This blog is marked NSFW for occasional nudity, gore, or violence. Otherwise, you'll find that a majority of what I post is related to my many interests, of which include Victorian-influenced fashion, Adventure Time, cute and spooky things, Kuroshitsuji, and other various media.
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Julie D’Aubigny was a 17th-century bisexual French opera singer and fencing master who killed or wounded at least ten men in life-or-death duels, performed nightly shows on the biggest and most highly-respected opera stage in the world, and once took the Holy Orders just so that she could sneak into a convent and bang a nun. If nothing in that sentence at least marginally interests you, I have no idea why you’re visiting this website. (via Badass of the Week: Julie D’Aubigny, La Maupin)
The new issue of Newsweek features a cover photo of President Obama topped by a rainbow-colored halo and captioned “The First Gay President.” The halo and caption strike me as cheap sensationalism. I realize airport travelers look at a magazine for 2.2 seconds before moving on to the next one. I grant that this cover will probably get Newsweek a 4.4 second glance. I also understand that Newsweek is desperate for sales. Nevertheless, I doubt that the Newsweek of old, before it was sold for a dollar, would have pandered as shallowly.
The caption is a superficial way to characterize an important development of thought that the president — along with the country — has been making over recent years. It is also entirely wrong. Like the mini-furor a couple of months back about the claim that Richard Nixon was our first gay president, the story simply ignores that the U.S. already had a gay president more than a century ago.
There can be no doubt that James Buchanan was gay, before, during and after his four years in the White House. Moreover, the nation knew it, too — he was not far into the closet.
Today, I know no historian who has studied the matter and thinks Buchanan was heterosexual. Fifteen years ago, historian John Howard, author of “Men Like That,” a pioneering study of queer culture in Mississippi, shared with me the key documents, including Buchanan’s May 13, 1844, letter to a Mrs. Roosevelt. Describing his deteriorating social life after his great love, William Rufus King, senator from Alabama, had moved to Paris to become our ambassador to France, Buchanan wrote:
I am now “solitary and alone,” having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.
Several common themes run through the acts of murderers known as “rippers.” Most salient is that they violently mutilate or literally rip their victims open and often dismember them. Most, but not all, ripper murderers select prostitutes as their victims. Jack the Ripper, in late 19th-century London, was particularly proficient at mutilating and disemboweling his victims. Often, these types of murders are committed in an uncontrollable rage leading to exceptionally violent acts. For example, in the 1970s, Peter Sutcliffe, the “Yorkshire Ripper,” mutilated his victims and left bite marks, later used to link him to the crime. Rippers may also engage in cannibalism. Ripper murderers take advantage of their victims’ accessibility as well as their lifestyles, which often makes them difficult to track. For instance, prostitutes may go missing, unnoticed, for long periods of time. The Yorkshire Ripper explained to his younger brother that his motive for his violent murders was to clean up the streets and rid them of prostitutes; his savage mutilation of his victims demonstrates the rage and anger he felt towards women. The opinion that prostitutes were somehow to blame for their victimization was likely shared by some members of the public.
Plague doctors were individuals in the Middle Ages who were given the task of tending to people infected with the plague. In most cases, they were either second rate or under-trained physicians, incapable of maintaining their own practice. Many were not doctors at all, but people of various other employments paid by towns to cater to the sick.
Plague doctors were employed in various methods when ever plague set in. The earliest documentation of these individuals being hired go as far back as the mid 500s AD. The plague doctor image that we as a general public are familiar with was not seen until the 1600s. It was then that the “traditional” plague doctor costume was created. The costume consisted of a cloak made of heavy fabric covered in wax to protect the doctor’s body, and a mask to keep out the sick air. The masks had a long cone shaped structure at the nose, to be filled with scents that would protect the doctor from the bad air.
Because of the nature of their work, plague doctors often became victims of the plague themselves, or were quarantined for the protection of the public.
The Black Death Plague Doctor:
A plague doctor was a special medical physician who saw those who had the Bubonic Plague. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some doctors wore a beak-like mask which was filled with aromatic items. The masks were designed to protect them from putrid air, which (according to the miasmatic theory of disease) was seen as the cause of infection. The protective suit consisted of a heavy fabric overcoat that was waxed. A wooden cane pointer was used to help examine the patient without touching.
You might be wondering why the Velasquez girl (actually her name is Queen Maria Anna of Spain) is on your screen wearing a red dress. She’s creepy right? Well because 1) She’s the Queen of Spain and 2) that is a red dress.
I bet you didn’t know that in the Aztec world red dye was more valuble than any gold. The bright red colorant required the labor of hundreds of subjects combing the desert in search of its source - the female cochineal beetle. A pound of water-soluble extract required about a million insects. (By comparison, back in the days of the Roman Empire, a pound of royal purple dye required four million mollusks.)
When Cortez and his minions arrived in the New World not only did they find gold and silver, they found red. Cochineal red was the strongest dye ever created and a colour no one could duplicate. Now the Spanish became the leaders in the dye industry. Everyone wanted the colour.
