Sunday, March 25, 2007

I am a filthy, dirty whore

Yesterday, at Best Buy, by complete chance, I stumbled on the DVD section and saw all 4 seasons of Scrubs for $19.99 each. Suffice it to say that Season 1 was getting pretty lonely back home.

I feel so dirty. And I’d do it again. I mean 20 bucks for a season! How am I supposed to resist?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sanguis In Machina

My DVD drive is haunted. That is the only explanation I can conceive. Last year my old DVD drive decided to stop reading DVDs. It would read regular CDs just fine, but put a DVD in and it would basically crash Windows Explorer forcing you to CTRL-ALT-DEL. That (plus the release of Medieval II: Total War, the only game that I actually went out and bought the day it was released) was enough for me to upgrade.

As it stands, I’ve got a sexy new Sony DVD-RW drive that works and burns great. Except for one little thing. Often, but not always, after I open the tray, it slides shut a few seconds later, occasionally trying to take my finger with it. It would seem that the god in the machine wants a blood offering.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Midnight Cookies

There are some barbaric individuals who view cooking as a less than manly art. Something fit only for the likes of women and sissy men. I say thee nay. Just look at Emeril. And Alton Brown. And Mario Batalli. And Anthony Bourdain.

Cooking competence is indeed a very good boon. It means not spending all one’s money on shitty fast foot. It means having control over exactly what you’re putting into your mouth, so if you don’t like applesauce, there ain’t gonna be any applesauce on your watch. More importantly, you can feed yourself AT ANY TIME YOU WANT. Plus, women like men who are capable of feeding themselves. And since I’m rocking a bachelor lifestyle going into grad school, ain’t nobody else gonna feed me.

Case in point: I wanted cookies tonight. I wanted them bad. Nothing in the pantry. A lesser man would chalk that up as a loss. Not I. An egg, vegetable oil, cookie mix and an oven at 350 Fahrenheit was enough to put me in business.

Result: Cookies bigger than the nonsense you find in a bag, and WARM.

Hell. Yeah.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

If There’s Anything I Truly Believe In, Its This:

Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks is absolutely, positively, unquestioningly the best song ever in the history of the world. When I say “ever” I am referring to it in the ultimate sense. Never before nor ever in the future, is there a song as good as Waterloo Sunset. And I am prepared to go to the grave content in the knowledge that this is so. So prepared that should anyone challenge this claim of mine, I will jam my index fingers violently into my ears and repeatedly shout “Dewie-dewie-dewie-dewie-dewie” in a high-pitched nasal whine until I pass out from lack of oxygen.

Oh, I’ll do it, too. Just try me.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Oh, yeah. This thing

Blah blah blah, Ides of March. Yeah, yeah. I’ve been busy. And I’m still savoring the fact that I’ve heard “Wakandan Vibranium” on national television. Its like there’s one less thing that has to take place before I can die completely fulfilled.

Go see 300 if you haven’t already.

What are you waiting for? GO!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

When Captain America Throws His Mighty Shield

Ironically, death may in fact be the best thing to happen to Captain America in the last few years. After all, he’s been around for years and years and this is the most people have been talking about him in a long, long time. I’m not talking about the fanboys. They’ve already known Cap was an icon in the field. Now the mainstream’s talking about him. Hell, the Colbert Report’s featured him TWICE now in two weeks. That’s some immediate publicity. Throw out the social commentary possible about a character dressed in the American flag being assassinated and you’ve got yourself a media blitz that’s got Cap as much name recognition as Spider-Man and Wolverine right now. If it lasts, even better, since it’ll make his return all the more anticipated/welcome (and come on, he WILL be back. It might take a few years, but this IS comics after all)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I'm Just A Ruthful Kind Of Guy

Now, Justin Timberlake got it wrong. Sexy was never gone, so there was never any reason to bring it back. Can’t bring back what’s always been there. There’s plenty of other words that have gone missing that are totally worthy of coming back.

Take the word “ruthless.” Its come to mean someone who is without mercy. And, if you’ve got even a very light grasp of how English grammar works, you recognize the -”less” part from other words. Penniless, Merciless, Dauntless, Fearless. “-less” clearly mean a lack of something, and implies an opposite value. “Merciful, Fearful, etc.

