Monday, April 29, 2013

A List of Toxic Materials That Humans Have Used As Makeup

  • Malachite (ancient Egypt, used for eye makeup)
  • Antimony (used mainly to make kohl)
  • Dung (used terrifyingly often, mostly for complexion creams)
  • Arsenic (used for whitening creams, mostly)
  • Sodium bicarbonate (the ancient Romans ate it to sweeten their breath)
  • Acidic juice (this wouldn't be bad except women in 1600s Europe used it for EYE RINSES)
  • Bleeding (this isn't a toxic material technically but you guys, women would actually bleed themselves in order to look paler, I just want everyone to know this and to laugh hysterically the next time you see a tanning salon making money hand over fist)
  • Nightshade (drops of it in your eyes give you a dreamy look... because it's a hallucinogenic. Also, poisonous)
  • Mercury (used terrifyingly often for eye-liner, mascara, and lipstick)
  • Aniline (used for eyelash dye in the US in the early 1900s)
  • Lead (used by EVERYONE, used for EVERYTHING)

P.S. The hilarious thing about lead is that dating back to the time of the Ancient Romans, everyone KNEW that lead was toxic. They just used it anyway, because "live fast, die pretty" is by no means a new concept to the world.

10 Simple Rules For Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

I don't think I'm going to rock anyone's world when I tell you that people are freaking obsessed with zombies.

Personally I'm not... a huge fan? I'm not a big fan of horror in general and even if I was, zombies aren't much of a fright button for me because clumsy metaphors usually don't terrify me! I get it, I get it, ravening hordes, mall rats, pop culture, etc.

And yet, a list of zombie media I have consumed, to date:
Ashes by Ilsa Bick
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
The Forest of Hands and Teeth series by Carrie Ryan
I Am Legend (whatevs it totally counts)
The Gathering Dead by Stephen Knight
Shaun of the Dead
Resident Evil

So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm a hypocrite. Or possibly that zombies are so ubiquitous in our culture that it's very difficult to completely avoid them. I mean, when the actual government of your country starts a zombie preparedness blog, you know there's no escape. Oh and the UK government did it too. Right now one of the most popular shows on TV is The Walking Dead, which just ended its third season and will begin its fourth season in October 2013.

In honor of the fact that apparently you truly cannot escape the ravening hordes, this is a list of MY top zombie advice. In the case of an actual zombie apocalypse ever occurring (and none of this namby-pamby "we beat back the hordes after a few months" business, I mean THE WORLD IS OVER kind of zombie apocalypse), follow these rules and you may live a little longer!

1. Okay so electricity and utilities are gonna die out real quick since all the people that usually make those things work are going to be busy either running or getting their brains eaten. Therefore, make hay while the sun shines! Get on the internet (in a safe location) and print out tons and tons of info about survival and edible plants and siphoning gas. Just go to Pinterest and type in "wilderness", you'll be fine.

2. When the internet goes out, get thee to a library and steal anything a) useful and b) small. Plant guides, farming guides, MAPS, medical textbooks, basic guides to other languages.

3. Then go to a wilderness supply store and take a really warm sleeping bag, ammonia tablets, a camelback, a good knife, a radio, a GPS, batteries, the equipment for making fire, a good pot, rope, and every single granola bar in the place. Oh, and a backpack to put it in, obviously.

4. Steal either a motorcycle or a Honda and siphon the gas out of every abandoned car you find.

5. Do. Not. Talk. To. Strangers. Are you crazy?

6. Do pick up a stray dog. Unless you're Will Smith, having a dog will almost always work out for you.

7. Boil your water. All of it. No unboiled water for you. Or me. Or anyone.

8. Leather is harder to bite through so wear leather but c'mon guys, the goal here is to STAY AWAY FROM ZOMBIES. Do not go near enough to get bitten! Head for the hills and DO NOT COME BACK FROM THE HILLS FOR AT LEAST THREE MONTHS.

9. If you're being chased always head toward the main level rather than up so you don't get cornered but SERIOUSLY GUYS WHAT DID I TELL YOU THE POINT OF THIS IS TO NOT EVER GET CLOSE ENOUGH TO GET CHASED. ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME.

10. Pencil and paper or berries and rocks, any kind of art that helps you remember your humanity is great as long as it doesn't make noise. Be quiet, good grief.

And those are my tips for surviving the highly unlikely and highly metaphorical zombie apocalypse! In case of emergency, break glass.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Not Every Moment Is A Teachable Moment

A lot of the time when something crappy happens to creative types (writers, painters, underwater basket weavers...) people will try to turn it into a positive by saying, "At least you can use this in your art."

While it's well meant and I always just smile and shrug or something, the truth is, sometimes a crappy thing is just a crappy thing. Not everything is useful for art. In fact, a lot of the time it just drains you. I'm sure there are people out there who need to suffer for their art, but I'm not one of them. 

