The Ides of March: more than the Shakespeare play you read in high school

The Ides of March: more than the Shakespeare play you read in high school

I first heard the phrase “the ides of March” in ninth grade, when we were assigned Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It’s a great play for your average teen, full of intrigue, deceit, betrayal, prophecy, political power, and murder. The soothsayer’s prognostication in the play is now legendary:

Beware the ides of March.

That’s it: short and sweet. Ever notice that most soothsayers in these stories are cryptic old men? A little more information would have been handy for Julius, who was assassinated on the ides of March in 44 B.C.

Death of Caesar, by Karl Theodor von Piloty, 1865. Image via wikimedia commons.

Death of Caesar, by Karl Theodor von Piloty, 1865. Image via wikimedia commons.

How did the old man know? Shakespeare doesn’t say. There were all sorts of divination techniques back then, from ooh to eww. Check out this wikipedia article for the complete list. I like to think it was owl entrails. Just call me old-fashioned. *wink*

Even though we don’t examine entrails (known as extispicy) or watch the peckings of roosters (known as alectromancy) anymore, we continue to look for patterns to make sense of our world. Pattern recognition is hard-wired into us by evolution and has saved us many times in our early survival days. But it’s also tricky. Some patterns are significant, and some are purely coincidental.

I doubt I would have given the ides of March another thought in my lifetime if not for a klutzy mishap in eleventh grade. I broke my ankle on March 15th of that year, slipping on the wet floor in the pool locker room. Even then I didn’t get it, until my mom pointed it out and wrote Beware the Ides of March on my cast. Everyone got a chuckle out of that. I got off easy compared to Caesar, right?

Me and my prom date, 3 months later. I was glad to be out of a cast!

Me and my prom date, less than 3 months later. I was glad to be out of a cast!

In the decades since, I have managed to get through the ides of March unscathed, and those locker rooms got non-slip mats for the floor, so we’re all good.

A few interesting facts about the Ides of March (Idus Martii):

  • The term “ides” referred to the middle of the month, at the time of the full moon. Based on the Romans’ lunar calendar, the ides were on the 13th for most months of the year and on the 15th in March, May, July, and October.
  • The ides, no matter what the month, were considered a holy day dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter, and commemorated by animal sacrifices.
  • By the oldest Roman calendar, March was the first month of the year; therefore, the ides of March was the new year’s first full moon.
  • In Rome, the ides of March was when one settled debts. Kind of like an IRS tax deadline.

You can see that Caesar’s assassins picked a significant day to do the deed. Here we have the death of Caesar linked to sacrifice, the settling of a debt, starting a new year, and a celebration of the Romans’ most important god. Patterns yet again.

The unluckiness of the ides of March doesn’t end with Caesar’s assassination. Here are some ominous things that have happened in history on March 15th:

  • 1889: cyclone in Samoa destroys six U.S. and German warships docked in the harbor at Apia, killing over 200 sailors.
  • 1917: Czar Nicholas II signs the papers to abdicate his throne, turning over his rule to the Bolsheviks. He and his family are imprisoned and executed.
  • 1939: the Nazis seize Czechoslavakia
  • 1952: record rainfall hits La Reunion (an island in the Indian Ocean), dumping over 73 inches in a 24-hour period.
  • 2003: the World Health Organization issues a world-wide health alert for the emerging SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus. Panicked populations across the globe don surgical masks and close schools.

For the rest of the list, check out this Smithsonian Magazine article.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that March 15th is more unlucky than any other day of the year. At least, I hope not. Crutches are a pain in the neck on the stairs.

Happy Ides,

Kathy

 

 

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Where my research takes me: arrest of the bloomers

Where my research takes me: arrest of the bloomers
"The Bicycle Suit," Punch Magazine, 1895.

“The Bicycle Suit,” Punch Magazine, 1895.

