Monday, June 30, 2014

A Scout Is ... Mindful of Civl Rights

Is there a merit badge for equality?
I never thought I'd see this.

I opened up the New York Times this morning over breakfast and was surprised to see that a group of Boy Scouts had marched in New York's Pride parade (now I'm ever more bummed out that I missed it). I know that I would have been cheering loudly had I been there, since I was a Boy Scout when I was in my teens.

In the late 70s, gay scouts were simply unthinkable. I don't think there were any fifteen-year olds in America who were willing to be out to their peers. Of course, this was the era of Aaron Fricke, who gained some fame by attempting to bring a male date to his prom in 1980. I'm the same age as Fricke, and was fascinated by the news stories at the time. But Fricke was a rarity in those days. (And his home town was three times the size of mine.)


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Welcome to Usono

Nia Usonestro
It’s funny to think of a New York paper devoting this much space to a minor point of Esperanto usage, but on June 30, 1907, the New York Sun did exactly that with an article on how the new name for the country in Esperanto was Usono.

Despite the popularity the word had achieved, the older usage, “Amerika” was still retained in the principal magazine of the Esperanto movement in the United States, the Amerika Esperantisto, which would continue under that name at least until the 1930s. It finally stopped publication in the 1950s.

Happily, the article is not too long to quote in full (I’m a quick typist). The article appeared in the New York Sun on June 30, 1907. While it was a new coinage in Esperanto, in 1907, a lot of Esperanto was new. The language had vastly developed since 1887. The use of the word Usono dates back to 1905, and it seems it had quickly become established in Esperanto.

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His Excessive Passions Were Unlike Those of Other Men

Joseph Carp:
an early gay identity?
A list of criminal cases in the June 30, 1883 edition of the St. Paul Daily Globe, of St. Paul, Minnesota, has a number of interesting items among the twenty-five cases disposed of by the very busy Judge Burr, on June 29th.

Among these were the case of Ms. Hausdorf, who was found to have “abused Mary Reimer in unladylike manner with her tongue.” The article notes that Mrs. Reimer responded in kind. They were bound to keep the peace. Remember in the future, Mrs. Hausdorf, to abuse your neighbors in a ladylike manner.

Less decisive was the case of Swan Anderson and Gus Langren, who “were charged with assaulting and insulting a German woman with a name unpronounceable. They plead not guilty, and witnesses failed to identify them as the ones who made the assault.” The two young men fingered others, but the witnesses failed to identify them.


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Is a Species Not Endangered if It’s Not a Species?

Small bird, bane of developers
Is the California gnatcatcher a species? Or even a sub-species? An article in the LA. Times, says that according to two scientists, Robert Zink, a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, and George Barrowclough, who is associate curator of ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History, the California gnatcatcher is just a black-tailed gnatcather. The importance here is that while the California gnatcatcher is described as threatened in Southern California (its range extends into Baja California), the black-tailed gnatcatcher has a much wider range.


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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage at Ten

The New York TImes has been looking at same-sex marriage, as it turns ten in the United States. Ten years ago, on May 23, 2004, the Times published their first announcements of same-sex marriage ceremonies. In today’s paper, they looked at the five couples whose marriage announcements were in that 2004 edition of the newspaper. (I’m going to guess that they would have preferred to run this article back in May, but had trouble getting hold of someone.)

Ten years later, four of those couples are still together. The one that divorced was, ironically, the most famous of all. I have long suspected that Hillary and Julie Goodridge, the plaintiffs in Massachusetts, realized their relationship was over before the end of the court case, but also knew that if they broke up, it would render the case moot. They had gone on too far to say, “oh, we’ve decided we don’t care to get married after all, so just forget the whole thing.”


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Diplomat Predicts Things Will Be Great for Esperanto in America!

1908 will be a great year for
Esperanto speakers!
George Harvey said that the French Esperanto speakers had “a strong movement, destined to apparently to be crowned with success at no distant date, to add Esperanto to the curriculum of the public schools.” What the Deseret Evening News of Great Salt Lake City, Utah did not mention in their June 29, 1907 paper was that Mr. Harvey had something of a vested interest in Esperanto.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, he was an ardent backer of Esperanto in his magazine, The North American Review, and he would go on to be president of the Esperanto Association of North America. In other parts of his life, he was an ambassador and influential political figure.

In the article “Popularity of Esperanto,” Mr. Harvey did acknowledged that not all was rosy in France:
Despite the efforts of such eminent scholars as M. Beafront, official France has been slow to extend recognition to the new language, presumably because of a desire to maintain the position of their own as that of the world’s diplomacy; but we know from personal inquiry in the smaller towns that the French people are really enthusiastic over Esperanto, nearly every village containing a small group of students, and even the more intelligent innkeepers giving it earnest attention.

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Newspaper Misses the Whole Point of Esperanto

Against Esperanto?
How can you be
against Esperanto?
The Fulton County News of McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania seems to have missed the entire point of Esperanto in a June 29, 1911 piece titled “Against Esperanto.” One of the general requirements of suggested for an international language in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was that the language should be more easily learnt than any of the national languages. This rules Klingon right out.

But the Fulton County News made the claim that
time is value, and the time employed by an English-speaking person in learning Esperanto might be better employed in learning French or German or both.
The effort needed to learn Esperanto is pretty minimal, particularly when you compare it to German, a language with declensions, conjugations, and a surprising number of plural forms. A year’s study of German is pretty minimal. A year of French is somewhat better, but will still leave you fairly stranded in Paris. You could master Esperanto in a year.


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Saturday, June 28, 2014

"The Kids These Days Don't Know Their History"

Kissing at the Stonewall Inn as
Pride Weekend began
Friday night, after dinner and socializing with some friends, James and I decided to walk to the Christopher Street area of Greenwich Village. Short walk from where we are. Although the portion we’re in is still, technically, Greenwich Village, we were walking to the are that people mean when they say “the Village.” (Me, I always think of The Prisoner.)

The Village was mobbed. There was a huge line of people waiting to get into The Monster, which, according to their web site, has been active since 1970. The nearby Stonewall Inn can’t claim the same degree of continuity, as the original Stonewall Inn closed in 1969, with several businesses in the space until the current Stonewall Inn. On the other hand, this was were the raid happened that sparked the Stonewall Riots, June 28, 1969.

In the early moments of June 28, we were in front of the Stonewall Inn. As we neared Christopher Street, I said to James, “is this the weekend when we get to beat up a cop at the Stonewall? That’s the tradition, right?” It was a peaceful crowd though.


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Friday, June 27, 2014

President Polk Dies During Cholera Epidemic

Oo! Modern medicine
We'e stamped out certain diseases in the United States. Americans now have to travel great distances before they have have to worry about malaria and cholera, among other diseases. We are so used to the idea that these diseases belong to the far away, it's hard to remember that they also belong to the long ago.

