Thursday, 2 July 2015


Here’s another 16th century story of a May-December affair:

A young, good-looking man flirted with an old woman. Her skin was wrinkled, but he kept his eyes on her money and made a grab for it. He sweet-talked the good old woman, and promised her a great deal. He said he would be nice to her and respect her, but secretly he thought he’d break the leash and devour all her money and flog her old hide. He’d keep a young woman, run from the old filthy creature, and visit the chicken coop instead.

The old woman looked at the young man. He was well-built, his skin was smooth. I worry you’ll be rude to me, she said, and I will suffer like other old women who are being maltreated. But I expect better from you. You won’t abuse me. You will treat me in all matters like a gentleman. I shall make you my master and give you authority over the possessions my old man accumulated, as long as you do as I ask. Then they were married, but I don’t know how that marriage worked out.

(Source: Poster printed by Hans Sebald Behaim, early 16th century, my trans)

Sunday, 28 June 2015

May-December marriage

This one is from the 16th century:
Once a very old man fell in love with a young woman. He ran after her for a long time. He spruced himself up and said: If you are willing truly to be mine and honour me all your days, you will benefit from my death. I will see that you are well compensated and you will gain great wealth and be held in honour. You can buy whatever your heart desires. I will be nice and loving to you. If one servant isn’t enough, I’ll get you another, as long as you always treat me well – let me know if that suits you.
The young woman understood the matter well and looked with favour on the old man and promised everything he desired. She would love and honour him (she meant his cash). She said sweet words to him, and put a fool’s cap around his neck and led him around by a fool’s leash, which happens to quite a few old men.
Old and young don’t go together!  

(Source: Anonymous poem printed by Hans Adam, first half of 16th century, my trans)

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Gregoire Delacourt, author of The List of My Desires
GrĂ©goire’s Delacourt’s The List of My Desires is the story of a woman who wins the jackpot – 18 million euros. How would you spend that much money?
You could get:
An island. A facelift. A diamond. A Santos Dumont ladies watch from Cartier. A hundred pairs of Louboutins and Jimmy Choos. A pink Chanel suit. Pearls, real pearls, the kind Jackie Kennedy wore, oh, wasn’t she just lovely?

Maybe you should get yourself a nice man. I mean, we are nearly forty. If we don’t meet a nice guy this year we’re all washed up. And if he isn’t nice? If he is a man with balls but no brain, whose ignorance is vast and possibly tragic?

You could end up being very unhappy, suicidally unhappy. In which case, don’t rely on advice from your friends. At least not your Facebook friends.
A young girl wanted to die. She told her 237 Facebook friends in advance, and no one reacted: What did you say?
In any case, think carefully, about how to kill yourself. There are many options. For example:
Throwing yourself off a railway bridge as a train is passing. You couldn’t miss and there wouldn’t be any pain. Or: Cutting the veins in your wrists. Because there is something romantic about that. The bath, the candles, the wine. My body would slip down, my face would sink and I would drown in dense, comfortable liquid red velvet; like a womb.

Maybe there is no need to go that far. A diet might solve your problems. Just don’t do anything radical. You lose weight and become a hard woman, colder, more angular, like the grieving heroine of The List of My Desires: My merciful curves melted away. The ice was taking shape, and it had a cutting edge to it.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

House of Juliet, Verona

Advice from the theologians to the City Council of Strasbourg, 1536:
  • Experience teaches us many things. Thus we counsel and advise the magistrate to forbid secret marriages.
  • Cohabitation between a man and a woman is a civic matter and ought to be agreed upon in a public act and before God. The rest is just filthy desire.
  • Everyone involved must consent, those who are being united and those in whose power they are…and an unmarried woman is under the authority of her father.
  • Why should a man be allowed to marry a young woman without her father's permission? The laws return a lost chicken to his owner. Should it be permitted in law to abduct fraudulently a daughter who has been educated with much effort and is the heiress of her parents’ possessions?The law protects my money from thieves by hanging them, and ought my dearest token of love be exposed by the same laws to the deceitful desire of any man? A young woman cannot sell her father’s possessions without his consent. The surrender of her body would be like selling her paternal inheritance.
  • Besides marriages that are entered for no better reason than love don’t last. What we usually see is that such marriages are full of trouble because they have been contracted under the sponsorship of Satan.
  • And the worst scenario of all: a man seduces a young woman with the promise of marriage. She stupidly believes him on account of her sex and age. Soon the imprudent youth becomes tired of her and leaves his old love for a new one. Result: She has lost the better part of her dowry – the flower of virginity, so that she can no longer be married off.

(Source: The Correspondence of Wolfgang Capito, my trans.)

Thursday, 18 June 2015

THE NEXT THOUSAND YEARS OR SO. A forecast by mathematician, Chandler Davis

Chandler Davis-Science for Peace

In addict lingo, society has some monkeys on its back. To survive, we’ll have to get rid of them.
First of all, I'm assuming we'll somehow get the military monkey off our back.  In recent history, but especially since the 1970s when the Pentagon escaped from civilian restraint, weapons have exceeded any possible use by eve the most bloodthirsty armies.  These huge oversupplies, though they benefit military contractors, are irrelevant to strategy.  Having ten thousand weapons does not make an army more fearsome if a hundred of them could annihilate the enemy, but the autonomous power of the military contractors dictated that the weapons go on accumulating. These rows on rows of nuclear weapons, nerve gas bombs, and the like, and these thousands of military bases on hilltop and atolls around the worlds -- when the world's rich country, and especially the United States, dispense with them, they will suddenly have enormous reserves of materials and personnel available for more constructive uses.

Second, I'm assuming we’ll somehow get the profit monkey off our
back. You may not want to call it the capitalist system, because you can
see the Communist Party of China pursuing African copper and rare earths
as destructively as Barrick Gold does… Whether we call it capitalism or not, the insensate competitive scramble for growth is threatening our survival…We know that the oil barons must abandon the race to extract and burn more hydrocarbon fuels than the next guy (even Mark Carney knows this now), and that means that
Gazprom must abandon it along with Exxon Mobil.

Davis predicts that there will be less mining in future centuries and that the richest mines in the future will be our scrap heaps.

Other predictions:
--Population will decrease
--Languages will continue to disappear…and we will create new languages.
--Human beings will still look like human beings do now.
--We may search for new habitats in the universe or stick to one planet and make our garden grow.
Whatever the future, Davis says: I have great confidence in the resourcefulness of our descendants.

(For the full text of Davis’ talk, check forthcoming bulletins of www.scienceforpeace).