Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Henry VIII is 520 years old on this day

Which I hath commemorated by stealing this fine photo of the Tudor Rose, taken by Flickr user miltonmic.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Arizona Republican, Apr 19, 1901

"Miscellaneous Items"

- In very clear water, sunlight penetrates to a depth of over 1500 ft.

- At banquets during Elizabeth's time, every guest came with his spoon in his pocket.

- There is no truth whatever in the belief that anyone falling into the sea necessarily rises and sinks three times before drowning.

- An extremely useful clock has been invented by Thomas W. Hunt, of Macon, GA. At any moment at which the alarm is set - say at 5 am - it arouses the sleeper, lights a candle and kindles a fire in the range.

- A society for the education of cats has been organized in Pittsburgh. The president of this society declares: "We feel assured that under our process of culture, many hidden and unsuspected good qualities in the nature of the cat will be brought to the surface."

- Two athletic young men in Passaic, NJ fought a duel with pillows. It lasted 37 minutes, when a vigorous swing across the neck with the five pound pillow floored one of the contestants, and for five minutes he lay senseless.


Just some useful facts printed for the edification of the Victorian Phoenix forebears. I like that they refer to Elizabeth I by first name only. She needs no introduction or explanation, even in a dusty arm of the Sonoran desert.

Speaking of the Arizona Territory, my research ( = reading the one page biography provided by the Rosson) has revealed that Aaron Goldberg, the man whose family I am interpreting through 1915, was greatly responsible for and wrote the bill that moved the capital from Prescott to Phoenix.

To that I say, thanks guy. No, thanks. No thanks. Wouldn't our lives be so much easier if the sprawl was located two hours north? There would have been sacrifices, and I can just imagine Prescott Valley turning into Paradise Valley, but we would be able to step outdoors between the hours of 11 am and 7 pm without immediately being plagued by dehydration and death, and wouldn't that be nice?

Good job, Aaron.

AG circa 1900, from the Phoenix Public Library's Arizona Collection.

Not to be too much of a bitch, though, as he was rather philanthropic and dedicated his time and efforts to make this city more habitable to the miserable bastards who saw fit to stay year round in the days before swamp coolers, such as providing the first unemployment service for men finding themselves unable to work the mines or whatever was the greatest employer here at the time.

www.chroniclingamerica.com has provided decent scans of newspapers across the country from the 1860s to 1920s. They have lots of Arizona papers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Contestant #5

Catherine Howard, the fifth and and second saddest wife of Henry VIII.

A small biography, by me. Someday I will publish a six-volume series entitled "Lives of the Wives" in which I pass modern judgment upon but ultimately feel sorry for all of the women who had the misfortune to know Henry Tudor 8.

Catherine had not planned on being Queen of England. Raised in negligence by an absentee step-grandmother, the young girl was only half-educated and wholly undisciplined. She did know how to read and write, but she did not appear to utilize these skills and her studies progressed no farther than becoming literate. By all accounts, she was a silly person, highly emotive and prone to frivolity, who loved to dance.  It's worth noting that she was probably sixteen years old when Henry picked her up.  Owing to a total lack of supervision and the generally licentious nature of the large household of her step-grandmother, a duchess, she had several affairs at an early age before going to court to wait on Anne of Cleves, Henry's Queen #4.

Things weren't working out between Henry and Anne (another story) and he had their marriage annulled soon after meeting Catherine. Once again, stupid Henry falls for a wound-up, vivacious woman (or in this case, girl) who would prove an exciting flirtation and a disappointing life partner. They were married soon after the annulment was finalized.

Things went well until Catherine became tired of her husband, who was well into his "old and gross" phase. She began an affair with Henry's personal groom, Thomas Culpeper. Imagine that, a teenaged girl chooses a lover of her own age (Henry is 50, there is an age disparity of approx. 33 years) and station instead of someone who not only acts but is interpreted as a living god, and who is nearly the size of one at 300 pounds. And don't forget the festering, stinking, open wound on his leg, which he had been unable to get rid of for some years. I have read that he was slightly insecure that she could smell it in their bed.  Total babe, right?

Catherine was too airy and ridiculous to live long in the dangerous and predatory Tudor court. Being young, stupid and invincible, she was capricious and wanton with her affair, and it was a very sloppily kept secret. Still, Henry was unaware, and spent his time picking out presents for her and telling everyone that she was his "rose without a thorn". Finally a wife who is all fun and no trouble!

