Daily Happiness

Oct. 21st, 2014 11:06 pm
torachan: a cartoon kitten with a surprised/happy expression (chii)
[personal profile] torachan
1. Day off tomorrow! I might go in to work for a couple hours, but I haven't decided for sure, and even if I do, it would be midday and I can still sleep in and have a lazy morning. :)

2. We got tasty burritos for dinner.

3. The other day Irene was watching Akira and it made me want to read the manga (I've never read it before, though I saw the movie several times back in the day). The only site I could find raws on uses a file hosting site that allows you to download one file every six hours, so it's been taking what feels like forever to get these, even though there are only six volumes, but I'm downloading the final volume right now, yay.

Saw an episode of Flash

Oct. 22nd, 2014 12:49 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Were the writers worried that if evil gas man went after a cop the Flash didn't know, he wouldn't go rescue the guy? That's more a Guy Gardner move.
sailorptah: Carlos under the Arby's. (night vale)
[personal profile] sailorptah
Afternoon: writing an AU version of Orange Grove, while drinking orange spice tea to get in the mood.

Evening: lying in the grass in the park, watching the clouds go by and thinking about how great Cecil and Carlos can be.

Good times.
umadoshi: (hands full of books)
[personal profile] umadoshi
My pretty dream of getting fic posted before work today was, in retrospect, hilarious. (Instead, I was a good freelancer and put in some work on a script before heading to Casual Job.) And it's sure not getting done tonight, or tomorrow morning (tomorrow morning I'm due at the office around 9 AM, as opposed to today's 2 PM. In fact, I should already be in bed). But hopefully tomorrow evening. Yes.

(I realize this isn't a huge deal in general! *g* But [name redacted because I don't wanna spread other people's plans around]'s plans mean that getting it posted in the next few days would be convenient for them. So that's the goal.)

This morning I attempted to buy Maggie Stiefvater's Blue Lily, Lily Blue in the name of first-week sales and all, even though I haven't read the first two books of the Raven Cycle yet. As I mentioned to someone on Twitter, if this were the final book, I'd hold off until it's out in paperback so it'd match my copies of The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves, but it's the second-last book in the series, and I don't plan to take that long to start actually reading the books.

Alas, the key word in the previous paragraph is "attempted", because Amazon.ca and Chapters/Indigo both claim that the book isn't available until November 1. >.< And when Bakka-Phoenix posted their list of releases for the week, it wasn't listed there. But it's out in the US, and even more confusingly, it's available at the Kobo store...which belongs to Chapters/Indigo. (I didn't bother checking Kindle.) I am very confused, and also grumpier than is justified, given that heaven only knows when I'll actually read the book anyway.

Publishing is WEIRD. But this is not news.

At any rate, I did order vol. 3 of Hawkeye (which reminds me that I still haven't read vol. 2) and Beware the Wild, which is a debut novel about which I've heard good things. It will go on the to-read...bookcase. >.>

(Somehow when I stopped buying nearly as many manga titles--I think I'm now at about seven or eight, including Evangelion, which has only one more volume--I switched to buying many more novels. Which isn't a bad thing, but also wasn't exactly intentional, since I've always been a heavy library user.)

caught up on WtNV

Oct. 21st, 2014 10:07 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
And the only thing I have to say is that I haven't made tiramisu in a very long time and should maybe think about scaling that recipe down (since Chad is the only one who eats it) and giving it a go sometime.

Nicki Won't Take Your Shit

Oct. 21st, 2014 09:00 pm
[syndicated profile] thehairpin_feed

Posted by Jazmine Hughes

by Jazmine Hughes

Nicki, 31, grew up in Queens and attended LaGuardia, the high school from Fame. She says her father once tried to burn down her house while her mother was inside. She did odd jobs after school: She was a customer-service rep for a while, but that didn't go great. "I like dealing with people, but I don't really like a lot of bullshit, so maybe customer service wasn't the best job for me." She was fired from a waitressing job at a Red Lobster after she followed a couple who had taken her pen into the parking lot and then flipped them the bird. I asked her if it was a special pen. "No," she said. "It was the principle."

The principle, the pickle juice — Nicki is a model for us all when it comes to Not Accepting Bullshit, especially with the author of your magazine profile tries to insert subtext in your art where there is none. On the video for "Anaconda":

"I don't know what there is to really talk about," she says. "I'm being serious. I just see the video as being a normal video."

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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dear author letter placeholder

Oct. 21st, 2014 11:49 pm
hradzka: (doc savage bust)
[personal profile] hradzka
Yuletide letter will go here.

The Five Boro Cemetery Tour

Oct. 21st, 2014 07:30 pm
[syndicated profile] thehairpin_feed

Posted by Eliza Berman

by Eliza Berman

Uptown Trinity Church Cemetery
Valentine Sillcocks is a ghost. He lives in the uptown Trinity Church Cemetery, on Broadway between 153rd and 155th Streets, high on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. Through a cluster of creaking maples he can just make out the eastern tower of the George Washington Bridge, which opened in 1931, the same year he was buried at the age of 43.

Valentine Sillcocks was a real person before he became a ghost. His name is etched in a piece of granite that marks the spot where he was laid to rest. His family included a silk hat maker, which may or may not have been Valentine himself.