The Edgefield Advertiser of Edgefield, South Carolina reported on June 27, 1849 on the death of James K. Polk. Polk had died on the 15th of June, but news travelled slowly in those days. He lived only a few months after leaving the White House, possibly a victim of cholera. This has an aspect of "a U.S. President died of what?" to it.

Yes, cholera.


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Neue Galerie - Too Small for the Price

Neue Galerie, New York
You can take a picture of the
outside of the building, of course
Visiting museums in New York is a pricey proposition. Every time you walk in the door of one, it seems you’re shelling out another twenty bucks. Generally, I think you’re getting some value for this. I don’t begrudge the Frick Museum its admittance fees, it’s a stunning collection.

But yesterday, I visited the Neue Galerie, which I wasn’t even aware of the previous time I visited New York (it opened in 2001, but gained a lot of attention when Ronald S. Lauder bought the Klimt pairing, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer). One nice thing about the Neue Galerie was that when I saw this and four other Klimts at the LA County Museum of Art, the crowds were so large that it was impossible to appreciate the paintings. This was shortly after the paintings were returned to their proper owner, Maria Altmann. (The Austrian government had forced Altmann’s uncle, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, to deposit the paintings in the Austrian national museum during the Nazi era, but they did not manage to get him to actually donate the paintings.)


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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cheese…and Whine

No, you can't move in.
Sorry, folks, not a typo.

When I was writing about our trip to Citarella, I noted that I was certain there was a better place to buy cheese within a short walk. There was. Admittedly, the logistics of the day really made it much more sensible to buy all our stuff at Citarella, and maybe an opportunity would come to do some more exploring.

The opportunity came. James decided to host a little gathering for his colleagues. We probably had enough cheese (in hindsight, we certainly had enough cheese), but we decided to add to our stock of cheese. It was time for a trip to Murray's Cheese in Greenwhich Village.

Greenwich Village really is a wonderful place to be shopping for food. There's not only a great variety of things available, but you can get things that are of just impeccable quality (I can impeccable quality in the suburbs of Southern California, but the selection is somewhat more limited).

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Not His First Time

Somebody did
something
In digging through newspaper archives, I’ve been using the word “sodomy” as one of my search terms. Most of the items I find are either quite brief (a list of upcoming court cases and the charges) or are just too horrific to make light of here (bluntly, homeless men molesting small children). But there was an odd comment in this article on a sodomy trial, published in the Bismark Daily Tribune on June 25, 1900.
The complaining witness was a 16-year-old boy who has been living with the hoboes and it is stated that this is not the first time he has been before the court as a witness in a similar case.
Clearly, being homeless should not make you a target for sexual assault. And, in 1900, it wouldn’t have occurred to anyone that if a teenager has been sexually assaulted you might want to get him out of that situation. Perhaps some of the evidence introduced did deal with the young man’s recurrent testimony. It does, however, carry on a theme I’ve seen in which those accused of sodomy, when there are details, are often described as “hobos.”

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Off Notes at La Sirène

It was too dark for cell-phone
pics. The wine was good.
The Yelp reviews were good and the menu looked interesting, so we decided to try out La Sirène. I’m going to note that it’s not the restaurant’s fault that it’s across the street from a construction site and somewhat out of the way, still, in choosing a restaurant, I tend to like a nicer neighborhood. Maybe things will improve when the construction site is no longer a big pit with fencing around it.

Since we were having dinner after theater in an area well off of Broadway, we were the last table. Two other tables were clearing out as we started. It’s always odd to be the last table in a restaurant. Odder if you’re the only patrons before you’ve finished your appetizers. Well, we didn’t have to contend with noise from other tables.

The appetizers were the off note. I ordered the duck paté; James ordered the octopus. Both came with a vast pile of salad greens. Those with the octopus were wilting, and not in a good way, from the heat of the octopus. The paté was largely hidden by the mountain of greens. It was not really up to snuff. If this is their house recipe, they might want to consider tinkering with it.


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House of Secrets

Pride Playbill
Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina, in its last days at the Manhattan Theatre Club is a wonderful piece of theater. At turns touching, exiting, and funny it was a crowd pleaser. The play received four Tony award nominations, winning none. The competition must have been fierce.

A digression about the audience though. In settling into their seats, they were much noisier than they are at my local theater, more people seemed to be filtering in or out after curtain, and so forth. They did quiet right down once the lights dimmed.

Our local theater doesn’t use a curtain, so it was truly amazing when, after the lights dimmed, the stage was lit with some spots, showing four of the characters getting ready. Then the action. The play is set in a failing Catskills resort in 1962, the Chevalier D’Eon. I was prepared to tell James about the Chevalier during intermission, but Valentina (George when he’s in pants, and played by Patrick Page) has a speech explaining who the Chevalier was. I had read [Monsieur D’Éon is a Woman](Monsieur D’Eon Is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade ) some years ago, so I was already aware of the history of French aristocrat who spent various years in either a male or female identity.


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Blog? Our Computers Will Do That for Us

Today was a blogging experiment, partly successful. How could I get a nice stream of posts going without being in proximity to my computer all day? I knew I could schedule blog posts, but could I automate everything else? Yes, but.

First, I want to apologize to anyone who clicked on a Twitter or Facebook link only to find no blog post. I was not fucking with you; I messed up. The interface for scheduling a post in Blogger is fairly simple; you set a date and time and you’re (not) done. I assumed that once you set a time, you’re set, and if you hit the “publish” button, it would override that and publish immediately.

I then figured out how to schedule tweets (and found out where Twitter makes its money). Where do those “promoted tweets” that keep showing up on my newsfeed come from? Now I know. There’s a Twitter page that lets you not only schedule a tweet, but promote it as well. I’d like to develop a base of readers in a more organic way without any expense (so recommend my blog to all of your friends). Share it on Facebook. Whatever.

The Twitter interface was simple, and I was able to quickly schedule a post. Unfortunately, since I messed up on the Blogger end, everything went out without actually publishing any posts. This was counter-productive (and I have the read stats to prove it). Maybe yesterday’s posts will have a long tail. I can only hope.

It turns out that in the Blogger interface, after you schedule a post, you need to hit the publish button. This moves that status of the post from “draft” to “scheduled.” There was an additional problem with Blogger that some posts were scheduled for Monday. Once I hit "publish," they posted immediately, although I went through the effort of getting them to the right day first, just in case.

My apologies again for anyone who was frustrated trying to read posts yesterday. They’re all up now, if you want to try again. And apologies for the “insider baseball” aspect of this post. I’m trying to avoid blogging about blogging because it’s fucking tiresome so insider (yeah, that too). Bear with me while I work out the technical aspects of this blog. And get your friends to read it.
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

He Could Badly Nip a Toe…or Something

I don't have much to comment on this one, but it was just too much fun to not post. So, here it is, a political cartoon reacting to a New York leash law. This appeared in the *Evening World* on June 24, 1908.

