Thursday, December 26, 2013

Found: 18th century bone dice
Variations on the basic fish trap can be found worldwide. They were outlawed in England a few centuries before, possibly because they blocked river traffic. Not that the law applies here. I found the idea interesting enough to tuck into this chapter, but that's as much as I have to say about it.

But I have something else to talk about today! I think I have mentioned how much I love the unique antiques that come my way at work. In a midcentury canasta box I found 4 antique dice. Canasta is a card game, I think, so the dice didn't belong to it; and they were far too unusual to belong to the 50s, anyway. One was wood, hand carved, painted black, with hand-painted pips. Three were bone, unmistakably, had considerable wear, and were nonstandard sizes. One of those had a faint mark on it: G.R and a crown.

Google helpfully told me that G.R. stands for George Rex (King George) and that the hallmark meant that it was made in England after the Stamp Act of 1765. I didn't know which King George, but George IV died in 1830, and after that it would have been stamped V.R. for Victoria Regina.

So far, 1765-1830 is a pretty awesome age for a bone die, and makes it interesting in its own right. But at the risk of boring you, I'll relate what else I know and how those dice tie in to American history.

Most of the other dice with the G.R. mark were tagged Revolutionary War, on the reasoning that British soldiers might have brought them to the U.S. to dice with. I wasn't terribly satisfied with that reasoning; sellers just trying to get hits and make a buck, I think.

I'll tell you what, though. In the 1760s, the British Empire was overextended, underfunded, and fighting on too many fronts. The Stamp Act of 1765 was their attempt to raise money by taxing the crap out of the colonies, including taxes on stationary, newspapers, playing cards, and dice. The American colonies felt they were taxed unfairly and the building resentment eventually led to the Revolutionary War. That's an explanation I feel more comfortable with.

On an only slightly related subject, in 1795 the British government again tried to raise money by levying a tax on hair powder. Anyone who was anyone wore a wig, and even many servants, and so hair powder was a necessity- or so they thought. Instead, in an ironic twist, wigs went out of fashion overnight.

I've rambled long enough! Good night, Happy Holidays, and I'll write again soon.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Monster School!
This is definitely a dull chapter for me to draw, and I'm having trouble trudging through it. Seems that whenever Allan and Stephen are together they become nothing but talking heads. Partly for the lack of reference photos for the background, partly because this story isn't titled The Adventures of Allan & Stephen. It could be.
 Stephen could be Watson to Allan's Sherlock Holmes. They could have adventures in the social scene of 1760s London. It would be a farce, since Allan's only genius lies in making trouble. That could make a fun spinoff if I had time for it, which I don't.

I get so many ideas. I was saying the other day that I would like to see a comic or D&D campaign where all the characters are monsters. I'm a bit miffed about characters like Drizzt Do'Urden and his mad sword skillz. It's like he was born to be a ranger-paladin, and the only thing standing in the way is a bit of excess skin pigmentation. I like to see characters work for their achievements, instead of starting with them. You can say the conflict lies in being accepted as a drow ranger-paladin, but if that's the crux he would spend more time in diplomacy and less time f'ing fighting.

The conversation then segued into the various problems with matriarchal societies in fantasy literature, and veered back toward several variations on a monster-based campaign or comic.

I settled on two semi-related ideas; a D&D campaign where the PCs are monsters bent on achieving an unsuitable character class. Drizzt is uber-powerful; but what if a kobold wants to be a paladin? Who's going to take them seriously? Or a gelatinous cube? (Can that even happen?) How do they assemble a party, convince the other monsters, and keep adventurers from killing them out of hand on their path to herohood?
The other, somewhat related idea, was a comic about a school for monsters. Not training for villains, not Hogwarts, but the aim of the school is to raise monsters from 0 level to something a Hero wouldn't be ashamed to fight, and use them to stock dungeons or something. Call it their "final exam." But really, I'd focus on the fun and bizarre high school life of the assorted characters in monster school, who are unaware of their fate.

Yeah, I don't have time for that either, but it would be fun! I hope someone writes one. I'd read it!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stephen for once
I feel for Stephen, I really do. We enjoy enforced social interaction about as much as having a tooth pulled. And we're the same height, but that matters more to him, of course.

I had a strange thought of the three of them in a modern apartment. Allan and Paddon were playing on the Wii or Xbox and Stephen was texting on his phone. Still in their 18th century clothes, too. It was amusing, so I thought I would share.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

In which I review several Regency books

I have to agree that most women of Regency Romance are quite silly. I've read several of them recently, though it's not my usual thing.

Jane Austen's Guide to Good Manners-
Misrepresented. Unhelpful. No substance. 1/5 stars.

Georgette Heyer's Regency World-
One Word: YES. Just the thing for any writer interested in the Regency period. Too bad it's 50 years too late for me.

Kiss Me, Annabel by Eloisa James- It wasn't the title that forced me to read this book, it was the first two sentences. "The day the Scotsman came to Lady Freddrington's ball, Annabel's sister decided to give him her virtue, and Annabel decided not to give him her hand in marriage. In neither case had the Scotsman indicated a particular interest in undertaking such intimate activities with an Essex sister, but his participation was taken for granted."

As an opening, I found the snark irresistible. As a book, I preferred the Regency half to the romance half, but that's a matter of taste. The author knew the period, and the characters were interesting and entertaining. As Regency romance goes, it's about as good as they get.

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer. Fun, funny, witty, and I don't have to skim past all the awkward smutty scenes. Makes me want to go back to the library and get more of her books. I even came to like the whiny Laurence by the end of the book. I expected he would be maneuvered into marrying; but no. Way to foil my expectations, Heyer! Do that again!

Anthony Adverse- Another thumbs down. I read several chapters and in the end consulted Wikipedia to find out when the title character would appear. The beginning of the book is apparently about A.A.'s parents. I could see his mother was a complete ninny; and his father meant to run away with her, but they end up trysting instead, for an extended while, meeting secretly for weeks; until A.A.'s father is killed by the jealous husband. Totally had it coming. Didn't finish the book.....

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Circulating libraries
I skipped Chapter 8 and started on 9 because I was having so much trouble with writing 8. But as soon as I did, the problems started resolving themselves, at least a little bit. It's better to put first things first.... so I'm halting 9 and posting 8, so long as it cooperates. Conversations that refer back to the events in 8 will make more sense that way.

The other problem I'm running into is that I lack reference photos and background shots and general information for town life. Most of what I can find dates to 1800-1850, and there's a HUUUGE amount of difference between the time periods. Look at a family photo album from the 1960s. How bout those beehive 'dos? That kind of difference. Or imagine taking a guidebook printed in the 1960s, and trying to tour New York with it. That kind of difference.

