Batgrl: Bookish Hooha

Previously in Western US, now in the East. Winter 2016: Nervously wondering where the snow is. While most of my paper book collection is in storage I'm living via my ereader, where I never get through my TBRs. Further babble about me found under *Batprofile* in the sidebar.

Chiron Beta Prime - Jonathan Coulton


The Christmas song I play the most each year. 
Remember, the robots aren't "overlords" - they're "protectors!"

"Doing It Wrong" Christmas History, Or Me Wishing You A Merry Everything

I'm actually having a good time with this article - but confession, I do love the story of how the Puritans try to get rid of Christmas, and fail in the long term because people like to celebrate something they're used to celebrating. 


No Christmas Under Cromwell? The Puritan Assault on Christmas during the 1640s and 1650s

History Extra, Dec 2013


"...So strong was the popular attachment to the old festivities, indeed, that during the postwar period a number of pro-Christmas riots occurred. In December 1646, for example, a group of young men at Bury St Edmunds threatened local tradesmen who had dared to open their shops on Christmas Day, and were only dispersed by the town magistrates after a bloody scuffle.


[1647:] ...In London, a crowd of apprentices assembled at Cornhill on Christmas Day, and there “in despite of authority, they set up Holly and Ivy” on the pinnacles of the public water conduit. When the lord mayor despatched some officers “to pull down these gawds,” the apprentices resisted them, forcing the mayor to rush to the scene with a party of soldiers and to break up the demonstration by force."


-read more-

Random Weather Related Question!

Because I've only been paying attention to the weather in the two US states I've been living in in the past couple of weeks - is this weird temperature thing happening elsewhere too? For those of you living elsewhere, this means that it might be in the 30s or 50s (degrees F) early on in the morning, but then in the afternoon suddenly it's in the 70s. In Texas it was 70 degrees at 6am. Which is SO wrong. I had enough summer already, I want winter. (Mild winter, I should add, I will be equally wth if it snows 5 ft next week.)


What this means for my commute - which is why I'm having to actually think about it more than I would - is that I have to bundle up in the morning to walk about to the bus, train, etc. and then in the afternoon shed layers and carry the coat, sweater, etc. home with me.


Not to mention the humorous Star Wars sweater I bought just to amuse everyone at work (and looks like something 10 yr old me would have worn) is now too hot to wear. Dammit. (Will post photos when I do, because it's amusing. Well, I think so anyway.)

Still Catching Up In Here

Work sometimes uses up masses more brain cells at different times of year. Well, for me anyway. And the pattern I fell into recently has absorbed all the extra brain energy such that by the time I get home I'm good for maybe a bit of video watching, maybe an hour of two of video gaming (and not one with reading or a storyline or big choices), and then bed. But then in a handful of months I'll be moving again and back to job hunting (and stress, etc.), so then I'll have time to be around in here a lot more - one of those pro/con things. (Also I'll be trying to remain calm about moving somewhere where I no longer have any friends and only a couple of casual acquaintances. I'm one of those people who find socializing to be work, so I can only manage so much when I don't know anyone around me.)


On the plus side, I read lots daily thanks to  my commute via train. (I am going to miss that SO much and whine ceaselessly, I'm afraid.) So atm I'm just needing to play catch up with all the books I've finished and add them in here - and I have no idea how many that'll end up being. Should be interesting.


So you should see me sporadically adding finished books in here for the next day or so. I'm going to admit that I'm going with the books that take up more space because again I'm full up on space on the ereader!


Randomly I did the Xmas break with family this past week (for all sorts of reasons, only partly workish), so now I'm all confused as to what day it is.

Book on Sale and Yes I'm Still Here!

The Lives of the Artists (Oxford World's Classics) - Giorgio Vasari, Julia Conway Bondanella, Peter Bondanella

I know, I know, eons since I've been in here, time has totally gotten away from me. Short version: really, REALLY busy with work and all other time spent in sleep and reading. (Only mild exaggeration there.)


Anyway, this was such a good sale that I thought, oh forget the long babble of what I've been up to, let's just share this with other book sale fiends.


