Wednesday, December 31, 2014

There are so many homosexuals in clothing design, hair dressing, interior decoration, art, music, ballet, acting, TV producing, newspaper and magazine work, writing, education, and other similar vocations because those fields usually require people with a predominantly (or at least secondary) Melancholy temperament. And as we have seen, some people with a Melancholy temperament have a greater tendency toward homosexuality than people of other temperament groups.

Tim LaHaye, The Unhappy Gays (70)
The need for 25,550 trials was clearly an obstacle. Even if, as James Newman has suggested, Jacob Bernoulli had been willing to settle for the "immoral certainty" of an even bet—probability of 50/100—that the result would be within 2% of the true ratio of 3:2, 8,400 drawings would be needed. Jacob's selection of a probability of 1000/1001 is in itself a curiosity by today's standards, when most statisticians accept odds of 1 in 20 as sufficient evidence that a result is significant (today's lingo for moral certainty) rather than due to mere chance.

Peter Bernstein, Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk (127)
The anger passed after a moment's reflection. At the time of the deed, blueprints had probably been as common as weeds, and the owner of the box the probable culprit. He shielded the print from the sun with his own shadow while trying to unfold it further. In the lower right-hand corner was a printed rectangle containing, in simple block letters, various titles, dates, "patent numbers," reference numbers, and names. His eye traveled down to the list until it encountered: "CIRCUIT DESIGN BY: Leibowitz, I.E."

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz (17)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Central heating" in Britain usually refers to one or two radiators in a hallway or in the living room. They are sometimes fed from the hot water system. Sometimes there is a hot water coil in the coal stove in the kitchen which heats a radiator or two. This is for "background heating", which means it will prevent water from freezing in the wash bowls. Temperatures away from open fires will still be about fifty degrees.

Shepherd Mead, How to Live Like a Lord Without Really Trying (36)
Rococo architects transcended the Baroque insistence on monumental form and therefore spaces defined by the structure. Full of flowing curves, complex geometry and dense ornament, Rococo spaces, such as Johann Michael Fischer's Ottobeuren Abbey in Bavaria, see architectural structure dominated by the exigencies of surface.

Owen Hopkins, Architectural Styles: A Visual Guide (93)
Toward the end of the Book of Revelation, the author describes two visions of things to come: one is a vision of heaven in which there are "flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a violent earthquake" (16:18), and the other is a vision of the earth in which God will dwell and will "wipe away every tear" from the human eyes (21:3-4). In the biblical vision, God is the unknown and unknowable and, at the same time, an intimate personal friend. Both are true, yet how both can be true at the same time remains a mystery. At the heart of the Christian experience of God there is a mystery, and the only possible response to such a mystery is worship.

Christopher L. Webber, Welcome to the Episcopal Church (25)
He closed his eyes, and my far hand gripped the bottle again, upside down, thumb extended to support my lifting it if it had to, as he recited: "I know the backs of her knees. I know the shape of her elbows. She used to eat tomatoes off the vine. She stole them in season and bit into them like apples. She climbed trees like us boys. She wore the same yellow bathing suit for years. A one-piece. She wouldn't give it up....Her father was in insurance, worked hard enough to get by, but he was a bohemian type at heart. Her mother was gorgeous, tall. Like her...She can draw, you know, pictures, and she sings. Have you heard that?"

Amy Grace Loyd, The Affairs of Others (233)
A queer, queer fellow was this Ned McLean that I had married. The simplest way to make him comprehensible is to show that he was just about a dozen men packaged as one jealous husband. He was so changeable that at times I felt quite polyandrous. We spent some weeks at Bar Harbor with all four of our parents beaming on us. Then, so we could be alone, we went back to Washington and stayed at Friendship. Joe Leiter and his bride, the former Juliette Williams, were with us for a while. Finally, however, Ned and I decided that we would not have a honeymoon unless we went roaming over Europe. Our fathers matched each other in extravagance and gave us each $100,000.

Evalyn Walsh McLean, Father Struck It Rich (111) 
When the two islands finally made contact with one another, they instantly developed a robust trade in bongos and tanning oil. Each island used its competitive advantage to send the other island products that were more valuable overseas than they were at home. In this symbiotic arrangement, both islands benefited. Living standards rose...and well-toned drumming was achieved by all.

