Friday, March 29, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #70: Easter Vikings

Hey everybody, and Happy Good Friday! Wait, I don’t think you’re supposed to be happy, cause Jesus is being crucified, and stuff. But on the other hand, some of you get a three-day weekend (not me, but somebody out there is getting one), so there’s that. Also, it was warm enough today that I could open the window, thereby distracting the cat from chewing on my feet while I write this.

I decided to blog about Vikings this year because I already blogged about Easter and Easter bunnies last year. Besides, if you read that post, you’ll already know that Easter is named after the Norse or old Germanic goddess Eostre or Ostara, so that Vikings are a completely normal and natural thing to associate with Easter.

Something like that.

The word “Viking” did not originally belong to any particular ethnic group and was not used to describe a distinct culture. In Old Norse, the word “viking” was originally a feminine noun and meant “an overseas expedition.” The masculine noun “vikingr” was used to refer to the expeditioners themselves, and was also used as a personal name, so there you go, parents who want to be unique and creative – name the rugmonkey Vikingr and see if he still speaks to you when he grows up.

Later, the word “Viking” would take on connotations of piracy and raiding, but would remain largely neutral in its connotations throughout the Viking Age. The Vikings were known by many names in the lands that they raided – Lochlanach by the Irish, Ascomanni by the Germans, Dene by the Anglo-Saxons, and Rus by the Arabs, Slavs and Byzantines, probably after Roslagen, the area of Sweden where most of the Vikings who raided these lands came from. Vikings would form settlements in Belarus and Russia, lending their name to those nations.

The Viking Age is the period of early Medieval history which lasted from about 790 until 1066, when the Normans conquered England. During this period, Vikings traveled as far east as the Volga River in Russia, as far west as Newfoundland (with stops in Iceland and Greenland), and as far south as what is now Morocco.

The Vikings established settlements in the Orkney, Faroe and Shetland Islands, as well as on Iceland and Greenland; the latter were the subject of a thoroughly depressing novel I once read, The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley, in which everyone starved at the end, that is, if they didn’t get murdered or burned at the stake or otherwise brutally executed first. It was rough, is what I’m saying.

The Vikings managed to establish at least one colony in the New World, L’Anse aux Meadows, on the northernmost coast of Newfoundland.


It was probably established around the year 1000 AD, and may have been just one of many Norse settlements in the region; at the very least, it was probably a base camp for expeditioners wishing to head south and check out the rest of northeastern Canada. While the area surrounding the L’Anse aux Meadows today consists of, you guessed it, meadows, 1,000 years ago it consisted of dark, scary forests which the Viking settlers would have used to build boats and houses. Eight sod and wood homes and workshops were uncovered in archeological digs that occurred throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The largest building in L’Anse aux Meadows was 94.5 ft by 51 ft (28.8 m by 15.6 m) and contained multiple rooms. The community enjoyed a smithy, a carpentry workshop, and a dock for repairing boats. The discovery of artifacts like needles and spindles suggests that women lived alongside men in the settlement, because some badass bearded Viking dude wasn’t going to darn his own socks, I guess.

Contrary to popular belief, the Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets, as this would have been really inconvenient in battle, where your opponent could easily pull your helmet off by the horns and then cave your stupid skull in. This idea was promulgated in the 19th century by members of the Gothic League, a Swedish group of authors and poets and not, it should be noted, historians. Bronze Age horned helmets have been uncovered in archeological digs, but their use was probably ceremonial.

