Seeing The Past

Yesterday a minor, passing reference hijacked my entire comment thread. Fortunately this is a REALLY rare occurrence here at ATH, so nothing to worry about. Oh, who am I kidding? You guys have been known to highjack posts about weapons to talk about snickerdoodles. (Who am I kidding, now all my comments will be about snickerdoodle goodness, right?) It’s part of the reason why I love you.

But yesterday’s post bumped up against what I call “the historian’s blindfolds.”

To be exact, I made a passing reference to first night rights of the Seigneur, while at the same time qualifying it with “where it happened” which immediately sparked both protests that it never happened and that it happened every time.

My feeling about it is “Yes.” And also that the people arguing were arguing from the 21st century and from their relative positions of “people don’t do/do this.”

So, of course, because I enjoy having people tell me I’m ignorant/hyperbolic, I’m going to wade in. I’m going to wade in with galoshes. Mostly because this times up with a very exasperating feeling I get particularly while writing historical fiction.

And that’s the feeling that not only in the past another country but the citizens of that country took deliberate steps to prevent us spying on them.

This is not true, of course, it’s more that the “everyone knows” doesn’t get recorded, and the “never happens” or “happens so rarely it’s big and sensational” gets recorded ALL the time.

Take our times, for instance: we know from objective sources like police reports that child kidnap by strangers is exceedingly rare. But between non-custodial parent child-grabs and the few, sensational cases of strangers kidnapping children which get a never-end of reporting, people are afraid to send their children out to play and the crazier jurisdictions will slam you in the pokey for letting your kids walk home from school alone.

Then throw in “is your stranger abduction lower BECAUSE we watch our children like hawks or because there are fewer people who’d even do it?”

A writer in the 25th century, could justifiably (by source) write a pedo-infested-nightmarish life, or one in which there were almost no stranger kidnappings. Both justified. Diametrically opposed.

And then take the stuff that’s written about our time with propaganda intent. A writer in the 25th century could justifiably write about shadowy conspiracies to keep men and women out of gaming/sf writing. I mean, why not? Our time does. One that got hold of the names of professionals in both fields, OTOH would write about mass psychosis of male and female “radical feminists” who every few years reset to a past that never existed and demanded an inclusion they already had.

I’ve – for instance – for the last several years been very suspicious of Dickens, because my other sources for the time (not just primary sources, but those writing often in a family/biography) context paint quite a different picture.

I mean, yes, there were horrible conditions at the time, but they were horrible conditions by our perspective, and we live in an era of superabundance. And the underclass lived very disordered lives. Well, I read student doc. Our underclass just uses different substances and is better fed. Go to Student Doc “Things I learn from my patients” (it’s not coming up for me, hence not linked. Also, prepare to lose hours there.) BUT as “bad” as the industrial revolution might have been, it attracted droves of farmers from the countryside. And having seen it happen in real time in India and China, I’m no longer able to believe the propaganda that they were “forced” off their lands.

Farming looks like a lovely, bucolic occupation to those who have never done any, but the farming they did at the time involved no tractors, no milking machines. It was inadequate tools and inadequate strength beating inadequate livelihood out of inadequate (in most places) soil. Yeah, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the girls wove wreaths for Michaelmass, and everyone danced around the maypole, but in between there was a very harsh reality that made the rather horrible conditions in the early mills seem like heaven and depopulated the countryside and packed the cities – as we see now in China and India.

So, our first problem with finding out if there really was a “first night” right for the seigneur is to figure out the difference between the accounts and the truth. There is no direct evidence, but remember all the recording of the times was done by church men who might very well not know what was going on. Sometimes, granted, it was willful not know. The village priest determinedly didn’t know of certain things that went on around mayday and I’m fairly sure would continue not knowing if he walked in on it and saw it. Because he wasn’t stupid and stuff that’s been going on for two thousand years and yet is of a nature not to be co-opted into the church celebration of this or that saint (St. Anthony and St. John with bonfires and wild herbs and jumping over the fires, and trekking to the city and across the city to see the sunrise on the sea, for instance, for Summer solstice. Yeah. Perfectly normal Catholic tradition) couldn’t be stopped cold, but knowing about it would mar his ability to preach against certain things which he must preach against. (“It was a morning in May—” And for the record this particularly guppie always thought going amaying is about gathering the flowers to put in every entrance to the house to word off evil spirits. But I am an ODD and often unable to see what’s right before my eyes because I was told it was different.)

The problem of the “first night” is compound by several issues: we’re talking a span of about 2000 years. It’s about sex and everyone lies about sex, or shuts up about it, which can be the same. We have fundamental disagreements on the basic nature of men and women. And that’s what I’m going to go with. Because that’s the interesting part.

First, let me establish that I don’t say that human nature has changed that much. Second, let me establish that what most people in the 21st century, with particular emphasis to Americans THINK they know about the immutable traits of humans is laughable even to someone like me who grew up under harsher circumstances.

Third, let me establish that I’ve reached that time in my life that if I found a letter from my great-great-great ancestress saying she’d love me if she knew me, I’d verify it. And if I found a letter from a modern intellectual saying that it took a modern man to love something or other, I’d sneer.

In other words, I’m at the age that I think a lot of what I’ve been taught, and a lot I believed, is the sheerest bull excreta.

We were taught, for instance, that the troubadors invented romantic love.

They might have invented romantic love as expressed in poems – often from kings to their convenients – but I can tell you that there were stories in the village going back before movies and novels polluted the minds of people with the idea of lovers killing themselves for love, or peasant boy and girl running off together, of someone loving someone and never marrying because she married another.

Behind the whole “invention of romantic love” theory, I hear the voice of Marxist theorists who, poor things, think sex is all power and physical satisfaction. And that alone is enough reason for me to quirk an eyebrow and wonder.

But, otoh…

On the other paw, it’s hard to tell what romantic love meant. Almost certainly the tales I heard, preserved through the centuries were the exception.

Again I go back not just to my childhood, but to my whole life. When people here argue that women/men would never contract an alliance for anything other than the greatest love, I have to wonder how much this is influenced by the propaganda (movies, books) since at least the 19th century, that that IS the only reason you’re supposed to do it.

It’s sort of like saying “Every mother loves her children above all.” We all reinforce it, because that’s the way to be and it’s what we’d like to believe. But suffice it to say that many mothers demonstrably prioritize finding themselves over loving their children. And I don’t even mean in the divorce sense (though some do, too) but in the sense of having a job that almost doesn’t pay after daycare, etc, just to escape having to be with their kids all the time. (And it’s not that I don’t understand them, and I do love my kids. Perhaps too much, since I’m having trouble kicking the wee birdies out of the nest.)

In the same way, even the people who don’t marry for love, pretend to marry for love, because it’s the one acceptable reason to marry. “Because I was lonely” is not acceptable. “Because I wanted to have a home of my own” is not acceptable and “Because he could give me the life I hope to become accustomed to” is DEFINITELY not acceptable outside certain forums. And yet I had friends – good, honorable, decent women – who married for all three. (I married for the deepest love but I am a derp and a romantic.)

And that’s today. Amid the village couples, relatively (though not majorly. We had movie theaters accessible by street car. And we had radio soaps. We just didn’t have television and most people didn’t read much) unsullied by “romance”, the women seemed to look for the highest grade man they could find, and marry the first one they could snag. The men seemed to look for the prettiest girls, and marry the first one they could snag, though there too relative class and her bringing something “in her stocking foot” was important. I remember my mom was making an entire wardrobe for the daughter of a rich farmer, and objected (very slightly. We needed the money) to the sack-like nature of the garments, a nature enforced by the mother of the poor girl. Mom can be as foot in mouth as I am, and she said something like “If she ever wants to marry, she can’t dress like a nun.” To which the lady answered, “Oh, please. She’s an heiress. What will marry her off is her money, not her looks.” I know that sounds awfully abusive, but her daughter concurred, and it was the attitude of most people around there/then. And yep, I knew men who walked away from ‘the greatest love’ because they attracted the attention of a plain but rich girl.

In books this would mean a fatal flaw in their character, and they’d come to a bad end. In real life? The couples I knew were as happy as any other couples, and sometimes more.

What I mean to say by this is that if you extend backwards to a time of great penury and strife, when your survival was on the line, letting the stupid Lord have your girl for one night (when you’d have her for the rest of her life) might not be a bad idea. Since Lords tended to be promiscuous and (other than better fed/clothed) look like their peasants, you might never be able to tell who was the father of the first child (and yep, if every couple only had one child that would require immense altruism on the husband’s part. But they usually had a number of children) and yeah, you’d be jealous and hate it like poison. And she’d at least pretend to be dragged from your side by cruel tradition. BUT fighting it and murdering the Lord? Oh, please. Villeins were little more than slaves. And having your wife spend a night with the Lord (before or after your marriage – marriage, as has been pointed out was nebulous too. I’ve heard it argued that Will and Nan were perfectly within their rights in going aMaying before the formal wedding because they were betrothed. And certainly Mad King Henry treated his wives betrothals as proof they came to him sullied. – yes, he was mad, but it stuck with reasonable people) was the same as having her bring “a little something” in the stocking foot.

Did it ever happen? I’d almost put my hands in the fire. I’d even put my hands in the fire it was PERVASIVE some places. Yes, it was only talked about as happening elsewhere, because, sex, and who wants to talk about it, after all?

But when that type of thing has benefits for both sides, yeah, it will happen. You just won’t find direct sources for it. And it won’t happen everywhere. (I had this humorous glimpse while writing this of a Lord claiming first night rights, because it’s expected, then telling the trembling bride she can have the bed, he’ll sleep over in yonder couch, and just don’t tell people anything. And the Lord is in his 90s or so, so it saves face on both sides ;).) Not every Lord will take a lively interest in his subordinates wives.

Also let me establish that Christianity would be a great moderating influence on it (and I think the Judeo Christian idea that women had souls/were in a way equals would over time change this, and enshrine the idea of romantic love as an ideal) but in the time we’re discussing there were invasions of pagans, who became Lords over the place before they converted. There were, for that matter, Moorish invasions and we know how the cultures descended from that one treat women now. So, let’s not say “no, never.”

Human nature is worked on by culture, by expectations, by how easy/difficult life was. It, in itself might be inflexible, and male jealousy and wanting to know the kid is yours is one of the great inflexible parts… or perhaps “less bendy parts” since we do have proof in many times and places it did bend, in some ways, and in answer to overwhelming need. Then again, we have no proof that “the greatest love” operates in most male-female linkage, though surely it operates in some, and it’s enshrined as ideal.

It’s very hard – make that, very, very hard – for us to understand the past, even harder than understanding foreign culture. In the last hundred years we’ve doubled the average man/woman’s life expectancy and we live the life of kings compared to them. No, we live a life kings couldn’t aspire to, even in the nineteenth century.

Does this make us different beings? Well, no. We still lust, still dream, still marry and are given in marriage (okay, not so much of the later these days) and still have children (some of us) and raise them (fewer of us.) BUT we do all these things in different ways that shape our choices/interests/feelings in ways they couldn’t have imagined. And in the same way we can only peer at them through a glass darkly.

Remember those two books about the 21st century, one in which women dominate the creative professions, and another in which a shadowy conspiracy of masked men conspires to keep them out?

That’s what we see every time we look at the past.

We’ve slapped the SJW’s for wanting to project today’s requirements onto the past. “Heinlein was racist/sexist/badthink because where are the transsexual lesbians of color?” (Actually this just proves they didn’t read them, because there ARE transsexuals and lesbians/bi women of color. Never mind.)

Lets not do the opposite and think that in the past everyone behaved according to our ideals.

They were people. And their environment acted on them in ways we can’t fully figure out. Even the historians argue about it, and certainly popular history is wrong.

When we look to the past and to the future, let’s squint, so our reflection doesn’t hide truth from us.

First night? Could have happened. Only accounts I ever read were during invasions and might be the equivalent of the raped Belgian nuns, but some variation of pimping your wife to the Lord to get his protection, almost certainly did happen, some places, some times.

The rule? I doubt it. Because there was a noblesse oblige from the very powerful to the powerless. And where that failed, society failed.

And that’s the main point, always. When looking to the past, if something seems like it wouldn’t work long term, it probably didn’t. Like the Dickensanian hell-mills, a lot of it was nostalgie de la boue and propaganda for one’s favored system.

Motives like that are why the past is so hard to scry, and the present is often not that much easier.



507 thoughts on “Seeing The Past

  1. > They might have invented romantic love as expressed in poems – often from kings to their convenients

    I think it’s also possible that the concept of romantic love had fallen out of favor in courtly society a few generations before, and that they invented romantic love *as understood by the high nobility*. It’s easy to believe that the high nobility knew nothing of – and/or even looked down on – ideas about romance that existed in villages.

      1. IIRC M. Lackey plays this with a scene in the Swan Lake book, where the prince’s latest fling reads a “courtly romance” story into a suicide, and the prince is surprised that the Court stories have filtered down to the peasants.

        1. Yeah, any talk of “the invention of romantic love” is really talking about “romantic love described according to the Courts of Love live roleplaying game rules, and the conventions of the contemporary genre of love poetry.” It’s foolish to read it as “Nobody in the history of the world ever fell in love before Anno Domini 963 in Granada, Spain,” or something stupid like that.

          Rural people had love before the invention of pastorals, and cowboys herded cattle before the invention of the Western dime novel.

          Pastorals, now… lots of nobles sleeping with shepherdesses in pastorals.

          1. It is, however, entirely possible that L’amor cortese made romantic love respectable (possibly, “again” pace Ms Hoyt’s point about the dearth of written record) rather than the humiliating folly it was characterized as by (some? many? sigh) of the scholastic and ancient writers. You’re pretty safe sticking to human nature (people fall “in “love”, jealousy, envy, etc.) but that plays out in a given time and place.. Can vary, in ways wondrously strange & shockingly familiar.

            Now I need to go find Diana Wynne Jone’s comments on historical fiction as a species of SFnal world-building.

            1. That’s what I thought as well. Caesar had no reason to bring Cleopatra to Rome and every reason not to unless he was motivated by love. And then there is that Antonius fellow Hadrian had deified. And what about Dido, the historical one and the one presented in the Aeneid. And numerous sources attest that various prominent Romans loved, in the romantic sense, their wifes.

          2. The Troubadours tried hard to put a glossy sheen on the tendency of bored, not too intelligent noblewomen to fall into patterns of backstabbing gossip and serial infidelity (the smart ones were usually busy playing Big Boy games like Empire). They tended to bed the young knights because they were marginally less smelly than the servants, the horses were too big, and the dogs had better taste. Thus was born the “Romance” of “Courtly Love”, which has been making trouble ever since.

      2. I especially love William Goldman’s aside in relation to Westley and Buttercup’s reunion: “(b) What actually was spoken, while moving enough to those involved at the actual time, flattens like toothpaste when transferred to paper for later reading: “my dove,” “my only,” “bliss, bliss,” et cetera.”

    1. Blasphemy! Burn the witch!
      (A cookie without chocolate is an Abomination unto GrumpyCat…)

            1. My diabetes curses you all!
              (If you listen closely, you can hear what’s left of my pancreas pleading for mercy.)

                1. I only bother with a dry rub if I’m putting the meat in my smoker.
                  Some friends gifted me with the wood from half an apple tree and I’ve barely made a dent in the pile..

        1. Thanks, but I’m recovering from devouring 4.5 brownies in as many hours. A colleague brought in a giant batch of the delicious things today.

          1. Colorado warning: If the brownie gives you the munchies, do not have another one!

    2. Heresy! Snickerdoodles contain the awesome force of ten lesser cookies. They can, however, be defeated by the use of ginger snaps.

    3. This place is responsible for a snickerdoodle experiment conducted in my household a while back. Of course, when someone doesn’t have bacon grease in sufficient quantities to achieve the 50:50 ratio with butter, and substitutes coconut oil for the rest, it doesn’t taste quite right.

      But when the rest of the cookies after the sacrificial two (Of finding the hot & cold spot in the oven) were rolled in unsweetened coconut along with cinnamon and vanilla-laced sugar, the coconut toasted as the cookies baked, and the results were delicious.

      1. Oatmeal raisin cookies are good stuff. And often a lot more reliable than chocolate chip, which seem to suffer from an unfortunate proliferation of recipes assuming that the chips are the only part that need to taste like anything.

    4. Agreed. Cinnamon is nasty but my mother forever insisted snickerdoodles were my favorite cookie. Actually, they’re at the bottom. Give me a good old-fashioned peanut butter cookie any day.

      1. O had a friend in High School who made a delicious cookie that I now think must have been a peanut butter shortbread. The Chinese restaurant we went to when I was a kid had almond cookies unlike any other Chinese restaurant I’ve ever visited, far more like Walnut cookies — again, I suspect it of following a shortbread model.

        Lovely crumbly sweet cookies.

  2. I’m going to point out that the stories of those satanic mills and bucolic rural lifestyle seem to come from a class that had more than a small vested interest in keeping people on the farm. None of the people complaining about those mills seem to have spent any time in one. When all the stories seem to have come from Dicken, Blake and Marx the stories are going to distort things just a little bit.

    1. I’ve also noticed that most of the folks who wax lyrical about farms/country life/whatever, even today…have no friggin’ clue about what such a life actually entails. (Even with modern conveniences.) I was raised on a (very, very) small farm of sorts, and we did indeed grow much of our food, but it was still, when all was said and done, a hobby farm. And it still entailed a good deal of hard work, and I am aware that it could have been a lot harder had we truly been relying on it to survive. A hobby farm is a very different animal to an actual farm–and the vast majority of folks who get all misty-eyed nostalgic about ‘the farm life’ have never worked on one. 😀

      1. Ah, 10-15 years ago, my Parents decided to raise chickens. They then decided to take the summer off to visit Alaska, leaving me to tend the flock.
        When they returned, I told them; “If you ever leave me with those d*mn chickens again, I will pour gas over the coop and set fire to the coop and chickens all.”