Peter D. Schiff and Andrew J. Schiff, How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes (85)
However, by 1973, they were around 40, confident, owned their own restaurants, and were ready for fame. They could have done without the name of the fame – most don't like 'nouvelle cuisine' and talk about 'cuisine moderne' or something. But the fame itself was very acceptable. Guérard, Vergé, and the two Troisgros set about writing books about their methods which made them even more famous.

Ann Barr and Paul Levy, The Official Foodie Handbook (62)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The removal of the pump handle was a historical turning point, and not just because it marked the end of London's most explosive outbreak. History has its epic thresholds where the world is transformed in a matter of minutes—a leader is assassinated, a volcano erupts, a constitution is ratified. But there are other, smaller, turning points that are no less important. A hundred disparate historical trends converge on a single, modest act—some unknown person unscrews the handle of a pump on a side street in a bustling city—and in the years and decades that follow, a thousand changes ripple out from that simple act. It's not that the world is changed instantly; the change itself takes many years to become visible. But the change is no less momentous for its quiet evolution.

Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map (162)

Monday, February 24, 2014

I entered the stands for the visiting supporters and ended up following a skinhead—big and brawny—with a tight-fitting white T-shirt and fleshy biceps. His name, I would learn, was Cliff, which—sheer, unadorned, vaguely suggestive of danger—seemed entirely appropriate. The skinhead phase had long passed and, even here, in this crowd, Cliff stood out as a nostalgic anomaly, but Cliff had such an aggressive manner—the regulation braces and the heavy black boots and pockets full of twopences (their edges sharpened beforehand) to throw at Cambridge supporters—that he seemed the most obvious person to befriend.

Bill Buford, Among the Thugs (133)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

During 1940 and 1941, Uniontown held a Turkey Carnival. Evidently many farmers in the area raised turkeys, and this was a way of promoting their sale. Pictured in the convertible are a king and queen of the activities. The building may have stood on the northeast corner of U.S. Highway 80 and Water Street. The building is no longer standing. (Courtesy of the author).

Eleanor C. Drake, Images of America: Perry County, (111)

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Olney was a man given to resentments; he nurtured and tended to them. When Beard asked him, a little over a year later, to give private cooking lessons to his longtime partner, Gino Cofacci, Olney readily agreed, while privately bemoaning Beard's "selfishness and willingness to use friends." As the same time, Olney was making good use of Beard's connections and knowledge as he arranged to teach a cooking class (his first) in Avignon that summer, sending Beard incongruously affectionate, intimate letters all the while. He wrote about the menus he planned, who had enrolled in the class, his hopes that Beard would attend one of the dinners, and about his love life. "I continue to moon around dreaming of my baby," he wrote of a boyfriend. "He keeps writing how much he wants to return here without promising that it can be a certainty."

Luke Barr, Provence, 1970 (157)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"You can say that again. Something has finally dawned on me, Sally. We should have picked our own cotton." Honey waited while Sally laughed. "All right, give me the list," she said, "and I'll start calling. I'll get somebody here to help me."

Mary Ward Brown, "Let Him Live," from Tongues of Flame (124-25)

Friday, May 31, 2013

I almost broke my back leaning over to pull my socks on. No way in hell I was going to attempt to get the underpants on. I'd go commando and take excruciating care with the zipper. The shirt was easy enough, but the main event was obviously going to be my pants. I awkwardly wrestled my feet through the pants legs, scrunching the thing down, and then lay back on the bed. I was suddenly reminded of a girlfriend from back when I was in my teens: watching her lean back and hump and writhe into a pair of stretch jeans, and thinking, Christ, she looks good in them and all, but is it really worth all that performance?

