the whole world burns

Archive for category 'history'

Scott and Scurvy


Fascinating essay on the "second coming" of scurvy, caused by vitamin C deficiency, which we're usually taught was "cured" in the British navy in mid-18th century by requiring sailors to drink lime juice daily (hence "limeys"). In reality, it was lemon juice, and the later shift to limes from the West Indies was only one of the blunders, against a milieu of inaccurate scientific and medical assumptions, that caused the simple cure to be lost.

Sha Na Na and the Invention of the Fifties

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Marcus was coming to the same conclusion: The idea of the Fifties that America still holds — the happy, "greasy" Fifties — was an "invented History." Up until 1969, quite an opposite cultural memory held sway. When Americans remembered "the Fifties," they thought of Joe McCarthy witch hunts, of an "age of anxiety," of the "shook-up generation" diving under their desks during A-Bomb drills, of the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit selling out and Holden Caulfield cracking up, or Allen Ginsberg '48 and Jack Kerouac '44 too "beat" to fight back.

Maxim Gorky's 1896 review of a Lumière screening


Last night I was in the Kingdom of Shadows.

If you only knew how strange it is to be there. It is a world without sound, without colour. Every thing there—the earth, the trees, the people, the water and the air—is dipped in monotonous grey. Grey rays of the sun across the grey sky, grey eyes in grey faces, and the leaves of the trees are ashen grey. It is not life but its shadow, It is not motion but its soundless spectre.

"Ghoti" before Shaw

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Now traced back to before he was even born.

Did They Have Fan Fiction in the Middle Ages?


John Lydgate is the worst medieval offender that I can think of off the top of my head. For the prologue to his Siege of Thebes, he wrote himself into Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

And so while the pilgrims were
At Canterbury, well lodged one and all,
I don't know what to call it,
Luck or Fortune -- in the end
That led me to enter into that town

The Fabrications of "Pre-Code Cinema"


Most people know two things about the Hays Code. One is that the bedrooms of all married couples could contain only twin beds, which had to be at least 27 inches apart. The other is that although the Code was written in 1930, it was not enforced until 1934, and that as a result, the "pre-Code cinema" of the early 1930s violated its rules with impunity in a series of "wildly unconventional films" that were "more unbridled, salacious, subversive, and just plain bizarre" than in any other period of Hollywood's history.

Neither of these things is true.

Which photo was taken first? Cannonballs on the road, cannonballs off the road?

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Fantastic essay by Errol Morris about the mystery surrounding two photographs taken during the Crimean War.

California, the fanfic state


Kevin Andrew Murphy:

Well, I live in a state that owes its name to fanfic: California is named after the island of California, home of Queen Calafia, her beautiful black amazons and their man-eating griffins, as all detailed in Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo's Las Sergas de Esplandian, which was the Sword of Shanarra of its day, a highly unauthorized but popular sequel to the much more highly respected Amadis de Gaul, more The Lord of the Rings of its day. At the end of Don Quixote, Cervantes had this to say about Esplandian: "Verily the father's goodness shall not excuse the want of it in the son. Here, good mistress housekeeper, open that window and throw it into the yard. Let it serve as a foundation to that pile which we are to set a-blazing presently."

That being said, Las Sergas de Esplandian was the pulp novel the conquistadores had on board when they sailed around and encountered the Baja peninsula. What's more, when the Portola party went up the coast, thinking the descriptions in LSdE were based on actual travelers' tales, they thought the California condors were Queen Calafia's big black man-eating griffins.

And so on to the present day where California is ruled by Conan the Barbarian.

Small things, links and miscellany, sparkling with light. Sam's tumblelog.