Friday, October 31, 2014

Strange Apocalyptic Sounds WORLDWIDE 2013

If you want to scare the shit out of yourself, listen to these. NOBODY can explain what is going on here. Scientists are saying things like, "A glacier moved". Obviously the people involved are way freaked out.

I want to write about hearing shit, I mean the shit I hear that I don't even want to hear. My hearing is so hypersensitive it's almost a joke, and lately it seems I can hear a ladybug walking up a plant stalk somewhere on the next street (while I'm sleeping). Makes no sense. I'm even using noise-cancelling YouTube videos to deal with it.

I tried to find out something about tinnitus, which I don't think it is, but was completely intimidated when I read in Wikipedia that some forms of tinnitus can be heard from outside the person's head. In other words, they are BROADCASTING the thing. Science fails us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BDSM: Fifty Shades of Chairs

God, my chair, my chair!

This is a chairy tale, but a nasty one, a Grimm with a bad ending.

I hate office equipment. I wish I could type inside my head, make the words float out on to the page or even suspend themselves in mid-air like in Stephen Hall’s Raw Shark Texts. Instead I’m left with typing, which is as awkward now as it was in the class I took in high school. Imagine being a typing teacher all your life, trying to teach a bunch of sullen kids a boring skill on the “qwerty” keyboard which was designed when typewriters were first invented. The whole board was set up to slow typists down, because the only way to correct errors back then was to spit on the page, or cut the piece out with a scabbard.

So. The chair. My office chair always sucks, and I’ve been through a few of them. There is always something seriously wrong with them. For years I played musical chairs with my husband. “This thing is made of vinyl!” I’d complain in the summer, peeling my shorts-clad legs off the seat like Velcro. So I’d get his fabric-covered one for a while, the one with hard plastic arms that bored holes in my elbows. The proportions just weren’t right on this thing, so I ended up with backache and fatigue.

Not to mention eyestrain. Let’s get into eyestrain, shall we? Being an author, I’ve had to edit manuscripts. Back then anyway, we used a marked-up hard copy and a computer copy and sort of fixed one using the other. So I needed some sort of stand to hold my papers, double-wide, and still see my monitor.


I hunched and squinted as I tried to see the damn monitor, jacked up as it was to make it just visible while I shuffled papers.  I got used to agony in my lower back, the price of my art, perhaps. The truth is, I just didn’t know how else to do it.

“This thing is a piece of shit!” I’d cry in the winter, as the cold plastic froze my arms to my sides. So once again we went through the old switcheroo.

This latest chair created more problems. I began to slide down farther and farther on my spine, at the same time hunching forward because I couldn’t see my monitor at all. “Why do you do that?” my husband would ask. “I need my paper stand.” “Why?” “I might need to use it again.” “Why?”, and so on.

Another switch of chair. Finally, when my bizarre posture had actually given me medical problems, I decided I needed a Brand New Chair that would fix everything. Since we’re cheap, and since they had a nice selection at a good price, we went to Costco. Like the Three Bears, I had to sit in each one to see which of them was “just right”.

Amazingly, it was the second one I sat in. Like a first-class airplane seat (and how the hell would I know what THAT felt like? I’m guessing), it just cradled my body, but kept my back straight. The arm rests were lavishly padded and curved to match the curve of forearm and wrist and hand.

I! Loved! That! Chair! I loved it in the morning, I loved it in the evening, I loved it –

Then I got it home.

My keyboard rests on a tray that pulls out. Keeps the dust off n’ stuff (supposedly, but in reality my keyboard is just as filthy as everyone else’s). Every time I pulled up to my keyboard, the deluxe first-class arms of this thing pushed the tray back in.

But it got worse. The new chair wouldn’t go down far enough. I almost felt like a little kid with her feet dangling up off the floor. I could not believe this. “WHY WON’T IT GO DOWN?” I screamed. “It’s as far down as it will go.” “This was designed for a six-foot man.” “Why didn’t you notice that at the store?”

I didn’t notice ANYTHING at the store.

You don’t sit back and lounge in an office chair. You work from it. You keyboard, you mouse, you do stuff. You roll it forward and back. (And that’s another thing. That big plastic mat-thingie underneath the chair just kept sliding all over the place. The casters made dents in it  that the chair kept falling back into, and they were about a mile back from my computer. My wrist was in agony, like a toothache. Everything was wrong.

“So (sarcastically), do you want another chair?”


He had groused and grumped about buying a proper plastic floor mat with those little teeth in it to grip the carpet, refusing to even consider it because it cost something like $40. 00. I kept trying to explain it to him, how the casters were cutting into the rug. “Then pull the plastic mat back,” he said. “I’d need to do it every five minutes.”

I like my chair, I really do, and if I had a circular saw, one of those things with teeth all around it, it would be no more. Right now my tray with my keyboard on it has a shelf sitting on top if it, an old shelf left over from one of those really tacky particle-board book cases. My monitor has one under it too, to jack it up at least an inch to make up for the fact that the chair is too high up and can’t be fixed.

Now I am nagging him to PLEASE let me get a proper mat so the thing won’t slither and slide all over hell’s-half-acre like Bambi on ice. He gets this squinched-up, disapproving look on his face (I can read his mind: “God, what a waste of money”), doesn’t even make eye contact with me because I know he does not understand my needs.

He complains all the time that I spend too much time at the computer. I have this little habit of writing. In my entire life, I have had maybe two people understand what I do, and my husband is not one of them. He thinks I play at it. Everyone thinks I play at it, that I pretend and delude myself that I’m “doing something”. So how can my back hurt, I wonder? If it isn’t even “work”? And why won’t I come out of that room and go to Costco with him to look at bulk sausages and stuff?

To all but those two people, ANYTHING would be better than doing what I do, the waste of time. Even having books out is futile, isn’t it? Some sort of Hemingway fantasy? (And didn’t Hemingway end up shooting himself in the head?). Why do you need a special chair, for God’s sake, and a plastic floor mat with little dit-dots on it so the chair won’t buck and heave under you like a wild horse?

I threw my keyboard at the wall once, so that the underside is secured with masking tape. I have slammed innumerable mice, and thrown a few, which is satisfying because the cover pops off and the battery goes flying across the room. I can’t throw a chair, can’t lift the thing, would like to throw a husband but he is rooted seventeen feet into the ground. Not getting it. While I sit there mousing and hurting. Mousing and hurting.

Postlog. This is something I wrote a long time ago, for That Other Blog, Open Salon, which I didn't really know how to do. I didn't realize you had to "like" people's stuff (usually without reading it) so that they would "like" yours (usually without reading it). It got worse and worse. I didn't need junior high all over again, though it surprises me how often I have to relive it. Then someone dissed me in a high-and-mighty fashion for using a photo of Sylvia Plath without writing to her estate for permission to use it. This photo had been blogged and reblogged hundreds, if not thousands of times, but then these two women, chittidy-chattidy, yatter yatter yatter, we're in and you're not, finally drove me out. When I said I thought the photo was in the public domain, one of the bitches said, "I'm speechless." They simply could not believe what a yokel, what an uneducated idiot they had in their midst.

I set this blog up on a whim and haven't changed it much, though most blogs are sleeker and look more sophisticated. I hate sleek and sophisticated. I like simple blogs with lots of pictures, because part of me never left kindergarten. I was a lot happier then. My happiest time was when I was ten and in a special class and we ran riot and gave our teacher a breakdown. For once in my life, someone called me "smart" and even acknowledged it. It wasn't to last, for the biddies of mediocrity would ultimately close in, as they always do.

I don't even have this font any more, isn't it wild?

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Halloween: have some GOO!

How much is that gorilla in the window?