Valentine Sillcocks, in truth, may or may not be a ghost, depending on whether you believe in ghosts in the first place, and, if you do, on your particular theory of how a ghost is born. This detailed explanation from the Spiritual Science Research Foundation, which refers to things like “subtle-sorcerers” and simultaneously uses the word “science” in its name, explains that a person might become a ghost if she has “many unfulfilled desires” or “personality defects, such as anger, fear, greed.” Meaning I’ll definitely be meeting Val in the afterlife. I kid here, because I don’t believe in ghosts. But then again, I really can’t know for sure.

* * *

The Five Boro Bike Tour takes place on the first Sunday of May. It’s the kind of thing I say I want to do, but then don’t, because it requires a great deal of effort. But the kind of thing I would do, and did do, is my Five Boro Cemetery Tour. I like cemeteries. I find them serene and only scary after dark, because everything is scary after dark. While I wouldn’t call myself a taphophile, I’ve done a grave rubbing or two. I write down names of the deceased that would be good for a baby, or at least the ones, like Rudolf and Wladyslawa, that would freak out my boyfriend if I told him I liked them.

I picked one cemetery from each borough. I pored over anthropologist/archivist Mary French’s New York City Cemetery Project and urban explorer Kevin Walsh’s Forgotten New York. I decided to skip some of the more obvious choices: Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, which was once the second most visited tourist attraction in the state, after Niagara Falls. And Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, which has a memorial for the Titanic, and which my best friend, who saw the movie twelve times in the theater, would at one time have been moved to see.

I also skipped the one that has become overrun with lizards and the potter’s field that would have required me to kayak across the East River on a moonless night to avoid notice; the one where Barbra Streisand plans to be buried and the one that is said to be haunted by the ghost of a decapitated nineteenth century actor. I let the cemeteries pick me, whether by virtue of some fascinating historical nugget, or (if I’m being a little bit honest) proximity to the nearest subway line.

* * *

Here is a list of reasons why you might not rest in peace:

1. The owner of the plot of land on which you are buried remains loyal to the British during the American Revolution and is forced to relinquish his property, subjecting your sacred burial site to the whims of a bunch of hapless Yankee patriots.

2. You grace the world with stories that will one day inspire Fiddler on the Roof which will in turn inspire Gwen Stefani, and make the simple request that your body be returned to your birthplace of Russia after the end of WWI, but no one cares what you want and they let you rot in Queens instead.

3. You die in 1680 and 240 years later a housing boom takes hold of the once peaceful neighborhood where you were buried, and real estate, as we know, is God.

4. You are a Native American with Matinecock, Shinnecock, and Montauk heritage, and city officials want to widen Northern Boulevard over the spot where you were buried, and people have a rather nasty habit of desecrating everything that you own/stand for/need to survive.

5. You are a murdered prostitute and some medical students decide to dig up your body, just four days cold, so they can dissect it, for science.

6. You are a millionaire and some thieves excavate and hold your body for ransom until your devastated widow ponies up.

7. Your family dies off, and there’s no one to care for your grave, but if you’re lucky, a nice lady from the neighborhood comes by to feed the stray cats who’ve made your gravesite their home.

* * *

Most Holy Trinity Cemetery
Most Holy Trinity Cemetery, Bushwick, Brooklyn

To get here, I take the L train five stops further than I’ve ever taken it, then cross back under the tracks, where guys are loading gefilte fish onto a truck and a woman yells “FUCK FUCK FUCK” and squats to pee. But when I pass through the gates, gefilte fish and public urination be damned: entering the cemetery is like crawling inside of a grassy womb. It’s the quietest place in the city, if I tune out the high-pitched whine of a generator and the periodic passing of an elevated train. Just me and two guys pruning trees and the muffled sound of “fucks” and the dead.

I don’t know how it takes me so long to realize that I’ve dressed in all black today, down to my socks. I drop my notebook on the ground and wonder if I’ve startled the dead. I stumble across one of the more recent graves and notice two Budweiser cans, one overturned, on a man’s footstone. I can’t decide whether to be incensed by careless vandalism or touched by a tribute to a guy who loved his Buds.

I chose this cemetery because it was founded in an egalitarian spirit: all of its buried, whether rich or poor in life, would be marked as equals in death. Its mostly German Catholic inhabitants were memorialized with small, unmarked wooden crosses, which wasn’t a very 1851 thing to do. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote in 1890, “The monuments that surmount [the graves] present a curious picture and one that has not a parallel in any other cemetery in the neighborhood of these two cities” (Brooklyn was, until 1898, a separate city).

But the founders’ reverence for death as the great equalizer seems to have bowed to the whims of later parishioners. Today, finding a wooden cross among the larger headstones is like trying to find a guy who knows the difference between “fewer” and “less” on The Bachelorette―doable, but not easy. The markers now are more ornate, some inscribed with pleasantries like she’s with the angels now. It’s as though the bereaved couldn’t handle the notion of equality in death. I want the biggest monument for my wife, a widower thinks, as though a larger monument suggests a larger presence in life: more wealthy, more powerful, more loved.