Even since a kid I’ve always wondered if “ruthful” (the logical extension of this dichotomy) was the actual opposite of “ruthless.” Well, according to the New English Dictionary, it is. So I’ve decided to bring it back. Look out America, you’re about to get a dose of ruthfulness!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Barbarians at the Gates

I’ve been watching a lot of the History Channel. More so than usual. This week alone they’ve run a special on the Dark Ages and are proceeding through a series on Barbarian tribes like the Saxons, Vandals, Lombards & Franks. That alone is enough to warrant my continued happiness.

Even more amusing is the location of where they’re filming the live action reenactment segments; Trakai castle in Lithuania. I know this because I’ve been there myself and can recognize the walls and architecture. Last night they did one on the Saxons that was pretty much all filmed at Trakai. Warms the cockles of my heart and it made me fire up Rome: Total War again on the PC.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What's "Tatars," Precious (pt. 2)

One thing history tells us is to never piss off Tamerlane. Tokhtamysh, bolstered by his conquests, tried to bring Persia under his rule, coming into conflict with Tamerlane in 1385. Big. Mistake. Tokhtamysh was defeated and deposed in 1395, where he fled to a very unlikely haven; the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and struck up an alliance with its Grand Duke, Vytautas. Tokhtamysh had fought successfully against Vytautas’ father Kestutis in the 1380s, but this was much, much different. Vytautas gathered an alliance of Eastern European that marched from Moldavia and conquered its way to northern Crimea, but it was badly defeated at the Vorskla River in 1398 by two of Tamerlane’s generals (and a large army of Tatars. It’d be pretty embarrassing to lose to just two guys). Vytautas escaped with his life and the battle halted Lithuanian expansion into the Black Sea region. Tokhtamysh fled into the steppes but was killed by rivals in the early 1400s. Tamerlane died in 1405, in case you were wondering.

Surviving members of Tokhtamysh’s faction were granted asylum within the Grand Duchy by Vytautas, and also given land and nobility status, where they became known as the Lipka Tatars. In 1410, at the battle of Tannenberg/Grunwald/Zalgiris (depends on who you talk to), Tatar light cavalry served alongside Vytautas’ Lithuanians and Jogaila/Jagiello’s Poles. The battle was a crushing defeat for the Teutonic Order of warrior monks, and halted their expansion in the Baltic.

The Lipka Tatars remained in service as nobles and valuable cavalrymen in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that followed it, and maintained their Muslim faith even as Lithuania transitioned from a pagan to a Christian land, and are still a well-defined ethnic minority in Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus.

And that’s an incomplete, imperfect and utterly confusing history of the Lipka Tatars and how they got to Lithuania. And knowing is good.

Monday, March 05, 2007

What's "Tatars," Precious? (pt. 1)

Genghis Khan’s Mongol empire is rather difficult to comprehend. Maps can only give an idea of the immensity. A slice of land that stretched from Europe to China was all under one man, and the fastest way to cross that land was on horseback. Even under ideal conditions it would take a hell of a lot of time to traverse it.

As with all great conquerors, Genghis’ Khanate broke up into fragments after his death, divided between his sons. He was a tough act to follow, and the fragmented khanates stayed that way for a while.

Now, the Tatars (or incorrectly, “Tartars”) were a tribe of Turkic speaking Steppe horsemen similar to the Mongols, and indeed, seemed to be part of the great Golden Horde after Genghis brought them to heel. In Europe, they had a profound impact on Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and had a tremendous impact on the region of Bulgaria, and the name Tatar became synonymous with any Turkic speaking Mongols. They inherited a significant part of Genghis’ empire as the White Horde, and this is where things get interesting.

In the late-1300s, a descendant of Orda Khan named Tokhtamysh, gained control of the White Horde with the help of another Mongol general, Tamerlane. Tokhtamysh went on to conquer the Blue Horde (the other half of the Golden Horde) and reunited them under one banner in 1380. Good times for the Horde, right? Well...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

I’m not technically late

That new “Robin Hood” series hit American shores on BBC America last night. Its not too stupid or insipid. But the one thought going through my head the whole time was “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” I’m expecting a lot of camp from this series. A LOT of camp.