Obviously, despite coming from a powerful and aristocratic Catholic family, Catherine was not interested in the politics of religion. That's why it's somewhat ironic that her passionate affair was outed by a concerned Protestant faction who did not want her family anywhere near Henry, lest they entice him back to Rome somehow. Or that's my interpretation of why. I highly doubt he would have. I think the Protestants simply didn't like seeing the Howards that high up the royal chain of command. As he had done with his other wives, Henry handed out positions of power and influence to Catherine's family members.

So, a letter was passed to Henry telling of Catherine's promiscuous past, and, though he felt it was only jealous rumor-mongering, he had it investigated. After it was uncovered that she had been sleeping around before coming to Court and meeting Henry, he had guards posted at her rooms. After he found out she was sleeping with Culpeper, she went to the Tower. Culpeper and a former lover from the Duchess' household were already there, where they received interrogation and torture. The teen lover was hanged, drawn and quartered, and Culpeper (because he had a fancier pedigree) was merely beheaded. Those sentences should have been swapped. Culpeper was a scumbag who had on his record the brutal rape of a rural woman he had found on a ride, and the murder of a man who tried to come to her aid. Somehow, likely because of his status, the crimes went unpunished.

The heads of Catherine's lovers were placed on pikes, where they remained displayed for 5 years. Henry didn't get over insults very quickly. He was very bitter, though; only recently, he had publicly given solemn thanks to god for the good fortune of his happiness with Catherine. So Catherine was beheaded shortly thereafter and tossed in an unmarked grave at St. Peter ad Vincula, near her cousins, Anne and George Boleyn. Yep; she and AB were cousins.

The Howard/Tudor marriage had lasted a year and a half.

Catherine had no idea what kind of trouble she was going to get herself into when she met Henry. Although her family name was an aristocratic one, her father was a second son and had no money. After her anonymous and uncelebrated early days as a charity case, she was dazzled by the spectacle, riches and decorum that came with her new station in life as the highest lady in the land. She was so young and dizzy, and had not been cultivated for the politics of life at court. Even though Anne Boleyn was her cousin, and had only been executed 5 years ago, she was still so dumbly confident that no one would find out about her trifles. She is a tragic portrait of a naive girl who frolicked into a bear trap. Even Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury and unlucky sucker dispatched to wrangle Henry's errant girl, said that it was pitiful. At the time, given Henry's black rage at finding himself a cuckolded husband, Cranmer could not help but share the possibly treasonous remark (everything was treason then if H8 was pissed off) that he found the imprisoned Catherine "In such lamentation and heaviness, as I never saw no creature, so that it would have pitied any man's heart in the world to have looked upon her." 

Weirdly, the night before she was to be executed, Catherine asked to have the chopping block brought to her. She wanted to orientate herself to it so she would know how to place her neck when the time came. A morbid concern, to worry about being awkward on the scaffold, but who can venture to know what it feels like in the hours before a scheduled death.

Sidebar, Tudor melodrama seems to have become a thing with me, as I keep returning to them. I didn't think I cared about them that much, I mean I don't have personal feelings the way I might for other eminent figures. Or perhaps I'm beginning to develop them. Here is a post in which I review the Tudors series, and I talk about Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour here (and recycle my story about Anne's death).

Since Catherine Howard's death, some alleged ghostly activity at Hampton Court and at the Tower has been attributed to her. The most tragic "sighting" is supposed to be a re-enactment of a particularly desperate moment after her first confinement to her rooms at Hampton Court. Desperate to plead her case with Henry, she bolted through the posted guards at her room and ran shrieking to the chapel where Henry was at prayer. She banged on the doors, screaming hysterically, and was then dragged writhing and crying back to her rooms. This passage is now called "the Haunted Gallery," and "it is said" that screams are heard to emanate from there. Also, according to some sourceless website about England's ghosts, women pass out in that corridor a lot. I'm sure that's totally legit.