Sadly, probably only US Amazon, but just in case, doublecheck your local site, or others that may price match:


The Lives of the Artists (Oxford World's Classics), Kindle Edition

by Giorgio Vasari, Julia Conway Bondanella (Translator)

Current price: $2.92


"...Includes: Cimabue; Giotto; Duccio; Luca della Robbia; Paolo Uccello; Ghiberti; Masaccio; Filippo Brunelleschi; Donatello; Piero della Francesca; Fra Angelico; Fra Filippo Lippi; Domenico Ghirlandaio; Sandro Botticelli; Andrea del Verrocchio; Mantegna; Leonardo da Vinci; Giorgione; Raphael; Titian; Michelangelo..."


At 600+ pages, there's a lot in there, and I can't quite tell how readable it is. I've had this on my wish list long enough to not remember why - I suspect this was back when I was looking for a bio of one of these artists (maybe Botticelli?) and couldn't find a single book.


Meanwhile there have been lots of day long sales on Hellboy comics, so keep an eye out for those too.


I'm spending Xmas here instead of with family this year (work reasons) so in theory I'll do some reviews that I've been meaning to add for forever and a day.


Oops forgot to add - so here I am buying this 600 pg book and can not fit the damn thing on my ereader because I have a bunch of read books in there that need to be added to the already read shelves in here. And if I remove them I'll forget. Major self-eyerolling.

Not What I Thought I'd Be Reading This Morning...

The Doll: The Lost Short Stories - Daphne du Maurier

First I am definitely behind with some Transformers love, hopefully can manage some writing about that by the weekend. Busier couple of weeks than usual, and this week has a change in the commute time - and taking an earlier bus tomorrow, whee.

Also I've fallen into the Pillars of Eternity, which I should actually do a reading review on because it is really a video game where you read a lot, with a few breaks here and there for fighting. Lots of moments of Choose Your Own Adventure along with turn based fighting. I'm playing on easy mode and have had countless ghouls clean my team's clock. Hopefully hiring the priest is going to help some.

Second, it's time for another Reading While Commuting story! This time reading wasn't the problem itself. This time it was me forgetting my ereader. And only realizing it when I was half way to the bus stop. No problem, I thought, I'll read what's on my phone. Though I did have a brief moment of panic, like I'd left behind a vital document - or an internal organ.

I should pause here and note that in the mornings I mostly read history. We've covered that mysteries are bad for me during train rides (and cause me to lose track of what stations I've passed). For some reason history seems to start my brain up nicely but not overly absorb it. It also seems to put me in a good mood even if it's the rather grim history of, for instance, mental hospitals or shark attacks.

Which is why it's so weird that Daphne du Maurier was a bit much for me this morning. The Doll is a book of short stories, which I thought would be perfect to dip into then put down until next time. Except I forgot about how atmospheric du Maurier can be. Not to mention how good she is with unpleasant people, the uncanny, murder and madness. After reading a good hour of that I found my walk to work was much...different. Oh I was still smiling, but I could see some of the usual bits of architecture looking more ominous. And I kept wondering things like "well did he bury the body or did they find him still sitting with it and the ax?"


Not exactly what I'm used to starting my day thinking.


Note: I do read horror, though I'm into creepiness more than gore. (du Maurier is definitely in that category.) It's just that I usually don't surprise-read that genre. I like to be in the right mood. For instance, being at home during a thunderstorm is a perfect setting for that kind of read. Being in a brightly lit office and working at a computer - not really right, somehow.


Oh and you also have to like those kind of stories that don't tell you What Happens Afterwards. You know, the kind you have to mull over for hours, wondering. Not exactly morning-at-work fodder.


So I am NOT going to forget the ereader again. I have become way too spoiled by carrying hundreds of books around - I've now become addicted to playing "what book suits my mood today?"


Booklikes question: is it just me or is it impossible to edit the date and times on drafts? I just had to delete this and re-create it or it'd have shown up 30 min ago. This is the second or third time I've had this problem - may have to start trying this in another browser. (Am using Chrome.)

Me + Reading + The Train = Unpredictable

There is no emoticon for self-eyeroll.


