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History is Nasty, Brutish, Short and Grim
Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, oil on board, 1887 | Public Domain

On July 29, 1890, Vincent van Gogh wandered out to a field in Auvers-Sur-Oise, a village less than an hour north of Paris. He made his way past the sprawling wheat fields and along the Rue Daubigny. And with the first morning light dancing through the dense forest, he set down his canvas and began to paint.

But this time, he chose to paint a different subject — twisted and gnarled tree roots. Art historians were even able to pinpoint the exact location of his last painting by these unique trees.

Unfortunately, Van Gogh never finished the painting.

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…

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.

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

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…

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

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

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. …

British Burning Washington, 1816 | Public Domain

The Grim Historian

History is Nasty, Brutish, Short and Grim

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