The Blog

How to make Edward II funny!

I recently stumbled across a historical blog whose post reduced me to tears of mirth. Literally, I laughed out loud and scared my dogs. The post was titled “The Support Group For People Unfairly Maligned In Historical Fiction” and it was one of the most hilarious tongue-in-cheek takedowns of semi-historical fiction I have ever read. Here is a sample:

Elizabeth I: Hello, everyone, England’s greatest queen here. There’s one idiot, I mean author, who seems to think that I – who never married, and was attended at just about every step of the way even when I was queen – managed to pop out six kids without anyone noticing. And I thought I’d scotched that stupid pregnant-by-Thomas-Seymour rumour at the time, but 460 years later people are still banging on about it.

Anne Boleyn: Where to start with my unfair vilification? I did not commit adultery. I sure as heck did not commit incest. (Sex with my brother?? There is not enough ewwww in my vocabulary.) I was not a serial killer, or a poisoner. Or convicted of witchcraft. I did not miscarry a deformed foetus. Neither was I deformed myself. Because of course Henry VIII would have spent seven years trying to get his marriage to the Holy Roman Emperor’s aunt annulled so he could marry someone hideously disfigured. Makes perfect sense.

Mark Smeaton: Well, apparently, I was Queen Anne Boleyn’s intellectually below-average socially inept fanpoodle. Or George Boleyn’s equally socially inept boytoy. I keep forgetting which.
George Boleyn: Well in this one here, it seems you’re both.

Mark Smeaton: Seriously? Let me see that. *flips pages* Wow. It even has me coming on to you in public! Because, people totally did that all the time in the 1530s, and everyone else would have been okay with it. Riiiight. That’s totally not anachronistic at all. *rolls eyes* I mean, really – somehow the fact that you gave me a gift of a book is evidence not of a patron/protégé type friendship, but that we were at it like rabbits? Good Lord. That’s definitely putting two and two together to make 567.

Katherine Howard: I’ll see your affair with George Boleyn and raise you … wait for it … Anne of Cleves and me. And no, we’re not going to act out that scene with the honey jar for you lot, so don’t even think about it.

The better you know your history, the funnier you’ll think the post is. Its author, Kathryn Warner, has a book out now about entitled Edward II: The Unconventional King and I will definitely be buying it! I’ll be sure to review it for you all!

Happy Birthday Katie Bug!

On this day in history (1992) the best thing that had ever happened to me up until that point occurred. My goddaughter, code named Katie Bug for her protection, burst forth from her mothers loins and promptly peed on the doctor. I was there, and having seen the episiotomy they had given her poor mom, I was happy about that.

She was, to me, beautiful from the second she emerged. I am apparently someone who thinks vernex, slime, blood, and an attached umbilical cord add a certain éclat to one’s look. I have to admit that she was even prettier after they got her cleaned up, though. If nothing else, her strawberry blond hair was now more visible. For the first six months she is scowling in every baby photo I have of her, but it is a charming scowl.

Katie Bug was a serious child. I would make a joke, then she would look at me solemnly and explain – using small words – why I was wrong and/or an imbecilic. Come to think of it, she spends a lot of time making that same expression as an adult too.

My goddaughter turned out to be brilliant, as well. Although to be honest she ate strawberry chapstick when she was a kid and for a while there I was starting to wonder if she was right in the head. Turns out she had plenty of brains. Just not the kind of brains that would discourage eating chapstick. On the plus side, I did teach her to say, “Do not try to oppress me with your patriarchal baloney!” by the time she was three.

The Bug is unoppressable still today, so that was a win.

I love you, Katie Bug. I hope you have a WONDERFUL birthday!!

Bill Cosby’s Many Victims

When Andrea Constand filed a civil suit in March 2005 her “lawyers said they found 13 Jane Doe witnesses with similar stories.” Because Constand’s suit was settled in November 2006 the Jane Does didn’t have a chance to speak in court. That is more than a dozen women who said Bill Cosby raped them, too.

