As I have probably mentioned before, I have a tendency to collect neat stuff without any obvious use for it — I like replicas of historical documents, for instance, and people who buy me gifts also know that I like them. After acquiring it, I look for a chance to do something with it, but it doesn’t always come up. And now I have tutoring students who are studying WWII.
Not a lot going on here at One Gonzo Plaza at the moment, although I do have some fun trips planned for the near future. In the meantime, though, here’s a collection of shorter items.
I read another Bernard Cornwell Viking-y novel. I honestly can’t remember if I had read the previous one, because they are pretty much all the same. I’m not hating; dude sells books with his formula and that’s fair enough. But they really are a bit repetitive. Gruff hero, bad priests, likable sidekicks, outnumbered!!, won anyway. They’re even pretty similar to his post-Roman Britain books, reading “Vikings” for “Saxons” throughout. Those ones were better, though. Anyway, my point is that if you can write what is essentially the same damn book ten times but in two totally different historical periods I wonder how much the period really matters. I suppose he chose them for similarities.
Further to recent thoughts about how many books I own, packing up books (well, so far, thinking about packing up books) for an impending future move has got me thinking about periods I want to expand my collection on. Like, I’m not really a modern guy, but I keep seeing books about modern history that I am interested in. I had the chilling realisation that I felt the same way when looking at my comic book collection and wondering which titles I wanted to collect seriously.
There are days, and today is one of them, when I feel like the edutainment grind is a lot of work for comparatively little reward. Looking back over this blog actually helps me feel like I have written and done some OK things.
I promise better jokes on Thursday.
That is all; it wasn’t much of a post but it counted.
Apologies for no post yesterday! I had connection problems all day and was out all evening. Today I just want to post a few links, but I promise I’ll have a long post for Movie Monday, as we take on a suspiciously familiar legend of the Old West!
In the meantime, though, if you’ve enjoyed my posts about the History Channel’s Vikings, you should head on over to Howard Williams’s blog, where he is looking at various aspects of early medieval culture in the show with an attitude of … affectionate skepticism? Bemused tolerance? Anyway, it’s definitely worth reading; pop culture medieval stuff looked at by a bona fide expert on the topic. I don’t know where he finds the patience, honestly.
Aaaaanyhow, speaking of Vikings, it’s the Christmas in July sale over at DTRPG and DriveThru Fiction, and that means The Barest Branch, my novella of Viking/Lovecraftian horror and hopelessness, is a mere $2.25 American, in MOBI or PDF. I hear getting the mobi file onto the Kindle app as opposed to an actual device is tricky, though. Your mileage may vary.
So, I’m not going into the history of history in a lot of detail here, but I want to illustrate a point about it in the form of a quote. I may have done this before; if I have, apologies. This is from Tacitus’s Agricola, and it’s a commonly-quoted speech delivered by the British chieftain Calgacus prior to the battle of Mons Graupius in about 83 AD.
To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain’s glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvellous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.
That last part is typically quoted as “they make a desert and call it peace.” Pick your translation.
So … did Tacitus have, what, like a guy with a wax tablet standing behind Calgacus as he made his speech, scribbling away like mad and translating from Caledonian to Latin on the fly?
Did he bollocks. He just wanted to put some stuff into the voice of a noble barbarian chieftain that made people go “mmm, good point” and feel good about not feeling good about the Roman empire. In essence, Calgacus was the crying Native American of his age. And like that guy, he might not even have been real! It’s possible that Tacitus just made him up.
But here’s the other thing: no Roman reader thought that it was real either. Like, if they thought about it for a moment they must have known that there was no way on earth that Tacitus could have got the text of a speech Calgacus gave. Did medieval readers? I don’t know; a lot of people have based their thinking about medieval monks on the premise that medieval monks weren’t a bunch of credulous dipshits, which I’m not sure is accurate.
You can work out the implications for yourself, I’m sure.
A while back I went on a regular schedule for this blog — well, regularish anyway. One week I post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the next I post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, alternating with my gaming blog. So here it is Thursday and … I got nothin’. My brain is full of other topics, but I’ve set myself a schedule that doesn’t accommodate them. It’s my own fault, of course — the proverbial rod for my own back — but I think that overall the schedule has helped me write more so I’m reluctant to abandon it.
I do have a piece lined up for Monday, so normal service will be resumed then. But today I got nothin’. Please enjoy this humorous and yet saddening advertisement from The Wipers Times.
And if you think that’s dark for a Thursday, there’s concentration camps in Monday’s post.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I spend a lot of my leisure time browsing used book stores, charity shops and car boot sales. I often buy old history, especially popular history, books if I see them for cheap — like this 50p car boot sale find!
Hey, Early England is my specialist subject! Let’s see what we can learn.
OK, a geography prize in 1929. Not bad condition for its age. Let’s see if we can learn something about geography!
That Beowulf takes us off to a good start, but I was really hoping to learn more about early England!
That is the first story in the book.
I don’t think that’s a great thing to do to someone who you want to encourage to be good at geography.
I kind of forgot it was Monday until there wasn’t enough time to watch 55 Days at Peking, so instead you’re getting short films and you’re gonna like ’em.
Last time I was in California, I went to a museum in Palo Alto, where I’m from, the Museum of American Heritage. To be honest, I was mainly there to see a Lego display, but my wife and I went through the museum, which turned out to be very nice indeed. One of the displays was this film footage of San Francisco, shot by sticking a camera on the front of a cable car in 1906, only days before an earthquake levelled large areas of the city.
So anyway, an interesting historical snapshot, not just because of the earthquake but because of the period, one where cars are only just beginning to displace horses on the streets of an American city.
Something I love finding in history is the introduction of things that are now totally commonplace. Consider this 1936 promo for parking meters:
I think the thing that’s most interesting about this is that it’s phrased as if it were a commercial — it sounds like an ad, even though it’s not selling anything. I wonder if that’s to do with the fact that it’s introducing something that people tend to think of as a nuisance. Also, “no nickel, no parky!” reminds us that you can’t really ever really guarantee a historical American experience will be missing some casual racism.
Speaking of things that ape other types of media presentation, check out this … whatever it is … telling Christians about how to get ready for the Rapture. It’s really interesting, in this day and age of “oh, people don’t really believe that, and by claiming they do you’re making fun of them, you bully” to see someone straight up endorsing the sudden-disappearance model of the Rapture.
I was going to post up some WW2 propaganda videos, but the Youtube comments sections were really depressing.