Saturday Morning Reads: Guilty Pleasures

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Good Morning!

I’ve found some interesting reads for you this morning! I promise I’m not going to bore you with economics today!

There’s been some interesting discoveries in the literature world. A “cache” of Mary Shelley Letters were discovered in a rural English library that shed some light on her last days.

The letters date between 1831, nine years after the death of her poet husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and 1849, when Mary Shelley was already unwell with the brain tumour that would kill her two years later, and show a woman who was skilled in charming favours from friends, bursting with pride in and concern for her teenage son – and not unconcerned with frivolities. A last-minute ticket to the coronation of William IV in 1831 necessitated a 3am visit from her hairdresser; she attended the event sporting a plumed headdress (“The whole thing was wondrously splendid – Diamonds & cloth of gold grew common to the eye.”)

The later letters, written in an increasingly scrawled hand, are short and distracted, full of apologies for her failing memory and powers. To a number of them is still attached a blob of scarlet wax stamped with the author’s own seal – one that was not previously known, according to Crook.

The “nondescript-looking” missives were written to Horace Smith and his daughter Eliza. Smith was a stockbroker and wit who had been close to the poet Shelley and whose family befriended his widow after his death, and the discovery of the letters is a particular surprise, said Crook, because he had a habit of destroying correspondence.

“The Smith connection has been known but this little bit of the jigsaw hasn’t been,” said Crook. “A few things that had been inferred by scholars can now be confirmed. But what is nice is that Mary Shelley’s personality emerges. We see her as very loyal to the Smith family, very grateful and very attentive to Eliza – I don’t think that friendship has ever been fully documented.” There is also, notes the professor, Shelley’s “charming wheedling side”, as she cajoles Smith into favours.

I thought of  Shelley when I saw a BBC article on the cultural roots of Absinthe as a literary muse. I’ve tried the drink–imported from Pug-Orange-Juice-Art-Poster-Print-by-Ken-BaileyPortugal where the wormwood was left in–and I will say it gives one an odd buzz. Here’s some background on the green fairy.

Arthur Rimbaud called absinthe the “sagebrush of the glaciers”  because a key ingredient, the bitter-tasting herb Artemisia absinthium or wormwood, is plentiful in the icy Val-de-Travers region of Switzerland. That is where the legendary aromatic drink that came to symbolise decadence was invented in the late 18th Century. It’s hard to overstate absinthe’s cultural impact – or imagine a contemporary equivalent.

The spirit was a muse extraordinaire from 1859, when Édouard Manet’s The Absinthe Drinker shocked the annual Salon de Paris, to 1914, when Pablo Picasso created his painted bronze sculpture, The Glass of Absinthe. During the Belle Époque, the Green Fairy – nicknamed after its distinctive colour – was the drink of choice for so many writers and artists in Paris that five o’clock was known as the Green Hour, a happy hour when cafes filled with drinkers sitting with glasses of the verdant liquor. Absinthe solidified or destroyed friendships, and created visions and dream-like states that filtered into artistic work. It shaped Symbolism, Surrealism, Modernism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Cubism. Dozens of artists took as their subjects absinthe drinkers and the ritual paraphernalia: a glass, slotted spoon, sugar cubes – sugar softened the bitter bite of cheaper brands – and fountains dripping cold water to dilute the liquor.

Absinthe was, at its conception, not unlike other medicinal herbal preparations (vermouth, the German word for wormwood, among them). Its licorice flavor derived from fennel and anise. But this was an aperitif capable of creating blackouts, pass-outs, hallucinations and bizarre behaviour. Contemporary analysis indicates that the chemical thujone in wormwood was present in such minute quantities in properly distilled absinthe as to cause little psychoactive effect. It’s more likely that the damage was done by severe alcohol poisoning from drinking twelve to twenty shots a day. Still, the mystique remains.

Slenderizing-Bath-SaltsFebruary’s Vanity Fair has an interesting interview with Catherine Robbe-Grillet, 83, who is France’s most famous dominatrix.

Bentley visits Robbe-Grillet, sadomasochistic author and widow of novelist (and accomplished sadist) Alain Robbe-Grillet, at the 17th-century château in Normandy where she resides with Beverly Charpentier, the 51-year-old South African woman who is her submissive companion. “Catherine is my secret garden,” Charpentier says. “I have given myself to her, body and soul. She does whatever she wants, whenever she wants, with either or both, according to her pleasure—and her pleasure is also my pleasure.”

