May Is Mental Health Month: What To Read.

For a list of good reading having to do with mental and emotional health, head over to Rumpus. I’m not big on special days or months, they rarely penetrate most people’s skulls, but this is a timely reminder to be more mindful to others. In that vein, I’ll leave you with this video by The Amity Affliction. It’s harsh, but it’s a damn good reminder to make every effort not to be an oblivious ass. (Added the follow up song.)

The Amity Affliction -All Fucked Up.

The Amity Affliction – I Bring the Weather With Me. (Lyrics below the fold.)

[Read more…]

Word Wednesday.

Reck / Reckon


Verb, Intransitive Verb.

1: Worry, Care. To have care, concern or regard. 1b: To take heed.

2: archaic: to be of account or interest: Matter.

Transitive Verb

1: archaic: to care for; regard.

2: archaic: to matter to: concern.

[Origin: Middle English, to take heed, from Old English reccan; akin to Old Norse roekja to have care, German (ge)ruhen to deign, akin to Old High German ruohhen to take heed.]

(Before 12th Century.)

Note: I grew up using reck and reckon. I still use reckon, because most people recognize it, but I had to give up reck, it’s unfortunately been lost to most people. I would say I don’t reck instead of I don’t care, and doesn’t reck rather than doesn’t matter.


Verb, Transitive Verb

1a: count <reckon the days to Christmas> b: estimate, compute. c: to determine by reference to a fixed basis.

2: to regard or think of as: consider.

3: chiefly dialectal: think, suppose.

Intransitive Verb

1: to settle accounts.

2: to make a calculation.

3a: judge b: chiefly dialectal: suppose, think.

4: to accept something as certain: place reliance.

-reckon with: to take into consideration.

-reckon without: to fail to consider: ignore.

[Origin: Middle English rekenen, from Old English –recenian (as in gerecenian to narrate); akin to Old English reccan.]

(13th Century.)

The girl had the good grace to blush. “I came in to get a Valentine’s card,” she said, “only I can’t choose. Look.” She pointed to the display near the counter. “Funny, sexy, or romantic – what d’you reckon?” – The Witch’s Daughter, by Paula Brackston.

The Philosophy of Beards.

Thomas Gowing felt the mighty yet fragile English Beard to be threatened with extinction by an invasive foreign species, the Razor. So he set out to defend the furry face mammal in every conceivable way. The resulting lecture was received so enthusiastically by a bushy-faced audience in Ipswich that it was soon turned into The Philosophy of Beards (1854) — the first book entirely devoted to this subject.

It is Gowing’s ardent belief that the bearded are better looking, better morally and better historically than the shaven.


In the last section, Gowing gambols through the ancient and modern past, attaching a beard or lack thereof to thousands of years of heroism and cowardice, honour and deceit. Viewing history through the prism of the beard makes things nice and simple: “The bold Barons outbearded King John, and Magna Charta was the result,” … “Henry the 7th shaved himself and fleeced his people”. Napoleon I only allowed men in his empire to have an “imperial”, an upturned triangle of a beard, as a way of letting them know “that they were to have the smallest possible share in the empire”.


Finally, he dismisses as “a foul libel” the idea that ladies don’t fancy a beard. He declares, presumably without much survey data to hand, that “Ladies, by their very nature, like everything manly,” and cannot fail to be charmed by a fine flow of curling comeliness.”

You can read much more at The Public Domain Review, including the book itself. The book has also been recently republished by the British Library, for the first time since 1854. You’ll find a link at The Public Domain. I’d think the book would be a fine gift for anyone’s bearded friends and loved ones.

You might also be interested in Beards of Time:

Two photographs of the same unknown man, each taken at a different studio in Texas – Source: left and right.

Two photographs of the same unknown man, each taken at a different studio in Texas – Source: left and right.

Stitching Medieval Manuscripts.

I have a deep and abiding love of Medieval Manuscripts, there’s always more to discover and wonder over, and here’s a new and delightful discovery to me, the early repairs of manuscripts, where beautiful embroidery was utilised to repair flaws in the parchment.

A plain-colored stitch incorporated into a drawing. Gerald Raab/ Courtesy Staatsbibliothek Bamberg.

A plain-colored stitch incorporated into a drawing. Gerald Raab/ Courtesy Staatsbibliothek Bamberg.

In the Cantonal and University Library in the ancient city of Fribourg, Switzerland, is a 14th-century manuscript with some gloriously beautiful defects. Scattered throughout the text are small tears and holes. And many of them have been carefully, intricately stitched together with colorful thread.