I can’t blame them, because I’m guilty of the same. It’s Jewish tradition to place a small stone on a grave you’ve visited. Some say this keeps the soul from floating off. Others say that where flowers wither and die, stones represent the permanence of memory. The last time I visited my mother’s grave, I compared the dozens of stones atop her headstone to the paltry few that graced her neighbors’ graves. She has more stones, in part, because she was buried more recently. And yet I take some small, juvenile comfort in the idea that she’s the most popular person in the cemetery.

* * *

Moore-Jackson Cemetery
Moore-Jackson Cemetery, Woodside, Queens

The woman whose property backs up to the cemetery fence is gardening, and I wonder whether the soil here is more fertile thanks to the 42 corpses underground. I wonder whether, as she pierces the ground with her trowel, she considers little Margaret Moore, buried in 1790, one month shy of two years old. Margaret’s family owned a large swath of farmland in present-day Elmhurst. They housed redcoats during the Revolution (oops) and later opposed abolition (double oops). A descendent of the family wrote “The Night Before Christmas.” But was she a happy baby or sick from birth? Did they call her Peg or Maggie or Marge?

After the last burial in 1867, the cemetery became so overgrown with weeds that it wasn’t rediscovered until 1919, when the Queens Topographical Bureau surveyed the land. Today it’s fenced in, so I peer through the diamonds of the chain link fence. Someone’s been taking decent care of it. There’s a faded American flag and a pot of fake flowers that match the flag’s colors, a little tacky but it’s something. Signs on the fence instruct passersby to clean up after their dogs and refrain from littering, but directly beneath them is dog shit and litter. I can only count 11 headstones and make out lettering on three: Margaret, David, Samuel. The rest are obscured by an overgrowth of weeds, about the height that Margaret might have been.

Looking at a cemetery from the outside and walking among the dead are two very different things, and perhaps that is why Moore-Jackson doesn’t move me in the way that Most Holy Trinity did. What stuck with me, though, was this cemetery’s speckled past: people cared, and then they didn’t, and then they did, and then they didn’t, and now they do, at least a little.

* * *

Old West Farms Soldiers Cemetery
Old West Farms Soldiers Cemetery, West Farms, Bronx

My mom grew up in the Bronx, so I would have fifty percent Bronx blood running through me if blood worked that way. When I’m feeling timid, I like to remind myself that I’m genetically (again, if genetics worked this way) predispositioned to be tough. I’m not sure if I could ever match the toughness of Juanita “Ma” Carter, though, after whom the alley next to this cemetery is named. Ma Carter was the founder of the “Not in My Neighborhood You Don’t” anti-drug and violence group, which should win an award for the most finger-waggingest organization name in history.

The alley is the first thing you come to if you are walking from the nearest subway station. On your way, you see a few tourists heading to the zoo, and a guy walking by says que linda but for some reason it doesn’t bother you today. The proprietor of a fruit stand is carving up orange peels, and from now on the 5 train rounding the tracks at Boston Road and 180th Street will make you salivate.

When you arrive at the cemetery, you quickly note that both gates are locked. When you walk down the alley, you meet a brown and white cat eating a nice meal someone’s left out for her. She flinches every time a fly lands on her, which is about every three seconds. There are several cat houses and a note that reads “FERAL CAT COLONY DO NOT DISTURB.” It strikes you that the kind of people who care for feral cats have a very particular style of handwriting.

Buried in this cemetery are 40 soldiers, each of whom fought in the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, or WWI. The perimeter is littered with a discarded asthma inhaler, a cigar wrapper, detritus of the living. Inside the gates the graves are undisturbed, though time has taken its toll and many are fallen or illegible. It wouldn’t be so bad to be buried here alongside these soldiers, the occasional tourist peering in to make out the name on your headstone and the spirit of Ma Carter keeping everyone in line.

But Ma Carter is dead and these soldiers are dead. What is alive are these cats, and whoever is buying them the good stuff from the Fancy Feast section of the bodega. A black cat stalks across the graveyard as though she is hunting something, and I think about how hunting is just one letter shy of haunting.

* * *

Amiable Child Monument
Amiable Child Monument, Morningside Heights, Manhattan

At Riverside, on the slow hill-slant
Two memoried graves are seen
A granite dome is over Grant
and over a child the green

This may be the loneliest grave in all of New York. Little St. Claire Pollock, who fell to his death from nearby cliffs, was buried here in 1797. He was not yet five. Poet Anna Markham wrote the words above in tribute. Though St. Claire was buried alone, in perhaps the only single-grave cemetery in the city, he lies across the street from General Grant’s imposing tomb. He has some company, then, but he is literally in the shadow of the memorial to the 18th president of the United States.

A crow caws as if on cue. Someone has left a bouquet of roses for this child dead two hundred years. There are two pennies on the monument. Perhaps amiable St. Claire would have considered this a fortune. The zooming cars on the West Side Highway below compromise the tranquility of the location, tucked away in Riverside Park.

This is my fourth cemetery of the day, in as many boroughs, and it is here that I realize how much I have been anthropomorphizing the dead. St. Claire must be lonely, I catch myself thinking, buried without his family nearby. He must resent the tourists who visit Uncle Grant―perhaps St. Claire would have been a general had he lived! All of these people who have been disinterred and reinterred, whose graves have been paved over to make room for a Bed, Bath and BeyondⓇ, they deserve better. But they are dead and have no idea that the place where they were intended to rest in peace is now offering a buy-two-get-one-free deal on summer-scented Yankee Candles. It seems impossible to think they might roll over in their graves— although again, I can’t be entirely sure.