Nor were Vikings particularly barbarous; they didn’t learn to write using the Roman alphabet until they became Christians, so much of what we know about their conquests comes from records written by the people they harried and raided, and these accounts are, ahem, biased. Their Anglo-Saxon neighbors in what is now called England considered them excessively clean, due to their habit of washing themselves every Saturday and coming their hair regularly. Persian explorer Ibn Rustah records the Vikings’ habit of frequently changing their clothes, and his contemporary Ibn Fadlan records the Vikings’ habit of washing their faces and blowing their noses each morning.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I’m Doing the Blogging A to Z Challenge This Year, Until I Get Kicked Out for My Filthy, Awful, Dirty Sinful Language

For those of you who don’t know, the blogging A to Z Challenge is a thing that bloggers do during the month of April, in which we write 26 posts, one for each day of the month except Sundays, themed according to the letters of the alphabet. So, post one is “A is for…”, post two is “B is for…” and so on all through the month, except on Sundays. No, I don’t know why. I wasn’t even going to, but my Bitchery Triad friends, Christina at Solitary Mama and Bubblegum “Cheese Queen” Cari at Bubblegum on My Shoe talked me into it. By which I mean they said, “Hey, we’re doing this,” and I kind of pouted for a minute before I agreed. For the Triad!

One for all and all for one! Or something.

Our theme is “26 Reasons I’ll Kick Your Ass,” or maybe it’s “26 Reasons I Want to Kick Your Ass” – nobody wrote it down so now nobody’s sure. It has something to do with ass-kicking though. Remember that, because we’re not writing “26 Reasons I’ll Kick Your Ass Whatever Letter is for Such and Such” every time, because we decided that would make the post titles too long. It’s just going to be “A is for,” “B is for,” etc every day, so pay attention or you might miss something important.

Some of the A to Z people have dropped by to make sure my blog is legit, and my co-host has advised me that I should watch my language during the challenge, due to the “varied age of the participants.” I didn’t know kids were blogging in this challenge, but I guess that explains the state of some of these blogs. She “totally understand[s] [my] use of language” but needs me to keep it “at a PG level,” so I researched what language PG-13 films are allowed to use (come on, you knew I would), and it turns out that’s up to three fucks per script and other words “depending on context” whatever that means. I suppose that means it would be okay to say “The bitch nursed her puppies,” or “The diuretic bear shat in the woods, a lot,” but it probably wouldn’t be okay to say “Get your shittin’ language hang-ups off my fuckin’ blog.”

I can say that today, because the challenge hasn't started yet, see.

I asked my blogger friends if “no foul language” was an A to Z rule to their knowledge and they were all like, “What? Never heard of such a thing!” Also, they allow “adult content” (ahem) blogs to join this challenge, and sure, they have to put up those “this blog contains adult content” warnings where you have to click “I understand and am 18 and wish to see boobies” before entering, but it’s not like your monitor will implode if you’re under 18 and you enter the adult content blog anyway.

I talked this all over with the other members of Bitchery, who agreed that our theme and the use of the term “Bitchery Triad” were both against the (apparently new and arbitrarily applied to only me) rules of the A to Z challenge. We then decided to just go ahead and do our thing anyway because honestly, what are they going to do, kick us out? It’s me they’re after, so it’s me they’ll kick out. Don’t worry, I’ll keep on posting even if they do kick me out.

They'll never take...OUR FREEDOM!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #69: Two-Year Blogiversary Edition

Yay everybody, today is my two-year blogiversary! Two years ago today, I started Don’t Call Me Marge with my first post, in which I explain my not-actually-very-crippling-at-all fear of fish. At the time, I think I might have been fish-sitting a Black Moor goldfish named Mr. President. That’s the kind with the big buggy eyes.

Like this.

Since it’s Friday, I want to do the Friday Facts you know and love. But since it’s my blogiversary (or blog birthday, I think that’s what I called it last year), I want to do a special commemorative theme. So, I thought I’d do a “this day in history” thing because that covers both facts and anniversaries (sadly, I couldn’t find many facts about anniversaries anywhere, unless you’re interested in knowing that the traditional gift for a seventh wedding anniversary is wool).

Baaaah. ~Gavin Schaefer

On this day in 1457, the first Gutenberg Bible was printed, according to this dodgy website that is probably incorrect. This is my blog and I can cite questionable sources if I want. 

