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Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality by Margot Vice Weiss. See previous entry for details.

The Story of Vermont: A Natural and Cultural History by Christopher Klyza and Stephen Trombulak. I suppose this will overlap heavily with one of my favorite books about Vermont, Hands on the Land: A History of the Vermont Landscape by Jan Albers, but I don't mind.

I am currently reading The View from Vermont: Tourism and the Making of an American Rural Landscape by Blake Harrison. It is about the history of tourism in the Green Mountain State starting in the mid-19th century and how the competing forces of urbanization, tourism and industrialization have shaped the landscape. It's fascinating!
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Absinthe, as she currently stands, was a person who was excavated after her death and whose heart was burned in an anti-tuberculosis ritual to keep her father from getting ill. She turned this ritual back on him and drew his vitality away so that he ended up dying and she ended up living as a vampire. She's also an avid student of her maternal grandfather's Abenaki stories and teachings, despite her father's depiction of her grandfather as ignorant and "savage."

I just realized today that something has to give in her character. Her identity as a patricide and her identity as a Native American do not go together. If, as I have established, she is a respectful student of her maternal grandfather, an Abenaki who has maintained the lifeways and culture of his ancestors despite prejudice, then she at least knows and heeds the basic tenet of Abenaki spirituality: All beings are equally important and honorable, bound as everything is in a complex web of creation and sustenance made and nurtured by the creative spirits of the world. In such a case, killing non-human things for food is acceptable if proper reverence is given, but to kill another human being in murder is unacceptable. It is an act of wanton cruelty that messes with the natural order of things. For this reason, Absinthe, if a spiritually observant and practicing (if rather isolated and half-taught) Abenaki, would not murder her father and sustain herself on his vitality.

All right, so now Absinthe's story has a gap in it. She was born around 1812. She attended the Charlestown Convent School in her youth as an attempt to educate her and "civilize" her, but she enjoyed rough-and-tumble play with the Brickbottom Boys instead, although she did like the French. She died of tuberculosis, exacerbated by her father's abuse of her, when she was 13.

Absinthe hung around the convent school until it burned in 1834 (in which she played an unwitting role). After that, she lurked among various institutes of knowledge until she met up with Justine and Marquis.

Something happened in here to convert her from a ghost to a Colonial vampire, something that also corresponded with the beginning of her passive corruption by Justine and Marquis. Whatever this event was, it sure didn't involve her killing her dad.

I'm glad I never formally codified the tuberculosis-related parts of Absinthe's story in main or tangential storylines. It's all written up in her backstory, but has yet to be published, so it is still malleable. Clearly I need to work on making a more convincing Native American character, and part of that realism means giving her a backstory and set of actions consonant with her Native beliefs.

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I went to Foxwoods Money Toilet Casino this weekend. I was very close to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Library, but did not go. I obviously need to investigate it further, as well as its blog. I wonder what resources the Pequot Museum has online. Absinthe is not a Pequot, but an Abenaki [Cowasuck], but I bet there's a lot of information in the Pequot Museum and Library about tribes of the Northeast, including the Abenaki.
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"Podunk" exists in the U.S. imagination as a mythical town of such remoteness and emptiness that it epitomizes hillbilly rurality, but, interestingly enough, there are several places in the U.S. actually named Podunk. One, a subdivision of the extremely small town Wardsboro (population 854 as of 2000), exists in my home state, Vermont. A few years back, the Washington Post gave an interesting, if cursory, look at the place with the folklorically charged name.

Podunk, located in Windham County in the extremely southern part of the state, flourished during the mid-1800s, peaking at 1000+ residents, most of whom were subsistence hill farmers. The population dwindled as residents of Wardsboro moved to better land or more industrialized places to live. By 1916, Podunk's schoolhouse closed, and the forest began to overtake the once-cleared fields. Current residents sometimes happen upon abandoned foundations in the underbrush and, more poignantly, little cemeteries, mere family plots with a few markers. The population now numbers half a hundred full-timers, though that number may be increasing, at least on a seasonal basis. With the Mount Snow and Stratton Mountain ski areas nearby, Podunk now attracts vast vacation homes for skiers. Though Podunk is not an especially significant place, it is one with an interesting history, one that currently is being paved over by oblivious gentrification.


Riddances

Dec. 17th, 2008 12:06 pm
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I got rid of so many things recently. Then an equivalent number of things came into my life, mostly Rements and books. Paperback Swap, while great for getting rid of books, also tempts one to acquire more. Thus I have a huge pile of new-to-me books on my desk about vampires, New England and vampires in New England.