An editorial suggesting that the requirement that dogs be leashed was overreacting just a tad wouldn't have had as much power. That said, I've seen many dogs of all sizes in New York City, none of which have had muzzles. No sign of dog catchers seizing the dogs to destroy them either.

Even the clearly vicious ones like the one in the cartoon.

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How Sweet to Taste the Amari at L’Artusi

A nice plate of lamb
L’Artusi, in New York City’s West Village seeks to “demystify” Italy, though I hadn’t been aware that Italian cuisine was all that mysterious. The restaurant is lively with happy sound, or as some might call it, noisy. Despite this, it is more spacious than Lupa; no worrying that you’re going to bring the next table down should you get up from your seat. And, although the food and atmosphere at L’Artusi is much more casual, the waitstaff is much more formal. “Yes, sir.” “Certainly, sir.” I’m not knocking the experience; when you go an shell out your cash on a meal, it’s nice to be treated as someone who might enjoy a touch of deference.

The runners made one mistake that the wait staff quickly rectified. James and I both ordered salads; I additionally ordered the beef carpaccio. My salad and the beef came at the same time. I caught the attention of the hostess and asked that the carpaccio be parked somewhere cold until we were ready for it. “Certainly not, we’ll make you a fresh one when you’re ready for it.” The salads were immense. James’s resembled a great shaggy mountain with the cheese that was grated on it. We were able to finish these, then the table was cleared and a carpaccio appeared ready for us to share. It worked better after the salads anyway.


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Pricey Stuff

Could I get enough to make a ring?
Radium was discovered in 1898 by Pierre and Marie Curie, and in 1905 it was still very valuable. Incredibly valuable.

On June 24, 1905, the *St. Tammany Farmer* of Covington, Louisiana reported that
The latest London quotation of radium was $890,000 an ounce.
Unfortunately, this price was not sufficiently high to prevent people from using dangerous amounts of radium in cosmetics, watch dials, and other products.
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Who the Hell Needs Mario?

A little home cooking
We have found that when we travel it is very nice to have an apartment instead of a hotel room. Yes, with a hotel room you get someone in daily to do some sort of perfunctory cleaning, fresh towels, and the like. With an apartment you forgo all that for a kitchen and the obligation to clean up after yourself. But when you’re in an area in which you can get just about anything you want (for a price, of course), cooking can be very tempting.

We decided to skip the world of restaurants and cook our own damn dinner. In what follows, I took the role of sous chef. There can only be one person running the show, and we have learned long ago how to coordinate that. With this meal, I was relegated to the secondary role, but I was fine with that.

If you visit New York and you don’t get to shop at Citarella, you’re missing out on the splendid bounty that New York City has to offer. We were debating about what we wanted to do for dinner and our initial idea was “buy fish at Citarella.” We decided this on our way to something else. When the “something else” (a gathering of Esperantists at Union Square Park) was over, we headed back to Citarella. We concluded that buying food there and eating in would be cheaper (marginally) and quicker (ha!) than finding a restaurant. And we could kick back and relax (yeah, we did that).


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It’s Still Plagiarism when You Steal from a Press Release

This morning I saw an interesting piece on Andrew Sullivan’s blog talked about extracting biodeisel from spent coffee grounds (James is skeptical). What caught my eye was that the piece Sullivan quoted made reference to “the ACS Journal Energy & Fuels,” which clearly should be “the ACS journal Energy & Fuels” (note the placement of the italics).

I wondered if Sullivan or the person who wrote the press release got it wrong, and when I clicked on his link, I was taken to a blog named Physics.org. The article was there, now given a byline of Vicky Just. The mistaken italics were still there. Since Physics.org didn’t seem to be related to any university or research institute, lines like
Dr Chris Chuck, Whorrod Research Fellow from our Department of Chemical Engineering
A blog with its own department of Chemical Engineering, now that would be something!

More research. Dr. Chuck is at the University of Bath. Ms. Just copied the press release from the university’s web site word for word, failing to even change “our Department of Chemical Engineering” to “the department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath.”

I know there are blogs out there that are nothing more than aggregations of things written elsewhere, and that press departments are happy to see their work get disseminated (they don’t care about the clicks), but putting your name on something you didn’t write should violate even the (minimal) ethical standards of blogging. If nothing else, you should be subject to online abuse.

Shame on Ms. Just for her truly lazy work.
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Monday, June 23, 2014

I See an Acquittal in Your Future

Was another group thinking
that the jury should focus
on the evidence?
One of stories of 1914 was that of the murder of Theresa Hollander in Aurora, Illinois. Police arrested her former boyfriend, Anthony Petras for the crime. He had initially planned to marry her, but in the end married someone else. Some time later, she was clubbed to death in a cemetery. Sensational murders are always tried in the press as well as the courts, and all sorts want to get involved.

On June 23, 1914, The New York Sun reported that the Aurora Women’s Club was going to attempt to influence the jury. Of course, influencing a jury in a murder trial is a crime itself, but I doubt anyone was planning on arresting the members of the Women’s Club: they planning on using telepathy.
The Aurora Women’s Club announced to-day that the members would use telepathic influence on the jury trying Anthony Petras for the murder of Theresa Hollander in Auroroa, Ill. to secure a conviction. The trial began to-day at Geneva.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lupa, Satisfying Food at Close Quarters

I would have happily eaten more.
Before we walked to Lupa, Mario Batali’s “Osteria Romana” in Greenwich Village, we checked out Eric Asimov’s review in The New York Times. Shorter Asimov: Lupa is inconveniently crowded. That was certainly true, but first let’s get there.

We walked over. Things seemed quiet. No line. We read the menu. Ninety-minute wait for a table. We were advised to check back in about a half hour. We wandered about for a bit, returning to the restaurant about a half hour later. We were told it would be another forty-five minutes, but they actually sat us about fifteen minutes later. Were it not New York, I’d probably worry about starting dinner past 10 at night. Not so much a problem here. I did notice, however, that the restaurant did clear out while we were having our dinner. We weren’t the last to be seated, but we were a late seating.

We were shown to a table right next to a passageway to a service area. Waitstaff came in and out of this for various reasons. The focaccia and olive oil were plated up here. After about the fifth time someone grazed my elbow, I suggested to James that we quietly move the table two inches closer to the next table. He offered to swap seats with me, but I pointed out that as he is larger than I am, he was only going to be a bigger target. Once we shifted out of the traffic path, I was bumped into no more. (And when the party at an adjacent table cleared out, that gave the staff even more room. I gave a silent thanks to the woman who admonished a gentleman in her party that “chairs don’t push themselves in.”)