“As a dominatrix you must dominate yourself,” Robbe-Grillet tells Bentley. “Otherwise you take the chance of killing someone or doing serious damage, so you have to know your limits.” For example, “blood is only drawn with initiates,” Beverly explains. “I stop at what is irreversible,” says Robbe-Grillet. Except when she doesn’t. Robbe-Grillet recalls an encounter she had with a man named Christian, whom she met in 1986. He wanted her to brand him with the initials of her nom de plume, “JDB.” She did. “I fell into my dream,” Christian tells Bentley of his relationship with Catherine, “and I have never left it.” Over the course of almost 20 years, the marks faded and a year ago Robbe-Grillet held another ceremony to burn them in anew.

Okay, one link that has something to do with economics but more closely related to the self-pleasure of reading.  I got this link from Chelsea Clinton who posted it to her facebook page. Does the state of the economy have anything to do with what you’re reading or what author’s write? 

The analysis, published in the journal PLOS One, found that when words commonly associated with misery show up in books, it meant that 10 years before, the economic situation was pretty grim.

To reach this discovery, researchers from Bristol and London sifted through a database of more than five million digital versions of books from Google. They created a literary misery index calculated by adding the amount of sadness-related words and subtracting the number of happiness-related words. They then compared this literary misery index to a well known measurement called the economic misery index, which is the sum of inflation and unemployment rates. The literary misery level in a given year was associated with the average of the previous 10 years’ economic misery index.

“When we looked at millions of books published in English every year and looked for a specific category of words denoting unhappiness, we found that those words in aggregate averaged the authors’ economic experiences over the past decade. In other words, global economics is part of the shared emotional experience of the 20th century,” said study author Alex Bentley, art-deco-poster-pg-reproductionsa professor at the University of Bristol in a statement.

They reported that market economic misery corresponds with WW1, the aftermath of the Great Depression, and the energy crisis of 1975. The literary misery comes about a decade later, which the researchers speculate could be due to the time gap between when a writer was young and live through these experiences and formed these memories, to when they actually began writing published work.

The researchers even repeated the study with books written in German, and found the same connection.

Have you ever spent much time reading about the monsters that can be found in the stories of other cultures.  Here’s some of Japan’s most frightening and bizarre monsters!  I got this one from Delphyne’s facebook feed.  She’s always finds some of the most intriguing items! The Japanese believe that almost anything can become a terrifying ghost!

ku-mediumThe Ittan-Momen doesn’t sound particularly scary; it’s basically a sentient roll of cotton that just flies around in the wind at night, wandering around. But the Ittan-Momen is also a sadistic asshole, because if it sees you, it will either wraps itself around your neck and choke you to death, or wrap itself around your head and suffocate you. Again, the idea that you can be walking back from the convenience store and suddenly get murdered by a large piece of cloths is deeply disconcerting to me.

That’s a drawing of a pretty odd looking ghost lantern over there on the left.  I can only imagine what it’s story is all about.

Okay, so this isn’t my usual fascination with burial sites thing, but it is about thing going on underground in Europe.  A series of interconnected underground tunnels all around Europe appear to be have made by Stone Age humans.

Stone Age man created a massive network of underground tunnels criss-crossing Europe from Scotland to Turkey, a new book on the ancient superhighways has claimed.

German archaeologist Dr Heinrich Kusch said evidence of the tunnels has been found under hundreds of Neolithic settlements all over the continent.

In his book – Secrets Of The Underground Door To An Ancient World – he claims the fact that so many have survived after 12,000 years shows that the original tunnel network must have been enormous.

‘Across Europe there were thousands of them – from the north in Scotland down to the Mediterranean.

‘Most are not much larger than big wormholes – just 70cm wide – just wide enough for a person to wriggle along but nothing else.

‘They are interspersed with nooks, at some places it’s larger and there is seating, or storage chambers and rooms.

‘They do not all link up but taken together it is a massive underground network.’