 The Gutenberg Bible is believed to be the first printed book. People back in 1457 had no imagination, and if they did, it was sinful.

The printing revolution Gutenberg started would change the entire world, so much so that his moveable type printing press would be named the greatest invention of all time by a television program I watched when I was in high school. By 1480, there were 110 printers working in cities across Europe, from France to Poland. By 1500, there were 270 such shops across Europe, and they had produced more than 20 million books. By 1600, there were between 150 and 200 million printed books in Europe.

Many people like to point out that moveable type printing was first invented in Korea in the 1200s. While this is true, the Koreans failed to invent the mechanical press that made it possible for European printers in the 15th and 16th centuries to produce up to 3,600 pages a day. Ancient Korean printers rubbed the back of the page by hand to transfer the print. They were able to produce a maximum of 40 pages per day.

On this day in 1621, the Plymouth Colony Pilgrims (sounds like a football team) signed their famous peace treaty with the local Wampanoag people. In the treaty, the Wampanoag agreed to cede ownership of 12,000 acres (49 square kilometers) of their tribal lands to the English. It is extremely likely that the Wampanoag did not understand the European concept of ownership. It was, however, kind of a moot point, because the Wampanoag had recently suffered a decade of war with the neighboring Pequots and Mi’kmaqs, followed by a devastating plague that may have killed up to 90% of their remaining population. So that 12,000 acres was mostly already empty anyway.

Whether or not the first Thanksgiving happened the way they say it did, there is some evidence that the goodwill between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag lasted for at least a couple of decades, until those asshole Puritans arrived and fucked everything all the way up.


On this day in 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Colony outlawed gaming tables as well as the possession of dice and cards. Plenty of things were illegal in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, including sleeping during church, “profane” dancing (I would have thought they didn’t have stripper poles in the colonies but I guess I’d be wrong), pulling hair, kissing (WHAT?), riding behind two men (huh?), smoking tobacco, and “abusing your mother-in-law.” On this day in 1638, Puritan midwife and mother of 15 Anne Hutchinson was expelled from said colony in punishment for her religious beliefs and her role in the Antinomian Controversy, which threatened the colony’s leadership. Among other things, Anne professed a belief in mortalism, the doctrine that the soul dies along with the body. She also went around calling herself a prophet, which is never a good idea.

On this day in 1984 (we’re skipping ahead a bit now) charges of satanic ritual abuse were filed against the teachers at McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, California. This event colored my childhood, as my poor mother spent the rest of the 80s convinced that Satanists were going to kidnap me and use me in their arcane rituals before chopping my head off and selling it to a witch doctor, probably.


The allegations of satanic ritual abuse that took America and other English-speaking countries, including those in Scandinavia, by storm in the 1980s and early 1990s turned out to be a moral panic, a sort of mass hysteria that seizes a population when it feels its status quo is threatened. Another example of a moral panic would be the witch hunts that occurred periodically from the late 15th century to about the mid 18th century, or the post-war McCarthy era.

To make a long story short (and seriously, I just spent like an hour reading about this crap on Wikipedia), satanic ritual abuse was based on the idea that there were as many as one million Satanists in the United States, infiltrating every community, and operating child care facilities in order to gain access to the young children they needed for their Satanic worship rituals. Elements of satanic ritual abuse supposedly included bizarre forms of sexual and ritual abuse in an occult context, the sexual exploitation of children, and the use of children in sacrifices. Ritual torture techniques were allegedly used to control the minds of children, creating drug mules, assassins and sex workers who lived normal lives until someone roused their alternate Satanic personalities with a specific code word. 

Thousands of people recovered memories of satanic ritual abuse in therapy, and the idea gained a lot of credence in the mental health sphere for over a decade, but no real evidence was ever found. In 1990, Peggy McMartin Buckey, administrator of McMartin preschool, was cleared of all charges. Her estranged husband Ray Buckey, who taught at the school, was released after five years of imprisonment and two hung juries. He was never convicted.