We did better than the couple at the next table. A person at the table beyond theirs, returning to his seat accidentally knocked their salumi platter to the floor. The staff was very apologetic to the couple. They declined getting a replacement salumi platter, so I assume the restaurant simply took it off the bill.
Careful, you could choke someone
on those


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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Trouble in Esperanto-Land

Get your tickets early!
1910 seemed to have both good and bad for the Esperanto movement. On the one hand, preparations were being made for the 1910 Universala Kongreso, the first outside of Europe. On June 21, 1910, the Washington Times reported that noted Brazilian musician would be giving a concert in D.C. as part of the Esperanto congress.

That was the good news.
Washington lovers of music are looking forward to a visit to the Capital in August of C. Quiririo de Oliveira, of the National Institute of Music, Rio de Janeiro. Senor Oliveira, accompanied by Joas Baptista Mello Souza, an officer in the Brazilian ministry of interior, will come to Washington for the Esperanto congress, and probably remain in the city for a week. 
At the Esperanto headquarters today it was announced that a special concert would be given during Oliveira’s stay and that the famous master of music had consented to take part in it. Both Oliveira and Souza are said to be ardent Esperantists.
Señor Oliveira might have been famous in his day, but I haven’t been able to find anything else about him.

Now the bad news.


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Friday, June 20, 2014

Beowulf: A Long-Expected Translation

It’s been known for years that J.R.R. Tolkien had prepared a prose translation of Beowulf, but this was not among his published works until now. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is calling this a “new” translation, though considering that the author has been dead for forty-one years, and bulk of the translation dates from 1926, this would seem to stretch the meaning of the word “new.” Many of the earlier published translations of Beowulf were begun significantly later.

Beowulf is, of course, a much-translated work. Fourteen years ago, when Seamus Heany’s verse translation of Beowulf was published, I called my local Barnes & Noble to see if they had it in stock. The clerk asked me for the book title. “The book is Beowulf, but you’ll want to look under the translator’s name, Seamus Heaney.” He insisted on looking it up by title.

There was a long pause. “There are a lot of books with that title.”

“Yes there are. You’ll want to look under Heaney. That’s H-E-A-N-E-Y.”

“I don’t see anything by a ‘Shay-muss’ Heaney, but we do have a ‘See-Am-Us’ Heaney. Is that the same guy.” Happily, they had the book.

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Post Calls on Esperanto to Surrender

Ĉu ĝi vere estas senespera?
There's an almost triumphant air to the New York Evening Post piece reprinted in the Washington, D.C. Evening Star on June 20, 1906, titled "Esperanto's Hopeless Effort." Why is Esperanto's effort hopeless? The rising tide of English, according to the Post.

At the time, the Esperanto movement had had only its first World Congress and was gearing up for the second. The first national Esperanto convention in the United States was to come later that year. Esperanto had yet to see its peak activity, but the Post was already declaring game over.
The new world-language, Esperanto seems to have already won more advocates than the older Volapuk. No manufactured language, however, seems to have much chance in competion with English, which long ago displaced French as the most useful and widely spoken language and which is gaining after than ever in all parts of the world. Quite recently the German government has ordered that all railway officials and employees must learn to speak English. In Antwerp also the authorities are urging all classes to study English and are providing special facilities in the public schools; the city has become "almost an English-speaking port." In Japan all school children are now obliged to learn our language. A few years hence tourists from this country will be able to get along there as easily as on a trip at home. With Great Britain, India, Australia, Canada, the United States and large areas of Africa using English, what hope is there for any other language? The rest might as well give up the unequal contest and make it unanimous.
When I was a freshman in college, a history professor was astonished to find that few of my classmates spoke any French, and told the class that French was the preeminent language of world affairs. Shortly later, during spring break, I ran into my high school French teacher who was amused by this and commented that French had lost that position long ago. According to the Post, this was actually over even before that professor was born.

Still, the line "what hope is there for any other language?" has an odd tone to it. Isn't this the voice of the conqueror? Do we get a maniacal laugh after it? I'd like other languages to have some hope, though at this point, English does seem secure.

Also, given that Esperanto takes its name from its word for hope, was the Post tweaking the sensibilities of the Esperanto movement by calling it "hopeless"? Still, at least there was general acknowledgement that Esperanto had beaten out Volapük.
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Late News

This happened a while ago.
In reading nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century newspapers (disclosure: many of the articles I've discussed are from the Chronicling America site of the Library of Congress, which covers American newspapers from 1836-1922), I've often been surprised how fast news travels. Of course, there was that wonder of modern technology, the telegraph to consider. Often I will see that newspapers are reporting on stories within a day or two of when the events happened.

And sometimes it's slower. I found an short item that was printed in various newspapers on June 19, 1895:
The application for the release of Oscar Wilde pending steps for a new trial has been refused.

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Voter Registration in Sodom

Surely you didn't
say that, Governor!
The Locofocos were a faction of the Democratic Party in the decades before the Civil War, sort of the Tea Party in today’s Republican Party. This was probably largely skipped over when, during high school, classes covered the period between the Constitutional Convention and the Civil War. (Compromises. I remember it treated as a period in which Henry Clay brokered a series of compromises.)

The Locofocos were in favor of the gold standard (like Tea Partiers today), but in other ways they were liberal, supporting labor unions (unlike the Tea Party). They were formed in New York, and though the Democrats were the conservative party of the day (generally speaking), some of their aims were fairly liberal.

The Whigs (the progressive party), of course, hated them. Like the Locofocos, the Whigs had the North as a stronghold. Unlike the Locofocos, the Whigs where opposed to Andrew Jackson (whom the Locofocos supported). Henry Clay ran against Jackson in the election of 1824 (that election was contested and Clay had his supporters vote for John Quincy Adams), and again in 1832.


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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Gluten?

These things have gluten.
While I was playing with flour, the New York Times was taking about getting rid of gluten. Kim Severson’s article makes it clear that about 6% of the population are gluten intolerant, and another 1% has celiac disease. In addition to that seven percent of the population are those who are removing gluten from their diets for wholly personal reasons, even if they’re not sure what gluten is.

I’m married to a chemistry professor, so I have no excuse. When James mentioned how many people didn’t know what gluten is (other than “some bad thing I don’t want in my food”), I adopted a chirpy voice and said, “it’s a protein made without harming any innocent little animals.” Ironically, past food fads suggested increasing gluten consumption. Macrobiotic diets recommended vital wheat gluten as a food item. You can also use gluten to increase the chewiness of bread. I add a little gluten to the dough when I make a whole-wheat and rye bread, just so it can have some gluten and do a little rising.