As for this page, I'm not much good at drawing horses (any 8 year old girl could do as well), and I'm not so sure about carriages either. The person driving DID ride one of the horses, rather than a bench on the front of the carriage, as later in the 1800s. Top hats weren't in use yet. That's the Stanhope crest circa 1800 on the side of the carriage. Yes, it's a private carriage and not a rented one. Remember Mr. Bennett's comment in Pride and Prejudice about needing the carriage horses for the fields? The Stanhopes don't have that problem.

Okay, on to circulating libraries! Books were expensive. Few people would own many, although those who were rich and so inclined might take pride in having a huge private library. In the early to mid 1700s, circulating libraries started to spring up. As a member, you could read the latest news and borrow books, all for a hefty quarterly fee. There were only a handful at this time, so he's excited to see one here. As time went on the idea really gathered steam, and by 1800 there were over a hundred in London alone.

Libraries were not just there to loan books; people went there to socialize as well, and the hefty fee made certain those people were "the right sort." Women were permitted. When you consider all the places they were NOT welcome (clubs, bars, hotels, banks, moneylenders), it's no wonder they flocked to the libraries, even if they were derided for preferring novels to more edifying literature.

I was not able to find out how these circulating libraries kept track of memberships. Will Allan have to pay to make it in the door, or just if he tries to borrow a book? I assume he bluffed his way in. I also assume that if I can't find out, my readers probably won't know either. If you do, though, speak up.

Last paragraph, then I'll stop boring you: at work this week, appraised several Masonic books (one in cipher) and a library book from 1860 titled Memoirs of the Pretenders. (link to the Ebay auction). I actually knew what was meant by the Pretenders, so it was fun to be in on the joke.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Love and a black eye
Notice Allan's proud, chagrined expression. He really shouldn't have fought that common fellow, and he knows he's going to hear about it later.

Also, about the manhandling:

I've noticed something about men; when they express affection, it's often accomplished through harassment. I would say "mild harassment" but sometimes it isn't so mild. Depends if you understand the subtext or not. My husband says this is a trait of immature males, but I'm not so sure.

Women and girls tend to express affection through nurturing and efforts to please. Take a cat; a woman will feed and stroke it, and scratch the sweet spot under the chin to make it purr. A man might ruffle its fur, tweak its tail, attack its belly, generally tease it, and laugh at its indignant expression.

Men who are good friends might trade casual insults as a greeting. If two women do that, there's nothing casual about it and you'd better break it up before they start pulling hair.

We know boys tease the girl they like. I can also attest that young fathers like teasing their toddlers, chasing them around the house, tickling them til they scream, and issuing various playful threats, from "I'm gonna get you!" to "I'll sell you to the gypsies!" Which just goes to show how early we learn to equate male aggression with affection- if you take these threats at face value, they're pretty disturbing.

With this understood, catcalls such as "You so foooiiiine!" can be understood. I guess. At least the subsequent "I was giving you a compliment, bitch!" can be chalked up to the difference between Venus and a very primitive Mars. But that veers over into control and aggression more than affection.

But back to my topic. Is Allan manhandling Siloen a sign of affection, like teasing a cat? Or a show of aggression and control, since Sally wounded his pride? Or perhaps, practically speaking, he's trying to keep her from picking his pockets.

Not that Allan isn't an insensitive jerk, but there's a lot of cultural conditioning involved.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Green moppet

One senses there must be more to the story. I won't make you wait long for it.

If, by any chance, you enjoy my comic and want to make my season bright, check out the things I have for sale on Ebay. I wish I could say I'd blow the money on something fun and outrageous, but the truth is my water heater has been making some amazing noises and needs to be replaced.

I just posted the first of this week's updates, and I'm listening to disaster documentaries while I start sketching on next weeks. Those still cheer me up.
Bonus sketch

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New outfits
So happy to be drawing at this again. Her unrestrained enthusiasm makes my day.

As you see, the boys have new outfits.

Stephen, as the grandson of the deceased, is ready to leave off the black and wear colors again. Allan, a son, should be wearing black for some months yet, but he wanted to show off his handsome new coat to his dear Sally. And how did that work out for him...?

Fashions have changed slightly. The skirts of the coats are less full, the cuffs less wide. Later in the decade, "big hair" will catch on, but that's a couple years off.

Looking at European portraits of the time, the gentlemen tended to wear bright jewel tones, the ladies pastels, and anyone in dull colors is working class. Men in American portraits tend toward more earthy tones of green, brown, and rust tones. Gainsborough is a good artist to refer to, since he worked both sides of the Atlantic.

There was never any question of what color Allan would wear: a blue that sets off his eyes. Stephen was more of a challenge. Purple is too royal a color, orange too modern. Perhaps I should have gone with yellow/gold, but he would be constantly upstaging Allan. Allan should be the more visible of the two. Green would have been a good color for Stephen, but it would fade into the greenery too well. Bright red was too attention-getting, so I went with a dull rust red, although he could afford better. He seems like a person who would be happy to fade into the background.

There should be an extraordinary amount of trim, embroidery, and buttons on this, but that takes too much time to draw for every page. I settled for adding more lace and ruffles.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Siloen's song

That last post was a bit sad. So hey, I was listening to this song today, and it's so beautiful I thought I would share. The theme is from a short-lived rather apocalyptic anime series called Arjuna. Arjuna's main flaw was that the soundtrack was several times better than its plot. This theme didn't even make it into the series, although it was the gem of the third soundtrack, which was mostly odds&ends. The lyrics are not in any known language, and my only complaint about it is that it is way too brief, because I could listen to it just about forever.

If there is one song that most evokes the character Siloen, this is it.

Darn, now I need to find themes for each of them. I'll take suggestions....

Also, I highly suggest the 1st Arjuna soundtrack, Into the Another World, for getting into a creative mindset. It is one of the most amazing things I have ever heard.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Parenting in the fantasy genre
So hey, maybe it's time for me to explain what this story is about, at least a little bit. Why I'm writing it.

-I enjoy reading fantasy. I have a creative mind and like to exercise my imagination. But the number of clich├ęs drive me to distraction. It's as though they pick from the same limited list of storylines, conflicts, and character types. It's like they all go to the same place, by the same route, when I want to go somewhere different. Somewhere new.

-Art is my therapy. This story says more about me than I like, probably. Hopefully I've obscured my hangups enough that they're not too obvious. If they are, well, keep it to yourself.

-It's the chance to question certain mainstays of the fantasy genre. Does love always have to be at first sight? Does fantasy always have to be epic and world-changing? Do characters have to be good or evil, or can they just be people, once in a while?

So, this post was triggered by this scene here. It begs some explanation. I got to say, these are two very dysfunctional families, and we've barely even met most of them.  Parents in fantasy are pretty static characters, usually:  a. conveniently dead b. evil as a plot device c. if they somehow get cast as main characters, probably on a quest to rescue their child. That's about it. (Bravo, Lois McMaster Bujold, your books are the exception).