Those of you who’ve followed my posts are very familiar with the serendipitous nature of my research. I go looking for one thing and find five other fascinating, though completely unrelated, historical tidbits. (The original item I was looking for? Well, tomorrow is another day). Good thing I have a website and fab readers who like reading about this stuff!

The incident described in the following article takes place 44 years after bloomers first emerged in the U.S. Over those ensuing decades, they were adopted by some women as an act of rebellion, but in broader society they were primarily for active wear: bicycling costumes, gymnastic uniforms, and so on. (Incidentally, the bicycling outfit my protagonist, Concordia Wells, wears is comprised of similar leggings, but includes a shortened over-skirt for modesty).

But wearing bloomers in a gymnasium is one thing; strolling around wearing them out on the public street is entirely different. The lady named “Trixy” finds this out:

 

From the Saint Paul Daily Globe, December 1, 1895.

From the Saint Paul Daily Globe, December 1, 1895.

Apparently the Superintendent of Police was made of sterner stuff than the mayor.

Are there any outfits that would make you run screaming out of a room? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

Concordia logo FINAL small

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Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena

Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena

Happy Leap Day, everyone! I’m taking liberties with the word leap today, to talk about a different kind of leap: taking a personal risk.

Image via ell.stackexchange.com (public domain)

Image via ell.stackexchange.com (public domain)

I was walking around Burke Lake yesterday morning with a good friend and we spoke of how difficult it can be to strive for something we’re not sure we can attain. A lifelong dream may whisper in our soul, but we are reluctant to listen. Ironically, the more we care about it, the more we struggle with openly taking steps to make it happen. What if we fail? What if we look foolish? What if others criticize us? We already know our chances of succeeding are remote. We worry that others will think we have delusions of grandeur…or just delusions.

On our walk, my friend quoted from memory something Theodore Roosevelt had said, a passage that has come to be known as “The Man in the Arena.” It has stuck with me, so I decided to dig into the context of it a bit further and share it with you today. But first, Roosevelt’s inspiring words:

Teddy Roosevelt at family home, 1910. Image via wikimedia commons.

Teddy Roosevelt at family home, 1910. Image via wikimedia commons.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

This was part of a 1910 speech entitled “Citizenship in a Republic,” given at the Sorbonne to an audience of more than 2,000 – including a number of foreign dignitaries. Roosevelt had completed his second term as president 15 months before, and was touring and giving speeches in Europe and Africa (after a year of hunting, that is – we’re talking Teddy Roosevelt, after all).

The French loved it. According to Erin McCarthy, in this Mental Floss article:

“Citizenship in a Republic” ran in the Journal des Debats as a Sunday supplement, got sent to the teachers of France by Le Temps, was printed by Librairie Hachette on Japanese vellum, was turned into a pocket book that sold 5000 copies in five days, and was translated across Europe.

Since then, it has become widely used as a inspirational tool (and also in a car commercial, of all things). Check out this Wikipedia entry for more about the contemporary impact.

Want to read the entire speech? Click here.

Have you taken a leap? Are you contemplating one? I would love to hear from you.

Image via truthinsideofyou.org (public domain)

Image via truthinsideofyou.org (public domain)

Until next time,

Kathy

 

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Gardening for the Mystery Lover: a mash-up

Gardening for the Mystery Lover: a mash-up
Hydrangeas from my garden.

Hydrangeas from my garden.

Happy Monday, everyone! Those of us north of latitude 32 or so have been longing for the end to the snow/sleet/freezing rain and the dreary gray-brown landscape. The gardeners among us have been deluged with seed catalogs and Pinterest prompts that have us dreaming of the lush backyards we delude ourselves each year into thinking we will achieve. *wink*

So today I thought I would provide a few links to entertain both gardeners and mystery lovers, because yes, there is a way to have it all!

Garden fun:

Below is a slideshow of pictures from my garden. Not professional by any means, but isn’t it great to see something green this time of year?

Garden Slideshow

Here’s a post from a couple of years ago about the benefits of gardening, including why dirt is good for you!