* * *

Baron Hirsch Cemetery
Baron Hirsch Cemetery, Graniteville, Staten Island

Staten Island gets a bad rap, and most people I know from Staten Island don’t dispute this. I’ve only been twice, and I don’t pretend to know enough to opine on its worthiness as a borough. But damn if it doesn’t take all day to get anywhere beyond the ferry terminal.

For my Staten Island cemetery, I chose to go balls deep into the land of ferries and Jersey Shore castmates. I felt remiss in not having visited any Jewish cemeteries, and I chose one with a particularly painful history. In January of 1960, nearly 100 headstones here were found with the word “Fuhrer” smeared in yellow paint. Many of the vandalized graves belonged to Holocaust survivors. These people lived through the Holocaust, made their way to the Land of the Free, and even in death couldn’t escape persecution.

The graffiti is long since scrubbed from the graves, which have now fallen victim to more natural enemies. Vines twist around marble monuments, obscuring Hebrew names. Roots stretch their way out of the soil, elbowing headstones off-kilter or knocking them over entirely.

Everything here feels familiar. If I spent enough time, I could find the names of every ancestor I can think of: Tillie and Hyman and Ruth and Morris. Many of the dead lived through the 1940s and I wonder which concentration camp they were in, or if they were lucky enough to have immigrated before the war. Some of my grandmother’s aunts and uncles came to America and didn’t like it, so they returned to Europe. To think, if only they had liked it, they might have lived to be old.

The cemetery is divided into different plots, each one assigned to a different synagogue or burial association. I think of these Jews leaving their shtetls in Poland or Romania, finding themselves greeted by Staten Island’s maybe not-so-welcoming committee, and holding fast to anything that tied them back to home, all the way down to the coordinates of their final resting spots.

* * *

When I was twelve, my Sunday School class took a field trip to a nearby Jewish cemetery. We were studying the Jewish Life Cycle, which consists of four major events: Birth, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Marriage, and Death. They didn’t take us to a wedding or a labor and delivery ward, mainly because no one wants fifteen pre-teens to watch them say their vows or push out a baby. But the dead did not seem to mind our presence. I couldn’t have known I’d be back there, fourteen years later, to bury my mom.

I don’t think my mom is a ghost. If she were, I would visit her grave more often so we could hang out and talk about so-and-so’s choice of color for her bridesmaid dresses or how I quit my job to be a writer and was it all a big mistake. When I visit now, the conversations are pretty one-sided. Sometimes the trees rustle or a cardinal shimmies in the hedges, and I think she is speaking back to me, but then again I can’t be sure.

Eliza Berman is a writer in Brooklyn, and she took all these photographs, too. She tweets and has a website with stuff you can read on it.

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You're Paying for a Nazi's Retirement

Oct. 21st, 2014 12:15 pm
[syndicated profile] loweringthebar_feed

Posted by Kevin

Well, that headline isn't entirely accurate. You paid dozens of Nazis and you're still paying at least four of them.

According to the Associated Press, "[d]ozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards collected millions of dollars in U.S. Social Security benefits after being forced out of the United States," due to a "loophole" that the Justice Department used to pressure them to leave. That is, rather than prosecuting or even deporting them, the government told them that if they left voluntarily, they could keep getting Social Security checks. The AP identified at least 38 suspects who took this deal over the years, and found that "there are at least four living beneficiaries."

I should say that I have no idea how strong the evidence was or is against any of these people. The fact that a government (let alone ours) accuses someone of a crime certainly doesn't make them guilty, and the AP report describes them all generally as "suspects." But it doesn't equivocate when referring to specific people, including "Martin Hartmann, a former SS guard" at Sachsenhausen, and Jakob Denzinger, who "patrolled the grounds" at Auschwitz. While "patrolled the grounds" sounds like maybe he was just going around picking up cigarette butts, I assume it's a figure of speech for "was an SS guard."

If so, you are paying for the retirement of someone who was an SS guard at Auschwitz.

In fact, you are paying for him to live in what the AP says is "a spacious apartment" in Osijek, Croatia. The AP didn't get inside, apparently, but provided this picture of him peeking out of it:

suspected war criminal
Thanks for the cash, America!
(Photo: AP/Darko Bandic)

The AP says it was able to reach Denzinger for comment, although it didn't say whether this picture shows how it did that. Regardless, he did not wish to discuss the matter.

Both Denzinger and Hartmann took the deal and fled after learning they were going to lose their U.S. citizenship. The practice was apparently meant to "skirt lengthy deportation hearings" and "increase[] the number of Nazis" expelled, although it's not clear to me why the feds couldn't have done something like, let's say, choose to prosecute these guys instead of marijuana users or dealers, if they were short of resources. [See below.] And these justifications also seem to have been hotly disputed by other parts of the government, including the Social Security Administration and the State Department, which noted that our allies were not too pleased with "the practice known as 'Nazi dumping.'" The report says we stopped dumping Nazis, but kept paying them.

A DOJ spokesman told the AP that the payments "never were employed to persuade Nazi suspects to depart voluntarily," which flatly contradicts what the AP says it learned from interviews and a review of government records. I don't know about you, but I'm always ready to believe a DOJ spokesperson in situations like this one. I mean, the place has "Justice" right in the name.