Warren Ellis, Crooked Little Vein (77)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

One member of the house party was John Phillips, the songwriter and leader of the American group, The Mamas and the Papas, who told Colin about a long-sleeved T-shirt printed to look like a dinner jacket, complete with a black bow tie and white carnation. For Colin it was a must-have item. Frantic calls to Los Angeles followed and a dozen were air-freighted overnight, picked up at Heathrow and carried to Edinburgh to arrive moments before the male chorus opened the show with a rendition of 'Chattanooga Choo Choo'. Then Prince Rupert Loewenstein and Michael Szell, with Jade Jagger, May and Amy, tripped onto the stage dressed as sugar plum fairies, followed by Bianca Jagger who danced the danse de faune, only the performance was the 'danse du phone' when a telephone rang and she answered it at the end of her performance. Roddy Llewellyn, dressed as a wizard, sang 'What I See in Your Eyes' to a skull, followed by the author, who danced a highland fling in a kilt that slowly came apart and fell to reveal a large green fig leaf - pinned to flesh-coloured tights. Colin, in his usual role as master of ceremonies and appropriately dressed in a top hat and frock coat, introduced each act culminating with two masterful performances from Princess Margaret. In one, dressed as the Valkyrie Brünnhilde complete with horned helmet, blonde wig and spear, she mimed a spirited aria from the Die Walküre, the second opera in Wagner's Ring Cycle. In the other performance, dressed in a sleek black dress, a feather boa and a curly blond wig, she appeared as Sophie Tucker, the 'Red Hot Momma'. Again she mimed two songs before metamorphosing as Mae West, when she parodied all the seductive gestures of the old movie goddess. It was these photographs of Princess Margaret that Charlie sold to a friend for just £20, which appeared soon after in the Daily Mail. Anne sued for breach of copyright, and won large damages, which she donated to charity.

Nicholas Courtney, Lord of the Isle: The Extravagant Life and Times of Colin Tennant (154-55)

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Another group that was overwhelmingly supportive of Italian fascism was American big business, which praised Mussolini for bringing order and stability to the Italian economy. The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Julian Barnes, repeatedly declared in speeches and magazine articles that "Mussolini is without question a great man." James Emery of the National Association of Manufacturers praised Il Duce at a NAM convention for "leading through the streets of a reunited country a great body of citizens" who rescued Italy from "the blighting hand of radical socialism." Referring to the American economy, the Wall Street Journal titled an editorial "Needed A Mussolini." Thomas W. Lamont, head of the J. P. Morgan banking network, called himself a "missionary" for fascism and devoted himself to "quiet preaching" on its behalf. According to [historian John P.] Diggins, "With few exceptions, the dominant voices of business responded to fascism with hearty enthusiasm." Many later directed their firms to donate money to the Nazi party.

Thaddeus Russell, A Renegade History of the United States (246-247)

Monday, October 29, 2012

We learn from the prologue to this rare and charming little volume how true and genuine a bibliomaniac was Richard de Bury, for he tells us there, that a vehement love amor excitet of books had so powerfully seized all the faculties of his mind, that dismissing all other avocations, he had applied the ardor of his thoughts to the acquisition of books. Expense to him was quite an afterthought, and he begrudged no amount to possess a volume of rarity or antiquity. Wisdom, he says, is an infinite treasure infinitus theasaurus the value of which, in his opinion, was beyond things; for how, he asks, can the sum be too great which purchases such vast delight. We cannot admire the purity of his Latin so much as the enthusiasm that pervades it; but in the eyes of the bibliophile this will amply compensate for his minor imperfections. When expatiating on the value of his books he appears to unbosom, as it were, all the inward rapture of love.

F. Somner Merryweather, Bibliomania in the Middle Ages (Kindle edition, locations 1294-1301)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The typical American city of 1963 had appallingly little choice in things to eat. In a large city, you would be able to find a few restaurants serving Americanized Chinese food, a few Italian restaurants serving spaghetti and pizza, and a few restaurants with a French name, which probably meant that they had French onion soup on the menu. But if you were looking for a nice little Szechuan dish or linguine with pesto or sautéed fois gras, forget it. A Thai curry? The first Thai restaurant in the entire nation wouldn't open for another eight years. Sushi? Raw fish? Are you kidding?

Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (Kindle edition: p. 3 / location 80)
And what happened to the intellectuals? They were kept out in the cold, eating their hearts out as they watched ignorant, vulgar nobodies making history. Their eyes strained for signs of failure, of the collapse of the common man's universe. Every financial crisis was seen as a herald of approaching doom, and every manifestation of social unrest as a harbinger of an impending upheaval.

