&$#@*!, my roses have Japanese Beetles on them right now. Pretty, as beetles go, but they'll make roses look lacy at best and digested at worst. Little jerks. I just clipped off a couple of blossoms that were A)beyond repair and B)full of beetles, and chucked them over the fence. It's important to get the beetles away from the plant, since they leave a scent behind that attracts others of their kind. One repellent is, seriously, to smash them and leave their bodies lying around. (I didn't do that.)

David Mitchell talks to Japan Today about his upcoming novel, which will be about Nagasaki in the early nineteenth century. I heart David Mitchell; go read all his novels. He says some really smart and interesting things about writing and imagination here. (via Bookslut)

rPhone - the finest in steampunk technology. rPhone is the first portable telephone constructed of materials you've come to associate with progressive technology... from its exquisite rosewood paneling to the handsome brass frame, it shouts "This is the 18th century!" (via MeFi)

PuzzleFilter - MeFi post about Puzzability, a puzzle-writing company started by three former editors of Games. (via... duh.)
Some interesting commentary on tonight's Lost premiere.

Bread and Circuses, a blog about late Roman antiquity.

CRAFT - not a new discovery by any means, but maybe you haven't seen it yet? Lots of good craft links with only the occasional eyeroller.
Many years ago I read a certain ghost story. A young man in Paris, prior to 1900 (maybe even prior to or around 1800), meets a pretty girl and falls in love with her. But all she wants to do is hang around in his apartment. She wears a red ribbon choker. At the end of the story, he takes off the choker and her head rolls off and across the floor. The girl had actually been the ghost of a guillotined Terror victim.

Does anyone know the title and author of this story? It's a pretty famous ghost story, and I would have read it sometime in the late 1980s. I think it is quite a bit older than that, though; might be by Saki or something. Could as easily be by Tanith Lee.

I'm asking because the topic of the supposed fashion, in late-Revolutionary or post-Revolutionary (my guess) France, for women to wear their hair dressed like Terror victims and specifically for them to wear red ribbon chokers. It's a certain small trope in fiction - if you read a recently-written book set in the Terror, the author will almost certainly throw it in as a "period detail" - but I recall reading that it's not true, despite the many references you'll find about it, that it's something that started out either as a fictional detail or an exaggeration of something that only happened once or twice. This ghost story was certainly the first place I ever heard of it. I think I read something about it being the originator of the "red ribbon choker" story, but I could be misremembering. What I do recall is that the ribbon story got attached to the Revolution in much the same way that clans got attached to tartans in the 19th century, because the idea was popularized in fiction.

Anyway, it came up on a community I read, and now I am smacking myself trying to remember the name and author of the story in question, and remember if it is the source of the legend or if it drew from the source.

ETA - I found it on my own, but [livejournal.com profile] cdaae was neck-in-neck! It's "The Adventure of the German Student" by Washington Irving.

ETA2 - You know what? The choker on the girl in the Irving story is black, not red. I'm thinking that the Dumas novel mentioned by [livejournal.com profile] cdaae is probably the one that I heard of as the origination of the red-ribbon-choker-fashion story.
Hey hey, there are still something like 18 out of 40 unanswered in the SONG LYRIC GAME.

I had a dark night. I have not been sleeping enough over the last few days, and have reached the point where things crawl in my peripheral vision. Then some link I clicked last night wound up being on Crime Library. It's a great website, if sometimes sensationalistic; if you are of a certain disposition, there's a lot of reading material there. (And no, that disposition need not necessarily be the kind that collects Serial Killer trading cards; it might just be the kind that likes to watch CSI, Cold Case, Law and Order, and Crossing Jordan.) I just managed to get terribly spooked because of my lack of sleep.

Reading Marilyn Yalom's Birth of the Chess Queen and thinking about medieval sexual politics. They aren't what you might think if you haven't studied the period, because people forget that most of Europe - England especially - didn't use precepts of "Roman law" (women are chattel etc) until around 1500. The average medieval woman, especially one with money, would have had greater potential for relative independence than a woman living in similar economic and social circumstances in, say, 1690 or 1850. But something has been on my mind lately, I think since finishing 1215: The Year of Magna Carta.

There was a medieval medical belief that in order to conceive a child, a woman had to have an orgasm during the conceptual sex act. This is all well and good, and in a culture desirous of producing many heirs could have nice side effects for the ladies involved. However, before applauding this, I think it's good to examine the obvious, logical flip side that popular history books don't mention: men who didn't want their partners to get pregnant probably intentionally neglected the women's pleasure, something akin to treating them like meat tubes. Worse, men who had treated their partners like this could then accuse the women of infidelity if they conceived, because "hey, I know I didn't get you off."

And... meh, my head swims imagining all the trouble this could have caused.

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