Sunday, December 22, 2013

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

There are a bunch of holiday-themed poses for free under the tree at Picture This! Some of the packages are left-click purchase, others are standard right-click to buy, but there's several of them. Who knows, you might find something for that last-minute photo urge!

In technology news, the first bioprosthetic heart has been implanted in a living patient. The patient is--at least as of that report--conscious and functional, but of course the medical team is watching closely to be sure. Still, it's one more step in the advance to ensure that everyone who is in need for heart replacement finds a way to keep functioning.

Genre, for December, is hosting a "Victorian Christmas" themed event. I don't know if it's lasting until the end of the month; what I do know is that there are several lovely L$10 items offered in the mix, and, for a wonder, most of the event's offerings actually are reasonably Victorian in nature. Woo!

There's a lady on Tumblr who's been, for the past year at least, compiling historical research on medieval instances of people of color being described. In fact, that's the name of her Tumblr: medievalpoc. She's been a fascinating source of historical documentation, and this week, she pulled together a post chronicling her most popular posts of 2013, featuring not just largely historical women of color, but nobility, warriors and ambassadors to other cultures.

Among the many links featured--many with historical images--there are several that were among my favorites, too, from the previous year.
Khutulun the Wrestler Princess
Khutulun, first introduced to me as Aiyurug, was born sometime around 1260, in a time when the Mongols ruled from relative positions of luxury and excess. In opposition to her more famous cousin, Aiyurug wished to return to the old ways of the Khans--feats of strength and war, nomadic travel, and physical prowess over sedentary indolence. To gain followers for her cause, she competed in all areas of Mongol sportsmanship: horse racing, archery, war games, and wrestling. She was a large woman, muscled, powerfully proportioned, and she was never beaten. In fact, a common wager was horse against horse, hers against her opponents. In time, she had a herd of trained warhorses ten thousand strong.
Etruscan Warrior "Prince" really a Princess, analysis finds
There's a certain amount of condescension in this article, but based on what little is known of this culture at the time, my theory is that the "Princess" named in the article lived life as a warrior and a man, or at least in a position of higher social status. I'm attributing this not only to the skeletal remains found with a warrior's lance, but the fact that the body next to the first is partially burned--a practice more common to Asian cultures, but also potentially possible for spouses in the Etruscan culture, as well. Add this to the fact that the spouse's body--identified as that of a male--was buried with traditional bridal jewelry, and I think it's fairly clear this is a case where the 'wife' had the privileges of the warrior, and the 'husband' lived a traditionally female existence.
Xiang Fei, the "Fragrant Concubine"
Xiang Fei's story is a fascinating one. Born into the Uighur Muslims, when Manchu general Zhahui returned from "gloriously" conquering the Uighurs in 1959, in addition to the treasures of the culture looted and removed, he brought with him Xiang Fei. Several reports make much of her natural scent, which is how she was named the Fragrant Concubine.
But she wasn't just chattel for the court--not only was Zhahui head over heels for her, but she resisted many of his advances, to the point of concealing small knives in her sleeves to protect herself when he neared. Though it's not clear what (if anything) eventually thawed her, two things are known: she apparently bore a daughter to Zhahui (willingly or not), and he built her a Muslim enclave with a tall tower that overlooked mosques built farther away from the palace. While he did not trust her beyond his walls to worship her faith, he did make it possible for her to worship in her own tower--a concession that many warlords of the time would not have undertaken.
She died in 1760.
Dido Elizabeth Belle, scholar and Scottish aristocrat
Dido Elizabeth Belle was the illegitimate daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay, and an enslaved African woman known only as Belle. How'ver, this is where the story becomes interesting. She was raised alongside Lindsay's own children, educated with them, and remained a favorite child of both the Earl of Mansfield (her half-uncle) and her father well into adulthood.
More surprising, part of her household duties included supervising Lindsay's personal correspondence, a position generally reserved for, and given to, educated men. She received an allowance until marriage of thirty pounds per year, equivalent to Lindsay's main heir, and more than any illegitimate daughter of the time received in comparable household situations.
Going one step further, upon Lord Mansfield's death in 1788, a lump sum of five hundred pounds was granted her, and her status as a free woman was carefully, legally documented, so that none could deprive her of her wealth or status.
In other news, the makers of Echo Bazaar now have a new game called the Sunless Sea. It appears to be similar in nature to Fallen London, but in reading through back entries in the blog, I am teased and enchanted by one facet in particular:
"Fallen London's drawn attention (mostly favourable) for the way it treats gender – we allow players to be a lady, a gentleman, or neither. We've been saying we'll take the same approach in Sunless Sea, but actually, we're going to go a little bit beyond that. We're not going to specify gender at all.

That doesn't mean you won’t be able to pick an avatar that looks like a lady or a gentleman or remains teasingly androgynous. Or shaded by a deep-brimmed hat. Certainly you can. But when you're looking through portraits, you won't be limited to the ones for 'male/female/other'. Perhaps you did run away to sea dressed as a boy. Perhaps you don't fit into the usual binary. Perhaps you just want to look through avatars and decide which one you like before you pick male or female."

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