Thomas Bethell, Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher (Kindle edition: p. 259 / location 4737)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The dying scene opened upon the king's vision in a very abrupt and sudden manner. He has been somewhat unwell during a certain day in February, when he was about fifty-four years of age. His illness, however, did not interrupt the ordinary orgies and carousels of his palace. It was Sunday. In the evening a very gay assembly was convened in the apartments, engaged in deep gaming, and other dissolute and vicious pleasures. The king mingled in these scenes, though he complained of being unwell. His head was giddy--his appetite was gone--his walk was unsteady. When the party broke up at midnight, he went into one of the neighboring apartments, and they prepared for him some light and simple food suitable for a sick man, but he could not take it. He retired to his bed, but he passed a restless and uneasy night. He arose, however, the next morning, and attempted to dress himself, but before he finished the work he was suddenly struck by that grim and terrible messenger and coadjutor of death--apoplexy--as by a blow. Stunned by the stroke, he staggered and fell.

Jacob Abbott, History of King Charles the Second of England (109-110)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Blood-brotherhood practices were also a part of the traditional culture of Albania, where they were often employed by two men who needed each other's aid, especially in matters of feuding. To seal their alliance, the two men would prick their fingers with knives, and then mutually lick up each other's blood, or else mix the blood into a glass of rakia which both then drank. The men were then regarded as true blood-relations, their children forbidden to marry each other.

Nathan F. Miller and Jack Donovan, Blood-Brotherhood and Other Rites of Male Alliance (Kindle edition, 1697 of 4365)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What could my personal Internet sex ad read? I've seen my own name mentioned in other people's "dating" profiles - something like, "Come over and we'll watch a John Waters movie." I wonder how they'd respond if I answered, "I am John Waters and I've got all his films. I'm on my way!" Should I place a classified in Boxoffice, that great trade magazine for middle-American theater owners I've been subscribing to for decades? Maybe buried beneath all the ads for popcorn-machine parts and chewing-gum removal chemicals, my notice could read, "The Sultan of Sleaze seeks lunatic usher with good bod and a crooked smile. Let's rob a multiplex together and hole up at my place afterward. Send photos c/o Atomic Books, 3620 Falls Road, Baltimore, MD 21211." Go ahead, try answering my ad. I'll get your response. For real.

John Waters, Role Models (230)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reeling backward, Paul experienced every moment splintered into a million shards of nanoseconds. Each event had been as carefully laid out as the puzzle pieces in a Chusuk mosaic. Either the plan had originally been designed in extravagant and impossible detail, or Fenring had enhanced the scheme with so many branch points and alternatives that all possibilities had intersected in this single crux point.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, Paul of Dune (498)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cigarettes were to Bette Davis what a bottle of Southern Comfort was to Janis Joplin or a half-unbuttoned black shirt is to Tom Ford: a mundane prop elevated by sheer force of personality to the level of a stylized autograph. Davis smoked eminently onscreen - Charlotte Vale's romanticized oral fixation in Now, Voyager; the pungent fumes of Margo Channing - but, if anything, she was ever better known in real life as the world's most famous nicotine addict. Only Winston Churchill and his cigars could come close, but Davis takes the prize if only because she inhaled.

Ed Sikov, Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis (332)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When he rolled off her body, Lucy huddled into one corner of the bed and began to cry. She felt so ashamed. And then she was shockingly surprised to hear Jules laugh softly and say "You poor benighted Eye-talian girl, so that's why you kept refusing me all these months? You dope." He said "you dope" with such friendly affection that she turned toward him and he took her naked body against his saying, "You are medieval, you are positively medieval." But the voice was soothingly comforting as she continued to weep.

Mario Puzo, The Godfather (331)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My point, and I do have one, is that having a vagina is not an accomplishment. It may be what makes you biologically female, but what does that have to do with feminism? Women had vaginas before they could vote or own property, and they didn't get those rights by pinning needle-felted vajayjays to their mantalets.

April Winchell, Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF (55)
She smiled grimly. The Islanders hadn't exactly taken over Great Achaea's Sicilian colony by landing and proclaiming liberation. They had turned it into a three-cornered exercise in massacre and countermassacre, as natives and slaves and Achaeans fought each other like crabs in a bucket. It reminded her of what she'd read about Haiti during the slaves uprising there in the 1790s, years of terror and madness. However discouraging the Nantucketers' problems looked, she didn't think the other factions felt particularly victorious, either.

S.M. Stirling, On the Oceans of Eternity (582)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Alice Hong's smile wasn't a snarl. It was bright and cheery, and far, far worse than that. She pulled a concealing cloak and mask off the figure standing beside her. Ian Arnstein took one look, and knew that however long he lived he would wish he hadn't. He quickly turned his eyes above Hong's head, concentrating on not humiliating himself by vomiting or fainting.

S.M. Stirling, Against the Tide of Years (426)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"How does it cock?" Ian asked. There was a steel claw arrangement hooked to the center of the wire string stretched across the shallow cord of the bow. He pulled at the string with a tentative hand. It was like a solid bar, immovable.

"That's a stiff draw," he said.

"Over three hundred and fifty pounds," the machinist said. "Brace the stock against your hip and hold the grip. Now put your other hand on the forestock, through that oval metal loop that sticks out beyond the wood. Feel that catch under your thumb? Press it down."

Ian obeyed. A steel lever came out of its slot in the forestock, hinged at the rear a few inches ahead of the trigger guard.

"Pump it back and forth, like the lever on a car jack."

There was a soft heavy resistance with every stroke, and the crossbow's string inched backward. At the sixth it clicked home near the trigger action and the rear sight, the heavy steel bow bent and ready.

S.M. Stirling, Island in the Sea of Time (63-64)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The cream of the jest was, of course, that Lady Delia de Stafford was delicately beautiful in an entirely feminine way and a complete clotheshorse and never wore anything less than the height of fashion - female fashion. Since she was cheerfully ready to lie the truth out of Creation about it (being a secret witch, as well, and therefore not in awe of Christian sacraments), her naively sincere confessor was among the few at court who didn't at least unofficially know or guess. Tiphaine's own chaplain had been carefully chosen for complaisance, guaranteed by the files Sandra had on him.

S.M. Stirling, The Sunrise Lands (139)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cornbury, however, did the democracy a good turn by forthwith drowning the memory of its shortcomings in the torrent of his own follies and misdeeds. He was very nearly an ideal example of what a royal governor should not be. He was both silly and wicked. He hated the popular party, and in all ways that he could he curtailed the political rights of the people. He favored the manorial lords and rich merchants as against the commonalty; but he did all he could to wrong even these favorites when it was for his own interest to do so. He took bribes, very thinly disguised as gifts. He was always in debt, and was given to debauchery of various kinds. One of his amusements was to masquerade in woman's garments, being, of all things, inordinately proud that when thus dressed he looked like Queen Anne. He added bigotry to his other failings, and persecuted the Presbyterians, who were endeavoring to get a foothold in the colony; he imprisoned their ministers and confiscated their little meeting-houses. In this respect, however, he was but a shade worse than the men he ruled over; for the Assembly had passed a law condemning to death all Catholic priests found in the colony,—a law of which the wickedness was neither atoned for nor justified by the fact that the same measure of iniquity was meted out to the Protestants in the countries where the Catholics had control. He appropriated to other uses the moneys furnished by the Assembly to put New York harbor into a state of defense; the result being that a French war-ship once entered the lower bay and threw the whole city into terror. Finally, the citizens of all parties became so exasperated against him as to clamorously demand his removal, which was granted in 1708; but before he left the colony he had been thrown into prison for debt. In dealing with him the Assembly took very high ground in regard to the right of the colony to regulate its own affairs, insisting on the right of the popular branch of the government to fix the taxes, and to appoint most of the public officers and regulate their fees. Resolutions of this character show that during the score of years which had elapsed since the downfall of the Stuarts, the colony had made giant strides toward realizing its own rights and powers. With all their faults, the Leislerians had done good service in arousing the desire for freedom, and in teaching men—if often only by painful example and experience—to practise the self-restraint which is as necessary as self-confidence to any community desirous of doing its own governmental work.

Theodore Roosevelt, New York, (VII, 15)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

He was about to continue when he felt himself struck speechless at seeing the two girls embracing the dead bodies of the monkeys in the tenderest manner, weeping over their bodies, and filling the air with the most doleful lamentations. "Really," he said to Cacambo, "I didn't expect to see so much generosity of spirit." "Master," replied the knowing valet, "you have made a precious piece of work of it: you have killed the lovers of these two ladies." "Their lovers, Cacambo! You must be joking; it cannot be; I can never believe it." "Dear sir," replied Cacambo, "you are surprised by everything; why do you think it is so strange that in some countries monkeys obtain the good graces of ladies? They are one-quarter human, just as I am one-quarter Spanish." "Alas!" replied Candide, "I remember hearing my master Pangloss say that such things used to happen in former times; and that from these mixtures arose centaurs, fauns and satyrs; and that many of the ancients had seen such monsters; but I took all that for fables." "Now you should be convinced," said Cacambo, "that it is very true; and you see what is done with those creatures by people who have not had a proper education. All I am afraid of is, that these same ladies will get us in real trouble."

Voltaire, Candide; Gita May, intro. and Henry Morley, trans. (62)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The widest definition of the term sodomy remained that found in Burchard of Worms’s Decretum, which had unsystematically and uncritically noted every possible act, suggesting that the confessor had the widest latitude in imposing penance. Many of the deeds mentioned, like the use of a dildo, mutual masturbation, anal entry, sex between brothers, and oral sex, which may be regarded as acts against nature because they frustrate conception, are rarely mentioned in the other penitentials. Furthermore, since Burchard quotes many conflicting sources and the possible penalties are so varied, the confessor is given virtual free rein to use his discretion. The penalties range from ten days for masturbation to fifteen years for sexual relations between brothers; the penalty for lesbian acts is typically lower than for homosexual acts between men.

Michael Goodich, The Unmentionable Vice: Homosexuality in the Later Medieval Period (64)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Night Owl: "Adrian, I'm sorry, I don't buy this hoax invasion story. Come on, what are you really up to?

Ozymandias: "HHAHHH. Very well. Once more: I engineered a monster, cloned its brain from a human psychic, sent it to New York and killed half the city."

Night Owl: "Adrian, that's bullshit..."

Rorschach: "No. Telling truth. Listen to voice. He did it."

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen (XII, 9)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Today, I cook almost every meal for myself, except on weekends when I visit friends. With rare exceptions I cook with simplicity and without a lot of folderol. The side effects are rewarding: I have the pleasure of creation. I feel at home in my bacholor quarters with those fine odors coming from the kitchen. I control my weight by preparing just enough to give my stomach and my taste buds pleasure. And there is also an economic gain in cooking precisely the amount to meet my pleasure and needs.

Henry Lewis Creel, Cooking for One Is Fun (ix-x)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

By the time I got to me sister's, it was dark. I poured myself a Scotch and then, like always, Amy brought out a few things she thought I might find interesting. The first was a copy of The Joy of Sex, which she'd found at a flea market and planned to leave on the coffee table the next time our father visited. It was the last thing a man would want to find in his daughter's apartment - that was my thought anyway - but then she handed me a magazine called New Animal Orgy, which was truly the last thing a man would want to find in his daughter's apartment. This was an old issue, dated 1974, and it smelled as if it had spent the past few decades in the dark, not just hidden but locked in a chest and buried underground.

David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed in Flames (173)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Except, that is, for those reckless folk who felt that, as the end of the world was nigh and all would soon perish, they might as well live for the present and spend what money they had on pleasure. Within the confines of Walsham this usually meant passing long hours in the alehouses which were liberally sprinkled across the parish. The wanton, both men and women, drank excessively, gambled recklessly, and enjoyed each other's intimate company. This crowd of seemingly carefree folk, who were more numerous than might be imagined, even found it diverting to make jokes about death and the pestilence. However, there was general agreement among this dissolute crowd that fat Simon went too far when he cleared Alice Pye's packed tavern by suddenly falling off his bench, screaming and gesturing to a large swelling on his upper thigh. The horrified carousers who glanced at him writhing on his back on the floor, and did indeed see a great lump in his crotch, ran screaming from the tavern. When Simon chased after them into the road laughing and exposing his huge erect cock, he was given a sound beating and had the door locked against him. For many years after the regulars at Pye's alehouse took grim delight in telling of the prank of Simon Greathorn, as he was henceforth dubbed.

John Hatcher, The Black Death: A Personal History (140)

Monday, April 28, 2008

As a lifestyle once kept between a select few and that now has many coming out of the freezer, being a vegetarian in New York is not unlike being gay. Vegetarian restaurants and options abound. I have the same number of veggie friends as I do gay friends. Because it's so common and often even hip to be a vegetarian, it's become socially acceptable to poke fun at us. Being a vegan, of course, is more like the dietary equivalent of being a transsexual. Acceptance isn't quite as contagious as it should be.

Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake (208-09)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Litigation over the Waco and Northwestern stretched on for three years. One effect of the battle was that it made Hetty a folk hero among California farmers who hated Huntington. A group of San Franciscans sent her as a gift a .44 caliber revolver, along with a holster, belt and cartridges, and a note promising that if she ever came to visit, they would turn out ten thousand strong at the depot to greet her. For Hetty, accustomed now to being on the receiving end of unflattering articles about her personal idiosyncrasies, this was an unfamiliar gesture of embrace. She relished it. She loved to tell her friends about the gift, and also about the time, during the height of the battle, that Huntington came to see her at her office at the Chemical Bank. No doubt he went with the idea of intimidating her. During the course of the conversation, he threatened that if she and Ned (who remained in Texas) didn't relent, he would see to it that Ned was tossed into a Texas jail. Hetty's eyes narrowed on Huntington. "Up to now, Huntington, you have dealt with Hetty Green, the business woman. Now you are fighting Hetty Green the mother. Harm one hair of Ned's head and I'll put a bullet through your heart!" She made a motion to the revolver on her desk (perhaps the one sent to her from California). Huntington, surprised and alarmed, left the office so quickly that he forgot to take his silk hat. He sent an assistant for it the next day.

Charles Slack, Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon (126)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New Year's Day of 1877 found Miss Day, after the time-honored custom of the age, holding open house in her family's home in midtown Manhattan. The front drawing room was crowded with May family and friends in well-cut morning coats and Prince Alberts toasting the incoming year in a variety of potables passed on silver trays by impeccable house footmen superintended by a stylish English butler. Fragrant cigar smoke wreathed the gas fixtures and conversation was, perhaps, a little lounder than was allowed by the proprieties at other times, but New Year's was still a special holiday in New York and, in deference to an Old Dutch custom that had the sanction of long observance, even the most staid and respectable people took a glass more than was strictly advisable.

Lucius Beebe, The Big Spenders (136)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

So the Sabbatai Savi religion came to an end, and survives only in the tiny sycretic sect known in Turkey as the Donme, which conceals a Jewish loyalty within an outward Islamic observance. But had its founder been put to death, we should be hearing of it still, and of the elaborate mutual excommunications, stonings and schisms that its followers would subsequently have engaged in. The nearest approximation in our own day is the Hasidic sect known as Chabad, the Lubavitcher movement once led (and according to some, still led) by Menachem Schneerson. The man's death in Brooklyn in 1994 was confidently expected to produce an age of redemption, which it so far has not. The United States Congress had already established an official "day" in Schneerson's honor in 1983. Just as there are still Jewish sects who maintain that the Nazi "final solution" was a punishment for living in exile from Jerusalem, so there are those who preserve the ghetto policy which maintained a watcher at the gates, whose job it was to alert the others if the Messiah arrived unexpectedly. ("It's steady work," as one of these watchmen is supposed, rather defensively, to have said.) Surveying the not-quite and might-have-been religions, one could experience a slight feeling of pathos, were it not for the constant din of other sermonizers, all of them claiming that it is their Messiah, and not anybody else's, who is to awaited with servility and awe.

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (172)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stare at Winona Ryder as she stands in the theater lobby, talking into a cell phone and looking at a poster of a movie she's not even in. Admire her black trench coat but wonder why she's got it on in this spring weather that's not even a little bit cold. Wonder what designer it is. Think about how it would be funny if you just went over and snapped her phone shut in mid-conversation, standing between her and the poster she is trying to look at, blocking her view, and how you'd say, "Girl, you're interrupted." It would at least be funny to you.

Dave White, Exile in Guyville (211)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pope John Paul II created more saints than all his predecessors of the past several centuries put together, and he had a special affinity with the Virgin Mary. His polytheistic hankerings were dramatically demonstrated in 1981 when he survived an assassination attempt in Rome, and attributed his survival to intervention by Our Lady of Fatima: 'A maternal hand guided the bullet.' One cannot help wondering why she didn't guide it to miss him altogether. Others might think the team of surgeons who operated on him for six hours deserved at least a share of the credit; but perhaps their hands, too, were maternally guided. The relevant point is that it wasn't just Our Lady who, in the Pope's opinion, guided the bullet, but specifically Our Lady of Fatima. Presumbaly Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Medjugorje, Our Lady of Akita, Our Lady of Zeitoun, Our Lady of Garabandal and Our Lady of Knock were busy on other errands at the time.