The report also quotes Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Simon Weisenthal Center in Los Angeles, as being pretty upset that "we, in effect, were rewarding" suspected Nazi war criminals by sending them off to Europe with a promise of American dollars (which were worth more in the past, of course). Is it ironic that even the tiniest part of Rabbi Hier's taxes have been and are being used to support former SS concentration-camp guards in their golden years?

I just looked up "irony" again to be sure and the answer is yes.


Update: A reader points out (thanks, David) that the U.S. likely had no jurisdiction to actually prosecute these people anyway because they committed the crimes outside the U.S. and neither they nor their victims were Americans at the time. (The laws are different now, but may not be that much better.) Deporting them to a country that did have jurisdiction was arguably the next best thing, although obviously some of them ended up in places like Croatia that did not exactly have Nazi prosecutions at the top of the to-do list. So, that's why they were deported rather than prosecuted here. Why we kept sending them checks is another question, though.

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Posted by Monica McLaughlin

by Monica McLaughlin

Lalique ring
This ring, created by the great Art Nouveau designer René Lalique, was obviously commissioned by a sorcerer who would wear it while poring over alchemical manuscripts from the library of Dr. Dee. It's exquisite, of course, but also stupendously creepy. (Note: the Wartski site does not link to pieces directly, so click on “Jewellery” and scroll down.)

Featuring a central carved ivory face set in yellow gold and crowned with a cabochon emerald, the ring showcases the quality of workmanship so typical of Lalique jewels. Long, flowing hair of deeply engraved gold forms the shoulders of the ring, contrasting with the more formal engraved leaf patterns that run along the tops of the shoulders. Small accents of black enamel provide further contrast.

MaryRelicPendant
I often find relics haunting, and I like the fragile, almost hazy look of this late 1800s French relic pendant. A tiny relief of Mary has been carved out of meerschaum—a soft white mineral used for centuries to create carved pipes and, later, cigarette holders—and placed under convex glass. The glass heightens the three-dimensional appearance of the carving. The piece is set in brass.

SkullStickpin
This 15k gold memento mori stickpin features a skull with a hinged jaw, allowing it to be opened or closed. The three-dimensional effect of a slightly raised nasal bone and individually etched teeth (not to mention the gaping eye sockets) should combine to make him creepy, but instead he's kind of cute.

BatMaidenRing
Circa 1900, this Art Nouveau "Bat Maiden" ring, by the French designer Charles Boutet de Monvel (1855-1913), features a glowing center opal flanked by two crowned and bat-winged female figures in gold with diamond accents.

ToadstoneRing
Toadstone is a fairly unattractive brownish-gray stone that was traditionally believed to come from the head of a living toad, but it's actually a fossilized fish tooth. It was highly sought after for centuries for its so-called magical powers, which could apparently detect the presence of poison, cure snake bites, and treat kidney disease, epilepsy and various other ailments. Christopher J. Duffin, in a great article for Jewellery History Today (the magazine of the Society of Jewellery Historians), also quotes Albertus Magnus, a 13th-century Dominican friar from Cologne, and his recommendation that unmounted toadstones be swallowed—“to cleanse the bowels of filth and excrements”—and then later, uh, retrieved.
Toadstones were also believed to protect mothers from fairies, preventing them from stealing their children and replacing them with changelings.

How does one get a toadstone, you may ask? It's easy: According to Edward Topsell's The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents from 1658, all you need to do is place a live toad on a red cloth, wait until it belches the stone out, and then quickly grab it before the toad snarfles it back up again. Piece of cake.

Toadstones were usually cut in smooth cabochon form and set into rings. This ring is circa 1700, and features a high karat gold setting. A very similar ring resides in the Victoria & Albert Museum, and 14 toadstones were also found in the Cheapside Hoard.

AspRing
Circa 1200 B.C., this bronze ring originated in Luxor, Egypt. Depicting a sacred asp, it was excavated in the 19th century, and was formerly part of the Baron Amherst Collection (click through to the Doe & Hope site for more on the provenance and Amherst himself).

Snakes were both revered and feared in ancient Egypt, and they appear throughout their mythology and ornamentation. 1200 B.C. places the ring in the Twentieth Dynasty of Egypt, a period that featured general unrest and decline, as well as around 4000 pharaohs called Ramesses (well, just Ramesses III through XI). Actually, since we're in a Halloween frame of mind, I should probably note that Ramesses III's mummy, which was discovered in 1884, was the inspiration for Hollywood’s infamous film mummies.

SpiderBrooch
This creepy-crawly spider brooch, circa 1890, features a colored pearl body, cushion-cut diamond thorax, and cabochon ruby eyes. Rose-cut diamonds line the legs, and the piece is set in silver and gold.

PosyRing
I've featured a posy ring in the past, but this one has an unusual and fierce motto. Circa 1620, it states: Accvrsed be that wicked wicht that seeke to robb me of my right (Accursed be that wicked witch that seeks to rob me of my right).

Posy rings were usually presented to loved ones with secret messages of love and devotion engraved inside, but in this case the hidden motto was protective. It was essentially a good luck charm, acting as a talisman against witchcraft and reassuring the wearer of protection against anyone who would seek to harm their union. It's a fascinating and potent symbol of the widespread fear of witchcraft that existed in the 17th century.