After reading the ghostly legends also told about Anne Boleyn, I began to feel faintly suspicious of the veracity of those accounts as well. Take this dark story, re-told in my words, for example:

Annually upon Anne's death date, she is said to arrive at several past residences (avoid Blickling Hall and Hever Castle on 19 May) in a carriage pulled at a furious pace by...four headless horses! Anne sits inside the carriage, dressed in white with her head in the crook of her arm. The headless spirit then descends from the carriage, which disappears (invisible carriage house) as she enters the structures and commences upon a night of wandering from room to room, head still tucked in her arm, still dripping with blood. I'm glad I didn't read about this as a kid; it has all the distinctions of a tale that would freak me out (female ghosts, bloody heads, fast-running horses). I was hardly able to pass a darkened bathroom for fear of Bloody Mary, so the Anne thing would definitely have been an issue. 

19th century "ghost photo" alleged to be the much grieved Catherine wailing out her bad fortune, which is sold as a postcard in the Hampton Court gift shop. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Today I got in trouble at work for having this as my aim avatar.

I can't decide what's more strange.

1. That I feel comfortable using this image on the service I use to chat with the entire company
2. That the other owner - the same one who dialed our hr admin on speakerphone and called her a "cunt whore" (c'mon guy, pick one and go with it. you can't have both) while 15 pathetic bootlicking bastards laughed behind him - said that it was offensive, or
3. That I actually felt a little outraged about having to take it down.

This place is not normal. I don't tell people about what goes down there anymore (harassment, theft, litigation, more harassment) partly because it's exhausting, and partly because it sounds so exaggerated. But it's real.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What in the.

Well! I was reading through an old journal I kept and found a quiz I took for fun regarding what kind of housewife I would have made in the 30s.

Three years ago, I was called a failure. My old score:


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Poor (Failure)

Take the test!

I took the test again, SURE that I would improve on my prior score. I can cook many dishes now - successfully! I sew - kind of! I keep plants around - and many of them survive! I actually can't think of anything else at the moment, but surely there are things. Can I put them to use? Let's see the new score.


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Poor (Failure)

Take the test!


Worse?! A score so low it has almost skidded off the bottom of the chart. Like I said last time - I thought it was going so well. I can't decide where I went wrong. I was just trying to be honest. I said that, yes, I do fix healthy meals, but I also sulk and complain sometimes. Full disclosure up in here! Yes, I do have interests and personal activities, but I do sometimes wear red nail polish (this is a flag). I, apparently, don't have sense enough to wipe off the cap of a milk jug before opening it. Evidently, this was a thing. Does it matter that I don't drink milk? No. I would probably lose my last three points for that anyway.

I think these rules are rather stringent for a depression-era woman. Weren't there better things to bitch about than crooked seams or mealy cornbread? According to my grandma, who was of marriageable age in the 30s (but only if you lived in Alabama), wearing clean clothes and bathing daily was essentially all you had to do to keep up your part of the bargain as a respectable woman and member of society. Anything beyond that just amounted to personal preference. I can proudly say that I measure up to her strict guidelines of ladyhood, almost all of the time.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

learning to like books, 1983.

Other voices

Father's Day edition. For some reason, my dad gave me this picture today. It's been around all my life and I'm not sure why he elected to remove it from his wall now.

My grandfather, late 40s, Phoenix, somewhere off of 22nd Street and Earll.

He was busy. Born on a farm in Crocker, Iowa, he ran away from his abusive father at 15, lied about his age and joined the Navy. A couple of years later, he went AWOL. Something about a girl. WWII started and he re-enlisted under an assumed last name. He worked on a frigate in the South Pacific and the only "war story" I know of is he was in a bar brawl somewhere and had a chair smashed over his face, which put his front teeth through his lip. He wore a mustache for the rest of his life. His actual identity was discovered by the Navy a couple of years later and he was dishonorably discharged. He spent a couple of years rodeoing, met a girl, divorced her (she lives in Prescott, still uses his last name), started a roofing company, got rich, starting a trucking company, got richer, put on airs, bought planes, and was never seen out of a three piece suit again. He was set up on a blind date with my grandma in Santa Fe, married her, moved the operation back to Phoenix, had four children, was out more nights than he was home, divorced her. After that he moved to Denver, married an old mistress, had two more children, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, went insane, died. Did I get it all? This summary leaves out human drama like laying out a private eye my grandma had hired (to track him) or chasing his last wife around their home with a decorative sword (brain tumor).

Actually, he was diagnosed with that tumor ten years earlier when still married to my grandmother. He didn't tell anyone. When the family doctor proposed the idea of removal surgery to him, he said, "No. Fuck it." The doctor told this story to my grandmother 30 years later when they ran into each other after mass at St. Francis.

