Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Art of Mehndi

Mehndi describes temporary tattoos worn by ladies. The art has been around for centuries but does not belong to any particular caste, culture or creed. It is found throughout ancient civilisations. Egyptian Mummies from five thousand years ago have been found with traces of henna on their hands and nails. The women of the Lower Nile would used henna to colour their skin, nails and hair in the name of beauty and at one time it was considered bad mannered for women to not sport reddish stained nails.

The art of Mehndi was thought to have been introduced to India in the twelfth century when the Mongol hordes invaded. The tattoos were painted on the body (usually the hands and feet) from crushed leaves of the henna plant. Henna as a dye has been used for thousands of years in India and Africa and the word Mehndi means crushed henna. Body painting represents a spiritual and therapeutic experience. Designs vary from culture to culture, with Indians for example finely drawn floral and paisley patterns; Arabic designs featured large floral motifs on the hands and feet; and African designs included bold geometric shapes. All have their meaning steeped in mysticism of their culture. In India the upper body from the navel is considered holy.

(Video Courtesy: MehndiArtistica Youtube Channel)

Feet mehndi became popular with Indian and Pakistani women who could not afford jewellery for their feet. They enhanced their feet with anklets and toe rings. Mehndi was used at the time of weddings. Painting the bride is an essential part of the preparations. These conventions have not changed for centuries. The husband to be, usually supplies the henna and after the couple is anointed the groom leaves to let the women get on with mehndi. In the Punjab the groom to be will leave his handprint in henna on the wall as a symbol of him becoming a man. Many families preserve this for as long as possible. Many superstitions prevail and mehndi was taken very seriously indeed.

Many sociologists believe the origins of body art was to protect the innocent from demonic possession. Spirits were thought to enter the body through orifices and hence around the eyes, feet and hands are sites which were commonly painted. This was extended to other parts of the body not covered by clothing. In the Hindu religion, women decorated their hands and feet as they prayed for long life for their husbands. High rainfall in south and eastern India meant henna was not able to grow, instead they used a red ink called alta, to sketch simple designs. In Morocco, henna parties related back to the harem days where women would lounge around often naked gossiping and eating. Henna parties could last up to three days. Traditional dancers wore mehndi on the palms of their hands to allow the audience to see the movements of the dance. This helped the dancer concentrate and the patterns were intended to attract male attention.

(Video Courtesy: Nayha Youtube Channel)

It is regarded as a blessing and thought to bring happiness and wealth. Henna painted patterns were also thought to provide protection to the body during periods of stress such as menstruation, or pregnancy. Women's hands and feet were also painted in Mehndi after death to promote happiness in the next life. The soles of the feet are regarded as a point of holy contact and where the human being and earth meet. Most mehndi designs in North Africa were confined to the hands and feet to accentuate their elegant shape. One simple reason why the custom may have started is Henna is a natural astringent and, as was the custom, in ancient times when the feet were hot people used to henna paste foot baths to cool down. It was soon discovered if a circle of the palm of the hand was painted with henna the palm stayed cool. The custom to paint a circle on the palm was soon established and the addition of other design followed.

Nowadays it is very trendy to sport henna mehndi and many models and actresses in the public eye continue to do so. The act of painting is extremely restful and maybe one attraction for women who have time to visit the mehndi salon. Living in the Chemical Age another more concerning reason for the renaissance of this ancient custom is the number of women now using the tattoos to cover needle track marks on their hands and feet.

Henna was used by the ancients to treat foot ailments such as corns, blisters, athlete’s foot and minor cuts.

(Video Courtesy: MehndiArtistica Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 18/09/2018

Monday, September 17, 2018

Podagra: Gout and Psuedogout

Spare a thought for those who live with gout. The old medical term for the disease of Kings and the King of Diseases was Podagra. The pain is "exquisite” and sadly affects about 0.3% of the population. First described in the fifteenth century the cause of gout is a defective purine (protein) metabolism resulting in the accumulation of monosodium-urate crystals in the tissues. The disease is common in males and characterised by recurrent episodes of acute arthritis. Gout can affect any joint but commonly it appears in the big toe but can also be found in the mid-foot. Primary gout appears as a result of inherited error of metabolism causing either over production of uric acid or retention of uric acid due to a disturbance in purine synthesis and/or renal uric acid excretion; or secondary to gout where there is diseases of the blood forming tissues, occurring in leukemia and other states of excessive tissue turnover. It may occur in renal failure and following administration of certain drugs. The condition is uncommon before the age of 40 and often associated with post menopause in females. Attacks commonly begin at night, pain is sudden, severe and excruciating. This pain is often described as exquisite and is unbearable and so severe nothing can be held against the surrounding skin. Joints becomes hot, red, and swollen and untouchable. Pain subsides and episodes recede with time. Between attacks the condition is usually asymptomatic. With repeated attacks the joint becomes progressively more damaged and other joints may become involved.

