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Miscellany

Miscellany Rivalry & Feud

Carl Jung attributed his split with his mentor Sigmund Freud around 1910 in part to a generational divide. “Our descendants are our most dangerous enemies,” Jung argued, “for they will outlive us, and, therefore, without fail, will take the power from our enfeebled hands.”

Miscellany Happiness

President Herbert Hoover once praised a group of PR professionals. “You have taken over the job of creating desire,” he said, “and have transformed people into constantly moving happiness machines—machines which have become the key to economic progress.” It was 1928; the Great Depression began the following year.

Miscellany Intoxication

While on his American speaking tour in 1882, Oscar Wilde visited Leadville, Colorado, where he went into a saloon. There was a piano player in the corner with a sign over him that said: DON’T SHOOT THE PIANIST; HE’S DOING THE BEST HE CAN. It was, observed Wilde, “the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across.” He also visited a nearby mine where, upon reaching the bottom, the miners implored him to stay for supper: “the first course being whiskey, the second whiskey, and the third whiskey.”

Miscellany Flesh

Athenaeus wrote that fourth-century-BC Greek courtesan Phryne was so beautiful “she used to wear a tunic covering her whole person” because it was “not easy to see her naked.” Once prosecuted for a capital crime, she was about to be declared guilty when the orator pleading her case brought her to the middle of the court and ripped off her tunic. The judges, “so moved by pity,” acquitted her of all charges. 

Miscellany Water

A March 2018 report in the Wall Street Journal about a pre-Passover speech delivered by Israel’s prime minister included an error; a correction ran the following day. “An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Benjamin Netanyahu said Moses brought water from Iraq,” it read. “He said the water was brought from a rock.”

Miscellany Flesh

Menstrual taboos persisted in nineteenth-century Europe. In the Rhine it was said that women on their periods turned fermenting wine to vinegar, in France that they were unable to whip up a successful batch of mayonnaise, in Britain that “women should not rub the legs of pork with the brine-pickle at the time they are menstruating, or the hams will go bad.”

Miscellany Climate

“By its policy,” wrote Vitruvius between 30 bc and 15 bc, the Roman Empire “curbs the courage of the northern barbarians; by its strength, the imaginative south. Thus the divine mind has allotted to the Roman state an excellent and temperate region in order to rule the world.”

Miscellany Rule of Law

“Have you eaten a body scab to gain health, or have you drunk a solution of those little worms called lice, or drunk human urine, or eaten any feces to gain health?” asks Burchard of Worms’ collection of canon law, compiled around 1008. “If you have, you should do penance for ten days on bread and water.”

Miscellany Fashion

A Spanish gallant in the sixteenth century who followed the contemporary fashion of padding his trunk-hose with quantities of bran was surprised to learn while entertaining ladies that a nail on his chair had opened a hole in his hose, and bran had started trickling out. The ladies laughed. He continued, encouraged, but bran soon was pouring forth. The ladies’ laughter increased. Finally, the gallant noticed the bran, bowed, and left in shame.

Miscellany Family

William and Henry James’ younger brothers, Robertson and Garth Wilkinson, were both wounded during the Civil War—they enlisted in the second and first black regiments at the ages of seventeen and sixteen, respectively. When the fifth sibling, Alice, who suffered from various psychological ailments during her life, died in 1892, Henry cabled William the news. William responded, “I telegraphed you this am to make sure the death was not merely apparent, because her neurotic temperament and chronically reduced vitality are just the field for trance tricks to play themselves upon.”

Miscellany Time

In 2013 a picture taken by the Planck telescope of fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background—radiation generated by the Big Bang—resulted in the estimation that the universe is 13.82 billion years old.

Miscellany The Sea

According to a 2012 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, over 87 percent of global fish stocks are either “fully exploited” or “overexploited.”

Miscellany Discovery

Color film in the 1950s barely registered dark skin tones; Kodak had developed the product to measure images against the white skin of a model known as Shirley. The company eventually modified its film emulsion, responding to complaints from advertisers promoting wood furniture and chocolate.

Miscellany Fear

A group of scientists in Madrid in 2012 found that children inherit a fear of the dentist more from fathers than from mothers.

Miscellany Luck

Suetonius reported that Caligula often cheated when playing dice. The emperor once interrupted a game to go into the courtyard, where he spotted a group of rich knights passing. He had them arrested, stole their goods, then “resumed the game in high spirits, boasting that his luck had never been better.”