I did find one very cool tomb article about a tattooed Sorceress Queen. It appears that the Moche may have been a matriarchal society.toni-kola-art-deco-poster

On the beautiful northern coastline of Peru overlooking the blue Pacific, the place known as Huaca El Brujo (Sacred place of the Wizard) gives us an incredible glimpse into the culture of the Moche and the ‘Wizard’ buried there.  Its two main pyramids, Huaca del Sol and the Huaca de la Luna, were once the centre of social and religious functions in the area and the final resting place of the tattooed mummy, who has come to be known as the Lady of Cao. Not an elderly woman, she died in her mid-twenties about fifteen hundred years ago, probably as a complication of childbirth.

The Moche did not mummify their dead purposefully, but the conditions for desiccation just happened to preserve the Lady of Cao and by doing so also preserved her intricate tattoos.  Although it is not believed that the more common members of Moche society were tattooed it could certainly be inferred from this burial that the highest status members were, and the tattoos probably represented and strengthened the individuals connection with the divine through sympathetic magic. If you want the strength of the tiger get a tattoo of a tiger…this thought process has not changed since the beginning of the art form and it continues today.

The Lady of Cao’s tattoos included serpents, crabs and spiders – all animals associated with the Moche pantheon of divine wpa_poster_national_parks_bighorn_sheep_art_decocreatures – and their presence further linked her to the world of the supernatural and probably increased her perceived power among her people; the divine literally lived in her skin. Since most Moche burials are not preserved like the Lady of Cao we will never know for certain if all the elite were tattooed, but pottery portrait jugs suggest that they may have been.

The surprise discovery of the tattooed female in the Hill of the Wizard certainly caused archaeologists to have to reconsider their male-centric model of the Moche political structure and I am sure they would have eventually come to consider her an anomalous female ruler like Hatshepsut, Boudicca, Makeda, Cleopatra, or Penthesilea.  But the subsequent discoveries of eight more Moche Queens have made it quite clear that this was not a male ruled society. 

So, this should be enough to keep you intrigued today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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26 Comments on “Saturday Morning Reads: Guilty Pleasures”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I love this post! Mary Shelley, absinthe, stone age tunnels under Europe–I cannot wait to read the links.

  2. RalphB says:

    Daily Beast: Inside the White House War on Dems

    The Obama administration is going to war with its own party to save its peace talks with Iran.

    The White House brought their fight with Congressional Democrats out in the open Thursday evening when National Security Staff member Bernadette Meehan sent an incendiary statement lashing out at pro-sanctions Democrats to a select group of reporters, accusing them of being in favor of a strike on Iran.

    “If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so,” said Meehan. “Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.”…

    This article is written with a douchecanoe slant but I’m awfully glad Obama is president and not onf of these suck-up senators. Oh and fuck Bob Menendez!

    • bostonboomer says:

      That’s troubling. Why should Iran negotiate if Congress is just going to pile on sanctions? Doesn’t the president have the power to control foreign policy? I suppose he could veto the bills.

      • RalphB says:

        Yes but Iran is making noises about pulling out because the bills themselves show the US is negotiating in bad faith. Hard to blame them if Congress looks like they don’t support what the Obama administration is trying to do.

        I’m sure he would veto them but they seem to have enough support to maybe override. All the Republicans and 16 or so Democrats in the Senate are AIPAC whores.

      • RalphB says:

        Here’s a piece where Booman names the Democrats supporting the travesty.

        Bob Menendez is a Problem

  3. RalphB says:

    A couple of Paul Krugman blog post of interest. Jeez, I love this guy.

    The Raleigh Experiment

    North Carolina is an interesting place these days, and I mean that in the worst possible way.

    A Hammock In Kentucky?

    National Review has an actually interesting report by Kevin Williamson on the state of Appalachia, providing a valuable portrait of the region’s woes — plus an account of how people turn food stamps fungible by converting them into soda. But the piece also has a moral: the big problem, it argues, is the way government aid creates dependency. It’s the Paul Ryan notion of the safety net as a “hammock” that makes life too easy for the poor.

    But do the facts about Appalachia actually support this view? No, they don’t. Indeed, even the facts presented in the article don’t support it.