I don't think I've ever seen a parent who was mentally ill, where mentally ill isn't equal to evil or abusive. Substitute overwhelmed, if you like. Depressive or unreliable would also do. I favor unreliable. Sometimes he's got it together, and other times he needs to be rescued from himself. Not going to say why, yet, that will come later.

I do know that not a word is said about it. Ever. Aille and Soreny share a look. That look says everything that needs to be said. As for why I know about that look, refer back to the Art is my therapy paragraph above.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Three very special old books (book geekery)

I sold one very special book today on Ebay, and listed two more. This is all for work, so it's not like I benefit outright, but I do take a certain pride in it.

The book that sold was an oversized Bible printed in Cincinnati in 1852, and it had an older family register sewn into it. Hand-penned records of the births and deaths of the Smith family covered 1756 to 1901.

That's pretty special.

The Memoir of Elder William Conrad was printed in 1884, and never reprinted. He was born in 1797 when we were barely a nation. But he wasn't too old to autograph and write an inscription in his memoir by the time it was published. This Baptist travelled all over the Midwest and what he called the Far West- the western territories before they attained statehood. He founded a church in Kentucky, and a lot of people trace their ancestry back to him. So I hope this book goes to someone with a personal interest in it.

The other book was a copy of Civic Biology by George William Hunter. At a glance, it's just an old high school textbook. However, it is the 1914 textbook that started the 1925 "Scopes Monkey Trial" by putting evolution in the curriculum. We were descended from monkeys?? No way! It was the media circus of its day, lots of celebrities involved, spawned a play I had to read for high school lit, etc. Wikipedia has the details.

Interestingly enough, the post-trial printings of the book removed all references to evolution (and included an expanded chapter on eugenics, which is a whole different nasty topic). But this is the 1st edition, just as John Scopes would have taught it. If you're a science geek, kind of cool.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Delayed, not defeated

Well, another couple weeks have gone by without a word from me. A great part of it is: I have tried for 3 months to write Chapter 8, and it is just not working. I mean, the adventures of two young men, going shopping, unsupervised- and this is Allan, so interesting things just occur, even if he didn't quite start them. I try to do a chapter a month, so to stall for 3 months on a single chapter and still have nothing is...disastrous.

So, I am skipping ahead to Chapter 9, back in the country, and will have to get back to Chapter 8 at a later date. I don't want to quit over something so stupid, and I don't want to post something I'm not satisfied with either. That's just how it's going to be.

My car was totaled by a deer. I couldn't find anything used that I felt good about buying. Flat tires, coolant lights on, and the asking prices were astronomical. Of course you never pay asking price, but they could count on selling anything under 10k to someone, so there wasn't much incentive to come down on price, and I was pressed for time. I bought a new Honda Fit, gritted my teeth and took out a 3 year loan, and kissed vacations goodbye for the next 3 years. My income and expenses are now exactly equal. Sometimes I'm not as smart as I mean to be.

So what else...?
I've learned a few new, fun tidbits of information:

That funky ledge inside some teacups is NOT there to hold the spoon....
It was to keep tea from ruining your carefully groomed mustache. A very Victorian fad.
The link goes to Wikipedia's blurb on mustache cups.

Victorian were quite serious about their nativities, or putz, putting as much time and effort into them as they did with Christmas trees. Too bad so many of the animals were made of lead! Incidentally, putz is derived from a German word which means "to clean or to decorate." However, in Yiddish it is slang for a penis.

It seems I didn't properly dry my acorns, and they developed mold. I didn't feel safe eating them, even boiled. But apparently some Korean grocers stock acorn flour, so if I want the actual taste sensation, I can buy some to experiment.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Insanity strikes again

Somehow another two weeks have passed without a post.
I've had nothing good to say, really, so I've said nothing.
This picture sums it up nicely:
Most people, if they have heard of Mercury retrograde, think it is a lot of superstitious nonsense. I can't argue with that. It does seem silly to say it's all the fault of a few errant planets. However, insane things happen in my life about three times a year, coinciding like clockwork with the times Mercury goes retrograde, and I have learnt to know when they are and be careful.

So, the last two weeks have included over a week of anxiety attacks and/or gluten symptoms, as bad as I've ever had. I've been logging my food, so I KNOW I didn't have any gluten...just the symptoms.

A friend's emergency gallbladder surgery.

A mystery package that I took to be an attempt to scam me, that turned out to be a random gift from a family member. My sister got one too. We are both mystified as to why.

A party. Everyone either declined the invitation or didn't answer, so I cancelled it. Then 2 days before it happened, some of them changed their minds, so we threw things together at the last minute to host 3 adults and 5 hyperactive children.

My husband hit a deer on Friday, so now we need to shop for a car. I'm afraid to do it before retrograde is over, as there is a better-than-usual chance it will catch fire or the wheels will fall off or something. Will probably spend a good deal of this month car-shopping, a stressful pastime if there ever was one, while trying to stall actually buying one.

So I'm taking a week off from updates. Just not feeling up to it. Try again next week.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More Mincemeat

Ok, so green tomato mincemeat? Actually fairly tasty. I admit, I was a bit dubious when I read the recipe. 4 cups sugar and a ton of sweet spices and a goodly amount of salt, ok. But my eyes bugged out a little when it came to the tsp of black pepper. But really, it worked out ok. A bit too sweet for me. You'll have to excuse my attempt at gluten-free tart crusts. They taste good, but they crumble easily.

I collected my acorns today. Red oak, so they're going to take more leeching to get the bitterness out. Shall I roast them like chestnuts or grind them into meal for grits or pancakes?

 I'm waiting on the persimmons to ripen, and will update on my food adventures in a week or so.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Green tomatoes, persimmons, and other food adventures

Somehow another couple of weeks have gone by. That Chinese-Art Deco fusion work of art turned out to be a modern painting mimicking traditional art styles. Halloween is well underway. An early frost and a hungry groundhog forced me to pick all the tomatoes that were left on the vine, most of them green. I started looking for ways to deal with them, since several pounds of fried green tomatoes is Waaaay too much of a good thing.

Understand that I am a foodie. Or perhaps I have settled for being a foodie. I would like to be an adventuress. Visit all kinds of fascinating places, have unique experiences, eat unusual foods, read all the books in the world. Yes, book adventures count. But I'm on a super-budget, so I often turn my attention to making unusual foods, foods that you can't buy anywhere.

So, several pounds of green tomatoes. What to do? Internet searches turned up a number of suggestions, some of them very strange indeed, or very inventive.

Green tomato jelly: Sounds fun, except that the ingredients are green tomatoes, sugar, and raspberry gelatin. If I'm using green tomatoes, I want it to have the flavor of green tomatoes, and not raspberry jello.

Green tomato pie: I made this last year. It tasted a lot like tart apple pie. If you like apple pie, I can recommend it. But I've done that before, so it's not much of an adventure.

