(Hat tip to Weapons Man.)
Dungeons & Dragons & Philosophers features Michel Foucault:
Brantley Bryant, associate professor of medieval literature at Sonoma State University, shares, on PBS Newshour, what he sees of The Canterbury Tales, the Morte d’Arthur and Beowulf in HBO’s Game of Thrones:
The latest xkcd comic, on orbital mechanics, reminds us how powerful simulations are as learning tools:
Bruce Timm, co-creator of Batman: The Animated Series, has produced a new short, Batman: Strange Days, to celebrate the character’s 75th anniversary:
Bruce Timm explains that he always wanted to do a Batman period piece that actually takes place in 1939.
(Later in that DC All Access piece, they get Ralph Garman to show off his Batman ’66 collection.)
It’s about time we introduced Game of Thrones to the school curriculum, Ed West suggests, because it would teach kids more about the realities of the past than they learn in their dumbed-down, politically correct history classes:
Although fantasy, George R.R. Martin’s books and the television adaption borrow heavily from English history, most especially the extremely violent 14th and 15th centuries. It’s Shakespeare with boobs and arterial spray.
For example, the premise at the end of series one, of an adolescent pretender taking on the Queen and her psychotic young son after his father has been beheaded, while his mother seeks to protect her two younger boys — that was the actual state of affairs in 1461. After the beheading of his father Richard, Duke of York, the 18-year-old Edward of March claimed the throne as Edward IV and destroyed the army of the Queen, Margaret of Anjou, while his mother Cecily Neville sent her young sons George and Richard to France for safety.
Like Robb Stark, Edward had the blood of the old kings of the north, through his mother’s family who claimed descent from the ruling house of Northumbria, one of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that was united under King Athelstan in the 10th century.
Game of Thrones also borrows from the Byzantines (the Greeks really did know how to set fire to water, and used the trick several times), the Spartans, the Crusades and various obscure eastern religions. But the core is the realm of England, and the real game of thrones in which a large proportion of the country’s aristocrats were slaughtered in a 30-year period of madness from 1455 to 1485.
Like Robb Stark, Edward IV came unstuck when he chose to marry for love, thereby alienating his powerful cousin Warwick Kingmaker who was arranging a marriage alliance with France. According to the romanticised chronicles of the time Edward set eyes on Elizabeth Woodville when the Lancastrian widow turned up at his hunting lodge to beg for her dead husband’s lands and he was so entranced by her beauty that he tried to rape her. I say ‘romantic’ — clearly ideals of romance in the 15th century were rather different to ours, but this is something that Thrones captures so much better than most historical fiction.
The moral structures we have today, based around the idea of the freedom of the individual and the universal rights of all men, were developing in the Christian West throughout the later medieval period but would not truly flourish until the 18th century. Today in much of the world western ideas about the individual are still alien because people think in terms of the clan, which is why it is so hard to export liberal democracy to countries like Somalia or Afghanistan. Foreign policy experts could do worse than watch Thrones and ask themselves: are the Dothraki ready for democracy? What do you reckon?
Most historical fiction basically features a protagonist with 21st century values wearing a codpiece; I gave up on the Tudors when Cardinal Wolsey started giving a lecture on why we needed a ‘European community’. Most people in Britain think the EU is a pretty stupid idea today; in the 16th century it would have been inconceivable, even if Wolsey’s Treaty of London talked about ‘perpetual peace’ in Europe (a peace that was broken almost immediately, because that’s how things were).
Even the most sympathetic characters in Thrones, and I won’t give any spoilers for season four, end up doing some appalling things in the later books, not because they’re villains but because that’s the way the world was then, and how it is for much of humanity today. Bloody awful.
History classes have changed over the years:
Whereas my father’s generation would have learned about the kings of England at school, the bloody battles and usurpations, the poisonings, the tortures and the love affairs, and King Harold getting shot in the eye, by the time I was taught the subject the sort of questions we were asked went along the lines of ‘How would the social changes experienced during the 15th century have impacted on a female weaver living in Norfolk?’ Or ‘Look at Source A and Source B; what differences can you spot and why might that have been? Anyway, children, next term we’ll be reading about the Nazis. Again.’
(Hat tip to HBD Chick.)
Mike Judge graduated from UCSD with a degree in physics and then moved to East Palo Alto in 1987 to work at a company that made interfaces for high-resolution screens, so he has some experience with Silicon Valley:
Everybody uses all this technology every day but very few people know what it’s like to be a programmer and coding this stuff. I haven’t seen engineer-programmer types portrayed the way I’ve known them to be. The only exceptions I’ve seen were “The Social Network,” which was great, and a little movie called “Primer.” The guy made it in Dallas for like $5,000. It looks incredible and the engineers seem like engineers.
Back then you looked for a job in the newspaper and I remember seeing a giant ad for Sun Microsystems that said “PUSH” in giant letters, and then underneath it said, “yourself harder than you ever dreamed possible, past all existing goals, up to the level of Sun Microsystems.” It just kind of scared me.
