Women have been using makeup for thousands of years and beauty in Ancient Rome was just as important as it is today. Just as we do, they even had books that helped women stay on top of beauty trends. Many of you might be familiar with the poet Ovid's Metamorphoses and Amores but I would bet you've not heard of his Medicamina Faciei Femineae or Women’s Facial Cosmetics, sometimes seen as The Art of Beauty. The fragment we have from this book (see the link above) is fascinating, offering up three and a half beauty tips for Roman women. The first is a lengthy and messy recipe on how to make your skin whiter. The second recipe on getting rid of pimples would, as we know now, kill you slowly over time. I imagine that many women paid such a high price to be beautiful:
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According to the ancient Roman historian, Pliny the Elder, "Apicius, the most gluttonous gorger of all spendthrifts, established the view that the flamingo's tongue has a specially fine flavor." The poet Martial, who was born a few years before Apicius died, agreed, saying: “My red wing gives me my name, but epicures regard my tongue as tasty. But what if my tongue could sing?” They don't actually sing, however. They tend to honk and squawk.
I’m a big They Might Be Giants fan. They always have fantastic videos and this one is one of my favorites. Robots+Romans culminating in the Ides of March.
Like last year, I'm embarking on the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. I'm actually going to aim for 75 books this year as the big goal, but I'll be happy if I can average a book a week. For the most part, this month's themes were food and fantasy.
One of my favorite Italian songs is by a young pop star, Francesa Michielin, from her 2015 album di20. She rose to fame when she won the 5th season of Italy's X-Factor. I find great emotion in this song. I think she captures much of what I have felt in my life when I have been (and still am) in love. Lyrics in both Italian and English after the video.
David Bowie's death hit me much harder than I could have anticipated. I was still basking in the amazingness of Blackstar, telling everyone I knew that they needed to go buy it, that I thought it was the best Bowie album yet. I certainly didn't expect it to be his last. I could write a whole post on how much he has impacted my life but I think everyone is starting to weary of the collective mourning that Bowie fans are going through. Instead, I wanted to share another place where he inspired me. A few years ago, he shared a list of his 100 favorite books, and of course, it's going around again. It was another poignant reminder of why I admired him so much. It got me to thinking about my own voracious reading habit. If I had to list my 100 favorites, what would they be? I found that it was a hard list to come up with--I have read SO many books and when I used to have time, I could easily finish a book a day. Alas, writing books cuts into the reading time these days. But out of those several thousands of books that I've read, which of those has really stayed with me?
Last year I had a few goals that I wanted to meet related to reading and writing, some of which I accomplished and some that I didn't. However, I did:
My 2015 New Year's Resolution of reading 52 books in 2015 is complete! I even did better than that and read a few more too.
60. Slade House - David Mitchell Ending the year with Slade House was a good decision. I slurped it up in about two nights of reading--it was that good. It's one of the most unusual ghost stories that I've read. Mitchell toys with point of view in the most artful of ways and his method of telling the story across the decades is equally masterful. I didn't find it to be a scary story, just one that kept me wondering what on earth might happen next.
One of the most well-known Italian Christmas carols outside of the US is Caro Gesu Bambino which means "Dear Baby Jesus." It's a newer carol, dating to about 1960 and one of the earliest American-known singers to cover it was Frankie Avalon. The lyrics are here (Italian and English) if you are interested, and below, Italian treasure Andrea Bocelli does a beautiful version of the song. Buon Natale my friends! And Buone Feste to those of you who are celebrating other holidays. I wish the best for you and yours this season.
I was watching the Italian station RAI Interational the other day and one of the things that I love about the station is that they have little segments with snippets from variety and music shows over the last 40 years or so. It's a fascinating look at the wacky, beautiful, funny and talented side of Italian performers. One of the things they showed last night was a bit from a show that the Kessler Twins did. The Kesslers hail from Munich and were well known in Europe back in the day, particularly in Germany and Italy. Here's a sample of their awesomeness:
I have been rather remiss, I fear, in keeping my book list updated here on my blog. I've been reading far more than I had hoped, but certainly not as much as I would like. I am happy to have passed the 50 book barrier with more than a month to spare! Let's see if I can get close to 60 books this year. I'm confident I'll finish at least 2-3 more this month, and hopefully another 3-4 in December. October
I posted last month about my goal of reading at least 52 books this year. The good thing is that I'm well on my way! Here are the books I read in June.
Back in 1987, archaeologists discovered a treasure trove in a floor drain of the Roman Forum. This "treasure" was 86 loose teeth, all intact but with cavities in various stages. Three decades later, they've finally determined that they were all extracted by a highly skilled dentist of the time. Also of interest, up in England, researchers have pinpointed the advanced stages of dental decay in a young Roman toddler, to excessive consumption of honey.
Medicine was quite advanced in Ancient Greece and Rome. Surgeons regularly practiced lobotomies, Caesarean sections (didn't you ever wonder where that name came from?) and amputations, and were the inventors of tools such as forceps, catheters, scalpels and bone drills. Along with all of this fancy "technology" the Romans also relied heavily on herbs and the beneficial properties of food. Pliny writes (in addition to telling us how bees manage their colonies) that honey is good for afflictions of the mouth, pneumonia, pleurisy and snake bites.
One of my goals this year is to read, on average, a book a week, or at least 52 books this year. I'm right on track...even a little ahead!
I'm not entirely sure what I think about drone technology. It has incredible possibilities and on the flip side, terrifying possibilities. On the incredible side of things, I love that you can be an armchair traveler and have a birdseye view of beautiful places in the world. One of my favorite videos of this sort is this wonderful view of Rome by drone. It makes me feel desperate to be there again, walking the streets where my novel's characters once walked. httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTw-kvXS9Sk