Friday evening I was on my usual commute home from work. And as usual for a Friday I was sort of out of it. I got on my train, noted the first couple of stations we passed - "ah ok, yes, on the right train" - and then proceeded to read my book. An Agatha Christie I'd read before, but I didn't remember quite how the murderers managed it. And then I lost track of time for a bit and only noticed something odd when the conductor called a stop with the word cemetery in it. And then two stops later it sinks in - there are no stops with the word cemetery in it on my usual line.


Yup, I was on the wrong train. A sneaky train that takes the same route as my color of train before it veers off to the south instead of west. Oops.


Still, it was only a matter of time before I did this for more than one stop. Because um, I have done this one other time when I overshot my morning ride by one station. And this is why I spend a lot of time making sure I choose interesting reading - but not too interesting. Apparently I really need to not read mysteries at all when commuting. For some reason I'm safer with history.


So when I finally made it home I took myself out to get a big ol' hamburger and fries. Which I then ate while reading. Because that made it perfect. 

Reading in Progress: Camille, by Alexandre Dumas fils

Camille: The Lady of the Camellias - fils,  Alexandre Dumas

First of all, if this sounds interesting do not spend money on this for the 1.99 version at Amazon. (Unless you love that translation or something.) Because you can read it for free at Gutenberg: Camille (La Dame aux Camilias) Wikipedia link: here. And the woman who inspired the book: Marie Duplessis.


Second, I have posted about this before - here - asking if anyone had read any reviews comparing The Fault in Our Stars to Camille. Because I think there're a ton of comparisons to be made, but more reviewers seem to go for the Romeo and Juliet comparison despite there not being any suicide, just tragic teen love.


Anyway I still haven't gotten around to bothering with The Fault in Our Stars, but I figured it was about time I got around to reading Camille. Because if you read lit from that period (late 1800s) it's referenced a lot. (It also became the opera La Traviata, and continues to be remade in movie form.)


I was expecting this to be melodramatic cheese - which I kind of enjoy as it's a sort of Dumas staple (for father and son). But I did NOT expect gothic horror tossed in. Big surprise for my morning train read that day - I'm sure I was making all sorts of funny expressions at my ereader. I'll put this quote behind spoilers just in case there are folks that want to read this. Of course now I've just made you all curious and you'll want to click right?



Background, guy who was in love with Camille, who has died - which we know from the beginning of the book - wants to see her one last time. Somehow he can't believe she's really dead. His answer to this - to exhume her. Chapter 6:


One of the grave-diggers took a shovel and began emptying out the earth; then, when only the stones covering the coffin were left, he threw them out one by one.

I scrutinized Armand, for every moment I was afraid lest the emotions which he was visibly repressing should prove too much for him; but he still watched, his eyes fixed and wide open, like the eyes of a madman, and a slight trembling of the cheeks and lips were the only signs of the violent nervous crisis under which he was suffering.

As for me, all I can say is that I regretted having come.

When the coffin was uncovered the inspector said to the grave-digger: "Open it." They obeyed, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

The coffin was of oak, and they began to unscrew the lid. The humidity of the earth had rusted the screws, and it was not without some difficulty that the coffin was opened. A painful odour arose in spite of the aromatic plants with which it was covered.

"O my God, my God!" murmured Armand, and turned paler than before.

Even the grave-digger drew back.

A great white shroud covered the corpse, closely outlining some of its contours. This shroud was almost completely eaten away at one end, and left one of the feet visible.

I was nearly fainting, and at the moment of writing these lines I see the whole scene over again in all its imposing reality.

"Quick," said the inspector. Thereupon one of the men put out his hand, began to unsew the shroud, and taking hold of it by one end suddenly laid bare the face of Marguerite.

It was terrible to see, it is horrible to relate. The eyes were nothing but two holes, the lips had disappeared, vanished, and the white teeth were tightly set. The black hair, long and dry, was pressed tightly about the forehead, and half veiled the green hollows of the cheeks; and yet I recognised in this face the joyous white and rose face that I had seen so often.

Armand, unable to turn away his eyes, had put the handkerchief to his mouth and bit it.

For my part, it was as if a circle of iron tightened about my head, a veil covered my eyes, a rumbling filled my ears, and all I could do was to unstop a smelling bottle which I happened to have with me, and to draw in long breaths of it.