It's okay, Mom, you can come out now.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Quitting Smoking: Day 423 

That’s right, it’s been one year and two months since I quit smoking. One year and 58 days, at least. I’m not too sure where the other two days went; maybe I miscounted them. I’m awful at counting.

So, at this point, I’m officially a non-smoker. I don’t even think about cigarettes any more. Even several months in, I’d still feel like smoking when I was having a drink, or when I was angry about something, or sometimes after a really big meal. I stopped eating lollipops a long time ago because I was eating like 40 of them a day and they really started to make my teeth hurt. I had some major dental work right after I quit smoking which probably wasn't helping matters. I still carry a box of toothpicks in my purse, but I hardly ever feel the urge to use one.

I should probably take a new picture.

My skin still looks like crap, but that may be because I’m getting old. I also still have a massive craving for sweets, and still want to stuff my face with them at every opportunity, but why the fuck wouldn't I, they are delicious. I try really hard not to, of course, because I don’t want to get diabetes, lose all my teeth or gain all the weight. 

Speaking of gaining all the weight, it turns out 25% of people who quit smoking gain more than 15 pounds, and I’m one of them. I gained about 25 pounds. “About” means “more” but I’m not going to tell you how much more. Since November I've lost a little more than ten pounds, so maybe it’s my metabolism leveling itself back out since I've adjusted to not smoking. I've also moved out of the chainsmokers’ house and now have total control over my own diet, since they aren't around to gobble up everything I buy.

I really like not smoking. Things I like about not smoking include:
  • Not having mood swings all day long because I don't get to smoke cigarettes every fifteen minutes.
  • Not feeling as anxious as I used to.
  • My teeth might be whiter. It’s kind of hard to tell cause I’m convinced they’re irreparably stained and also because I pained the bathroom green, so now my face looks funny in the mirror. This could be why my skin looks like crap.
  • Not having to stand around in the cold to smoke.
  • Saving all that money.
  • Breathing.
  • My breath smells much better, although the cat still looks pretty horrified when he sniffs it in the morning.

To be fair, nothing is ever good enough for him.

I’m still paranoid about getting cancer, but I’m a hypochondriac. The other day somebody posted a horror story on Facebook about how her husband was bedridden and nearly died of an infected hemorrhoid and now I’m afraid I’ll be killed by my own ass, for example.

I still dream about smoking cigarettes on occasion, even though I no longer think about it when I’m awake. In the dreams, I’ll just be smoking a cigarette whilst doing stuff, and I’ll look down, and be like, “Wait a minute, why do I have this!? I don’t smoke anymore!” and feel horrified. I’ll feel so horrified that I’ll wake up and feel relieved when I realize that I haven’t started smoking again because it was just a dream.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #68: Papacy Edition

As you’re no doubt aware by now, last Wednesday, we got a new pope. He’s Pope Francis I, and he’s the first Pope from the New World. I think he looks a lot friendlier than the last pope.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so.

I was brought up Roman Catholic, and even though I don’t practice anymore, I couldn’t help but be a little excited about the election of a new pope. That’s not why I followed the papal conclave or waited anxiously for the announcement of the papal election. I did those things because my editor at asked me to cover the story.

As a Catholic, I am available to answer all your pope questions. I will, of course, just Google them, but apparently this option never occurs to anyone else. A friend of mine commented on my papal election piece to ask, “How old do you have to be to be elected the pope?” If I had to guess, I’d say at least 105, but if I was in the habit of just guessing things I wouldn't have won first place in my third grade class research contest, so I looked it up.

It would appear that, these days, one must attain a minimum age of 25 to be the pope. Shit, you guys, that’s younger than you need to be to get elected President of the United States. 

In the old days, age wasn't such a big deal. The youngest pope, John XII, ascended to the papacy on 16 December 955 at just 18 years of age. At the time, it was pretty scandalous, considering that young Pope John XII achieved his venerable post by order of his father, Alberic II, Duke of Spoleto and ruler of Rome. John XII was said to be a massive womanizer who allegedly perished in his mistress’s arms.

