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Review of the book I read Tuesday, July 19th.

So apparently, although I didn't know this before reading the book, the Getty museum is set up as a replica of a Roman-era dwelling, complete with garden layout swiped from Pompeii. As a result, they've put out this book about the ancient associations and references of the herbs growing in their (extremely accurate) gardens.

This is a really good sourcebook for information about herbs in Greece and Rome. You get the name of each herb in Greek and Latin, the current taxonomy, the current English name, a lovely water-color showing any distinguishing features, and a list for each herb of references from classical texts, including medicinal, magical, honorific, and culinary uses. There are sections from stories and poems, discussion of which authorities believed what about which herb, analysis of the difference between Greek and Roman beliefs and usages, and a few recipes.

And there is stuff in here I've never seen anywhere else. Parsley apparently had an association with the underworld in Greece, for instance; it was supposed to descend to the underworld nine times before it sprouted, and may have had some use at the Eleusinian mysteries. Consequently it was not widely eaten. The Romans, on the other hand, though they also thought it was a little unworldly, appear to have eaten it with bread as a standard breakfast. Plautus hated garlic. And mustard. Knowing Plautus, somehow this does not surprise me. Garlic actually is an antiseptic, and its uses as one were known as far back as anyone can tell; Galen also suggests that it will keep off dangerous beasts if eaten (and possibly anyone else, too). There's an attempt to deduce the flavor profile of the now-extinct silphium from the things people compare its flavor to in cookery texts, and I conclude that I would have hated it, as the description they come up with is 'kind of like onions, only very bitter and with an aftertaste rather like mint'. Well, these are the people who put garum on everything (a strong fermented fish sauce-- you can kind of approximate it today with Vietnamese fish sauce, but garum was much stronger, smelled rather impressively, and was used about how people now use ketchup).

There's discussion about the immemorial confusion between oregano and marjoram, which apparently dates to before Hesiod and is not helped at all by the fact that the two crossbreed. There's mention of how the Greeks knew about ten species of thyme and had them in a hierarchy. It's interesting to see which names have come down: basil does come from basileus, which is ancient Greek for king, and it's yet another of the plants sometimes used as crowns for victors in battle. (They had what we would now call ordinary basil and what we would now call holy basil, but not any of the more esoteric ones.) You get things like a mention that asparagus water seethed with basil and garlic was meant to be an aphrodisiac. I doubt it.

In short, do not be put off by the museum-related nature of this book, because it's a very nice collation of material that one could otherwise go through an entire reference library to seek out. And a fine bibliography. And you don't have to read Greek or Latin, though it would help. I only wish it were longer, and maybe referred more to the Babylonians and Sumerians, because there are tiny smatterings of that material and it interests me, though I understand that that was not their focus.
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My plane leaves at an uncivilized and impossible hour tomorrow morning; packing, as it does, took up more time than one would like, and I am sure I have forgotten half of what I will want (you try putting everything you think you need for the next two years in one carry-on and one checked bag, without accruing overage fees, and luck to you). There was a scorpion in the bathroom earlier and the cats threw up on our sheets. Ninety percent of everyone I know had a terrible weekend. When I went into the media room to get the graphic novel I was intending to read, as my emergency backup I-am-too-tired-for-all-this book, the couch had on it several tiny skittering lizards (of all things) (for some reason), at which point I went to Thrud, who was piecing a coat, and flailed incoherently for a while.

And Thrud dropped this book in my lap.

Well, I expect to be in Florence in November. Why not.