SnakeBangle
Snakes, as shown above, have been featured in jewelry for centuries—sometimes loaded with symbolism, and other times simply decorative. Whether you like them in real life or not, their sinuous form often results in some exceptionally beautiful designs. This bangle bracelet is one of them. From a Philadelphia estate and up for sale in Freeman's November 3rd Jewelry & Watches auction, it coils around the wrist in 18k gold with green, white and red enamel.

BatPendant
Circa the 1940s, a sterling silver winged bat pendant with endearingly huge ears.

EroticaPendant
So, I don't know, maybe this is like a version of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, except instead of an attractive dead sea captain, we have a ghostly floating package? Circa 1900, this Art Nouveau "erotica" pendant features a woman embracing exactly what you think she's embracing. The pendant (in gold with natural pearls and a small cabochon ruby) is also a locket, and may have been used to hold snuff.

PrepareToFollowRing
This mourning ring doesn't mince words. In 18k gold with black and white enameling, it features a central panel that swivels, revealing a lock of braided gray hair under glass on one side, and the words "Prepare to Follow” on the other. The inscription engraved in the band states "Nath Hayward 0B 3rd Feb 1814 AET 73."

MedusaBeltBuckle
Depicting Medusa's head on bat's wings, this gilded silver Art Nouveau belt buckle was created by German designer Albert Holbein, and dates to circa 1900. According to the dealer, it's a variation on another design that was shown at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900.

Charivari
Another form of talisman, Bavarian "charivari" amulets were believed to protect and bring success to hunters. Wearing a charivari—traditionally hung from a chain attached to the hunter's belt—was seen as a way to magically gain the attributes of the animal, making it easier to catch or kill. Gruesome, I know, but I can see how carrying a protective charm might be an appealing option when facing the forest alone.

Bits of antler, teeth, claws, the jawbones of small predators, and even the pincers of stag beetles were used in charivari pendants, and they're still worn today as an accessory to traditional lederhosen. You can see some more examples here.

This charivari dates to around 1901-1909, and features the jaws of what was probably a weasel or a stoat. It's set in German silver (which is not actually silver, but an alloy of copper, zinc and nickel), with an acorn and leaf detail on the top.

StAnthonyRelic
Another relic! This pendant is Portuguese, circa 1780. It's made of carved boxwood and gold, and features a tiny figure of St. Anthony. The Catholic Church has always used symbols to identify saints, so this little guy can be identified as Anthony by his robes (he was a Franciscan friar) and the child in his arm, because he’s usually depicted as holding the baby Jesus. The coffin-shaped box is a nice little touch.

MementoMoriSkullRing
This 19th century memento mori ring showcases a tiny skull hovering beneath rock crystal—a constant reminder to the wearer of his or her mortality.

OwlBrooch
Circa 1900, a beautiful little 14k gold Art Nouveau owl pin, with opal eyes and outstretched wings.

KleemanNecklace
This piece is sold, but I'm including it because it's beautiful and OMG THE TINY OWL. Circa 1910, it's a Jugendstil—a.k.a. German Art Nouveau—silver and gold bat pendant, created in the style of designer Georg Kleemann (1863-1932). It is set with opal, moonstone, pearl, amethyst, lapis, turquoise, ruby and diamond, with touches of enamel. That owl!!!

CoderchValorBrooch
I saved the best for last! This is a contemporary brooch by Spanish designer Andrea Coderch Valor. Made of silver, copper, steel and a plastic doll, the piece is part of her aptly named "Hieronymous Bosch" collection. It will haunt your dreams. Enjoy!

Previously: Hippocampi, 18th Century Febreze, and a Circus You Can Wear

Monica McLaughlin tweets about ridiculous old jewelry and other random nonsense at @rococopacetic. She also wants to mention: If you're in the New York area, don't miss the new "Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire" exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit examines the development of mourning fashions and rituals through the 19th and 20th centuries, including clothing, jewelry and other accessories. Good stuff! The exhibit opened on October 21, and will run until February 1.

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Posted by Monica Heisey

by Monica Heisey

Cameron Diaz 11
It is always hard to know what to wear to meet an icon.

I imagine this is what Cameron Diaz is thinking as she heads to our meeting in a dirt hole behind a Chinese restaurant somewhere near the Lower East Side. I love this hole; it is dark and and wet and fecund, like…well. Wet holes, I write in my notebook, oooh. The actress enters the gaping chasm—like a mouth, like the void, like… well—and seems perturbed, a propitious beginning.

“Does it bother you that I’m high right now on four kinds of Vicodin and a drug used to treat alopecia in animals?” I ask. “Does it?”

“I just…thought we were meeting in a restaurant,” she says, her blonde hair coruscating blondily in the dank.

“I’m not really about that,” I explain. “As you can tell from these.”

She takes in my finger tattoos carefully. My knuckles read DELEUZE. The remaining three fingers are exclamation marks. “Okay.” She gets it. Her blood red lips evoke a menstruating vagina, and I am not scared about that because I am a modern man. “I love to eat pussy,” I tell her, though I know the fact is axiomatic. “I love women.” She gets it.