Pickles: Not just for cucumbers! You can pickle just about any vegetable with salt and vinegar (have I ever mentioned my grandma's pickled watermelon rind? Sounds weird, tastes delicious).  I took the little cherry-sized green tomatoes (too small for anything else) and fresh dill and made a quart jar worth. I go for refrigerator pickling instead of hard canning, so I will know how those turned out in 3 days. They probably make good bread & butter pickles because of their tartness, but I have to limit my sugar, so I went with sour dills.

This left me about 6 cups of green tomatoes (and 5 large ripe ones, which made a lovely tomato soup)
So I kept looking.

Picalilli: some kind of Southern relish. It's probably like chutney. Not sure what you put it on, actually, and I couldn't find the recipe again. Or spell it, which is probably the problem.

Green tomato mincemeat: SOLD! It's weird, sounds disgusting, and I'm pretty sure you can't buy it even in the most country of country stores. THAT is worth my time and effort. I mean, the store-canned mincemeats are disgusting, but I'm hoping it's like fruitcake, where the home-made ones are really delicious. At the least, I'll have something to talk about (Ew, this tastes terrible! Here, you try it!)

That's why they're food adventures.

So I need to scale down the recipe from a peck (12 lbs) of green tomatoes, and buy some things I don't keep around the house, but I will get back to you with the results.

But that got me started on other ideas. It's acorn time, and I know the Native Americans ate acorns. If I can steal some from the squirrels I might experiment with them as well. I don't expect them to taste good, but the bragging rights will be worth it.

I also have an American persimmon tree in my yard. The fruit isn't ripe yet, but when it is I have recipes lined up for persimmon jam, butter and puree. There are recipes out there for bread, pudding (in the bread pudding sense), cake and cookies, and even persimmon fudge, but they're all full of gluten, except the fudge, which is loaded with sugar.

Doing something with the loads of mint from my garden is really just an afterthought.

What can you do with mint besides dry the leaves for tea, or make mint jelly?
Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A mysterious painting

I didn't feel like I had much to say when I updated last night, but guess what!
A mysterious painting arrived in my office today! It's a beauty, isn't it?

It appears to be a watercolor portrait painted on fabric (likely silk) and is nearly as tall as I am. It isn't signed, in any language.
The outfit looks like traditional Korean or perhaps Chinese. It isn't Japanese or Thai. I don't know enough about other nations to know.

The traditional Asian portraits I've been looking at generally have no border or background, and include calligraphy. The subject is usually an Emperor or an ancestor (usually a middle-aged man). Is this person one of the thousand Chinese gods, or is this the son (or daughter) of a wealthy family? It's not typical for a girl to carry a cane, is it?

Since the mid-1700s, Chinoiserie seems to come into fashion every few decades. If this was European I'd say it was done in 1910-1920s Art Deco style, imitating traditional Asian art. Looking at the face, however, the portrait style is not Westernized.
Perhaps looking at portraiture wasn't the right place to start. It may have started life as part of a screen or wall hanging that was later framed. I don't like to base appraisals on guesses, so if anyone has a background in Asian art history, I'd love to hear from you.

Oh, and the donor commented that the frame was quite valuable. It looks quite average to me, so I'm not sure why... It's modern. She may have meant "framing it was expensive" which I'm sure it was. Since the truck crew know nothing about art, they couldn't pump her for information the way I would have.

Well, that's my little mystery.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Visiting Union Terminal in Cincinnati

I haven't felt like I have much to say for the last couple weeks, but I don't want this blog to fall by the wayside.

I was in Cincinnati over the weekend, and took my husband to the Museum Center at Union Terminal. My very first job was there, back in 1996-97. It's an amazing building, truly huge, and there is even more space behind the scenes than most people comprehend. Hidden space behind the fabricated walls. Blocked-up tunnels. Perhaps a few secret passages. I was a fervent Phantom of the Opera fan, so of course it all seemed awesome. There's a catwalk that goes over the 100' half-dome rotunda. I've been on it. They give that tour twice a year. Contact the museum for details- but only if you're not afraid of heights.

Anyway, if you can spare any time from checking out the paid attractions, there are two freebies you should take advantage of.

Climb Tower A, which overlooks the railyard, where you can watch the trains come and go. The tower is packed with railroad artifacts, and railroad enthusiasts itching to tell you about them.

There is also a free tour of the building; which, if you like architecture and historic preservation, is truly amazing. You go up to the second floor catwalk for a closer look at the murals. Then they take you to the building's original offices, beautifully restored to their Art Deco glory. The building was derelict for several years, so restoring them was no mean feat. The guide could see our interest, so he took us pretty much everywhere he had keys for, pointing out little details; the clamshell elevator; the room where men waited for the train; the fine dining hall with murals on the ceiling, the phone booths. I haven't seen a phone booth in years. The 30 minute tour stretched to over an hour, but it made our day.

For more about Union Terminal, accompanied by stunning photos, go here.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I fell in love with 7 notes of music.

Ah, children.... The charades are cute....
So long as you don't think too hard about what she's saying, it's all good, right?

Was wondering today what one wears to a wake. It's not a funeral, it's a party, so I don't know if black is in, or out.

Ah, I got nothing to add, so let me share my new favorite song:
Prince Rupert's Drop, from the Oscar & Lucinda soundtrack


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tintype, Marlboro Man, and antique camera parts; pieces of my life.

Today at work I was handed a coat ("just leave it on that stack of boxes over there would you?")  and told it was THE coat worn by Marlboro Man in the old ads. I have no way of knowing or proving whether this is true, but it made a fine story.

I reassembled a set of fancy Victorian candleholders dripping with crystal prisms, threw up my hands at a Ferris Wheel Erector set, sorted through a cart of this-and-that, most of which was chaff, but a few things were worth my time. The first was a 1860s tintype photo of a woman in mourning clothes. The other was a cigar box filled with PARTS from turn of the century cameras. Talk about "they don't make these any more"!

And I fell in love with the soundtrack to Oscar and Lucinda. I haven't seen the movie, but after reading the synopsis, I might have to.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fair at New Boston (2)

The Fair was glorious, I have a sunburn, and somehow my face made it onto the Springfield News website as I was examining at an 18th century apothecary kit.

I hope they roll it back to the 1700s next year, as I just don't find the Jane Austen era costumes to be all that appealing. Also, they can't go any later in time without losing Tecumseh, who was killed in fall of 1813, and it would be a shame to lose him as a speaker.

The food was nicely authentic, and what's more: mostly gluten-free. You have no idea what a blessing that is to people like me. I had turkey leg, chicken legs, garlic mushrooms in wine, New Boston stew, corn chowder, and ham&beans. Had to pass on the bread&butter, gingerbread, and peaches with pound cake, but I'm sure they were also amazing.

Of all things, people seemed most fascinated by REAL LIVE ANIMALS. There was a falcon in the Shawnee village who was drawing most of the attention, a Shetland pony carrying crated hens, and a goat tethered under a tree that the owner milked, as well as the usual horses and oxen.