Also I got a Bratz doll, primarily for its shoes, which are appropriately fabulous and correctly sized for my 1:6ers. It also came with a useful microphone and keyboard and some useful pink and black hair. Tragically, none of the clothes fit ANY of my dolls, and the doll itself is hideous, made of vile-smelling plastic.

I need to retire from Paperback Swap and just donate unwanted books. Then I won't be tempted to get more.

I have some books on my shelf from which I only like one or two stories. For example, The Penguin Book of Witches and Warlocks stays in my collection solely because of the perfervid, perverse and gloriously overwrought "Sanguinarius." A recent acquisition, Whisper of Blood, only has one story to recommend it to me: the learned tale of archaeological horror "The Ragthorn." I need to just copy the single stories that I like and get rid of the whole volumes.



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Here we go. Lucretia Maria Davidson (1808-1825) was one of the Beautiful, Virtuous, Dead Teen Poets I was talking about earlier. Margaret Miller Davidson (1823-1838), Lucretia's younger sister, was another. Margaret Jr. was named after her mother, Margaret Sr. (1787-1844), who acted as teacher, agent and career manager for both daughters, who, depressingly enough, she outlived. All three of them exploited and were further elevated by the aforesaid Soggy Cult of Tuberculosis, which romanticized the disease that both LMD and MMD Jr. died from. Seriously, there was a whole strain of early Romantic thought linking death by tuberculosis with great sensitivity, poetic skill and tragic beauty.

Interesting information and commentary about these individuals can be found in the following places:

Robert Southey, then the British poet laureate, wrote a very laudatory article (1827) in The Quarterly Review that gave the Soggy Cult more gushing power, but I can't find a copy of it online.

The Poetical Remains of the Late Lucretia Maria Davidson (1857) contains poems by LMD, but, more pertinent to our investigation into the Soggy Cult, a short dedication by MMD Sr. to Washington Irving, in which MMD Sr. reconstructs LMD's life so that it might conform to the lineaments of the Soggy Myth. There is also a very long biographical sketch by Catharine Marie Sedgwick that appears to draw on familial reminiscences, unpublished poems and LMD's letters. Amid the constant tendency to romanticize LMD, there appear many interesting details of her everyday life as a middle-class girl of the very early 1800s. These details are very important! Oh yeah, there's also some poetry in there.

Biography and Poetical Remains of the Late Margaret Miller Davidson (1850) contains poems by LMD's sister, MMD Jr. In service of the Soggy Cult, Washington Irving wrote a long biography, ostensibly of MMD Jr., but also encompassing much about MMD Sr., who provided the notes on which the biography is based, and also about LMD, who of necessity enters into any discussion about the MMDs.

"Margaret Miller and Lucretia Maria Davidson" (1850) represents Edgar Allan Poe's critical response to the Soggy Cult's libations of praise for LMD and the MMDs. He thinks Sedgwick and Irving too effusive in their evaluation of LMD and MMD Jr. Apparently, Poe will employ the tropes of the Soggy Cult for horrific effect in his fiction, but he has no use for it in real life.
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I need books about life in the Boston metro area in the early 1800s, which is when Absinthe was active. I find a plethora of material about Puritan Boston [when Ethan was active], witchcraft Boston [when Tituba was active], late Victorian Boston [when Will was active] and 20th century Boston [when Materyllis was active], but I have a huge gap in my historical knowledge, except for Fire and Roses, by Nancy Lusignan Schultz, which is the story of how Absinthe's school, a convent school run by Ursuline nuns in Charlestown [now Somerville!], was burned by anti-Catholic rioters in 1834.

I think I need to find some of those soggy Romantic reports of the two young women who were poets in the early 1800s and who lived and died in Plattsburgh, NY. The lavish detail surrounding their portrayal, lives, deaths and poetry gives me a primary-source sense of the Romantic Cult of Tuberculosis, a disease that strongly affected Absinthe's life. [She died of it.]
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Since I have problems finding this, here is my books Amazon list and my one for DVDs.
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As Margaret Oliphant argues, the terms in which "superfluous" women are discussed in Victorian discourse are very telling. In her analysis, the "problem" with unmarried women was not in they themselves but in their treatment by the many who held opinions on the matter.

--Rita Kranidis, The Victorian Spinster and Colonial Emigration: Contested Subjects, p. 42

I need information about the cultural perspectives on and opportunities open to unmarried Victorian women, since Mary, whose diary I transcribed, remained single all her life [1864-1938]. Thus I'm reading the aforementioned title, about the massive export of single British women to British colonies, holdings and territories in the Victorian era.