  4. RalphB says:

    This is really funny! Go Mr Bogg

    TBogg: Hillary Clinton to be defeated by super hybrid human-centipede GOP candidate in 2016

    Washington Post historical-romance-fantasy writer Jennifer Rubin recently made a pit stop in Colorado where she picked up some high-potency Pakistani Brainwreck Super Kush and she has spent the past few days getting bent and looking at the upcoming 2016 Presidential election (have you ever looked at the 2016 Presidential election. I mean, really really looked at it?). Having stepped through the doors of the perception, and after convincing smoking bud Charles Krauthammer that Bender could totally kick Spongebob Squarepant’s square-ass in a fair fight, she came to the realization that Hillary Clinton would be toast if you thought of all of the potential GOP nominees as the Avengers and then you sewed them all together ass to mouth into this complementary-skilled ass-to-mouth Hillary killing machine. This would totally work! Swear to God!

    Preach, Jen:

    • dakinikat says:

      Rubin must have some ancient Japanese Water World secret because she surely didn’t get her job on brains and writing skills.

    • RalphB says:

      Commenters followed tbogg from fdl, an emoprog disparaged Obama and Clinton and got this back.

      Last I saw, the man you call Obomba ( the one with the “problem ” ) won big over a year ago despite the best efforts of the Vote for Dr. Mrs. St. Jill Stein hand wringers and drone paranoids. If you think that people won’t turn out in droves to elect the first woman president… Well, you’re adorable in your cute little fantasy world.

      Nader/Mumia 2016!

  5. RalphB says:

    This is nightmarish. These cops need to spend a long time in prison and she should become a very wealthy woman.

    Woman ejected from moving LAPD car says cop was sexually assaulting her

    A 27-year-old Los Angeles pharmacist has sued the Los Angeles Police Department over injuries she sustained when she was thrown from a moving squad car. The New York Daily News reported that Kim Nguyen says she fell from the car as she struggled to escape sexual assault by a police officer.

    “He was grabbing my left inner thigh, trying to — I’m assuming — opening my legs,” she said in her deposition about the incident.

    Horrifying surveillance video shows a half-naked Nguyen tumbling from the police car into the street. She was badly injured and only regained consciousness when she emerged from a six-day medically induced coma. …

  6. RalphB says:

    Looks like the legal pot crime wave has begun. :-)

    Denver Post: Colorado hopes a Mile 419.99 sign on Interstate 70 thwarts stoners

    After sticky-fingered stoners repeatedly swiped the marker for the 420th mile, the state Department of Transportation resorted to desperate measures. Colorado, say hello to Mile 419.99.

    The term “420” is embraced by marijuana enthusiasts around the country as a signifier of cannabis culture, often celebrated on April 2o. In sports terms, 420 is the “Roll Tide” of weed.

    This is not the only time, though, that CDOT has had to thwart cheeky crooks. Ford said CDOT placed a Mile 68.5 sign near the summit of Cameron Pass, west of Fort Collins. Bawdy bandits kept taking the Mile 69 sign.

  7. NW Luna says:

    Doctors are warning that if Congress cuts food stamps, the federal government could be socked with bigger health bills. Maybe not immediately, they say, but over time if the poor wind up in doctors’ offices or hospitals as a result.

    Among the health risks of hunger are spiked rates of diabetes and developmental problems for young children down the road. ….

    A study published this week helps illustrate that link. Food banks report longer lines at the end of the month as families exhaust their grocery budgets, and California researchers found that more poor people with a dangerous diabetes complication are hospitalized then, too.

  8. Fannie says:

    If children are not taken care of with life needs in their homes, then we will see them become sexually exploited at younger ages. Why should they stay at home, or in school? It will work against them, and we know what influences will happen when no one gives a hoot. And they won’t get stimulated by books, and attitudes will fall. We have seen this again and again and again in the schools. The poor kids do not stand a chance, and they will be identified, and the grave difficulties parents face will prove that they can not make it holding down two jobs, and no help with child care and food stamps, with plumbing and with heating and space in the neighborhoods. These kids are looking at dead end streets, with dead end lives.

    It’s important that parents find employment opportunities that will give them a way of OUT, and give children ambition, and aspirations, and help set the tone for healthy lives.

    I am helping a young mother, she has daughter, and little baby boy, has been living in hotel rooms for months on end. She just got a little house, and I have her address and phone, and will be sending her help (food stuff, house goods, and baby equipment, and books). I just to help, in my small way to be supportive of her, and her babies.