Chronic gouty arthritis with joint deformities develop as a result of cartilage erosion caused by inflammation. The first metatarsophalangeal joint of a great toe is the site of the first attack of acute gouty arthritis in 70% of sufferers.

(Video Courtesy: Nucleus Medical Media Youtube Channel)

Pseudogout is a form of arthritis, which causes similar symptoms to gout but commonly affects the knee or wrist, It can affect other joints and may present in one or more joints at once. Damage is caused by the abnormal formation of calcium pyrophosphate (CPP) crystals in the cartilage. When the crystals are released into the joint fluid it causes a sudden attack of arthritis, with symptoms similar to gout. The cause is unknown and affects both men and women. Older people with a thyroid condition, kidney failure, or disorders that affect calcium, phosphate, or iron metabolism are at increased risk of pseudogout. Treatment of gout includes drugs which help lower serum urate in the blood stream. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are important in the acute phase but corticosteroids are seldom prescribed for gout and pseudogout.

An interesting quirk with gout is Aspirin, which is a common analgesic but should never be taken by people suffering from gout because in low doses it blocks uric acid excretion and this will more than likely cause a painful attack.

Probably the most famous person in history to suffer from gout was Henry VIII, King of England. Perhaps this was rather kind to the Royal Person for he more than likely suffered syphilis instead. However the popular image of a well fed affluent individual with their foot excessively bound and rested is still a popular image of gout sufferers. Contrary to popular belief a diet of rich foods and drinks is unlikely to be the sole cause of gout but people living with gout should avoid purine rich foods.

Medline Plus

The above does not constitute actual medical advice but is shared in good faith and for general information purposes only. Should you experience symptoms associated with gout and psuedogout, then please consult your physician.

Reviewed 17/09/2018

A brief history of the Codpiece

“In days of old, when men were bold and Y fronts weren’t invented.”

The forerunner to today’s boxers and briefs was the less than humble codpiece. That’s the sticky out bit at men’s nether region, as worn by Knights of Old and still to be seen in men’s ballet attire.

The practical problem which beset our forefathers was the ability to match upper body clothing with leg attire. Catering for the call of nature compounded matters so the upper crust simply flaunted their naughty bits as a fashion statement. Men wore short jackets whilst no one yet had worked out how to make a functional pair of trousers. Men wore tubular leg coverings obviously unable to cover the genitals which were often left exposed. The cod piece began as a flat piece of triangular material covering of the “rest and be thankfuls.”

It was stitched at the three corners or at the bottom angle and tied at the top two angles, over the gap in the front of the hose. When Edward IV (1442 – 1483) decreed men below the rank of Lord could not expose their genitals the flap or cod piece was invented. Fashion crossover meant the codpiece became highly decorated serving both as a boast and provocation.

When amour was invented the cod piece remained and protected the wobbly bits.

Even later male clothing included a ‘sex purse’ and men vied with each other in their genital display. The popular sex pocket came to be known by various other names. Latin scholars called them ‘barca’ or ‘breeches’, the French insisted they were brayette or graguette; and the English used the Old English word cod meaning “bag” or scrotum. In the reign of Henry VIII it was rumoured when a visiting royal was caught in rather a compromised position his dilemma was clear for all to see including Queen Anne Boleyn. To pass it off with some decorum she tried to save his dignity by asking him was it an apple he had in his pocket. Henry VIII was rather distressed and mistook the sticky out bit for a new fashion fad from Europe. He ordered his cod pieces to be suitably padded preferring the loaf shape to house his family jewels.

Whether this is true or not, history records popularity for the cod piece peeked between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries when newer versions were developed. Padding and embroidery became more ornate. A real pocket was added where the wearer had a pocket to keep his purse, handkerchief or pieces of fruit, with little concealed suggestiveness. The latter was offered graciously to good looking ladies.

The cod piece enjoyed a limited return to fashion in the 20th century when they appeared in the film of Clockwork Orange.

Danielou A 1995 The phallus: Sacred symbol of male creative power Rochester: Inner Traditions (translated by Graham J.)

Interesting Sites
A brief history of the codpiece

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Skateboard Shoes: Times they are a changing

In the 60s, Vans took the lead in skateboard shoe design by introducing a vulcanized shoe. To secure the upper and sole stayed together a rubber sole was cooked onto the body of the shoe. A sneaker with attitude. Soon many other small companies were competing for the growing popularity of thrashing.

In the 80s Airwalk took over as market leaders when they introduced an oversized shoe that combined an inflated tongue, thick sole, suede exterior and air pockets to cushion the foot. Airwalk shoes were keen to enhance the design and promote an underground fashion statement but when the company tried to expand beyond skate shoes, Sk8r’s shunned the company products causing the company to fold. Success of skateboard shoes depended on niche markets catering for a culture which ignored mainstream shoe outlets. Some companies operated a segmentation strategy where core distributors (small surf shops) were given cutting edge technical shoes and the mainstream fashion skateboard shoe was sold through major retail outlets. Only when Airwalk switched its distribution strategy and gave the same shoes to malls and specialty shops did they really come a cropper. Skaters being brand loyal resented seeing their shoes being sold from the same emporia as Nikes and Adidas and hence withdrew their patronage. Airwalk a company with sales equating to $175 million in 1996 almost went under. The company diversified their product range to include to include BMX footwear and snowboarding shoes

When in the 90s, DC Shoes made their footwear from stronger fabrics, including multi-density rubber soles, gel pockets, and plastic eyelets that encased exposed shoelaces, thrashers took note. As soon as it was established DC soles gave better grip for foot-to-board traction then DC Shoes ruled supreme. By now skate shoes resembled tiny battleships for feet. By the mid 90s, skate shoes went mainstream and the loud; buttress skate shoe became passé as hip-hop faded. A slimmer more conservative shoe emerged based on retro punk rock and Grunge styles. Many features of the modern skateboard shoe started as genuine benefits to the Sk8r, but as fashion crossover has overtaken shoes now contain add ons’ to benefit general sartoria of the professional skateboarders who avidly promote their use. Nike, Adidas and Reebok are companies traditionally shunned by thrashers but in recent years have seen the potential market and have spent millions to make a popular skate shoe. In the States, San Diego County became the cradle of skateboarding and the skate shoe capital of the world, with many companies based in the San Diego area:

Dekline ,
DC Shoes ,
Tony Hawk Shoes ,
Vox Footwear ,
Adio Footwear ,
Fallen Footwear ,
Osiris Shoes and

All these companies dedicate their R&D to developing the next skate shoe. Despite the decline in the number of skateboarders, skate shoes sales have surged and outpaced all other athletic footwear sales. This was confirmed by the NPD Group , a marketing research firm in their report which found whilst demand for running shoes grew by less than 2 percent, sales of skate shoes (boarders) increased by more than 19 percent over the same period. According to Board-Trac , skateboarding peaked in popularity in 2003 with almost 13 million skaters in the US, estimates today indicate there are about 12 million skaters. In 2004 skate shoe sales reached $1.5 billion, with 24 million pairs sold. The popularity of boarders is thought to relate to people wanting to look as if they are hip hoppers but not necessarily ever having seen a skateboard in their life. For decades trainers suffered the same fate as the sport shoe crossed over into mainstream Ath Leisure fashion. By comparison running shoes now are typically bought by people who actually run. The popular trend for boarders has caused the industry to reshape the way skate shoe companies develop and market their products.

(Video Courtesy: TYT Sports Published on Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 15/09/2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Who was Leopold von Sacher-Masoch ?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Hence your intrepid reporter found himself recently pouring over the pages of a classic Victorian work of literature on sex and cruelty, or so it said on the cover. Venus in Furs was written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch whose name would be, to most unknown. The Marquis De Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch have each bequeathed their names to two forms of eroticism in which pleasure and pain, voluptuousness and suffering are closely allied.

De Sade took pleasure in the pain he inflicted where as Sacher-Masoch attained the same end by the pain he endured. Sadism and masochism are according to Freud, latently and repressed in each of us. We all have the capacity to be a sado-masochist without knowing it. Most people will know something about the Marquis de Sade, imprisoned for fifteen years for his beliefs, scorned by his contemporaries, and calumniated for nearly a century. Yet Sacher-Masoch is virtually unknown today, however during his life he enjoyed considerable fame as an author. So who was this man and what if anything does he have to do with feet?

Leopold Sacher-Masoch was born in 1836 to a family of senior officials. He had a happy childhood until one day whilst playing hide and seek with his sisters in his aunt's house, he witnessed the mistress of the house in a compromised position with her lover. Before the tender proceedings could progress the unsuspecting husband stumbled onto the scene. The poor fellow had no time to remonstrate with his unfaithful wife before the lady in question rose and took a whip to him until he promptly fled. Young Leopold keen to get a birds eye view gave away his hiding place in the wardrobe of fur coats and the startled women proceeded to deal him the same fate as her husband. The rough treatment was mingled with indescribable pleasure and from that day fourth, Sacher-Masoch discovered his inner fetish.

As an adult he became a successful author with many of his erotic stories based on his own bazaar, private life. His plots were full of references to whips, high heeled shoes, fur and cruelty. Sacher-Masoch was the first person to write about kissing high heeled shoes after the Madame had used them to inflict degradation and pain. His wife at the height of his popularity criticised his writing saying his heroines were stereotypical, arrogant and dominant women. Sacher-Masoch pounced on the opportunity and promised to never write about such matters again provided his she gave him, daily whippings wearing nothing other than fur trimmings. Reluctantly she agreed and the sick man kept his promise by never writing about furs, whips and cruelties ever again.

Reviewed 14/09/2018

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Old Dominion - Shoe Shopping

(Video Courtesy: Old Dominion Published on Youtube Channel)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Dating old shoes

Believe it or not it is comparatively simple matter to date human remains by using the radiation rate of carbon 14 (or carbon dating). When old shoes are found, dating them is far more subjective. Experts need to compare the find to similar looking shoes in dated paintings. or reference in them in dated literature. Unfortunately, not all period paintings are dated and literature is not always reliable.

Modern shoe detectives have a problem because reference to shoe styles of yesteryear is unclear. Historians require drawing conclusions from the typical shoe style of the historical period. This process is complicated due to the constant change of Western fashion. To help historians there is, believe it or not, a classification or list of key points to note about the shoes. Some are pretty obvious but others rather clever. When an old shoe is found the first thing to do is to name the style.

According to the late William Rossi, a respected shoe historian, there are only seven basic types of shoe. These are moccasin, sandal, mules, pump, boot, clogs and oxfords. All shoe designs are made from these primary styles.

Another feature which helps the historian is, to decide if the footwear was worn indoors, outdoors, or both? In ancient Crete for example sandals were never worn indoors. They were able to validate this by measuring wear recorded on the paving stones and steps in and outside dwellings.

Colour of the upper, sole and heel help date footwear. Colour or more particularly dying of materials had a cost implication in times past and certain colours such as purple were restricted by law to the clothing of royalty. Because footwear had such strong social implications there was a distinctive pecking order and gender difference within many societies, hence the historian can judge the artefacts using this criterion. Louis XIV wore red high heels on his pinching tight shoes and no-one else was allowed to wear red heels in his court unless they wanted to lose their head.

The material and texture of the shoes' upper is important and reveals much about who wore the shoe as well as when it was likely to have been made.

Another important distinguishing feature is whether the shoes are left and right shoes or interchangeable. The idea of shoes made for left and right feet is relatively recent whereas shoes to fit both feet date back to the middle of the nineteenth century. Throughout history as technology has advanced, shoe makers have been able to produce shoes with distinctive shapes. Examples are the long toed shoe was popular in the Middle Ages, the broad shoe a fashion of the Renaissance. In a similar way the style and type of heel can be very revealing.

Modern high heels have only been available since the middle of last century up until then shoe heels were a means of arch support which elevated the heel. Platform shoes have specific times in history when they were popular and make them relatively easy to date.

The sole of a shoe can tell not just a lot about the shoe and its history but also a lot about the person(s) wearing them. Because certain manufacturing techniques or shoe making skills were distinct to historical periods the historian can use this to date old shoes. To the untrained eye a shoe may appear as a shoe but to the expert the way the shoe has been constructed such as welted, stitched, and riveted cemented or moulded can tell a lot about the period in which it was made. If any repairs have been made can be illuminating as can the material the shoe lining is made from.

Special marks or inscriptions on the shoe may indicate the makers name or owner’s name. In the past shoe makers used special markings to remind them of the size of the shoe. This was often done in code to prevent the wearer from knowing his shoe size. This practice was a deliberate attempt to encourage customer loyalty. Decorations and motifs sometimes appear on olden shoes because of the symbolic power shoes had in times past. All these features make older shoes, easier to date.

Rossi WA The brief history of footwear Journal of Current Podiatric Medicine 39:6 1990
Swann J 1977 Classification of footwear Costume vol 11 Reviewed 21/07/2016

(Video Courtesy: Steve D Youtube Channel)