Through this bewilderment I heard the inspector say to Duval, "Do you identify?"

"Yes," replied the young man in a dull voice.

"Then fasten it up and take it away," said the inspector.


I think one of the things that shocked me was that I expected a smarmy "and the body hadn't decayed at all, she was still lovely and looked as though sleeping" kinda stuff. I was preparing to get all eyerolly over it and wow, nope. Not the direction this went at all. I was impressed.

(show spoiler)


Am a few chapters on from that and yes, it's heavy emotional-melodrama-love-story-of-the-times type stuff - but I've definitely reshelved it from the angsty-fluff category. Oh it's angsty as all get out, just less fluff. Not sure how I'd categorize it yet.


Oh and Camille is a courtesan. Which made this racey material for the 1800s.

Recent Book Buying

Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk - Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 - Michael Capuzzo If a Pirate I Must Be... - Richard  Sanders

These are the purchases from the last couple of weeks on Amazon US - you can check and see if they're still on sale or not. Mainly posting because I'm kind of amazed that I'm reaching my goal of buying (note I didn't say reading or finishing) books with more modern histories. Ok, slightly more modern. A bit.


Sadly I didn't post earlier because I am apparently turning into a large slug with the coming of summer. I'd love to blame it entirely on the heat - it was 99 degrees one day last week, which is a BIG deal if you take a bus that requires you to wait outside for it - but I think a lot of it may just be summer laziness. I seem to have a really weird, short attention span, and mostly want to read a bit, then doodle around with video games a bit, then read random things online.


Anyway, the books:


Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson

--No longer on sale. Some of Bryson's books are a bit hit or miss - I think there are only two of his that I really love. Will see how this one goes.


Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk - Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil

--No longer on sale, sorry. I remember reading McNeil in Spin and so I've been keeping an eye on getting this.


Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 - Michael Capuzzo

--Really short and some reviews aren't great, but hey, 1.99. At the moment I'm writing this it's still on sale.


If a Pirate I Must Be: The True Story of Black Bart, King of the Caribbean Pirates - Richard Sanders

--Still on sale at 1.99. It seemed to go well with the whole sharks+pirates=summer thing. Also I never want to spell it Caribbean - I want to put two r's in there and only one b. No idea why.


Now back to pretending to do errands and chores and actually shmoo-ing around my apartment. I'm very good at that. The shmooiing part.


...Odd, I can't edit my posting date. Anyone else having this issue?

Random Meme Thought!

So I've worked varied places and while I don't work directly in computer security or IT, I do end up absorbing a lot of regular lectures/advice/mandatory training/info on that security fairly regularly. (Most jobs have you do this now, right?)


Anyway, thought I should just pop in and add a heads up. 


I love question memes. I think they're fun, and I usually answer them mentally because giving out too much personal info about myself at once - even random goofy stuff - makes me feel kinda shy. Every now and then I'll post one of them if I'm in the right mood.


But, having said that...


Glance over your answers when you answer memes. Anything in there that you use as password material? Probably shouldn't add that. It's not like you've left a door unlocked - or like you're using the word password as your password (yes, people still do that, and use 12345) - but it's not bad to stop and consider your post.


Of course it's kind of archaic of me to even worry overly about it now, but it used to be that pets' or childrens' names were commonly used as passwords, and thus discouraged. A hack doesn't happen as often with someone trying to type in multiple possible passwords by guessing from personal content on your blog - that's a bit old school. Doesn't mean it won't be attempted, but there are automated methods now.


Still, doesn't hurt to double check yourself. As I've watched the Q&A trend over the decades (I've blogged since the early 90s, even before there were comments in posts! And early bloggers have always pondered privacy and security.) I've noted that people have gotten really good at only giving certain information. For instance, it's rare now to see anyone overtly write about their city (unless the population is high) and the name of the street they live on.