While a lot of this book concentrates on how both the women and the colonies are equally portrayed as dangerous goods to be literally marginalized so that they can benefit the center [= Great Britain], some of it is relevant. I need a general discussion of the middle/late Victorian views on unmarried women; this book is not a foundational source of information, but it's a good supplement to those I have already amassed.

His rebus dictis, what is going on in that second sentence I quoted?!! "The problem...was not in THEY themselves?!" It should be "them themselves." I assume Kranidis was overcompensating for the odd-sounding semi-redundancy of "them themselves," but gah! She's a scholar! With editors! Either she or her editors should have caught this mistake.

I loathe hypercorrections such as these, cases where people mistakenly use subjects instead of objects because they think the subjects sound more formal and correct. Even Barack Obama, despite being The Shining Prince Of Hope Who Will Bring Peace, Prosperity And Hypoallergenic Shelter Puppies For All, perpetrates such language abuses. In a press conference on November 7th, he said, "Well, President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I to — to meet with him and first lady Laura Bush." NOOOOO, it's supposed to be "Michelle and me!" I hate it when people can't grammatify correctly.

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As much as I like subject-delimited histories [i.e., about sex and gender roles in the U.S. in the late Victorian Era], I actually prefer thematically based overviews, such as Battleground of Desire, which takes a general subject -- controlling the body/emotions/sexual expression in the Victorian bourgeoisie -- and shows how the concepts of this struggle for self-control distribute themselves through all aspects of daily life. When I read about the many ways in which the fight for self-control could manifest itself -- in diary entries chastising oneself for being too passionate [something Mary does frequently], in the schoolroom punishment to "go sit in the corner and think about the consequences of your actions," to the widespread horror of masturbation, called "self-abuse," to the huge obsession with correct posture, to the intractable debate about restrictive corsets vs. "healthier" clothing with room to breathe-- I get a better sense of what  it might have been like to live  during that period with those things on my mind. While Battleground does not go into lots of detail on any subject, it's a learned synthesis of many individual cultural trends, and it's based on solid research.
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This is not anything new. I've been writing it for about two years now. To be fair, I should more accurately say that I'm collaborating with Mary Elizabeth Collins, an ancestor of mine [1866-1938]. She wrote a diary of her high school years in Plattsburgh, New York between 1884 and 1887, which I have transcribed. I'm in the process of annotating it. Since she writes a lot about her various courtships [and repeatedly turning down marriage proposals!!], most of my introductory material concentrates on dating and marriage in the late Victorian era.

Anyway, for my book, I was reading Nancy Cott's Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation. It's an overview of marital practice and law on both state and local levels in the United States from colonial times to 2000. A cursory scan of the book shows American marriage as a fluid concept that steadily expands to include people of different races, married women's property rights, no-fault divorce, parties of the same sex, etc. Though I'm still hurting from the fact that 53% of Californian voters personally hate me, I take heart from the long view proposed by Cott. Using the U.S. as a case study, she shows that marriage is an almost infinitely elastic institution. Those who campaign to stretch it always, always, always win out over those who try to keep it restrictive.

Even though Public Vows is not very relevant to my book, it's relevant to my life, so I feel a tiny bit better.

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Sherman Alexie was on The Colbert Report last night, where he managed to be witty, intelligent, gracious and generally stupendous in the face of Stephen Colbert's buffoonish mockery. Alexie's repartee even drove Colbert to a stand-still, where he just shook his head at Alexie, smiled and ended the interview. Given Alexie's masterful performance, I am interested to see if his book reflects the same keen mind and incisive word use.
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In the late 1930s, Massachusetts flooded four little towns -- Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott --  to make a reservoir so that Boston metro could have even more drinking water. The resultant Quabbin Reservoir, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the world, now contains both natural, wild beauty and the rather ghostly remains of the 2,500 lives it displaced. Old foundations and overgrown roads still appear above the water line, and, apparently, if you look down into the water, you can see old houses!!

It's an incredibly eldritch and fascinating place, from what I've heard. I'd love to go there. I bet vampires hang out there... The public radio documentary Haunting the Quabbin gives a detailed, personal view of the creation of the reservoir, as viewed by former residents of the displaced towns and others involved in the project.
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The Victorian Spinster and Colonial Emigration: Contested Subjects by Rita Kranidis.

The Spinster and Her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality, 1880-1930 by Sheila Jeffreys.

Women, Marriage and Politics, 1860-1914 by Patricia Jalland.
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Collected at Newspaper Rock.