        1. Chickens are evil. They deserve to be eaten.

          One of my favorite things about Buffalo wings is how many chickens had to die to fill my plate.

          1. They *are* evil! My great grandparents had them and some seriously obnoxious geese. I still have scars on my legs.

        2. When I was in the first grade, my parents decided they would Get Rich Raising Rabbits. Which went about like you’d probably expect. With no customers, we wound up eating rabbit three times a day. For months. To this day I can’t face rabbit meat no matter how it is prepared.

          So, one day my Mom decided she’d just turn all the rabbits loose. The rabbits hopped out into the yard, stayed mostly in a bunch, and then some of the more adventurous ones started to hop away. The family dachshund tore off after them, grabbing each one by the neck, carrying them back to the herd, and dropping them in with the others. Which didn’t seem to faze the rabbits at all.

          While those unfamiliar with dachshunds will chuckle at the thought of a weiner dog herding rabbits, those familiar with the breed know they’re more like little furry crocodiles, except with proportionally more teeth. Tearing the rabbits into bloody gobbets would have been a far more likely scenario…

          Mom finally put the rabbits back in their cages, and shortly after found someone who would take them away, cages and all. Which was great, and we never ate rabbit again.

          1. I intend rabbits in my Mars colony. Everyone might get tired of eating rabbit, but they’ll all have fluffy bunny slippers.

          2. My parents raised rabbits and chickens for many years. I still like both….

            Our little girl city cousins would come out every summer and spend 3-4 weeks with us. They would love going over to the rabbit hutches and playing with, petting and naming all the baby rabbits.

            Hoo boy, would the tears start flowing when we did our monthly culling for meat…….

        3. Evil Rob declared that we were not, in any way, ever going to be raising chickens. The interesting part about this declaration is that I had never in any form expressed a desire to have chickens.

          BTW, you know that chickens are dumb. Well, a number of years back, the California State Fair had turkey races. (Wish they’d do that again. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, far superior to pig racing or even dachshund racing.) Heritage breeds, salt & pepper, gray-ble, russet—no need for jerseys. The breeder explained exactly how dumb they were—the way they’d get them to race around the track was to have them follow a radio-controlled toy truck full of seed around the track. Except she’d had to teach a chicken to follow the truck, and the chicken taught the turkeys.

              1. We have wild turkeys that come hang around by the chicken runs. I think they want to become domesticated: free food. If they ever show up inside the runs/go in the coop, it’ll be awful tempting to just keep them.

                1. I went to a zoo in Connecticut once with assorted birds walking freely about the grounds. There was a sign up explaining that the peacocks and guinea fowl actually belonged to the zoo, and the turkeys just kind of showed up on their own.

              2. Basically, her fenced barnyard shared a common fenceline with her back yard. At one end was a gate. Next to the gate, against the fence, was a shed. Once when the gate was open, a Turkey came into the back yard, and then, when he decided he wanted to return to the barnyard, he walked straight back, where he was interrupted in his journey by the fence. So he went looking for an opening. First he went To, and ran into the shed, so he turned around and went Fro, whereupon he hit the side fence. So back again he went, going To and Fro in a rising state of urgency.

                My sister, not wanting to bother to catch a turkey and toss him over the fence, decided to leave the gate open, expecting the turkey to eventually figure it out. He never did, and the next time she checked the back yard, there was a dead turkey against the back fence.

          1. MY wife’s grandmother, when she was a girl, had a pet pheasant. She loved the bird, and it followed her around. One day she let it in the house. It seemed to have a good time fluttering about, exploring the place. Eventually, it tried to perch on the cast iron stove top, while her mother was baking cornbread. With unfortunately predicable results for its feet, and lots of noise.

            That night they had pheasant with their cornbread.

          2. A turkey-raiser that I met once explained to me just how stupid the birds are. According to him, you have to keep the birds indoors when it rains. Otherwise, they’ll look up at the clouds with open mouths, and drown.

            1. I can’t imagine what the importation paperwork must have looked like. I also wasn’t aware that they were such a long-lived breed.

              1. There was a special grey-market law passed, similar to what Bill Gates pushed through to get his 959 out of customs. It was backed by the Hobby Lobby.

                1. Contrariwise, legislation to ban the importation of high horses has not been implemented, so the sanctimonious are still able to get up on their high horses and harass the innocent.

                    1. You’ve MIRVed the launcher? Sheesh.

                      I think it’s time for a SALT carp treaty…

      2. My mother has had to threaten my father with bodily harm if he gets more animals. Because *he* isn’t the one who takes care of them… >.>

        But yeah–while it’s very nice to have fresh eggs/milk/whatever, it also means you can’t just up and go places whenever you like.

        1. Okay, personal computer best.

          The cat just jumped up on my desk and took a dump on my keyboard — alright, which one of you wise guys just mumbled, “Isn’t that your job?”

          (We’ve rescued a couple of the local strays. Who knew cats could carry that much baggage?)

          Back to the topic, we’re trying to get agrarian here on the new pace for the agricutural exemption on our property taxes. People have been telling the wife to get “a few” goats or sheep or boarding them for grazing rights. But although my wife lived and worked on a ranch as a kid, she’s been a city girl for a lotta years and she’s kinda slow getting her country back. I know sure as I’ve seen it, when the truck shows up to collect them for that last trip she will have a meltdown.

          I mean, I love her but this is a woman who eulogizes every piece of roadkill we pass. In Texas. Let’s just say it’s like driving with the complete GOT audiobook series. On a loop.

          So it’s gourds for her and catnip for me. At least they don’t jump fences.

          1. And remember: a milk-producing animal is almost more commitment than a marriage (especially cows)… 😀

            1. And getting one milk goat usually leads to one and kids, or one and companions so “she’s not lonely” (They are a herd species, after all), and then that leads to a herd, and that leads to…

              The reason why almost every farmwife I know who got “a” milk goat now having a side business selling raw milk, and goat’s milk lotions & soaps.

              Farming is either feast or famine. Not only do all the tomatoes come ripe at once, but a milk goat also has to be milked every day whether you want the milk or not…

              1. “Farming is either feast or famine. Not only do all the tomatoes come ripe at once, but a milk goat also has to be milked every day whether you want the milk or not…”

                Indeed. And many’s the variation on “peas porridge hot” that’ll get me sicker than a boat full of drunken college students, as I’ve done had enough for three lifetimes when I was too small to get away from the spoon. *grin*

                Tomatoes, now. Those are good on chicken sammiches (tasty, but those idiot birds are made to be ‘et and not much else). And stewed, they last for long enough to make stews, soups, pies, pasta sauces, salsa, and a buncha other essy-sounding goodness. And if you stage your planting right, you can have fresh veggies all season long.

                And plants don’t peck you nigh to death, get caught in the barb wire at three a.m., get sick, get ‘et by wolves and wild dogs, drown in the rain (not making that up), crap all over bloody *everything,* think dawn happens at midnight, 10 o’clock, 3 pm, and six every day, and so on…

                1. You can also roast up some tomato sauce that will freeze well—there are some recipes floating around that are literally “put all ingredients in deep-sided pan, roast for X at Yº, blend.”

                  I live in tomato country. One variant of local snobbery is “[that person] buys tomatoes at the store.” (Farmers’ market tomatoes are acceptable, but seriously, folks, the stuff at the store is barely flavored water.)

                  1. I had to giggle at the people oohing over the heirloom tomatoes now available at Ye Local Chain Grocery down in Amarillo. 1) They are imported from Mexico and 2) they are $4.00/ lb. I’ll stick with the Romas until my two potted tomato plants start to bear (assuming they survive the summer).

                    1. You could probably grow Brandywines. We grow a similar heirloom called Pruden’s Purple and they are the best eating tomato ever. (Not pretty, but tasty.) Probably worth $4 a pound.
                      Mmm. #3 son is made out of tomato cheddar cheese sandwiches made with that kind of tomato. (#4 is made out of almonds and dried cranberries. I get weird cravings.)

                    2. I’ve got three varieties of grape/cherry/marble tomatoes slowly growing out back, waiting for me to get a trough under the edge of the house and a few buckets of last year’s cow poop. (I can delay a little longer, we’re still getting every other day rain.)

                      Already blooming, which is a delight, and I can’t wait for the kids’ peas to really shoot up.

              2. My sister actually got a donkey so her *dog* wouldn’t be lonely. The donkey kicks the dog. So much for arranged marriages. Oh and the donkey bites my brother-in-law so he’s renamed their property The Biting Ass Ranch.

                1. I swear, that’s how it worked in the Texas Hill Country … a milk goat, and then some more, and then … goat cheese, goat-milk soaps, and so on and so on. I did a post a while ago for one of my employers and looked up all the small goat dairies in the area, and it’s gotten to be a bunch of tidy little businesses, some of whom have gotten substantial enough that the local HEB chain grocery carries their products.

        2. Yep. My in-laws just have two outdoor dogs and a goat, and it’s a major production for them to be able to go anywhere longer than a few hours.

      3. How does Larry put it? “Farming is less romantic when you have to be up at 5am with your arm stuck inside a cow”

      4. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the positive effects of idealists having to deal with a hobby farm for a full year, though. *big grin*

        A dear family friend moved in near my folks when they were first married, thought that the deer were so cute and all the animals were adorable and so on and so forth…..

        By six months in she was putting peanut butter on an electric fence to defend her prize rose bushes from the deer.

          1. My mom calls them “tall sheep.”

            Seeing as the only animal lower in her estimation is a milk cow, that’s pretty dang harsh.

              1. Tree rats, as opposed to the feathered sky-rats; weren’t common enough to be a pain, never got into houses because the water rats drove them off. (Not especially dangerous, especially compared to normal rats, but HUGE.)

                California, so we had ground squirrels. When we moved to Washington, we found no ground squirrels, but the giant version called “marmots.”

                Badgers are worse. Evil, evil burrowing habits.

                1. It’s probably not nice to paint ben-gay on the feeder poles to keep the squirrels off them, but it’s a hoot watching them scrub their nuts on the grass afterwards.

                  1. You know…

                    My Mom has had a *lot* of trouble with squirrels (or tree rats, as I refer to them) in the past. I should suggest this solution to her…

                  2. Hmmmm. We do have squirrels raiding the bird feeders, Ben-gay, you say.
                    We don’t have any grass, though – they’d have to scrub off on the gravel.
                    *evil laugh”

                    1. Of course, the other solution to squirrels that I no longer have, are pre-teen boys armed with a Crosman 760 pellet gun. When I declared open season all year long on squirrels in 1998, we ran out of the tree rats in 6 months……

                      Now they are back, the Crosmans are kaput, and all my sons are grown and left home. So it’s just me, my CO2 pellet pistol, and of course, now ben-gay……..

          2. There’s an amusing story about a college (can’t remember which one off the top of my head) back East that had to deal with deer wandering the campus. The school wanted the deer population reduced, but didn’t want them killed. So it fixed all of the male deer that it could get its hands on. The school was then confronted by the very puzzling fact that this didn’t seem to be reducing the deer population at all. A little research turned up the reason why. Apparently if a doe doesn’t mate while she’s in heat, she goes back into heat during each subsequent month until she finally mates and gets pregnant.

            The school gave in, and brought in some volunteer bow hunters to deal with the problem.

            1. Other way around– the anti-hunters wouldn’t let them bring in hunters, so they basically spayed all the female deer they could get.

              Deer put off a hormone that can go for 50 miles until they get pregnant…so they had male deer for at least 50 miles in every direction homing in on the school. To female deer which cannot get pregnant.

              Last I heard, the college was STILL not letting them do anything, but the neighboring towns were taking care of stuff.

              Fixed male deer end up with funky looking horns– looks like they’re wearing a hedgehog crown or something. (The things you find out when generations of teenage boys run the haying machines and are observant enough to see the hiding baby deer before they’re run over, stupid enough to catch them, and strange enough to casterate them just to see what happens)

              1. The things you find out when generations of teenage boys run the haying machines and are observant enough to see the hiding baby deer before they’re run over, stupid enough to catch them, and strange enough to castrate them just to see what happens)

                *hands in pockets*
                *quietly whistling*
                *Looks innocent*

                  1. Just realized that a lot of folks are mainly familiar with deer from Disney or other movies– the reason that it’s stupid to try to catch a baby deer is the same reason it’s stupid to try to catch a baby bear.

                    Mommy objects.

                    In the case of deer, they may not have claws or meat eating teeth, but they do weigh at least as much as a small woman, they have a lot of muscle, and they’re going to be hitting you with rather sharp hooves at the end of those muscles. People do die from it, and not in a freak accident sort of way. And if you do survive, you don’t get any sympathy, because deer are so “cute.”*

                    It’s the kind of “hey, why not?” thinking that is to be expected in teenage boys (who are also the most likely to be able to get away with just some nasty bruises if it goes pear shaped) and only rises to the level of needing to be commented on in, say, 30 year old cowboys. (Same mindset in an older body, at least as the term was used on the ranches my folks worked at. They’ve mostly given up on correcting folks who think “cowboy” means ranch hand or good rider.)

                    *My mom nearly had a heart attack when a bunch of salt-starved deer were mooching off of her busload of kids at the lava beds. She sacrificed a big bag of sunflower seeds for the poor boogers– they were so desperate they were going up to lick people’s hands. Not Cool on many levels, starting with already mentioned hooves, adding in horns, and going on through lyme disease.

                    1. We took the kids to Yosemite for the first time this year. I did a lot of verbal prep about how to treat wild animals, and I was particularly insistent about the deer, as those were the ones we were most likely to see up close. (And boy, did we. Less than five feet away, by choice of the *deer*.) Don’t move fast, don’t yell at them, don’t approach them. Look at them from a distance. Basically, don’t scare them.

              2. Sounds as if the college’s neighbors should bring suit for damages. Deer are incredibly destructive varmints and attracting so many to the area has to be doing environmental harm.

              1. Thanks.

                Looks like I only got it half right. It was the does that were fixed, as you mentioned.

                1. It’s a pet peeve of mine with feral cat programs, so it stuck in my mind that they’d tried to directly transfer it to deer.

                  (I like cats. That’s why I wish they’d euthanize the feral animals they catch, instead of giving them an expensive surgery and then turning them lose to die horribly after a lifetime of bad food and danger. About as likely as the “animal lovers” that run the pet shelters in my state letting people adopt actual kittens, instead of half-grown cats.)

                  1. The thinking with the feral cats is that if you kill them, they don’t keep *other* feral cats out of the area, whereas if you fix them, they still have the territory under their control. In many suburban areas, feral cats are somewhat adapted; it’s the full urban and the rural areas that are more dangerous to them. (And college campuses are gold for social ferals… at least, I assume some of those cats had no owners.)

                    Anyway. Our current kitties are rescues. One was taken off the street and presumably feral, but his mannerisms indicate “dumped,” instead. And that makes me furious. Not cool.

                    1. The ones I’m most familiar with are the colonies with thousands of sick, starving cats in a cement area. The ones used for fund raising.

                      My folks are right next to a large, red barn. We get lots of dumped cats– dad feeds them to keep the mice down, and the ones that are total house cats usually get adopted.

                      It’s a short, rather brutal life for barn cats, but it’s still better than the same thing in a city.

                  2. The problem I have with shelters is that they now insist on all cats being fixed when adopted. Which basically means that the only breeding population of housecats is Ferals. And if they get their way with those, they’ll eventually eliminate cats entirely. (Because Breeders are Double-Plus Ungood.)

                    1. That worries me more with dogs, because I know of a lot more “secret” cat breeding programs than dog ones– and a not-sterilizing-dogs program is much more likely to be met with criminal charges.

        1. There have recently (within the last year?) been numerous articles about the problems engendered by those stalwart innocents who think to raise chickens in urban and suburban environments.

          One plus: all but the dumbest (okay, that is an appallingly high % of them) quickly abandon all romantic notions about free-range chickens.

          1. Sigh. Count me among those innocents, although we have a neighbor three blocks over who does have a considerable flock (in total defiance of city ordinances). We’re looking for three, no more, although we might defy the ordinances and go as far as four. It’s for the eggs, you see. And to demolish bugs in the garden. My daughter is doing the research on this, and already settled on a breed. Nothing fancy, and we will consider them as pet animals with useful habits.

            1. Clarification:
              … stalwart innocents who think it would be easy to raise chickens in urban and suburban environments.

            2. Two words Celia: Bird. Flu.

              Its affecting flocks all over the USA and Canada right now, today. And by “affecting” I mean they have to kill them all and incinerate or bury them.

              Just at the moment I think having chickens in a urban/suburban setting would be potentially very dangerous indeed.

            3. Treated properly, chickens can be raised in a suburban environment with little fuss: During the day, a chain link fence will suffice to keep them in the yard, but if you wish to have a secure run to let them go relatively unsupervised for a couple of days, then you need to use hardware cloth – apparently chicken wire is not strong enough to keep out some of the more determined predators – and for nights, a secure coop. Clean out the droppings every few days, to keep down the smell, and bury them in a spot for that purpose in a corner of the garden, then spread that on the rest of the garden the following spring as fertilizer.

            4. “Nothing fancy, and we will consider them as pet animals with useful habits.”

              Yes chicken manure can be very useful, unfortunately chickens have the habit of depositing it everywhere, except where you want it.

            5. Red Stars. Easy to tell which are pullets, as feathering is sex-linked and they are hardy, intelligent, and almost as good layers as leghorns. I think they are a cross between a Rhode Island Red hen and White leghorn rooster.

              Another good breed are Americaunas……

              1. Okay, this reminds me of something – A joke on myself.

                Mom grew up a small plot of land in South Knoxville, not more than an acre I think. (the plot today is just over half an acre.) Her family had a small flock of chickens. I grew up hearing stories about these chickens. She said they had White legerns ((this isn’t a typo)). Now, I know what a chicken looks like. I’ve fed a few of them, but I don’t know one breed from another. I heard about Road Island Reds, those White legerns, and Brown legerns, and banty’s, but I couldn’t tell you anything about these birds.

