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Archive for the ‘History’

In the dungeon where Dracula was imprisoned

May 22, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Places, Traveling No Comments →

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The non-claustrophobic can go down to the Castle Labyrinth (Entrance fee: 2,000 forints), the long, dark, very cold tunnels where the kings kept their prisoners. The most famous inmate of the dungeons was the prince Dracula of Transylvania, which used to be part of Hungary. Dracula was the son-in-law of King Matyas, for whom the fabulous Matyas Church was named. Old Vlad D was accused of being in league with the Turks, who invaded Hungary many times. He was reportedly tortured in the dungeons. Repeat, Vlad the Impaler was tortured in the labyrinth, and if I ran the tour there would be background music punctuated with bloodcurdling shrieks. My main fear was not that Dracula would appear, but that I would wander into a secondary tunnel and disappear. Outside it was noon; inside it was so dark and cold you could imagine vampires eating babies. The tour operator relieved the monotony of endless walls of rock with mannequins dressed as characters in a Mozart opera, finds from archeological digs, and other tchotchkes, but all you need is bad night vision and an active imagination.

Read our article Budapest Saves the Day at the BusinessWorld Weekender.

The couch where psychoanalysis was born

May 14, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, History, Places, Traveling No Comments →

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The couch in Dr. Freud’s office

We didn’t get to read The Interpretation of Dreams, which we’d packed for our trip to Vienna. There was so much to see that we could not look at pages. And then we took lots of photos at the Sigmund Freud Museum, which used to be the Freud family apartments. Since we’re maniacal about organizing our files, we transferred the photos into our Mac, which was stolen two days later.

Book unread, photos stolen—if as Dr Freud said there is no such thing as an accident, what does this mean?

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Dr. Freud and his dog

Fortunately we bought a couple of postcards from the little museum shop, which carries Freud’s books.

The museum is a recreation of Freud’s office where he saw his patients, with shelves containing his books and collections of tchotchkes, and plenty of photographs. Some rooms are used as contemporary art exhibition spaces. There is a replica of his famous couch—the original is in London. Apparently he didn’t write his books in his office, he would work on them during his travels. There are also home movies narrated by the doctor’s daughter Anna. In one of them, Sigmund is hanging out with his grandson Lucian Freud the artist.

The Freuds fled Vienna for London when the Nazis came to power. They took their furniture with them, and of course their beloved Chows.

* * * * *

Speaking of dreams and the contents of people’s unconscious, some images from The Art of Dreams in the Public Domain Review.

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The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli (1781). People who have experienced bangungot say it feels like a monster is sitting on their chest. Voila.

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Job’s Evil Dreams by William Blake (1805).

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The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Hokusai (1814). Tentacle porn is older than we think.

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Dream Vision by Albrecht Durer (1525) with text describing what he saw.

Fashion in literature: When Proust is your advertisement

March 30, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Clothing, History 1 Comment →

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Photographs by Pari Dukovic

A number of years ago, a young painting conservator entered a forgotten storeroom in a fifteenth-century Florentine villa and stumbled on a pile of Louis Vuitton steamer trunks. She opened them and discovered a collection of exquisite dresses, the kind usually seen only in movies, or inside protective vitrines in museums. Closer inspection revealed silk labels, hand-woven with the name “Callot Soeurs.”

In the second volume of “Remembrance of Things Past,” the Narrator asks his beloved, Albertine, “Is there a vast difference between a Callot dress and one from any ordinary shop?” Her response: “Why, an enormous difference, my little man!”

A “Callot dress” is one that was made by the Paris haute-couture house Callot Soeurs—Callot Sisters. The sisters are not much remembered now: there has been no monograph on their work, and no retrospective. Yet, not long after Callot Soeurs opened their atelier, in 1895, they became one of the great names in Belle Époque fashion. Madeleine Vionnet, one of the most influential and radical designers of the twentieth century, was the sisters’ head seamstress. She ranked them higher than the self-proclaimed King of Fashion, Paul Poiret. “Without the example of the Callot Soeurs,” Vionnet said, “I would have continued to make Fords. It is because of them that I have been able to make Rolls-Royces.”

Read 21 Dresses in the New Yorker.

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The exact quote from Proust:

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Neal Stephenson’s comic book Cimarronin is set in 17th century Manila

March 23, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, History 2 Comments →

Cimarronin: A Samurai in New Spain

A disgraced outcast samurai living in early seventeenth-century Manila, Kitazume is contemplating ritual suicide when a divine force (of a sort) intervenes: Luis, a rogue Jesuit priest and Kitazume’s longtime friend. At Luis’s insistence, the samurai agrees to help smuggle a Manchu princess to Mexico. But little does he know that he’s really been dragged into an epic struggle for power.

Several forces have their malicious sights set on the New World’s rich silver mines: an insurgent Spanish duke, Chinese political interests, and the escaped African slaves known as the cimarrónes. And working in secret among them is a mysterious, long-lost order that has its own plans for the precious metal.

As politics and greed collide, Kitazume must call upon his deadly skills once more. But he’s not just fighting to save his friends–he’s fighting for the redemption he so desperately craves.

Neal Stephenson’s brilliant novel Cryptonomicon is set partly in the Philippines.

Thanks to Budjette for the alert.

The name of the biscuit

March 17, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, History 1 Comment →

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Blue Kitchen was all out of Arrowroot (a.k.a. uraro) cookies. We were a little relieved, because once we start eating them we cannot stop. For snacking carbs, we bought a bag of thin square biscuits called Jacobina. They were a childhood merienda treat, like otap or rosquillos, but we never knew they were called jacobina. We just referred to them as biscuits.

Why are these biscuits called Jacobina? Jacobina, like Jacobin. What did they have to do with the Jacobins, Robespierre, the Terror which followed the French Revolution? Is it because they resemble blades and remind people of guillotines? The jacobina we bought are the exact size of a razor blade. Or were they simply named after a person?

So we asked a historian where Jacobina biscuits got their name. After all, he’s written about local bakeries and we always have a giggle over the bread known as pampam. He was no help at all: he said maybe they had something to do with Jacob’s crackers. But that’s probably why he’s a historian and we write fiction.

Belatedly it occurred to us to google, although we think one should always figure out an answer first before going to the Internet. We learned that Jacobina is a trademark of a bakery in Cavite (so we should’ve asked Ige). Their website doesn’t explain the name, either. For now we will eat our biscuits and imagine the screams of the aristocracy losing their heads.

Vikings: The domestic lives of ancient marauders

February 18, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Television No Comments →

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Photo from the History Channel

Vikings is a production of the History Channel, so we’re inclined to think that this series about the rise of the legendary chief Ragnar Lothbrok is concerned with historical accuracy and authenticity. On the other hand its creator and showrunner is Michael Hirst, whose previous projects The Tudors and The Borgias can hardly be accused of accuracy. The court of King Henry VIII may have been as sexy as depicted in The Tudors, but the famed portrait by Hans Holbein shows that the monarch’s calves were larger than the waist of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who portrayed Henry.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.