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).