So that's all this blog is. No moral, no big realization about life. Life's like that - sometimes you don't get a conclusion. Or a purpose. Sometimes things just are what they are.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Top Five Historical Couples: Day 5

1. Justinian and Theodora

This one is a little difficult to talk about because it takes place in the Byzantine empire between about 500 and 550BC. There are a few different sources, all of which contradict each other to some extent, and if I try to cover all the discrepancies we'll all be here until the next Ice Age. So! I'm going to give you a rough outline of supported facts and if you want to sort out what's up for debate, you can look into it further yourself.

Theodora was the daughter of a bear trainer (awesome) and an actress. She followed in her mother's footsteps and became an actress in Constantinople. Back in the day acting was seen as a highly disreputable career because a lot of the things acted out were sexual, and actresses doubled as prostitutes - but ones that didn't owe any allegiance to brothels and pimps, so they were more independent and better off.

When she was 16, Theodora traveled to North Africa. She settled in Alexandria for a time and converted to Christianity. When she returned to Constantinople she gave up acting and settled down as a wool spinner. She drew attention anyway - Theodora was known for her charm, wit, and likability. Somehow, she drew the attention of Justinian (heir to Emperor Justin I) and captivated him.

Justinian and his court
Justinian was another larger than life character, but although he usually was denied nothing, Empress Euphemia was absolutely against him marrying a common actress, and since there was a law against royalty marrying actresses at the time (seriously, Emperor Constantine made this a thing back in the day), he could do nothing.

Three years later Euphemia died and Justinian was as in love with Theodora as ever. So Emperor Justin I repealed the law, and the two were married. Theodora had an illegitimate daughter that may or may not have been his, but Justinian always treated the daughter as his own.

In 532 BC the Nika revolt occurred between two rival political factions named the Blues and Greens (because Romans, like sports fans, need easy identification of their teams). When the government was unable to quell the mob, they prepared to flee.

Theodora stepped up at the council and gave an impassioned speech, reminding the rulers that the people knew the difference between a government that was willing to stand and fight and one that would run away to exile. She told them that "purple makes a fine shroud", and also to stop being such wimps.

Her powerful speech swayed the council and saved Justinian's empire. He never forgot it.

Under Justinian and Theodora, Constantinople became the greatest city the world had seen up until that point. They focused on rebuilding aqueducts, bridges, and churches, and instituted social reforms that focused on equality. One of Theodora's proteges was a eunuch who became a great general later in life. She was the force behind a number of increases in women's rights, closed brothels, and banned forced prostitution. She forbade "exposing" unwanted babies to the elements, instituted the death penalty for rape, banned the death penalty for female adulterers, gave mothers guardianship rights over their children, and expanded women's rights in property ownership and divorce. She also founded a convent where ex-prostitutes could go to find work to support themselves.

Theodora and her court
When Theodora died in 548, Justinian is said to have wept bitterly at her funeral. What we know is that he loved her so much that he maintained her social reforms and expanded upon them. And he never married again; never sired any more children. It's impossible to prove, but as far as we know he never took another lover.

Not all Romeo and Juliet cases end in tragedy. Some end in the establishment of an empire a thousand years ahead of its time. And that is my top historical couple.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


In all caps so you can see what an auspicious occasion this is.

This is the post where all the inspiration goes. Here are the rules! (They're really more like guidelines. Actually, they're not  rules at all, they're just telling you where to put stuff.)

1. Poems, excerpts of prose, etc, go in the comments.

2. Blogspot rules with an iron fist and does not allow pictures in comments. Boo, hiss, etc. However! If you will look to the top right of this page, you will see a square with pretty pictures in it! If you click on it, you can upload photos to it and you do NOT need an account to do so. If the space fills up, tell me and I'll make another album.

3. Please attribute your stuff, or tell me if its source is lost to the mists of time, so I don't spend half my life trying to search for the source myself.

4. If you want to link to music we're all SOL and you will have to just leave a dead link that we can all copy and paste into our browsers like cavemen. Cavemen with internet access.

And that is all! Post away!

To start us off I'll post one of my favorites - actually, it's where the name of this blog came from.

As I Walked Out One Evening

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
"Love has no ending.

I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world."

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
"O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.

O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.

The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

O look, look in the mirror?
O look at your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbor
With your crooked heart."

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

My taste in art isn't particularly striking or diverse; I just like pretty things. And The Accolade by Edmund Leighton is undeniably pretty:

The Accolade by Edmund Leighton, 1901
I also ADORE J.C. Leyendecker; I actually own two framed illustrations of his.

Magazine illustration circa early 1900 by J.C. Leyendecker
So - hit me with your best shot! (Fire away?)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Top Five Historical Couples: Day 4

2. Anne Neville and Richard III

Richard III and Anne were childhood friends due to her father. Richard Neville (yeah, there were like three names total used for about 600 years, so get used to it) was the most powerful supporter of the house of York and known as the "Kingmaker". Richard III, as the third son of the York line, was important enough to be Richard Neville's squire, but not near enough the throne to be out of reach as a marriage match. The two children spent a lot of time together at Anne's home, Middleham Castle, and in 1470 they were betrothed.

