Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cape Cod Mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor, annotated, continued

"Let's institute a reform," says Betsey on page 9.
In the 1900s in America, there was a great reform movement, led by women for the most part. There were religious revivals among Protestants, non-religious Utopian communities, temperance, education reform, women's rights, humane treatment for the insane, and abolitionism (prior to the Civil War).

In the 1930s, most of these reform movements were still going on.

"But she'll play Russian Banque with you." pg 10
Russian Bank is a card game for two players from the solitaire family. It is also known as crapette or crapot in Brazil and Portugal. It is played with two decks of 52 standard playing cards. It is much like the game of double solitaire. The goal of Russian Bank, like many card games, is to get rid of your forty-eight cards before your opponent can rid themselves of theirs. At the same time, it is required to build "piles" of suits, Ace through King, in the center of the board. If a rule regarding the placement of piles is broken, the opponent may call "Stop!" to end one's turn.

Narrator Prudence Whitsby is reading a mystery novel when Bill Porter walks in, on pg 11.

"Is it blood and thunder...or gin and sawdust?"
Closely related to the Gothic novel of the late eighteenth century, blood-and-thunder fiction features malignantly motivated villains seeking to possess the hearts and souls of characters made vulnerable by their youth, gender, and penniless condition. The events of these stories, occurring in settings distant from the workaday world, limn the obsessive behavior of these predatory characters whose deceptive exploitation of their victims' emotions work a psychological violence never far from physical consummation. Making few concessions to verisimilitude, the blood-and-thunder narratives function as psychic dramas abstracted from the ordinary world of secondary contingencies, generating their suspense by sketching the attenuated assault upon the ego of its prey by a relentless will to domination.
SOURCE: Blood-and-Thunder Fiction - The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, Wieland - Rosamond, Novel, Tempest, and Characters

Sawdust was used on the floors of gin-palaces in the early 1900s.

A gin palace is an English name originally for a lavish bar selling gin, later transferred by association to late Victorian pubs designed in a similar style.

In the 18th century, gin shops or 'dram shops' were just small shops (often originally chemist's shops as gin originally had medicinal associations) that sold gin mostly to take away, or to drink standing up. As the legislation changed establishments generally became larger; they also had to be licensed and sell ale or wine. In the late 1820s the first 'Gin Palaces' were built, Thompson and Fearon's in Holborn and Weller's in Old Street, London. They were based on the new fashionable shops being built at the time, fitted out at great expense and lit by gas lights. They were thought to be vulgar at the time, although hugely popular. Charles Dickens described them as "perfectly dazzling when contrasted with the darkness and dirt we have just left…" in his Sketches by Boz.

The design hugely influenced all aspects of the design of later Victorian pubs, even after gin had declined in importance as a drink; the bar in pubs is based on the shop counter of the gin palace, designed for swift service and ideal for attaching beer pumps; the ornate mirrors and etched glass of the late 19th century. The term has survived for any pub in the late 19th century style; as this was the peak of pub building in Britain the style has become associated with the pub, even though none of the original gin palaces survive.

Well preserved examples of the late 19th century style include the Princess Louise in Holborn and the Philharmonic Dining Rooms in Liverpool.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Latin Phrases Part 2 - Crossing the Rubicon

ad hominem - appealing to feelings rather than reasonThe phrase literally means "to the man" and includes any argument that involves an element of hysteria, emotional ranting, blackmail, manipulation and very little in the way of logic or rationality.

ad nauseum - to sickness
Meaning 'to a ridiculous/nauseating degree' thais is often used to refer to arguments where someone just repeats themselves, but it can be applied to pretty much any area of life where someone or something is doing something over and over again.

Alea iacta est - the die has been cast
The Roman historian Suetonius quotes Julius Caesar as saying this in 49 BCE when he crossed the Rubicon (although Caesar actually stole the phrase from ancient GReek comedy.) Crossing ther Rubicon was a definitive act of defiance and the beginning of the Civil WAr against Pompey and the Optimates; the phrase has since come to mean a decision that is a "point of no return."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Haute Couteur: Christian Dior

Christian Dior (21 January 1905, Granville, Manche – 23 October 1957, Montecatini), was an influential French fashion designer, best known as the founder of one of the world's top fashion houses, also called Christian Dior.

Christian Dior was born in Granville, a seaside town on the coast of France, the second of the five children of Maurice Dior, a wealthy fertilizer manufacturer (the family firm was Dior Frères), and his wife, the former Madeleine Martin. He had four siblings: Raymond (father of Françoise Dior), Jacqueline, Bernard, and Ginette (aka Catherine).