You look at the houses that a lot of billionaires live in, and they’re not flashy the way Hollywood is. I was talking to a very wealthy guy up there who said the last thing you’d ever do is drive around in a Maserati or something. But because nobody wants to show off any wealth, the whole place ends up looking kind of drab. I guess it started from hippie culture, and these are also introverted people, so there’s this code of behavior where you don’t show wealth. You wear a Patagonia vest and jeans and that’s that.
Star Wars creator George Lucas, actor Mark Hamill, and sound designer Ben Burtt discuss the concept and creation of the lightsaber:
George Lucas recalls that Star Wars was influenced by pirate and swashbuckling films of the ’40s, which showcased the romantic side of fighting, illustrated in characters like Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. With Jedi, who were heroes in this tradition, the director needed a weapon that would match their ideals. In a clip from Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, the lightsaber is introduced by Obi-Wan Kenobi, who says it’s “not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” Thus, the lightsaber also became a symbol for more peaceful, honorable times, representing what the galaxy was like before the Empire. Originally, Lucas says, Jedi were meant to fight with just swords. But to give the weapon a technological edge, they became “laser swords,” able to deflect incoming fire — which made sense, character-wise, as Jedi were not meant to be warlike, aggressive fighters.
The choreography and duels started simple, but became more emotional and complex as the series went on. Mark Hamill states that Lucas originally envisioned lightsaber hilts as being very, very heavy, always requiring two hands. But with a desire to make the sword fighting faster and more intense, they slowly moved away from the two-handed form. The technology used to create the glowing blade of lightsabers also changed as the series progressed.
In rare behind-the-scenes footage from Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker battles Darth Vader, and Hamill explains that metal poles were required so that the actors could have a realistic battle. Otherwise, one wouldn’t know where to stop their hands and finish a strike.
Ben Burtt says that the lightsaber was the first sound he created for the film. Upon hearing the hum of an old film projector idling, he felt it was the perfect, saying it was “musical, in a way. ‘That’s probably what a lightsaber would sound like.’” Burtt wanted another element — the iconic whooshing sound — which he accidentally created through electronic feedback.
In discussing the intensity of the lightsaber duels, Lucas says it changed with each film, often times reflecting the emotions of Luke and the ongoing story. Still Luke was not trained as a Jedi in the classic sense. It wasn’t until Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace that audiences would see Jedi battling in their prime; the duels were more aggressive and acrobatic than anything seen in the original trilogy, and only grew in scale and intensity as the series continued.
The sound effects really are almost as important as the visual effects.
Adrien Noterdaem has Simpsonized the cast Of Twin Peaks:
Democrat state senator Leland Yee isn’t just corrupt, Larry Correia (Monster Hunter International) says:
If Yee had a machine that could control the weather he’d be a Batman villain.
He got busted in an FBI sting, taking millions of dollars in bribes, to smuggle RPGs and machine guns through brutal Chinese tong gangs, through the Ukraine, to rebel insurgents in the Philippines. No. I’m not making any of that up.
The part that makes this all so awesome and hilarious is that the only reason people like me know who Yee is, is because he’s the primary asshole behind disarming law abiding Californians. Yes. He is the anti-gun poster child. He has an A+ from the Brady Center morons. (Hmmm… Now that he’s been caught smuggling rocket launchers to Muslim rebels, but he’s still a democrat, they might downgrade him to a B).
So, regular Californians can’t own an AR-15, but Chinese drug lords, no problemo. Law abiding citizen protected by the 2nd Amendment, go to hell. Murderous scumbag criminals, good to hook. This plan seems to work for Eric Holder too.
The other part that makes this funny as hell is that he is also the anti violent video game guy… Yee is the crusading liberal who has been out there trying to get violent video games banned. Because won’t somebody think of the children!
Let that sink in for a delicious moment.
Grand Theft Auto? Hell, he doesn’t need to play it. Leland Yee LIVES Grand Theft Auto. If only he hadn’t been exposed to Call of Duty, then he wouldn’t have been so tempted to smuggle machineguns to MILF. And yes. The rebels were actually called MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) So when you hear that a Green Beret bagged a MILF, it really could go either way.
Of course you probably haven’t seen too much of this on the regular news, because Yee is a democrat, and thus his scandal is totally not newsworthy. I saw a thing where Yee’s bust had gotten a grand total of like 30 seconds of coverage on CNN, in between long reports of how Chris Christie may possibly have blocked traffic.
Think about that. Sure, I know that CNN is basically the marketing department of the DNC, but this story has everything. It is implausible. It is ridiculous. It is Breaking Bad only more absurd. His Chinese mafia contact was named Shrimp Boy Chow! How the hell can you not report on a respected elected official making millions of dollars from rebels MILFs and a mob boss actually named SHRIMP BOY CHOW!
Larry Vickers looks at grenade launchers on his Tac TV show and finds them far less devastating — and certainly far less spectacular — than movies and video games might suggest:
If you enjoy music and shooting, you should enjoy Shannon Smith shooting a bit of Beethoven: