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History is Nasty, Brutish, Short and Grim

The hairstyle once helped African slaves escape to freedom

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

A White friend recently got back from her hairstylist with neat lines of cornrows in her blonde hair. Tiny colorful beads at the end of each braid clicked together as she flipped her locks over her shoulder.

“I don’t even have to wash my hair now,” she exclaimed.

“Ah, ok,” I replied. “But since when is washing your hair a problem?”

It wasn’t. And although I know she was only wearing cornrows because she thought it looked cool, her hairstyle made me weirdly uncomfortable. (I say “weirdly” because I had no right to be offended.)

But I did launch into…

That time Hemingway had a chest hair fight with Max Eastman

Artwork: ©Carlyn Beccia |

While everyone today is fixated on Hollywood catfights, a century ago, writer feuds got tongues wagging. And while actors today may spar in Twitter wars, writers have always exchanged barbed words.

H.G Wells called Henry James “a painful hippopatamus.” John Keats resented comparisons between him and Lord Byron so much that he complained, “He describes what he sees — I describe what I imagine — Mine is the hardest task.” And Mark Twain’s hated on Jane Austen — “I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” Clearly, Twain was not a fan.

I spy Rembrandt’s wandering eye and Mona Lisa’s high cholesterol

The Sistine Madonna, Raphael, 1513–14 | Public Domain

And is it art or science?

The “Venerina” or “Little Venus” anatomical model by Clemente Susini, 1782 Wellcome Images, CC by 4.0

There’s nothing more seductive than a reclining Venus. From Henri Matisse’s brightly colored Reclining Odalisque to Titian’s enigmatic Venus of Urbino, a woman needs only lie on her back with a come hither look to invite the gaze of the viewer.

But there’s another reclining Venus with a darker past — the “Anatomical Venuses” (also called ‘dissected graces’ or ‘slashed beauties.’) Her bow-like mouth drops in a quiet surrender to death. Or is it ecstasy? We will never know. Her stilled eyes stare past us with blackened pupils. She does not invite us to look.

And still, we cannot look…

How does a smile change how we view someone?

Left: 1848 “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, Public Domain | Right: ©Carlyn Beccia

In 1860, he was kidnapped and forced on a slave ship. This is what he endured.

Photo of Cudjo Lewis (c.1841–1935) | Public Domain

Dropping the F-bomb makes you more likable. Here’s why.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Ficken, fokken, fukka, focka, fock, and of course…fuck. The word fuck is the most used curse in the English language, and for good reason. It’s a noun, adjective, and verb. Fuck is so versatile. And unlike shit, damn, asshole, bitch, or my personal favorite — bollocks — it’s an action-packed, racy explicative packed with myriad meanings.

It also is the most censored. According to the Motion Picture Association of America’s censorship guidelines, a movie that contains more than two fucks gets an automatic R rating. Just two mentions of the F-bomb got James Joyce’s Ulysses banned. …

Symbols of democracy were saved that day

British Burning Washington, 1816 | Public Domain

From cow dung to bull’s balls, couples have done some crazy things to conceive

Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash

The Grim Historian

History is Nasty, Brutish, Short and Grim

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