Most Europeans thought it was extracted from berries or cereals because the dried insects looked like grains of wheat. This misconception was promoted by the Spanish, who had launched a brutal cover-up of the dye making process as soon as they realized cochineal’s potential.
For almost 300 years, they perpetuated the notion that “dyed in the grain” was their special process for this permanent dye that never faded. And that’s the source of the English term “ingrained.” Europeans used it for fabrics and illumination in addition to cooking. In the years that followed, Michelangelo used it in paintings, the British for redcoats and the Canadians for their Mounted Police coats. It is thought that the first U.S. flag made by Betsy Ross had cochineal red stripes.
In the sixteenth century, Venice became the most important trading center for red. While Venetian businessmen sent it on to the Middle East, to be used for carpets and fabrics, Venetian women demanded a reserve to be kept for their own use. In around 1700, according to Jan Morros in her book Venice, there were just 2,508 nuns in that city and 11,654 prostitutes. No wonder there was a market for rouge.
Today, less expensive aniline dyes have replaced it, but it is used as a food coloring and is approved by the FDA as a natural colorant for food, drug and cosmetics. In fact, some brands of fruit juice use this red bug juice as a colorant.
-Color Matter Factoids
-The Bug that Changed History by Jeff Behan
-Victoria Finlay excerpted from her book: Color: A Natural History of the Palette
Patients of surgeon Harold Gillies during WWI and WWII
The Candy Bomber
In July 1948, 27-year-old Air Force lieutenant Gail Halvorsen was flying food and supplies into West Berlin, which was blockaded by the Soviet Union. One night he encountered a group of hungry children who had gathered near the runway to watch the planes land.
“They could speak a little English,” he recalled later. “Their clothes were patched and they hadn’t had gum and candy for two or three years. They barely had enough to eat.”
Halvorsen gave them two sticks of gum and promised to drop more candy for them the next day from his C-54. He said he’d rock his wings so that they could distinguish him from the other planes. Then he returned to the base and spent the night tying bundles of candy to handkerchief parachutes.
Over the next three days he dropped candy to growing crowds of West German children. He had wanted to keep the project secret (“It seemed like something you weren’t supposed to do”), but when a newsman snapped a photograph Halvorsen began receiving boxes of candy from all over the United States, many with parachutes already attached. Halvorsen went home in February 1949, and the blockade was lifted three months later.
In 1998, when Halvorsen returned to Berlin, a “dignified, well-dressed man of 60 years” approached him. He said, “Fifty years ago I was a boy of 10 on my way to school. The clouds were very low with light rain. I could hear the planes landing though I couldn’t see them. Suddenly out of the mist came a parachute with a fresh Hershey chocolate bar from America. It landed right at my feet. I knew it was happening but couldn’t believe it was for me. It took me a week to eat that candy bar. I hid it day and night. The chocolate was wonderful but it wasn’t the chocolate that was most important. What it meant was that someone in America knew I was here, in trouble and needed help. Someone in America cared. That parachute was something more important than candy. It represented hope. Hope that some day we would be free.”
In the late 18th century, Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz needed a good way to publicize his products among the European nobility. And what better way to sell watches than by building horrible mechanical non-children?
“The Draughtsman” and “The Writer” are two life-size automaton twins created by Jaquet-Droz between 1768 and 1774 to be toured across Europe and shown to aristocrats. One could draw four different pictures on a piece of paper (including the baffling image of a nude baby driving a chariot pulled by a butterfly), and the other could write any custom text up to 40 characters long.
Needless to say, this sort of technology was astounding for the 1700s. The Writer alone was made out of no less than 6,000 moving pieces, and still functions to this day. Since it was programmable (in that you could change the message it wrote), it’s been called one of the earliest ancestors of modern computers. Though they were obviously recovered (seeing as how we have video of them now), these priceless automatons were actually “lost at several points” in history, where they presumably underwent Pinocchio-like adventures together. +
“Transi de René de Chalon,” Ligier Richier, 1547
“This fantastic figure, displayed in the Saint-Étienne church in the city Bar-le-Duc in France, once held the heart of its subject— René de Chalon, Prince of Orange—in its raised hand, like a reliquary. The prince died at age 25 in battle following which, depending on which story you believe, either he or his widow requested that Chalon portray him in his tomb figure as “not a standard figure but a life-size skeleton with strips of dried skin flapping over a hollow carcass, whose right hand clutches at the empty rib cage while the left hand holds high his heart in a grand gesture” (Medrano-Cabral) set against a backdrop representing his earthly riches. Alas, the sculpture no longer contains Chalon’s heart; it is rumored to have gone missing sometime around the French revolution.”
Mask worn by makeshift doctors during the Plague. The beak was often filled with scented materials such as amber, balm-mint leaves, camphor, cloves, laudanum, myrrh, rose petals, and storax.