                I also spent many an hour watching Loony Tones, and loved Foghorn Leghorn.

                Fast forward 30 some years to a couple of years ago when I went on a tour of some of our local farms and watched some chickens wandering around an Alpaca farm. A couple of them were big and white. I told my sister that I thought they might be white legerns.

                I asked the folks that ran the farm what they were. He said they were White Leghorns, just like Foghorn Leghorn.

                I wondered what the difference was, so I went home and looked it up. (Okay, have you figured out the joke yet?)

                Yep, after all these years, I never knew that Mom’s legerns, were loghorns. Mom’s east Tennessee accent blurred the pronunciation. My only defense is that I grew up in the suburbs. –laugh- I hope I didn’t bore anyone, it just something that I still think is funny.

                1. *laughs* Works for me!

                  Given how spelling whiskey with or without an E, and/or switching in an I when removing a Y is either Serious Business or bull, not really that irrational… but still funny!

          2. There’s a local area, Fair Oaks, that has true free-range chickens. As in, feral. As in, the outdoor theater productions are punctuated by random crowing. As in, newcomers have lobbied to round the birds up and the locals have looked at them and said, Are you crazy? This is part of the atmosphere!

            It’s not a proper trip to the historical part of town without a glimpse of chickens. I sometimes drive through on a long route home and I haven’t been disappointed.

            1. Any southern small town/rural area has feral chickens, usually games, which go feral easily.

              American Gamefowl are some of the hardiest birds that you will ever come across, and in our opinion, by far the most beautiful. They are known for being excellent flyers, very good foragers, and you can’t beat them for broodiness. All of these traits make them an excellent choice for free ranging, until the stags come of age. Then they will need to be separated, as they will fight to the death defending their territory.

              1. Fair Oaks is only a small town by legal definition; it’s part of a vast suburban landscape stretching from Sacramento to Roseville, and the only reason it doesn’t quite go past Sacramento westward is because of the artificial floodplain in that direction. Now, it *does* have quite a lot of semi-rural stuff because it butts up against the American River Parkway, and there are high bluffs involved, but it’s basically Greater Suburbia. With chickens.

          3. The only “romantic” notion I have about free-range chickens is that their meat tastes better. When I was growing up, my mom would buy free-range chicken at the supermarket to feed to us. So when I went off to college, I thought the blandness of the chicken I was finding was due to being in a different state — until one day I tried a free-range chicken and said, “Hey, there’s the chicken taste I remember from my childhood.” I don’t know why it tastes better — maybe it’s because their muscles get actual use — but I can definitely tell the difference.

              1. Ah, that makes sense. Thanks! It’s always nice to learn something, and now I have yet another reason to stay away from the “vegetarian-fed” chicken I’ve seen in some supermarkets. *shakes head*

                1. If they’d really fed on vegetarians, they might taste like the free range chickens!

                  1. Which allows us to close the loop back to cookies …

                    Note the plugola billboard.

              2. So, do chickens kept in a “tractor” count as free range for the purposes of this discussion?

                1. The eggs taste the same as long as you move the tractor appropriately.

                  Chickens also eat anything else that doesn’t eat them first: live mice and snakes, roadkill . . . the vegetarian-fed eggs always make me laugh.

                2. Would really depend, I don’t know what chicken other folks are buying and I don’t mind the animal tofu version– that makes it easier to use it as a substitute for other meat in recipes. A little broth can go a long ways.

                  Legally, yes, the ones in small mobile chicken-pens are free range in the two or three locations I’ve looked at the laws– one of the things the “free range”/”organic” guys don’t like to let get around is that it’s not what you picture when you hear the word; the law that put several thousand of the small chicken farmers out of business was something like an inch or two difference in cage size and a restriction on medical treatments. (major remodel plus higher loss= only the big guys can keep going, which was the idea)

                  Folks like the ones here are very likely to be buying “chicken from someone I know who coops them up at night,” same way that I don’t buy “organic” apples (sprayed two to three times more often than normal ones, with a weaker concentration) but will get them from a family orchard that only sprays when there’s an actual threat to the crop.

                  I’m not sure if there’s a difference in the “certified grass fed black angus” vs normal store beef vs the beef from my folks’ place, because we can’t afford normal store beef most of the time and I can’t see paying twice as much for even a good certification.

                  It’s a private certification, which is a lot less prone to abuse than a gov’t one. The cows my folks sell go into the program, but I don’t know what the difference is on how they’re finished, either.

                  Come to think of it, there might be a difference in “finishing” for chickens, too, and truly free range would be more likely to spend a week in a pen so they’re less of a pain to catch that way– “finishing” is when you fatten up a cow before slaughter, and there’s a definite difference between silage, corn-leavings (put in a harvested corn field and they clean it up), grain and a finisher mix. You can get amazing results by fattening a pig on out-dated potato chips and beer, for example…..

              3. Heck, my mother observed that British butter tasted different. No corn (alias maize) in their cows’ feed!

            1. They’re probably older chickens. Animal Tofu type chickens are usually at least a month younger than the truly free range ones, simply to give time for growth, and don’t have as much bugs and other chickens in their diet. (Stress= weight loss, pecking order= stress.)

              Same way that attempting to do your grandma’s “the hen stopped laying” baked chicken with a young meat chicken will be relatively flavorless. If there’s too much flavor, it’s gamey, but chicken doesn’t seem very prone to that.

              They could probably improve the flavor somewhat by tweaking the feed recipe, if allowed by law.

              1. Grinning at the phrase “Animal Tofu”. Best description I’ve seen of chicken nuggets (with or without the Mc- prefix) in a long time.

                1. We raised cornish rock x last year: the meat birds. Animal tofu about describes their base intelligence level. Even raised on pasture, the meat was not comparable in quality to the old heavy breeds, and they had a 50% mortality rate by butchering date. Won’t do that again.

          4. My in laws just bought property so my mother-in-law is getting chickens and goats to provide food come the economic collapse (don’t ask). This is going to be a lot of a fun to watch from my side. From theirs? I predict tears.

        2. “By six months in she was putting peanut butter on an electric fence to defend her prize rose bushes from the deer.”

          Now that is a trick I hadn’t heard of before. Did it work, or did the deer just learn to avoid peanut butter?

          1. That’s fairly common advice around here. It probably works best with the newer electric fence wire that is multi-strand wire braided with yellow nylon strands in varying widths up to an inch or so, to make it more visible than the older, plain metal wire.

      5. I have cited here ere now an article in the NY Times (front page, below the fold) written during one of the periodic “sweat shop” panics which were frequent in the 1980s. (I think this was when the cognoscenti were outraged over Kathy Lee Gifford’s clothing line.)

        The Times still retained some pretense of intellectual rigor at the time, but still the story was startling enough an exception to their standards as to embed it in memory. The reporter challenged the frisson of righteous indignation fueling the popular zeitgeist by pointing out the realities of life in the Latin American countries where these clothing factories were located. Alternatives to “sweat shops” were generally few and universally worse: nastier, less healthy, more dangerous.

        Schooling at all. much less beyond a certain minimum was a luxury few families could afford. Those not granted jobs in “sweat shops” were put to work on the farms where large animals and larger machines were inclined to lop off limbs. Working conditions in factories were also much cleaner (advocates of fresh air rarely smell a farm) and the hours generally shorter than on a farm.

        Yes, I had to look twice twice to affirm that was the NY Times printing such a story. I am sure its like would never get past the screen of editors in place today.

      6. I have never worked on a farm, but I come from a long line of farmers and grew up in a farming community. It is very hard work fraught with risk, I would never farm unless it was to survive,

      7. My mom did subsistence farming. It sucks.

        On the other hand, wealthy perma-culture small-town / rural Americam life is pretty awesome. Technology is a woman’s best friend.

    2. OTOH, the reason why London grew in medieval and early modern times was the immigration. It did not reproduce at replacement rate; too many children died.

      1. Or so they say, and the people at that time believed it to be unhealthy but… They were tainted by all the renaissance and pre-renaissance modern stuff about how wonderful nature was. Did I mention I’m having trouble believing a lot of this stuff?

      2. Actually, I read not too long ago that–provided you made it past a couple of childhood hurdles (usually around the ages of five, and then maybe ten or so), people were by and large every bit as likely to live into “old age” as we are. Granted, they did have a somewhat shorter lifespan–after all, we do have better food and medicine and other riches–but it wasn’t a “everyone was old by 30” that so many folks seem to think.

        Humans are tough, tough creatures.

        1. Look at photos of folks in their 50’s in 1930. They look like someone in their 70’s now……

          1. yep. This is bullshit revisionism. I remember when people in the village died at sixty, people would say “well, he/she was old” Nowadays? It’s “Why so young?”

            1. True. But it wasn’t unheard of for folks (usually rich folks, it’s true) to live into their 70s/80s. After all, the Doge who led that one Crusade against Byzantium was, what, in his 70s? And blind, to boot. 😀

              I suppose it boils down to what part of the economic strata you’re looking at.

              1. Thing is, “not unheard of” and “quite common” are worlds apart. Today, as Sarah said, if you don’t make it past 60, people wonder what happened, while it was the outliers who did that in the past.

              2. No, not unheard at all for the well to do and genetically lucky, but not as widespread as it is now. As for how bad life was then, this is why I stopped watching the supposedly funny western tv thing and only find Gallivant amusing on the “it’s supposed to be funny” front. Things weren’t as wretched anywhere as our books/stories portray. They were pretty bad some places, but unless plague or war intervened, there were no roaming bands of orphans whose parents died in their twenties or early thirties.

                1. Life being “not so bad” is almost certainly relative. People would mostly consider their lives better than the previous generation, and since they grew up in it, they would not think it was bad. However, to one of us, it would be nigh impossible to adjust.

                  1. Wayne, I have nightmares of going back to the conditions of my childhood, and we didn’t live badly at all and were a little overweight and largely disease free. But… bathroom outside kitchen door? (full bathroom — but at the time it was installed they couldn’t pierce the four foot stone walls. they managed a faucet in the kitchen and that was it) Pumping water up into the cistern to have running water at the sink? Wood stove? Warming water to bathe in and everyone bathing in same water in the kitchen in WINTER? Washing clothes out when you had to break the ice on the wash tank? Hanging them to dry in the kitchen, in winter, dripping down your neck? Owning maybe 2 or 3 sets clothes and wearing them for a week (or more) at a time? Wool (to which I’m allergic) as primary clothing in winter? Penicillin as high tech. Radio for entertainment? Books very expensive. You couldn’t PAY me to go back.

                    1. It would be bad enough to go from city water to the cistern my college friend had. I had fun (at the time) scaring everyone by standing on the ice one winter and cutting through the it with a shovel (think using a tamping rod like you would use while filling in the hole around a fence post for the chopping motion I was using). They were afraid I was going to break through and get caught under the ice. I knew there was no chance of breaking through 4″ think ice like that.

                    2. Washboards. Cutting firewood because you’d freeze else- and cold all the time in the winter. Winter colds that lasted six months. Proper heat and air conditioning? I know improved water and sewer did tons for general health, but being able to actually *close the windows* and keep the vermin and black flies out *definitely* changed how often we got sick. And we were pretty healthy, generally, otherwise.

                      I have only dim memories of a lot of this, as things got better in my teens when I started bringing home a paycheck, too. All the same, the only way I would go back would be to make things better *faster.* And only if I absolutely had to, because lazy.

                      And Wayne, the cistern my aunt has the next town over was actually cleaner and better than the city tap, strangely enough. We had it tested once back in the nineties because there was some scare about contamination in the water supply. Now though I’d guess the city water would be fine- a lot of the old lines got replaced and while the new water treatment plant still stinks, but it does it in a much higher tech facility! *chuckle*

                    3. I grew up with a cistern, but it was a tad different from any others I have seen. Our cistern was an entire room-sized offshoot of our basement (the others I’ve seen have been less than half that), that probably held nearly 5,000 gallons when full. And it never froze because of being completely underground. As for water quality, if we ever had it tested, I never heard dad talking about it, but the water from it tasted better than any city water I’ve ever had. We cleaned it about every five to ten years.

                    4. I was gushing about the fun time I’d had at a Renaissance Faire to my high school history teacher, and he asked if I’d like to live back then. I think he was surprised at the vehemence of my denial. I understand the difference between modern LARPing and actually living in historical times, and the first is much more fun.

                    5. The out-house grandpa introduced was a major technological upgrade; penicillin? That would’ve been nice: the best she could get a hold of was the sulfa drugs. She and grandpa were educated missionaries from the south. Watching a friend’s mother die in front of you because she’s bitten by one of the deadly little brown snakes, your best friend married at 16 and bled to death in child birth at 18. Going hungry on a regular basis when the crops failed. And still, looking back, there was fun, love (Una, the girl who died so young-her son lived – made a love match) joy, laughter. My mom has the best stories, and I’ve never felt safer wandering around a strange town, than I did when I was visiting my cousin. It’s funny when one thinks of it. The extraordinary poverty and the social cohesion. What torques my shorts are the people who want to freeze places like this in amber, as if the villagers didn’t darn happy to upgrade to the school, the sulfa drugs and the out house.

                    6. Good grief! That sounds like the way my great-grandparents lived even in the 1970s. They refused to modernize. I hated even going to visit. I cannot imagine living with it. That outhouse and pump handle alone made me a city girl for life!

                    7. The sad part, there are areas of the US that are not so different today. Granted its rundown trailers or clap board houses and they do have indoor pluming, sometimes, but over all, they aren’t much better off. All you have to do is look deep in the Appalachians or in the back territory of some of the “Indian Reservations”.

                      Sorry, that tripped a stray memory from when the parents were involved in the Native American movement.

                    8. Difference is who it hits.

                      Use to be, that was living good.

                      Now, it’s those who can’t be bothered to do better, because it’s good enough for the effort.

                      (Kids, of course, don’t get a vote.)

                    9. I might, with some debate, agree where the Appalachians are concerned by will strongly disagree where the Native Americans are concerned. The conditions on some of the Reservations is a complex problem that cannot be addressed, let alone solved, easily. Suffice to say, I know both sides of the argument. Both sides have valid points and both sides have tons of misinformation. It does not help that both sides are pig-headed. 😉

                    10. It does not help that both sides are pig-headed.

                      Major understatement– and that’s before we consider the Scottish blood in the relatives I’ve got involved.

                      Very poisonous environment, I think we’ll agree.

                    11. *chuckle* Wyldkat, I lived that life, back deep in the Appalachians. Back in the late seventies, early eighties. It wasn’t so much “can’t be arsed to do no better,” as an Aussie of my acquaintance would’ve put it, so much as we’re the land that time forgot. Usually a generation or so behind the restaurant. Think of it as just at the end of a *long* supply line. You’d have to see the “roads” to believe it.

                      The thing is, it’s also cultural. Out beyond the black stump, down the dirt road, up the holler then down the valley is where folks like those that made me *like* it. Oh not so much the crappy infrastructure, but the freedom.

                      There may be sh- err, crappy politicians. Okay, there are, and they could suck the chrome off a bumper for their greediness, and somehow they always get elected. Again, the reprobates. In some places, not all. But that’s expected. Politicians are liars and cheats, just like hospitals are where you go to die, just like fences make good neighbors…

                      Where was I? Ah, freedom. Yes. See, being a generation or so back and stuck out at the end of everything means consequences. A punch in the nose wasn’t at all an uncommon response to rudeness. You fail, often, and get to see the results of that up close and personal. Crops fail, you get no harvest. Offend somebody, they’re going to remember you. And the whole town will know about it, due to the only common FTL system in use by humans, back porch rumor mongering. *grin*

                      And all that’s a good thing. In amongst all the bad, the stuff I worked my tail off to get loose of, there’s good. We know what “racism” looks like, up close. Also the value of honesty and keeping your word. There’s big back yards and new neighbors that greet you with apple pit and a smile. There’s less in the way of zoning laws, red tape (or as Ma’am used to call it, “red taupe”), “causes.”

                      Maybe there’s some rosey-colored film on those old memories, and they’re not at all in order here, but what I’ve tried to get at is the folk that seek out a place as far away from the big city as they can tend to fall into discrete groups- granola hippies that might turn into decent neighbors (if looney about their politics), snowbird Floridians that got sick of Florida and stayed (the reverse kind that escape the heat for a chance at actual snow), and old families with roots as deep as the little mountains that molded us. Those that stay can be as cussed independent and mule-stubborn as you can imagine. I tend to think of that, along with hard work and willing hands, as the very bones of what it means to be American.

                      This thread, and the recent news nonsense about racism in Appalachia (which was idiotic reporting, both in what might have been right if they’d done more research than a query of queries and what they got hilariously wrong, but that for another time) is what fueled this little meander.

                      And one little extra- we were also “middle-upper” for the town. Mom thinks she married up into a German mechanic’s family (nevermind they left the Old World in the eighteenth century), Dad thinks he married up into the biggest moonshiner in the three state area’s family. We did alright. Though at the time we didn’t really believe we were “poor” as the occasional tourist seemed to think!

                    12. That amply describes the Western portion of NC where State & Federal Politicians fly in (and out) for a park ribbon cutting just as quickly as possible, not to impose on the locals who would just as soon shoot ’em as look at ’em. Extending into the Smoky Mountains and including Eastern Tennessee, Eastern Kentucky, Western Virginia, Northern Georgia and Northern Alabama this region is chock full of people heartily enthusiastic of making do without many of the “benefits” of government.

                      A person is poor when they can’t afford what they need; doing without what you don’t need don’t make a body poor. There’s folks in the UP, in Idaho, the Dakotas and the Rockies who are rich in things money (nor government) can’t buy.

                    13. Ack. “A generation or so behind the RESTAURANT”? The “rest of the world” I meant. Strange where the mind goes when you’re operating on sleepy autopilot. *chuckle*

                    14. I was trying to put together the farms being at the other end of a long supply line to restaurants, or something, but it did seem a bit doubtful.