Also, Tiramisu is good. Real good.

That is all.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Supernatural Male Enhancement

Its been a lifelong mystery to know which saint’s feast day occupied my birthday. But that is a mystery no longer! March 3rd is the feast day of a certain St. Winwaloe (or Winwallus, Wingaloeus, Waloway, Wynolatus, Vinguavally, Vennole, Valois, Ouignoualey, Gweno, Gunnolo, Bennoc, Winwalloc, Guenole, or Guingalois, among other names) who died on that date in 532 AD. Now, since this is the Dark Ages we’re talking about here, there’s more legends about him than facts, but Wikipedia and the Catholic Encyclopedia agree that he was the son of Fracan, some minor British chief/noble who fled from the Saxons and/or the plague to Brittany, and his mother was named Gwen, with the notable nickname of “the Triple-Breasted” (that part’s from Wikipedia). Winwaloe, according to legend, wanted to go and visit St. Patrick in Ireland, but was warned off by a vision from the saint and instead went on to found the Monastery of Landevennec near the city of Brest, and by all accounts was a good holy man who died in his monastery at a ripe old age. He was mostly venerated in Southern England and Northern France. But that’s not the interesting part. This is:

For some reason, Winwaloe gained the reputation of a “phallic saint” (possibly because one of the French forms of his name was confused with the word gignere, “to beget”). Anyway, he is one of several phallic saints invoked against impotence. Most interestingly, a book in my possession about patron saints of things gives a legend that there was a statue of Winwaloe in Brest carved with an erect member, and that people would carve off a little piece here and there in the hopes that it would remedy the relevant problem. Miraculously, despite centuries of this practice, the, ahem, length of the statue has not diminished. Or so it is said.

See? Isn’t theology fun? And in case you were wondering who the other phallic saints are, here’s a few: St. Ters, Saints Cosmas & Damian, St. Foutin, St. Gilles, & St. Rene. Most seem to be French.

Now Is The Winter Of Our Lack Of Content

So I’m sitting here trying to think of some kind of nonsense to write about while trying to keep to my self-imposed deadline, and nothing’s coming to mind. Which is odd. Life’s good, there’s plenty of entertainment coming up soon (both high and low brow) to deal with, but lately there’s been a lot going on in life that’s superceded this here side project.

Oh. Wait. Here’s something. Morel Orel on Adult Swim is just so…creepy. Really creepy. Tom Goes To The Mayor creepy.

That is all.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Because “1,500” Doesn’t Sound As Dramatic

When the legendary reputation of Sparta is mentioned, its usually backed up by an example of Thermopylae, that epic battle where 300 doomed Spartans held a pass for two full days against some 400,000 Persians.

Well….. It is true that a numerically small number of Greeks held out against a numerically superior army and caused King Xerxes no end of consternation, but it wasn’t just 300 Spartans. Herodotus says that there were something like 5,000 or more Greeks present during the course of the battle from all over Greece. Most of them withdrew after the Persians encircled the Greek position, leaving a very small rearguard to protect their retreat. Yet even then it was not JUST 300 Spartans. Some 700 Thespians (from the polis of Thespiae) volunteered to stay behind with the Spartans, and they died just as bravely as the Spartans, and some 400 or so Thebans also took part, but they surrendered to the Persians before the end (which really steamed the rest of the Greeks). After the Spartan King Leonidas (Sparta had two kings at a time) was cut down near the end, the Greeks regrouped and were shot down in a storm of arrows. According to historians, the casualty estimates are about 1,500 Greeks and 20,000 Persians. Even though it wasn’t as lopsided as its been romanticized, the Greeks were still badly outnumbered. Herodotus gives a number of over 5 million Persians at the battle, but that’s a hotly debated topic among historians.

While by itself, the Spartans clearly lost, it did by the rest of the Greeks time to regroup and work toward forcing Persia into a naval battle at Salamis. Sparta does have a well-deserved reputation for ferocity and valor, but the city-state itself was a curious mix of privilege, xenophobia and outright cruelty that was completely unlike any other Greek polis. They had a mystique, even in antiquity, that still resonates.