Incidentally, all that money was embezzled by his lawyer while he was going through the motions of dying. He insisted on going to work still, but was much altered by the growing insistence of the tumor. He'd wreck the car on the way home or leave it running in the garage and go inside to bed. This was the lawyer's cue to steal a lot of money, the rest of which went to pay off some extravagant bills. In the end, my dad got a tiger's eye ring, and my uncle got a money clip. The two younger kids? Apparently not fully vested yet - no inheritance. The estate tried to recover a car he had purchased for my grandmother, which would have spelled doom for the now-impoverished, full-time working single mother of four. She was only able to keep it when a kindly old woman at the dmv pulled a fast one with a title transfer. Someday I'll try to ponder how she managed to send all the shits to Catholic primary and high school.

The end!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oh, the Rosson is all done up for the Fourth of July with some wind-flapped bunting.

And the canna lilies are looking especially jungley. They are self-propagating, lush and tall, with great leaves the size of an elephant's ear. And they like it hot. Good Arizona foliage.

I am researching an early Phoenix family who lived in the Rosson at the turn of the century. For whatever reason, they're the least documented family to have lived there (before 1915. after that, it's every man for himself). It might even involve in-person research. there might be microfiche involved. this sounds both exciting and dreadful. I haven't used a microfiche viewer since uh, mostly never, but my only experience was in the early 90s. I remember giving up almost instantly. Luckily I am a grown ass man now and it is likely that I will persist.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I love this flickr set. Mom's World.

Lots of everyday shots and staged shots from the early 50s. The photographer or subject of most of the photos is a striking blonde who is still around to provide thoughtful commentary or stories about almost all of the photos. Some of the stories are charming and some are deeply touching and tragic.

Make room, Norma Jean. Dizamn!

I also like all of the interior shots. Having spent my childhood with grandmothers who had acquired most of their furniture and home effects in the 1950s and never saw fit to replace them, the style is comforting to me.

When you know that things have gotten bad at work.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Emilia Bunhart

My best cousin, childhood bully and fellow teenaged goth is 30! How the time does fly.

Yeah, yeah, it's a photo of a photo.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What in the fuck!

Yeah, I was...not aware of this. Here is a younger and more metal performance here: Judas Priest - Diamonds and Rust 1982

I hope this turned some acne'd young 80s metal guys on to JB, and I hope it freaked them the fuck out.


One of my favorite songs, by one of the most interesting and admirable people ever. The song is about her weird relationship with Dylan.

All around town with Heloise

Completely different flowers this time. I haven't done any embroidery in a year or something, but was pleased to remember lazy daisies and french knots. When I was a kid, I was incapable of learning the french knot. Oh how far we have come.

At first I thought this installation at Windsor was yet more contrived hipster bullshit (and it is), but it is pretty amusing to read them as you wait for the bathroom. They're all from the 80s and prior.

I've been meaning to find a ridiculous old stereo at Goodwill or something so that I can listen to my tapes again. I could get rid of almost anything, but I have held steadfastly to my tape collection. Can't get rid of any of them. After I moved, I tried to take an assessment. Lots of weird shit in there, and seventeen Cure tapes.

Anita and Kaveh's melted bricks in Albuquerque.

This is where my dad lived when he was a small child. This is a poor shot taken at noon, not very good. Except for the fence and the landscaping, it's just as it was in the 50s, and so I've always had a half-assed idea to sneak in and get some decent shots, since we have early photos of the house after it went up.

This is probably the fanciest house they had in Phoenix. It's on Central & Bethany, about the third house south of Bethany. It's goddamned gigantic and my grandma hated it. She came from a farm and had simple tastes. It wasn't the unnecessary sprawl of the house, or the need for hired help to keep it clean due to four children under the age of six, but the swimming pool. She was convinced that there would be a drowning unless they moved. My grandfather wouldn't put a fence around it because he felt that pool fences looked like shit.

Bear lives nextdoor to my grandma. Anyone looking for a sweet tween-aged Rottweiler? Bear's owner is a piece of shit. The dog is always outside. When I first saw him, he was friendly and desperate for attention. The last time I was there, when these photos were taken, he cowered as I approached. At ME, who has met him, and was approaching slowly while talking to him in my dog-voice. Motherfucker.

