Category Archives: History

Shibboleth

Judges 12:5-6
Young’s Literal Translation

5 And Gilead captureth the passages of the Jordan to Ephraim, and it hath been, when [any of] the fugitives of Ephraim say, `Let me pass over,’ and the men of Gilead say to him, `An Ephramite thou?’ and he saith, `No;’

6 that they say to him, `Say, I pray thee, Shibboleth (שבלת);’ and he saith, `Sibboleth,’ (סבלת) and is not prepared to speak right — and they seize him, and slaughter him at the passages of the Jordan, and there fall at that time, of Ephraim, forty and two chiefs.

Colbert and Sci-Fi v. Fantasy

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUrOrXi043E

So, I’m tempted to think that the reason I feel some apathy toward fantasy is how easy stories like Game of Thrones and LOTR make it for writers to use magic as a deus ex machina. Of course, the same could be said of Star Trek and “technobabble.” So, why is it easier for me to forgive Star Trek? Well, for one, I think it’s more fruitful to converse about technobabble. You can actually talk about real science when you’re talking about why Treknobabble is pseudoscientific.

So, why do I prefer Star Trek to Dr. Who? Well, for one, Dr. Who doesn’t give us a homo sapiens that has overcome its pettiness. Star Trek — to my delight — explores the possibility of what comes after Sagan’s, “If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.” It seems to me that the Doctor performs a similar capacity to the Vulcans: overseer of the humans. They’re both waiting with their fingers crossed to see if we continue surviving each new genocide, pandemic, or other crisis and continue evolving (intellectually if not biologically) to eventually become spacefaring. (Also, the critical attitude of the Vulcans toward humans seems much more realistic to me than the avuncular attitude of the Doctor toward us.)

That’s infinitely more interesting to me than the idea of constant, secret alien visitation on earth by hostile aliens that require earth to be saved by other kindly aliens. This is essentially the idea of Transformers as well and how cool would it be if the Transformers did what Picard and company do? (Not cool at all if all you want to see is hot robot-on-robot carnage! But, that was well-covered in the first Transformers movie!)

Another thing about fantasy: why are so many important characters in Game of Thrones and LOTR humanoid? This seems forgivable to me with respect to Star Trek because the original series probably lacked funding for advanced effects and make-up. Humanoid aliens were just more practical to make and act. Game of Thrones and LOTR were books, though. Books don’t have budget constraints, right?

And, why, why, why must fantasy take place in a magical corollary to the Dark Ages? Actually, an answer occurred to me as I was typing the question: it may have been in the Dark Ages that magical thinking most flourished.

American Presidents Mnemonic

When a joke makes men afraid
Just be happy that past thoughts fade
Post bail, leave jail, go home
Great Asian cars have chrome
Machines rule the world; humans compare huts
Roast the Earth! Kick Johnson’s nuts!

  1. Washington
  2. Adams
  3. Jefferson
  4. Madison
  5. Monroe
  6. Adams
  7. Jackson
  8. Van Buren
  9. Harrison
  10. Tyler
  11. Polk
  12. Taylor
  13. Fillmore
  14. Pierce
  15. Buchanan
  16. Johnson
  17. Lincoln
  18. Grant
  19. Hayes
  20. Garfield
  21. Arthur
  22. Cleveland
  23. Harrison
  24. Cleveland
  25. McKinley
  26. Roosevelt
  27. Taft
  28. Wilson
  29. Harding
  30. Coolidge
  31. Hoover
  32. Roosevelt
  33. Truman
  34. Eisenhower
  35. Kennedy
  36. Johnson
  37. Nixon
  38. Ford
  39. Carter
  40. Reagan
  41. Bush
  42. Clinton
  43. Bush
  44. Obama

Mao’s Bath

His last and final marriage was to the Shanghai actress Jiang Qing. When that marriage, in turn, soured, he preferred to avoid a divorce and simply took mistresses, sometimes several at once. It was easy enough for Mao to get them from among his nurses and assistants or from a special army company of dancers and singers.

“Selecting imperial concubines” was how a senior general described it.[37] Mao preferred young, simple girls who felt deeply honored to be chosen by the great man, even to the point of taking pride in catching a venereal disease from him. When his doctor suggested that the chairman might want to stop his sexual activities while the disease was being treated, Mao refused. “If it’s not hurting me,” he said airily, “then it doesn’t matter.” As far as hygiene was concerned, Mao’s solution was more sex: “I wash myself inside the bodies of my women.”[38]

[source]

By the 1960s Mao was totally cut off from the country that he ruled, so isolated by his eminence that bodyguards and advance parties choreographed his every move. Sex was his one freedom, the one moment in his day when he could treat other human beings as equals and be treated as such in return. A century earlier the boy Emperor, Tongzhi, used to slip out of the palace incognito, accompanied by one of his courtiers, to visit the brothels of Beijing. For Mao that was impossible. Women came to him. They revelled in his power. He revelled in their bodies. ‘I wash my prick in their cunts,’ he told his personal physician, a strait-laced man whom he took a perverse delight in shocking. ‘I was nauseated,’ the good doctor wrote afterwards.

[source]

Richard Speck

Thank you, Mad Men, for this:

From Wikipedia:

Richard Franklin Speck (December 6, 1941 – December 5, 1991) was a mass murderer who systematically tortured, raped, and murdered eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital on July 14, 1966.

And, this:

In May 1996, Chicago television news anchor Bill Kurtis received video tapes made at Stateville Prison in 1988 from an anonymous attorney. Showing them publicly for the first time before a shocked and deeply angry Illinois state legislature, Kurtis pointed out the explicit scenes of sex, drug use, and money being passed around by prisoners, who seemingly had no fear of being caught; in the center of it all was Speck, performing oral sex on another inmate, sharing a huge pile of cocaine with an inmate, parading in silk panties, sporting female-like breasts (allegedly grown using smuggled hormone treatments), and boasting, “If they only knew how much fun I was having, they’d turn me loose.” The Illinois legislature packed the auditorium to view the two-hour video, but stopped the screening when the film showed Speck performing oral sex on another man.

Continue reading Richard Speck

Pinker: “A History of Violence”

Some of the evidence has been under our nose all along. Conventional history has long shown that, in many ways, we have been getting kinder and gentler. Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets for frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution—all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, concealed when they do occur, and widely condemned when they are brought to light.

[source]

Borgia (Tom Fontana) Character Reference


Rodrigo Borgia


Giulia Farnese (mistress of Rodrigo and wife of Orsino)


Vannozza Catanei (mother of Juan, Cesare, Lucrezia, and Goffredo)


Juan Borgia (son of Vannozza and Rodrigo)


Cesare Borgia (son of Vannozza and Rodrigo)


Lucrezia Borgia (daughter of Vannozza and Rodrigo)


Adriana De Mila [Caretaker of the Borgia children and manager of their household in Rome, mother of Orsino Orsini (husband of Giulia Farnese)]

Continue reading Borgia (Tom Fontana) Character Reference