Life is a box of seeds

Mystery-style gardening:

Gardening and murder can be connected in so many ways: the heavy spade, the razor-sharp pruning shears, the deadly foxglove growing by the fence….

  • Mystery author Margot Kinberg discusses the role of gardening in several classic Christie novels (among others). Click on her banner below:

 

confessions

  • The Cozy Mystery List Blog is an excellent resource for finding themed mysteries, and there are plenty of garden-themed stories out there.

Gardening Cozy Mysteries…

  • How about something more interactive? Shot in the Dark Mysteries has created Mystery Party kits for kids and adults, including something sure to chase away the winter blues: Garden Party Murder – Mystery Party Game.

Do you enjoy gardening? Ever been to a garden party? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

 

Concordia logo FINAL small

 

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Barber Pole Pranksters

Barber Pole Pranksters

Hello! Six weeks ago, I announced a flash fiction giveaway offer (described in the link below), based on the last line of an 1891 newspaper article:

If you meet a party of eight young men with a barber pole, don’t arrest them. They own it.

You tell the story!

barber poleThe challenge was to write a short-short account of what you think may have led up to that last line. As a thank-you, story-posters had their choice of an audio version of books 1 or 2, or an ebook of books 1, 2, 3, or 4.

We had a fair number of comments, and one intrepid soul posted a story (thank you, Kassandra Lamb!).  Check it out using the original post link above – it’s a fun read!

In the meantime, I thought you would enjoy the original newspaper story. How DID eight young men come to own a barber shop pole in 1891? Here it is, cleaned up from an OCR of the original for ease of reading:

A COLLEGE BOY’S PRANK.

Some Harvard Students Have Lots of Fun with Boston Policemen.

“There isn’t so much deviltry in private among the students today as there was a few years ago,” said a graduate of Harvard, “but their pranks in public are getting bolder as time advances. I will tell you a good story illustrative of this. During my sophomore year there was a party of eight young fellows belonging
to my class who were all the time looking for a chance to create a sensation. They had become involved in several little scrapes with the Boston police on account of their practical jokes, and were thirsting for revenge. One Saturday night they went to Boston, and on their arrival got shaved in a West End barbershop.

“While paying their checks an idea struck one of the fellows, and after a short conference with his companions he offered the barber $10 for his red, white and blue pole, which stood about
twelve feet high in front of the door. The offer was accepted on the spot, and the young men took it away with them, insisting, however, on taking a receipt, in which both the pole and the amount paid was mentioned. Then they started off for a parade of the Third police precinct, in which nearly all their trouble with the ‘coppers’ had been experienced.

“They had not gone far before they were stopped by one of their old blue coated foes, who demanded an explanation of their possession of the pole. The boys replied that it belonged to them and that they were taking it home. The officer, believing that they bad stolen it, arrested the -whole party and took them to the police station, where he charged them with the theft.

“At this juncture one of the students produced the receipt, and they were allowed to depart, much to the discomfiture of the arresting officer. Then the boys went to another policeman’s beat, and were soon stopped by the guardian of that precinct, and, after a short parley, which proved very unsatisfactory to the officer, the students were again arrested, and, with the pole, were marched
back to the station house. This time they got their release from the lieutenant in charge without having to produce their receipt.

“The boys started off for another officer’s beat, taking care to keep within the same precinct, and within less than half an hour were brought back to the station for a third time on suspicion of having stolen that pole. The lieutenant had to send an officer over the precinct with these orders to all policemen: ‘If you meet a party of eight young men with a barber’s pole don’t arrest them. They own it.’ “

 

Click here for the original article.

Crazy college kids…they certainly went to a lot of trouble to pull off the stunt, didn’t they? How hard was it to carry around a 12-foot pole? By the way, the reason the barber accepted their offer on the spot: according to this inflation calculator, $10 in 1891 would be worth $263.16 today.