Here he is pictured at about age 23, probably. He wore his hair like that on purpose.
John XII, who was called Octavianus at birth, was only the second pope to change his name after his election. For the first few centuries of the Church, popes just kept their same old names, just as many of them also kept wives and had children. The first pope to change his name was Mercurius in 533 AD, who let himself be known as John II after assuming the papacy because he felt it would be inappropriate for a Catholic pope to go around being named after the Roman god Mercury. The last pope to keep his birth name was Marcellus II, who ascended to the papacy in 1555. Other popes have taken the names of saints, mentors, predecessors, or family members as they saw fit. 

The most interesting pope was arguably Pope Stephen VI, who became pope on 22 May 896, back when you could become pope basically by appointment. It was, in fact, the Spoleto family (mentioned above) who helped Stephen VI win papal office. Stephen VI reigned as pope for only a little over a year before being strangled in August 897. He is largely remembered for exhuming the body of Pope Formosus and putting it on trial in what is now known as the Cadaver Synod. In the trial, Stephen VI accused the very dead Pope Formosus of not being legally qualified to be pope and of perjury.

Artist's depiction.

Formosus was found guilty as charged, stripped of his vestments, mangled a little bit (they cut off his blessing-fingers), and chucked into the Tiber, because nobody cared about water quality back then. All of Formosus’s ordinations, appointments, decrees and declarations were declared null and void. 

Thankfully, someone fished the ex-Formosus out of the river so that he could be re-buried in the Vatican after the death of Stephen VI. A later pope, Sergius III, declared Formosus’s ordinations, appointments, etc valid again, because of the confusion and panic that occurred when, suddenly, a bunch of people weren't priests anymore and all of their baptisms and weddings and stuff stopped counting.

Perhaps the second most interesting pope was Celestine V, who was canonized in 1313. Celestine was a Benedictine monk who enjoyed a life of solitude and asceticism. I'm not speaking figuratively; he really did enjoy it.

Unfortunately for Celestine, he lived during a long papal interregnum; when Pope Nicholas IV died in 1292, the cardinal electors failed to elect another pope for two years. Rather than keep well out of it like you’d expect a hermit who lived in a freaking cave to do, Celestine, then known as Peter of Marrone, wrote the cardinals a letter, scolding them about the awful wrath of God they would incur if they didn't elect a pope right this minute. The cardinals responded by bestowing the honor upon Celestine himself.

Artist's depiction.

Celestine, who was, you’ll recall, an ascetic hermit who lived in a cave, fled. When he was finally tracked down and cajoled to assume the papacy, he did a terrible job. He was 84 years old, weak, feeble, inexperienced at politics, and uninterested in worldly things. It’s said that he slept on the cold, hard marble floors of the papal palace instead of in its beds, and pleaded daily to be allowed to return to his cave. After five months of being like the worst pope ever, Celestine had a stroke of genius. He used his immense papal power to issue a new decree that popes would henceforth be allowed to resign. He then resigned.

Not everyone liked the idea of papal resignation, so Celestine was captured and once again dragged back to Rome. He ran away a second time, eventually returning to his beloved cave. Again, he was captured, and this time imprisoned until he died ten months later.

I just wanted to go back to my cave, you guys.

Celestine V was not the first pope to resign, but he was the first to institute a streamlined process of papal resignation, which allowed Pope Gargoyle I mean Benedict XVI to resign last month. More importantly, Celestine V re-instated the modern papal conclave system. He is the reason why it didn't take the Vatican two freaking years to elect a pope.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in my cave.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #67: RIP Hugo Chavez

As you’re no doubt aware by now, Hugo Chavez died a couple days ago. Today is also International Women’s Day, which I didn’t even realize until about mid-afternoon, so I guess that means I’m bad at being a woman.

I open my own jars and everything.