Holes in the parchment weren’t always dealt with, but when they were, any repairs needed to be done before it could be written on. This might include both patching over holes and evening out edges, explains Sciacca. The repair method could be crude or rudimentary—“Frankenstein” repairs, as Sciacca jokingly calls them—but, as writer Paul Cooper recently highlighted, sometimes they could be quite beautiful.

In that same 14th-century text in Fribourg, a single page is elegantly adorned with two sets of thin stitches, one pink, one green. Elsewhere in the same manuscript there are rainbow-hued repairs of different shapes and sizes. In a text held at the Engelberg Abbey library in Switzerland, stitches at the edge of the page create a “rope”, as Sciacca refers to it, to fill in the edge of the parchment. And from the same library, the missing side of one page has been patched with an additional square of parchment.

A series of repairs made in James of Voragine’s 14th-century Golden Legend. Courtesy Cantonal and University Library Fribourg, Switzerland, Ms. L 34.

A series of repairs made in James of Voragine’s 14th-century Golden Legend. Courtesy Cantonal and University Library Fribourg, Switzerland, Ms. L 34.

As medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel points out, these repairs must have been common in certain monasteries. “Where I was finding a lot of these embellishments were in manuscripts that came from either nunneries, or from what they call in Germany, double cloisters,” Sciacca says. “So you have this paired male and female monastic community. They live separately, but they’re allied with each other, and they’re physically located next to each other. So it seems that this may be part of what was, in fact, women’s training, what was nuns’ training, which was to practice embroidery. And they were doing it not just on textiles, but also actually in manuscripts.”

Stitching wasn’t the only way to make the best of flawed parchment. There are instances of holes being incorporated into illustrations, or used to reveal an illustration on the following page. The stitches themselves could even be embellished. In a text in Germany’s Bamberg State Library, a curve of plain-colored stitching is surrounded with the drawing of a man so that the thread resembles his skeleton.

You can read much more, with lots of links, and see much more at Atlas Obscura. Fascinating!

Word Wednesday.



1 a: rigid in or as if in death. b: rigidly conforming (as to a pattern or doctrine): Absolute <stark discipline>

2: archaic: strong, robust.

3: utter, sheer <stark nonsense>

4 a: barren, desolate. b 1: having few or no ornaments, bare <a stark white room> 2: harsh, blunt <the stark realities of death>

5: sharply delineated <a stark contrast>

-starkly, adverb.

-starkness, noun.

[Origin: Middle English, stiff, strong, from Old English stearc; akin to Old High German starc strong, Lithuanian starinti to stiffen.]

(Before 12th Century)



1: in a stark manner.

2: to an absolute or complete degree: Wholly <stark naked> <stark mad>

(13th Century)

“But someone had left the lights on active mode, and their reflections made the night simultaneously bright and spooky. Flashing off trees, creating gargoyles that lurked in the stark shadows of the underbrush, making people move in stylized slow motion all around me.” – In Dark Woods, Jeannette de Beauvoir.


Back home from chemo. I’ve done surprisingly well today, good energy, and constantly stuffing my mouth, which makes for a grand change. We had a leisurely time after chemo was done, around 3 pm. We stopped at the bookstore, and I brought home a stack of books, as usual. And then we had an exploratory trip through the new Co-op market, they have some very impressive produce at reasonable prices, so we’ll definitely be back. Then we did our regular market shopping and headed home. I’m hoping tonight won’t have any nasty surprises. Anyroad, I’m going to go cuddle up with a book and my giant glass of Nesquik/Malted Milk/Ovaltine. I am not setting my clock, so when I show up tomorrow, who knows, might be rather late in the morning.

As for the stack of books, none of these authors are known to me, so an adventure. I started Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore on the way home because I am a complete sucker for any book which takes place in a library or bookstore setting. I’m not far in, but I already love many of the characters, and there’s a delicious horror-type mystery unfolding in this wonderfully odd bookstore.

I’ll see you all tomorrow sometime.

Word Wednesday.

Silly / Thralldom / Sally



1 archaic: Helpless, Weak.

2a: Rustic, Plain b obsolete: Lowly in station; humble.

3a: Weak in intellect: Foolish b: exhibiting or indicative of a lack of common sense or sound judgment.

4: Being stunned or dazed.