In spite of this America turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the idea of Bill Cosby as a serial sexual predator. Perhaps Gawker explained it best:

“Four women said publicly, in major media outlets, that Bill Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted them … And? Basically nobody wanted to live in a world where Bill Cosby was a sexual predator. It was too much to handle … The usually unflinching Ta-Nehisi Coates, in an otherwise comprehensive 2008 Atlantic essay on the context and politics of Cosby’s performance as a public moral scold, dropped a sentence about the lawsuit settlement and its accompanying accusations into parentheses near the end. Conceptually, it was the sensible way to deal with it. No one was talking about it anymore. The whole thing had been, and it remained, something walled off from our collective understanding of Bill Cosby.”

This past October comedian Hannibal Buress brought it up again in his act, declaring “Bill Cosby has the fuckin’ smuggest old black man persona that I hate … He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the 80s! I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom!’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches.”

Some of the survivors took advantage of this media storm to remind people what Cosby had done to them. Barbara Bowman was a teenager when Bill Cosby raped her in 1985. No one would believe her – even though her agent made her take a pregnancy test — because she was an aspiring actress and Bill Cosby was a star. He was Cliff Huxtable; American’s Favorite Dad. Now another woman, Joan Tarshis, has come forward to say that Cosby raped her twice in 1969 when she was just 19 years old.

People seem a little more willing to listen now. Maybe the fight against rape culture is shifting? Hopefully, but not enough because there are STILL people commenting on the internet that it is a witch hunt against the elderly actor, claiming the women are after his money, dragging out the old saw that Cosby is “innocent until proven guilty”, and moaning that he is being tried in the court of public opinion.

First, it cannot be a witch hunt because rape is not a supernatural event with no evidence. Rape is a very common and provable occurrence. Secondly, only one of these victims has ever – or CAN ever – get any money from him in a civil suit, so suggesting they are accusing him in hopes of fiscal gain is spurious and wrong. Thirdly, he is not being tried in a court of law and we do not have to assume he is innocent in the face of so much evidence. Finally, considering that the statue of limitations has passed so that he will never be answerable for his crimes in any other way, let him face trial SOMEWHERE at least. The fact that more than a dozen women (with the numbers going up) have come forward to say he has drugged and raped them makes condemning Cosby seem to be justice rather than injustice.

Rush Limbaugh, of course, has come forward to defend Cosby. Limbaugh implied that there was only one accuser and if he had raped her it was a long time again and that the fact it was becoming a scandal was simply the result of a personal vendetta on behalf of the liberal media:

“It looks like they’re trying to destroy Bill Cosby. Apparently a woman has come forward, or came forward some time ago, claiming he raped her, numerous times. And she has been on CNN today repeating the story … And I asked myself, what did Bill Cosby ever do to tick off some producer at CNN? … And then I had to stop and remember, Bill Cosby has numerous times in the recent past given public lectures in which he has said to one degree or another that black families and communities had better step up and get hold of themselves and not fall prey to the forces of destruction that rip them apart. And basically he started demanding that people start accepting responsibility. And the next thing you know he is the nation’s biggest rapist as far as CNN is concerned … It’s not like he did it yesterday. It’s age old stuff, right? Twenty years ago…thirty years ago. That’s right. The stuff that being alleged was back when he was the lovable Mr. Huxtable and had the deal, perfect TV family, on the ideal perfect TV show.”

Oddly enough, Bill Cosby was already blaming the black community for its systemic problem is 2004 … before the first rape allegation hit the news. He’s been publically and repeatedly doing it for more than a decade now, without anyone bringing up that he is a serial rapist. This is not a left/right political issue. This is a gender issue.

This is about fighting back against rape culture.

Happy Anniversary?