Some lovely '60s stoner music: I can smell the hash

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Orgasmic advertising

Ahhhhhh. . . such flavour. Such an ecstasy of sensual pleasure. TV advertising was new then, and the mad men of Madison Ave. were exploring the potential of the moving image. No longer did they have to limit themselves to glossy still pictures.

Back then, it was all good. Nothing was "bad for you". Later in the decade came the ads, tinged with a little desperation, describing how "mild" the cigarettes were, how easy on the throat, even claiming that doctors recommended certain brands. Which they probably did.

I don't know what this creep is selling, but I wish he'd go away. I think it's a lead-in to an ad presented by the host of a very early TV show, perhaps from the late 1940s. TV ws remarkable then. I even found a show where two men stood in front of enormous microphones and read off of sheafs of paper.

Incomprehensible that these cops would break up a couple for innocently kissing on a bench, then hand them cancer-inducing tubes of tobacco. More socially-acceptable, I guess. Put a smile in your smoking! And note the flamboyant way everyone seems to blow out their smoke. Why?

This woman cleans her breath and guards her teeth by rubbing her finger on them. And I love that MISSING MISSING MISSING part.


A woman facially masturbating with a cake of soap.

The Cancer Ballet. Can you hear the coughing, can you see the black lungs and congested hearts? Obviously, they couldn't. 


Monday, October 27, 2014


Just stumbled on this while wasting time and not writing (my fave activity, it seems - writing is for the birds, I'm done with it anyway). It's one of the better themes of '60s TV: a mini-Western in 2 1/2 minutes. Back then, a theme/intro lasted long enough to tell a story, to let it unfold. Whoever directed this was a genius - the stark black-and-white images, one after the other - the drums, the broken sword, the stripped buttons and braid. And Chuck Connors, my God, who remembered this face, he is a GOD! It's not craggy so much as enigmatic, mojo-loaded in its sere stillness like some Easter Island statue about to be toppled. Western heroes were known for not emoting, and he's so good at it that it flips over and becomes its opposite. I did watch a few of these, but I was ten years old, for God's sake, and what did I know of exile? Since then I came to know it by name, I ate that dust over and over again and had my gold braid torn off by any number of varieties of shame. I walked in that desert and went eye-to-eye with snakes and hallucinated with Moses and searched for water in the rock. It changes you, such exile. You never find your way back. Not entirely. That's just not the way it happens.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

WARNING: Creepy and Disturbing Image! (Not for the sensitive viewer.)

Weird-ass old TV show gifs

Yes, I remember Tom Ewell, who could forget, he was in that movie with Marilyn Monroe, Some Like it Hot, wasn't it, or no, it was The Seven-Year Itch I think. But this is a way weird-ass show because, uh, The Tom EWELL show? Who'd a known.

I don't have dates for these, but I suspect they're 1958 - 1962-ish, because in that era most sitcoms began with stylish but very primitive animation. This one reminds me just a little bit of a later gem, My World and Welcome To It, loosely based on the works of James Thurber. William Windom, I think. I'll never forget his turn, or turns, on Star Trek, sweating and freaking out. Or was it someone else?

You can't tell me there was actually a show by this name on TV. Looks like a failed pilot, or something that maybe lasted a season. Then again. O. K. Crackerby! with Burl Ives was a real show, and it knocked me over to realize it. Notice how they cleverly combined "cracker barrel" (folksy wisdom) with "cracker" (po' white trash, which he was supposed to be in the show, and probably was in real life).

This reminds me so much of another '60s sitcom intro  I giffed, that also showed a couple driving home and doing zany things, but now I can't remember either of their names. Peter and Mary ring no bells either.

Love that station wagon. 

I've heard of My Sister Eileen, but not as a TV show, and the intro is so bizarre and '60s that I just had to include it. 

I don't know why this doesn't say The Weird Brothers. It looks like three Swiss guys, bellringers or something, with bells for hats. A kindergartner using left-handed scissors could have made better cutouts than these, that's all I can say. I said weird-ass, and I gave you weird-ass.