Native Americans in Children's Literature covers that subject critically and thoroughly. Beverly Slapin has an especially accurate and trenchant essay about the stupidities perpetrated by ignorant non-Native authors trying to write YA novels with Native American characters.

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I've always been interested in Aishah bint Abu Bakr, youngest and favoritest wife of Muhammad, ever since I wrote a biography of her during my sophomore year in high school. This Slate article discusses some modern titles about her.
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I want to read this book, The Hemingses of Monticello, by Annette Gordon-Reed, about the family that was both enslaved by and related to Thomas Jefferson and his family.
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In the Farber Gravestone Collection, the American Antiquarian Society collects over 13,000 images of pre-1800 gravestones, many in Massachusetts. Daniel and Jessie Farber were photographers active in the early 20th century. The collection also incorporates the work of other gravestone photographers. It's very Massachusetts-based. More later after I poke.
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Preachers, Patriots and Plain Folks, sold by the Association for Gravestone Studies, covers the Granary, King's Chapel and Central cemeteries in Boston. Chow is buried in Central.

The Log of the Union
is a log of a global circumnavigation by Chow's employer, Captain John Boit Jr., in 1794-1796.

Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem Village is an educated reconstruction of Tituba's life before, during and after the Salem witch trials.

Food for the Dead is about rural New Englanders' folk medicine against the threat of tuberculosis. Absinthe's corpse was burned in this tradition.


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I've been fascinated by the Salem witchcraft trials for decades. It's one of the few widely recognized events of American history in which girls and young women were pivotal actors. It's also one of the few places in early American history where we can hear the voices of girls and women, in their accusations, depositions, confessions, wills and apologies. When I was the age of the afflicted girls, I read with fascination about the mysterious and destructive behavior exhibited by girls who were my age 300 years ago. The primary source documents gave me a vivid sample of their speech and thoughts, while still leaving me with the major question of WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
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Prompting by the recent theatrical release of Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl, some Slate writers have an informal discussion about the series of dolls that spawned said movie.
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Fountain Hughes, 101 when interviewed in 1949, talks with his nephew about what it was like, growing up as a slave. You can actually hear an audio recording of him!! My favorite part is when he's talking about the music that he sang in church, and he "gets the spirit," but he can't sing because he's "too hoarse."

Tempe Herndon Durham, 103 when interviewed in 1937, says she was "real lucky" compared to other slaves. Not an audio recording, unfortunately, but you can get an idea of her speech patterns with the relatively phonetic transcription here. My favorite part is when she's telling about jumping over the broom on her wedding day. Her husband trips, so her master teases her husband that her husband will be bossed by Tempe all his days. Dramatization of an excerpt here.

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Got your attention, didn't I? Listen to this story.

In the 1800s, tuberculosis, then commonly known as consumption, was one of the most common, deadly and feared diseases. One of the families it struck was the Brown family of Exeter, Rhode Island. First the mother, Mary Brown, died of consumption in December, 1883. A little over half a year later, the eldest Brown daughter, also named Mary, succumbed. When a son, Edwin, contracted consumption a few years later, he was sent out west in the hopes that the salutary air of Colorado would halt his sickness. It didn't. When Edwin returned to Exeter, his sister Mercy got sick with the "galloping," or fast-acting, version of consumption. She died in 1892.

Edwin's condition worsened. Alarmed at the mortality rate of the Brown family, friends, neighbors and other townspeople began to worry that the Browns suffered from a vampire. What else could be systematically draining the vitality of parents and children except for some hungry relation come back from the grave? Encouraged both by this speculation and by desperation, the remaining Brown men took drastic action.Read more... )
 
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I was reading When The Chenoo Howls by Joseph and James Bruchac, an awesome collection of monster stories from Native American traditions, when I came to the realization that most cultures distinguish between the smart vampiric or cannibalistic creatures and the dumb ones.
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In my effort to reacquaint myself with Abenaki stories, I found The Algonquian Legends of New England by Charles Leland on Google Books. Copyright 1884, this public domain work is now available for readers everywhere to marvel at two things which are stupendous for entirely opposite reasons. The stories are stupendously GOOD. They display world-wide scope, thrilling adventure, thoughtful moral guidance, a very dry sort of humor and the inexhaustible layers of dense symbolism and imagery that any mythos provides. In other words, stupendous stuff.
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I've been poking around Abenaki mythology recently, looking for the vampire equivalents, of which there are always several in every single culture.

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So I picked up a bunch of local history books at the library recently. One is In Our Own Words: Stories of North Cambridge, Massachusetts 1900-1960. The most memorable person in the book is Ruth Jones (1895-1996), an African-American townie. She comes across as a take-no-shit person who tells you what to do because she's experienced and smart and wise, and she knows it. She's also incredibly smart and stubborn, in an admirable, ambitious way. In the book, she gives all these great details about cadging food from the gardens of the rich white folks and being the first black girl to graduate from Somerville High (1915) and dealing with racism when she went to Boston University in the late 1910s. In the interview, she obviously loves to tell stories and to preach.

Anyway, after I read about her and decided she was completely awesome, I wanted to work her into the story somehow. I decided I should have a vampire based on Ruth Jones in the general details of experience and character.
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Questia is an online library where you can mark up books, create citations, take notes, etc. Here's a sampling of some of the available material, centering, of course, on my own interests. The second book in the list wins the award for Best Scholarly Book Title Ever. Off to abuse a 72-hour free trial subscription now....

Schooled to Order: A Social History of Public Schooling in the United States http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=61723639#

Sex in Middlesex: Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699 http://www.questia.com/read/98444963

Bound to Please: A History of the Victorian Corset http://www.questia.com/read/103800495

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Avenues to Adulthood: Origins of the High School and Social Mobility in an American Suburb (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1987) by Reed Ueda. It talks about Somerville High School during the period when Will would have gone. Apparently a bitch to get a hold of used....

Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America by John D'Emilio and Estelle Freedman. Because I need some more information about precolonial and colonial life.

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Chinatown Gateway Coalition http://www.chinatowngateway.org/ A grassroots org to preserve and accentuate Chinatown's geographic, historical and cultural heritage through strategic development of the Chinatown Gate area.

The Chinatown Blog http://bostonchinatowngateway.com/ A relatively new blog written by younger residents of Chinatown. 

Chinatown Main Street http://www.chinatownmainstreet.org/ A business directory.

South Bay Planning Study Documents http://southbayplanningstudy.org/documents.asp Documents about development plans for Chinatown, Fort Point Channel and the Leather District, including the Chinatown Masterplan 2000 [which is not, as the name implies, some sort of blender], Chinatown Community Plan 1990, etc.

Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center http://www.bcnc.net/index.php Providing social services to residents of Chinatown, the South End and South Cove.

Nightly patrols reduce crime in Chinatown http://www.baystatebanner.com/issues/2007/08/23/news/local08230713.htm An article about the volunteer Chinatown Crime Watch.

http://boston.indymedia.org/feature/display/186609 A firsthand account of the Chinatown Crime Watch delivering the smackdown on some fighting idiots.
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 Made to Play House: Dolls and the Commercialization of American Girlhood, 1830-1930 (Paperback) by Miriam Formanek-Brunell 

The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England by Alex Owen  
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Morbid Anatomy is a compendium of posts about medical and death-related art, such as post-mortem photos, anatomical waxes and ecorches [engravings of partly flayed people showing musculature]. Off I go to waste my lunch hour. Janet would definitely have some of this stuff in her lab alongside the Kraftwerk posters. 

EDIT: The links from Morbid Anatomy are most instructive and detailed. For example, The Fantastic in Art and Fiction is a bank of thematically grouped images [Madness & Possession, Angels & Demons, the Grotesque] from across the centuries, supplemented with lists of scholarly studies, literary works, plastic arts and movies that pertain to the theme. There are many wonderfully freaky out-of-copyright images here that would be great for indie authors illustrating their own book covers.
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StoryCorps is a neat project aimed at tapping the oral history of the nation. At mobile booths around the country, almost anyone can schedule time and record an interview with a friend or a family member about...almost anything. I have listened to two stories so far, and I will be checking out more. Here a man talks about saving his friend's little brother from the train tracks. Very dramatic! Here a Vermont lesbian couple are talking about their 30-year partnership and getting civilly united. Their happiness, after all these years, is still infectious.

Bonus: Here are two women talking about being identical twins, dispelling some stupid assumptions about their relationship and being very practical about the whole thing. "Being a twin was the best thing that ever happened to me! I recommend it to everyone!"
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Ever since I read Doing Cemetery Research, I've been digging a little more into the subject of graves. On a whim, I decided to look up information about three of my favorite cemeteries: Essex Common Burial Ground and Mountain View Cemetery, both in Essex, VT, and Addoms Hagar Burial Ground, in Plattsburgh, NY. Surprisingly enough, all three of them have been transcribed, the Essex ones by James Cutler, a local genealogist, the Plattsburgh one by the Church of Latter-Day Saints [huh?!]. Read more... )
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I've been reading many books about death and cemeteries. The best that I have come across is Your Guide to Cemetery Research. Read more... )

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