But then Richard Neville switched sides. He allied himself with the Lancastrians and Anne was married  to Edward of Westminister, the son of the Lancaster house. However, the marriage was never consumated and Edward was quickly killed on the battlefield.

We know that George Clarence - Richard III's brother - was married to her sister Isabel, and took Anne on as his ward. But George wasn't exactly known for his good life choices. He was greedy and foolish, and on no authority whatsoever denied Richard III the right to Anne's hand in order to keep his hold over the whole of the Neville fortune and lands.

Anne wrote to every royal that she could think of, but nobody would help her - George was the third son of the king and Richard III was the very last son, after all.

so hawt
What happened next is an odd bit of history and subject to much debate. We know that Anne disappeared from George's clutches somehow and found her way to Richard again. But how that happened exactly is unknown. My favorite version of the story is the one where George, fearing that Anne (and her fortune) would be taken from him, sent her to work as a servant in a London cookshop, where nobody would believe her story of being a noble lady. Richard III sent his men into the city looking for any word of Anne, tracked her down, and saved her.

No matter how it happened, on 12th July 1472, Anne and Richard III were finally married at Westminster Abbey. Richard ceded a number of Anne's lands to George simply to make things smoother, but he kept one land that was important to Anne: Middleham. The two of them moved back to their childhood home and settled there. And sometime in 1473, their only son Edward (ANOTHER ONE) was born.

In April 1483, Richard III's brother Edward IV died, leaving Richard III as Lord Protectorate to his two sons and heirs. But in June of that year the two boys were declared illegitimate as a result of the country's hatred for Elizabeth Woodville, the late Edward IV's widow, making Richard III... king.

These were turbulent times where kings died as easily as they came to power, and given their move out to the country estate of Middleham, it seems likely that Richard III had no desire to be king. He'd certainly always been more than loyal to his family before and shown no signs of any hunger for power. But now they had no choice - Richard III was king, and had to do his duty.

A contemporary image of the couple. Why he's standing on a pig
I do not know and cannot tell you.
Queenship held little joy for Anne. She was crowned in 1483, and their son died suddenly in 1484. Afterward, Anne adopted Edward, Earl of Warrick, her sister's orphan (YET ANOTHER ONE). The boy was described as "simple-minded" but Richard III made him heir presumptive, apparently solely for Anne's sake, because as soon as Anne died he named a different heir.

Anne died in March 1485 in Westminster, most likely from tuberculosis. There were vicious rumors that Richard III had her poisoned in order to marry Elizabeth of York, but that appears not to have been the case since he, you know, didn't.

Richard III was said to have wept at Anne's funeral, but he wasn't parted from his love for long - only four months after her death, Richard III became the last English king to die on the battlefield.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Five Historical Couples: Day 3

3. Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal

In 1631 Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, died during childbirth. Shah Jahan was devastated. He vowed to build a monument so grand that the world would never forget her. The next year he began construction on this:

Shah Jahan wrote of the Taj Mahal:
Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory
I know starting from the end may be in slightly bad taste, but in this case, how can you not?

There's something of a Rachel and Leah flavor to this couple's story. Anjumand Banu was born in Agra to a family of the Persian nobility. At 14 she was betrothed to Shah Jahan, but the wedding was delayed for... reasons... (the court astrologers took five years to decide on an auspicious date) and Shah Jahan was pressed to marry two other women in the meantime. When Shah Jahan and Anjumand Banu were finally allowed to wed, he gave her the name Mumtaz Mahal, meaning "Chosen One of the Palace".

File:Mumtaz Mahal.jpg
A Mughal painting of Mumtaz Mahal circa 17th century
As the court chronicler wrote:
The other wives had nothing more than the status of marriage. The intimacy, deep affection, attention and favour which His Majesty had for the Cradle of Excellence (Mumtaz) exceeded by a thousand times what he felt for any other.
Shah Jahan appears to have done his duty and sired the appropriate one child each with both other wives, and that was all. In contrast, Mumtaz Mahal had fourteen children, one of whom was the celebrated poet Roshanara Begum - a woman who never married and was known as the brilliant mastermind behind her brother Aurangazeb's ascension to the throne.

Mumtaz Mahal was so trusted by Shah Jahan that he gave her the imperial seal, the Muhr Uzah. She was involved in commissioning architecture in Agra and helped the poor. She also always traveled with Shah Jahan, even on his military campaigns.

When Mumtaz Mahal died, Shah Jahan went into mourning for a year and declared that she would never be forgotten. He appears to have been correct.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Show Me The Pretty

... or anything that catches your fancy, really.

On Thursday, my dear bloggees, we are going to have an INSPIRATION POST! And I want you to contribute, because you know about beautiful things that I don't. I'll be posting too, but there are more people in the world and more knowledge than I possess in my onesie.