William Windom's finest hour in The Doomsday Machine. 

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Attack on Ottawa: "changed, changed utterly"?

Jonathan Kay: Did one man’s attack on Parliament really change Canada ‘forever’?

| | Last Updated: Oct 25 2:30 AM ET

Police guard the Canadian Parliament one day after gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau infiltrated the building before being shot dead.

Andrew Burton/Getty Images  Police guard the Canadian Parliament one day after gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau infiltrated the building before being shot dead

‘Our world has changed forever today and we don’t even know yet how much,” Canadian Senator Fabian Manning declared on Wednesday, after a shootout in the heart of Canada’s Parliament buildings, which ended with the death of rampaging gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. In an editorial entitled “The End of Innocence,” the Calgary Herald solemnly declared that “Canada will never be the same again.” “Just as America changed the moment the planes hit the Twin Towers, Canada was forever altered the moment Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was struck down [by Zehaf-Bibeau],” wrote Susan Clairmont of the Hamilton Spectator. “In the hours and days and years to come, we will know that this was a pivotal moment that we can never turn back from.”

Is all this true? Are we indeed living in a dangerous new era in which the desecration of public spaces by bullets and blood becomes a part of daily life? The promiscuous use of phrases such as “loss of innocence” and “new normal,” as well as the nation’s generally traumatized state this past week, suggest that many Canadians believe we indeed have undergone a massive and terrifying shift.
But the quantitative evidence for this is shaky — non-existent, really. The two Canadian men killed by Islamist-inspired terrorists this week were the first domestic terror casualties since 9/11. Put another way: In a single spasm of random evil, Justin Bourque produced more deaths in Moncton (three) than Islamism has yielded in all of Canada in the 13 years since 9/11. And despite the fact many Canadians worry incessantly about violent crime — not to mention spectacular but obscure threats such as Ebola and religiously motivated terrorism — our society actually has become much safer in recent decades.

In response to the Angus Reid Global survey question “In the past two years, have you yourself been a victim of crime which involved the police?” 25% of respondents answered yes in 1994; 13% in 2012; 9% in 2014. This is part of a worldwide trend. According to data presented at the University of Cambridge last month, “nations as diverse as Estonia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Poland, and Russia have seen average recorded homicide rates drop by 40% or more in the course of just 15 years.” So why do so many of us feel such a sense of fear and dread so much of the time? One theory, enunciated by countless experts, is that the ultrasafe nature of our society hasn’t extinguished our baseline level of anxiety: It simply has rendered it dormant, ready to awaken the moment some shocking stimulus (such as even a small-scale terrorist attack) jolts our brains.

Moreover, our capacity for psychologically processing human tragedy has been systematically degraded in recent generations, because so many of us go through much of our lives without experiencing any real loss. In my grandfather’s youth, it was not an unusual thing for mothers to lose one or even several infants to disease. The wars that were fought during his lifetime ground through tens of millions of human bodies. These days, on the other hand, an insane man with a dim knowledge of Islam runs screaming into Parliament with a gun and everyone suddenly declares that we are at “war.” Winnowed to nothingness by our hair-trigger sensitivities, the very word has lost all meaning.

There is another factor, too: the power of video. Literature and the spoken word can be used to bombard people with facts and arguments. But only video can transport us wholesale into a world of horror — short-circuiting our rational side, and hitting our emotional core. ISIS, surely, understands this: With just a few beheading videos, it was able to taunt the world’s most powerful nation into a new Iraq war. (The gambit seems to have turned out poorly for ISIS, but at least they get to issue the ever-popular jihadi boast that they are directly confronting the Great Satan.)

On Wednesday morning, everyone in Canada was talking about the events at Parliament Hill. But more than taking in the news by reading and listening, we were watching — focusing our attention on a short but shocking cellphone video of the moments when Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was taken down in the corridors of Parliament. It’s that video that my journalistic colleagues had in their mind when they wrote those soaring accounts of “lost innocence.”

