answered, voice slightly muffled by the leavers in his mouth.   He spat them out and applied them to my back. ... "How-how does it taste?" I asked, gulping back the sobs.  "Fair nasty," he replied laconically.
I quite like it myself.

[heroine is in the chapel of a French monastery] "I rose and got the Bible, bringing it back to the prie-dieu with me.   I was hardly the first person to have recourse to the sortes Virgilianae in time of confusion or trouble. ... "and he smote them with emerods, and they were very sore."  No doubt they were, I thought.   What in hell were emerods?  Try Psalms, instead.
English bible?  [WTF is the King James Bible, that emblem of Protestantism, doing in a French Catholic monastery chapel?]

But how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?  It's actually very more-ish, and I keep trying to figure out why.   For me, it's the sensual detail -- even when I'm jarred by details, the sights, scents, and textures are vividly conveyed.   The heroine is sharp-tongued, and not in an adorably feisty way; when she's cross, the people around her know it.   It's fun, mostly, being in her head.   It is actually more fun being in her head during the plot than during the sex scenes, which is saying something.  She's an interesting narrator.

Do I recommend it?  Well...

really really triggery rape stuff, I'm not kidding )

If you can get past that, and past the historical errors, and if you in general like sprawling novels with the occasional sex scene,  you'll probably have fun.  It is much, much more competently written than such best-selling id novels as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.   If you can, check your critical brain at the door.

 
Edit: Comments include discussion of the triggery bit.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Dr Clare Jackson of Cambridge University "argues that the Stuarts, more than any other, were Britain's defining royal family."  (That's the tagline of the show, on BBC Two's page.

[In the coming century, seven Stuarts will rule the three separate kingdoms of  over Scotland, England, and Ireland]  Through bloodshed and civil war, they will refashion them into the Great Britain that we know today.

Entirely by accident and in many cases against their will.

They are the first family of Great Britain.  They are ... the Stuarts.

I have no idea what that first sentence is supposed to mean.

“His distant cousin, the childless Queen Elizabeth”
 
HIS FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED.  Sigh, pause, open Google Docs window.
 
Today, we tend to take the modern kingdom of Great Britain for granted…
 
AHAHAHAHAHA referendum . (Note:  This series aired in January 2014.)
 
[at Berwick, James I and XI declares that Scots and English should become brothers] “That would require a leap of faith, and would require them to become more intimate with one another.”
 
Hey, I consider centuries of raiding, killing, and marrying each other pretty damn intimate.  Ask anybody on the Borders, or read the superb The Steel Bonnets by George Macdonald Fraser.
 
“but he was the first fully to confront confront the new religious tensions brought about by the Protestant Reformation”
 
That would be news to Mary, Queen of Scots, looking back on her long, mutually enjoyable relationship with John Knox.
 
“James was a wonderful wordsmith ... It must have been quite unnerving for the English MPs, after decades of taciturn Tudor rule, suddenly to have a Stewart king in their midst, engaged in a massive PR exercise.”
 
[insert Tilbury speech here]
 
“England’s Kings and Queens had a troubled past in Ireland.”
 
No shit, Sherlock.
 
“[Tyrone and Tyrconnell's] destination was  Spain, a Catholic superpower, but it was what  they left behind troubled James most: a power vacuum that stretched across the north of Ireland.
 
Because Spain had no history at all of supporting Catholic revolts.  no, no.  He just didn't want a power vacuum in Northern Ireland.
 
James set up a scheme to send loyal citizens from his other two realms to live in Ireland.  
 
Er… way to plaidwash.
 
They were given land, the land of the earls, and it was called plantation.  The land was also used by the native Irish population. who herded cattle and moved with the seasons.    [photos of an Irish cattle auction?!?!?]
 
!!!!!!  
 
...In the darkest, most impenetrable part of the Gaelic north, James knew he would need help.
 
...Ironically, during the early years of James’s reign, Ireland was more settled than it had been, or would be, for centuries.  James had done what previous English monarchs had failed to do: planted something stronger than army.  James had planted an idea.  The idea of loyalty.
 
I could quote much more of the narration about Ireland, but I’m losing the will to live.
 
“But why would someone give a suit of armor to a fourteen-year-old?”
Oh, I dunno, it's not as if kings had been doing it for centuries.