The idea that Henry VIII wed Anne Boleyn in a clandestine ceremony on November 14, 1532, which was St. Erkenwalds/Earconwalds/Erconwalds day, is not a new one. Edward Hall’s chronicle, which was first  published in 1548, claimed that Henry and Anne had married on that date

“The kyng after his returne, maried priuily the lady Anne Bulleyn, on sainct Erkenwaldes daie, whiche mariage was kept so secrete, that very fewe knewe it, til she was greate with child, at Easter after.”

Other historians would later dispute this, pointing out that the couple had just arrived in Dover from English occupied France and would have had very little privacy to do such a secret deed.

Personally, I think Anne and Henry were married either on that day or shortly thereafter. Why? Because Anne Boleyn was sincerely devout and very determined to only give up her virginity in lawful (or at least semi-lawful) wedlock. Queen Elizabeth I was most likely conceived in early or mid December. The second, better known, ‘secret’ wedding of Henry & Anne took place on January 22, 1533 … about the time Anne would have started to suspect she might be pregnant. Henry would have wanted everyone to know that his soon-to-born son was legitimate.

The son-to-be, of course, was no such thing. Their daughter Elizabeth was born on September 7, 1533. That is, coincidently, the feast day of St. Regina, a 3rd century virgin and martyr who had chosen death over marriage, and the day before the putative birthday of the Virgin Mary.  

Fitting for the Virgin Queen, no?

The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories

Although the general public remembers Henry VIII as a tart-chasing tartar, many modern historians such as Lacey Baldwin Smith have defended the king as a rather “prudish” man with more wives than mistresses. In her new book, The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories, Amy Licence disagrees. She argues that “Henry’s reputation as a prudish king is something of a misnomer, having arisen from the secrecy he employed when it came to his affairs”. According to Licence, Henry may have been prudish in public but he was profligate in private.

The author does not argue in vain. She has, as with her other biographical and historical works, dug deep into primary history sources and backs up her assertions with a wealth of data. The author’s formidable command of the mores regarding sex and sexuality in Tudor England allows her to weave a cat’s cradle of facts that supports her suppositions. Moreover, Licence manages to succeed in the most difficult tasks facing a Henrician biographer — she brings both a freshness to well-worn material and provides the reader with information that was likely hitherto unknown.  

There is, for example, the intriguing tale of a Flemish maid of honor in Margaret of Savoy’s court who may have been one of the king’s amours. His proposed affaire with the lady in question, Etiennette de la Baume, is based on “the survival of a single letter” which was written in “intimate terms”. The letter, written in 1514 and addressed to Henry from what Etiennette “describes as his house at Marnay”, refers to the fact Henry had called her pet names and said “many beautiful things” to her during his visit to the north of France in 1513. Under pressure from her father to marry, she reminded the king that “when we parted at Tourney you told me, when I married, to let you know and it should be worth to me 10,000 crowns or rather angels”. Inasmuch as the letter is markedly informal and mentions a promised dowry, the missive indicates that Etiennette, who is absent from most of Henry’s other biographies, had been the king’s lover.

One of the many other women Licence drags into the fore is Elizabeth Bryan Carew. The young and lovely Elizabeth Bryan was a one of the young women who brought good cheer to the young Henry’s court during his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. When she married Nicholas Carew the king attended her wedding and gave her a present of 500 pounds, as well as later gifting her with diamonds, pearls, and expensive fabrics which went far beyond the expected largess to one of his wife’s ladies-in-waiting. As late as 1529, when he would have been supposedly committed to Anne Boleyn, the king was still providing Elizabeth Carew with jewels. Does this guarantee that she was warming Henry’s bed? No, but “this pattern of gifts is reminiscent of similar items given by the king” to other women whom it is absolutely certain that he was involved romantically with. To give weight to the circumstantial evidence, License points out that if another lady-in-waiting named Bessie Blount had never become pregnant with the king’s son, thus conclusively proving that she was Henry’s lover, “her story would have remained just as speculative as that of” Elizabeth Carew.