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Fresh Pasta Is Good, 00 Flour Makes it Better

Waiting for the pot
Lately, I’ve been making a lot of pasta. Pasta has been a major part of our diet (this should not seem surprising for the household of an Italian-American who grew up in the region that got the “Wednesday is Prince spaghetti day” commercials). Given a choice between water-based pasta that has been par cooked and dried and fresh egg pasta, there really is no choice. Go for the fresh.

I’ll admit right here that most people have the sort of busy lives in which rolling out fresh pasta is is going to be a rare occurrence. Just not going to happen for a typical person on a Tuesday night. For those people, I would encourage them to make it when they can. When you do make it, I also encourage you to make it the best you can.

When I started making pasta (about seven years ago; I came late to it), I bought a bag of Italian 00 flour. It was expensive, probably about $8 for a 1 kilogram sack (about two pounds). Worse, because it was expensive, I wanted to save it for special occasions. Eventually, the flour went stale or got bugs, or whatever else happens to flour that you’re not actually using, which made it even more expensive.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Aesthetic Clothing Leads to Death of Companion?

Does this look like
a man who washes
dishes?
In June 1882, Oscar Wilde was lecturing in Tennessee, where he was greeted (as always) with some skepticism (that was largely the point). The Public Ledger of Memphis, Tennessee asked
How many people are soulfully intense enough to appreciate the Wilde lecture?
and a few lines later,
Is it true that Oscar Wilde once occupied the responsible position of dishwasher in a London hotel?
This was not true, of course. Still, there were those who wanted to paint Wilde as something of a phony, which was probably all to Richard D’Oyly Carte’s advantage. The same issue of the Public Ledger had a longer article which claimed that imitating Wilde could lead to serious consequences. Death.

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The Imp of the Perverse

Was he an
imp of the perverse?
This is my 100th post and I thought it would be a good opportunity to write about Edgar Allan Poe. The title of this blog is a play on Poe's piece "The Imp of the Perverse." I've used the term "piece," because it is sort of a mixture of story and essay.

If anyone in reading this blog has sought out "The Imp of the Perverse," you have my apologies. It's not very good. When I decided to play off the name, I went and read it. I had probably read it in the past, but it's not the sort of thing to stick in the mind.

"Imp of the Perverse" reads like a rough draft for "The Tell-Tale Heart." A man commits a crime and then cannot keep it a secret. The only probably is that Poe wrote "Tell-Tale Heart" before he wrote "Imp of the Perverse." Either he tossed it off quickly to make some money or fulfill an obligation, or he was trying something new and it just didn't work.


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Monday, June 16, 2014

What Flavor is Volapuk?

What flavors do you have?
There’s a Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese plays a concessionaire selling an albatross to theater patrons. Terry Jones plays the hapless patron who wants to know what flavor it is. “It’s bloody sea bird flavor.” Having settled that question, maybe Cleese’s character of the woman selling snacks can answer the question asked in that title: what flavor is Volapuk?

The question is raised by an advertisement published in the June 16, 1888 Capital City Courier, of Lincoln Nebraska. Apparently the new soda fountain there (a $2,000 fountain) has flavors that include peaches and cream, mandarin, and—first on the list—Volapuk.

This was to be available on or about June 1, 1888. There was probably some mixup, and the person who placed the advertisement probably was none too happy. Probably some word was misread by the compositor as “Volapuk,” or some other sheet had the word on it and the compositor swapped the two (in which case we might find classes for speaking “vanilla” somewhere else in the newspaper).


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Diplomat Predicts Future for Esperanto in Universities

The diplomat
John Barrett was a American diplomat, notable for his work in relations amongst the states in the Americas. Notably, he served as ambassador to Argentina, Panama, and Columbia in turn, though for the last two, he only served less than a year each. In 1907, he left his position as Ambassador to Columbia to help organize the Bureau of American Republics, of which he was the first director. The Bureau was later renamed the Pan American Union, and much later formed the basis for the Organization of American States.

On June, 16, 1910, the East Oregonian of Pendleton, Oregon, ran an article quoting Mr. Barrett, but the subject matter wasn’t South American diplomacy, per se. At the time, Washington, D.C. was gearing up to host the first ever World Esperanto Congress (the Universala Kongreso) held outside of Europe. Zamenhof was coming. This had the potential to be a big thing for the Esperanto movement, not just in the United States, but worldwide. Barrett told the press that Esperanto would soon be a subject of study in colleges and universities.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

You Sure as Hell Can Cuss in Esperanto

A bit of poetry
Many of the early articles about proposed international languages looked at their various drawbacks. Volapük, for example, acquired a reputation for unintelligibility in the American press. I’m not sure if this was deserved, but once applied it seemed to stick. I remember that when I first encountered French at the age of 12, it looked utterly incomprehensible; now I read French for pleasure. Esperanto didn’t get the same treatment, probably because Zamenhof was more evident in his borrowings than Schleyer.

In the early twentieth century, several newspaper pieces suggested one possible problem with Esperanto: a lack of indecent words. Perhaps in the first two decades of the twentieth century, there were no indecent words in Esperanto; the earliest attested list is from 1931, though it is unclear if the words were coined or reported. Considering that during that period, many dictionaries weren’t printing swear words, I doubt they would have championed a varied vocabulary in Esperanto for the taboo words. (I have checked my copy of Plena Vortaro de Esperanto kun Suplemento (1980), and it does not have entry for any of the “bad” words that I could think of.) I am well aware that English-language dictionaries in the early twentieth century did not typically print profanity or obscenity. These newspaper writers would not have concluded that just because cuss words weren’t in the dictionary that they didn’t actually exist.


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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Messa - A Lovely Meal in an Attractive Setting


If your food is the same color as
the table, maybe a glass plate
isn't the best idea
During a recent trip to Israel, I ate at Messa, a chef-owned restaurant in Tel Aviv. It was somewhat hard to find. We walked past the door, because it didn’t really look like a entrance. As we doubled back, a doorman positioned himself at it, opening the door to our inquiry.

Inside, form has triumphed over function. The place looks great, but I wonder how much the decor figures into my own enjoyment of the meal. Messa has no small tables. Large parties get tables with high-backed chairs set into alcoves. Couples, or smaller parties, get sat along a very, very long table. The couple to my right were speaking only Hebrew, which made it easy to pretend that they weren’t really there. I likewise pretended that they couldn’t really hear or understand our conversation, even though that probably wasn’t the case. The tall chairs in which we sat were lovely, though I found I pretty much couldn’t get in and out of it on my own. Nor did the design seem to take practicality as a concern; a couple times we heard wine glasses crash to the floor. Their storage area did not seem to be built for the convenience of the wait staff.


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The Esperanto State that Didn't Happen

Will there be a phrasebook in
the travel guide?
On June 14, 1908, the San Francisco Call, repeating a story from the Kansas City Journal, reported on the attempt to create an independent state between Germany , Belgium and Holland. Moresnet had been created as a neutral zone in the treaties after the Napoleonic wars. The tiny territory actually existed for a century, finally being annexed by Belgium at the end of World War I (Belgium, itself, had been part of the Netherlands until 1830).