 
 
INTERRUPTION:  In my googling for examples, I was devastated to find out that the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Mass closed in 2013.   Aiiieee.
 
“[Prince Henry]  is a kingdom united, in flesh and blood, the first British prince.”
… I think his father might disagree with you.
 
“How would Charles convince?  How would he control?  If he was unable to speak properly?”
 
Like his father, you mean?  Whose not only had a speech impediment ("tongue too big for his mouth") but  whose habits  of spitting and drooling during speech you seem to have overlooked?
 
[in the context of Charles I's visit to Spain in the attempt to marry the Infanta] “This is Corpus Christi, … the body of Christ in the form of a communion wafer being paraded through the streets." [street shots of Corpus Christi in Spain] "In the 17th century,  it powerfully confirmed how central the Catholic religion was to Spanish identity.  And today, it seems as if little has changed.  It’s certainly like nothing I’VE ever witnessed before.”
... Don't get around much?
 
“Corpus Christi is a massive assault on the senses.”
...
 
“[Charles I]  controlled his church through bishops, and kept dissenting voices out.”
 
King James I and VI: If you aim at a Scottish presbytery, it agreeth as well with monarchy, as God and the devil. ... No bishop, no King!
 
"[the Kirk] had become a wellspring of Scottish identity since the departure of the Royal Court.  You might say it had become a law unto itself."
 
I’m assuming that the Royal Court whose departure you’re referring to was Mary, Queen of Scots heading off to France ?  
 
"[The National Covenant of Scotland]  To my mind, it was a traditional way of registering serious discontent.  A yellow card, if you like.  An invitation to Charles to reconsider his religious policy.  Charles, however, regarded it as an outrageous attack on his authority."

That would be the one that offered him conditional allegiance, as in ". And because we perceive that the quietness and stability of our religion and Kirk doth depend upon the safety and good behaviour of the King's Majesty, as upon a comfortable instrument of God's mercy granted to this country for the maintenance of His Kirk, and ministration of justice among us, we protest and promise with our hearts under the same oath, hand-writ, and pains, that we shall defend his person and authority with our goods, bodies, and lives..."
 
“The three kingdoms had been united under their first Stuart king.”
 
Er,  Ireland?  Seriously?
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Note: I'm linking to the Guardian rather than the New York Times because the G is not (yet) paywalled. 
George RR Martin has said that omitting scenes of rape and sexual violence from the epic Game of Thrones series "would have been fundamentally false and dishonest", as fans express mounting concerns about the graphic way certain scenes from Martin's novels have played out in the television adaptation.
...
But Martin told the New York Times that although his books are epic fantasy, they are based on history (the series is loosely inspired by the Wars of the Roses). And "rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day".
 
"To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too). Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good, and great evil," the author said.
 
History, according to Martin, is "written in blood", and although Westeros – the fictional continent where the series is set – is not "the Disneyland Middle Ages", it is "no darker nor more depraved than our own world".

Dear George R Fucking R Martin:

There is a lot of stuff in the past. Rape. Murder. Incest. Unkindness to children. We get that. You're writing a dark fantasy. We get that, too.  Nobody said -- not even once -- that your works, and the TV show derived from them, should never have a rape. I know that's a fun point to debate, because it's obviously wrong.

Let's look at what people are actually saying. They're saying "The TV show is adding rapes where rapes weren't before." They're saying "Rapes are being used as casual plot development". They're saying "When women are raped, the rape is shown from the male viewpoint, and staged to emphasize the women's bodies."   In short, they're making points about authorial choices.   Unlike you, they're making limited, targeted points.  This rape was gratuitous.   This rape was shot in a titillating way.

As many, many people have pointed out, Westeros may not be the Disneyland Middle Ages, but it's certainly not the real European Middle Ages.   No magic.   No years-long winters.   No fricking dragons.    That means that you are choosing, deliberately, to introduce elements incongruous with history.   Furthermore, you are picking and choosing elements from European history -- and Orientalism, but let's not go there -- as they suit your purposes as an author.   Don't present your choices as inevitable truths.   They aren't.   You've chosen  to use rape, in particular, as an  illustration of Things Being Bad and People Being Evil.    The TV series, in turn, has taken scenes in the book that were, at least, ambiguous, or didn't contain rape at all, and made them explicitly rapeful.   You choose where the authorial point of view focuses; the TV series chooses where the camera is pointed.   All of those choices spring from the culture you live in; they aren't some sort of Platonic self-creating ideal.  