Last year at the Fair, I discovered the pleasure of Bohea tea, a loose leaf black tea whose leaves are smoked over a fire. It tastes nicely smoky with milk and perhaps a little honey. I have never found this tea anywhere else, so I stocked up again this year. If you like a smoky taste, I recommend giving it a try.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Accordions, and the Fair at New Boston

Like most people, I've never actually handled an accordion. Til today, anyway. Let me say, they make a most appealing wheezing sound when you pick them up. I was tempted to buy it -for about 5 minutes. Just think of the GLORIOUS AMOUNTS OF NOISE those things make. They are second only to a bagpipe in their ability to annoy people at a distance.

But enough of that! I'd never use it anyway. I am excited about The Fair at New Boston, a reenactment that's happening this weekend near Dayton. It's organized with great attention to historical accuracy, but moreover, they don't just lecture. They try to get the audience involved. This year is set in 1813; so someone will be flying historic hot air balloons if the weather is right; and press gangs will be impressing men into the British Navy to fight against Commodore Perry.

I got some excellent story material from the fair last year, and I expect to be inspired again this year.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Allan absolved

Did you think Allan went out to the forest to pull girls' hair?
You did, didn't you! Like he hasn't anything better to do!

As for me, in the 3rd panel I seem to have drawn Aille's hands in backward. Oops.

I shall conclude with an amusing anecdote from work:

The business I work for is not family-owned, precisely (it's a nonprofit), but it is family-operated and not without its tensions. Also, I was somewhat distracted today from trying to accomplish three things at once. So when two people came into my cubicle, er, office, and started unloading two carts of packing supplies and antiques, and one of them said "and I pried this from my sister's cold dead hands!" the first thing that came into my head fell straight out of my mouth, and it was "What, did a house fall on her?"

Fortunately she thought this was hilarious.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

And so forth

So, the second job fell through. I'm a bit sad and a bit relieved. No one really wants to work 7 days a week, but... money, you know.

The next day, a friend handed me a flier for an art contest she thought I should enter. Coincidence? I don't know. I'm thinking it over.....

Thursday, August 22, 2013

He has a decent singing voice.

"Oh Sally, my Dear," is an English folk song.

On a related note, I dug out one of my Steeleye Span CDs and have been listening to it in the car. English folk rock, if you like that.

As for Sally, she was also named pretty much at random. Paging through my drafts, I had referred to her at different times as Kate and as Bess. That's pretty random. I don't even remember why I switched to Sally, but it goes well with the song.

Wait, who's Sally?

You'll just have to wait and see.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Civil War letters and Benjamin lights

I don't think I mentioned the Civil War letters, at least not at length. One of the recent Ebay auctions I managed for work was for a collection of letters dated 1862-1863, from Simeon Darling to his wife Melinda. He wrote, among other things, about eating food meant for the horses, being ill, and going without pay for months on end. He did not say which regiment he was with, and I wasn't even certain what side he fought on. But some of the information coming from interested bidders really blew me away. The first one said that there were only two Simeon Darlings in the Civil War and that one died. Another asked if he was the one from Wisconsin or Illinois. (Wisconsin.) I don't know where they go to for this information, but I am quite impressed with their knowledge.

One of the letters had an embossed seal, with the outline of the Capitol building and the word Congress. I wish I knew what that signified, but it seemed unprofessional to ask the bidders that.

Oh, and on Friday I assessed a collection of cobalt blue glass. Beautiful color, mostly tableware; candy dish, salt/pepper, cake plate, bowl, butter dish, a number of vases, and so on. Then there were these two blue glass things that looked vaguely like jelly jars, but turned out to be Benjamin explosion-proof glass to protect very old lightbulbs. I haven't figured out why they are so dark blue, though; I've only found other examples in clear and amber. Surely blue can't let much light through. Maybe it marked an exit or something.

There's also an antique accordion awaiting my inspection.

I don't even know anyone who plays an accordion any more.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Did he say too much? Too little?

It's fair to say that work is keeping me busy, in that I'm rushing from this to that. Ebay is working out wonderfully, but there's no set system for doing things yet, so everything from the fussy printer to finding appropriate packing material for a vintage guitar amp is a stumbling block. Meanwhile, the other work (books & carts of lookups) piles up. I'm skipping Gencon this weekend, but I'm looking forward to the Fair at New Boston in a few weeks.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rare and awesome

The nonprofit I work for has just resumed Ebay operations after a several-year hiatus. As the semi-expert in antiques and collectables, it is mostly on me. While there is a lot more work to do, people are passing some really awesome and rare things my way. Let's see:

-A set of 8 pewter spoons from 1600s England stamped with a rose&crown hallmark.
-A hand-painted Haviland Limoges chocolate pot with a painting of a Georgian gentleman on one side and a lady on the other. These were original paintings from scratch, not transfers with a quick dab of paint. Damn shame the spout was broken.
-A religious book published in 1785. Before now, the oldest book that passed through my hands was dated 1803.
-A fancy Victorian velvet & brass wedding photo album/music box.
-A collection of Civil War letters from a soldier to his wife. One letter was embossed with a seal of Congress. I have no idea why; he wasn't anyone of importance.  Heart-wrenching letters.

There were some more books from the 1800s that I didn't get to look at before I left. And there's a cart of lead crystal and early American pattern glass waiting for me when I get a spare second.

St Francis Ebay page, where most of these things are or will be for sale.

My personal Ebay page, less awesome but more affordable.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


There are a few extra faces in today's page, but pay them no attention. They are nameless NPCs. I'm afraid that the Stanhopes are too important to open their own doors and pour their own tea. And that is fairly typical.

Good families of the 18th century had quite a lot of servants. A number of people had to work very hard to keep a few in luxury. Even families that were not so well off had a few servants. The servant class are considered unimportant and are rarely mentioned in detail, but they are omnipresent despite not having speaking lines.

-In Pride and Prejudice, the Bennets had a cook and a housekeeper, and since they had a coach I presume they had a groom and perhaps a footman, but these are never mentioned.

-A man of Mr. Darcy's importance would have had someone in almost constant attendance. At the very least, a valet would have travelled with him to attend to his clothes and his person. Yet the only servant who makes an appearance is his housekeeper, when Elizabeth visits Pemberly, Darcy's home estate.

-In Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwoods move to Barton Cottage in what they perceive as intolerable hardship, yet they take a couple servants with them, cooking and chopping firewood being beneath them.

-In Peter Pan, the Darling parents were poor but pretentious, so they had only one servant, but referred to her in the plural sense.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

He's the youngest, so he was spoiled as a child.

Too much to do, too much to do! I worked through two carts of antique, hand-painted china today at work. Victorian rose vases, Japan violet teapots, art nouveau plates. It takes time to figure out exactly what something is, but with things like that, it's worth it. Tomorrow, two carts of antique crystal and glassware, books, and.....Ebay auctions.