Elizabeth Carew isn’t the only paramour that Licence suggests Henry was seeing during the time he was besotted with Anne Boleyn, theoretically to the exclusion of all others. Most of the women he was rumored to have bedded during this time were low-born. Whereas a lady would require courtship, a commoner did not. A laundress or cook was considered suitable for use by a nobleman for bouts of stress-relieving sex, and there is every likelihood that Henry would not have even viewed intercourse with these women as being “unfaithful” to his ladylove. License tantalizes the reader with the idea that at least three of these women may have born Henry illegitimate children.

Even readers who are not convinced of Henry’s philandering will nonetheless be impressed with the astounding amount of information compiled by Licence. She has clearly used a fine-tooth comb to detangle the snarls of fact from historical fiction, and the book smoothly guides the reader through the facts to License’s conclusions. Moreover, Licence makes the read enjoyable with her engaging prose and a satisfying blend of the informal and the academic.   

If you are looking for a book that makes the historical knowledge of Henry VIII and the women in his life juicy without sacrificing veracity to sensationalism, this is the book for you.

Yay Lora!

As many of you have already read on my webpage, I take something called Plexus for my fibromyalgia pain. I talked my friend Laura, who has been plagued by some health issues, into trying it too. Not only has she had the health issues clear up, she is very happy about the “melting” effect Plexus had on her waistline. 

Here is Lora before:

Lora Before

Here is Lora after a couple of months:

Lora After

In Lora’s own words, “I can’t say enough about how much the ProBio 5 probiotic vitamins have improved how I feel. Seriously, I’ve seen a reduction in sinus trouble, migraines and even sugar cravings. The pink drink that built this brand is made for weight loss but it also reduces inflammation, levels out your blood sugar and increases metabolism naturally (green coffee bean extract, not caffeine and chemicals).”

She’s lost 6 pounds, but it’s obvious that the change of her body is greater than the change on her scale.

She’s now an ambassador, and if anyone is interested in trying this miracle stuff they can go to her page and order it; just click this link — http://lmathews.myplexusproducts.com/

Congratulations Lora, on your improved health!

Resistance is Feudal?

Inequality is bad for societies. When too much money is funneled to the top, there is not enough left circulating at the bottom to create a robust economy. Not very long ago I stumbled across this chart, which indicates modern inequality is beginning to look positively feudal:

fudalism

I don’t think the chart is strictly accurate. For example, most clergy are poor as church mice and the average physician salary doesn’t make it into the top 1% of earners. Neither do the lion’s share of lawyers. However, they do make it (on average) into the top 5% so I do think they qualify as vassals; it is simply that vassals are the top 5% not the top 0.75%.  Most medieval merchants weren’t rich either; they would be more of today’s middle class. Sure, there were some who struck gold but most of them were comfortable at best.

However, this chart does give a fairly good visual of what happens when money is aggregated at the top. The modern uber-rich have the kind of wealth that kings and lords would have once owned, and even the wealthy (the landed gentry of the day) don’t come close to that kind of lucre.

What’s scary about feudal wealth distribution is that a rich king means there will be at least some starving peasants. Sadly, that is what is happening today. According to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, “Britain is on the brink of becoming a nation permanently divided between rich and poor … [and that] 2020 could mark a watershed between an era in which for decades there have been rising living standards shared by all and a future era where rising living standards bypass the poorest in society”. Moreover, it’s becoming clear that UK politicians should listen to the “dozens of Anglican bishops and hundreds of church leaders warning that hunger was becoming “a national crisis” … researchers in the British Medical Journal warning that the rise in food poverty has “all the signs of a public health emergency” … [and] the hospital admissions statistics showing a rise in malnutrition.”

Literally, the peasants are once again starving.

The problem of hunger among the poor is growing rapidly in America as well. As inequality has increased, so has the number of people who cannot be sure of where their next meal is coming from. The richest nation on earth (from a Gross National Product standpoint) has 1/7 of its citizens begging for food. More than 45 million Americans cannot put food on their table. Meanwhile, the wealthiest Americans are giving less and less to charities that help feed the poor but the tip-top of the rich (royalty per se) are growing stratospherically rich.

It wasn’t always like this. From 1948 to 1978 inequality was low and the economy prospered:

inequality chart

So, how did this 30 year economic miracle occur? America (like other countries) taxed the living bejezus out of the richest among us:

tax rates

In short, the economy thrives when the government takes at least 70% of the wealth from the mega-rich and spreads that money around via social programs and government spending on things like infrastructure. The opposite of what the US and the UK are doing today.

Bonfire Night Delight

It is Guy Fawkes Night in Great Britain tonight!

In a nutshell, Guy Fawkes Night, “is an annual commemoration observed on 5 November, primarily in Great Britain. Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.”

The night is commemorated by the catchy children’s rhyme:

“Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…”

So what do British people do nowadays during Bonfire Night?  

Well, there are the huge bonfires (preferably with a Guy Fawkes effigy within the blaze) of course. Also, fireworks are frequently incorporated, which seems odd considering that Guy Fawkes failed to blow up Parliament so there were no explosions to commemorate.

There’s traditional foods, apparently. Soup for the revelers and/or foil-wrapped potatoes are cooked on/in the bonfire, and there is also a gingerbread-like treat called Parkin (or Perkin) Cake. I’m going to make some tonight using this recipe, although I will probably cut down on the ginger so my picky little girls will eat it.

Author: Jane Lyons

Serves: 9

Ingredients

  • 1 cup or 100g all purpose flour
  • 1 cup or 100g oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger powder
  • 1 stick butter (100 g)
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons treacle (or molasses)
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup (or corn syrup or honey)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons or 3 fluid oz milk
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and diced (optional)

Instructions

  1. preheat the oven to 350f. Line a square 8×8 cake pan with baking parchment.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, oats, baking powder, ground ginger and salt.
  3. Add the fresh ginger and diced apple.
  4. In a small pan add the butter treacle, golden syrup and sugar, cook over a low heat until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Stir this in to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with a spoon then add the milk. You should then have a thick batter.
  6. Pour the batter in to the prepared cake pan and bake in the oven for 50-60 minute.
  7. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer the cake with the baking parchment attached to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Cut in to squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Have a wonderful Guy Fawkes Night everyone!

Halloween Shivers Were No Treat

My daughters went trick-or-treating on Halloween, but thanks to the frigid air, driving sleet, and spitting snow they only hit a few houses before scurrying home to get warm. There was a better chance of frost bite than vampire bite. Moreover, their costumes were covered by coats, scarfs, hats, and mittens. They looked like they were artic explorers from Transylvania.

This may just be the tip of the iceberg this winter. Ironically, the weather here in the Midwestern USA is getting colder in winter because the rest of the globe is heating up:

Abnormally warm waters in the tropical Atlantic travel up the Gulf Stream toward Europe in the late summer and fall months, motivating exceptional sea ice melt in the Barents-Kara seas north of Scandinavia. When that area is ice free, the open water releases heat into the atmosphere during November and December, and sets up an anomalous blocking pattern over the Ural Mountains. By midwinter, as more and more heat is being transferred to the Arctic, the troposphere and stratosphere can link up, destabilizing the polar vortex, weakening the jet stream, and sending waves of cold air southward.”

Fun times.

The good news is that there is at least a chance this winter won’t be as bad as the frozen hell of last winter. Maybe. it depends on what the El Nino does. It looks like the Gulf Coast states are in for it either way, though. In fact, it may be colder in Texas than Alaska this year. Frankly, the Southwest needs all the moisture they can get so they’ll just have to put on their big-state pants and be grateful for the precipitation … even if it’s ice.