So bring poems, links to music videos, pictures, quotes, bits of wonderfully crafted prose, anything. Anything that inspires you is welcome. I want to create a post that I (and hopefully other people) can look back at during those days where the muse crosses her arms, cants her hip, and narrows her eyes at me.

See you Thursday!

This is Ugly Shark, ugliest of all the pottery sharks.
I hope you find him suitably inspiring.

Poetry and Statistics

Textbook Statistics by Arkaye Kierulf

On average, 5 people are born every second and 1.78 die.
So we’re ahead by 3.22, which is good, I think.

The average person will spend two weeks in his life
waiting for the traffic light to change.

Pubescent girls wait two to four years
for the tender lumps under their nipples to grow.

So the average adult has over 1,460 dreams a year,
laughs 15 times a day. Children, 385 more times.

So the average male adult mates 2,580 times with five different people
but falls in love only twice in his life—possibly

with the same person. Seventy-nine long years for each of us,
awakened to love in our twenties, so more or less

thirty years to love our two lovers each. And if, in a lifetime,
one walks a total of 13,640 miles by increments,

Where are you headed, traveler?
is a valid philosophical question to pose to a man, I think, along with

Why does the blood in your veins travel endlessly?
on account of those red cells flowing night and day

through the traffic of the blood vessels, which if laid out
in a straight line would be over 90,000 miles long.

The great Nile River in Egypt is 4,180 miles long.
The great circle of the earth’s equator is 24,903 miles.

Dividing this green earth among all of us
gives a hundred square feet of living space to each,

but our brains take only one square foot of it,
along with the 29 bones of the skull, so

if you look outside your window with your mind only,
why do you hear the housefly hum middle octave, key of F?

If you listen to the cat on the rug by the fire with
the 32 muscles in your ear, you will hear

100 different vocal sounds. Listen to the dog
wishing for your love: 10 different sounds.

If you think loneliness is beyond calculation,
think of the mole digging a tunnel underground

ninety-eight miles long to China
in one single night. If you think beauty escapes you

or your entire genealogical tree, consider the slug
with its four uneven noses, or the chameleon shifting colors

under an arbitrary light. Think of the deepest point
in the deepest ocean, the Marianas Trench in the Pacific,

do you think anyone’s sadness can be deeper? In 1681,
the last dodo bird died. In the 16th century,

Queen Elizabeth suffered from a fear of roses.
Anne Boleyn had six fingers. People fall in love

twice. The human heart beats 3 billion times — only — in a lifetime.
If you attempt to count all the stars in the galaxy, one

every second, it’ll take 3 thousand years, if you’re lucky.
As owls are the only birds that can see the color blue

the ocean is bluish, along with the sky and the eyes
of that boy who died alone by that little unnamed river

in your dreams one blue night of the war
of one of your lives. (Do you remember which one?)

Duration of World War 1: four years, 3 months, 14 days.
Duration of an equatorial sunset: 128 seconds, 142 tops.

A neuron’s impulse takes 1/1000 of a second,
a morning’s commute from Prospect Expressway

to the Brooklyn Bridge, about 90 minutes,
forty-five without traffic.

Time it takes for a flower to wilt after it’s cut from the stem: five days.
Time left our sun before it runs out of light: five billion years.

Hence the number of happy citizens under the red glow
of that sun: maybe 50% of us, 50% on good days, tops.

Number who are sad: maybe 70% on the good days—
especially on the good days. (The first emotion’s more intense, I think,

when caught up with the second.) So children grow faster in the summer,
their bright blue bodies expanding. The ocean, after all, is blue

which is why the sky now outside your window is bluish
expanding with the white of something beautiful, like clouds.

Fact: The world is a beautiful place—once in a while.
Another fact: We fall in love twice. Maybe more, if we’re lucky.

Top Five Historical Couples: Day 2

4. Suleiman the Magnificant and Roxelana the harem girl

During the height of the Ottoman Empire, the sultans did not marry. There were several reasons for this - one was simply that a harem meant MOAR BABEEES, one was the elimination of a vulnerability in war if a wife was captured, and one was basically an "up yours" to all the other noble houses and their eligible daughters who weren't considered good enough for royalty.

When Suleiman met Roxelana, everything changed.

A 16th-century portrait of Roxelana
Roxelana was a Polish woman captured by slave traders and sold in the Istanbul markets. She was selected for the sultan's harem and quickly rose to prominence. A catfight erupted between her and Mahidevren, the sultan's previous favorite of over ten years and mother to the royal heir. Suleiman was so angered by the beating Roxelana received that he sent Mahidevren away to live with her son and never touched her (or any other woman) again.

After her rival's exile, Roxelana became the haseki, aka the favorite. She asked to be instructed in the ways of Islam, and then decided to convert. Suleiman was happy about this and gave Roxelana her freedom. However, now that Roxelana was free and a converted Muslim, she told Suleiman that she was no longer able to have a relationship with him when they weren't married.

Suleiman the Magnificent suffering le royal blue balls
in a 16th-century Ottoman miniature.
Suleiman held out for all of three days and then married her. This was the first royal marriage in over 200 years.

Hürrem Haseki Sultan, as Roxelana came to be called, was part of the Sultanate of Women, the 130-year-long period during the 16th and 17th centuries of the Ottoman Empire where woman drove the course of history. Much of this was due to the turbulent nature of the times - when boy sultans were on the throne, their mothers would rule in their stead. But a few canny women like Roxelana ruled through their masters and husbands.

A letter of state written by Roxelana to Polish king
Sigismund II Augustus congratulating him on
his ascension to the throne.
It's hard to know what Roxelana really felt for Suleiman - after all, he bought her from slavers and used her for his pleasure. However, it's important to keep in mind that while this sounds beyond horrific to our modern sensibilities, this sort of thing was normal (if not pleasant) back then. It may have been that Roxelana could find it in her heart to love her captor.

Whatever the case, it is clear that Suleiman desperately loved Roxelana. Suleiman wrote Roxelana this poem and signed it "Muhibbi", meaning "sweetheart":
Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan, my one and only love.
The most beautiful among the beautiful...
My springtime, my merry faced love, my daytime, my sweetheart, laughing leaf...
My plants, my sweet, my rose, the one only who does not distress me in this world...
My Constantinople, my Caraman, the earth of my Anatolia
My Badakhshan, my Baghdad and Khorasan
My woman of the beautiful hair, my love of the slanted brow, my love of eyes full of mischief...
I'll sing your praises always
I, lover of the tormented heart, Muhibbi of the eyes full of tears, I am happy.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Top Five Historical Couples: Day 1

5. Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley. 

ay bay bay
Sure, they were never married (he married someone else - twice, and she refused to marry anyone) and there's no historical confirmation that they were ever technically romantically involved, but their emotional affair was so well known that it still lives on to this day.

What's interesting about Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Leicester is that they went through so many ups and downs in their 50-year-long relationship. They likely met as prisoners in the Tower of London, both holding their breath and hoping to avoid execution before Mary the Bloody died.

As soon as Elizabeth became Queen in 1558, she appointed Robert her Master of the Horse - literally, on the same day. There are hundreds of letters from various ambassadors telling their masters and mistresses about Elizabeth's love for her Knight of the Garter, who she gave as many favors and riches to as possible.

However, Robert was already married to Amy Robsart, so the two could not wed. Or... could they? Robert saw Amy for four days during the whole of 1559, and on a quiet afternoon in September, she was found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs.

The court was in a quiet uproar. Everyone knew that Elizabeth would marry Robert now that he was free, but it was a scandal. It would make both of them look like murderers.

And then... they didn't. In fact, Elizabeth didn't marry anyone.

In some ways, it's remarkable that Elizabeth and Robert stayed as close as they did, especially when you consider the death of Elizabeth's mother. Anne Boleyn was beheaded by her husband on trumped-up charges because the man wished to marry someone else. Seeing a parallel? And years later, when Robert Dudley married the beautiful and intelligent Lettice Knollys, it was shortly after her late husband's death of dysentery... all the symptoms of which could also be caused by poison.

Robert screwed up a lot. Elizabeth reeeeaaaallly hated Lettice, dubbing the woman "the she-wolf" and disallowing her from court. He also had some dabblings in politics and war, most of which ended disastrously, one of which included him declaring himself King of the Netherlands. Elizabeth told him to shut the hell up, give the Netherlands back, and come home. He was also frequently in debt, which Elizabeth invariably forgave on behalf of the throne.

It's clear that Robert was a charming but power-hungry man who was often in over his head. And yet, Elizabeth undeniably loved him anyway. Throughout both of their lives they were as close as it was possible for two people in their position to be. It's very clear in their letters and actions that there was a huge amount of genuine affection between them, made all the more remarkable by the fact that they were two ruthless people obsessed with power.

A letter from the Queen to the Earl of Leicester,
referring to him as "her sweet Robert". One of
her nicknames for Robert was "my eyes", and
he would often dot the double o's in his letters
so they looked like eyes.

Friday, April 19, 2013

In which I have unpopular opinions

First, during the Boston Marathon bombings, people were uploading graphic pictures of victims. And now, during the manhunt for suspects, people are plastering up pictures of the dead body of a suspect.

I think looking at these photos makes some internet vigilantes feel "tough". Other, slightly more reasonable people, seem to feel that seeing the damage in glorious hi-def color will make it more "real", whatever that means.

Here's the thing. Seeing a picture of an injured or dead body does not in any way resemble seeing these things in real life. Even if it did, so what? If you honestly need to see a picture of a bombing victim in order to realize that bombings are bad, then I think you're beyond help. And if you're not a member of law enforcement, you do not personally need visual evidence that a suspect is dead.

Not only that, but passing around pictures of victims of traumatic injuries is beyond distasteful. That person you're looking at with limbs blown off? Their entire life has just changed, and the media is using it to further sensationalize a news event. That's absolutely unacceptable.

Looking at gory photos is not going to improve you as a person in any way. It will not change your life or give you any deep understanding of violence. Be respectful. Don't sensationalize tragedy.

Gate 4-A by Naomi Shihab Nye

It's been a rough week for the world, and I thought you guys could use this poem, which is one of my favorites. Stay safe out there, everyone. Don't fall prey to irrational hate. Do good even if it won't be recognized.

Wandering Around An Albuquerque Airport Terminal
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
please come to the gate immediately.
Well--one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Jjust like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
problem? We told her the flight was going to be 4 hours late and she
did this.
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu-beduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
sho bit se-wee?
The minute she heard any words she knew--however poorly used--
she stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
following day. I said no, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late.
Who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
would ride next to her--Southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of
it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
found out of course they had ten shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies--little powdered
sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts--out of her bag--
and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
the lovely woman from Laredo--we were all covered with the same
powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookies.
And I noticed my new best friend--by now we were holding hands--
had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate--once the crying of confusion stopped
--has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.

This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Is Young Author the New Vampire?

Young authors are nothing new. Back in 1999 Amelia Atwater-Rhodes' book In the Forests of the Night was published when she was just 14 years old. Christopher Paolini because a New York Times bestseller with Eragon at age 19.

But those kinds of examples were few and far between until recently. Break by Hannah Moskowitz came out in 2009. Then in 2010, Halo by Alexandra Adornetto came out. Both authors were 18 at the time their books were released. Last year, we saw a One Direction fanfic by 16-year-old Emily Baker bought by Penguin.

And this year at the London Book Fair, young authors were apparently the belle of the ball, pulling big advances.

With the current popularity of Young Adult, this trend makes a certain kind of sense - who better to write about teens than other teens, after all? But if Young Adult declines in popularity, I wonder if young authors will continue to enjoy the same kind of success.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Rise and Fall of the Facebook Empire

I know, I'm a tad bit premature.

But those of us who were around during Myspace's meteoric rise and inevitable decline know the signs. We were there. We witnessed the day that the strength of sparkly html backgrounds failed.

Myspace was the first, but it was far from the last. And what I find fascinating about social networks is that we've spiralled inward rather than outward. Each platform is more restrictive than the last. Look at the timeline:

1. Myspace
The world's first real taste of what it meant to have online friends. The giddy freedom of Myspace seems unfathomable now. You could pick your own color scheme, background picture, fonts, layout... you could even force everyone to listen to horrible pop music while they visited your profile!
2. Facebook
Over the years I've come to the inescapable conclusion that what Facebook had going for it was exclusivity. You see, in the beginning... oh whatever, you watched The Social Network, you know the story. Mark Zuckerburg created/stole/whatevered the site only for his Ivy league buddies. But then, like the plague, its scope widened to encompass other universities, and then high schools, and then THE WORLD.

3. Twitter
But although Facebook constrained its users to one specific layout, folk got damn wordy. So what do you do? Pop over to Twitter, where its users are restrained to 140 characters. It forces you to get to the point fast.
4. G+
Okay so this BARELY counts as a social media network, but I feel like I need to put it on here because so many of us were forced into it by our poor decisions. Who knew that using gmail and blogger would be so risky? G+ hovers in the background like a Rihanna song that nobody actually likes, but the radio stations insist on playing because they got it in a two for one deal.
Share what? With who? What are these circles
and why do they matter? Messages from who?!

5. Snapchat
Nobody over the age of 18 uses this (yet), but practice safe sexting! That is pretty much what I'm getting from this.

Practice safe duckface!
For the love of all that's holy
do not google image.
Each platform is more restrictive than the last, until we get to Snapchat which is so restrictive that it actually doesn't even let you keep your data (you know, in theory). Compare this to, say, Livejournal, which is even older than Myspace - essentially a simplified website in blog form so easy that anybody could create one. You could pick your own background, profile picture, layout, color scheme... and now, your words and pictures disappear forever in under 10 seconds.

The question really is, where do we go from here? Even smaller? I'm thinking Morse code is about to make a comeback.

It's retro chic!

Poetry and قهوه

Scheherazade - Richard Silken

Art by Jonathan Earl Bowser, 1998

Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
                                                       and dress them in warm clothes again.
         How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
until they forget that they are horses.
                   It’s not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
         it’s more like a song on a policeman’s radio,
                 how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
                                                                                       to slice into pieces.
Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it’s noon, that means
         we’re inconsolable.
                               Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
                                                                Tell me we’ll never get used to it.

Illustration from Michel Fokine's ballet Schéhérazade, 1913

Sunday, April 14, 2013

In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro

Title translation from Latin to English: "Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book."

I'm a huge classics fan and so in my, you know, COPIOUS free time I've been on and off teaching myself Latin, with mixed success. (The other day after I tried a translation one of my friends was kind enough to inform me, "HOW ADORABLE YOU MIXED UP GREEK AND LATIN ACCUSATIVES." And then he died. Naw jk but unto him I say WHATEVS.)

This is in between being a writer and person with a day job and fiance and family member and pet owner and horseback rider and friend and OH GOD SEND HELP. This is why I don't, uh, sleep. If you see me online at 3am now you know why.

I totally didn't write this post at 2:07 in the morning. Totally.

On the other hand, biting off way more than I can chew has its upsides. I often learn the most amazing things in the most random ways. For instance, the other day I was working on said translation when I went hunting for the proper way to decline a verb. In my search I landed on a website that mentioned a phrase by Catullus (he wrote one very sweet poem and an awful lot of HOLY SHEET DO YOU HUG YOUR MOTHER WITH THOSE HANDS poems). I googled that to find some more Catullus and found a listing of poetry that happened to mention a poem named Scheherazade. I've always been a big fan of the Persian myths, so I decided to look it up, and happened upon one of the most gorgeous poems I've read recently (check back for it on Monday's poetry and coffee).

So never stop learning. You won't get any sleep, but who needs sleep? Dormite quando mortuae estis. And that's in the feminine plural imperative - I think.

Friday, April 12, 2013

I Put a Spell On You (Okay, a Curse)

Those Romans, eh? Always invading and crucifying and cursing people. It's enough to make you think they were kind of jerks.

When you went to a Roman market, you could buy a number of things. Food, trinkets, and of course, curse tablets.

Well, obviously.
Usually the tablet itself was made of either lead or pewter. One of the reasons for this was that lead was plentiful, particularly in places like Attica or occupied Britain, where curses were particularly popular.

Once you'd purchased your tablet, you had to come up with your message, which was generally hilarious. You addressed a god, and then labeled your curse (often as a memorandum, seriously), identified the cursee, told the god their offense, and then asked for their grief or blood or small intestine or whatever.

After you were done writing the curse, you folded the tablet over and effectively scrambled the contents into the most aggressive word search ever. This was supposed to obscure the contents from the psychic vision of the cursee, and bring it closer to the god. If you were feeling particularly ambitious you could put some hair or pins inside; one discovered tablet had seven nails hammered through it. (Do NOT mess with seven-nail guy.)

Actual text: "Honoratus to the holy god Mercury.
I complain to your divinity that I have lost
two wheels and four cows
and many small belongings from my house.
I would ask the genius of your divinity that you do not
allow health to the person who has done me wrong,
nor allow him to lie or sit or drink or eat, whether
he is man or woman, whether boy or girl, whether
slave or free, unless he brings my property to me
and is reconciled with me. With renewed prayers I ask
your divinity that my petition may immediately
make me vindicated by your majesty.
The most popular place to leave your tablet seems to have been in water - either pools in temples or, oddly enough, hot springs. Another hotbed of curse activity was in, wait for it, graves. The poor undead sucker you selected was supposed to deliver your curse to Hades or actually wreak havoc itself. For whatever reason this was a practice that was almost never practiced outside of Rome proper. Perhaps Romans were so used to killing everyone that they didn't feel very threatened by the undead. ("Oh yeah we actually had a zombie horde attack the other day; nobody even noticed until after we crucified them all.")

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Week In Awesome

1. Iranian scientist invents time machine. Only it's not actually a time machine, it's more a fortune-teller. And it only extends to 8 years in the future. And they're not making a prototype because China will STEAL it (somehow). And it's not a car.

Pictured: A lie


2. Cats v. male models

3. World's ADD getting worse; 200% more cat pictures viewed

4. Science finds adorable stripey bat

5. This is hilarious

6. Thieves steal 5 tons of Nutella in Germany. Is stealing always a crime?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Selma Ruins Evil Dead

My interpretation of the Evil Dead remake! Beware, creepy picture below the cut, honestly you probably don't even want to look at it, it's super creepy, you looked didn't you

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Selma Ruins Gothic Novels

The other day I was talking to a friend about gothic novels, and realized that she had no idea what I was blathering about! (This happens frequently.) So I broke it down for her, and now I share my questionable knowledge with you lovely people of the internets.

Gothic v. romance: While a romance is always central to the plot of a gothic novel, the romance itself isn't so much of a focus as it is a way to get the plot moving. The real love story of a gothic is generally between the protagonist and whatever eerie manor she's moved to this time. The mystery and the romance are pretty much equal parts of the story.

And here I have dissected the plot of your average gothic novel using SCIENCE.

Heroine: Alas, I have no money and no family, so I must sell my wares... as a governess. Don't worry, I'm not actually common or anything, that would just be gross. My family's misfortune is recent and not my fault.

Hero: My last wife died under mysterious circumstances. I have an adorable young child that may or may not be possessed by the devil. I myself may or may not be the devil! But I am extremely handsome.

Heroine: Oh lovely manor, look at that ivy trailing up your walls. So many hallways! Such an aura of death! I am drawn to you... I cannot resist, you little minx!

Hero: Uh, so... want the job?

Heroine: What was that? Didn't hear a word you just said, but your house sure is pretty, so sign me up!


Heroine: Oh manor, your richly furnished but dusty rooms are so intriguing!

Manor: ...

Hunchbacked Maid: Beware, beware! Dark deeds are done in this place! Run while you still can!

Heroine: Oh, thank you! If you hadn't warned me, I might have tripped over the bump in that rug. I can understand why you were so concerned for me.

Hunchbacked Maid: I take it they don't teach self-preservation at governess school.

Adorable Child: Are you my new mommy?

Heroine: If your dad wants to get his crap together and stop sulking in his dressing room all the time, maybe!

Adorable Child: Because our last mommy died horribly. Daddy didn't like her very much. Probably no connection there.

Plain Maid: Hello, I am rather clueless but sweet and entirely nonthreatening.

Heroine: Did someone just speak to me?

Hero: You know, there is something... intriguing about you. Perhaps it is your complete acceptance of the fact that I'm probably a cold-blooded murderer. I feel compelled to express my feelings about you. Perhaps I will do it through song, or an epic poem.

Heroine: Or you could, y'know, marry me.

Hero: Nonsense, we're only halfway through the book. And I sense a sulk coming on.

Heroine: What's this? My favorite dress, torn apart! Who could have done such a thing?

Adorable Child: I keep seeing shadows around the corner of my room. Do you think it's mommy's ghost?

Plain Maid: Perhaps the spirits are angry. About... stuff.

Heroine: Do you even work here?

Hunchbacked Maid: Oh look, bloodstains in the master's bedroom. I'm sure this is a total coincidence.

Hero: You living here is a horrible idea. Terrible.

Heroine: Do you perhaps suffer from split personality?

Random Townsfolk: Gutsy of you to live up there. Stupid, but gutsy. We're all looking forward to the funeral though. Manor Evil serves good hors d'oeuvres.

Heroine: I am beginning to feel threatened by my beloved manor! Yet, I love it too much to leave! 

Manor: I love you too, plucky heroine! Stay with me always. Aaaaaallllllwaaaaaays.


Heroine: This tea is making me rather woozy. But lo, I will carry on, dauntless.

Adorable Child: You keep bumping into things. Maybe stop drinking tea at night?

Heroine: This cunning plan enables me to stay alert enough to catch someone sneaking into my room! Someone tall and dark and possibly handsome, someone named...

Plain Maid: Woe, it was me! I am in love with the master of the house, or with the house itself, or something. All women of the house must die! Except Hunchbacked Maid, she can stay. My motives and actions make literally no sense but luckily we're writing about a time when people still believed that women got the vapors and died of heartbreak  so we can just blame it on the crazy!

Entire Cast: Sorry, who are you?

Plain Maid: Out, damn spot! I'm just gonna go trip down some stairs now. *dies*

Heroine: She should've watched out for that bump in the rug.

Hunchbacked Maid: She died as she lived. Essentially irrelevant.

Monday, April 8, 2013

I Was Born To Love a Man Wrapped in Sunshine

Sunshine Days and Foggy Nights - - James Kavanaugh
I was born to catch dragons in their dens
And pick flowers
To tell tales and laugh away the morning
To drift and dream like a lazy stream
And walk barefoot across sunshine days.
I was born to find goblins in their caves
And chase moonlight
To see shadows and seek hidden rivers
To hear the rain fall on dry leaves
And chat a bit with death across foggy nights.
I was born to rub my hands in dirt
And walk green hills
To plant corn and make bread
To build a house strong against the wind
And to live free across sunshine days.
I was born to watch owls in dark forests
And hear coyotes cry
To feel trees tremble and the grass sleep
To taste cold air and smell the damp earth
And watch ghostly shapes disappear across foggy nights.
I was born to love a man wrapped in sunshine
And dressed in fog
To make a pact on a high hill
Ratified centuries ago by the sun
To walk together through sunshine days and foggy nights.

James Kavanaugh was a fascinating man. He served as a parish priest up until 1967, when he published a book called "A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church", in which Kavanaugh called for church reform on issues such as birth control, premarital sex, and marriage. Originally he intended to stay in his position in the Catholic Church after his book was published, but he quickly realized that he had been naive and left the priesthood. 

His title of his first book of poetry published after he left the church seems to say everything about his feelings toward the church: "There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves".

Throughout his life Kavanaugh called on people within the church (and outside it) to question authority and trust themselves. It was remarkable in the church environment, where unfaltering obedience was the unwritten law.

Kavanaugh continued to question everything and search for solutions that were not easy, but right. His words on self-help have stuck with me as some of the truest I've ever read:
"I burn all self-help books or tapes in which hyped heroes tell me how easy it is to put one's life together. I need those who are still wading through pain, who must struggle at times just to hang on. I don't believe in quick fixes and I'm outraged when anyone promises one."