I sit on the ground with the star of There’s Something About Mary and think about ships. Big, old, colonial ships on dark, moody, masculine seas. Cameron, blonde and shining, at the front, carved in wood. There’s something in there, I’m sure of it. A truth-meaning swimming just below the surface like a shark. Maybe a binary. I live to point out binaries. The ship thing is an important and worthwhile tangent and I indulge it for paragraphs, with an emphasis on shark-as-phallus.

The conversation moves to her long-ago tryst with Justin Timberlake, and the fact that she purportedly believes in sexual fluidity: “What does it matter how many lovers you have if none of them gives you the universe?” I ask. “That’s Lacan. I gave a guy a blow job one time, it’s no big deal.”

The 42 year-old nullipara—swathed in a gauzy white fabric like the waves cresting on a trade vessel doomed never to reach India—seems intimidated. She sits silently in this noisome cavern, looking sexy but upset. I light five cigarettes and pass her two. She declines.

She starts to talk about something but it is impossible to make out the words over how sexy she is. Her sexiness is a presence, a third in this conversation. I realize we are in the middle of a verbal menage.

My notebook is a list, now, of all the things Cameron is: a ship, a wave, a sex organ—two, a light, a beacon, a metaphor, a minx. She is feline, a kitten with a pussy. She’s a baby and an image of the earth viewed from space. It’s crazy how many things she is, she’s so many things she’s not even human.

I try to explain this to her and she starts to get up, seeming angry, perhaps premenstrual. “This is offensive and weird and a waste of my time,” her beautiful mouth says, beautifully. “I’m sorry if you were offended,” I say. “But, as we all know, ‘Civilization began the first time an angry person cast a word instead of a rock.’ Freud.” She leaves, not appreciating the compliment.

As I watch the actress walk away, I know she is really running. She is running from the truth (me) but she cannot out-run time. She is a 42 year-old woman. Soon she will be dead.

I pack up my things—cigarettes, a pair of underwear I stole from my ex’s house while she was in Florida, a comb—and walk home with the insouciant air of a man thinking about ships.

Monica Heisey is a writer and comedian in Toronto. She is on Twitter: @monicaheisey.

2 Comments

To my cat, Ibid

Oct. 21st, 2014 01:08 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
It's good that you have a Timmy's Down the Well meow of distress but the fact two other cats are grooming each other and ignoring you is not an appropriate use for it.

(no subject)

Oct. 21st, 2014 11:00 am
telophase: (Default)
[personal profile] telophase
I think today may be one of those days: I sat down on the edge of the bed and put my socks on, then put one shoe on, and then spent some time looking for my other sock before realizing it was on my foot.

Dear White People: What Would You Do?

Oct. 21st, 2014 03:00 pm
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Posted by Brittany Spanos

by Brittany Spanos

dearwhitepeopleI arrived late to Dear White People. Just a few minutes, but it was enough to make a million concerns run rampant through my head as I, the lone, young, half-black girl, entered a room sparsely populated with mostly older and white critics.

Why did I do this?

If anyone asks, I’ll blame the train.

Will they notice?

Am I a stereotype?

The last thought may be the most terrifying: becoming a stock version of yourself based off a single aspect of your identity that doesn’t even begin to define you. Yet the thought lingered and the “colored-people-time” jokes—about how black people show up late to everything—remained at the back of my anxiety-ridden head, taunting me. A few scenes into the movie, Samantha White, the protagonist of the film and antagonist of her Ivy League school, joked that “colored people time” didn’t exist when another African-American character, Coco, arrives late to a school assembly. The laugh I released felt cathartic.

Therein lies the spark of new filmmaker Justin Simien’s Dear White People: it’s a film that brutally confronts you with your worst fears, everything you’ve thought too much and too little about, in the sharpest way possible. It’s no violent Bamboozled, the Spike Lee film about black minstrelsy, where these fears, stereotypes, and internal confrontations literally and figuratively destroy everyone who comes into contact with them. In Bamboozled, a black TV producer has spent his life trying to disassociate from any cultural signifiers of his blackness, and when his racist white boss asks him to help make a program more “urban,” the producer makes a modern-day blackface minstrel show to teach his boss a lesson that becomes more successful than anyone imagined.

While Lee’s film is a more surrealistic journey and commentary on modern culture (would anyone actually dare to put people in literal blackface for the sake of comedy anymore?), it, like Simien’s debut, displays the black-versus-white divide as clearly as it does the black-versus-black conflict. Lee’s movie is purposefully over-the-top, delivering a metaphorical message about how stereotypes can destroy us, yet Dear White People somehow remains terrifying while being reassuring in its realism, giving you no answers, but a series of prompts and “What Would You Do?” scenarios. It turns throwaway lines and references from everyday conversations into ways of addressing the culturally embedded assumptions people make based off on the color of a person’s skin. Jokes about hair, food, and music can be overheard everywhere and turned into full sets of dialogue manipulating the tension of the story for either side.