There was still the question of the fate of Moresnet, a valley with 3,000 inhabitants. There were various proposals to set up the place as an independent micro-state. In 1908, it was proposed that not only should Moresnet become independent, but should be an Esperanto homeland. The Call reported that

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

I’ll See Your Catullus and Raise You a Priapeia

This wasn't shocking
in 79 AD
Yesterday, my neighbor dropped by with a mid–19th-century Latin textbook. While she was in my study, she made note of my copy of the Carmina Burana. Had she kept looking, she would have seen various other Latin texts in the room, including a 1999 edition and translation of the Priapeia.

Later that night, I was looking at the blog io9 and saw the article “A Latin Poem So Filthy, It Wasn’t Translated Until The 20th Century.” Now, the twentieth century is a span of time that saw a hell of a lot of changes. Technological and social change has only accelerated through human history, and what was unprintable in 1904, is legal to publish in 1994, (and showing up on blogs in 2014, but that’s another century).

So, yes, the poem by Catullus that starts “Paedicabo ego vos et irrumabo,” (for a translation, I’m offering “I’ll ass-rape and face-fuck you”) didn’t get translated in nineteenth-century editions. Lots of things didn’t, especially since many of the editions were printed with the thought that they’d be going into the hands of sixteen-year-olds (let’s be serious: this poem is not going into a poetry anthology intended for high school juniors).


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Same-Sex Marriage: The (Bad) Argument from Tradition

The Anglican theologian Bishop N. T. Wright has made an argument against same-sex marriage in which he makes an appeal to tradition. Wright makes the claim that
the word “marriage,” for thousands of years and cross-culturally has meant man and woman. Sometimes it’s been one man and more than one woman. Occasionally it’s been one woman and more than one man. There is polyandry as well as polygamy in some societies in some parts of history, but it’s always been male plus female. Simply to say that you can have a woman-plus-woman marriage or a man-plus-man marriage is radically to change that because of the givenness of maleness and femaleness. I would say that without any particular Christian presuppositions at all, just cross-culturally, that’s so.
He suggests that given that history has never given us examples of same-sex marriage, there must be something radical about same-sex marriage. He’s wrong in many ways. Mordecai Kaplan, whose thoughts gave rise to Reconstructionist Judaism, said that tradition gets a vote, not a veto. But in his argument from tradition, Bishop Wright gives tradition the full veto. But arguing that same-sex marriage should not be allowed because it is not in the tradition, isn’t just an improper appeal to tradition, it’s also a misreading of history.


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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Captain’s Soulé’s Book

Lyman Soulé's Book
A neighbor came over with a book question. She was sorting through her library and came across an old Latin textbook with a publication date of 1844. “Was that right,” she asked? Yes. Gail was also curious if the markings an earlier owner had made in it could be made more easy to read.

What she could tell was that the book was once owned by Lyman Soulé, who also wrote that he lived in Newton Falls, Ohio. That was an easy bit of genealogy work. Lyman T. Soulé was born in Massachusetts in 1832, and he died in Newton Falls, Ohio in 1897. He would have been twelve when the book was published, which means it was probably the latest thing in Latin for students at the time.

The "Captain" comes from the Civil War. He was an druggest with no previous military experience. He enlisted as a First Sergeant on with the Ohio 171st Infantry on May 5, 1864, but less than a month later he was promoted to Captain (June 3, just over 150 years ago). He mustered out that August, with less than four months in the military.

She let me flip through the book. I noticed that he had dates in the margins. You could tell when he studied various lessons. (When she offered to loan me the book, I was tempted, as it would be interesting to see what other marginalia he made, but I’ve had too many distractions today as it is.)

I showed her that the marginalia could be made more readable by scanning the page. Looking at the page, I could barely make out the words. Scanned and enlarged, they were clearer. Enhanced, I could read more of what Lyman had written in his book. \
Now single—but—will soon have the “Matrimonial heart” so that it ever [unclear word] He [unclear]
Ah Love!!!
One of the Black republicans
Gail had wondered about one phrase, since Soulé had signed himself “one of the Black republicans.” I pointed out that this was a term that the Democrats had applied to the Republicans for their abolitionist principles. Once meant as a term of derision, Soulé was probably adopting it as a term of honor.

I’ve read some of the claims that Democrats made about abolition in the era before the Civil War. They made a lot of claims that probably even seemed ridiculous then (such as that the Republicans would be marrying the daughters of former slave owners to former slaves). In a way, these almost absurd apocalyptic claims remind me of some of the wild-eyed claims made by opponents of same-sex marriage (ranging from removing the tax exemptions of churches that won’t perform same-sex weddings to arresting clergy who won’t officiate). But just like the claims of those opposed to abolition, the claims of those opposed to same-sex marriage have shown to lack any merit.
 

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Byword and Blogger. Not Quite the Right Solution

This is three paragraphs.
Can you tell where
they split?
I hate typing in browser windows, but since starting this blog, I’ve been doing a lot of typing in browser windows, but I am seeking to limit it. Many of these posts start off by my typing something into the app Byword, either on my Mac or in iOS (I’ve actually dictated a few drafts into my phone while walking my dog). As a text editor that syncs between a Mac and iOS devices, it’s pretty good. As a blogging tool, it leaves a bit to be desired.

As I noted before, Google’s own Blogger app for iOS is sadly deficient. If you’re going to make an app, it should be better than just opening up mobile Safari. Another mild complaint I’d make about Blogger is that it creates really bad HTML. When you type a line break in Blogger, it just gives you an HTML break (<br />). Ooo. Bad coding. The actual coding should be paragraph tags, which is exactly what Byword produces, and Blogger than translates to break tags.


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Professor Claimed Esperanto Would Be Important to Radio (1922)

Radio days
While there is a Columbus State University, this June 10, 1922 article from the Washington Herald is probably referring to Columbia University, as Professor A. Christen gave both a summer course and a public lecture there based on his book From Babel to Esperanto. I have not been able to find anything further (like his name) about Professor Christen. It does seem that he was legitimately a professor, specializing in linguistics (and I feel obligated to point out that the discipline was much different in 1922).

They seem to have got the professor's contention backwards though, since they titled the article "Believes Radio Aid to Esperanto." But Christen's opinion seems to work in the other direction. It's not that Esperanto needs radio, but that if we're going to communicate by radio, we need Esperanto.

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Marriage Equality in the U.S. — The Current Summary

Yesterday, a friend asked me a question about marriage equality lawsuits, but I didn't have an answer at my fingertips. In order to clear things up, some numbers:

0 - This is the number of states that do not have marriage equality, a court decision overturning a ban on same-sex marriage, or an active court case that seeks to overturn a ban on marriage equality.