And now that I've apparently had to get all public service announcement on you - I'm going to blame this on being part of a multi-generation family of teachers. (Seriously, we still have the heavy hand bell one used to ring for the one room school - you can hear it for miles.) It's the sort of thing that sticks with you - for instance, I still feel the need to "bring enough to share with others" with desserts at work or I'll feel extreme guilt. *eyeroll at self*


...Oh and - you're probably just as likely to end up answering a meme that turns out to be some clever marketer gathering information. Which honestly I'd prefer over someone playing social engineering games. Which I can't help but think every time I see a question like "favorite product?" Speaking of which, every now and then I have to hunt down a box of Alpha Bits cereal. (That's a wikipedia link - I am not secretly a marketer myself I swear.) It's full of sugar and not at all healthy and I'll enjoy the box and get that weird craving out of my system. Watching cartoons while eating it is a plus.

Reading in Progress: The Yellow Kids by Joyce Milton

The Yellow Kids: Foreign Correspondents in the Heyday of Yellow Journalism - Joyce Milton

Some background - so I'm out of town checking in with family this week and fun, I have brought this allergy or cold or whatever it is with me. Which isn't a problem because they've had allergies the past two weeks and are just getting better. Which means we are, combined, a room full of sniffling and throat clearing and the need for tea and cough drops. Ah well, at least I have a week to crash in because the To Do list wasn't that long this trip anyway. (Aside from tomorrows exciting dentist check up, whee.)


Anyway, this is a great time for me to finish up the ebooks I've been reading, right? Of course not! Of course I'm going to pick up one of the paper books on the physical TBR shelf instead. And I predict the usual will happen - I'll not be able to finish it in a week and will end up taking it back with me, and then grumble over luggage space.


This particular book is one that I used back in the dark ages when I taught and needed some extra stories to enliven a lecture. Textbooks often leave those out, which is a shame because 1) they're fun bits of storytelling and 2) I recognize the value of these sorts of stories as helpful in keeping students awake during what can sometimes be sleepy bits of history. (Sadly not everyone is thrilled by journalism of the 1800s. I accept this.) But because I only used portions of this book I never sat down and read the whole thing - I just used bits of it. Which happens a lot in academia when you have loads to read and little time. (Just like all of us and the TBR list, only it's part of the job.) So this is a seriously belated read.


So I'm about to quote a chunk of this for two reasons (yeah, I go into teacher mode and I go all listy, mainly because students have always paid attention to lists, so it happens naturally - that didn't just become an internet thing without reason) -

1) I really think people forget that the US press has always been full of mudslinging, because people continually have this idea that it's worse now than it was in the good old days and

2) seriously, these are great stories. Notice I keep calling them stories and not just history? You'll understand why in a minute. This is historic stuff, but it also is completely in the world of gossip - and I think we all know how reliable gossip is. It does get into the history books - but good historians will alert you to the fact that a lot of this isn't exactly verifiable.


And now, quote time...

-read more-

Random Weirdness Via Wikipedia: Edward Mordake.

It started by trying to look up the Tichborne case, which if you've never read about it you might have heard of offhand. There's a missing heir, a guy that randomly shows up and claims to be the man (much changed by the years of course), and then many years and lawyers pass while everyone tries to figure out if he's really the baronet. Lady Tichborne thought he was, other family members didn't. And, drama. You can see why everyone gossiped about this for 20+ years and many contemporary authors worked it into various plots or conversations in their books, plays, you name it. And oh spoiler, the man wasn't really the heir. That wikipedia link above gives you a good rundown and images, plus references.


So what I bumped into while googling for the case using the word "heir" (I never remember the name Tichborne), was Edward Mordake. (Which is an excellent "use this in a novel" kind of name.) Let me post the first sentence of the wikipedia page to show you why that gave me a "wait, what" moment:

Edward Mordake (sometimes spelled Edward Mordrake) was reportedly an heir to an English peerage who had an extra face on the back of his head. The duplicate face could neither eat nor speak out loud but was seen to "smile and sneer while Mordake was weeping." Mordake reportedly begged doctors to have his "Demon face" removed, claiming that it whispered to him at night, but no doctor would attempt it. He committed suicide when he was 23 years old.

There's a melodramatic quote of his story from 1896's Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine - and a link to the text in Google books. 