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (56)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The next morning at the Stanford Court Hotel, where Jim's own court was held each day, I bandaged his feet (devastated by lack of circulation) giving his devoted servant Marion Cunningham a rest from her daily chore. His robe had been left open where it "fell," exposing a belly as vast as Yosemite's El Capitan, which swept down to reveal what he could have been proud to reveal were Jim not the exception to the rule that large fingers are also a measure of the family jewels. Jim did have very big hands. This was a morning ritual, exposure to which I had long since become familiar and with which I'd grown confortable over the years I'd known him. After a little fondle, we talked about my career, about Alice, about Marion, about Gourmet, saying it was fine not to make money. We talked about Delmonico's and the time, a hundred years earlier in New York, when the great restaurants listed the provenance of their ingredients on their menus. And about the great William Niblo in his Old Bank Coffee House in 1814 serving ingredients with their origins called out on the menu: "Bald Eagle shot on the Grouse Plains of Long Island." And The Four Seasons in New York, where Jim had consulted starting in 1959.

Jeremiah Tower, California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution (100-101).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"When a nicely dressed gentleman would come in for lunch alone," remembered Claude Le Gall, "he told us to go out and check his car to see if the tires were Michelins. That wouldn't be proof, but it could be an indiciation, anyway. Sometimes, when we weren't sure which car he had come in, he would have us going through his coat pockets in the vestiare, to see if the keys might identify the car."

Rudolph Chelminski, The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine (151)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

There was only one answer. The moment that followed was akin to the one in desert-island tales, when the poor shipwrecked souls decide they have to resort to cannibalism, or perish. We looked down into the pools of hollandaise sitting in those foot wells, those disgusting, fish-juice-stained foot wells, and without a word, we nodded to each other, solemnly acknowledging what must be done. That we each took a bucket, got down on out knees, and with cupped hands began bailing the hollandaise from the car floor back into the buckets. Glancing up at each other we knew that we had both come to the same unspoken decision - that as long as we didn't actually touch the unspeakable floor of Lake Hollandaise, dislodging its bacteriological horrors, we could live with ourselves.

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, "Our Big Brake," in Don't Try This at Home, Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman, eds. (212-13).
The weekend crowd embraced the Dean & DeLuca lifestyle so readily that it was sometimes more then the store's founders could handle. Their original counterman, the expert cheesemonger Steven Jenkins - who claims he was the first to apply the word "artisanal" to cheese - recalls a busy Saturday in the early years when a few staffers failed to show up, forcing a furious DeLuca to join Jenkins behind the counter. "It was total chaos, and Giorgio was slicing some preservative-free bacon, and he lopped off the tip of his thumb," Jenkins says. "He started cursing and rushed off to the clinic on Spring Street. Once he was gone, I decided to merchandise the piece of thumb, which still had fingernail on it. I put it on a little piece of marble in the display case with some rosemary and thyme and put up a sign that said 'Gaetano Crudo'"-crudo meaning "raw" in Italian, Gaetano being DeLuca's middle name. Fortunately, no one asked to taste the product, though Jenkins says a few people inquired as to "what the hell it was."

David Kamp, The United States of Arugula (207-08)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The grocery store was another great place to play the dating game. My mother always let me unload the cart, so I pretended all the groceries were going to a party. As the conveyer belt moved my mother's purchases to the cashier, I would match every food item up with his or her partner. Ketchup always went to the party with Mustard, of course. Aspirin went with Vitamins, Orange Juice loved Milk, and Spam had a thing for bologna whose first name was O-S-C-A-R. Produce items tended to stick with their own kind, but Lettuce was a rebel. She was dating Catalina French dressing in spite of the protestations of her sisters, the Roma Tomatoes, who thought Celery was a much better match for her. Lettuce would not be swayed and always attended parties with her French lover.

Todd Pozycki, "The Lives and Deaths of Buffalo Butt," in From Boys to Men, Ted Gideonse and Rob Wiliams, eds. (90)