That's right!
Work has FOUND the internet.

Don't look so surprised, it had to happen eventually. A million monkeys typed a long time for this.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

So clever he outsmarts himself

Period-correct playing cards, though I didn't render them in exacting detail. I'm pretty proud of these first few pages. I paid a lot of attention to making the dialogue, the monologue, and the card game mesh.

Allan thinks of himself as clever, but his tactics are predictable. For example, he babbles when he is trying to pull a fast one. He thinks of it as trying to distract his opponent. It may work on casual acquaintances, but it's a dead giveaway to anyone who knows him well.

His mother knows him well.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My life in post-its and paper dolls

I'm thinking about starting a second comic. Siloen takes so much time, but there are also things about my job that are so strange and funny that I feel the need to share them with the world. The story of my life told with post-its and donated stationary, as scribbled in 5 minutes or less.

I was also looking at a pioneer family paper doll book and thinking it would be fun to do that with Allan and Stephen. A paper doll set, I mean, with them in their undergarments and a number of sets of clothes and accessories. But perhaps I'm the only one who would find that amusing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eating at conventions for cheap

We've all been there. You've paid for your ticket, your room, and transportation to the con. Maybe something awesome to wear. You were on a shoestring budget to begin with, but now your wallet is almost empty. And you haven't even hit the dealer's room yet!

There are many ways to eat for cheap at a con. Which ones you use depend on what perks your convention offers, your food preferences, and how much you want to plan ahead. Planning ahead obviously gets you the best advantages.

1. Eat at the Con Suite. Large conventions like DragonCon have a room where they hand out snack food, drinks, and popcorn for free. You can't live off it, but it does take the edge off.

2. If your hotel has a restaurant, see if they will throw in free breakfast with your room reservations. It doesn't hurt to ask. Buffets are the best! You can feel full for most of the day on one free breakfast.

3. Carry your own water or soda with you. It keeps you hydrated and might save you from impulse purchases at the snack bar.

4. Compare the restaurants nearby. Which ones give such generous portions that you can save half and eat it later? Or buy one meal and split it between two people. Skip the combo deals and the sodas. At $2 each, you'd do better to ask for a free cup of water and save your cash for food.

5. Bring your own cold foods. Plan ahead and bring a cooler of ice (the mini-fridge probably isn't big enough). Fill it with your own drinks and food. Good stuff, not just boring yogurt and granola bars. Pack food you actually want to eat! Salami, ham, cheese, something from the salad bar, salsa and chips. Anything from the deli case is fair game.

6. Hot foods. Sooner or later, you're going to get tired of cold food. Probably sooner. Most hotels don't have microwaves in the room. If yours does, you're in luck! I've never lugged a microwave to a con. It seems too silly. Well, too troublesome rather. The following suggestions are silly, but they do work in a pinch.

The hotel usually provides a number of gadgets. One of them may be a coffeemaker. You can use the coffeemaker (without the coffee) to heat water for ramen, hot drinks, or condensed soup. Do not make ramen noodles IN the coffee carafe. Trust me, this is a mistake.

Tired of liquids? Use the coffeepot's warming plate to heat your food. This takes for-damn-ever, so plan to do something else for half-an-hour. Food needs to be in glass, Pyrex or ceramic, NOT PLASTIC. Make sure it is the right size to fit where the coffee carafe goes.

I prefer the boil-in-bag approach, where I make hot water with the coffeemaker, and soak the food jar or packet in the hot water until it gets warm. I've found some brands of Indian food (Kohinoor, House of India, Maharaja) that work very well with this. They come in a foil packet, don't need to be refrigerated, and cost about $2-4 a meal. It's more than I usually spend on a meal (at home, we try to eat on $3 a day) but the curry tastes great and is much cheaper than eating out.

If it's a hot summer day, or my car is parked in the sun, I've heated the packets on the dash of the car.

No coffeemaker? I don't like to suggest this- it's a fire hazard and injury magnet- but there's probably a travel iron in the room. Prop up the iron (and do a good job; you don't need nasty burns!) and heat a sandwich or slice of pizza on it. Toast bread. That's about as much as it's good for. Don't put plastic on it. Don't rinse it under the tap, especially while plugged in. Wiping it with a damp paper towel is fine.

That's about as far as my experience goes. I'm there to enjoy the convention, not cook food. Do you have any tips you'd like to add? Feel free to share!

Ahh, bills...

Ahh, bills.... You and I know what that's like, don't we?

I've picked up a second job for September & October, but I'm working on getting far enough ahead that I can update on schedule. Plenty of items on sale on Ebay, too...

I can probably avoid working a second job for Christmas, but we'll see.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I don't know either

Oops! It seemed I scanned pages 10 & 11 out of order. Now that I've got that straightened out, the conversation should flow better.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

18th century bookstore?

Saturday night bonus post: I'm at home trying to draw the last pages of Chapter 7, but my brain doesn't feel like cooperating tonight. Have a few more questions I can't yet answer:

Books weren't as rare in 1760s as in previous centuries, but how did people buy them? The wealthy and educated prided themselves on their private libraries, but how did they stock them? Did they travel to purchase books in person, belong to some kind of book-of-the-month club, trust the task to a personal servant, or say to the sellers "just send me whatever is appropriate"?

If you went to buy books in a city, did they have a typical "bookstore" or did you go to the printer's, full of printing presses, newspapers and playbills?

Also, Allan and Stephen must eventually come out of mourning, so I'm debating the color and style of their new clothes.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A few notes on my research

When trying to learn about logging in England in the 18th century, I couldn't turn up anything. Why? England had practically no forests left. I could and did turn up information on logging in the New World, but had to look at it with a critical eye and a grain of salt.

Why? Well, if you read about logging in a New England context, it was done in the winter. This was because it was easier to drag those great big trees around when there was a thick blanket of snow on the ground. New England had so much snow and ice that horse-drawn sleighs were the winter mode of transport.

Yeah, England doesn't get that much snow. If they travelled more in fall and winter, it's because the roads were an impassable muddy mess in wet weather.
Perhaps it would be similar to logging in the American West in the 19th century. The two cultures are completely dissimilar, but the tools could be the same...? I couldn't find out which season logging took place in. It's not the kind of thing people write in books. Transportation? Where the railroads didn't go, the trees were transported by water. Railroads weren't invented yet in the 1760s, so river it was. That team of horses is dragging the trees to the river, where they will float downstream to their destination.

In the end I used mid-1800s photographs of logging in the American West... and  didn't go into much detail, since my information is not too reliable.

I check on any words that I'm not certain are period-correct. Here's a sample of the things I looked up yesterday. I'll let you try to figure out why:

Correct: dwarf, pygmy, freak (certain meanings of the word)
Not: Circus(not invented), midget, side-show(American West), penny gaff (1800s), belittle (American in origin).