[Origin: Middle English sely, silly happy, innocent, pitiable, feeble, from Old English sælig, from sǣl happiness; akin to Old High German sālig happy.]

(14th Century).

“Don’t be sil—” began Jim; then he remembered just in time that the word “silly” had a very different meaning in the middle ages. It meant “innocent” or “blessed” — which was not what he meant at the moment.” – The Dragon at War, Gordon R. Dickson.



1a: a servant slave: bondman, serf. b: a person in moral or mental servitude.

2a: a state of servitude or submission. b: a state of complete absorption.

–thrall, adjective.

–thralldom, noun.

[Origin: Middle English thral, from Old English thræl, from Old Norse thræll.]

(Before 12th century).

“Unhand, dog!” he snapped, in his best baronial manner. “Do you think I fear thralldom by any witch-device?” – The Dragon at War, Gordon R. Dickson.



1: an action of rushing or bursting forth; especially: a sortie of troops from a defensive position to attack the enemy.

2a: a brief outbreak: outburst. b: a witty or imaginative saying: quip.

3: a venture or excursion usually off the beaten track: jaunt.

[Origin: Middle French saillie, from Old French, from saillir to rush forward, from Latin salire to leap; akin to Greek hallesthai to leap.]


“Ah, well, just a thought,” said Brian. “I’d been thinking – a quick sally to slash a few throats, then back through the gates and close them behind us.” – The Dragon at War, Gordon R. Dickson.

Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death.

The Knight.

The Knight.

The Dance of Death by the German artist Hans Holbein (1497–1543) is a great, grim triumph of Renaissance woodblock printing. In a series of action-packed scenes Death intrudes on the everyday lives of thirty-four people from various levels of society — from pope to physician to ploughman. Death gives each a special treatment: skewering a knight through the midriff with a lance; dragging a duchess by the feet out of her opulent bed; snapping a sailor’s mast in two. Death, the great leveller, lets no one escape. In fact it tends to treat the rich and powerful with extra force. As such the series is a forerunner to the satirical paintings and political cartoons of the eighteenth century and beyond. For example, Death sneaks up behind the judge, who is ignoring a poor man to help a rich one, and snaps his staff, the symbol of his power, in two. A chain around Death’s neck suggests he is taking revenge on corrupt judges on behalf of those they have wrongfully imprisoned. In contrast, Death seems to come to the aid of the poor ploughman, by driving his horses for him and releasing him from a life of toil; the glowing church in the background implies this old man is on his way to heaven.

Holbein drew the woodcuts between 1523 and 1525, while in his twenties and based in the Swiss town of Basel.

The Miser.

The Miser.

The Monk.

The Monk.

These woodcuts are beautiful and highly detailed. In Holbein’s hands, Death makes its feelings known; Death is quite gentle in the cases of the old woman and old man, poor folk, and those of the peasant class. On the other side, Death is more than a little rude, as in the violin playing as Death drags the Duchess out of her bed. Death is not kind when it comes to the abbot, the abbess, or the monk.

One notable thing makes these beautiful woodcuts all the more astonishing, the size of them:

Holbein’s achievement is the greater because of the miniature scale he was drawing in. Reproductions obscure just how tiny the wooden blocks were — no bigger than four postage stamps arranged in a rectangle. The blocks were cut by Hans Lützelburger, a frequent and highly skilled collaborator of Holbein’s. Lützelburger had cut forty-one blocks and had ten remaining when Death surprised him too. The blocks were then sold to creditors, and eventually printed and published for the first time in Lyons in 1538 as Les simulachres and historiees faces de la mort.

You can read and see much more at The Public Domain.

The Book of Exposition: The Secrets of Oriental Sexuology.

15th Century erotica! Oh my. This looks to be very interesting, and I do plan on reading it. Unfortunately I can’t do that right away, the day before chemo is always a busy one.

A decade or so after the famed Orientalist Richard Burton translated Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Nafzawi’s The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight (1886), an anonymous translator became the first to critically assess and introduce for Anglophone audiences another of the Middle East’s more controversial and enigmatic texts — Kitab al-Izah Fi’ilm al-Nikah b-it-Tamam w-al-Kamal, or The Book of Exposition — a collection of fifteenth-century erotica. Despite there being much dispute over the authorship of the work, from both Western and Middle Eastern scholars over the centuries, The Book of Exposition is nowadays credited to a fifteenth-century Egyptian polymath called Jalal ad’Din al-Suyuti (1445-1505). Although perhaps best known for his co-authorship of Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Tafsir of the Two Jalals), a classical Sunni exegesis of the Quran, al-Suyuti was also a prolific erotologist, writing at least twenty-three treatises on various aspects of the sexual arts.