Video does that to you: It takes you directly to the fear place inside your mind. And I think it’s largely because of video imagery — heads sawed off, planes flying into buildings, suicide bombs — that so many of us have convinced ourselves that we are living in some kind of fin-de-siècle dystopia. Without the advent of YouTube and the spread of cellphone cameras in the last decade, I doubt we would be nearly as agitated about terrorism.

In Friday’s edition of the National Post, I wrote an article comparing this week’s attack on Parliament with a very similar attack in May, 1984, when a mentally ill soldier named Denis Lortie stormed Quebec’s legislative building and killed three people before being convinced to surrender by the heroic Sergeant-at-Arms, René Jalbert. I was 15 and living in Montreal when that happened. It was a terrible event — but I don’t remember people claiming that the world as we knew it had been transformed in some existential way. It was treated as a deadly crime in an important public space, and it dominated the news for a few days, but then life moved on, as it must.

As it happens, Lortie’s invasion of the legislative building, and Jalbert’s heroic intervention, were recorded on a fixed-mounted video camera. You can see the whole thing below. But that video was released to the public only after the passage of a full year. That was the way things were done back then: Such shocking images were reserved first for police inquiries, court proceedings and only eventually (as in this case) CBC documentaries. By the time the public saw it, the first bloom of the event’s terror already was dead.

This week, by contrast, the video was uploaded to the whole world within minutes. We took in the fear before we could process the facts. And therein lies the source of so much of our anxiety.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Bill and Lenny Show: bring on the comic relief!

This has, somehow, been a very strange week, and it's even stranger that it would end this way: sitting in my office at midnight trying to stifle guffaws so my husband won't wake up.

This has got to be one of the funniest things I've ever seen. These guys are like two bratty little boys with very high IQs. They answer the questions (sort of) before they're even asked, or don't answer them at all but go off on bizarre tangents. You know of course that I have a thing for Shatner, which is odd because when the series was originally on, I was a Spock fanatic and nearly kvelled in that episode where he had his shirt off. (Who knew? His body was about a gazillion times sexier than Kirk's.)

But now things swing around, and it's hard to believe these two guys are almost exactly the same age, only a few days apart in fact. Shatner has decided not to age, and has this spooky thing where, behind that ruddy outdoorsmen's face, the much younger Shatner can peer out at you with those invincible, exotic wolf eyes. It's unnerving. Nimoy has become extremely thin and has not enjoyed good health, but he is sharp and cranky and funny as hell. Very Jewish, of course, but he also brings out Shatner's Jewishness (which some people are surprised to hear about  - he was born and raised in Montreal).

This is partly an artful dodge because this week has been so difficult. It has passed in a sort of dream. Terrorism has knocked down the front door in this country, and though it has not yet entered the building, it has now suddenly become "thinkable". The threat came from within, which is especially sickening: lost, confused, vulnerable, drug-addled and/or mentally ill young people are being coerced and seduced by pure evil. This complete absence of a moral compass scares me. It also scares me that, while we revile these people and rejoice when they are shot dead, we never think about their parents, their siblings, their friends, the people who loved them and may have tried to help.

If I even mentioned this on Facebook, I'd likely be slaughtered. This man was evil, therefore his parents must be evil! His siblings must be evil. Anyone who loved, or tried to love this broken human being is evil, and we know this for a fact so there will be no more discussion about it, ever.

I am also hearing, over and over again, variations on "he converted to Islam AND. . ." (began murdering people, blowing things up, etc.) In my mind, "he converted to Islam BUT" would make more sense, or "he WAS converted to a distorted, perverted, sick and twisted form of indoctrination which has co-opted the symbolism of Islam to its own vile purposes." Or words to that effect.

