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  • Love Goddess #9: Damian Hirst’s Madonna May 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Love Goddess #9: Damian Hirst's Madonna

    ***Thanks to Invisible for sending this one in*** Damien Hirst, media-savvy horseman of the post modern art apocalypse and the Madonna, mother of Christ, eternal sweetness and light, whose breasts produce condensed milk for the faithful. What would happen should these two contrary forces come together? Well, there is no reason for speculation because in […]

    Image: Bloody Babs Says Goodbye to Tommy April 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Image: Bloody Babs Says Goodbye to Tommy

    Barbara Graham was executed by the State of California, June 3 1955, in the gas chamber at St Quentin: she had been found guilty of the murder of one Mabel Monahan, an elderly lady. There are some questions about her guilt. Perhaps we can lay this to rest, immediately, by noting that whether BG actually […]

    Flirty Fishing: Evangelical Prostitution April 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Flirty Fishing: Evangelical Prostitution

    The Children of God were a rather silly American Christian group, born in 1968, that went, however, almost immediately off the rails, rode down the sidings and ended up chugging along in the blackest, grimiest ditches known to human experience. They specialized, for one, in unusual sexual practices. Some of these are too sordid to […]

    Britain and Pearl Harbor April 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Britain and Pearl Harbor

    The whole question of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has been mired for years in conspiracy theories. There are, naturally, huge problems with said conspiracy theories not least the motive of the American leadership in allowing the destruction of an important part of their Pacific Fleet; it is not as if Japan was being […]

    8000 Year Old Memories in Oregon? April 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric
    8000 Year Old Memories in Oregon?

      ***Dedicated to Wade*** By happy chance I recently came across two different references to Crater Lake (Oregon). The most intriguing, given this blog’s longstanding coverage of oral transmission, is a memory (?) of the lake’s creation. Let’s start with the geology of the region: about 8000 years ago Mount Mazma erupted and created a […]

    The American Civil War: An Exceptionally Nice Conflict? April 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The American Civil War: An Exceptionally Nice Conflict?

    The American Civil War was a grim event: of this there should be no question. Perahps 400 thousand young men were killed, who would have contributed to the future of their country/countries. There was lasting bitterness, particularly in the South, where even today there are debates about Confederate Flags and northern culpability. For an outsider, […]

    Declaring War in WW2: National Styles March 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Declaring War in WW2: National Styles

    The characters of countries are reflected in their cuisines, their clothes, and their soap operas, so why not in their declarations of war? Thought it might be fun to see whether this notion stands up and so this morning ran through every WW2 declaration of war that I could find from 1 September 1939 through […]

    Unofficial Law and Order March 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Unofficial Law and Order

    Beach has recently been researching out in the bogs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland so far beyond the pale that children are occasionally incinerated as changelings and there is one alleged case of a legal agent being stoned to death! This was a traditional rural society ruled over as much by priests as by the […]

    British Truth and American Lies? March 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    British Truth and American Lies?

    If you look through the American press from the 1800s you will sometimes come across outrageous stories about ghostly happenings, about strange sightings and about impossible creatures. The most famous example of this is, of course, the moon hoax of 1835. In Britain you have similarly outrageous stories about, say, fairy encounters, about sea serpents […]

    A Letter Between Enemies, 1915 March 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Letter Between Enemies, 1915

    This letter came in the spring of 1915 to the Michon family house in France. It arrived from a Naples address, but it had come ultimately from Berlin: direct letters from Berlin to France where, of course, out of the question by this date. The writer was one Charlotte von Dassel. Very dear Madame, In […]

    The First New Orleans Mardi Gras: Bears and Transvestites February 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The First New Orleans Mardi Gras: Bears and Transvestites

    The relevant Wikipedia page dates the first recorded Mardi Gras to 1835. However, there was certainly a small Mardi Gras held a long century before. Indeed, possibly our earliest Mardi Gras description from the city was written out in 1730. In that year a Company of the Indies official Marc-Antoine Caillot, who had been in […]

    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 […]

    Submarine Weapons Before Torpedoes: Gloves, Javelins and Greek Fire February 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Submarine Weapons Before Torpedoes: Gloves, Javelins and Greek Fire

    Even the first submarine pioneers recognised that there would be a military applications for crafts glidingly silently unnoticed under the water. But the question was how on earth do you get to blow up the enemy flagship? On land there was everything from machetes to canons, and rocks to catapults. But under the waves human […]

    Small Pox: the Native American Version February 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Small Pox: the Native American Version

    The greatest weapons that European colonists had at their disposal when they disembarked in the Americas in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries were not their muskets or their swords or their armour. They were, of course, their viruses (and those of their animals) with which they inflicted (at least at first unknowingly) devestation on […]

    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans January 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Condoned Torture and Revenge in Eighteenth-Century New Orleans

    ***Warning this post has some very unpleasant material: if you are having a bad day, do yourself a favour and just click away…*** ‘The west’, that monolith to which most readers of this blog belong, has gradually over the centuries, shied away from torture. But there are moments in history when societies return on themselves […]

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