Friday, 2 March 2012

New Month of Awesome Things and What I Learned From Fiction

Statement of fact number 1: I hate Safari.
Statement of fact number 2: This post will be shorter (possibly) and may contain more anti-Safar/I-hate-Apple-comments than the previous version which was deleted by Safari.
Statement of fact number 3: Google and Apple should just go into a room, beat the crap out of each other, and get over it so we can all use computers and technology nicely together.  GRRR!

Moving on, I am now typing this on my very noisy dinosaur of a laptop which I want to throw across the room.  I hate Apple.

Right, I was moving on.  Less irritated at Apple fact dump time.  My book count now stands at 5/24.  I officially accepted U-M's offer.  I'm thoroughly frustrated with my fitness goals and complete lack of progress.  I am very excited for summer, even though it means I have to move and I don't really know what's going to happen with everything.

Books (Yay for keyboard short-cuts actually working with Google's interface! Stupid Apple)
John Dies at the End:  I'm not entirely sure how to describe this other than it was the worst written book that I've ever so thoroughly enjoyed.  The plot was barely existent, and (I almost poked my screen to correct a typo.... amazing how fast habits can change) the writing was complete crap, but I haven't laughed so hard or been so thoroughly creeped out by a book in a long time.  I wouldn't read it again, but I appreciated the ride once.  Apparently it's getting released as a movie soon.  The website sold me on reading the book.  The movie may be creepier than the book since most of the humor was in the writing, and the humor really broke up (and yet somehow added to) the overall creepiness.  The end was dumb, but I'm going to argue that the stupid ending was intentional as that seemed to fit in with the writing style.  I don't know if this is a trend or just something I noticed.  Chronicle had a similar atmosphere to it, mixing sci-fi/supernatural with plain old reality.  The kids in Chronicle smacked themselves in the face with stuff, John and David noticed an owl mid-conversation, commented on it, looked, and continued driving.  Fiction usually plays out neater than that.  It's refreshing for it not to sometimes, though it really changes the atmosphere of the story.

The Making of England to 1399: Yes, I read this entire textbook, cover to cover.  As far as textbooks go, it was actually quite good.  The narrative was down to earth, the authors actually had an understandable sense of humor, and it was pretty easy to follow all things considered.  That's not to say it was amazingly exciting or anything.  The Hundred Years' War only got a couple of pages and a good chunk of that was on its economic and political implications.  It seems like history is mostly economics and politics... I get why "social studies" degrees require the two.  I certainly understand the necessity of knowing the political and economic background of a given point in history, but I personally am more interested in the military aspects, technologies, cultures, and just people in general.  I can certainly forgive a survey textbook its focus on politics and economics, but I do get bored and frustrated when closer studies spend the whole time focused on them.  I'm currently reading Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan and so far it's all economics.  Gag me.  Anyway, I spent a good deal of time giggling and having "Now I get it!" moments as bits fell into place.  For as much as I've spent days of my life (probably more like weeks or months) reading and watching movies that are either medieval historical or medieval fantasy or written during the middle ages, I really didn't know that much about England's history prior to 1600.  So it's been enlightening.

Now I get it!
#1
Why the English and French were always fighting: Because the English king was a French vassal.  Duh.  The Duke of Normandy (a chunk of land in northern France) invaded England and took the English throne.  He had a claim to it, but he also got it by right of conquest.  This would be William the Conqueror or William I.  Problem?  He was still the Duke of Normandy and thus still under the French king.  There's the root of that, and then add to it later claims to the French throne by English kings, some legitimate.  Henry V's really wasn't, but his claim to the English throne was hardly legitimate.  Anyway.

#2
Anglo-Insert-something-here: Angles = Germanic people who settled in England.  Saxons = another group of Germanic people who settled in England.  Anglo-Saxon = when the two got together, though as I understand it the Saxons were the dominant groups.  Therefore Anglo-Saxon does not equal Celtic, who actually have ties to France and are not the same as the Picts, who the Romans never managed to actually beat.  Normans = Germanic people who settled in Normandy and became French people.  Anglo-Norman = the ruling elite after William the Conqueror.

#3
The jump from incomprehensible Anglo-Saxon to mostly understandable Middle English (Beowulf to Chaucer): The Anglo-Norman elite wrote everything in French or Latin for a couple hundred years.  By the time "English" became the language of the elite it was more like the English we know now.

#4
The historical background of Aelfric's Colloquy and Alfred the Great:  Alfred the Great was the most educated of the Anglo-Saxon kings.  This will make more sense if you've ever read Aelfric's Colloquy or care about Anglo-Saxon literature.  I'm a nerd.  I won't bore you with this one.

#5
Barons and yeoman and gentry, oh my!: This is another one that I don't think I should bore you with, but I'm very excited to know all the different ranks and how they came about and why barons are different than knights and what yeoman are compared to peasants.  .... ^__^  (Barons were the big guys, in 1436 only 51 total.  Knights/gentry were below them, about 2% of the population and actually made the government machinery work.  Yeoman were basically wealthy peasants who owned their own land.  Peasants were farmers.)

A pox on the phony king of England!♪♪
Props if you know that one.  I was sad to learn my boyfriend did not... he won't let me sit him down and watch it. T__T  His loss.

Anyway, I'm excited about how much pop culture ties in with history right now.  Okay, maybe not pop culture in the Justin What-ever-his-name-is sense of the word, but I'm talking books, movies, cartoons, that sort of thing.  In specific, King ArthurRobin HoodThe Lord of the RingsA Game of Thrones, and Braveheart.

I've talked about Arthurian fiction before, and though I didn't tag all of the posts a surprising number of hits come up for "Arthur" under the "books" tag.  One day I'll organize it all and make a sensible presentation of it.  I just have to say, it all makes sense now.  Okay, that was the theme of the last section, but seriously, it all makes sense now, and I was just about spot on with the anachronisms (things out of time) I've spotted in every single depiction of Arthur.  I linked to the 2004 movie because it is probably the closest to the time period in which Arthur would have actually lived, if indeed he actually existed.  Though really the only redeeming quality of that movie is guys in leather armor beating the crap out of each other.  And Hadrian's Wall (the real reason I linked it.  Also... WANT TO GO!!!).

I like Hadrian's Wall.  It has a lot to do with the Romans and the Picts, less to do with King Arthur, but hey, it worked in the movie.  It also makes a stunning appearance in A Game of Thrones.  George Martin actually did an interview in which he discussed something like this with Bernard Cornwell.  Back story for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, George Martin = the author of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) and Bernard Cornwell = historical fiction author who has done quite a lot of medieval fiction.  Okay, they didn't talk so much about taking actual places and events and making fantasies about them, but they did talk about historical accuracy.  Anyway, I had some grins and giggles about The Wall during Game of Thrones as it is very definitely a beautiful version of Hadrian's Wall.  Then I read The Making of England, and learned about the Lancasters (the duke of Lancaster would have owned more property than the king of England except for the fact that he usurped the throne and became King Henry IV).  I will never forget the Lancasters.  I may misspell it as Lannister at some point, or mispronounce it, but I will never forget them.

Okay, what am I talking about?  Simple comparisons: Richard I (the lion in Disney's Robin Hood), King John ("too late to be known as John the First, he's sure to be known as John the Worst" ♪♪), Edward I (the king you really want to die in Braveheart), Edward II (the idiot prince in Braveheart), Edward III (reminds me of Joffrey Lannister as far as the whole mother/uncle [Queen Isabella/Roger Mortimer] thing goes), Edward the Black Prince (cameo role in A Knight's Tale), Richard II (I can see Joffrey Lannister turning into this, except he was taken out by the Duke of Lancaster).

That may only make sense to me, but what I'm excited about is that I didn't have to look any of that up (except Joffrey Lannister's first name... I really didn't like him enough to remember his name).  I could describe each person, their rise and fall, some particulars of their lives, and I wouldn't have to look any of it up.  I'm not bragging here.  I suck at remembering names.  I'm not a names/dates/places type of history nerd.  Movies, books, and Disney just helped me make sense of the tangled confusing mess that is the history of the English monarchy.  Yes to that!

For the sake of catching up to my current studies; Henry IV (Duke of Lancaster, usurped Richard II, I don't have a good comparison yet because the Lannisters really seem like a mix of Edward III, Richard II, and Henry IV, though I don't see them ultimately ruling as well as Edward III did), Henry V (Oh Shakespeare, how many times did I quote this play working at Bunkyo Dai?), and I am now on Henry VI who is familiar from something too, so I'll probably find an association for that one.

Everything you never cared to learn about English medieval history, right?  It amuses me.

This month's goals, challenges, and changes
Getting off the history discussion, I have to say I'm thoroughly frustrated that in two months I have lost neither weight nor size, so I've redrawn my attack plan.  My ankle is still swollen from when I fell back in January, suck, so I don't want to risk doing the 5k challenge.  Instead I'm doing the 100 push up challenge.  I'm also going for 100 sit-ups and 150 squats.  I also got myself a pedometer and am aiming for 10k a day.  I figure I don't walk nearly as much as I used to even when I'm not sitting at a table or desk or on my couch reading or doing homework.  I need to build up my core strength, get some muscle tone, and keep moving.  And whenever I'm at school I'm going to hit the gym a little harder.  Mom and I are also planning on going to the mall on mornings I don't have class and walking.  I'm going for an all-nighter tonight to reset my sleep schedule which has gone all wonky with break this week so that, come Monday, I'm not running on an hour of sleep.

I still need to lose 27 pounds!  It won't happen by summer, but hopefully by then I'll at least be able to fit into some of my clothes.

All of my applications for summer work/internships are in.  Prayers please.  I applied for my UM email account yesterday.  I need to finish my taxes so I can get the financial aid documents in, but holy crap do they have some nice fellowships! And reading their program information, its more than I expected.  I can actually do a thesis, and it's open enough where I can do quite a lot with Japanese history, more than I could do anywhere else in the state.  So long story short there, I'm super excited and in shock and half spazzing depending on the moment.  It's currently at the super excited level.  I haven't heard back about the Normandy class, but I'm trying not to worry about how I'm going to raise the money to go just yet.  I have too much else to deal with for now.  But I am trying to get a new project off the ground related to it.  I might have time today or tomorrow to actually put some content up, but we'll see.  I was hoping to have more done with my research papers by now, but I'm ahead on a lot of other homework, so that's at least something.

And this post has gotten really long.  Buggering off for now. ^_^ / ♪♪

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