                    15. Made sense to me… but the town I grew up in for the first decade, the restaurant was the place that was pretty much forced to advance if they wanted to or not, both because of their suppliers only offering some things and because of health-and-welfare laws. The grocery store had some of it, but their infrastructure is different, the bones don’t have to upgrade nearly as often.

                      That stuff they had to get rid of got picked up by others, if it was any good.

                    16. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe would probably be closest, during NASCAR and football season. We get all sorts of odds to-ing and fro-ing through my little mountains, to go see this or that, clad in strange garments (orange seems to predominate). Some might be spending a year dead for tax reasons. *grin*

                      Of course, of restaurants, we have some of the best (and cheapest relatively speaking) in the world if you lean towards Southern food and good barbecue. Ridgewood near Piney Flats is worth your time. Tiny little place, so finding seats let alone parking can be tough. Smokey flavored sauce, thin sliced pork or beef. Good slaw, not my thing but some folks love it. They also have either snob tea or Southern tea (unsweetened/sweet tea that is). If you’re traveling south along I-81 to Libertycon in Chattanooga, definitely stop by if you love good barbecue. Or if you’re in the neighborhood. Or if you can manufacture any excuse at all. *grin*

                2. I expect things after that last huge bout of Black Plague swept through *were* hellish. But then, it also amounted to a post-apocalyptic wasteland in some places where the population had been very hard hit!

                  I couldn’t get past the first episode of Gallivant. I didn’t find it all that funny…

                  1. Actually the Black Death greatly improved matters — for the survivors. Labor shortage meant rising wages. Also, the deaths did not shrink the available farm land; abandoned land was probably marginal; so they were eating a lot betters.

                    Upper classes resented how they weren’t content with the old wages, to be sure.

                    1. 10 or so years after the epidemic, sure. But the years between the end of the worst of it and that would have been…interesting. Everybody knew someone who had died, and there was no way to know if they or a loved one were going to be next.

            2. It’s so funny – my wife and I have this discussion all the time. To me, “60’s” is the proper start of “old”, while to her “80s” is the proper start of “old.” We’re only four years apart.

              1. My Nana (bad diet, no exercise, smoked like a chimney) died in her early 70s, and she was old old old. My mom* is rapidly approaching the same age—I wonder when she’s going to start feeling weird about that—and she’s going to be doing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage this year. Yeah, she’s going to have her luggage transported in between hotels and all, but she’s seventy and planning to go walking for five or six weeks.

                When I was a kid, 70-something seemed reasonable. Now, given how the folk in their 70s are acting, I’d say 90-something seems more likely.

                *Raised by my Nana, but not biologically related, and rather horrified at what the effects of not taking care of one’s health can do to a body.

            3. I think cigarettes and most adults smoking them threw off estimations of expected age at death. The fact that the average age at death was creeping up hid the fact that many people were living a very long time and many others were dying fairly young from lung cancer.

              1. 85% of lung cancer cases are directly caused by smoking. If there were any other cancer that we could remove 85% of cases by doing one thing, we’d be pushing that one thing like crazy. (Of the other 15%, part is environmental—radon or other lung pollutants—and part is genetic.)

                The other sad statistic is that the average length of survival after diagnosis is about eight and a half months. Because lung cancer is largely asymptomatic until it’s Stage IV. 😦

                1. Interesting point – chimneys started appearing in homes about the same time that tobacco was brought back to Europe from the New World. They traded one form of smoke inhalation for another.

                2. We are pushing like crazy. We have pushed so hard that smokers overestimate the damage smoking does to their health.

                  But smoking is an anti-depressant. Don’t expect things to change soon.

                  1. Oh, and in third world countries, tobacco smoke repels mosquitoes. Die young of malaria, or old of lung cancer. And tobacco is still cheaper and more available than reliable medicines in some places.

                    1. When I was younger, friends would go outside for a little target practice. I usually ‘smoked’ a cigar. I inhaled enough to get it lit, and then simply exhaled through it, blowing all the wonderful tobacco laden smoke out as a mosquito repellent.

                  2. “You” have also “pushed so hard” that some smokers aren’t concerned about politeness toward non-smokers.

                    I smoke a pipe and before the “crusade” against smoking I was considerate toward people who were bothered by it.

                    After dealing with asshole anti-smoking folks, I’m tempted to blow smoke in their face (I haven’t).

                    What’s “funny” is many of the “Good People” who are anti-smoking now would have been the types who sneered at Southern Baptists who were against smoking before “being against smoking was cool”.

                    Hey! Where did this soap-box come from? [Smile]

                    1. Wonder if they tried to rewrite Lord of the Rings? All that smoking. [Evil Grin]

                    2. What’s “funny” is many of the “Good People” who are anti-smoking now would have been the types who sneered at Southern Baptists who were against smoking before “being against smoking was cool”

                      You can plainly see this in the literature and movies of the 1920’s – 1960’s, when the hallmark of any sophisticated character is that they smoke like chimneys. The popularity of smoking was universal among intellectuals, from Ayn Rand to Lillian Hellman.

                1. Charles is ignoring other things we now know, which is why the anti-smoke nazis going up in arms against vaping nicotine which can’t POSSIBLY have second hand smoke effects and also cuts off most of the first are insane.
                  There was a study recently that nicotine actually MIGHT have some effect against tb and other lunch inflammations (while the tar does cause cancer in some, long run.) This validates Elizabethans who made boys at school smoke two pipe fulls every day to keep them healthy. Think about it. They were inhaling enough in cooking smoke from cooking and heating and so, the tobacco smoke particles were negligible, so what they saw was the anti-infection effects.
                  And it might really be there (the study I saw was fairly sure but I didn’t examine the internals) Which means, if true that vaping is the way to go for people with fragile lungs/in crowded conditions. As for psychotropic effects, my brother didn’t need other meds when he was smoking. And yeah, he stopped for lung issues.

                  1. I’m someone who lost a beloved family member to lung cancer. I hate the crusade against vaping, because I’d rather have a slight improvement than none at all!

              2. I’ve heard that there’s a harmless level of cigarette smoking, about 7 cigs a day, but who smokes so little?
                There is a variety of lung cancer that results from inhalation of red asbestos (not white, regular asbestos that causes hysteria when they find out it’s in a building) and d*** it has taken a toll of beloved artists: Warren Zevon, Theodore Sturgeon, Ed Lauter, Steve McQueen.
                Non cigarette smokers have died of the regular lung cancer, but you usually find that they were heavy marijuana smokers, like Andy Kaufman. Marijuana is inhaled more deeply and held in the lungs longer than cigarette smoke.

                1. (clears throat)
                  Andy Kaufman is not dead. He is living in a love triad with Elvis Presley and Amelia Earhart.

        2. Oh, we’ve been down this road here before: Not really. that’s more a modern myth of older times than reality.

          True, child mortality DID skew life expectancy numbers downward, but it used to be that few people lived to see great grandchildren, and people were considered old by the time they hit 40.

          Nowadays, we have people like my parents, who got to see great grandchildren even though they didn’t start as young as most people of their time, nor did their children OR their grandchildren. My mother was 78 or so when he first great grandchild was born.

          1. Great-grandchildren? “May you live to see your children’s children” used to be a prayer.

            1. From National Review Online gangblog, The Corner:

              Princess Charlotte Meets The Queen
              By Michael R. Strain — May 6, 2015

              From the BBC, yesterday:

              The Queen has met her new great-granddaughter Princess Charlotte for the first time at Kensington Palace.

              The princess, who is fourth in line to the throne, was born on Saturday at London’s St Mary’s Hospital, weighing 8lbs 3oz (3.7kg).

              The meeting was more historic than usual for a royal baby.

              The meeting was the first time a serving sovereign had met a great-granddaughter born in direct succession on the male line since Queen Victoria met George VI’s sister Princess Mary, who was born 118 years ago in 1897.

              Also, Princess Charlotte has quite a birth certificate.

              Princess Charlotte has quite a birth certificate.
              — Michael R. Strain (@MichaelRStrain) May 6, 2015

              Embedded links at

          2. “people were considered old by the time they hit 40”

            I saw an article about that. Some forensic anthropologists had been looking at skeletons from the 19th century, and one of the things that they noticed was that people were, in general, suffering from the effects of surviving one thing after another. You got rickets from not enough vitamin D. You got scurvy from not enough vitamin C. You for beri-beri or pellagra from other nutritional deficiencies. You had all the normal childhood diseases, measles and mumps and scarlatina and god forbid smallpox. You got a broken bone that wasn’t quite set right.

            You stressed your body all the time and you bet you were old by the time you got to 40. It’s played for laughs in Gilbert and Sullivan, but I had to explain to some young actresses that Ruth, in The Pirates of Penzance, was considered positively ancient at her “forty-seven years.” She wasn’t a cougar. She was one foot in the grave.

            (Tangent—don’t ever try to make the ages work out in HMS Pinafore. I call it “soap opera aging” (you are the age you need to be for the story to work) and put it out of my mind.)

        3. Sigh. It wasn’t true. This is based on studies of relatively bourgeois place. Unless you define “old age” or extreme old age as past sixty. Hell it wasn’t true here when Social security was instituted. This is one of the new revisionist trends that says modern meds are bad and we should let the natural… bah.

          1. Past 50 was regarded as old age in some times.

            Note that Social Security worked at first because most people died before collecting.

              1. Given that they were a minority, that’s extremely unlikely. White life-expectancy was less than SS receiving age.

                1. Unlikely???

                  I think perhaps you did not understand what I intended to say. Perhaps a rephrasing would clarify:

                  The proposition is, a White man born in 1905* was twice as likely as a Black man born that year to live to collect Social Security at age 65.

                  The idea that a White man who had reached the age of 30 was unlikely to reach the receiving age is incorrect** nor would the Black man’s being a minority seem likely to increase his probability of reaching 65 over a White man’s expectancy.

                  My regrets for not more clearly stating the assertion in the first place. I doubt the Demographic question of race is easily available, although it can probably be determined through a process more painstaking than I willingly undertake for a simple internet argument.

                  *Social Security was enacted in August 1935, leaving both men age thirty that year.

                  “the majority of Americans who made it to adulthood could expect to live to 65, and those who did live to 65 could look forward to collecting benefits for many years into the future. So we can observe that for men, for example, almost 54% of the them could expect to live to age 65 if they survived to age 21, and men who attained age 65 could expect to collect Social Security benefits for almost 13 years”

              2. One wonders if the unadulterated data exists anywhere. Or will studies done a hundred years from now have to have asterisks?

                1. Interesting question, giving the varying fashions involved in sorting by race. A hundred years ago they were just starting on the idea of a “White Race” as opposed to the German Race, the Italian Race, the Welsh Race and so on. Frankly, I’ve no idea whether a Black man from Surrey, England, would have been deemed English or Black, but have long considered it an absurdity to label as a single racial group the inhabitants of an entire continent comprising hundreds of tribal cultures.

              3. Re: NOAA. This political activism is not only destroying their credibility, it is like eating the seed corn of scientific data.
                Take unemployment. How do we compare the 1930’s (percentage not working) with today (percentage of those seeking jobs not working)?
                Indeed we do not have accurate global temperature records for the Medieval Warm Period. Guess what? In 1,000 years or so, when temperatures may indeed be important, they will be unable to rely on the temperature data from this era, not because our technology isn’t accurate enough, but because they can not determine how exactly the books were cooked.
                Contrast this to astronomers. Sunspot information has been available since 28 BC in China, and a continuous accurate record maintained by western civilization since 1610. Today, although we can see the far side of the sun, sunspot counts are still taken on only the visible portion of the star. Why? So that the numbers compare directly with the counts anecdotally for the last 2000 years and rigorous data for the last 400 years.
                Do they have no shame?

                1. Do they have no shame?

                  They (the ones cooking the books) are SJW’s. Of course they don’t.

                  1. How can there be shame in alerting people to a grave danger? The ones who ought be ashamed are the sheeple so blinded by their ease that they force us to lie exaggerate hype over-state the data to catch their attention.

                    It is all the Denialists’ fault.

                2. The NY Post business columnist John Crudele has been writing extensively about the games played with unemployment numbers and pretty much however bad you think it is the truth is worse. A recent sample:
                  Beware of the phantom: ‘New jobs’ hoax
                  … This Friday, the Labor Department will announce job growth and the unemployment rate for April and — drum roll, please — it probably won’t look as ugly as the GDP.

                  That’s because Labor uses trick statistics when it gives a picture of the springtime job market.

                  Each spring, Labor starts adding phantom jobs to its count — jobs they guess have been created but can’t prove have been created.

                  Some of that phantom spirit is tied to the weather. No, really. At Labor, good weather = the birth of companies = more jobs.

                  And even in this day and age of instantaneous knowledge of everything, Labor still guesses at how many jobs these newly born companies are generating.

                  When it reports April employment numbers this Friday at 8:30 a.m., Labor will include about 263,000 phantom jobs.

                  At least, that is how many phantom jobs it factored in last May.

                  This May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will add around 204,000 phantom jobs. In June through August, that number falls to 129,000 and then to 122,000 and then 104,000.

                  And there is no telling if any of those jobs actually exist. In fact, what if companies were quietly dying this spring instead of sprouting up like so many daffodils? Well, Labor would worry about that later on.

                  Of the 263,000 or so phantom jobs that will be added through guesstimates in April, probably 50,000 or so will — thanks to seasonal adjustments — be added to the “realer” number to produce the total Labor will announce.

                  Journalists and economists will report whatever Labor puts in the headlines without question.

                  But now you know better.

      3. The book I just finished about the Ottoman Empire argues that until the 1600s, cities in the Empire were pretty decent, but even then had less in the way of sanitation than did Europe. Once the climatic and political disasters of the 1600s came through, the cities became death-sinks and the population of the Ottoman Empire declined along with the area of cultivated land. That lasted until the late 1800s. Apparently in addition to the usual urban ills, Black Death and anthrax swept the Ottoman Empire in the 1600s.

      1. Hippies didn’t invent the commune. They just never learned their history or ask any questions. They just repeated the bad mistakes of the 19th century.

  3. A point on the first night is that a peasant’s lord usually had a marriage tax, and bad jokes about how a poor couple could pay it were as common then as they would be now. And, unless the lord really annoyed a priest, no one was likely to record it if it actually did happen.

    1. It turns out that the earliest written source for the idea that “the lord of the ground sall have the madinhead of all virginis” is Hector Boece, in his 1526 History of Scotland. He attributed it to the days of King Evenus or Ewin, and that the law was only changed by King Malcolm and Queen St. Margaret, which was why Scots paid a golden penny (or “marchetis”) to their lords on the occasion of their daughter’s marriage.

      There’s a book called The Lord’s First Night: The Myth of the Droit de Cuissage by Alain Boureau. It’s basically an anatomy-of-an-urban-legend book, examining all the sources and their extreme lateness.

  4. I’m sort of waiting for someone to complain about the bits in _A Double Edged Wish_ and _Promises and Powers_ about Joschka and Magda marrying because 1) she has to marry someone, and 2) he’s polite, unambitious, and familiar with the Houses and administration. They eventually do fall in love, but it started as a business arrangement more than a romance.

    1. One of my favorite Georgette Heyer novels (A Civil Contract) centers around exactly that sort of arranged marriage. He needs money, desperately (because people depend on his estate), and she is plain but has a fortune. There’s even the ‘and he loved someone else who was poor but beautiful.’ But he’s an honorable man who isn’t going to ruin three lives (his, his wife’s, and that of the woman he loves) by pursuing an affair. And–unlike the modern romances–there never is a passionate declaration of love from either party. But they do care deeply about each other, they both know that happiness is both a choice and something you work at, and they end up with a very content and happy marriage, even if it isn’t a Grand Passion. And it makes sense. 🙂

      1. Consider Pride and Prejudice‘s portrayal of the relationship between Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas.

        While Elizabeth (and the reader) find Mr. Collins repugnant there is very scant disapproval of Charlotte’s election to win him — clearly it represented a common and familiar compromise many women (and men) made with the reality of their prospects.

        1. It’s even made clear that Charlotte prefers not to spend too much time around her husband. When Elizabeth visits the two of them, there’s a comment in there about Charlotte encouraging her husband to partake of the benefits of working outside in his garden (i.e. away from Charlotte).

          But the wedding works because both parties are set on making it work.

        2. … but then both Elizabeth Bennett and Jane Austen herself were strong advocates of marrying for love. Jane Austen paid the price for this: she never married, because she wanted to marry both for love and comfortably, and the man she loved wasn’t rich enough. (Ironically, he wound up very successful and became quite wealthy).

      2. I do love Jenny. People underestimate the value of someone who tries to make other people comfortable.

      3. I sort of got the idea that he fell out of love with his “love” just a little when she suggested/implied that they ought to have an affair because he realized how much it would hurt his wife and his “love” seemed callous to the problem of someone else’s feelings.

    2. A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer. An unmarried English nobleman needs money to pay off family debts (and make improvement on his properties). A rich factory owner (?) has money and a daughter he wants to marry off.

      While the nobleman loves another (or thinks he does), he marrying the daughter for the money.

      Being a decent man, he honors his new wife by being faithful to her.

      Being a decent woman, she works at being a help-mate to her new husband.

      It was a business relationship but the couple become lovers.

      Of course, it helps that the nobleman’s “true love” turns out to be “not a nice person”. [Smile]

      1. This I can see happening a lot.

        Love is wishing the best for the loved one– a lot of what gets called love is some cross between a desire to possess, physical attraction and idealization.
        (Says the gal who fell, hard, and was working her tail off to find the guy a girlfriend of the type he said he wanted when he finally got it through her skull that he’d fallen for her, too. That was partly from knowing enough to realize that strong attraction didn’t give me any sort of claim on someone that I already considered a dear friend.)

        Friendship is a very good foundation for True Love.

        1. “The wise old fairy tales never were so silly as to say that the prince and the princess lived peacefully ever afterwards. The fairy tales said that the prince and princess lived happily ever afterwards; and so they did. They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other.”

          ― G.K. Chesterton

          1. ‘The Horse and His Boy’ ends with an amusing observation regarding the male and female leads. The two of them got so good at fighting with each other and making up afterwards that they eventually got married.

        2. Yes, it is. People who believe that one should avoid falling in love with friends because they are friends are skewing their romantic destinies toward unhappiness. (Which doesn’t mean that all friends would make good mates, just that one shouldn’t assume that friendship and love are mutually exclusive).

          1. I loath that trope with a passion.

            Rant, ignore as needed.

            Not wanting to presume on the friendship, fine– noble, even, from my highly biased perspective.

            Refusing to even consider it, because you’re such “good friends”? Grow a pair, seriously, and I’m not sure if I’m talking below the neck or freaking brain lobes. It’s like lying to a friend because you’re afraid it will “ruin the friendship” if you tell them the truth.
            Not wanting to hurt them? Good.

            I don’t have a lot of friends, so the idea of losing the friendship of the guy I eventually married as a friend was terrifying– both because of the value of a friend to me, and because he’s a genuinely good guy. (though he’d argue that)
            I still trusted him enough to be open to the idea once I was hit over the head enough to notice. (Smacked, actually. *kissing sounds*)

            Trust is part of being a friend– as well as, should it go pear-shaped, forgiving them.

            I do know folks who tried dating friends and it didn’t work out, who are still friends. As long as you don’t use “dating” to mean “jumped into bed with,” it’s a lot less awkward than TV insists.

            /end rant

      2. Well, it wasn’t so much that she wasn’t nice as that she was very skilled at being a trophy but not much else, and very sweet as long as she got flattered and praised all the time. So she ended up marrying somebody who was okay with flattering and displaying her, and didn’t expect her to do much else except run parties and be admired. She was very useful and a good wife to the guy she ultimately married, but it was a narrow skill set and personality.

    3. In Hannah Fowler, finding herself the object of much attention after being brought to Logan’s Fort, finally asked the man who had brought her there to marry her, as a defense against being sought after all the time. They lived well together and were fond of each other, but I can’t say I remember any developing of “romantic” love.

      1. Honestly, I think what we today view as “romantic Love” is as much a product of Hollywood romcoms as anything else. And while I enjoy a good romcom, I am not so foolish as to believe those ever in any way actually resemble real life relationships. I realized some time ago that a marriage (one that is likely to last, anyway) is at least in part a business arrangement, just one that involves merging two lives (and any children’s lives). It requires work and negotiation and compromise. (Some days, I marvel that one or the other of my parents hasn’t murdered the other–but that’s just it: it takes work. And sometimes that means working through the bits where you really don’t like the person you’re married to. Love ’em, sure, but some days I don’t doubt there are fantasies of shoving them off a handy cliff…)

        1. For how long a period and to what degree were arranged marriages the norm? That would suggest the relative importance of “love” and explain why a man might not resent the lord deflowering his bride.

          1. I’m inclined to say arranged marriage were mostly arranged when there were actual stakes–i.e., nobles, rich merchants, et. al.
            I’d think so, but then there’s India.

            1. There are in fact much higher stakes among the peasants. The girl who brings a milch goat is the one whose children are less likely to die of hunger.

              1. I’d say the stakes are much higher among the nobles–their marriages decide which peasants get to have children and which ones end up as fertilizer.

        2. a marriage (one that is likely to last, anyway) is at least in part a business arrangement, just one that involves merging two lives (and any children’s lives).

          I’m not sure I agree. I’ve been married to and loved the same women for 36 years now.

          True enough, work and compromise are a very large part of our continued success. But, for us anyway, it was never a business arrangement. We did become friends first though, then friends with benefits before we got married. And, yes, there were times when neither of us liked the other, but, as has been said before, love conquers all.

  5. I would never expect those poor monks to record things like alleged prima noctis. Vows of celibacy are bad enough without *looking* for trouble. I would, however, expect some reference in the fairy tales even if disguised. It’s pretty clear they had primogeniture from the fairy tales, since the whole rebellion about being the youngest son/daughter is manifest (nobody expects you to amount to anything, great victory when you win.) I remember this puzzling me when young, since it was always the YOUNGEST who had all the fun. Yes, I was an eldest child 😉

    On the other tentacle, there is the custom of “hospitality wives”. Seems to be more of a thing in very remote cultures where travelers are rare and the tribal genetic tree not as leafy and branched as it could be. A warm bed and companionship in exchange for some new DNA for the survival of the tribe would make sense, especially if the visitor isn’t going to be around later to cause jealousy issues. It would be interesting to see a study of that custom.

    1. Like the (oft abused today, or so the clerics claim) Shia/Persian tradition of temporary marriages. Perfectly legal, have all rights and privileges, but temporary and both parties know it. And he moves on and she’s still got a good reputation.

      1. Not all the rights and privileges. Any child born to the temporary wife has no rights to support from the father.

      2. I think the ancient Celts had similar arrangements. You could marry for a little as a single night, but it was considered legitimate.

    2. I seem to recall the hospitality wife being a plot point in The Postman. (The film at least. I did read the book, but it got really, really weird…I actually prefer the film…) He was an outsider, and a couple in the community had been unable to conceive a child–and they were pretty certain it was the male half that was the problem. So they requested the stranger to have sex with the wife, in the hopes that she could conceive. (She did. And she loved her husband, and he her. But husband still conveniently dies, sigh.) Makes a certain amount of sense, really. Though because it was a scifi book/film written by modern people, there was much angst over it. So much angst. I found it a bit puzzling…but then again, I *am* Mormon… 😉

      And yeah, I puzzled over the youngest child thing in fairy tales too, being an eldest myself. I was also irked at the fact that eldest-and-middle were always uniformly dicks to the youngest. (I wasn’t. I was SO GLAD when I finally had siblings–I was an only child for the first 9 years–because it meant Mom and Dad had someone else to pay attention to and would leave me alone. They were and are great parents, but being the only chick of people who really, REALLY wanted children was a bit trying for the child who is an introvert…)

      I think that’s why I loved Robin McKinley’s two versions of Beauty and the Beast–in both cases, the elder sisters weren’t monsters at all, but beloved members of the family who loved their youngest sister.

      1. One must notice that in many peasant communities — namely, those where the farm could support only one family and early marriage was practiced — ultimogeniture was the normal practice. The farm could not support the oldest son’s children and all his younger siblings, but it could support the old couple and the youngest son’s family, especially since it was likely the couple would die before all the children were born.

        1. Same where I grew up. Grandma was the much younger daughter, so she inherited, after looking after her mom (who died when my brother — not first grandchild! In fact last but two — was born.) And that’s the root of my crime. I didn’t fulfill my implied obligation at birth, being both the daughter and the youngest. (Sigh.)

          1. My grandmother never forgave my mom for marrying her “stay with us forever” boy, either. (although her husband totally made up for it, and we kids were acceptable) Part of that might’ve been that they were more alike than two totally unrelated women of such totally different interests have any right to be, but…..

        2. Oooh, that would make a lot of sense– especially if you’ve got a good farming community, the eldest are going to need to be established elsewhere before the youngest are even born; the initial family would lose fertility at about the same time they’re losing ability to keep things going entirely on their own, and if everything went alright then the baby would be just about old enough to take over entirely when dad couldn’t do junk.

      2. One thing that likely contributed to your reaction to your siblings was the huge difference in ages. There’s a curve of dislike between siblings (on average, natch) based on their age differences. It ramps up from one year’s age difference, to a general maximum at three years’ difference, then slides back down, and by the time your siblings started coming along, it had effectively disappeared. Unfortunately, my sons are at the three year mark, and oh, my, were they real pains to each other.

        1. Mine are three and a half. My news is, it gets much easier as they get older.
          My brother and I otoh, ten years apart, were inseparable even to the point of my hanging out with his college group in my early teens.

        2. This is true–the age differences helped. (There is in fact 17 years between me and the youngest, who is still in high school.) And because four of the seven were adopted and three of those four had some serious issues relating to abuse, any form of physical conflict between sibs at my house was completely outlawed (because it might end in actual attempted murder). I did note–later–that there was far more friction between the kids who were closer in age than me and the younger ones. And I had the most friction with the sister (adopted) who was only a year older than me.

        3. Weird. My two elder sisters were about a year apart, had a hard time growing up, and are good friends now. My nearest brother and I are about two years apart and did all right (barring the “bratty little sister” time period). My two eldest are almost precisely the same spacing and are great friends right now, loving on their little brother.

          Of course, if we could ever get any OTHER kids over to the house, the dynamic might be different. But we’re in one of those corners of suburbia where everybody’s perpetually busy (sigh), so my kids are pretty much on their own.

    3. Being the youngest, yes, I had all the fun. Being the youngest by 14 years, that’s just about the only things my siblings give me crap about. 🙂

      1. Being the youngest of five born in a six year span was not the most fun. And I got crap about a lot of things. Consider yourself lucky sir!
        But then, as consequence, I’ve been through hell, and am no longer afraid. (Growing up with my sisters was no picnic, but I am now inured of fear. Hardened by the fire, right?)

        1. Consider yourself lucky sir!

          Oh, believe me, I do. The ONLY thing, looking back, that I think would have been better if I had not been so long after my sister, would be that if I had grown up around that kind of strife, I would probably have endured being picked on in school quite a bit better.

          1. Probably not. I didn’t really mind my brothers picking on me or arguing with me, because it all came around and I sometimes deserved it. But strangers doing it? Crushing.

  6. I’ve done this with my characters in quite a few of my books. You were expected to get married, it was the done thing, so you looked around at the available talent which you found pleasing, and who had suitable talents, and possibly a nice income, and who liked you and found pleasing in return, and there you were. With luck, you fell in love later.
    One plot involved the girl proposing to her father’s top cattle hand so she could accompany the herd north in her father’s place when he was injured at the last minute … fortunately, they rather liked each other anyway. The other involved a couple who married for all the wrong reasons: she was desperate to marry anyone to get away from her horrible mother, and he just felt sorry for her.
    I’ve always had the feeling that in the 19th century and before, it must have happened oftener than the ‘fall passionately in love at first glance’ route.

    1. Speaking as a single woman who loathes the modern dating scene…I think I’d actually be cool with that route. I’ve always felt that, so long as the couple’s most treasured values and morals match up/are compatible, nearly everything else is negotiable… 😀

      1. From what I’ve been able to gather from older relatives and may-as-well-be-relatives, “they rather liked each other” was considered a perfectly good “in love” situation.

        Can you be real friends? Are they single and unrelated? Then it’s perfectly suitable– and probably more stable than some quick-onset passion.

        1. I was friends with my husband for three years before dating was a consideration… he was engaged to somebody else. 😀

    2. Errr, the ‘marry for mostly-practical reasons and fall in love after’ route, that is.

      1. You might like L. Jagi Lamplighter’s The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin for the scene where the princess coolly explains that if she and her (future) arranged husband dedicate themselves to the purpose of their marriage, they will grow to love each other, and are love matches that much happier, anyway?

        1. I suspect that genuine love matches have a good chance to be happier, but “love matches” that consist of “We were drunk, now she’s late” have a rather lousy chance, all things considered.

          1. I’ve seen that enough times to know that the odds are not good.

          2. Only if you consider them “love matches”. In a culture where the shotgun wedding was a way of coping with the baby, they wouldn’t have the high expectations to be dashed.

        2. It’s been said that a man marries a woman for what she is, expecting her never to change, while a woman marries a man for the potential she sees in him, expecting she will be able to whip him into the sort of person she really wants.
          Since both beliefs are based in fantasy rather than reality, when the fantasy dies so often too does the marriage.

          1. Isn’t there a phrase that goes something like, “Go into marriage with your eyes open, but stay in the marriage with them half closed.” Or something to that effect.
            So, don’t be blinded by love at first, but don’t pay to much attention to the little things either.

            1. “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards.”
              – Ben Franklin

              1. Reminds me of my grandmother’s advice to imagine one’s suitor fat, bald, and holding the stanly encrusted diaper of your squalling offspring. If he still seems like a catch, go for it. That and “never say yes by moonlight.”

    3. That was my parents. Two people in their mid-30’s who wanted to start a family but hadn’t found anybody yet. So they met, liked each other well enough, figured they might be an okay fit and got married. Seemed to work well enough. My mother once told me this, she also said she had come to love my father with time.

      1. It seems possible that entering wedded life with more realistic (i.e., lower) expectations might improve the odds of a successful marriage.

        Certainly no such married person can plea for divorce on the grounds of “I no longer love my partner.”

        Most people reach maritable age with a much better idea of what it means to be a good friend than what it takes to be a good partner.

        1. I think that might be true. Expecting that being in love and marrying the right person will make happiness effortless must result in a whole lot of, oh crap, I must have married the wrong person…

          1. ” And of course they are as a rule quite right: they did make a mistake. Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgement concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably to have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the ‘real soul-mate’ is the one you are actually married to.” J.R.R. Tolkien

    4. I have a theory that part of the reason Marriage is down so much these days is that in the age of Internet dating sites, nobody has any desire to “settle” for the best available, but instead will keep sifting and sifting for “Perfect”. (And of course, Perfect means “accepts me for who I am” which is self-delusion-speak for “I don’t want to put any effort into improving myself.”)

      So the classic Small Town thing where everyone marries from the local talent pool probably builds stronger, more realistic partnerships than the “Big City” model. And the Divorce Rate probably bears that out.

      1. The idea of ‘soul-mate’, that perfect fit who is your destiny and has to be there somewhere, has to be one of the worst things to have hit marriage as an institution. And yes, maybe also the idea that it always HAS to be for love and only for love and that all the other, or pretty much _any_ other reasons make it and that person who didn’t marry for love but for some other reasons into some sort of fake.

        And then if the love fades after the initial high – oh yes, wrong fit, lets go looking again.

          1. You mean something that is stirred into the dark & bitter in order to add sweetness and light?

  7. Paul Gallico’s _Two Many Ghosts_ has an amusing take on “seeing the past”.

    The MC is a ghost hunter called in to investigate some ghosts at a manor house.

    One of the ghosts said to be haunting the manor house is that of a harp-playing nun who had been kidnapped by one of the family’s ancestors and had died in the house.

    He investigates that story and finds that the nunnery she was said to have been kidnapped from burned down when the man who was said to kidnapped her was too young to have an interest in a woman (8-10 years old sticks in my mind).

    He also points out that if a nun had been kidnapped from her nunnery, there would have been an investigation by the Church and the noble likely couldn’t have gotten away with it.

    Oh, he discovered that the “nun” was actually a servant in the household and a man mentioned in the ghost story as trying to find her was the husband of the actual person. [Very Big Grin]

  8. Gosh, I would go no farther than Rousseau and the ‘noble savage’ (even though Wikipedia says he never used the phrase) as an example of a past that never existed in reality. Honestly, I doubt we even fully understand the causes and effects of the American Civil War, a mere 150 years ago. Were Steinbeck’s portrayals of his own age realistic? Now, there is Grandfather’s diary, which is probably pretty accurate, but very boring, there are the Babylonian tablets of the warehouse inventory as well. Kind of hard to really get the feeling of the culture from them though. History is written by the victor; I have a non-fiction “The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution”, where the author painstakingly researches the ‘dark ages’ and informs us that the conventional wisdom of backward witch burners largely comes from our Protestant civilization, that doesn’t want to give the Catholic Church credit for anything.
    (On a total aside, while getting this book’s title: Search Amazon for “An Old Testament Theology” and marvel at the business acumen of Harper Collins, pricing the Kindle version at $34.99, a mere $5.96 MORE than the hardcover book.)
    Short of a time machine, FTL travel with really really good telescopes or Divine Insight, we will never really know or understand the past.

    1. Heh. It wasn’t the Catholics behind the Salem Witch trials, that’s for sure! 😀

      (And yes, it deeply irks me when the friggin’ publisher makes the kindle version as expensive as–or MORE expensive than–the dead-tree version. And why the hell are the nonfiction, research/textbook type things so expensive? It makes sense when they’re printed–limited run, limited audience–but there is NO reason to make the e-book version just as pricey, when lowering the price would likely *expand* the audience, and they’d make more money…I conclude that these people aren’t very bright.)

      1. they probably think it’s the subject matter that limits the audience. and they want to recoup the labor costs.

        1. Angels are spirits and therefore have no material bodies. Only material bodies can occupy space and so exclude or be excluded from it. Therefore, an infinite number of angels can fit on the head of a pin.

          Notice this is independent of the existence of an infinite number of angels or indeed any angels at all, since it’s based on their defintion.

          1. Absolutely! And we know all of this because of the tireless toiling of Medievial Monks.
            However, the correct answer is ‘However many God wants there.’
            Likewise, they resolved the issue of Transubstantion with an answer that would work with Quantum Mechanics, or fit right into the underlying tech of Jeb’s ‘Substrate Wars’.

            1. You are confusing primary with secondary causes.

              “In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.” St. Albertus Magnus

              “[They say] ‘We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.’ You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so.” William of Conches

    2. I’ve gotten some great amusement out of reading about the Spanish Inquisition.

      As one article put it: they were professionals. They kept records*. And now we can easily access those records….

      *of what they did, of what the civil authorities did, of what they wanted to do, of what the civil authorities did, of people being charged for doing or trying to do something they oughtn’t…..

      1. And wow, the stuff anthropologists and historians manage to pull out of those records (for good and for Odd. And for Odd interpretations of good.)

        1. Very freaking odd. Any illusions I had about people being polite and not telling the priest just ‘cus I’d never do it…. And that’s before the “read into it” thing where folks far too old to have children have a child and one of their kids never marries, living with them and the kid. (Which they think might be a situation like the cousin whose marriage broke up and her parents raised the kids as her sister. They knew they were adopted, but the boy had to be told they were still blood relations. His sister noticed that ‘dad’ looked almost exactly like him….)

    3. Tacitus was actually the first guy to do the “noble savage” bit that we still have records of. (Those noble German savages.)

      1. I am always suspicious of people who grind up their meat and stuff it in a sheep intestine. It certainly is savage, but hardly noble.
        Another sausage that seems beyond modern American’s comprehension is blood sausage. The British version seems to politely sit on the plate to be ignored; however, my Father had one in Argentina and I almost left the table.

          1. I like the stuff and eat it in Germany/Austria whenever given the opportunity. But yeah, I’m Odd.

              1. And we Finns have them too. Black sausages and blood pancakes. The sausages are bit of a regional specialty, but the blood pancakes are eaten everywhere (direct translation of the Finnish name), they are pretty much normal pancakes only you mix some blood into the batter, and yep, the resulting pancakes look black. A lot of grocery stores sell frozen blood for those foods. And kids are told to eat them because they are healthy, you know, blood, lots of iron in it. 😀 (I like them, but they may be an acquired taste)

                  1. Lies! Everyone knows that only Native Americans used every part of the animal!

      2. LOL. Oh, P. J. O’Rourke quoted some of those horrible lines of nature “poetry.”

  9. A nit to pick: villeins and serfs were NOT “hardly better than slaves”. Under European feudalism, they had very specific rights to go with their equally-specific obligations, and the best way to become an EX-nobleman was to repeatedly violate those rights… it wasn’t in anyone’s best interests (except perhaps Hollywood) to have abused peasants who produced no income. There’s good reason why the feudal system is perhaps the most stable of all human governments.

    A quick read, widely available in libraries, that covers the legal basics and won’t bore you to tears: Life in a Medieval Village by Frances and Joseph Gies. (Also available as an omnibus with their other three “LIfe in a Medieval…” books.)

    1. I gotta wonder, though, if England wasn’t worse for the peasants, after Willie conquered it.

      1. Well, it probably was better to be a free Saxon than an owned Saxon, but there were a fair number of Saxon slaves at the time of the Conquest. There were penal slaves, war captives, people who sold themselves into slavery, and people who inherited slavery. Saxon slaves could be freed and weren’t bound to the land, but rather were bound to their owner.

        1. In general, if you weren’t talking bad times like the civil wars between Stephen and Matilda, there were plenty of times when English peasants and serfs were regarded by the French as ludicrously free and well-off. Norman law and Saxon law and Church law melded together in a favorable way, and the taxes weren’t nearly as bad as in France.

    2. Sort of depends where. I have it, and I’ve read a lot of books of the time, including Portuguese primary sources. My 9th grade teacher was a demon for primary sources and all the clerks at the city library (which is used to store documents, not a lending library) KNEW me.

      1. Possibly Russian peasants. But then what I have read has mostly been written by Finns, I haven’t looked at any primary sources, and Finns mostly have never exactly liked Russia as a country so there may be bit of a bias there.

        1. Russian serfdom, remember, started late — in what was for the rest of Europe the late Renaissance to Enlightenment era. So it suffered from the superior abilities of a higher technology and more rational construction; it was harder to escape or work up from than had been the medieval European variety.

    3. I recently read a well-researched novel about midwifery in the Middle Ages. It took the “no, actually most people’s lives DIDN’T suck” approach, and made a lot of sense.

      Also, I expect that there were plenty of nobles who policed amongst their own as well. If you’ve got Baron Psycho-pants over there starving his serfs, his neighbors are probably gonna step in and smack him one because they do NOT want those serfs turning to banditry on THEIR lands. And a sensible noble would not be so stupid as to starve out his primary physical labor force (and the pool from which the grunts for his military forces were drawn), because it would cut into his profits. (I’m sure there were still plenty of idiots who did just that–after all, stupidity and short-sightedness is still very much a Thing amongst today’s businessfolk…)

      1. If you’ve got Baron Psycho-pants over there starving his serfs, his neighbors are probably gonna step in and smack him one because they do NOT want those serfs turning to banditry on THEIR lands.

        Baron Psycho-Pants would also be losing the presumption of protection from having his lands taken by the neighbors, too. Humanitarian and practical justifications.
        Part of the reason that there were so many religious related fights is because if Baron Psycho-Pants was violating church teaching, he was fair game; likewise, if Baron Psycho-Pants wanted to do something that would upset the neighbors, he’d better be able to claim God was on his side.

    4. The real horror of medieval serfdom wasn’t how bad things usually were, by the standards of the day. It was how bad things might get under an insane, inept or unlucky lord.

    1. The Hollywood History version of Sara’s Marxist maxim: “If it was in Braveheart, it didn’t happen.”

      (Kind of like a riff on the line from Shattered Glass: “I can confirm that there does exist a country named Scotland, and that a man called William Wallace did fight the English for its independence.”)

      1. There was a military broadcasting version of that, with regard to “Good Morning, Vietnam.” There was a Vietnam War, and there is an Armed Forces Radio and Television Service …

        1. Heh. It’s one of the trials of being a Sara/Sarah. No matter HOW you spell your name, it gets misspelled. 😉

          1. Oh, believe me, as a Stephen whose name is regularly spelled “Steven” when I don’t clarify, I understand. 🙂

            1. Over the phone I told a hospital billing clerk to spell my son’s name Stephen, with a ph.

              A week later the bill came addressed to Pheven M.


            2. Heh. My nephew, whose mother produced the Holy Command that her son was to be called “Stephen” and spelled thusly, eventually decided to go his own way and be Steve.

          2. For whatever reason now lost in the fogs of time, back around Middle School I went through a period of devouring various collected editions of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and of all the things I read in those the only one stuck in memory, almost five decades since, is that of all names in the English language the one with the most variant spellings was Katherine.

            Err, Catherine.
            Um, Catharine.
            Heh. ‘scuse pleese: Katharyn

            Whatever – there were, I believe, twenty-six variations on that theme and, given the pedagogical nonsense which has gone on in the interim, there are likely near as many more.

            1. Do you remember if you had the “t” variations? (Cat-wren rather than Cath-wren.) That alone would make for a lot.

              1. I think so, and I may be under-reporting the quantity. There are so many inflection points — “K” or “C”, middle “a” or “e”, “in” vs “yn”, final “e” — and each increases the variants by a power of 2, But in recalling the array to mind I believe the “t” variations were there.

                I tried the Ripley’s site but it is a horrendous time sink with no apparent search function.

                1. I’ve also seen “Caet” and… I think there was a “Cayt,” pronounced “Kate,” of course, so there’s gotta be a whole range of vowel-after-the-first-A.

                  Now I’ve got an urge to write them all up.

                  1. Don’t forget to include the Scottish variant(s) “Colleen,” and the Irish ones, “Caitlin,” Russian “Katrina” or “Katalina.” A Hispanic ex-gf has a daughter “Catalina.” I ran into them all the time when I lived in Colombia.

                    1. Colleen isn’t pronounced “Catherine,” though.

                      Does remind me of a coworker my cousin Shawn had, though. Jean O’Something. Irish. Pronounced “John.”

                    2. I named my daughter Caitlin. (Seemed a good fit with O’Malley) Pronounced Kate-Lynn. An Irish pal from the Old Sod informed me the proper pronunciation would be “Kay-lean.” I also learned that O’Malley in Gaelic sounded like “O-my-lady.” I’m probably butchering the spelling, but it was something close to “Omailedeigh” Who knew?

                    3. I think it may depend heavily on where exactly one is at– I’ve seen some incredible fights over how one says various Scottish phrases….between Scotsmen. I know when I attempted to learn a little Gaelic in high school I quit when I realized I’d found three Official ways to say a phrase and couldn’t manage any of them.

                    4. Hah! Ain’t that the truth! Do you know that right here in these Yewnited States i have heard people — Growed Men! — pronounce “Pop” as “Sew-da”! Can you believe it?

                    5. I named my youngest Padreic. We call him “Puh-DRAY-ick.” We’re apparently dead wrong about that; most common pronunciation is very close to “Pod-rig” (it is, after all, the ancestor of Patrick), but I heard from some Irish tourists that the pronunciation can skew as far as “Pawddugk” in some districts.

                    6. You two named him, you can spell and pronounce his name however you like. Tom Lehrer claimed to have known a man named Hen3ry, pronounced “Hen-ree,” the 3 being silent.

                    7. “Colleen” = cailin, cailean. It’s the endearment form of “young girl.”

                      Caitir or Caitir-fhiona is the older form in both Irish and Scottish/ Caitlin/Kathleen and Catriona are the Irish and Scottish forms.

                    8. I’m beginning to think it, in its various forms, rivals Mary/Maria as one of the most common female names in Western Civ, though surely Maria must be more common for those with tans.

                    9. Then there’s the one about the new dog in the high class neighborhood:

                      The other dogs gather ’round and ask his name.
                      ND: My name’s Fido
                      ODs: FIDO? We can’t associate with a dog named Fido!
                      ND: But it’s spelled P-H-Y-D-E-A-U-X

                    10. Foxfier: We had a lady named Colleen where I worked. There is, at least to me, ambiguity in the pronunciation of the 1st syllable. Is it pronounced like the organ the colon, or is it more like call? Anyway, when I first met her, I was somewhat pleased that I actually remembered her name from the Staff meeting, and I forget which variant I pronounced, only to be immediately snapped at:
                      “It is Colleen” (with the other variant). I thought to myself, “OK, your name is B*tch.” and addressed her as hey you thereafter.
                      On a similar line to Steven with a ph and clerks, my brother will often pronounce our last name as “Camp Bell” which assures you that they will spell it correctly. One time, the clerk hollered at him “That isn’t how it is pronounced.” Likewise, there are only a small number of clerks in Virginia and Massachusetts (and presumably England) that can spell Gloucester without assistance.

                    11. Friend has an Italian last name. Wife looks like an extra from an Italian movie. Live in California. Have Jersey accents you can cut with a knife.

                      They frequently get phone calls in Spanish from the state, and every time they go to the doctor’s office, they have to explain their name is spelled with an S, not a C, and that the double-L does NOT get pronounced “y”….

                    12. I get calls from state-affiliated third parties (in CA) asking for a screwed up mexicanization of my name…

            2. Don’t forget Kathryn, my family’s favorite variant. (Via my Polish grandmother.) On FB, I have a cousin and a niece with the same name, and have to figure out which one is talking from the context.

              1. Yup, that middle vowel can be deleted altogether, still leaving you Kathryn, Cathryn, Kathrine, Cathrine and several more. The multiply like hamsters.

          3. As a Sean, I totally understand. I can easily end up as Sean, Shaun, and Shawn – and those are on good days.

            1. We have friends: John Paul and Jackie who have three kids: Ivan, Yvonne, and Ian. Another way to do matching names, and at least they don’t all have the same initials . . .

          4. So you get used to it.

            There was the time when I discovered that my parking had not been added to my hotel bill and found out why.

            Someone had really written down that I was Merry Catelli.

            First and only time, though I have seen some interesting spellings of Catelli.

            1. I think the funniest misspelling of our last name was the insurance agent who tried to make it Dutch: turned the ‘b’s that begin each of the first two syllables into ‘v’s, the ‘m’ into an ‘n’ (to get van) and added a space. (I may look vaguely Dutch, Grandfather’s parents came over from there, but there is no way Husband does.)

              We bought life insurance elsewhere.

    2. Ah, yes. It’s is great fun (in a teeth grinding sort of way) to watch any Mel Gibson “historical epic” (the Patriot qualifies, too) and point out how many things he got wrong.

      Of course, past a certain point, the answer pretty much is “All of it, barring maybe one or two names…”

      S’okay, though–Shakespeare didn’t exactly go for accuracy in Macbeth, either, right? 😀

      1. For one “History vs.Film” night we kept a running track of the errors/inconsistancies/YGTBSM moments in “The Patriot”. My favorite is still the Napoleonic-period cannon and shells.

        1. I can’t watch “Gladiator,” for this reason. The errors begin with the very first scene – Roman cavalry on chargers with STIRRUPS! – and flow non-stop to the very bitter end.

        2. That’s only about three decades before its time. That’s not much of a discrepancy compared to some of Hollywood’s shenanigans.

          1. The Silliest of the Silly in Gladiator. Max and his buds are fighting some group in the arena. In said group was a charioteer toting around some Scythian/Amazon? type archer that’s biting on them pretty hard. They manage to overturn the chariot. They cut the horse loose from the harness, and Maximus proceeds to chew bubblegum, but he has none, so he mounts the horse, and begins to up the body count on the Bad Guys. The horse has magically changed its rig from draft mode to riding mode, complete with stirrups. SMH.

    3. Randall Wallace cleverly stated at the beginning that he was only telling it the way Blind Harry told it, and old Harry did things like add a major Scottish victory, a huge battle, that never could have happened. And much of that story is lost to history anyway, we don’t really know how the battle of Sterling went aside from the fact that the Scots won, much disagreement about whether there was a large bridge involved (probably not.)

  10. I agree with everything you said in this, because proof of all of this still exists in the world today.

    Look at India. I’m not sure how many of Indian marriages (both here in the states and in India) are still arranged, but from what I know of India, Indians, and Indian culture, if I was to hazard a guess, I’d put it at seventy percent.
    And that’s probably a low estimate.
    Every Indian man and woman I know, is in an arranged marriage, I’ve gone over the how’s and why’s of it with them many times, out of curiosity (as a writer I always want to KNOW people’s stories. Which is why I talk to complete strangers). All of them are happy and have families.
    Oh they know about romantic love, it’s in their movies, just like ours. But as a whole, their culture hasn’t fallen for it yet.

    As to farming, I worked with a woman many years ago who was very successful, she grew up on a farm, and when asked by someone as to why she left and went to college (it was a very successful farm, still in the family btw) she said: “Get up before 6am every morning, and work for two hours before you even have breakfast? And work well past dinner time? Hell no! That’s hard work! I wanted something easier!”
    And she was talking about farming life in the 1970’s.

    Even Heinlein wrote about how people always look back to life on the farms and think it’s bucolic, when reality is, its more bubonic. The smart people always get off the farm as fast as they can, or hire someone else to do the dirty work.

    Last of all, as to ‘first night’ do you think Bill Clinton would have enforced such a rule, if he could have gotten away with it?
    You have the answer right there.

    1. “Last of all, as to ‘first night’ do you think Bill Clinton would have enforced such a rule, if he could have gotten away with it?”
      Whatever makes you think he didn’t when there is substantial evidence to the contrary?

    2. “Every Indian man and woman I know, is in an arranged marriage”
      I work at a university, it’ the same with the Indian students and co-workers and some Chinese I know.

      1. My wife’s paternal grandmother entered into an arranged marriage. At age 13. Her husband’s second wife had died, leaving several children, the youngest being only two or three years younger than she. And she spoke no english at all, for that matter not much more when I knew her as she was in her mid-60s. (She had no trouble at all directing me to pitch in and cook at family events, mind.)

        The point of the marriage was that her family could be certain both that he would take good care of her and all the kids (eventually totalling 12), and her younger sister wouldn’t starve. Yes, the family was that poor at the time. We still have relatives in the village; several of the aunties visited them a few years ago. And up through at least the mid-80s the family there was still receiving a bit of money from the one over here.

        The first wife? She stayed in China with the oldest kids, never came over here, and apparently was never divorces, or divorced him. Interesting what you find out (after 40 years of marriage) when some of the older sisters talk about family history.

    3. I was always against arranged marriages and never could see the point in these modern times. Right up until my oldest started dating. Then, suddenly, it all made perfect sense.

            1. Working at a university, I sometime hear things that make this old sub sailor blush.

            2. Ain’t that the truth.

              But then the girls really fare no better unless they are willing to be very evil. Tough times all around.

      1. I keep hinting to my mother that I’d be perfectly fine if she wanted to arrange a marriage for me. (Her, mind you, NOT my father. I love my father, but his list of criteria begins and ends with “wants grandbabies”). She still hasn’t taken me up on it, though.

        But yeah, I used to buy into the whole arranged marriage=horrible bad…until I talked to a (Muslim) girl in high school who brought it up in class. She made some very reasonable points (they came from a reasonable Muslim community) about the fact that, if your parents love you, why *wouldn’t* they pick out someone who would be a good spouse? After all, they know you better than anyone else. (The rest of us all got very thoughtful after that.)

        1. There is that, but some parents would also select an spouse based on what is good for them, never mind what their child wants. Naturally, if the child knows that they have a history of making decisions on that basis, then the parent’s selection of a suitable spouse would also be highly suspicious. Then, too, if you’re an “Odd” in your own family, your parents might have quite different ideas of what is good for you than you do.

          But considering the hideous mess that some people make of their lives by choosing their own partners based on limited life experience and short-term thinking and without regard to the factors for long-term marital success, perhaps arranged marriage isn’t necessarily the worst of all possible worlds.

    4. Define arranged marriage. There’s a whole range from “parents find out when they get the wedding invite” to “kid finds out who the spouse will be at the wedding marriage.” From the Victorian system of introductions so the parents could bring out their daughters at a ball with the knowledge the young men there would be eligible, to the match-maker and parents carefully discussing the prospective couple and then sending them to the ice-cream place to get to know each other — from the kid having to bring the prospects home to meet the parents, to the father having the duty to vet the prospect once the kid presents on.

      1. To me “arranged marriages” are when the parents/family decides the specific person the “child” will marry.

        In some cases, the marriage is for specific business/political reasons where “liking each other isn’t important”. These can be the cases where the couple don’t met each other before hand.

        In other cases, the “business/political reasons” may not exist but the idea is that wiser/older heads know best on the long term chances of the marriage. These cases are ones where the wiser/older ones then try to make sure the “kids” like each other.

        To my mind, the Victorian introduction thing was more “the children will be making the choice, but we’re making sure the person they will chose will be of the proper kind”.

        1. That not how it was explain to me, there were still able to choice among several people, mine you this was from upper middle class Indian and Chinese students.

          1. Yeah. “Here is a small group of carefully vetted candidates” still has a large element of arrangement to it.

          2. Well, if they want to call it “arranged marriages”, who am I to tell them differently. [Smile]

          3. That’s the “marriage meeting” model. Usually a group of people you’re not related to, but who have the proper social status and achievement level that parents like.

            1. In our modern dispersed society, do not disparage the utility having the proper social status and achievement level contributes to a long-standing marriage. Melding two minds is difficult enough without having to negotiate the minefield of whether lamb or ham is the proper main course for Easter supper.

              A partner of comparable social status will have greater likelihood of shared expectations and fewer cultural depth charges.

        2. My husband scandalized most of our friends and about half of our families by asking my dad for permission to propose to me before he asked me. I further scandalized them by having no problem with this. (He’d only met my dad a few days before. I haven’t asked for details on how that conversation went….)

          1. Perhaps, he was sure of your response but not so sure of your father’s response. [Smile]

            In one of the 1632 novels, the son of the Grantville “town hippy” visits the father of the woman he is in love with, a man who’s family was “higher status” than the young man in order to get the father’s blessings on marrying the young woman.

            Along with his professions of love, he brings his tax records. He wants to show the father that he can easily support a family (which the records correctly show that he could).

            Mind you, the young man impresses the father in other ways but the father thinks the young man has adapted well to the downtime standards of “the man has to show that he can support a family”. [Smile]

            1. I’m guessing that he was showing how perceptive he is– I talk about my mom all the time, and hardly at all about my dad, but he correctly identified which one he really wanted on his side.

              I wouldn’t want my mom as an opponent of any sort, but my dad? That would be sure failure, and you’d never have a clue how it happened.

          2. Way back at the dawn of time (1990?) I asked my then-girlfriend’s father for permission to marry her. Didn’t seem all that odd at the time.

            (He was approving; she later decided to pursue other opportunities.)

      2. There’s a whole range from “parents find out when they get the wedding invite”

        Didn’t get an invitation, did know ahead of the actual event (via a phone call) though. My daughter went to Hawaii to visit him, and they got married a week or so later. Four plus years later they’re still married, and learning just how hard it is to stay that way. We decided that the frequency of phone calls from our daughter were in an inverse relation to how successful they we being.

      3. And a lot of the moral discussions which moderns find difficult to understand, and which historical fiction movies and even most historical fiction novels miss (in part because editors and publishers don’t think modern audiences will appreciate them) were about which versions of marriage arrangements it was proper to practice, to balance the rights and responsibilities of parents and children.

    5. That suggests an interesting sub-theme for a novel: a culture in which marriages are arranged and how they would be scandalized at a couple who married for “love.”

      Since the goal of any arranged marriage would be its long-term success, emotional and physical compatibility would certainly be factored in. They would no more just toss two people into a marriage than they would randomly select horses to pair up for pulling their best carriage.

      1. I’ll have to admit that the “type” of arranged marriages mentioned as happening in India/China sounds more reasonable.

        IE The child gets to chose from a number of “arranged” potential mates.

        Of course, I’d absolutely hate to have the job of arranging potential mates for me as I was 18-20. [Very Big Grin]

        1. I’ve heard it’s often more of a suggestion than an arrangement… though the child is expected to *try* to go with the parent’s choice they do get a veto.

          And I don’t know that people in cultures with common arranged marriages don’t believe in romantic love, only that romantic love is more of a choice than not.

          I’ll admit that the concept of helplessly *falling*… as in, it wasn’t your fault… in love is a bit annoying. It allows people to have a “not my fault” excuse for infidelity, for one thing. “Oh, I fell out of love, not my fault that I tossed my vows into the breeze to float away like ephemeral wisps of trash. Also… the kids will be better if I’m *happy* you know.”

        2. Steven Mosher, writing on China, reported that both the child and parent would go looking for spouses and report back on candidates. Caused very little conflict because, in the absence of romantic ideals, both the child and parents were looking for the same traits.

      2. Actually, the goal of a lot of arranged marriages in Pakistan and other in-clan marriage areas is to keep the money and genes in the family.

        In other areas, the primary goal is to get that connecting piece of land or outsider money, or that set of kids, with the goal of enhanced survival for the family as a whole. The happiness and success of the bride and groom’s relationship is beside the point, or only a nice lagniappe.

        1. The big problem with those sorts of arranged marriages in Pakistan and the middle east is they are keeping the genes a little too close to the family. While the reality is that first cousin marriages (legal in most US states) do not increase the chance for birth defects that much, multiple generations of it does.

          1. I believe Sarah has mentioned the “marry your brother’s daughter” issue, too.

            Much, much eeeeew, and the kind of thing you only do with animals when you’re really desperate to build up a very rare trait. Even then you’d be doing a lot of culling. *shudder*

            Oh, I had to go look, I thought it was illegal in most states– if this page is right, it’s fully legal in way more than I thought, 20, although illegal in one of those if it’s a double first cousin; another six it’s sometimes allowable, five if sterile and one with a doctor cooperating.

              1. Well, Spain and Portugal have a lot of that. Partly Muslim influence, partly the way the royal families kept marrying super close cousins and nieces, and partly who knows what.

                  1. Oh, heck, the Hapsburgs were the LEAST of it. The kings of Aragon, Leon, Castile, Portugal, Asturias, et al. kept marrying and marrying each others’ kids to each other, for centuries. At one point, they married off an uncle to a niece (also his cousin several different ways) and didn’t even pretend to care about canon legality. After they’d had a bunch of kids, ten years later they separated and begged the Pope’s pardon, but really they just didn’t care. (I think it was a “let’s make sure we’re marrying people of noble Visigoth blood instead of people of Muslim descent,” but I don’t really know.)

                    So yeah, the Hapsburgs really shouldn’t have married into Spain, because it made a sorta bad gene pool into a lot worse one.

                    1. At the point where your mother is your cousin, as was the case for your paternal grandfather and your maternal great-grandfather, whose sister married your paternal grandfather, and the last outside blood came into the family a century and a half before you were born, and you are still not the most inbred monarch of a country, something has gone dreadfully, terribly, horribly wrong.

              2. Well, families live in the same village for thirty generations… it[s like the idiocy in spaghetti Westerns where towns that can’t have been more than ten or twenty years old are stuffed to the gills with inbreds, freaks and fools like an Appenine hamlet that hasn’t seen a new face since Louis IV marched through with his Swiss…

                  1. And that’s likely a big part of the reason for the consanguinity—probably most of the married cousins were related on the maternal lines, am I right?

                    1. Well, grandparents were related on both. (no, you truly don’t want to go there.) But yes, generally it was knowing you were of the right stock.
                      It has an interesting effect it didn’t have in European kings. I guess it depends on what you start with. Half the kids were morons, and half were geniuses. Instability ran through both, though.
                      Interestingly my mom and sisters married men probably of the same (not the same as theirs, but the same as each other) judging by same last name (though one of them was illegitimate, so that didn’t show till his mom’s death bed confession) and same general looks and also, as far as it’s possible to know such things of converso stock (on dad’s paternal side, recent, because it was good for business.) But then they were looking in a certain range of professions (skilled artisans/white color-intellectual workers) and in Portugal I think those are fairly (or unfairly. I mean, it just happened) colonized by specific bloodlines.
                      As far we can tell, though, mom and dad are as unrelated as it’s possible to be, and brother and I don’t have the weird variance in IQ. We do however have a host of genetic diseases that passed on to even my kids.

                    2. I guess it depends on what you start with.

                      Very very much so.

                      Humans are a really bad choice for breeding experiments of this type– as you’ve pointed out, both extremes can be a big problem, and the costs are so high– but a lot of animals only exist in the forms we know them because of ew-icky breeding programs. (It helps that you only lose two years in most of the really bad genetic situations for, say, cows.)

                      If I remember correctly, the chance of bad genetic outcomes in America is incredibly low, even in communities with lots of cousin marriage*, because we have so very many out-crosses and the general population is so off the wall genetically. We’re more likely to have complications because the parents are too different. (Although that can be a fight all on its own to identify that, I can’t help but notice that my mom is really good at predicting “calving” problems in humans, same way she can with cattle.)

                      Contrast with a country where you don’t have a known blood-relation for five generations out, but everybody is from the same basic genetic stock.

                      *unless you’re going to assume that they’ve been closed since well before they got here

                    3. … the chance of bad genetic outcomes in America is incredibly low … because we have so very many out-crosses and the general population is so off the wall genetically

                      This suggests that a component, possibly as much as our culture, of America’s success is significant hybrid vigor. Of course, the intermarriage is to a great extent a result of our culture, so Moebius circles back.

                    4. Not just hybrid vigor, but enough different strains to avoid…can’t remember what it’s called, but something like “hybrid fatigue”.

                      Very simple form, you get a big benefit from adding ONE generation of new blood to an existing bloodline, but mixing two will have good first generation effects and then it’s a wash. But if you start crossing the crosses….

                      Again, humans are a bad example, because we aren’t anything like as orderly as the animals where we can actually test this stuff, and we choose mates differently.
                      But I suspect America gets a lot of good out of a gazillion chains of hybrid vigor.

              3. My mom is from a rural county in Virginia that was only settled by about five families, by her own admission the “family tree doesn’t branch”. Her parents met at the funeral of a mutual relative. They were probably only about 5th cousins, but plenty of the ancestors married a lot closer in.

                My dad’s folks were “mountain people” (Appalachian hillbillies to y’all) and I know at of least one set of double first cousins who married and had children of his generation (for those who are interested, double first cousins happen when a pair of siblings marries another pair of siblings, any resultant children stand as double-first cousins to one another as they are first cousins by both sides of the marriage).

                Fortunately, mom went away to nursing school, where she met my dad, so the genetic diversity in our generation is much broadened. And yes, I do have some interesting relatives back home.

          2. I also understand that they tend to marry their father’s brother’s daughter first cousins instead of the European style of mother’s brother’s (or sister) daughter. While genetically identical at first blush, the Europeans tended to spread the daughters around, binding clans and families for political alliance in addition to spreading the gene pool. By only marrying father’s relatives, you get that danger of gene concentration and inbreeding.

      3. Ancien regime France. There was, in fact, a scandal that two nobles fell in love after they married.

        There was also the young man who asked his father about the rumor that his father intended to marry him to a certain woman and was told to mind his own business.

      4. In the early days of courtly love, it was held that it had to be adulterous; loving your spouse does not fit, because spouses are supposed to help and support each other, as a duty, and besides, it would be profaning the sacrament. OTOH, in the oldest works on courtly love, the impossibility of mixing love and marriage is harped on and argued about that it shows that many people dissented; all the defense indicates a strong attack.

        1. Supposedly (this might just be a bit of colorful exaggeration), feudal Japan looked down on the warrior class men loving their wives because that might interfere with the devotion owed to the feudal lord.

          1. Much depends on how much that was regarded as a rule. Was it something expected of the best of the best, a piece of heroic virtue, or was it a routine expectation? The former seems more plausible than the latter.

    6. Out of maybe 10 Indian couples I know that well (mostly from grad school), only one doesn’t have an arranged marriage, so I’d say you’re right on when you say 70% is on the low side.

      1. I know of two nonarranged marriages in Indian coworkers, and both were to non-Indians (one got the swedish girl, the other a transplant from South America). This out of probably hundreds of Indian coworkers in the land of the H1b visa.

        1. Oh, and both gentlemen have no intention whatsoever of ever moving back to India.

  11. While reading this, in the back of mind, I kept thinking of the all the stories of virgins sacrifice to dragons and other things.

    1. Consider Beauty and the Beast, which despite drawing on folklore and being fed back into the folklore, is a literary tale. Given its time and place, it carries strong connotations of “give your arranged marriage a chance.”

  12. “Remember those two books about the 21st century, one in which women dominate the creative professions, and another in which a shadowy conspiracy of masked men conspires to keep them out?”

    Even that depends on which creative professions, and whether you define a profession as “creative” or not. Women dominate in traditional publishing right now (and is buying, promoting or publishing the books, rather than writing them, a “creative” profession? That’s not rhetorical; I’m open to arguments that it is), but they sure as heck don’t dominate among movie production or directing.

    1. The point was, however, that there are two different narratives going on, even now. One side rightly points out that there are more women writers than men, while the other side claims systemic discrimination, and a coordinated effort to keep women from being published.

      And, since the hostess here is an author, yeah, she’s probably more focused on the publishing industry.

        1. Interesting! I apologize if this is something you’ve done before, but any chance you can point me to some stats online about that? I’m always interested in seeing how things break down.

          1. Dave has done some work on Stats, over at MGC. I’m going from observation from when I both followed Locus books bought and from conventions. In SF/F there’s a good chance there will be more females than males at any given time, not just as editors or agents, but as authors. Now, in prize and pushing they lag behind but that’s an effect of the big glut of females coming in later.

      1. It seems reasonable, women are asserted to have better verbal and communication skills than men. The problem is the SJWs take that as Gaian-given right, and then see patriarchal white privilege that men dominate fields like Math.
        If anything, the situation is exacerbated today, as the educators have pushed verbal skills on the young to the point that the girls have the brains for it and the boys are still developing theirs.

  13. I have to agree. The history is settled? No, we have so many interpretations because we have so many varying sources. As with anything, we have to do research and decide for ourselves. (And even then, we might not be right.)
    Though, I have to say that most of the stories/histories were quicker to suggest a daughter being given up to protect the village rather than a wife. I’m just sayin’.

  14. Clearly, insufficient consideration has been given to the utility of weaponized snicker-doodles.

    Sure, some people talk of adding poison to the dough (batter?) but that merely makes them deadly; it is not true weaponization. Nor is using them as bait in a deadly trap (hastily clears away sketches and scale-models of guillotines using snicker-doodles as triggers) weaponization.

    No, I’m talking abut the real thing, the full-on combat cookie. Specially hardened with finely honed edges, flung shuriken-style to sever enemies throats and limbs, it is loved by assassins. Also useful as a bludgeon to quickly render a foe hors de combat it is one of the most versatile of the tools of dessert warfare.

    The weaponized snicker-doodle is a far superior combat cookie to either the oatmeal raisin (deadly though that morsel might be) or even the vicious chocolate chip — it is on par with the attack oreo and second in effectiveness only to the thin mint (use of which in combat has been ruled to violate the Geneva Accords.) As a melee weapon the snicker-doodle is the most deadly of the cookie class of weapons, justly feared as a lethal close combat crisp.

    1. Had Wallace had Snickerdoodles instead of mere Scottish shortbread, Braveheart would be an entirely different movie.

    2. Well, you are really limiting yourself a bit, I think, by considering ONLY the short-term impact of the snicker-doodle family of weapons. Surely, stealing a farmer’s apples will produce an impact; but if you systematically remove a band of bark from the tree, you are talking about real long term effects.
      Now, in the world of confections, I hold the snicker-doodle in moderate esteem. For true power in it’s finest form, you much consider the work of baker’s art devised by my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. In honor of my completion of another orbit around the sun, she used a bundt pan, and made a chocolate cake with coconut oil, sprinkling strawberries throughout the mix. The end product is a deep, rich chocolate cake with a texture closer to pudding than to bread. Random flecks of chunk chocolate, dispersed with the sweet, tangy softness of the strawberries, produce an impact in the mouth that has actually been known to result in spontaneous ingestion.

      1. It sounds good; however, I fail to see how it is easily weaponized. Pudding texture hardly has the durability and cutting power of say day old sightly overcooked cookie dough. The chunks of chocolate might have some impact, but strawberries? I don’t know of many ways to use strawberries in combat. Bananas perhaps, strawberries no.

        1. There are many well established defenses against attack with strawberries, bananas and other weaponized fruit.

          See the attached instructional video.

          1. We had a version of that skit at summer camp, much corrupted through years of being run through imperfect memory, and which made use of whichever fruit we had handy. (We had watermelons one year; that was messy.) The man with the pointed stick actually ended the skit, and the second time that came through, the stick in question was about the size of a pencil, and scared the drill sergeant away. That became a running gag throughout the week, and in the end he got driven off by a guy with a watermelon.

            (We also had a version of the Old Yorkshiremen skit, called “The Old Scoutmasters.” One of the best lines was complaining about the new Scout motto, because the old one was so much better. “Watch Your Back!”)

    3. How would that compare to, say, a Discworld dwarf’s broad-baguette and combat drop muffins?

      1. At our local Highland games in October, I had a scone with whipped cream. I was able to nibble off a corner using all the cream to soften it. The bulk went right in the trashcan, and I’m sure it is still intact and whole after 6 months in the landfill.

        1. That’s a sad, sad scone.

          Of course, if you were home, you could save the poor wee stale scone by microwaving it, and possibly by the use of melted butter. But yeah, I don’t blame you for getting rid of that Stone of Scone.

      2. There we was, Jake an’ me, that day we won Victoria’s Cross, out of ammo, our rifle’s stocks shattered, our bayonets busted an’ us surrounded by a horde of savages screaming fer our scalps. Wahl, we was scrounging through the Quartermaster’s, lookin’ fer anythin’ — a can opener or bottle o’ beer when Jake discovert the tin o’ snicker-doodles …

        1. So no s**t, there I was on the front lines when we hear d that someone had taken out the supply lined to Hershey….

      3. That depends — are we talking blueberry combat drop muffins, butterscotchcombat drop muffins or horse combat drop muffins?

  15. Dickens was the product of the 19th century equivalent of someone from an inner-city, drug-and-gang infested neighborhood raised in the state-run foster care system. He managed to escape the system, educate himself, and become a best-selling writer of popularity comparable to JK Rowling.
    He took his own life experiences as raw material, wrote realistically of some of them, embellished others, exaggerated quite a few for effect, and made some up because they were entertaining, To the extent that the conditions he wrote about were real, they were not necessarily typical.

      1. Different targets, perhaps. Dicken’s father did time in debtor’s prison when family visitation was more of an immersive experience than prisons are now, and later Charles was sent to live with relatives who were negligent and abusive. I would expect a modern-day American equivalent to have a lot more to say about collateral damage to families from the wars on poverty and drugs and how zealous interfering bureaucratic sanctimonious do-gooders at the various child protection agencies do at least as much harm as good. I wouldn’t expect him to be kind to the public school system, either.

        1. Though some of this is very much forbidden by various forms of subtle censorship. You will find very little open discussion of the utter horror that is Child Protective Services — in part because the system is thoroughly-corrupt, and will persecute the families of those who openly attack it, if they can get away with it. Seriously, this is a system created to stop child abuse, which basically rewards certain favored child abusers by inducing them to neglect children for cash, with some of it kicked back to the officials.

    1. What’s more, he came from parents who had been better born, so he absorbed their horror at the conditions into which they had fallen. By dint of his own intelligence, hard work and luck, he managed to work his way out of the trap; eventually he started writing and selling stories and became a gigantic success, but he never lost his utter terror at how easily things might all have gone very wrong for him. It shows, very much, in his novels.

  16. Speaking of true love . . . While both men and women want “their own” children, we are all capable of falling in love with children not our own. Otherwise, stepchildren and orphans would be SOL most of the time, not just rare and (socially, culturally, and legally)condemned cases. It would instead be the usual practice.

  17. Ain’t nuthin better that weaponized snickerdoodles! I use bacon, Sriracha, and Dave’s (PBUH) Insanity Sauce.

  18. I went to high school with a girl who you would have sworn had more boobs than brains except…

    Except her stated purpose in life was to marry well. And she graduated respectably from a very difficult school. Not the top of her class but nowhere near the bottom, either. And her boyfriend at graduation had a full ride scholarship to an engineering school and came from a wealthy family.

    She always struck me as insanely practical. The blonde airhead act was very carefully calculated after she decided what she wanted.

    I would imagine there were more than a few women like that, particularly before the “only marrying for love” mess was pervasive.

  19. I wouldn’t take at face value anything a Marxist said about love because, frankly, from my experience, they don’t understand the subject. Not at all. Nosir.


    1. I would question if Marxist understand any subject. Economics, certainly not. Central Planning, no. Killing, well, OK they do excel at that!

      1. The child abduction example is perfect for this– it’s all over the news, pop culture, “long ago or far away” equivalents, but the actual records show that it’s very uncommon in our culture.

        Or look at the official reports of campus rape rates of 20% or more and ponder what future historians and romcom writers will make of that.

        1. What official reports?

          I found several claims that there was a DOJ report saying one in five would be a victim or suffer an attempt, but the only actual report I could find was that rape combined with sexual assault was less than eight in a thousand, with only one in five of those instances reported. (And the link removed the “sexual assault” part of that, too.)

          And it defined its terms:
          The NCVS,
          NISVS, and CSA target different types of events. The NCVS
          definition is shaped from a criminal justice perspective
          and includes threatened, attempted, and completed
          rape and sexual assault against males and females (see
          Methodology). The NISVS uses a broader definition of
          sexual violence, which specifically mentions incidents
          in which the victim was unable to provide consent due
          to drug or alcohol use; forced to penetrate another
          person; or coerced to engage in sexual contact (including
          nonphysical pressure to engage in sex) unwanted sexual
          contact (including forcible kissing, fondling, or grabbing);
          and noncontact unwanted sexual experiences that do not
          involve physical contact.4 The CSA definition of rape and
          sexual assault includes unwanted sexual contact due to
          force and due to incapacitation, but excludes unwanted
          sexual contact due to verbal or emotional coercion.5

          1. The pseudo-studies fomenting the claims of campus rape culture assert a one in five rate. As it is a topic of little direct interest to me and only crops up when reading reports on the “culture of rape” on contemporary college campus I have had no reason to doubt nor confirm the existance of the claims.

            Put “department of education campus culture of rape” in your search engine and judge for yourself. Mostly what I have read has been rebuttals of the scare-mongering, charging poor reporting (of a reasonably anticipatable sort), over-stating and violations of appropriate standards for sampling and of having confused “sexual assault” and “rape.”

            And yet it has worked its way into the culture on campus.

            See this:

            In a study of undergraduate women, 19% experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.

            As this is a topic often addressed in conservative critiques of the current Administration and its enablers, I did not think it necessary to cite sources in an offhand comment (which I despairingly note attached itself quite elsewhere from its intended location) here.

            My regrets for your inconvenience.

            1. The pseudo-studies fomenting the claims of campus rape culture assert a one in five rate.

              I know. The problem is the studies don’t seem to actually exist as described– they’re either alluded to, or when they do actually cite a source, such as the PDF you linked, they give enough information to find out that the claim is false, or it turns out to be a badly designed survey. (The source cited specifically includes having ever had sex after having had alcohol, for example, as well as all attempts or threats to use violence to attempt; I just spent a good ten minutes trying to find the definition of rape they were using for high school students, and I cannot find any aspect of the question on the claimed source. I’ve run into this before– but usually with claims that a Church Council addressed a topic that they did not.)

              As this is a topic often addressed in conservative critiques of the current Administration and its enablers, I did not think it necessary to cite sources in an offhand comment (which I despairingly note attached itself quite elsewhere from its intended location) here.

              You used it as an example of “official reports,” so I pointed out that it was actually a propaganda claim that looking at actual reports would show was a matter of hype, rather than fact. (And yeah, much WordPress head desk over the random location; I spotted it because I was reading the emails and was startled we’d hit the comment wall already. Nope, just random….)

              It is also notable that the propaganda aspect is frequently addressed in a countering manner, generally with links to the sources showing that it’s not as portrayed. Historians do look at such things when trying to figure out if something really happened, or was just a popular story.

              Now, if these claims were not only not supported by the surviving documents they claim as a source, but they came decades to centuries after the fact….

        2. Right. You have to delve into the details to realize that the 20%+ levels are created by conflating everything from actual violent rape to unwanted touching to remorseful mornings-after ill-advised consensual sex, and hence are almost meaningless. Unfortunately, too many people read How to Lie With Statistics and took it as a how-to primer.

          1. I think I figured out how they could justify the claim that 11% of all female children are raped by 9th grade– I bet they surveyed for sexual activity. It would explain why I couldn’t find any mention of the source asking any such question.

            If the kid is too young to consent, then all of the sexual activity is involuntary, like that case where two 12 year olds “forcibly raped” each other by definition. Add that to the known conflation of “sexual assault” (which explicitly included non-physical in at least one case) to inflate numbers even more.

            Then you just need to shop around for a survey that says the “right” thing, and you have more than one in ten girl-children being raped, which I find about as probable as the “one in five American children go hungry” ads.

  20. This is not true, of course, it’s more that the “everyone knows” doesn’t get recorded, and the “never happens” or “happens so rarely it’s big and sensational” gets recorded ALL the time.

    There’s a difference between “doesn’t get recorded (specially)” and “leaves no detectable record before it’s claimed as being overwhelmingly normal.”

    The child abduction example is perfect for this– it’s all over the news, pop culture, “long ago or far away” equivalents, but the actual records show that it’s very uncommon in our culture.

    Add in that there are some isolated cases of it being claimed, and responded to with absolute horror– for child abduction, when a divided couple has an accusation of kidnapping and it turns out the one that claimed the kid was kidnapped didn’t have custody at that time– and it’s evidence against it being anything like normal.

    BUT as “bad” as the industrial revolution might have been, it attracted droves of farmers from the countryside. And having seen it happen in real time in India and China, I’m no longer able to believe the propaganda that they were “forced” off their lands.

    Believe it; that’s why my dad’s family is in the country.
    Sheep were worth more than farmers, so they got booted and took work in the mines, until Great-Great decided that her baby boy was not going down that death pit. (He had bad lungs before hand, as I understand.)

    There’s lots of good sources for it, too– not the pop culture junk.

    There is no direct evidence, but remember all the recording of the times was done by church men who might very well not know what was going on.

    We’ve got examples of church men recording (and fighting) stuff they didn’t approve of for lots of other things– there’d have to be a reason that this insult to a major sacrament and rather major teaching was ignored, but the others weren’t. They’d speak out about force marriage, and mistresses, but not against mass violation of the marriage?

    We were taught, for instance, that the troubadors invented romantic love.

    When I’ve heard the claim explained by researchers, they’re actually saying that they popularized the concept, made it appeal to more people. “Invented” as a norm, sort of– it just got messed up in the popularization.

    Part of the issue is getting folks to define “love”– we’re all familiar with the self-centered infatuation thing that tends to get tagged with that, and lust.

    But what the heck do they think that story in the Bible about the guy who fell in love with a woman and worked for her father to marry his daughter three times (first two being fake-outs) was, if not romantic love? (Polygamy would be a good example of the “less bendy” part you mention. It can function if there’s a major lack of men, the number of wives is tied to ability to support them [status], and not a lot of ways for ANYBODY to be self-sufficient, but we’ve got lots of records of what an unholy mess it was ‘cus of jealousy. Didn’t we dig up ancient Jewish law about how a man wasn’t allowed to lower the status of his first wife to take on a second one, showing that problem is really really really old, too?)

    …but in the time we’re discussing there were invasions of pagans, who became Lords over the place before they converted.

    And we’ve got records of a lot of the objectionable sexual stuff they did, and got smacked down for, or at least publicly scolded over and over and over. I seem to recall a lot of fusses in Germany over marrying aunts to secure the claim to right of rule.
    Lots of “you can’t say that or I’ll kill you” type situations that we know about because they said it anyways. 😀

    Only accounts I ever read were during invasions and might be the equivalent of the raped Belgian nuns, but some variation of pimping your wife to the Lord to get his protection, almost certainly did happen, some places, some times.

    Probably, yes, simply because it’s such an amazingly perfect example of subjugating the conquered– thus the wide spread norm of women never being alone/insufficently defended.
    Lasting longer than one ruler? In Christian cultures? Without leaving records you’d be able to read by the incandescent glowing of the outrage of the neighbors who invaded them with the help of the subjects? Good grief, there’s records of outrage about unmarried serving girls being used in such a fashion!

    1. I note, BTW, that we do have plentiful records of what actually happened on the wedding night: after the feast, the bridal couple got escorted to their bed and put it in.

      1. I’m sure it mutated at times– my parents were married during a fad for, well, vandalizing the newlywed’s houses.
        It use to be that people showed up too early and rolled the newly weds out of bed and did a silly cleanup of the mess from the night before– washing all the dishes from the party, but putting them in the linen cupboard, for example– but some idiots got destructive. Thousands of dollars worth of repairs type “fun.”
        Lasted less than a year before my parents got married and mentioned that they were, of course, alright with that happening– but the first car up the drive was losing its headlights.

        (Took six months before ANYBODY visited, and he was drunk and still stopped a half-mile from the house, then walked up yelling that it was just him, and just a visit.)

        Malignant mutations are possible and even probable– them not being corrected, on the other hand…..

    2. But what the heck do they think that story in the Bible about the guy who fell in love with a woman and worked for her father to marry his daughter three times (first two being fake-outs) was, if not romantic love?

      If it’s Jacob you’re referring to, what was the second fake-out you’re referring to? There was the trick with being given Leah instead of Rachel, but on the second attempt he got Rachel. His father-in-law Laban did try to pull another fast one later on, but that was about Jacob’s salary, not his bride.

      Or perhaps you’re referring to a story from one of the deuterocanonical books. Being Protestant, I’m much less familiar with those stories. So if you are, which one was it so I can look it up?

      1. I only know one too. The things one memorizes, when one’s father is in the habit of quoting poetry:
        Sete anos de pastor Jacob servia
        Labao pai de Raquel, serrana bela
        Mas eis que of pai usando de cautela
        Em lugar de Raquel le dava Lia
        Jacob (this verse has disappeared from my memory)
        Mais servia
        Nao fora para tao grande amor
        Tao breve a vida

        1. Is this it?

          Sete annos de pastor Jacob servia
          Labão, pae de Raquel, serrana bella:
          Mas não servia ao pae, servia a ella,
          Que a ella só por premio pertendia.

          Os dias na esperança de hum só dia
          Passava, contentando-se com vella:
          Porém o pae, usando de cautella,
          Em lugar de Raquel lhe deo a Lia.

          Vendo o triste Pastor que com enganos
          Assi lhe era negada a sua Pastora,
          Como se a não tivera merecida;

          Começou a servir outros sete annos,
          Dizendo: Mais servíra, senão fôra
          Para tão longo amor tão curta a vida.

          From via Google.

  21. I’m going to wade in with galoshes.

    I suggest you look into waders; the waters can get pretty deep at times and are rather murky.

  22. And that’s the feeling that not only in the past another country but the citizens of that country took deliberate steps to prevent us spying on them.

    This is not true, of course, it’s more that the “everyone knows” doesn’t get recorded, and the “never happens” or “happens so rarely it’s big and sensational” gets recorded ALL the time.

    Actually we have evidence that both Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson edited their records to ‘improve’ their appearance for posterity. For example:

    Adams did not want his association with Thomas Paine, Dr. Thomas Young, James Cannon and Christopher Marshall — and their part (possibly) lead by his cousin Samuel in taking down the duly elected Pennsylvania government in May of 1776 thereby bypassing John Dickinson and the Pennsylvania Assembly’s resistance to independency known.

    Jefferson did not want known the level at which he had been enamored by all things French to the point of his full blindness towards the reality of the Terror known.

  23. We interrupt this blog for a brief political acknowledgement. While I deplore his wife’s twittery and doubt I share Neil Gaiman’s politics, ne deserves recognition for this:

    After PEN announced it would present a freedom of expression award to Charlie Hebdo and its editors, several prominent sponsors withdrew, while others penned a letter of protest, accusing the free-speech group of celebrating racism.

    Novelist Neil Gaiman, who got his start in comic books (artsy ones), stepped in as a sponsor. He noted the award was presented for “the courage to put out their magazine in the face of murder. If we cannot applaud that, we might as well go home.”

    The Post has been on record in this area for nearly two centuries. After a mob murdered the crusading abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy in 1837, we wrote:

    “To say that he who holds unpopular opinions must hold them at the peril of his life, and that, if he expresses them in public, he has only himself to blame if they who disagree with him should rise and put him to death, is to strike at all rights, all liberties, all protection of the laws, and to justify and extenuate all crimes.”

    The point is just as sound today as it was 178 years ago.

    From the NY Post,

  24. Sarah, you are right to doubt the prevalence of “droit du Seigneur”, for several reasons:

    – It was never documented by even the most ribald of French writers, such as Rabelais. Rabelais wrote satire and often used vulgarity in his dialogs for humor. He had main characters debating the best way to wipe your arse, for crying out loud (it’s with a young chicken, if you have to know). You think he would have missed a derision target as big as this mythical “first night?”

    – Spawning bastards was suicidal for a Lord ruling an actual fiefdom. It was very common for illegitimate children to contest an inheritance and claim partial or full rights to an estate or a land. You remember William the Conqueror, who was an illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy yet inherited the duchy. Well, nobility remembered that, too. If a Lord had entertained the notion, his family would have had him dethroned and dumped into a monastery.

    – And finally, most of the stuff we “know” about old times is actually modern propaganda, as you emphasize. In the case of medieval Lords, the propaganda comes from French 19th century pro-revolutionary historians anxious to justify the atrocities of the French Revolution by spewing garbage about the Ancien Regime.

    So kudos for the skepticism.

    1. Pah! Next you’ll be telling us that pirates didn’t really fly flags with the skull and crossbones, or that the derby was the most popular hat in the Old West.

    2. William the Bastard was a bit of an odd case, as I recall. My recollection is that his father never married, and thus never had any legitimate kids. In short, there was never any doubt that William was going to succeed him.

  25. Personally, I’ve lately developed a preference for Molasses cookies.

    As for Prima Nocte, a lot of the reaction against it is caused by projecting today’s values back into the past, as if a woman from a culture where this was a thing (if it existed) would be all “This is rape! You can’t do it without my consent! My body is Mine!” etc.

    1. Actually, a lot of studies now seem to be indicating that the story got projected onto medieval times from the habits of 18th-19th century French noble and middle-class guys who figured that all the youngish female household servants were there to be slept with. Also from “spicy” plays enjoyed by 18th-19th century French guys.

  26. Real-life example, almost within living memory:

    The husbands of Edward VII’s mistresses didn’t complain.

    1. Mistresses is one thing. Systematically doing one-night stands zith commoners is a different one.

      1. Having been to a Walmart recently I have my doubts about the Lord of the Manor having much interest in Bridal Schtupping. Not all brides are beautiful; this particularly applies to peasant brides.

        Of course, that is my Slavic ancestors speaking. And my Baltic ones. If I had any French or Scandinavian ancestors they might have different opinions.

  27. Sort-of on topic (romance): as a self-medication program to deal with chronic writer’s block in my (extremely technical) day job, I finally started writing fiction. My first attempt is something deliberately far out of my comfort zone: it’s a contemporary romance (!) albeit with some unusual (and geeky) twists.
    At this point I have one novella-length installment in rough draft, full plot and half the text for a second installment, and a plot for the third.
    How would one go about finding a few ‘alpha readers’ who would be willing to have a look at just how badly this sucks, and in which specific ways? (That it *will* suck is a given, considering that it is a first effort.)

    1. It’s out of my usual comfort zone, but I’ll give it a look if you can’t find better candidates. qed nineteen sixty one at yahoo dot com (replace words with numerals)

  28. First Night just popped up in an unexpected location…

    I was watching the new Avengers movie on Friday, and the movie had progressed to the “everyone tries to lift Thor’s Hammer” scene that had been made available beforehand. And I noticed something that I hadn’t noticed previously. Tony’s about to make his attempt to lift Mjolner. Thor has agreed that if Tony can lift Mjolner, then Tony rules Asgard (which, of course, ignores a few details, but whatever). And right before he makes his attempt, Tony says, “After I do this, I’m bringing back droit du signeur.”


Comments are closed.