You could even say that the winter forecast is downright … stark.

Brace-yourself-Winter

A Real Horror Story

I was looking for something scary to post for Halloween when I saw that the criminal investigation of the teenaged gang rapists from New Zealand known as the Roast Busters, “a group of young men in West Auckland who picked up girls (most of whom were underage, some as young as 13), gave them alcohol, and gang raped them, only to brag about it on social media” has closed without pressing a single charge against any of the admitted rapists.

Truly, this is horrifying.

Although none of the five Roast Busters are going to be charged, “the police report states that there are 25 girls who they believe to have been victims of sexual assault at the hands of the Roast Busters but declined to give a formal complaint”. Yes, you read that correctly. More than two dozen victims. Nevertheless, the state didn’t feel this was worth prosecuting. The police say they don’t have enough evidence, and the girls didn’t want to give formal complaints.

However, the police claim that there were not enough reports filed may be a bit misleading, since in reality “a further five girls approached by police did make formal statements. Those five joined two girls who had already contacted police but whose complaints had languished until media attention brought the case to prominence.” So … seven complains equals none of the girls? That is in addition to the 25 girls who would not file complaints, by the way. 

Why didn’t all the girls file a complaint? Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the girls who had reported the rapes to the police in 2011 and were ignored; clearly the police didn’t care enough about the girls who DID file criminal complaints against the Roast Busters to actually do anything so what good does it do to file a complaint? Especially since one of the victims who did report the rape was chastised for wearing a skirt before her attack and was thoroughly slut-shamed by the investigators. 

Moreover, girls that reported the rapes have been bullied incessantly, with a group on Facebook called Roast Busters Appreciation Page: who declared that they were dedicated to “Appreciating the roast busters, putting bitches in their place since ages ago. Outing the sluts giving them the treatment they deserve. Any sluts keen to get put on the spit or ganged feel free to comment everyone loves a good slut.” Basically, to “tell” on the rapists is to get symbolically raped again and again by online and public harassment. 

Although the police claim that there isn’t enough evidence, why haven’t they acted based on the admission of the boys themselves?? For the love of God, the rapists bragged about their crimes on recorded public media, yet the police claim “their hands are  tied” and that they just cannot press charges. One delightful young fellow, 17-year-old Beraiah Hales, boasted that he told victims, ”Go ahead, Call the cops, They can’t un-rape you.” Later, in an abrupt about-face, the boys started claiming the sex, even the gang rape of an unconscious girl, was consensual. Hales is also sad people ‘hate’ him now, just because re raped a few drunk and underage girls and then bragged about it. He blames the media, of course. Beraiah Hales declared that “It’s not what the girls say that I care about, it’s what (the media) have said … As I said before, as long as I know the truth I’ll be fine.” Hales also says his activities were “not rape,. I had sex with one girl who is 13 when i was 16.. She wanted it and thats all that matters”.

It just so happens that in “New Zealand, it’s illegal for anyone to have sexual contact with a person under the age of 16, no matter how much they indicate that they “want it.” It’s also illegal for anyone to have sexual contact with a person who is incapacitated by alcohol.” That means Beraiah Hales is an admitted rapist. That is the truth, whether he likes it or not.

So, why have the police done nothing? Perhaps their unwillingness to press charges against the boys has something to do with the fact that one of the Roast Busters is the son of a local police officer? Nah, the police have insisted that the fact that one of the Roast Busters was a cop’s son has had no effect on the investigation whatsoever!

Meanwhile, newspapers have reported that “Police Minister Michael Woodhouse says he understands the Roast Busters decision would disappoint some people, but he believes there are things to learn from the case and hopes it would not deter women from coming forward in future.”

I’m sure the fact that they know that they will be shamed and their rapists will get away with the crime will in no way impact a rape victim’s decision about “coming forward in future”. They’ll ride their flying pigs to their police station, too.