Chirstian's family had hopes he would become a diplomat, but Dior was artistic and wished to be involved in fashion. To make money, he sold his fashion sketches outside his house for about 10 cents each. In 1928 after leaving school he received money from his father to finance a small art gallery, where he and a friend sold art by the likes of Pablo Picasso.

After a financial disaster that resulted in his father losing control of Dior Frères, Christian Dior was forced to close the gallery. From the 1930s to the 1940s he worked with fashion designer Robert Piguet until being called up for military service. In 1942, having left the Army, Dior joined the fashion house of Lucien Lelong, where he and Pierre Balmain were the primary designers. For the duration of World War II, Christian Dior, as an employee of Lelong—who labored to preserve the French fashion industry during wartime for economic and artistic reasons—dressed the wives of the Nazi officers and French collaborators, as did other fashion houses that remained in business during the war, including Jean Patou, Jeanne Lanvin, and Nina Ricci. While her brother dressed Nazi wives, Dior's sister Catherine (1917—2008) served as a member of the French Resistance, was captured by the Gestapo, and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp; she was liberated in May 1945.

On 16 December 1946 Dior founded his fashion house, backed by Marcel Boussac, a cotton-fabric magnate. The actual name of the line of his first collection, presented in early 1947, was Corolle (literally the botanical term corolla or circlet of flower petals in English), but the phrase New Look was coined for it by Carmel Snow, the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar. Dior's designs were more voluptuous than the boxy, fabric-conserving shapes of the recent World War II styles, influenced by the rations on fabric. He was a master at creating shapes and silhouettes; Dior is quoted as saying "I have designed flower women." His look employed fabrics lined predominantly with percale, boned, bustier-style bodices, hip padding, wasp-waisted corsets and petticoats that made his dresses flare out from the waist, giving his models a very curvaceous form.

Initially, women protested because his designs covered up their legs, which they had been unused to because of the previous limitations on fabric. There was also some backlash to Dior's designs form due to the amount of fabrics used in a single dress or suit. During one photo shoot in a Paris market, the models were attacked by female vendors over this profligacy, but opposition ceased as the wartime shortages ended. The "New Look" (a name given it by American fashion-magazine editor Carmel Snow) revolutionized women's dress and reestablished Paris as the center of the fashion world after World War II.

Dior died while on holiday in Montecatini, Italy on October 23, 1957. Some reports say that he died of a heart attack after choking on a fish bone. Time magazine's obituary stated that he died of a heart attack after playing a game of cards. However, the Paris socialite and Dior acquaintance Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Rédé stated in his memoirs that contemporary rumor had it that the fashion designer succumbed to a heart attack after a strenuous sexual encounter. Some even think that he died because of a seizure. To this day, no one knows for sure.

The Paul Gallico novella Mrs 'Arris Goes to Paris (1958, UK title Flowers for Mrs Harris) tells the story of a London charlady who falls in love with her employer's couture wardrobe and decides to go to Paris to purchase herself a Dior ballgown.

A perfume named Christian Dior is used in Haruki Murakami's novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as an influential symbol placed at critical plot points throughout.

The English singer-songwriter Morrissey released a song titled "Christian Dior" as a b-side to his 2006 single "In the Future When All's Well".

1948 Britain: Advertisements: Pomeroy Makeup

This advertisement appeared in the September 1948 issue of Theatre World.

Decolletage by Dior
A famous French designer has brought back
the extremely daring decolletage....
unsurpassed for great occasions in a woman's
life. Such splendour naturally demands the
perfect grooming and meticulous make-up
which are such an essential part of this
"New Look".

Lovely women use Pomeroy.

London Salon: 174 New Bond,St, W.1

Skin food, cleansing cream, beauty milk, powder, lipstick, dathos (for extra dry skin), day cream, hand lotion, astringent lotion, foundation cream, make-up base
Prices from 18 6 to 4/ - (including purchase tax)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cave Canem: A few Latin phrases #1

a priori - from what was before.
Commonly used in a legal sense. This denotes something known previously. In the arena of logic, it describes something which is obvious or self evident.

ad absurdum - to the point of absurdity
A shortened version of reductio ad absurdum. "Reduced to the point of absurdity." Used in the context of argument, where one takes a clsim to its most extreme and ridiculous conclusion in an attempt to prove the claim itself to be false.

Cave Canem: A Miscellany of Latin Words and Phrases, by Lorna Robinson