Things I learned this week #27

  • This seventeenth century petition: In 1674 in England, a pamphlet was made and published, titled The Women’s Petition Against Coffee. The women (or alleged women, we don’t actually know who wrote this) were fighting against the new trend of coffee houses in London, which had arrived some time in the 1650s. These proto-cafés became political and intellectual hubs in London, just as they had in other parts of the world, where men would meet and discuss all sorts of dangerous things like politics and science. The result was a bunch of intellectual, babbling, effeminate, arty-farty, pull-yourself-together-and-get-in-with-it men who couldn’t muster so much as an ounce of passion. Or so say the authors of the pamphlet, who lamented that when a wife of a coffee house attendee “approaches the nuptial bed, expecting a man that … should answer the vigour of her flames, she on the contrary should only meet a bedful of bones, and hug a meager useless corpse”. Ouch. Drinking coffee (unlike it’s manly brother, ale) was wasting away their husbands. The chances that the monarchy at the time were trying to iron out the crinkles caused by a civil war several years previous probably has little or nothing to do with this desire to keep people away from places where ideas could be discussed openly. We also suspect that sex workers at the time found custom in coffee shops, so maybe your man’s coming home already sexually satisfied and blaming it on all the heady ideas of democracy he’s been ingesting with William and Frances at the pub. (source)
  • This maybe-gay-maybe-brothers Ancient Egyptian duo: About 4,500 years ago, during the fifth dynasty of Ancient Egypt Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum were the royal manicurists. So I guess part one of this thing I learned is that four thousand years ago the kings of Egypt had chief manicurists who would oversee the lesser manicurist. The shared tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep was uncovered in 1964. The fun fact here being “shared”. Ancient Egyptians buried people together so they could accompany each other in the afterlife. Often families would be buried together, with their servants if they had any. Because obviously one mortal lifetime of servitude is but an entrée to an eternity spent at the beck and call of a rich Ancient Egyptian family. Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep were both dudes, by the way, in case you couldn’t tell from the names. Depictions of the pair found within the tomb suggest the two could have been lovers (they’re embracing, face-to-face), which would have made them the oldest recorded same sex couple. Some historians have argued they were brothers, as both are depicted in some frescos with wives a children - all of whom sit forlorn in the background of the frescos, playing second fiddle to the men. Also having a wife and children doesn’t mean they weren’t… anyway. Honestly, we’ll never know unless we all end up in the Ancient Egyptian afterlife, in which case I’ll hunt down these guys, get my nails did, and get the tea. (source)
  • This Stuart Little Trivia: On one of the walls of the set for 2000’s Stuart Little, a banger of a film about a family who adopt a talking mouse, there is a painting. This painting. When Gergely Barki, a researcher at Hungary’s National Gallery, watched this film in 2009 (with his daughter at Christmas, or so he insists) he noticed this painting and nearly immediately recognised it as one which disappeared from the gallery in the 1920s. Barki had only ever seen it before as a faded black-and-white photograph from a 1928 exhibition, so props to this man for remembering something so well when I keep buying noodles as part of my grocery shop, forgetting I have three unopened packets at home already. The piece, Barki knew, was Róbert Berény’s Sleeping Lady with Black Vase, an Avant-Guarde. Barki started sending e-mails off to set and production crew for the movie in a bid to find the piece. A meagre two years later, Barki heard back from a set designer who had purchased the painting for cheap at an antiques market in Pasadena, California, specifically for the Stuart Little set. After the wrap, she had taken the piece and hung it in her home before selling the painting to a private collector, who subsequently returned the painting to Hungary to give it back to the National Gallery there. I’m joking, obviously, it was sold at auction for €230,000. (source)

What I’ve had on rotation

  • Something New Medicine at Midnight by Foo Fighters (Rock, 2021). Dave Grohl, am I right? At only 30 minutes, this short album is punchy, with the distinctive vocals and sonic styling of Foo Fighters. I like the band, but I’m not an authority on them or the genre - so from a casual visitor to the Fields of Rock take a very uncontroversial opinion: this is a good album. (links)
  • Something Old Donuts by J Dilla (2006, Hip Hop). J Dilla was one of the most influential figure in early hip hop in Detroit, if not the world. He pioneered and pushed the boundary of sampling as a musical instrument, finding, shifting, and relaying musicality from samples. Vox did a superb video on him. This album is a great way to connect with what was once the forefront of hip hop. J Dilla died three days after the release of this album (aged 32), and to think of the lost talent and beats is pretty heartbreaking. (links)