Uncertain: The difference, at this place and time, between a tea house, coffeehouse, and tavern. All were places where men gathered socially and talked sports, gambling, politics, etc. A club was similar but required membership. An inn offered overnight accommodation? One of more of these is probably the equivalent of bar, but it's hard to be sure. None of them equates to a dance club- these were men's haunts. There were dance hall assemblies, viewed somewhat dubiously, and private parties where dancing might take place, but on the whole, the sexes didn't mingle much socially.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Not so rhetorical questions

Shipbuilding, and yes. But that's for the readers to know, and the characters to guess at.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


And that is the end of THAT conversation. Now we can return to discussing casual murder.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bizarre Abraham Lincoln memorabilia

..there's a lot more wrong in the elfy forest than we first thought.

On an unrelated note, I have to admire the way dead guy's head thunks off the cliff.

Yesterday, I got to evaluate a collection of Civil War letters dated 1862-63, penned from Simeon Darling to his wife Melinda. They were bundled together with a print of Abraham Lincoln and a partial copy of the Gettysburg Address. The letters were originals. I can't verify the age of the other documents.

But it really opened my eyes to the bizarre types of memorabilia available. It goes way beyond photographs and newspapers. Would you like to buy wallpaper from the room where Abraham Lincoln died? Ebay has it. You'll pay a pretty penny. How about a word penned by Abraham Lincoln? Someone has cut one of his letters into single words, printed up certificates of authenticity, and is selling them for $59 per word.....

I think I'm in the wrong line of work. With a little more creativity and a little less honesty, I too could be hawking single words and shreds of old wallpaper...


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A change in weather

It must be summer.

Up til now, it's more like an extended spring. It's rained almost every day for 6 weeks, and the 4th of July was so chilly I wanted a sweater.

So this heat wave is a bit of a surprise.

Tell you what. Instead of sitting here sweating buckets as I type out a long blog post, I'm going to go into the one room that has AC, work on Chapter 7, and try not to die of heat stroke.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Update note

Siloen updates every Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday evening.
I have been updating on time for the past several months.
If you are not seeing the newest page, try deleting your browser history. It works like a charm.
If you are too lazy to delete your browser history, hit the Back button, and then hit the Next button until you run out of pages. You may need to hit the Refresh button occasionally.

Mairelon the Magician and Jane Austen's Persuasion

Today I finished Jane Austen's novel Persuasion.

It wasn't as engaging as I expected from the synopsis, and includes perhaps the most extreme example of passive-aggressive nonsense I've ever heard of.
Anne is visiting her friend Mrs. Smith, who congratulates her on her anticipated marriage to Mr. Elliot and how happy she will be. Anne tells Mrs. Smith she will not marry Mr. Elliot, no way, no how. Mrs. Smith then admits of how Mr. Elliot isn't as gentlemanly as he seems and how he did her a great wrong in the past.

And she would have let her innocent friend marry this jerk? 'If she doesn't know, I'm not going to tell her?' I know Mrs. Smith is the opposite of other characters in the book who are a bit too free with the advice, but that's craaaazy.

What I admire are writers who can craft an interesting plot and intriguing characters without clubbing us over the head with trauma. Take a book like Mairelon the Magician, a modern work of Regency fantasy. Mairelon is on good terms with his parents, who are still living. He doesn't get on with his brother, but it's not a big deal. He was in the war, but doesn't suffer PTSD. He's something of a spy, but he's not out to avenge a dead girlfriend or good buddy. And yet, I would never describe the story as boring.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Looong week

I just realized it looks like the dead guy is talking.
...yeah, sorry about that.

The doctor's bag I wrote about a while ago is now for sale at the store. Only, after further examination, I think it's a veterinary bag. Still, if you like old farm stuff....

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It is not impossible

 Damn but it's sticky. The humidity is higher than the temperature (that's in degrees Fahrenheit, for you Celsius people). Maybe that's why I'm so crabby today.

...nah. Probably not.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

And the last member of our elven cast appears

A few more humans may join us, but the fae cast is limited to four.

I was listening to a history of the Celts while I colored today, and some of it was spoken in Gaelic and Welsh. If you have seen written samples of either, you'll know they are pronounced nothing like they are spelled. You see, the Celts never had a written language. It was an oral tradition. Then the Romans conquered the British Isles, and record-keepers that they were, said that they must have a written language. "Fine," said they, "But you'll never be able to read it."

This might actually be true.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Aille gives the sort of advice no one wants to hear.

Aille: his name is pronounced like "I'll" or "aisle" or "isle."

On the subject of names, my husband & I were discussing Lord of the Rings and the movie Willow. In Lord of the Rings, just about everything has an unusual, meaningful and literate name. If by 'literate' I mean 'elven' or 'backstory appears in the copious appendices of the Silmarillion.' Then he names their destination Mount Doom? Major imagination fail.

The movie Willow was unusual in calling the human race something besides human, man, race of man, etc. They were the Daikini, and the little people were Nelwyn. It's cool to find something that gives the two equal footing rather than treating one as normal and the other strange. Willow is a good title name, easy to remember; but alongside names like Bav Morda and Mad Martigan, it sounds rather....bland.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bide a moment

A friend was saying that she found Jane Austen a difficult read because she takes a paragraph to say what we would say in four words. It's not that I find her too difficult; but if I wrote in that style, each page would be a couple paragraphs of dialog and two small figures shoved in a corner.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

I'd heard of Occupied Germany and Japan, but Austria...?

A few weeks ago I was trying to set a value on a piece of MZ china from Austria- very expensive, exquisite, hand painted china, just so you know. I saw a picture of one of their hatpin holders and idly wished I'd get to see one in person. That wish was granted Thursday.

The thing is.... it is definitely a MZ piece, but it wasn't marked with their logo, a two-headed hawk. Instead it had this curiously familiar eagle with lightning bolts in one claw and leaves in the other, and a circle of stars over its head. Do you see where I'm going with this....?

That's the Great Seal of the United States.

After some further digging, I learned that the U.S. occupied Austria just after World War II. It was considered a collaborator with Germany and many important people of the Nazi party hailed from there. But since it was Germany's first conquest, the nation was not held fully liable. U.S. forces left after only a few years. In contrast, it took Germany until 1989 to finally be reunited. I was a little girl, but I remember my father's company sending him there. He brought home a chunk of concrete that he said was from the Berlin Wall. We started eating the food that had been stockpiled in the cellar, and using the million rolls of aluminum foil that had been bought in case of nuclear fallout. That year we even wrapped our Christmas presents in it. It's funny how political events affect children even when they don't fully understand them.

To get back to the original topic, this hatpin holder is a unique item and I can find nothing to compare it to. It probably came to the U.S. as a soldier's present to his sweetheart. I know occupied Japan and Germany are collectibles, but I don't know how being from occupied Austria affects the collectability or value. All in all, it's an interesting story and I thought I would share.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Darcy, Wickham, and The Scarlet Letter

Overusing words like "honestly" and "truly" is a sign that someone is lying.