We aren't overreacting when we criticize those particular choices as they occur, and when we notice culturally-driven patterns in those choices.   We are reacting.  Our analysis is just as valid, and just as appropriate, as the analyses of people who work out the ecological consequences of long winters, or the troop emplacements at the Battle of Blackwater.  We're fans.  We analyze things.  It's what we do.   

To drop down from the abstract plane, the TV series Game of Thrones uses women's naked bodies as interior decoration, in a way that it does not use men's naked bodies.   The TV series Game of Thrones uses rape as a plot device in ways that the source did not.  I, as a consumer, don't enjoy those parts of a series I otherwise enjoy.   I would rather have my raisin pie not be 15% moose turds.

On Making

Nov. 18th, 2013 09:43 am
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
If you have that sort of mind, making things is ridiculous fun. Taking a few ordinary materials and some post-industrial tools that you have bought at substantial expense and manipulating them into a useful object is entertaining, and when you're done you have a table, or a circuit, or a dress. You can get items customized to your own tastes without having to pay a fortune... as long as you don't cost in your own labor.

The catch is that, until you've spent years practicing the necessary skills and learning which materials suppliers have quality goods, the object you produce won't be as good as the ones created by either an industrial business or a custom maker. There are decades and centuries and in some cases millennia of expertise lying dormant in any created object. Much of the time, your sloppily welded, rough-sawn, lumpy-seamed object is good enough, and you can have fun looking at it and saying "I made it!" Somebody who works in the craft/industry you're emulating will look at the same object and see a macaroni drawing hung on the refrigerator.

I first noticed this when I worked in a company full of very, very bright engineers. Far too many of them were confident, by virtue of that brightness, that they could do anybody else's job. They knew more about kitchen logistics, or ingredient buying, or repairing sprinklers, or cleaning than the professionals -- because of the mathematical or mechanical (mostly) intelligence that had gotten them through the top schools. The truth is that anybody else's job looks easy until you watch them do it. I am always astonished when (with permission) I sit on the floor and watch what the electrician, the plumber, the carpenter are doing to my house. You need to know a lot of stuff about how a house is made to walk into any particular house and sort out its mechanical systems. Plumbing is like surgery -- knowing where the pipes are in a platonic object isn't the same as having your hands deep in the guts of a particular object.

Take me. I've been sewing for over forty years, off and on. Note the "off and on". I sew when I feel like it, when I have the spare time, when I'm not doing the job in which I have professional expertise. When I go to a class with serious costumers, I am always, always the last person to finish any step in the process. My finished garment or object is clumsier than those produced by the everyday seamstresses (sters), because I don't have the hundreds or thousands of hours of practice that they do. Their objects, in turn, seldom approach the highest standards reached by people hundreds of years ago who did nothing but hand-sew all day, every day. Very, very few can handspin a thread fine enough to match the Shetland or Orenburg spinners. Indeed, not that many can handspin a thread fine enough to weave. You cannot get linen approaching the finest quality produced in the 1600s, either handmade or machine-made. People who work in living history museums, when interviewed, always marvel at the skills they are imitating.

Another example of this is backyard farming. Animal shelters are starting to have a problem with abandoned urban chickens (note useful debunking). Why? Because eggs can contain either hens or roosters, and roosters are useful only as food. Straight-run hatchery chicks are less expensive than sexed chickens*, and backyard chicks have no guarantees at all. Finally, the maximum lifespan of a layer is years longer than the useful egg-producing period. Farmers solve this problem by killing unwanted chickens for the stewpot (historic) or fertilizer (modern). Many -- not all -- backyard farmers don't want to slaughter birds themselves, so off to the shelter they go. (I am very, very skeptical of the article's using Marin shelters to minimize this; Marin is its own little planet.)