20 - This is the number of states with marriage equality. The latest addition is Wisconsin. It seems unlikely that Judge Crabb will be issuing a stay. The jurisdictions, in order, are:

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire (yeah, New England), District of Columbia, New York, Washington, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. (I'm putting California in the post-Prop 8 position.)


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Monday, June 9, 2014

When You Say “Literal,” Do You Mean It Literally?

Translators are generally helpful. If, for example, you needed to study French to read Voltaire, and for Old English for Beowulf, ,and Castilian Spanish for Cervantes, you’d never have time to get any actual reading done. And the task of the translator is a difficult one. Do you sacrifice meaning for tone? As Robert Frost put it, “poetry is what gets lost in translation.”

Clearly, you can go too far afield in coming up with a translation. One of my favorite bits of mistranslation (favorite as in “a really good example,” not as in “an end result I agree with”) is in Frederick Rebsamen’s 1991 translation of Beowulf. On the first page of his translation, Rebsamen says of Scyld Scefing that
the Danes found him floating with gifts
a strange king-child
which is a really odd way to translate
syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden; he þæs frofre gebad
Actually, it’s no way at all. Tolkien in his recently released prose translation (which, admitted escapes any problem of putting it into verse, something Tolkien tried and abandoned), has
he who first was found forlorn; comfort for that he lived to know, … throve in honor
(I skipped a bit of Tolkien because he reversed two half-lines, undoubtably to make the sense clearer). Rebsamen here is just making it up, putting something into the poem that was never there (and actually violates the sense); no one who is destitute (feascheaft) can also be “floating with gifts.”
In the great scheme of things, a bad translation of a line of Beowulf doesn’t matter much (except to me, at least). The larger problem is the usual confidence people have that translators aren’t playing fast and loose with them. That happens more often then you would think.

In today’s New York Times, Charles Blow noted that in a recent Gallup poll, 28% of Americans believe that The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word. That might work if 28% of Americans could read the Bible literally, but that would take a mastery of Hebrew that few Americans have and of Greek possessed by even fewer. Because if you’re going to claim that the verse must be taken literally, maybe you should know what it actually says. Most people, however, read the Bible through an interpretive haze of translation (I know I do).

If an obvious mistranslation of a line of Beowulf isn’t all that important, how about a obvious mistranslation of a verse of the Bible? I have taken Deuteronomy 23:17 (or 23:18, your versification may vary) as the honesty test for a translation of the Bible. Here’s on possible translation of that phrase:
There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.
And what does it say in Hebrew?
לֹא-תִהְיֶה קְדֵשָׁה, מִבְּנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה קָדֵשׁ, מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

Well, it’s written in that funny marks they use (and Blogger totally messes up the Hebrew). Good thing I can sound that out (like a first-grader). The important words in this passage are כדשה and כדש, and they are the words that are translated as “whore” and “sodomite.” They mean “holy.” The word for “prostitute” actually shows up in the next verse. It’s the wholly unrelated word זוּנה.

I’ve seen some sophisticated arguments that, well, other religions relied on male and female cultic prostitutes and so therefore, any reference to (foreign) clergy must mean they were doing the dirty as part of their religious observances. This is probably a good moment to mention how Jonathan Kirsch summed up Roman belief about early Christian practices in his history of monotheism, God Against the Gods. It was clear to the Romans that Christians met in secret, not because they were persecuted, but because they were engaging in filthy and perverted sexual practices, which made for an excellent reason for persecuting the disgusting sex cult.

In other words, the idea that neighboring religions were sex cults might have been an inference made by the Jews when Deuteronomy was written, and it might have even been true, but that’s an inference we can’t draw from the actual texts. It’s a big leap to go from “holy” to “whore” (it could be some sort of taboo deformation, trading the sacred for the profane, but I haven’t seen anyone put forth any evidence for that).

The real inference seems to be that if during his recent trip to Israel, Pope Francis decided to convert to Orthodox Judaism, the Chief Rabbi would have been obligated to turn him away. I’m buying the translation that says,
No foreign priestess may join the daughters of Israel, nor shall a foreign priest join the sons of Israel.
A dodgy translation of Beowulf doesn’t matter much, since no one ever says, “I take Beowulf literally.” But if people are going to take the Bible literally, maybe they should be aware of what it actually says. If you’re going to proclaim the word of God, maybe you should be certain you’re not proclaiming the word of Translator.
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But a Frog Mariachi Band Would Just be Tacky

Not creepy at all.
They always do that.
A London woman is attempting to revive the Victorian craft of arranging taxidermied animals in human like poses, according to an article in the New York Times. She teaches classes under the pseudonym Margot Magpie. She uses a pseudonym because she has received some death threats. I find taxidermied animals a little creepy, I would hope that the people who have made these threats realize just how horribly creepy they are.

The Victorian practice was started by one Walter Potter (no relation to the Beatrix Potter of cutesy animal illustrations). Mr. Potter created what the article calls “whimsical tableaux,” which are described as including
rabbit schoolchildren scribbling on slates, squirrels smoking cigars and kittens playing croquet or dancing, wearing ruffled dresses and bead necklaces.

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Taking Her Stockings Was the Last Straw

He was stretching them
Here are some of the things that Rebecca Kreger, a Pittsburgh resident in 1922, could deal with her husband doing:

  • Kicking
  • Beating
  • Keeping company with other women

But he had better stay out of her underwear.

I was somewhat surprised to stumble on this article from 1922 in which a woman had her husband called into court on a moral charge, because she claimed that she caught him wearing her stockings and lingerie.
I managed to get along with him until the other morning. When I awoke I went to my trunk for an undergarment, and I found that my husband had been there before me and taken it. My silk stockings and other lingerie had also been removed, and later I found that my husband was wearing them. He should have been ashamed to do such a thing, but he wasn't.

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Be an Oscar Wilde, or Just Dress Like One

The fashion of the day
On June 8, 1882, Oscar Wilde was getting frequent mention in the American newspapers, and some people were mimicking his mode of dress, or at least the popular imagination of it. For example, the Weekly Democratic Statesman of Austin Texas noted that
Miss Florence Gerald, of Waco goes north soon to study for the stage. Mr. Walter Maxcy, also of the hub, appears on the street in knee breeches, black stockings, yellow vest and sunflower, a la Oscar Wilde.


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Red Pasta — Second Attempt

Just a hint of tomato
When I decided that I wanted to make another color of pasta, I hit the web looking for some recipes, since my cookbook listed spinach pasta but no other sorts. Over at About.com, Kyle Phillips said that you couldn't use tomato paste for red pasta since it would make the pasta too acidic for anything but a cream sauce. After finding the carrot pasta recipe there such a trial, I decided to test out the claim about tomato pasta.