I should probably redo this page, as they are bickering in a very 21st century manner. In old literature, it seems like the more crucial it is to speak or act in a straightforward manner, the less chance it will happen. For example, in the Scarlet Letter, if Hester Prynne had only named the baby-daddy.... or pointed out her husband....there would have been no need for the three of them to suffer through several hundred pages....not to mention the number of high school students who have also suffered through the book.

Well, it wasn't that terrible. But I totally failed the essay.

Take Pride and Prejudice. Darcy, very proud fellow, millionaire, gentleman. The son of a servant, Wickham, tried to kidnap/elope with Darcy's little sister. So in the book a year later, why the hell was Wickham still alive?

If Wickham was a gentleman, they could have dueled. But you can't duel with a servant. Just not done.
You could horsewhip a servant and get away with it. I'm surprised he didn't.

In the southern U.S., this could easily have been solved with a shotgun. Murder was illegal in England, but it was difficult to press charges on a gentleman.

He could have paid someone else to do it. It's not like Wickham had no other enemies, or that anyone would cry if he met with an accident.

What Darcy did was let Wickham wander round the country at will, slander his name, and sweet-talk other ladies.

Forbearance may be a gentlemanly virtue, but seriously.
Did he have no spine at all?

I'm not a huge Darcy fan. I know some people are. I'm fond of Elizabeth and find Mr. Bennett amusing, if a bit of a dick.

I did read an interesting book lately: So Odd A Mixture, Along the Autistic Spectrum in Pride and Prejudice. If you are interested in autism.... or in a character analysis of the characters from Pride and Prejudice and why they act as they do.... check it out.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Don't bathe at Bath... in Georgian times

I thought about my post yesterday and decided some things I wrote might be misunderstood. They were not at all prudish during the Georgian Era, nor during the Regency era that followed. (That was a Victorian innovation.) With money and time to while away, the gentry spent their time in pursuit of pleasure. Of all sorts. If you've only read Jane Austen to this point, try branching out a little. Georgiana Cavendish, James Boswell, and Grace Dalrymple Elliot led interesting lives- give them a read.

The thing to understand about Bath is that people didn't bathe there for fun. It was not a happenin' place. It was visited by the old, the infirm, and the convalescent because the water was believed to have curative powers. There were no antibiotics, and all manner of diseases, everything from leprosy to tuberculosis to smallpox to syphilis. Untreated syphilis. Think about it. I have the feeling Bath passed the clothing ordinance so that the bathers would not be disturbed by each others' disfigurements.

Let's not even talk about communicable diseases. Chlorinating water is an invention of the last century. I'm sure that bath was a germ stew. Germ theory was not adopted until the later 1800s, so they had no idea what they were spreading around. So if you're reading a Regency romance where they rendezvous in the bath at Bath...

Now I've grossed myself out. Eww. I'll write up something less disgusting for tomorrow!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What, didn't they have swimsuits back then?

So I was set to write another post about the gentry, but was sidetracked yet again. I finally was asked a question about the comic....but it was not one I expected. Of a million possible questions, 'didn't they have bathing suits back then?' took me by surprise.

The short answer is no, they didn't as such. The somewhat  longer answer is....When you think of the early, bulky, dorky looking bathing suits, perhaps with stripes....? That's from the 1830's on. Before that, bathing in private or outdoors was most likely in the nude. Yet sea bathing and seaside resorts were increasing in popularity, which made bathing a social activity. So some clothing was needed, but at first it wasn't what we might call a swimsuit. Ladies*, to preserve their modesty, would wear a sort of long nightgown with weights sewn in the hem so it wouldn't buoy up in the water. Or they might wear nothing. Accounts differ. Men, well, read this excerpt from Wikipedia's article on swimsuits:

Bath official bathing dress code of 1737 prescribed, for men:
It is Ordered Established and Decreed by this Corporation that no Male person above the age of ten years shall at any time hereafter go into any Bath or Baths within this City by day or by night without a Pair of Drawers and a Waistcoat on their bodies.
Drawers and a waistcoat do not sound like specialized clothing designed for swimming, so I don't consider them a swimsuit.

*I do mean Ladies here, not women. In the 18th century there is a distinct difference.

Finally, for the much longer answer and all the links you care to click, start with Wikipedia's articles on swimsuits, sea bathing and skinny dipping. I leave it to you.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wigs, a Secret, a sneak preview, and Name this Legend

You didn't think he had white hair naturally, did you? Practically all gentlemen of the time wore wigs and white hair powder. The trend tailed off toward the end of the 1700s and was dealt a deathblow by the tax levied on wig powder in 1795. Seriously! I don't make this stuff up!

Tell you a secret- Allan wears the big black bow because he fancies it makes his nose seem smaller.

Ok, so this week's fun find at work was a New York Times from 1866- yes, the year after Abraham Lincoln died, that century, yes. Still readable. As far as I can tell, it is an original.

Today I dealt with someone's collection of sports cards- nothing of value, though I wasted several hours on it. What else- oh, there was a plate! A hand-painted plate from Japan with an interesting scene on it. Can anyone satisfy my curiosity by telling me what legend it is from? There are four middle-aged men surrounding a young man or woman (hard to tell). The men could be samurai or they could as easily be bandits, since they have an unfriendly greedy look on their faces. They also have golden halos round their heads, like saints. Is that a Buddhist thing? The youth is well-dressed and the halo surrounds (her?) entire body. Here is a different plate depicting a similar scene. What is it about? Help me out here.
(Update: They can't be the 7 Gods of Good Fortune because there aren't 7 of them. It's possible they are the Four Hitokiri of the Bakumatsu or the Four Heavenly Kings. Neither theory tells me who the 5th figure on the plate is.)
And finally, a sneak peek at Chapter 6:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What is an English Gentleman, anyway?

I don't think this could be cuter. Except with bunnies. In the background, we hear more about Allan's life in London than we ever needed to know.

If there's one thing I find hard to understand about this time period, it's what an "English Gentleman" is. America, being the Land of Opportunity where anyone with enough money can be Somebody, has no modern equivalent. Lord Chesterfield's letters to his son have a great deal to say about what an English Gentleman is supposed to be. Perhaps it is an idea, or the result of early indoctrination, more than anything else. Was being a gentleman something a man tried to live up to, like poor Lord Chesterfield's son? Were the standards like a constraining and heavy suit of armor that you had to live in? I think Stephen feels that way. Or was it something that you could laugh off, as Allan does, but reap the benefits of anyway?

The annoying thing is that there are a shit-ton of rules about what a gentleman could and couldn't do, and I don't know what all of them are. This entirely alien mindset makes it hard to know what the characters are thinking at times. I flounder sometimes but hopefully I'm not doing too poorly.