A list of curious facts
One: With macho celebrities swanning around in dresses, it was only a matter of time before men discovered the ultimate feminine fashion staple: The ballet flat. Everyone from Balenciaga to Miu Miu are rolling out stylish footwear for men. The trend was all over the runway in late 2022—but has now gone mainstream or as GQ ominously puts it:
Over the past year or so, a new class of sleek, barely-there footwear for men—which, indeed, recall simple ballet flats when not flat-out copying the dance shoe silhouette—have emerged. And while the idea of them may yet give some men pause, there’s a perfect storm brewing that’s toeing the line toward the mainstream.
As you can see in the lead image—of a €410 Deconstructed Loafer—it still looks kinda manly. Or you can opt for the truly dainty version below. What we’re not buying: men who declare ballet flats are “insanely comfortable, they’re like sneakers, like a Nike Air Rift without the split toe.” Nope. We think not.
Two: Long before ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ turned him into a global star, Hugh Grant starred in a French production titled ‘La Nuit Bengali’ (The Bengali Night). In his debut leading role, he played a foreigner who falls in love with an Indian woman—played by Supriya Pathak! His other co-stars are no less impressive—John Hurt, Soumitra Chatterjee and Shabana Azmi.
The 1988 film is based on a novel by Mircea Eliade—a famous historian of religion—and was a thinly fictionalised account of his affair with Bengali poet Maitreyi Devi. She was so furious at having her personal life splashed across the big screen, she sued the producers for “anti-Hindu and pornographic” content. She also wrote her very different account of their relationship—a novel called Na Hanyate (It Does Not Die). This essay on the contrast between the two works is a great read. FYI: you can also see the entire film on YouTube for free (Fair warning: We found it unwatchable). (Scroll)
Three: The Marginalian recently offered a wonderful account of how groups of birds got their names. Example: a parliament of owls, exaltation of larks or murder of crows. But here’s the truly curious fact about these terms:
A great many of these company terms originate in one of the first books printed in English after the invention of the Gutenberg Press: the Boke of Seynt Albans [Book of Saint Albans], also known as The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms. Anonymously published in 1486 and written largely in verse, it was lauded as the work of “a gentleman of excellent gifts” — until it was discovered that the author was a woman named Juliana Barnes.
While Barnes died unrecognised in a convent, English painter Brian Wildsmith brought these company terms to life in a delightful illustrated book. Below is one example—a rafter of turkeys. The Marginalian has lots more. A good related read in Nature: The movement to reclaim species named after colonialists.