I made a standard two-egg recipe, beating a tablespoon of tomato paste into the eggs before adding them to the flour. This made a slightly red, very workable dough. I let it rest for a few minutes, then I kneaded it, then I went off to run some errands.

When we got back, the dough was thoroughly rested and I was ravenous. I think I would have eaten it no matter what. I do have to wait for this to cook? It rolled out as I would expect dough to even without the addition of a tablespoon of tomato paste. I cut into into fettuccine and let it rest while I prepped everything else.


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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hebrew, Again

Try not to think "book."
I don’t intend to blog my way through Hebrew, since I have no particular intention of making my blog as tedious as possible (if my blog is going to be boring, let that come without my intention). Something occurred to me as I continued my studying Hebrew with Rosetta Stone. Over the years as I have studied various languages, I’ve taken piles of notes (now, mostly long since lost or discarded; I’m not losing any sleep over not having my first list of French vocabulary words from when I was 12).

Rosetta Stone, on the other hand, isn’t really conducive to taking notes. Unlike my experience when I was 12, this is not language as a substitution code (if you’re thinking “boy,” say “garçon”), but instead a more organic way of learning the language (don’t think “boy,” think “ילד”).
But I’d still like to take some notes. There is a pdf of the course material. I might go through it and jot out the words as they occur, partly so I have a word list (and I don’t need to do what I did at twelve, connecting each word to its English equivalent; the bare list of words will be enough), and partly because I know that the physical act of writing down a word helps in the memorization (and it will improve my handwriting).

Today’s lesson actually introduced some new words, and it was strange they way they did it. We got four pictures: A dog, some bread, children writing, and a book. Then they throw the word “sefer” (ספר) at you and expect you to sink or swim. (Go for the book.) Maybe I’ve forgotten some earlier (as in years ago) review, but it seem sort of strange to say, “come on, you’ve got a one-in-four chance, and the odds only get better if you hit one.” Or maybe it knew that I’d been there, many times before.

It’s early yet, but I suspect this is something that would give many hopeful learners a lot of anxiety and frustration. Some of that also came from trying to tap things out on an on-screen Hebrew keyboard; an unfamiliar arrangement of unfamiliar letters. I’m going to persevere though.
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Chef. A Tasty Bite

Last night, James and I finally had a chance to see Chef, Jon Favreau's new movie about a formerly innovative filmmaker chef, who breaks of a rut of blockbuster movies cooking the same old things by going back to his filmmaking culinary roots. When the writer/director/star is the guy who made Iron Man and Iron Man 2, you have to view it that way. To hammer the point home, he even included Robert Downey Jr. in the film.

(A digression: I have seen neither of the Iron Man films. We've been burned enough by comic book movies that "based on a comic book" is an automatic deal breaker in our household. Paramount's grinding down of the Star Trek franchise wasn't redeemed enough by J.J. Abrams's first film to get us to go to Star Trek: Into Darkness. And, sorry, Disney, George Lucas burned enough goodwill that I'm waiting for the reviews before deciding if and where I'm seeing Episode VII, even with the participation of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.)

I really liked Chef. Dustin Hoffman was fantastic as Riva, the restaurant's owner, who gives Chef Casper (Favreau) the monumentally bad advice to "go with the hits," suggesting that if the Rolling Stones didn't play "Satisfaction" people would burn down the theater (I suspect that at this point Mick Jagger is somewhat bored of that song, and I wouldn't want to see him perform it out of a sense of obligation). I must have groaned at the menu, because James whispered to me that it wasn't that bad of a menu. Yes it was. That menu was carefully honed to be as dull as possible.


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It's a Good Thing He Didn't Read Oscar's Thoughts

Mr. Wilde! There are ladies here!
When I stumbled on Washington Irving Bishop, the nineteenth-century mind reader who came to such a sorry end, I found myself wondering if he had ever crossed paths with Oscar Wilde. Bishop had spent some in London at a time when Wilde was one of its notable inhabitants. Still, even in that time, it was a big city.

They met in early June, 1881. It was reported in the Salt Lake Herald of June 7, 1881. If I understand the dateline properly, it might be that they met on June 4. Articles on the same page start with "New York, 6" and "Rockland Me., 5," so I conclude that "London, 4" means "London, June 4." No number is larger than 6; some articles on other pages explicitly say they occurred in late May.

Wilde is counted among the "well-known persons" who attended Bishop's private performance; not bad for someone whose accomplishments consist of a volume of poems. His tour of the United States and everything you might know Wilde for was yet to come.


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Friday, June 6, 2014

A Candidate for the Universal Language in 1889

How many planets in
your federation?
Esperanto speakers are pretty used to hearing that English is the de facto international language.  This is the sort of thing that is true until it isn't. Just as it's risky to assume that everyone speaks English now anyway, I was once assured in Spain that all Americans speak Spanish. I missed that memo.

English is pretty widely spoken, luckily for me, thanks to good old American pop culture. Certainly, it would be great for everyone to learn Esperanto, but who's going to turn out all those great Esperanto movies and pop songs? I have the sneaking suspicion that if someone did make a movie in Esperanto, it would be some earnest part film and not an adventure blockbuster. And while I like Esperanto rock, none of its performers are going to go global on the scale of American pop music artists.

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Winifred Stoner: Proof that Esperanto Is Not Harmful to Your Health

Speak some Esperanto for the
nice reporter, dear.
You probably know the line:
In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
But do you know who wrote it?

The verse is part of a longer poem by an early twentieth-century child prodigy, Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr. The "Jr." because she was named after her mother of the same name. It should be no surprise that the elder Stoner was (among other things) an education reformer. She was also an early Esperantist. The Stoner family took a prominent part in the Esperanto movement in the United States.

According to a piece in the June 6, 1915 Tombstone Epitaph, Miss Stoner
at twelve writes and speaks eight languages fluently; she has written for publication since she was five years old and has a number of books to her credit, among these a translation of "Mother Goose" into Esperanto rhyme under the title "Patrino Anserino" that has been pronounced by college professors "worthy of a professional linguist or a poet of standing."
What were you up to when you were twelve. Yeah, me too. She also created an Esperanto card game called "Ĉio." (Some sources attribute the game to the elder Stoner, which is probably the truth anyway.)


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Wilde at a Discount

Ten cents was cash in 1882
In June of 1882, Wilde was a celebrity in America and everyone wanted to read the poems of this apostle of the aesthetic movement. And just like popular (or even not so popular) writers today see the e-book versions of their works pirated, a similar thing happened to Wilde (though it did require a printing press).

The Seaside Library mentioned below was a New York-based publisher of cheap, pirated editions. Ironically, now they are quite rare. Wilde's particular indignity was that he actually had one offered to him for purchase. But let me give the anecdote in full, as it's told in the Hopkinsville South Kentuckian of June 6, 1882.


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