Unseemly Giveaway:

I still have audiobook retrieval codes and ebooks burning a hole in my pocket, as they say. So, if you want a freebie, simply comment on this post with three pieces of info:

  1. audio or ebook?
  2. which title? (books 1 or 2 for audio, books 1,2,3, or 4 for ebook)
  3. which format? (epub for Nook or iPad, mobi for Kindle)

Concordia series 1to4

I already have your email address if you are leaving a comment, so I would send the file or retrieval code to that address. I’ll be giving away up to 30 freebies.

What’s the best prank you’ve ever seen or been a part of? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

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Let it snow…19th century style

Let it snow…19th century style

 

photo by K.B. Owen, 2016

photo by K.B. Owen, 2016

 

Since many of us in the northern hemisphere are dealing with wintry weather (I sure hope the groundhog is right about an early spring!), I thought you might enjoy seeing a snowball fight…from the late 19th century.

It seems that some things are timeless. Love the guy on the bicycle.

Want more about 19th century winter-time activities?

A Record-Breaker: the Blizzard of 1888

Victorian Ice Skating: Indoors

Nineteenth century Winter Holiday – Sledding

 Do you have snowball fights in the winter? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

photo by K.B. Owen, 2016

photo by K.B. Owen, 2016

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19th century women’s basketball (re-post)

19th century women’s basketball (re-post)

Hi! While my writing pals and I are in the midst of fast draft (you can check last week’s post for more details by clicking here), I thought you would enjoy a post I wrote 5 years ago, about the beginnings of women’s collegiate basketball.

See you next week,

Kathy

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The game of basketball was first invented in 1891 by James Naismith for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Massachusetts.

 

In 1892, Senda Berenson Abbott started the first women’s basketball program at Smith College, making modifications to the rules for women’s play.

Smith College, 1895

Women’s rules divided the court into two or more zones, with two players from each team limited to each zone. Dribbling more than three times was forbidden, as was blocking, stealing the ball from another player, or holding the ball for more than three seconds.

 

In 1892, the University of California and Miss Head’s School played the first women’s interinstitutional game. Berenson’s freshmen played the sophomore class in the first women’s intercollegiate basketball game at Smith College, March 21, 1893. The same year, students from Mount Holyoke and Sophie Newcomb Colleges began playing basketball.

By 1895, the game had spread to colleges across the country, including Wellesley, Vassar, and Bryn Mawr.
Women at the University of Wisconsin formed a team in 1897 that played games against Milwaukee Normal School and local high school teams.

The first intercollegiate women’s game was on April 4, 1896. Stanford women played Berkeley, 9-on-9, ending in a 2-1 Stanford victory.

 

Wilson College, around 1897

 

Smith College, class of 1902 (probably taken 1900)

The women’s rules created a game that was slower-moving and more stationary, and therefore would not tax a woman’s “delicate system.”  The nature of the activity, of course, necessitated shortened skirts, bloomers and stockings, which was considered rather scandalous.  In fact, male spectators were barred at Smith.

Even as women avidly embraced the sport, a backlash was growing against it.  The biggest problem was that the inherently aggressive nature of competition clashed with notions of “ladylike” behavior. If a lady lost her self-control in the heat of competition, what would be the unseemly result?

 

Smith College, around 1900 (Berenson holding the ball)

Sources:
http://archives.library.wisc.edu/uw-archives
http://hoopedia.nba.com
http://www.bellaonline.com
http://www.smith.edu/libraries http://knol.google.com/k/basketball#

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Fun with Fast Draft!

Fun with Fast Draft!

Hi, all!

Today is the first day of a 14-day “fast draft” that several writers and I are doing together. What is fast draft, you ask? The original concept by romance author Candace Havens is a breathless writing pace: 20 pages per day for 14 days, no excuses. By the end, the writer has a complete draft to edit.

fast draft kitty

Why so fast? After all, that’s even more ambitious than National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when you write the first draft of a novel in 30 days.