I wanted to blog about Hugo Chavez today because, on the occasion of his death, Citgo HQ in Houston, Texas lowered its flag to half-staff in mourning. According to local news sources, Citgo, a Venezeulan-owned company, announced:

"President Hugo Chávez of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela leaves behind a legacy of support for the underprivileged and promotion of social justice that transcends geographical boundaries. We at CITGO Petroleum Corporation are deeply saddened by the news of his passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of Venezuela in this time of grief."

Of course, the Internet went apeshit, with commenters calling for the removal of Citgo HQ’s flagpoles, announcing lifelong boycotts that will no doubt be forgotten about by next week, and indignantly announcing, Half mast is a scared symbol for the deaths of soldiers and presidents unless ordered by the president himself. Most of the commenters labored under the illusion that it is illegal to fly the flag at half-staff unless ordered to do so by the President or governor of your state.

According to this pesky government website, “A local community, a company, a school district, or a federal agency can decide to have all of their flags at half-staff because of the death of an employee, a student, a mayor, or a local police officer,” it says. So, you see, they were well within their rights.

One guy boasts that he called up Citgo HQ and ordered “the woman on the phone” to raise the flag to back to full staff or he would “come down there and do it myself.” I’m sure they appreciated that, it takes a real strong man to yell at a woman.

Before he grew up, went to military school and became a powerful advocate for the underclasses, proto-Chavez played youth baseball with the Criollitos de Venezeula and dreamed of being a pro baseball player. He idolized Néstor Isaías "Látigo" Chávez, a Venezeulan pitcher who died at the age of 23 on 16 March 1969, in the worst airplane crash in Venezeulan history. Young Hugo was so distraught that he stayed home from school for two days.

Awwwwww.  ~Jose Cruz/ABr

Chavez continued to be known as an avid baseball player throughout his life. In fact, when he joined the military at the age of 17, he later said, it was so he would be able to play in the military baseball leagues.

When Hugo Chavez was twelve to thirteen years old, his peers teased him and called him “Tribilin,” Spanish for Goofy, because of his large feet.

D'awwwwwww. ~Victor Soares/ABr

Rumor has it that Hugo’s classmates at the Venezeula Academy of Military Sciences, where he enrolled in 1971, didn’t find him very hawt. He had two girlfriends who, according to Wikipedia, “were considered…unattractive,” and who “were more interested in two of Chavez’s best friends…than in Chavez himself.” When another, presumably more attractive girl snubbed the young Chavez, he left a present on her doorstep – the rotting head of a donkey.

Not so cute, Hugo.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I’ve Been Doing Twitter All Wrong Over Here

Twittering is a skill that needs practice, you guys. I’m going to admit that I’m not that concerned about my practical Twittering skills. Years ago, back in the Dark Ages, I used to have no followers and I’d write things on Twitter and no one would give a fuck and pr0n bots would try to show me their boobs, but all that’s changed. Now, I write things on Twitter and people are all like, “Yes! How clever and wise! I shall retweet this!” and sometimes I Twitter at people and they Twitter back to me, or they Twitter at me and I Twitter back to them, and then we Twitter at each other and look! Here we are using technology to avoid normal social interaction! How fun!

But, according to some online advice columnists, who I won’t link back to because I can’t find the article now and I’m lazy, but who are on Buzzfeed (and let’s face it, Buzzfeed doesn’t need more traffic), I am doing Twitter all wrong. Here are some of the ways I’ve been fucking up at Twitter:

Not Following People Back

That’s right, I don’t follow people back. For a long time on Twitter, I followed back everyone who followed me. Then I realized that my Twitter feed was clogged with the retweets, shared links, promotional posts and pr0n bot boobs of 1200 people that I didn’t know, like, or give a crap about. I found myself re-thinking my reasons for being on Twitter, and decided that they involved having fun, meeting new people and not going mad while working from home all day.

So, several months ago, I unfollowed everyone that I hadn’t engaged with and enjoyed, plus a few by accident, and that added up to more than a thousand people, so if I unfollowed you a few months ago, this would be why.