So what is all this doing under a hilarious, tear-wiping, even ridiculous ten-minute sit-down routine by two of our best-known cultural icons? I have no idea, except that I needed something to get that bad taste out of my mouth. I don't ever want Shatner to die because he just keeps going on and on without even changing very much year to year, just indomitable, somewhat tank-like to be sure, but with the same vitality he had 30 or 40 years ago. I want someone to remind me that it is possible to not only keep going, but to keep projects going in every direction without slowing down, with no seeming ill effects. Some people say he's an arrogant asshole, but he doesn't care and neither do I.

So I have to go to bed now, still feeling disoriented, and now wondering about the parents and loved ones of that man who fell dead after committing such an atrocity. I'm not much of a praying person any more because I grew tired of the futility of it, but if I DID pray I would. And maybe I still will.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Victorian Corset: it hurts so GOOD!

Why is this woman trapped inside a corset? And why does she look so happy to be there?

In researching the fascinating, slightly kinky topic of the Victorian corset, I came across this amazing quote from one of my favorite actresses.

"Winona Ryder has credited her tight corsets with fueling her performance in The Age of Innocence by allowing her to channel her character's emotional turmoil. The actress insists her restrictive costume allowed her to give an authentic performance as a socialite engaged to a lawyer, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, in the 1993 period drama.

And despite feeling uncomfortable throughout the entire shoot, Ryder admits she is grateful for the painful garments. She tells Britain's Total Film magazine, "The corsets are a tremendous help to the performance, because you're playing a repressed person and you can feel the pain that they endured. My waist had to be 19 inches and they had to measure me every day. I would be on the floor and they would pull the strings until it was 19 inches."

"Daniel would wear his clothes home, he was very in character and I was like, 'You have no idea the pain I'm in right now!' But if I did it again I would want it the same way because it made my performance."

Ah yes, the corset: that curious object of female repression, ruthlessly squeezing a woman's body (no matter what size or shape) into a tiny hard cone, with bosoms thrust upwards and balanced on top like two ripe cantaloupes. In other words, corsets were as much for men as they were for women.

Or was it the other way around?

I adore Victorian costumery  - for that is how I see it, "dresses" being an inadequate term for the sumptuous, 50-pound confections that fit women's waists like a second (and imprisoning) skin. Even more than that, I love the ads, often full of whimsy like this almost unbelievable example for Ball's Corsets.

"Revolution in Corsets," it proclaims, depicting a squeezed-in Amazonian figure holding a sword and staff, her foot planted firmly on what is presumably that old-style thing that nobody wears any more. Meanwhile a herd of frightened women stampedes away in the distance. The Ball's Revolutionary Corset has triumped again!

And just look at the results. This is Miss Lettice Fairfax, and aside from the fact that she was named after a garden vegetable, I know nothing about her. Though frills at the shoulder and massive skirts provided an illusion of contrast, corsets took at least 3 inches off the natural waist, converting women's bodies into the perfect clothes-horse for gowns that must have been unbearably cumbersome and stifling to wear.

In fact, I have read that the ideal size for a woman's waist was the same measurement in inches as her neck.

Nothing is more revealing of attitudes towards corsets than these hokey, strangely beautiful ads.  They speak so clearly of those bizarre times, when a torturing undergarment passed without comment because it was so standard. No doubt no one really perceived the irony of a corset being called Harness. Not only that: this was an electric corset (electric items being a fad then, supposedly conveying some sort of tingly, healthful vitality to the patient), making one wonder if it didn't serve the same purpose as the modern vibrator.  Did it plug in? Did it have batteries? One wonders.

Some of my favorite shots display early celebrities such as a very young and girlish Ethel Barrymore (and these days, the hallowed name of Barrymore is only asociated with Drew, one of the most unattractive young women I've ever seen). In all her photos, her huge dark eyes look sad, her regal costumes displaying her like roast beef on a platter or a hugely oversized wedding bouquet.