The idea is to get ahead of one’s Evil Internal Editor, that inner voice that criticizes what you’re writing, and bogs you down. With Fast Draft, you do NOT re-read what you wrote the day before. Since you’re spending every day writing (over multiple hours), it’s fresh in your mind anyway. Personally, I prefer it to NaNo because it’s not in November (any time you want, actually), and I figure I can do anything for only 14 days. *wink*

writehumor1

It’s incredibly helpful (I’d say absolutely necessary) to be working with a team of fellow writers who are all going through this process at the same time. After all, writing so much while putting the rest of your life on hold can be daunting. It’s wonderful to have one another to cheer each other on. This time around, we have the following fab writers participating:

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell

Melinda VanLone

Rachel Funk Heller

Kassandra Lamb

August McLaughlin

Lena Corazon

Dawn Hobbie Sticklen

Marcy Kennedy-Saylor

 

Here’s what some of them have to say about the process:

“The benefit of Fast Drafting is that you get to see your story play out in your mind’s eye in real time. This is where your plot ideas finally gel into a complete narrative. But to get the biggest payoff, you need to be prepared. You want to have the big moments set up, the opening, the ending, and hopefully the worst moment from the middle. This process will help you fill in those big chunks in between. ~Rachel Funk Heller

I’ve never signed up for anything like this, but it feels like a perfect fit. I’m working on a project that’s exciting and a bit scary (okay, borderline terrifying) and can really use others’ support. Knowing we’re in this solitary-work-called-writing thing together, cheering one another on, is golden. I’m already inspired and it hasn’t even started yet — HA! ~August McLaughlin

The benefit of Fast Drafting is it allows one to outrun the inner critic, to avoid the research rabbit hole, and the word search trap. The story telling takes over, filling in the gaps in the outline, and leaving the editing for a later draft. ~Elizabeth Anne Mitchell

 

Preparation

Getting the most out of fast drafting requires some advanced planning. Even for pantsers (writers who prefer to write “by the seat of their pants”), an exploration of characters, theme, and plot is needed. No one wants to stare at that blank screen and blinking cursor without some idea of where they are going!

writers coloring bookOne of my favorite resources for preparing to write the first draft (whether you are doing it quickly or more sedately), is Rachel Funk Heller’s The Writer’s Coloring Book. The workbook helps writers explore the story’s theme, character profiles, and scene dynamics in both analytical and creative ways. Dig out your colored pencils!

Available here on Amazon

Another resource I love (I’m a plotter at heart) is Author Jami Gold’s worksheets for writers. These are available in MS Excel and Word, and provide useful ways to structure your story.

Jami is an avid fast-drafter, too. Here’s her take on why fast drafting works:

For me, when I write, I’m always struggling to get outside of my writerly head–the doubt of whether this sentence is good, that word choice works, or even whether this plot event will lead to where the story needs to go. Fast-drafting is a shortcut for tapping into our subconscious and getting beyond all that chatter. It’s about getting deep into our characters and the story, becoming immersed in the experience, and finding our “writing zone.”

In addition to writing prep, there are some practical things to plan for in advance, especially if you are the primary meal provider and your family has this thing about not going without food for 14 days (the cat is especially vocal). The crockpot becomes my best friend during this time, along with convenience foods such pre-cooked chicken and pre-cut veggies. Having a supportive family (my guys are great sports) is awesome. I try to get ahead with the laundry and grocery shopping beforehand, but 14 days is a long time, so they pitch in when needed.

So, wish us luck! For you readers of the Concordia Wells Mysteries, I am hard at work on book #5 of the series. Somehow, the lady professor always finds a way to get into trouble….

Interested in my previous experiences with fast drafting? Check out these posts:

Fast Draft, by the numbers

What do a crockpot, a mad bluebird, and Earl Grey have in common?

What projects do you have going on that require major planning and support? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

P.S. – Be sure to check out the following post for my giveaway and flash fiction fun! Entry deadline is January 31.

You tell the story!

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