Happily there's always a good site to check for stuff like this (wikipedia includes a link to it): The Museum of Hoaxes: Edward Mordake. Apparently this story gets circulated online a lot (no surprise there, huh) and there's a sample image that's shown - which isn't a photo at all:

However, this isn't a photograph of the actual Mordake. Instead, it's a photo of a wax replica created by an artist to show what Mordake might have looked like. Where this wax figure was displayed, or by whom it was created, I'm not sure, but various replicas of Mordake have been created over the years for wax museums around the world. 

[Off tangent! Refraining from a rant here about circulating Real History! or Amazing and True! sorts of stories, tumblrites. I'm on tumblr too, btw. But almost all the biographies I've seen in the mini-summary-plus-photo are badly done if not badly fact checked. Believe them only when they care enough to cite a source. Because pointing someone to a full biography website or a book means you care about history more than how many likes and shares you'll get with a graphic.]


Read the rest of that page for more on how the website author Alex Boese proposes that Edward Mordake and his story were a fictional creation. And he backs up his theory with what the site does well - research and citation:

I did a keyword search of the archive of 19th-century American papers at (which requires a subscription) and discovered that Mordake's story appeared in an article written by the poet Charles Lotin Hildreth that ran in American papers in 1895, approximately a year before the publication of Gould and Pyle's book.

And if you want a more lighthearted story after that - check out his blog post on Cheeseburger Oreos. Which thankfully do not exist. Blearg.


[I became a fan of the Museum of Hoaxes for its coverage of The Great Moon Hoax. It even has the original text of the New York Sun's articles in an easy to read format -compared to trying to read the original tiny print in the papers of 1835.]


Currently Reading: Robots in Disguise, Vol. 4

Transformers: Robots in Disguise Vol. 4 - Andrew Griffith, John Barber

Ever have a book you want to read and the technology lets you down so you can't? That's me and this volume. And I keep forgetting it, getting ready to read it on my commute and dammit, it suddenly goes blank on page 40something and won't load any more. That's not the bad part - the bad part is that I want to read it and keep forgetting the damn page 40 problem and get all ready to read about the rioting and suddenly bam, blank.


Well today I actually remembered and am moving it onto my laptop so I can move on to the next two volumes. I tried to skip ahead to them and just couldn't because, argh, I want to know what happens! (Seriously, Megatron must be up to something.)


It's especially annoying when your brain is all psyched up for color and robots and comics and you suddenly don't have that and you have to go read history. Which normally I love, so it's not like that's a punishment - but, you know, sometimes that's just not the genre you're in the mood for. And I definitely have book moods. In fact I've realized that's why I have so many books I'm reading at once - sometimes things are just too serious or hard to read if you're not in the mood for them. 


Anyway, this volume is definitely going to be finished today. In hopes that vols 5 and 6 behave properly as commuting material.

Reading in Progress: Classical Art: From Greece to Rome by Mary Beard

Classical Art: From Greece to Rome (Oxford History of Art) - Mary Beard, John Henderson

Yet another book I've been poking through for months. I'm a huge Mary Beard fangirl. Any historian who both conveys excitement in their work and a sense of fun - I'm all for that.


This book is academic, but the fun bit is that Beard has all sorts of hysterical asides and comments in parentheses that I love. And at the same time explaining how what we think of art isn't necessarily classical - a LOT of the ancient statues were restored in ways that may not have been original, and it's anyone's guess as to whether something is a copy or not. Since massive amounts of statues were copied from other versions that became The Look of God/Goddess X. I love this stuff.


Here, let's just go with a quote to show you.


41% in:

" the case of another classic Venus, the so-called Venus Kallipygos ('Beautiful-Bum'). In this notorious statue, we catch the goddess glancing over her shoulder to admire her own finely sculpted buttocks; an explicitly erotic attitude of carnal exhibitionism which is hard to reconcile with any exalted reading in terms of religion alone. But in fact, when it was discovered, the statue's head was missing. Its distinctive pose is, therefore, the result of restoration which created a whole 'masterpiece' in place of a fragment, as well as finding a rationale for the statue's naked buttocks. It was a neat confection based on two dubious scraps of ancient fiction: the first naughtily alleging that 'Kallipygos' was a cult title of Venus (its origin lying in a picturesque showdown between two peasant girls, who once upon a time called in a passer-by to decide whose bum was the sexier); second, a titillating allusion to whores partying together, and drunkenly disputing which of them had the best buttocks. ...The important point is that the statue as we have it is a modern interpretation. Different restorations would produce very different erotic effects: a differently angled head, for example, would instantly remove the definitive narcissism of the pose - leaving us with a female showing off a beautiful body. Whether goddess, dancer, whore, or none of these, who can say?"