Modern actresses probably dread wearing these things: they make the wasp-waisted gowns grip the torso like a very tight glove and provide a sort of crucial undergirding for the weight and volume of the skirt. But the little torture chambers can be surprisingly addictive. A British actress named Karin Cartlidge, starring in a TV version of The Cherry Orchard, told the London Times, "These bloody corsets do a lot for repression: I nearly fainted in one. I find them quite sexy; actually, it's a funny sort of thing. They hold you in like a cold iron hand round your heart, therefore all your emotions just seethe away underneath it. It's like being in a sort of prison and it's quite exciting, there's something erotic about it."

Indeed. I won't get into the sites that celebrate the corset as fetish-wear.  You know how to find them. Unless you're attending a Renaissance fair or working as a barmaid at Heidelberg Days, women don't endure these things any more except as fetish-wear. Most of these sites are extremely creepy. Some particularly slavish devotees "tightlace" day and night, though I don't know why anyone would do that to themselves.

Victorian porn could be very subtle. I wonder how many men found satisfaction (of a sort) in looking at these almost subliminally-erotic ads. Just thinking about what was under a woman's dress must have been completely unacceptable, which is probably why naughty French post cards were so popular. But did the proper Victorian woman somehow identify with the daring sauciness of the Valeine ad, or the soft-focus intimacy of the Royal Worcester?

Helena Bonham-Carter is still the ruling queen of the period costume. In A Room with a View, she smolders. With her masses of chestnut hair piled precariously on top of  her head like those water-jugs in the Middle East and her waist reduced to a thread, she swishes around in these dresses as if to the manor born. It must be tiring to pull a wagonload of suffocatingly heavy drapery around with you all day, but somehow she manages it.

And when she lets her masses of hair down, even in a granny-flanny, she still smolders.

Women had to do everything imprisoned in these things, even ride horses (and sidesaddle! It was somehow considered obscene for women to straddle anything, which makes one wonder about those Victorian families with ten or twelve children.) There were maternity corsets then which must have been agony to wear, and corsets for little girls, just to get them good and used to being squeezed until you couldn't properly breathe. Past the age of ten, normal respiration was left behind with all the other trappings of girlhood.

But over and over again, in researching this strange artifact from a very strange time, I found comments from actresses who had endured wearing these things, then had somehow fallen in love with them.

Emma Williams, star of the British series Bleak House, claims, "You get quite strict about your corset - it's like, 'Come on, tighter, tighter.' I had this gorgeous dress for a wedding scene, but it was ridiculously small. I nearly fainted, my corset was so tight. I wore it for eight hours, breathing really slowly so I wouldn't fall over. I'm sure I cracked a rib that day. . .  I had original Victorian corsets, so they were really heavy. I spent half the day crouching down to take the weight off my back. But you do get addicted to them. I might start wearing one round the house, doing the cleaning in rubber gloves and a corset. I'm a classy girl, me."

CODA: I just found these two incredible corset ads while looking for something else. They reflect two common features, or perhaps obsessions, of Victorian corset advertising: little scantily-dressed cherubs fluttering around and acting strangely, and "health corsets" that were no doubt meant to counter the anti-tightlacing "dress reform" movement of the late 19th century. Though corsets were probably about as healthy as tanning beds, they were pitched just as effectively. The ads often included doctors' endorsements (shades of Lucky Strike!), as if that settled the whole thing.

I have no idea what sort of voyeurism is being practised in this ad. I guess the fact that they're photographing the corset, not the woman in it, lets them get away with this overwhelmingly fetish-y shot. (And why is the corset being used as a planter?) This ad is for Warner Bros. Coraline: not, presumably, the movie studio, which didn't exist then - though I think we still see Warners undergarments of a different sort. Bras and things. Next time you think your bra is digging into you and it's torture, think on this and repent.

Ball's advertisements are without a doubt the best. This one boasts a "coiled wire spring elastic section", which today sounds like medieval torture but which then promised increased comfort and flexibility (i.e. you could take at least half a full breath). The caption reads, "Cupid whispers 'Ball's corsets are the best, wear none other.' And so say the medical fraternity."


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