Anybody keeping backyard goats quickly discovers that male goats are nasty creatures that not only stink but can cause your does' milk to be inedible. Again, the historical answer is roast kid or goat curry. This takes goatkeeping from the pleasantly pastoral to the ineluctably bloody. I haven't even touched on the thousands of nasty diseases chickens, goats, and pigs are not so much heir to as enthusiastic boarding-houses for. Similarly, free-range backyard eggs taste fabulous, but the downside is fighting predators that can't get into a closed battery house. Animal husbandry is a matter of both skill and luck, and no matter what scale you practice it on, there's a lot of unexpected death.

I love heirloom tomatoes. The hybrids don't, in general -- Early Girl is fabulous -- have as deep a flavor as the open-pollinated plants. Propaganda notwithstanding, the heirlooms in my garden are much more disease-prone than the VFNT** F1 hybrids.

Crafts are awesome. Making things is awesome. Growing things is awesome. But if creating something at home makes you undervalue the expertise and skill of people who do it on a commercial scale, you're doing it wrong.

* Yes, chicken sexing is a real skill, and an esoteric one. You try looking at a new-hatched chick's ass and figuring out which kind of cloaca it has.

** Huh. It isn't VFNT, any more; the toughest hybrids are now VFFNTA, which means resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, and alternaria leaf spot. How many beginning gardeners know to look for those letters?

This entry was originally posted at http://mme-hardy.dreamwidth.org/259510.html, with comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment there or here.

On Making

Nov. 18th, 2013 09:43 am
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
If you have that sort of mind, making things is ridiculous fun. Taking a few ordinary materials and some post-industrial tools that you have bought at substantial expense and manipulating them into a useful object is entertaining, and when you're done you have a table, or a circuit, or a dress. You can get items customized to your own tastes without having to pay a fortune... as long as you don't cost in your own labor.

The catch is that, until you've spent years practicing the necessary skills and learning which materials suppliers have quality goods, the object you produce won't be as good as the ones created by either an industrial business or a custom maker. There are decades and centuries and in some cases millennia of expertise lying dormant in any created object. Much of the time, your sloppily welded, rough-sawn, lumpy-seamed object is good enough, and you can have fun looking at it and saying "I made it!" Somebody who works in the craft/industry you're emulating will look at the same object and see a macaroni drawing hung on the refrigerator.

I first noticed this when I worked in a company full of very, very bright engineers. Far too many of them were confident, by virtue of that brightness, that they could do anybody else's job. They knew more about kitchen logistics, or ingredient buying, or repairing sprinklers, or cleaning than the professionals -- because of the mathematical or mechanical (mostly) intelligence that had gotten them through the top schools. The truth is that anybody else's job looks easy until you watch them do it. I am always astonished when (with permission) I sit on the floor and watch what the electrician, the plumber, the carpenter are doing to my house. You need to know a lot of stuff about how a house is made to walk into any particular house and sort out its mechanical systems. Plumbing is like surgery -- knowing where the pipes are in a platonic object isn't the same as having your hands deep in the guts of a particular object.

Take me. I've been sewing for over forty years, off and on. Note the "off and on". I sew when I feel like it, when I have the spare time, when I'm not doing the job in which I have professional expertise. When I go to a class with serious costumers, I am always, always the last person to finish any step in the process. My finished garment or object is clumsier than those produced by the everyday seamstresses (sters), because I don't have the hundreds or thousands of hours of practice that they do. Their objects, in turn, seldom approach the highest standards reached by people hundreds of years ago who did nothing but hand-sew all day, every day. People who work in living history museums, when interviewed, always marvel at the skills they are imitating. You cannot get linen approaching the finest quality produced in the 1600s, either handmade or machine-made. Very, very few can handspin a thread fine enough to match the Shetland or Orenburg spinners. Indeed, not that many can handspin a thread fine enough to weave.

Another example of this is backyard farming. Animal shelters are starting to have a problem with abandoned urban chickens (note useful debunking). Why? Because eggs can contain either hens or roosters, and roosters are useful only as food. Straight-run hatchery chicks are less expensive than sexed chickens*, and backyard chicks have no guarantees at all. Finally, the maximum lifespan of a layer is years longer than the useful egg-producing period. Farmers solve this problem by killing unwanted chickens for the stewpot (historic) or fertilizer (modern). Many -- not all -- backyard farmers don't want to slaughter birds themselves, so off to the shelter they go. (I am very, very skeptical of the article's using Marin shelters to minimize this; Marin is its own little planet.)

Anybody keeping backyard goats quickly discovers that male goats are nasty creatures that not only stink but can cause your does' milk to be inedible. Again, the historical answer is roast kid or goat curry. This takes goatkeeping from the pleasantly pastoral to the ineluctably bloody. I haven't even touched on the thousands of nasty diseases chickens, goats, and pigs are not so much heir to as enthusiastic boarding-houses for. Similarly, free-range backyard eggs taste fabulous, but the downside is fighting predators that can't get into a closed battery house. Animal husbandry is a matter of both skill and luck, and no matter what scale you practice it on, there's a lot of unexpected death.

I love heirloom tomatoes. The hybrids don't, in general -- Early Girl is fabulous -- have as deep a flavor as the open-pollinated plants. Propaganda notwithstanding, the heirlooms in my garden are much more disease-prone than the VFNT** F1 hybrids.

Crafts are awesome. Making things is awesome. Growing things is awesome. But if creating something at home makes you undervalue the expertise and skill of people who do it on a commercial scale, you're doing it wrong.

* Yes, chicken sexing is a real skill, and an esoteric one. You try looking at a new-hatched chick's ass and figuring out which kind of cloaca it has.

** Huh. It isn't VFNT, any more; the toughest hybrids are now VFFNTA, which means resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, and alternaria leaf spot. How many beginning gardeners know to look for those letters?

This entry was originally posted at http://mme-hardy.dreamwidth.org/259510.html, with comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment there or here.

On Making

Nov. 18th, 2013 09:43 am
mme_hardy: (angry)
If you have that sort of mind, making things is ridiculous fun. Taking a few ordinary materials and some post-industrial tools that you have bought at substantial expense and manipulating them into a useful object is entertaining, and when you're done you have a table, or a circuit, or a dress. You can get items customized to your own tastes without having to pay a fortune... as long as you don't cost in your own labor.

The catch is that, until you've spent years practicing the necessary skills and learning which materials suppliers have quality goods, the object you produce won't be as good as the ones created by either an industrial business or a custom maker. There are decades and centuries and in some cases millennia of expertise lying dormant in any created object. Much of the time, your sloppily welded, rough-sawn, lumpy-seamed object is good enough, and you can have fun looking at it and saying "I made it!" Somebody who works in the craft/industry you're emulating will look at the same object and see a macaroni drawing hung on the refrigerator.

I first noticed this when I worked in a company full of very, very bright engineers. Far too many of them were confident, by virtue of that brightness, that they could do anybody else's job. They knew more about kitchen logistics, or ingredient buying, or repairing sprinklers, or cleaning than the professionals -- because of the mathematical or mechanical (mostly) intelligence that had gotten them through the top schools. The truth is that anybody else's job looks easy until you watch them do it. I am always astonished when (with permission) I sit on the floor and watch what the electrician, the plumber, the carpenter are doing to my house. You need to know a lot of stuff about how a house is made to walk into any particular house and sort out its mechanical systems. Plumbing is like surgery -- knowing where the pipes are in a platonic object isn't the same as having your hands deep in the guts of a particular object.

Take me. I've been sewing for over forty years, off and on. Note the "off and on". I sew when I feel like it, when I have the spare time, when I'm not doing the job in which I have professional expertise. When I go to a class with serious costumers, I am always, always the last person to finish any step in the process. My finished garment or object is clumsier than those produced by the everyday seamstresses (sters), because I don't have the hundreds or thousands of hours of practice that they do. Their objects, in turn, seldom approach the highest standards reached by people hundreds of years ago who did nothing but hand-sew all day, every day. Very, very few can handspin a thread fine enough to match the Shetland or Orenburg spinners. Indeed, not that many can handspin a thread fine enough to weave. You cannot get linen approaching the finest quality produced in the 1600s, either handmade or machine-made. People who work in living history museums, when interviewed, always marvel at the skills they are imitating.

Another example of this is backyard farming. Animal shelters are starting to have a problem with abandoned urban chickens (note useful debunking). Why? Because eggs can contain either hens or roosters, and roosters are useful only as food. Straight-run hatchery chicks are less expensive than sexed chickens*, and backyard chicks have no guarantees at all. Finally, the maximum lifespan of a layer is years longer than the useful egg-producing period. Farmers solve this problem by killing unwanted chickens for the stewpot (historic) or fertilizer (modern). Many -- not all -- backyard farmers don't want to slaughter birds themselves, so off to the shelter they go. (I am very, very skeptical of the article's using Marin shelters to minimize this; Marin is its own little planet.)

Anybody keeping backyard goats quickly discovers that male goats are nasty creatures that not only stink but can cause your does' milk to be inedible. Again, the historical answer is roast kid or goat curry. This takes goatkeeping from the pleasantly pastoral to the ineluctably bloody. Free-range backyard eggs taste fabulous, but the downside is fighting predators that can't get into a closed battery house. I haven't even touched on the thousands of nasty diseases chickens, goats, and pigs are not so much heir to as enthusiastic boarding-houses for. Animal husbandry is a matter of both skill and luck, and no matter what scale you practice it on, there's a lot of unexpected death.

I love heirloom tomatoes. The hybrids don't, in general -- Early Girl is fabulous -- have as deep a flavor as the open-pollinated plants. Propaganda notwithstanding, the heirlooms in my garden are much more disease-prone than the VFNT** F1 hybrids.

Crafts are awesome. Making things is awesome. Growing things is awesome. But if creating something at home makes you undervalue the expertise and skill of people who do it on a commercial scale, you're doing it wrong.

* Yes, chicken sexing is a real skill, and an esoteric one. You try looking at a new-hatched chick's ass and figuring out which kind of cloaca it has.

** Huh. It isn't VFNT, any more; the toughest hybrids are now VFFNTA, which means resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, and alternaria leaf spot. How many beginning gardeners know to look for those letters?
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Anything in quotation marks is actual dialogue. I rewound this, er, tripe so this recap would be accurate for you and you and you.

I am not Cleolinda, nor was meant to be )

Summary: I'll probably be there, but I'll be ashamed of myself the whole time.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Labour-Saving Hints and Ideas.  A 1991 reprint; the original 1924 edition must have been a premium for Preservene Soap, judging by the number of references.
Household chemicals are used with blithe abandon:
  • 81.  Furniture reviver that removes dirt, grease, stains, etc. and is very cheap.  1 gill each turpentine, methylated spirits, vinegar and paraffin.  Mix well together in a bottle.  Shake the bottle well and apply with a soft rag.    Polish with soft duster.  It produces a splendid polish with very little labour.
  • 141.  To mend china.  White lead is excellent for repairing china.  Have the fractured edges clean and dry, then smear with a little of the white lead.  ... Allow at least a month to harden.  After this the repair will be complete, and the article can be washed in hot water without any risk.
  • 200.  To Clear a Room of Flies.  Tie a wine-glass, broken at the base of the stem to a light pole, long enough to reach the ceiling.  After sunset or in the early morning when the flies are asleep on the ceiling, hold the glass half full of methylated spirits under the flies.  The fumes will cause the flies to fall into the spirit, which kills them instantly.  The spirit can be poured off into a bottle and used over and over again.   A room can be cleared of flies in this way in two minutes.
  • 399.  To remove stains of any description.  Soak the article in a solution of "hypo", which is used for fixing photographs and which can be bought at any chemist's. ...
  • 1106 Rat Paste.  To destroy rats and mice, melt a pound of lard and stir into it half an ounce of phosphorus carefully.  When nearly cold, thicken with flour and spread the paste on small pieces of brown paper.  Lay them near the rat holes, where they will eat the paste greedily with fatal results.
  • 1167.  When dry cleaning anything with petrol, always use a second bath of petrol for rinsing.  The operation is called dry cleaning because no water is used.
  • 1340 To Repair Iron Saucepans.   ... Here is a way for your good man to mend them.  Buy some fine black lead and sulphur, put sulphur in an old iron pot; place on stove to melt (use two parts of sulphur to one of blacklead).   When sulphur is melted, add blacklead and mix gently.  Then our on an iron plate and leave to cool and harden.  Break off a piece of this cement, put it on the cracked part of pan and solder with hot soldering iron.
Household tasks that are gone forever:
  • 85.  Use a Grater for Preservene.  [remember, the soap]  The quickest and best way to shave up preservene is to get an ordinary grater and use your suet side.  It is thereby done beautifully fine in a minute and dissolves at once.
  • 144.  To save coal.   Half a teaspoonful of slatpetre mixed in half a cupful of warm water and poured on a scuttle of coal will induce a brighter fire and make the coal last longer.   Also, a good handful of ordinary washing soda dissolved in half a bucket of warm water, thrown over a hundredweight of coal and allowed to dry, will make the coal last half as long again.  MIx some coal dust and clay together with water, finally covering the mixture with coal dust.  Make it up into round balls to fit your stove; they will keep your fire in, give out a good heat, and will effect a saving in your coal bill.
  • 1169.  Before Spring Cleaning.  Before commencing spring cleaning operations, go through the house and take stock of all brass bedsteads, fireirons, fenders, etc. which have become shabby, and send them away to be re-lacquered.   Not only will they be out of the way during the annual upheaval, but they will be much better fitted to take their place in the scheme of things when everything gets back to its own place again.
  • 1315.  Another use for Tea-Leaves.  Tea leaves should be kept for sprinkling among the ashes when cleaning up a grate.  It will be found that they allay the dust.
  • 1329.  To Clean a White Sunshade.  Make a good lather with hot water and preservene soap and dissolve a little pipeclay in it.  Rub all over the sunshade well, and when dry, it will look like new.

Mysteries:
  • 270.  A Novel Way of Heating an Invalid's Room.  Put a block of salt in the grate; pour on as much paraffin as it will absorb; set a match to it, and a steady clear glow is the result.  The salt must be moistened every night.  It will gradualy wear away and want replacing in about three weeks.  You have a warm bedroom with very little trouble and no dust or dirt.
  • 1206.  A Neck Bleach.   As the neck easily gets discoloured, a good bleach can be made by taking equal parts of glycerine and lemon-juice and mixing together.   Add a few drops of any desired perfume and apply the bleach at night before retiring.   Wash off with warm water next morning, and if this is repeated two or three times the neck will become quite white.

Hints that are still relevant:
  • 1128.  In the Nursery.   When reading stories to children insert their own names for those in the story, it will interest them and keep their attention.
  • 1273.  For stitching Ninon and Crepe de Chine.  When machine-stitching ninon and crepe de chine, place thin white tissue paper underneath and remove after stitching.  [This hint appears repeatedly.]
  • 1293.  Never try to dye an article a lighter shade than the original.
Vanished conveniences:
  • A Slate Meat Safe.  Always stone cold and easily cleaned, the newest safes are made entirely of stone slabs, with polished doors and gauze.  These safes cost from 39s. to 149s. but they are, of course, built to last a lifetime.
  • Whalebone Brooms outlast at least two ordinary brooms.  They are not more expensive to buy.   Whalebone brooms have been in use for many years of course, but they are still the very best kind of broom.  Whalebone, as most housewives  knnow, is like no other substance in existence, natural or manufactured.  Nothing else combines flexibility, resilience, strength and long wearing qualities to the same degree.  That is why we recommend their use in the modern home.
There was a hint that I've lost on making cheap stair rods by buying "ordinary school canes", cutting the looped end off, and painting them gold.

The instructions on your wash day run to ten pages, and remind you just how hideous a task washing was before the invention of machines.  


mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
This came up on QI a couple of weeks ago, and I've been turning it over ever since.  QI had details; I have only an imprecise memory of the story.

It turns out that there were very few years in 19th-century England with white Christmases. The Little Ice Age was ending.   The final big cold spell was in the 'teens.  The last Frost Fair, when the Thames froze so hard you could hold a party on it, was in 1814.  (The Thames Embankment and the new London Bridge had a lot to do with this.)   Eighteen-hundred-and-froze-to-death, the Year without a Summer caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora, was in 1816.  In all, there were seven consecutive years in the teens with white Christmases... and nearly none thereafter.

Why is the popular image of Victorian Christmas full of snow snow,  when in fact snow on Christmas was rare?    Because Charles Dickens, born 1812, was a little boy in the teens.   His childhood Christmases were white, and so were the Christmas annuals he wrote in the mid-1800s, when the snows had  gone.

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