There is something intensely calming and soothing about a book which begins by explaining all of the things about Italy that one should of course expect, and in fact by this time remembers fondly: that shops will be closed at random intervals, for no obvious reason; that the church holidays are the municipal holidays, and expecting bus service is futile on holidays, so learn the ecclesiastical calendar; that Italian clothing sizes bear no relation to U.S. ones and why should they; that the most terrifying words in the Italian language are chiuso per sciopero, which can be translated literally as 'closed for the duration of the strike' and figuratively as 'I hope you had a backup plan for what to do with today and possibly the rest of the week/month/trip'. It warms the heart. This book even explains, in plain and simple language, the thing about Florence which most guidebooks do not manage to communicate. Which is to say, you are not going to be able to navigate by house number, because there are two separate and unrelated house numbering systems, which do not have anything to do with one another and have no codified geographical system. It is the fault of the Medici (what isn't), who decided that 'red numbers' ought to be for commercial establishments and 'black numbers' for residential. The 'red numbers' are traditionally carved somewhere into the base of the building, in any color other than red, usually black. The 'black numbers' are hung as blue-and-white china doorplates, unless the building is quite old, in which case they are carved somewhere in the base of it, usually not in black.

It is necessary to approach Florence with the proper attitude. You could be in Ferrara instead, after all, and then what? (All right, they have a nice castle.) This book has the proper attitude. I know that it is a good guidebook because of that, and also because it has the correct gelateria, the correct dolceria, and the Mad Surrealist Shoemaker's Shop listed, which means that the author has been around enough to find the places one finds by word of mouth. I can't remember the names of the gelateria or dolceria, because one finds them by landmarks and smell, but several people have asked me over the years what the name of the Mad Surrealist Shoemaker's Shop is, because they need a pair of boots in which one pair is shaped like the moon and one like the sun, or both are shaped like sharks, or need space-certified astronaut boots, or just good footwear: so I can now tell you that the shop is Mondo Albion, it is on Via Nazionale, and he turns out to as I suspected have been affiliated with the Futurists.

Also the guidebook explains that you should go to the back of the indoor market and eat lunch at the cafe there, which you should, and gives the place where you can buy masks that make you look like Dante. Among things I have not encountered it lists an apothecary's shop that has been there since the thirteenth century, where apparently they decant all their herbal essences into test tubes when you buy them; it also told me where to find the film-related-books bookstore and-- and this is going to be a serious budget problem for me-- the locally-produced-only yarn store.

Of course any shopping guide is not going to explain to you exactly how annoying things can be when they are at their most annoying, because shopping guides want to sell you things, but I do appreciate that this one starts by explaining that you really need to calm down and continues by, every few pages, mentioning that if you are failing to cope at this point there is a wine bar just down the alley. It gives me that special happiness you get when someone appreciates the things you love about a city you love; in short it is a book that understands. Pretty pictures, too. So I recommend it, although I don't know how much you care if you aren't going to be, in fairly short order, in Florence.
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Review from July 1st. The full book title is Patterns for Theatrical Costumes: Garments, Trims, and Accessories from Ancient Egypt to 1915.

Which is basically what you get. This is an extremely useful book if you are interested in historical clothing that is a reasonable compromise between appearance and accuracy. Well, historical clothing from Western Europe, mostly. The progression goes Egypt, Greeks, Romans, Dark Ages, and continues from there; there's a generic Chinese and generic Japanese no-period-given set of patterns, which would bother me more if the rest of the patterns weren't also very generalized, but still bothers me.

Each time period gets generic that-era male and female outfits, with a few having variants shown for different classes or social groups. The amount of time that elapses between outfits is kind of odd-- we get three separate thirteenth-century things, for instance, and one fourteenth-century, and I'm not quite sure why. All the garment terminology is correct as far as I know. Hats get patterns, as do belts. Shoes don't, but they are pictured. Undergarment patterns happen when they are necessary for supporting the outer structure, so that you can build a working bustle or hoopskirt from this book but you're on your own at figuring out what, if anything, to put under the bishop's robes. Each pattern set also has a page of suggested embroidery/decorative motifs, and points out when odd fabrics and furs would be appropriate.

All of the patterns are duplicated at 1/8" to the real inch, with several methods of enlarging them given-- this book is old enough not to be able to mention that you can just scan them, blow them up, and print them out, which is what my house does-- and they all come in three sizes. The designer assumes you know the basics of draping and seam allowances and, well, standard garment construction; she'll tell you if there's anything really peculiar going on, and admits that nobody, but nobody, likes building hosen now that it would take too long to knit them so maybe you should just buy tights.

I would like to reiterate that this is clothing meant to look good at a distance, and that the designer expects you to put in the work yourself to modify it for whatever purposes you need, and says as much directly. If you are a stickler for specificity and accuracy, this is a starting point, not an end. That said, the overall authenticity level is, let us say, about two hundred and fifty percent better than your local Renaissance festival, at least. With the willingness to do a little research, you can get spectacular things out of this-- we've had the book in the house for several years, it's one of Thrud's most used references, and I'd flipped through it but never sat down and read it through before.

The interesting thing when you read it straight through is watching the evolution, because clothes basically start with 'here is a piece of cloth which we will keep on a body somehow', and then continue to ring changes on that until a technical innovation comes along, at which point they ring all the changes on that. You can really see the shapes of garments shifting here. It's also neat tracking at which eras men's garments were silliest and at which eras women's were; it does not quite alternate.

Also, of course, the burning question with this sort of book is which clothes you'd want. Thrud uses this to prop up her collection of seventeenth and eighteenth-century menswear, because Thrud dresses that way all the time. I find, and this deeply confuses me, that the clothes here that make the most sense to me in terms of clothes I know how to wear (and you do have to know how to wear historical clothes; some of them have high skill thresholds) are the ridiculous seventeenth-century dresses, that somehow I picked up and internalized all the rules about what to do with one's gloves and how the layers work and how to sit and get through a door and all that. Which is ridiculous, because that is just about the silliest possible era of women's fashion, but it is that or modern menswear in terms of my preferences, there is no middle ground.

Anyway, this is a worthy and useful book, adaptable to many purposes and capable of taking the kind of beating that you get in the organized chaos of costuming multiple persons. I only wish we had something similar for, well, any bits of the world that aren't Western Europe.
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A collection of definitions of vocabulary specific to various professions. Fortunately, it started with restaurants, so I was able to check its accuracy right off the bat.

At least as far as the back of the house is concerned, it was right on (I have never worked the front), and it has a long list at the back of the book of persons consulted, and I therefore figure it's trustworthy. Professions covered include the aforementioned restauranteuring, retail slang, theatre slang, pharmacist, venture capitalist, microbiologist, and several others. The book doesn't use alphabetical order but starts with more general concepts in each field and works more and more specific information into an organically flowing essay on each topic, which is not a bad way to do it. It never gets incredibly detailed, because it's trying to stick to slang that is as universal within each profession as possible, but I think it does pretty well at covering all of the slang that is fairly universal, before you start getting regional differentiations and the like.

My principal complaint is that it's not long enough. I would have liked about seventeen more professions, and then it could have been a really valuable resource instead of an amusing curiosity; as it is it's just not a large enough book to work as a writer's grab-bag, because it's sufficiently non-comprehensive in its list of professions that it's probably easier just to go get a book on the individual thing you're researching. It's basically up to luck whether you'll find what you want in this.

If you just want to look more closely at the inner workings of a bunch of fields you don't work in, though, this is a completely reasonable way to do it. I also found it interesting to notice which pieces of jargon I'd picked up from somewhere or other and which I had not. (I kind of regret that Harrison didn't cover art restoration. I would love to know whether the slang my boss there used was specific to him, or more general. He called the time after you start examining the piece intrusively but before you know what you need to do to it the designated panic time, for instance.)

I also think the book ought to have covered linguists, just for the meta. Anyway, this was cute.
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I cried when I heard Satoshi Kon had died, earlier this year. His work has always helped remind me of the sheer scope of possibility that animation has as a medium, the way that every visual element can be planned in a manner impossible for live-action, the way the laws of physics and gravity are totally irrelevant. Satoshi Kon, Masaaki Yuasa's Mind Game, Shoji Kawamori's Spring and Chaos: there are points when I would have stopped watching anime entirely if not for the beautiful, disciplined yet surrealist grandeur of work like that.

