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Tomatoes and Poison: Humanity’s Innate Conservatism February 17, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Tomatoes and Poison: Humanity's Innate Conservatism

Tomatoes are one of the fundamentals of modern cuisine in all continents. Yet just five hundred years ago they were a practically unknown Andean plant of the nightshade family that, when grown in New England or French or Italian gardens, were labelled as ‘ornamentals’: i.e. no one put a tomato near their mouth. Why were […]

Pimping Your Noble Sister in Wartime Naples March 16, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Pimping Your Noble Sister in Wartime Naples

Norman Lewis’ Naples ’44 is one of the great works of the Second World War. It describes the most dramatic of places, Naples, under the most dramatic of situations, German and then Allied occupation. Beach was so excited, by his recent playing around with this book, in that tale about Padre Pio the human anti-aircraft […]

Who Needs Anti-Aircraft Guns When You Have Saints? March 7, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Who Needs Anti-Aircraft Guns When You Have Saints?

In Norman Lewis’ brilliant, astounding Naples ’44, the British writer has many curious and memorable passages from his diary of that year. However, this is one of Beach’s favourites. At Pomigliano [north-east of Naples] we have a flying monk who also demonstrates the stigmata. The monk claims that on an occasion last year when an […]

Into the Lion’s Mouth January 15, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Into the Lion's Mouth

What do Lorenzo the Magnificent (obit 1492), Henry III of Navarre (obit 1610) and Rudolph Hess (obit 1987) have in common? Well, they were men, they were all born in Continental Europe and they also went defenceless to their enemies and somehow survived to tell the tale, hence the lion’s mouth of the title. First, […]

Majorana’s Mysterious Disappearance October 11, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Majorana's Mysterious Disappearance

***Dedicated to Cristiano and Mau*** Ettore Majorana (obit ?), a Sicilian who mysteriously disappeared in 1938, was an almost-genius in the field of theoretical physics: many of his ideas proved so insightful that they are still being explored today. The reminiscences of those who  worked with Majorana show that he was not only a remarkable […]

Archangel Steals Money in Naples! July 5, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Archangel Steals Money in Naples!

Beachcombing has recently been getting into the world of nineteenth-century seances and mediums. You know, those men with walrus moustaches (for hiding mono-tone mouth accordions) and a hot line to the ‘other side’. These shysters could make even the fairies seem humdrum. Here is one of Beach’s favourite accounts that has everything: sex, money, a […]

Christ’s Execution in a Marble Jar March 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
Christ's Execution in a Marble Jar

Beachcombing must yet again apologise to his readers for a brief post, but the last exams before spring break need to be corrected (hurrah! hurrah!) and in any case the Huntsville Daily Times (29 Jan 1911: MO) wanted to do all the talking for him. George Carter, son of the late I. M. Carter and […]

Cannibalism and Syphilis December 16, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Cannibalism and Syphilis

Syphilis (unless, of course, you have the misfortune to be a sufferer) is one of the most interesting of illnesses. Historians still, for example, argue about whether it crossed from Europe to the Americas or whether, on the contrary, it was a gift from the New to the Old World: the balance of opinion seems […]

Vivoo in Naples September 8, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Vivoo in Naples

Beach has spent a few minutes this evening reading through the Economist’s exposé of modern Italy entitled: Oh for a new Risorgimento, and this got him thinking of his own favourite Risorgimento moment and a first-rank wibt (wish I’d been there) scene. The year is 1848 and mobs around Europe from Tipperary to Prague are […]

New Theory for Vesuvius, 79 AD July 11, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
New Theory for Vesuvius, 79 AD

                  Beachcombing once spent a happy two hours being given electric shocks in an academic hospital in Naples (long story…), the experience leaving him with great fondness for the Frederick II University of that city. So much so, indeed, that he thought that he would give some publicity […]