And couple of shorter bits so you can see a bit more of Beard being Beard:


39% in, discussing the once incredibly famous Apollo Belvedere:

"...since then it has become something of a sport to satirize Apollo's icy heroism, his vapid effeminacy, the precious top-knot, and those dreadful sandals."


38%, discussing nudity in art, erotic vs heroic:

"...see how Perseus flies down to rescue Andromeda, in all his glory. He is not supposed to turn us on."


I really wish more of my college reading in classical art had made me snicker this much.

Reading in Progress: Bedlam: London and Its Mad

Bedlam: London and its Mad - Catharine Arnold

Oddly I can't find the ebook on Amazon at the moment. Wonder what's up with that. This is another one I'm picking up and reading in bits - not out of losing interest, but frankly because it's history that works well with that. (And that's important for reading on a bus/train commute.)


And this was one of those moments that made me say, "wait what?! I have to reread that..." So of course, had to share. Because I was not expecting this kind of story:


18% in:

"In one notorious account Sprenger and Kramer even claimed that witches possessed the power to remove a man's genitals, collecting 'as many as twenty or thirty members together,' and putting them in a birds nest, or a box, 'where they move themselves like living members and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many as it is a matter of common report. One witness reported that when he had lost his member, he approached a known witch to ask her to restore it to him. She told the afflicted man to climb a certain tree, and that he might take which he liked out a nest in which there were several members. And when he tried to take a big one, the witch said: you must not take that one, adding, because it belongs to a parish priest."


Which reminded me of an apparently still common type of mental illness, along the same lines: Koro or genital retraction syndrome. Which makes a slight bit more sense than the "it's gone missing!" thing. 


Yeah, not at all what I thought I'd be pondering on my way to work the morning I was reading this. Heh.

In Progress: The Invisible Code, Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery

The Invisible Code (Bryant & May, #10) - Christopher Fowler

It's not a good sign that I've been picking this ebook up and putting it down for months now. It's got settings I like in London and the temptation of a plot with weird occult in modern day - only it's very little of that. So far there's not really much of the peculiar in this crime - it could be any police procedural. All the supposed weird and occult stuff doesn't seem very weird or very occult. And I'm meh about the characters. But I've not put it down permanently, so there's that.


Even though for me the most interesting bits are parts about old London and descriptions of the city, here's a small bit (39% in) that did work for me with a character who does the forensic evidence gathering:

"Something's not kosher. I tried to picture what happened. Waters invites her back to his flat, or Sabira calls on him. Women are more prone to shedding signifying evidence than men. Makeup and long hairs with traceable dyes, a wider variety of clothing materials; my missus leaves a trail of tissues and trash wherever she goes, and if opens a handbag - well, it's like Vesuvius. It might have cost her three hundred nicker at a fancy store but basically it's a dustbin with a strap. God help her if she ever tries to have an affair, I'd be on her like -"


"Dan, get to the point."


My purse it definitely a dustbin with a strap. I always need more storage space within a reasonably small size, and always manage to pack ridiculous things in there. (Currently I travel with a bird call. It's great for getting photos. And for getting cats to make odd faces.) What I really need is a Tardis purse. For the bigger on the inside part.


Currently reading

Their Noble Lordships: How to Tell a Duke From an Earl...And Other Mysteries Solved by Simon Winchester
The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon - The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World by Steven L. Kent
Transformers: Robots in Disguise Vol. 4 by Andrew Griffith, John Barber
Mort by Terry Pratchett
Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby by Mary S. Lovell
Progress: 120/371pages
Plutarch's Lives, Volume I by Aubrey Stewart, Plutarch, George Long
Progress: 30%
The Sofa by Claude-Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon