At first, when they found that they were denied passage through inhabited lands, the Hebrews avoided confrontation by prudently skirting these areas. But as they grew in strength and numbers, they began to fight those who would not allow them to pass through peaceably. As they had God on their side, they invariably won these battles, whereupon they took possession of the lands and slaughtered the inhabitants, sparing only the virgins for their own personal use. Of course, they were careful to purify the girls before using them, lest the Hebrew men be defiled. No doubt the maidens felt highly honored to be made use of by such fastidious men.
When they reached Moab, near Jericho, the King of the Moabites worried that his country would be overrun in turn, so he summoned Balaam the seer, offering him honors and rewards to put a curse on the Hebrews so that they could be driven away. After much coy hesitation—possibly designed to drive his price up—Balaam agreed to meet with the king but he made no promises, for he’d heard that the Hebrews had been blessed by a very powerful god.
Balaam climbed on his ass and set out for Moab, but the ass startled him with an assortment of uncharacteristic antics, bolting off the path, squashing up against a wall—crushing Balaam’s foot in the process—and most inconveniently falling down flat on the ground under him.
Balaam’s beatings elicited an unexpected response from the ass. “Hey, don’t blame me! An angel made me do it,” she said.
“An angel,” scoffed Balaam. “I doubt it.” Read the rest of this entry »
“I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses.”
Napoléon Bonaparte will be remembered as one of history’s greatest generals; yet the one victory that seemed always to elude him was the battle for the affections of his own wife.
She was born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, the daughter of a wealthy Creole sugar baron in Martinique. But after hurricanes destroyed the family plantation, she was married off to the Vicomte de Beauharnais in Paris in October, 1779, in order to preserve the family fortune. It was an unhappy marriage, but it produced two children, Eugène and Hortense.
During the Reign of Terror, in 1794, her husband was arrested as an aristocratic ‘suspect’ by the Jacobins; Joséphineherself was imprisoned a month later. He was guillotined and she herself was only saved from the same fate by the timely overthrow of Robespierre, just one day before her scheduled execution.
As a widow with two children to support, she chose her lovers with her head rather than her heart. She became mistress to several of France’s political and financial luminaries. But Joséphine was a shopper of the first rank and ran up enormous debts during her life.
In fact, when she met Napoléon it was rumored that her present lover, Paul Barras, was very happy for the other man to take her off his hands. He simply couldn’t afford her. He had met his financial Waterloo. Read the rest of this entry »
A particular friend of mine suggested that I write a blog post, sharing the wisdom of one of my antique books. It’s called The Home Cook Book and it was published by Ladies of Toronto and Chief Cities and Towns of Canada in 1877. It’s billed as Tried! Tested! Proven! And it went through at least seventy editions, so the information it includes must be solid gold.
Now, besides the recipes (I’ve tried a few—they’re a bit bland, but serviceable), it addresses other important things that every woman will want to know.
“Success in housekeeping” it insists, “adds credit to the woman of intellect, and lustre to a woman’s accomplishments. ..no matter how talented a woman may be…if she is an indifferent housekeeper it is fatal to her influence, a foil to her brilliancy and a blemish to her garments.”
Well, I certainly don’t want you to be seen with blemished garments, so I’m going to share with you some of the wisdoms that will help you with your housekeeping efforts. We’re assured that “there is nothing so difficult to learn that she may not be proficient in a year or two at most”…so take heart. There’s hope for us all. Read the rest of this entry »
(This article is a reprint of a blog post by Diane Scott Lewis, author of The False Light and Elysium)
He’d be here soon and demand his conjugal rights. A quick toss, then off to his club, while she fretted over bursting with another baby. She’d sneak a drink of wormwood or pennyroyal, hopefully to discourage any breeding. She removed her skirt, then underskirt, oh and the petticoats, dropped them to the floor. Garters untied and stockings rolled down. No drawers in freezing England, rumor has it in France and Spain they may wear them. Stays unlaced, easier with a maid. Panniers untied, discarded. Shift slipped off—so stiff with perspiration, the garment could stand on its own. She scratched at her skin, bed bugs from the bed last night. The wig. She tugged at the pile of fake hair, interwoven with her own. A wooden ship fell on the floor, a few silk flowers. Where was that maid? She grabbed the hook and stuck it through the wig to scratch her itchy scalp. To preserve the style, you slept upright in this contraption. She yawned.
Should she bathe? Soap was expensive. Water had to be lugged up two flights of stairs. She still wore her shift in the water, so how clean could she get? One rarely bathed. She should at least sprinkle rosemary over her person.
He’d swagger upstairs any moment, sweaty from riding, clothes filthy, breath foul. She’d avoid kissing him.
**Researching my novel, The False Light, I found many interesting details about the eighteenth century. I like to write the gritty truth about life in another era, not the cleaned-up, idealized version.**
Ancient Romans Colonized My Brain!
(Blog post excerpt by Ron Gompertz)
In the summer of 2000, I moved to Barcelona with my family for reasons both professional and personal.
Unlike many people who change countries, we weren’t fleeing chaos. We weren’t forced to move under duress. No one was shooting at us.
But the truth is that I was fleeing something.
I was running away from my own complacency.
There’s a French word, “depaysment,” which roughly translates to mean “out of your element,” and that’s what I needed. Moving to Spain jerked me out of my comfort zone.
Of all the expat adventures, comic defeats and small victories that emerged from my five years abroad, the one I’m most proud of is “No Roads Lead to Rome.”
Here’s how the book hit me.
One weekend, I was hiking with a friend in the Collserola, the hills above Barcelona. We were lamenting the decline and fall of damn near everything when the story hatched like a bird in my brain. I imagined two Roman soldiers having the same conversation 2000 years earlier. We were walking in their footsteps. The world had changed, but people had not.
As revelations go, this tiny insight could have easily escaped me. People have always felt like things are changing too fast and rarely for the better.
Big deal, right?
Within minutes, I was possessed by an old Roman legionary and a young conscript. I could hear them lamenting their lot in life. How could the Senate vote to build another monument when people can’t even afford a decent pair of sandals? How did those vexed Roman numeral crunchers conclude the bread dole was too expensive? Much of the dialogue between my grizzled old centurion, Marcus Valerius, and his chatty young sidekick, Gaius Severus, took root that afternoon.
When I learned that around 123 AD a slave had botched an attempt to kill the Emperor Hadrian in Tarraco — Tarragona, Spain — the first line in the novel wrote itself: “When it comes to assassination, execution is everything.” Read the rest of this entry »