Osmond's book is from 2009, meaning that it covers all of the things Kon finished before he died. (The unfinished Dream Machine is still in progress.) I honestly had not been expecting much-- it's a thin book, a large percentage of which is taken up by synopses, from an author I had not heard of-- but this is very good and I'm glad to have it; it achieves a nice synthesis between going into detailed analysis of each film and concentrating on the arc of Kon's career as a whole. There's a nice range of quotations acquired from Kon in direct conversation and quotes gathered from magazine and other interviews, and the background details for each film include not only the standard discussion of voice actors and character designers but mention of the film pedigree of animators and studio personnel and the careers of the writers whose novels Kon adapted. In addition, I was interested by the section on Kon pre-Perfect Blue, because I'd known he must have done something but hadn't tracked down what-- his several not-terribly-successful manga sound like interesting failures.

I would not suggest reading any given segment of this book before seeing the work it covers, because the synopses are incredibly detailed and the analysis assumes familiarity with the material. Mind you, the synopses are also sufficiently confusing at times that I'm not sure they'd be terribly illuminating to someone trying to get an idea of a film from them, but I really ascribe only minor blame to Osmond about this, because trying to adequately summarize Perfect Blue is pretty high on my lifelist of things I don't want to have to do as a writer. I don't think that reprinting the complete script would make that synopsis any less confusing. (I was interested to note that you can adequately summarize Millennium Actress, which I wouldn't have bet on.)

Also, if you're looking for an actual biography (and I for one would find that interesting) this isn't one, although it does have some biographical details where relevant.

In general, though, I'm happy with this book, which told me things about every one of the films I didn't know, and boggled me with the revelation that they didn't plan the ending of Paranoia Agent in advance, despite it being an ending that follows perfectly logically from what appears to be foreshadowing throughout the entire series. Apparently they looked over the series-in-progress, picked out some things to take as foreshadowing, and went from there. If you want to spend some time thinking about Satoshi Kon-- and you do, he's one of those directors I recommend heartily to people who hate anime-- this is a book you would enjoy.
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Penguin, of all people, have started putting out manga. Specifically, they've started putting out socially-relevant-to-leftists manga biographies. They've got one of Che Guevara and one of the Dalai Lama. Our household obtained the one about the Dalai Lama, called, straightforwardly enough, The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography, by Tetsu Saiwai. Saiwai apparently specializes in educational and environmental manga. His art is clean, if generic in a fairly obviously Tezuka-influenced sort of way, and his people are recognizable as themselves internally but might not be able to be matched to their photos. The book begins at the death of the 13th Dalai Lama, covers the search for the new lama, his upbringing, the political unrest in his adolescence, and the Chinese invasion and subjugation of Tibet which led to the Dalai Lama's fifty-year-and-ongoing exile. It's an authorized biography and behaves like one: solid on names and dates and facts and politics and things people said in public record, but if you want to get a sense of the person and not the religious leader this is not your book. It also skips oh about forty years of his later life in the interests of time. So I would call this a useful elementary text, in an entertaining format, the sort of thing I would in fact cheerfully assign to sixth-graders for a history unit, but, you know, it does not exceed my expectations in any particular direction and I will look elsewhere for my deep analyses.

There also turned up in our house recently a book on how to take a Japanese bath, called, straightforwardly enough, How to Take a Japanese Bath. I am not entirely sure why it turned up-- I certainly had nothing to do with it-- but there is this thing where Thrud buys things that seem relevant to her, even if they do not seem relevant to anyone else, so I am going to assume it had something to do with that. At any rate, I mostly wanted to compare it to my experience, as I have in fact been to an onsen more than once. It turned out to be mostly about bathing in private houses, which I did find interesting as I have never done that, and the etiquette of leaving the water hot for other people and so on. And it does cover onsen and public baths thoroughly. If you need bathing etiquette, and if you are going to Japan you do, this is a handy little book which matched what I saw done. It did not answer my personal Japanese-bath-etiquette question, which is whether I now have a sufficient number of tattoos to be asked to leave a respectable bathing establishment or whether the We Expect Nothing Of Gaijin card covers that, but, you know, that's very specific. (I only had one tattoo when I went to Japan, and nobody batted an eye.) Man, I wish we had onsen in this country, though if you live in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville you have Inman Oasis which is pretty much the same thing and I envy your continued geographic proximity. Sigh. There totally are not public baths in Texas. At least, not our part of it. We have some similar equipment in our house now, but it isn't the same.
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Back, home, rested, backlogged. Oh, so backlogged. I have been faithfully reading a book every day, but lo, there was traveling. So the first review here is for the book I read on Thanksgiving Day, yeesh. And the next batch of reviews are probably going to be fairly short until I catch the heck up.

Swan for the Money is the eleventh of the Donna Andrews mystery series I've been reading, not that it matters as I have read three of them, out of sequence, and while there is chronological progression it doesn't make much difference. It is true, as various people have suggested to me, that the ones not set at a reenactment fair or a con are not remotely as fun. This one is set at a rose show, which, you will note, is neither a reenactment fair nor a con. It's not that it wasn't a fun book, but it didn't have either the thing where I recognized exactly what was going on as a perfect parody of exactly what would be going on or the thing where it felt like a fresh new place to set a mystery-- I mean, Hercule Poirot went to rose shows; they're exactly the sort of thing you get in Ye Olde-Schoole Country House Plot. It is possible that if I were a person who goes to rose shows, this would be a good parody, but as I am not I would have liked the book to be a good takeoff on the sort of mystery novel set at rose shows, and it may have been trying to be that but if so it was not succeeding. I got through it on a sort of general affability and the usual wittiness. I am going to track down and buy the two I really liked and probably read the rest of this series whenever I am in the mood for something pleasantly harmless. Will let you all know if any of the rest turn out to be brilliant.

On the day after Thanksgiving, I read Growing Fruits, which is a guide put out by the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. We have in our garden lemon trees, pomegranates, figs, persimmons, a nice new olive tree, and hypothetical future grapes, so I was actively looking for pointers. I concluded that the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens is not located in Zone 8b, which I suppose I should have known going in, only everything else on Ruth's aunt's shelf of books from the same source said All-Region Guide, and this one (which was of course the one that might have been relevant) did not. I did however learn things about growing fruits somewhere else! The book covers many of the most common varieties of fruit-- apple, pear, stone fruits, various berries-- and discusses planting, pruning, harvesting, common diseases, how to select a specific varietal of your fruit, and so on. They have handy little charts saying whether the kind of apple you want will work in your zone (no), and a chapter on rarer fruits which covers things like pawpaw and lady-apple and jujube and anything else that totally is not on the list of Things In Our Garden, seriously, it was like they'd seen the list, how rare is it to try to grow lemons really. I discovered that I am officially terrified of pruning as their recommended method appears to remove half the tree and caused me to start whimpering about how our figs are only so high anyway. Also, we are apparently in an area where grapes standardly get some weird disease, which I remember hearing vaguely about from other sources and which means we should resign ourselves to possible failure or else get the disease-resistant kind that don't taste as good. Okay then. At any rate, if you live anywhere near or at least in the same latitude as the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, this is a thorough, readable, illustrated, friendly book I could totally see using as your fruit bible. Although I am probably not pruning the pomegranates to their recommendation because honestly we mostly have them for the foliage. And it is not worth trying to get the olive to bear, really, because no one wants to take the time to soak the fruit in salt water and beat it with a stick so we can eat it. At least, no one here, if you want to we can talk about that.

On the day after that I read Around the World in Eighty Days, by Michael Palin, a present from [personal profile] sovay, who is one of those persons beyond price who consistently gets me books I wouldn't have thought of and find interesting. This was great, this was the sort of book that makes you devoutly hope the author has gone out and written about seventy-three more, which I see via Google that he has in fact done. Palin did a BBC TV series in which he did actually go around the world in eighty days with no air travel, not quite staying entirely in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg but starting from the door of the same club in London (and he calls his attendant filming staff, en masse, Passepartout). I can't better his words about why he did it and I'm not going to try:

The compulsive urge to travel is a recognized psychical condition. It has its own word, dromomania, and I'm glad to say I suffer from it. The ambition of every dromomaniac is a circumnavigation of the planet, but it's a less fashionable journey now than in Jules Verne's day. Part of the reason is that you can do it by air in 36 hours (a technological feat that Verne would have greatly appreciated). But air travel shrink-wraps the world by leaving it small, odourless, tidy and usually out of sight.

There are container vessels which will take you round in 63 days, but you will see only water on 58 of those. The reason why Phileas Fogg's 80-day journey retains its appeal is that it is still the minimum needed to go round the world and notice it.


His modes of travel include container ship, dhow, train, car across the entire Arabian peninsula, dogsled and hot-air balloon, the last two included solely because at that point he was aiming for the gratuitous. He describes being attacked by a parrot in Hong Kong (he informed the parrot it had mistaken him for John Cleese), being forced through a truly ridiculously embarrassing crossing-the-line ceremony at the International Date Line, and getting into his compartment on India Rail to discover that there were already two people in there who insisted their names were Michael Palin, one of whom was female (he sat in the corridor). He is mistaken for Michael Caine, Michael Jackson, and, in fact, John Cleese. His prose is consistently witty but reaches touching without straining itself, and he has a gift with an incisive lyrical description in about three words. Also, this is a really fascinating document of the way the world was in 1989-- there are long stretches of this when he was out of touch with the rest of the world in a way that I think would simply not happen now that there are cell phones, and I also suspect that one can no longer drive a film crew across the Arabian peninsula on no notice at all. And Hong Kong was still British and he speculates about what might happen at the handover (and basically gets it right). Highly, highly recommended.

If I keep up reviews at three a day, I'll be caught up on... Friday. Well, better then than never. We'll see how it goes.
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People on Livejournal-- this is a manual crosspost of the DW post which went up last night here. For some reason or other, despite the fact that none of my settings have changed, it failed to crosspost. Does anyone have any idea why it might have done that?

This book does do what I wanted it to do, which is to sort out the mass of references to shinobi in accounts of the wars surrounding the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate into 'historically probable', 'historically possible', and 'totally and completely mythical'. (The vast majority fall into that last category.)

However, it's, well. There is not much material, period, about ninjas that isn't incredibly full of myth and speculation, and there certainly isn't much in English. The author has therefore resorted to printing the speculation-- it's pretty clearly marked, but he keeps doing a thing where he'll say 'the following could not possibly have happened' and then go on for three paragraphs about it. This would be more forgivable if he were telling the popular version, but sometimes he is clearly just going on about what it would have been cool to have a ninja do in the circumstances, which is both unnecessary and, to me personally at least, kind of boring. Also, the illustrations are incredibly sensationalistic, and he reprints a lot of plates from the seventeenth-century Bansen Shukai, a collection of ninja stuff, without ever talking much about what that collection is or whether it was intended to be factual; this makes me less inclined to trust him over the things he puts into the category of 'historically probable'.

You can't have it both ways, really. Either you can have a book about the nature of covert operations in Japanese warfare and how the idea of covert operations interacts with samurai ideology and how all the myths arose and where the Western ideas about ninjas came from, which is a book I would like to read very much, thank you, or you can have a book about how cool it would be if all those myths were historically true and wouldn't it have been awesome if Hattori Hanzo were as badass as everybody says he is in anime, and honestly I don't need that book as there is all this internet in the world. This book was trying to be both at once and therefore probably not succeeding at either to anyone's real satisfaction, because people who want to hear about Cool Stuff may well be annoyed at the author continually pointing out that none of the devices people have claimed ninjas used to walk on water actually, you know, work, and the rest of us can certainly be annoyed at the general tone.

Not recommended. Does anyone know a better reference work on the same topic?
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This book does do what I wanted it to do, which is to sort out the mass of references to shinobi in accounts of the wars surrounding the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate into 'historically probable', 'historically possible', and 'totally and completely mythical'. (The vast majority fall into that last category.)