The two dozen stories he presents in The Book of Exposition are an exploration of promiscuity and sexual taboos under the societal constraints of the Arab-Islamic world. In “The Strange Transformation that Befell a Certain Believer’s Prickle” a man is granted a “Night of Power” in which he is given three wishes to be fulfilled by Allah.


In his opening essay and commentary, An English Bohemian sets out to dispel Victorian attitudes to sexuality through the idolisation of the Oriental — setting up “Oriental Sexuology” as a mystical alternative for aspiring libertines/hedonists. He doesn’t just limit himself to the Orient in his examination of sexuality. He offers an insight into the sexual customs of other lands he claims to have travelled and researched extensively as a former practitioner of medicine: from Loango to the Aztecs, Paraguay to Samoa, Europe to Arabia. Despite his intentions, we perhaps end up learning more about Western attitudes to sex than the those of the non-European cultures he examines. His assertions, in their elevation of Orient over the Occident, appear to be motivated more by a desire to rebel against the prevailing establishment of his own culture than offering a nuanced picture of a foreign culture’s attitudes to sex.

You can read more at The Public Domain Review (the book is also available there), or go straight to the book here.

Word Wednesday.



1: an ornamental tuft (as of feathers) especially on a helmet.

2: dash or flamboyance in style and action: verve.

[Origin: Middle French pennache, from Old Italian pennacchio, from Late Latin pinnaculum small wing, related to pinnacle.]


“Potential enemy?” Ponce de Leon made a face. “It lacks panache. I prefer to be called ‘rogue’ or ‘outlaw’.” – Unbound, Jim C. Hines.

Idioms & Expressions.

Have you ever been happily reading, and come across an idiom, expression, or turn of phrase you’re familiar with, and suddenly the absurdity of it strikes you? Came across one yesterday in one of Jim C. Hines’s Princess series, The Mermaid’s Madness. (Re-reading, they have become comfort reads).

“That earned another chuckle. “He’s prince of Lorindar. He’s not used to feeling powerless.” He climbed to his feet.”

Climbed to his feet. That means to stand up, but it’s a damned silly expression. The more I think on it, the sillier it becomes. I used to have a bunch of these absurdities in my head, but naturally I can’t think of any of them now. Out of curiosity, does anyone else have favourite absurdities of expressions? Or peeves?

Word Wednesday.



1: obsolete a: a small hook or hooked instrument b: Brooch.

2a: a highly individual and usually eccentric opinion or preference b: a peculiar trick or device.

3: quarter note syn, see caprice.

[Origin: Middle English crochet, from Anglo-French crochet, croket.]

{14th Century).

“It had occurred to Jakob that he’d left his beloved tobacco back at the house. A few puffs would perhaps have helped his mood a bit, but then he remembered, Johann Lechner, despised tobacco. If Schongau had not been a Catholic town through and through, the secretary could have been viewed as a crotchety, pleasure-hating Protestant.” – The Play of Death, Oliver Pötzsch.

Word Wednesday.

Meretricious / Vapid / Poppycock



1: of or relating to a prostitute: having the nature of prostitution, meretricious relationships.

2a: tawdrily and falsely attractive. b: superficially significant: pretentious.

-meretriciously, adverb.

-meretriciousness, noun.

[Origin: Latin, meretricius, from meretric-, meretrix prostitute, from merēre to earn.]


“I’ll say you’re right,” said Mark. “Unfortunately, Miss Marple, we didn’t realize that. We wondered what the old boy saw in that rather insipid and meretricious little bag of tricks.”


Adjective: lacking liveliness, tang, briskness, or force: Flat, Dull.

-vapidly, adverb.

-vapidness, noun.

[Origin: Latin vapidus flat-tasting; akin to Latin vappa flat wine and perhaps to Latin vapor steam.]


“His face grim, Conway Jefferson lay remembering and thinking. Before his eyes he saw again the pretty, vapid face of Ruby.”


Noun: empty talk or writing: nonsense.

[Origin: Dutch dialect pappekak, literally, soft dung, from Dutch pap pap + kak dung.]


“And she didn’t care tuppence for Mr. Jefferson. All that play of affection and gratitude was so much poppycock.”

All quotes from The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie.