Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.
1) Lord John and Percy viewed this 17th-century portrait of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, at an art exhibit in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE. I think this scene is much more effective if you read it with this picture in front of you.
"Look at that," [Lord John] said, nudging Percy.
It was the famous Larkin portrait of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham. The duke, slender as a sylph in white silk hose, and bejeweled like a dagger hilt, gave them back a grin of slightly frenetic gaiety, below a pair of knowing eyes.
After a long moment, Percy turned to him, with a nod at the portrait.
"What do you think?"
"No doubt about it, I should say."
They looked at the portrait together, standing quite close; he could feel the warmth of Percy's arm brushing his.
"Odd, how it shows on some men, but others--" Percy shook his head, then glanced at Grey with a smile. "Not you, John."
(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19 ("Pictures at an Exhibition"). Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) Baboons really do have red behinds. <g> This scene from VOYAGER always makes me laugh, but I didn't realize until this week, when I finally took the time to look it up, just how apt Claire's comparison was.
"A baboon," I said, enjoying the sight of his muscular back flexing as he scrubbed, "is a sort of very large monkey with a red behind."Here's an article explaining why baboons have red bottoms.
He snorted with laughter and choked on the willow twig. "Well," he said, removing it from his mouth, "I canna fault your observations, Sassenach." He grinned at me, showing brilliant white teeth, and tossed the twig aside. "It's been thirty years since anyone took a tawse to me," he added, pressing his hands tenderly over the still-glowing surfaces of his rear. "I'd forgot how much it stings."
(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 33, "Buried Treasure". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
3) Here's the Pitlochry Dam and Fish Ladder, mentioned in AN ECHO IN THE BONE. (Click on the photo for a bigger view.)
Brianna paused by the fish-viewing chamber. It wasn’t yet the breeding season, when--she’d been told--the great salmon swarmed through the chutes of the fish ladder that allowed them to climb the dam at Pitlochry, but now and then a silvery flash shot into view with heart-stopping suddenness, fighting strongly against the current for a moment before shooting up into the tube that led to the next stage of the ladder. The chamber itself was a small white housing let into the side of the fish ladder, with an algae-clouded window. She’d paused there to gather her thoughts--or, rather, to suppress some of them--before going in to the dam.
(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "Ley Lines". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) It seems to me that it would be awfully difficult for someone from our own time to survive on their own in the wilderness of the 18th century, foraging for food in the woods and so on.
Fortunately for Otter-Tooth--if it was indeed he--he had been familiar with a number of edible plants, and seemed extremely pleased with himself for recognizing pawpaw and persimmon.I have to say, I sympathize with Otter-Tooth's predicament here, and I think Claire's being rather hard on him. I don't suppose Robert Springer had ever seen the "exotic" fruits pictured above in his local supermarket! (I haven't either, for what it's worth. <g> Which is one reason I'm including the pawpaws and persimmons on this week's list.)
"Recognizing a persimmon is no great feat, for God's sake," I said. "They look like orange baseballs!"
"And they taste like the bottom of a chamber pot," Jamie added, he not caring at all for persimmons. "Still, he was hungry by that time, and if ye're hungry enough..."
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 109, "The Voice of Time". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) White phosphorus (pictured above) was used to make matches, starting in 1831, but it was so toxic that its use was banned by many countries by the end of the 19th century. Here's a fascinating video showing what it can do. (The video is a little long, but the interesting part is in the first 4 minutes.)
It definitely doesn't seem like the sort of thing that's safe to keep in a small cabin with an inquisitive toddler! I love Roger's reactions in this scene:
"And you intend to do...what with it?" he asked, trying to keep any note of foreboding from his voice. He had the vaguest memories of hearing about the properties of phosphorus in his distant school days; he thought either it made you glow in the dark or it blew up. Neither prospect was reassuring.I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!
"Wellll...make matches. Maybe." Her upper teeth fastened momentarily in the flesh of her lower lip as she considered the jar. "I know how--in theory. But it might be a little tricky in practice."
"Why is that?" he asked warily.
"Well, it bursts into flame if you expose it to air," she explained. "That's why it's packed in water. Don't touch, Jem! It's poisonous." Grabbing Jemmy round the middle, she pulled him down from the table, where he had been eyeing the jar with greedy curiosity.
"Oh, well, why worry about that? It will explode in his face before he has a chance to get it in his mouth." Roger picked up the jar for safekeeping, holding it as though it might go off in his hands. He wanted to ask whether she were insane, but had been married long enough to know the price of injudicious rhetorical questions.
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "Further Mysteries of Science". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
UPDATE 4/13/2012 4:32 pm: I was delighted to see the following comment by Diana Gabaldon on Facebook:
"Karen-- You're kidding; you never saw baboons at the zoo? <g> Congratulations on another entertaining week--I'm _very_ impressed at you digging up not only the Duke of Buckingham, but also Pitlochry dam!"