The owners are rarely home and the yard, which they share with my grandmother, is protected by a short fence that doesn't lock, so, yanno. Just saying, Bear is available for easy re-homing. I would probably take him myself, but I currently live in a small apartment with no yard. Oh, and three pre-existing animals, none of whom will be at all hospitable to this oafy playful dog.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I spent my entire day reading this blog from the beginning. I haven't made it out of 2008 yet.

I go through a two-part cycle when it comes to how I accept information into my life. Sometimes I'm a voracious newshound, reading all the time, raging and fretting, bring it up when people just want to joke around, and judging and dismissing people who don't care about what I think is important. And if I'm really comfortable with someone or already dislike them, I will feel free to attack them about it.[1]

And other times I completely check out. Completely. I only hear about the most grievous of events as little chirps and hamfisted discussions catch my attention at work. I was in one of these blackouts last year when Haiti was devastated by the earthquake. I found out something like THREE DAYS LATER. My ability to ignore the world around me is strong.

When I inevitably cycle back into being on full alert about world events, I look back on what I was doing the prior week ("20 minute internet searches for pictures of Esmond Romilly? Really?" or exhaustive research about Queen Victoria's first daughter for no apparent reason other than I wondered if she was a bitch like her mother, and looked like her), then I start to feel guilty. I feel like I'm wasting my time, and like not paying attention to events is perpetuating the problems that created them, even if my only reaction to them would be to later get in a fight at work about it.

And that's about it! I see no end to this cycle. I have to assume that my blackout periods are regulated by my brain to keep me from going absolutely insane. Victimization of people by the government, big business, human rights violations, kidnap and murders of overseas journalists, dog fighting, strip mining, femicide still happening in Juarez, American vet soldiers killing themselves on the steps of VA hospitals! I take the distress of these things on completely. If I was flipping out about these things full time, I would die of stress-induced heart complications while still in my 20s.

Anyway, the above linked blog is very fascinating and certainly started a nice guilt spiral about being another do-nothing baby with nothing to bitch about but my various luxuries. Enjoy! No, really. Do read it, it's an interesting slice of life about her experience as an enlisted female in the army, serving in Iraq, and dealing with it later.

[1] Last week I watched the Pat Tillman documentary. I was in a state afterward, outraged at the implications, and plagued by descriptions of his veins making a sound "like a drinking fountain" as they expelled all of his blood once one of his platoon had shot his head off. Soon after, poor soul, my mother called me and began to talk about an interview she had watched recently with Paris Hilton and her stupid bitch mother. I lost it, screeching in all caps into the phone some shit about defiling oneself by the information we take in - I can be a real dick, but I don't give a fuck, 'cause I still think I'm right and haters gonna hate, after they watch the Hangover 2.

Now, please ignore the irony of the post beneath this one in which I cry about not being able to wear costumes 24/7.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wish I was an Edwardian baebe

If only I could spend my time alternating between lying/flouncing around in lacy tea dresses, lawn dresses, and other drippy, cream colored garments, but being alive in the modern world is a dirty business, and it simply isn't practical. Me, crawling out of my car in a long skirt with a 24" circumference. Me, getting caught in doors by my sleeves, or waving the cat away as she tries to bat at them. Me, frantically dabbing coffee out of a 96 year old bodice - it's just not viable.


This fashion era, although admittedly awkward at times, is one of my very favorites, if not my main favorite. No other bygone period of fashion is as charming or flattering. Victorian wasp waists are a little disgusting, and bustles look grotesque. Remember the two nasty sisters from Disney's Cinderella? And the reality of so many layers and sleeves to your wrists is less romantic than is typically imagined. Have you ever tried on or seen a 19th century dress in person? Two words: sweat stains.

Another eminent fashion favorite is the 1920s in which everyone envisions some boyish model in a fringey dress. The reality? Shapeless dresses that double as potato sacks, drop waists, rolled stockings! Rolled stockings. Also, cloche hats look like shit on me.

Yeah, Edwardian fashion (the Romanovs, the Titanic, Julia Ormond in Legends of the Fall for those who don't view history as a chronology of dresses) is the best. Modernized but pretty and romantic. Less bullshit than prior periods, fewer skirts, no corset, enough lace to keep French maiden aunts busy for a century, and the jewelry is refined and classical - no jet or reliquaries and other heavy shit if you are not into that.

Oh and if you like to swim (I don't - auction's all yours): About as modest as you can get with your knees exposed.