However, it's, well. There is not much material, period, about ninjas that isn't incredibly full of myth and speculation, and there certainly isn't much in English. The author has therefore resorted to printing the speculation-- it's pretty clearly marked, but he keeps doing a thing where he'll say 'the following could not possibly have happened' and then go on for three paragraphs about it. This would be more forgivable if he were telling the popular version, but sometimes he is clearly just going on about what it would have been cool to have a ninja do in the circumstances, which is both unnecessary and, to me personally at least, kind of boring. Also, the illustrations are incredibly sensationalistic, and he reprints a lot of plates from the seventeenth-century Bansen Shukai, a collection of ninja stuff, without ever talking much about what that collection is or whether it was intended to be factual; this makes me less inclined to trust him over the things he puts into the category of 'historically probable'.

You can't have it both ways, really. Either you can have a book about the nature of covert operations in Japanese warfare and how the idea of covert operations interacts with samurai ideology and how all the myths arose and where the Western ideas about ninjas came from, which is a book I would like to read very much, thank you, or you can have a book about how cool it would be if all those myths were historically true and wouldn't it have been awesome if Hattori Hanzo were as badass as everybody says he is in anime, and honestly I don't need that book as there is all this internet in the world. This book was trying to be both at once and therefore probably not succeeding at either to anyone's real satisfaction, because people who want to hear about Cool Stuff may well be annoyed at the author continually pointing out that none of the devices people have claimed ninjas used to walk on water actually, you know, work, and the rest of us can certainly be annoyed at the general tone.

Not recommended. Does anyone know a better reference work on the same topic?
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This is the other book Thrud picked up at the Imperial War Museum in London some time ago, along with the cookbook from two days ago. (By the way, over in the Dreamwidth comments to that entry Zeborah has both made and reviewed those potato truffles.)

This one is about clothes: keeping them, mending them, making them, reusing them, and preventing them from wearing out. I suspect it of being a lot more useful than the cookbook to a modern audience, because knitting tips have not changed that much since WWII, but I also think it's a lot less likely to be of general interest, as it is quite technical. Large chunks of it boil down to 'to mend x sort of tear in x kind of garment you should use x stitch', and although I would consider myself at least intermediate at sewing (i.e. I have made entirely by hand garments which were worn in public by myself and other persons), and I live with at least one person who is professional-caliber at it, I have no idea of half what they are talking about. Stitch names may have changed in the interval, or across the ocean, is one thing; and also the fabrics that are common today are not the fabrics that were common then, but I also think the skill set of sewing has changed generally, at least in a local way.

I mean, I am not joking when I say I am living with a professional-caliber seamstress; Thrud has done everything from genuine eighteenth-century costuming to a wedding dress. We were just talking yesterday about the fact that no one in the house has the vaguest idea how to darn anything. The thing is, we don't have to. You can't darn synthetics and the other things are, like, socks, which are cheap enough to us that it would be worth more in labor to fix them than to get new. (If I ever knit anyone in the house socks, well, that is when we will learn how to darn.) And that is one of the major differences between Now and Then: labor, and our time, are by far the more expensive thing, and as far as clothes go, throughout history the reverse has been true more often than not. The skill set of a person who is very good at sewing, in our particular first-world academic-upper-class milieu, is centered around making things, and making them to look pretty, and also if possible to last. The skill set of this book is centered around making things and making things to last, and last, and last, and, if possible, to look pretty. So not orthogonal, but not overlapping much. This could therefore then be a useful reference book to me, assuming I can extrapolate from it to mending modern fabrics-- and assuming that I want to take the time.

Because I have that option. Of course, one of the things this book is good for is reminding one that other people didn't and often still don't.

Also, of course, it reminds one of many other things which are actually past as opposed to just not right here-- for example that women used to wear rubber corsets, and a whole lot of other garments which have gone out. The sections on the care and maintenance of corsets are sufficiently arcane and technical to be by themselves reasons I am glad I've never had to wear the things. I have seen small animals with less complicated life-cycles.

Oh, and if you have a lot of leather boots, you can certainly learn how to keep them in good condition from this. Mostly I have learned I am doing everything wrong.

I shall leave you with the place this book became not just history but living at me and basically kicked me in the stomach. This is a chapter heading:

Here are some ways in which a man's unwanted garments can be converted to your own use, if you are quite sure he won't want them again after the war.


I mean. Ouch.

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