At Winchester University, the setting of the film, each residence hall has its own political system, while also being separated by race, gender, and sexual preference. For these and many college students, there’s comfort in these familiarities, but identity is about more than what we can see, which causes tension to bubble up within the superficially constructed residence halls. When we enter our characters’ lives, the war between the deeply segregated campus is coming to a head given the recent closing of a student resource center available to the black students. Samantha, a contentious, biracial radio host with a show called ‘Dear White People,’ and the rest of the more vigilant students who reside in the all-black residence, are ready to stage a coup against Troy, the current president of their dorm, who happens to be the wealthy son of the school’s dean. When Samantha snatches Troy’s false crown off his head and accidentally wins the election, a more racially-aggressive approach is implemented at Winchester, with the black students marking their territory and allowing no outsiders to enter.

In order to recreate the safe space that the student center had been, the Winchester revolutionaries become determined to keep all those who are not part of their residence hall community away from premises. Stricter entrance into their dorm cafeteria manifests these changes; all outsiders are ousted immediately and without apologies. First to go are the rich and unwittingly racist white frat bros, led by Troy’s girlfriend’s brother who immediately makes a chicken-and-waffles joke. The white bros are followed by Lionel, another black student. Both black and queer, Lionel refuses to abide by labels and has become an outsider due to his unwillingness to let neither his blackness nor queerness define his identity. He struggles to find a suitable living arrangement, having had a history of being ostracized by homophobic black peers and the members of the queer community who fetishize him. With his overgrown afro, uncut since he had no connections to the black students who could assist him with shedding it, and self-deprecating humor, he is treated like an “experiment” by white men who have never been with black guys before and the recipient of the awful and annoying “Can I touch your hair?” question. Lionel becomes the objective eye, not taking a side in the war, but neutrally reporting on it for the school paper. He absorbs all that is occurring around him, but like anyone avoiding the discussion of what we mean when we talk about race in 2014, he is forced to respond and take action.

Like Lionel, every character in Dear White People is well-textured. Issues of wealth, biracialness, and queerness are just the tipping point of a universe that allows complex characters, like Teyonah Parris’ Coco, to be dissected. Coco is the smart and ambitious media “rival” of Samantha; she identifies more with well-behaved Troy than with the more political faction of the dorm. Coco desires assimilation as well as to to blend in and be noticed just like all the other girls, more specifically the white girls, on campus. Unlike Troy, however, Coco finds it more difficult to avoid the microaggressions. So she riles, finding ways of generating controversy. She gives into the stereotypes on purpose, for the attention.

Of course, our instigator Samantha’s internal struggle with her own mixed heritage becomes an allegory for the war between the races at Winchester. Being a mixed person who cannot pass as white, remaining othered by her skin tone, she felt forced to choose sides. Diving into a biracial person’s concerns about what side they are on and whether they’re even allowed on that side is just another way Simien’s film rises above and beyond our ideas of what a film about racial tension at a college can achieve. The internal conflicts, expectations, and realities of being a person born into a world of seemingly opposing identities can be tough to address, but that might be because so many are unwilling to outwardly admit the vast differences we perpetuate between blackness and whiteness.

Being mixed myself, I remember being assigned Nella Larsen’s work in class and finally feeling like someone understood. Larsen detailed the idea of the ‘tragic mulatto,’ a literary device that exaggerates the plight of being mixed as leading to depression or suicide, at a time when being mixed and not passing as white in America could be potentially dangerous. Seeing Samantha’s modern day story unfold was powerful and symbolic of the deep divide within her school; she gives a particularly emotional account of her childhood where walking hand-in-hand with her white father through the halls of her elementary school left her feeling hyperaware of judging eyes. Her comprises between loving and fearing white men raise important questions of what it means when we make one whole side the enemy rather than working to dismantle the ideology and supremacy that keeps that side in power. A stirring debate between Samantha and a white character shed a beautiful light on the ways she could dismantle whiteness without alienating a part of herself—and the people she loves—that she shouldn’t have to lose.

Everyone should see this film; it’s simultaneously charming, funny and entertaining, while extremely instructional and informative. Calling it a ‘Race Theory 101’ class in a film simplifies how complex it is, yet the widespread cultural touchstones, from stereotypes of tipping to representation in Tyler Perry movies, make it a relevant learning tool. There’s hope that the film will rile up audience members so much that they’ll leave and immediately look up something like The Birth of a Nation, the racist propaganda film of the early twentieth century that Samantha remakes for her film class. Maybe they’ll go to their nearest library, or at least Google, and search for more information on blackface minstrelsy, the centuries old form of ‘entertainment’ that created some of our most widely known stereotypes of blackness that all still infiltrate and haunt black performance today. This film will immediately touch those who have an awareness of this larger picture, but it is truly meant for those who deny white privilege exists or refuse to understand there is still something wrong with how we talk about race in America. For those skeptics, the film is like a well-supported thesis, squashing every aside and doubt perpetuated by the confrontational title of the film and entire premise.

I left Dear White People feeling as unsettled as every conversation on race has left me feeling the past few years. Like all of those conversations, DWP avoids a solution but instead gives us the most important alleviations to these issues: voices. The inclusion of every voice, from Samantha’s to Troy’s and even the frat bros’, allows for an expectedly uncomfortable climax that was ripped from a thousand headlines. By the end of the film, I forgot I had been a few minutes late. Instead, I was just grateful I had showed up.

Brittany Spanos is a music and culture writer for Rookie, Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and other corners of the web. She will be honest with you about how much Taylor Swift she listens to on a daily basis. Tweet with her.

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