Sorry, but you're boring and I don't care about your life.

It took me about three hours to sit there and go through my “following” list and remove all the peeps that I didn’t want to follow anymore, but Twitter has been so much more fun for me since I did that. Sure, my remaining followers have been slowly trickling away now that they’re not getting the ego boost of reciprocal follow-cation. Twitter is a very “what’s in it for me” place, and everyone’s convinced that having a lot of followers means something. It does not.

Abusing Hashtags

According to this columnist on Buzzfeed whose name I forget, hashtags on Twitter serve a purpose. They allow disparate groups of people to Twitter about the same topics and see each other’s Twitterings, by looking them up with the hashtag. You knew that. Or, if you didn’t know that, now you do, and you’re welcome.

So, apparently, we’re all supposed to stick with using the hashtags that are already popular and circulating instead of “abusing” the hashtag privilege by creating our own random hashtags that mean nothing outside of the context of our silly little heads. I guess trending hashtags are handed down by The Almighty Hashtag Tribunal instead of being flippantly created by mere peons such as ourselves.

I abuse hashtags all the time. I use them to attach my tweets to a larger colony of similarly-themed tweets Twittered by other Twitterers that I don’t even know, to organize my own tweets under categories, or to express my thoughts about the tweet even as I Twitter it. I might even use them to let somebody I’m currently Twittering with know which tweets are about what topics, since I often carry on multiple conversations with the same person(s) simultaneously.

I don’t care what anyone thinks, it’s fun, like wearing skinny jeans and using Hotmail. Even as I wrote this blog post, my Twitter friend @evilmynx and I managed to get the hashtag #sluttycat trending. It was amazing, really made me feel like I’d made a difference. But the online advice gurus claim that this practice will annoy your followers and DRIVE THEM ALL AWAY.

And here I thought they were being eaten by zombies.

Retweeting Praise

I’m definitely not the only person who does this. It’s beginning to look like, if the advice of people who are paid to come up with advice is to be believed, I shouldn’t be looking to the other Twitterers for examples of how to Twitter. They are doing it wrong too.

Turns out that retweeting mentions of people telling you you’re awesome makes you look stuck up. It makes you look stuck up even if you copy and paste the message into a new tweet in order to convey your thanks and appreciation to the giver of praise by sending it back to them. It’s definitely not a means of saying “Thank you for saying these nice things about me” in the most convenient way possible for the other person, who might by now be sitting there wondering “What did I say again?” No, it is SHOWING OFF and it will annoy your followers and DRIVE THEM ALL AWAY.


Retweeting Insults

I don’t get many insults, but when I do, I retweet them. The online advice people frown at this and tell me that I’m a big ol’ meanie for escalating things like that, because it’s encouraging my followers to attack the person and the best thing to do is ignore them. Yes, I know, my grandmother gave me that advice when I came home crying about bullies in the third grade.

Ignoring the bullies does have some value, but I don’t believe in letting people use the dwindling anonymity of the Internet as a shield to stand behind whilst attacking others. If you haven’t yet clued in that the Internet is a public space and that what you say there can have a way of biting you in the ass, well, guess what. Maybe retweeting that harassing tweet will serve as a reminder.

Besides, it’s not as if I’m going all “Hey guys look at this asshole, LET’S GET HIM” every time I do this. I’m not responsible for what other people decide to do. If some of my followers decide to give him a hard time, then it’s his fault for being a douchenozzle in the first place.

I love having an excuse to use this picture.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #66: Tarot Cards Edition

I’ve always been fascinated by Tarot, so much so that I once had my cards read by a scraggly-haired hippie in exchange for a tam I made myself. The tam was lopsided, I was traveling the country and the cards said I should travel north. I didn’t want to, so I drove north for an hour and then turned around.

Hey, those occult forces could've been more specific. Don't judge.

1) The first tarot cards were made in Italy sometime between 1430 and 1450. That’s right – not nearly as mysteriously ancient as you probably thought. They were based on playing cards made in Egypt. Even today, cards similar to tarot cards are used to play card games in non-English speaking countries. I have a deck that my Bavarian friend gave me when I visited him a few years ago, but I can no longer remember the name of the game he taught me or how to play it.

The word tarot derives from the Italian word tarocchi, which totally proves that the game is Italian in origin. Right? Right. Theories about the origin of the Italian word tarocchi abound; some believe it comes from the name of the Taro River in Parma, which makes sense because tarot-style European playing cards originated in northern Italy. Others believe that tarocchi comes from an Arabic word; some candidates include turuq, taraka, and tarh. That makes sense too, because Egypt. What is known is that the first tarot cards produced in Italy were known as carte de trionfi, or “triumph cards.” The oldest extant tarot cards come from 15 decks created for the ruling family of Milan, the Visconti-Sforza, in about 1450. Their original purpose was for playing card games. These games were held exempt from medieval laws forbidding the playing of most card games, probably because early tarot decks had to be handmade at considerable cost, making them a luxury of the wealthy.

Let's not fuck with the wealthy.

2) Playing cards of various other types were used to tell fortunes as early as 1540, but tarot cards weren’t adapted to this purpose until at least the 18th century. The ancient mystic tradition of the occult tarot goes all the way back to 1781, making it younger than my native country. It began with the publication of Le Monde Primitif (The Primitive World) by Swiss Antoine Court de Gébelin. He was a Freemason so that explains it.

Antoine Court de Gébelin, seen here looking misérable.

By that time, the Tarot de Marseille, as it would later come to be called, was becoming quite popular. It’s still popular among Francophones today (who happen to also be fortune tellers), and much of its imagery has found its way into tarot decks used by the English-speaking world. De Gébelin believed that the symbolism used in this tarot deck came from ancient Egyptian mythology, that the name “tarot” itself was Egyptian for “royal road,” and that the Romani, famous divinators, had brought the cards and the divination practice from Egypt. Later, Egyptologists would learn to read Egyptian hieroglyphs and would find no evidence to support De Gébelin’s theories, but back in 1781, nobody knew anything about anything yet. Of course, mere facts never stopped anyone, so legends about the Egyptian origins of occult tarot persisted and were blended with elements of the Hermetic Qabalah and alchemy.

Alchemy: Poisoning scientists since forever.

3) The Tarot de Marseille has been the center of controversy since its origins during the Renaissance, due to certain “unconventional” cards in its deck. One of these is La Papesse, or the Female Pope. This card has been renamed “The High Priestess” in most modern English decks, to avoid scandal (and The Pope has been renamed The Hierophant, because Catholicism frowns on divination). You don’t have to be Catholic to understand why an image depicting a female Pope would have people in the Middle Ages, and some even today, clutching their proverbial pearls. The appearance of a female Pope figure in the Tarot de Marseille may go back to myth of Pope Joan, which has been circulating since the 13th century. There was never such a pope, but she was a popular figure of legend throughout the Middle Ages and now has her own movie.


4) The first professional tarot card reader was Jean-Baptiste Alliette, who called himself Etteilla, which, you’ll notice, is his last name reversed. He must have been a vampire.

Etteilla worked as a seed merchant for most of his life, before publishing his first book on tarot card games in 1770. While the game he developed used a deck meant for piquet, a different type of card game, it incorporated some elements that are still central to tarot divination to this very day. They include fixed meanings for each card in normal and reverse positions, as well as the use of predetermined “spreads” or patterns into which they should be dealt. In the book, Etteilla reveals that he learned the games from an Italian; no one knows how much of the games he made up himself. The venture appears to have been a quick success; a second edition of the book was printed in 1771, and Etteilla gave up his day job to become a full-time teacher, author and, with the publication of his second book in 1785, a teller of fortunes.

If only it were so easy today.