beatrice_otter: The will to be stupid is a very powerful force. (The will to be stupid)
Lo these many years ago, American History was one of my special interests.  My undergrad degree was in it (well, not technically, but like 90% of my classes--including Historical Methods and stuff like that--focused on US history).  I still love it, but I'm not focused enough on it to call it a special interest any more.

But you guys, there is SO MUCH interesting stuff about early American history that, if it were taught properly, would REALLY change peoples' perspectives on the "brave, gallant, noble" men of the Confederacy.  And I'm not talking just the racism stuff, like 90% of them were whiny pissbabies and THAT is why the Civil War even existed in the first place.  I shit you not.  The modern Conservative Christian persecution complex has NOTHING on the antebellum Southern elite.  Sure, a lot of those guys were personally brave in battle.  But on a political or moral level, they were ... most five-year-olds are more mature.  (I'm simplifying things a lot here and painting with a really broad brush, but it's not inaccurate.)

This meta is going to take as read that slavery=EVIL and that there is no such thing as a "good" slaveowner and that racism is horribly, horribly evil and nothing good can ever come of it and white supremacy twists and mutilates everything good it comes in contact with.  You all know that, or you should, and you can find lots of places talking about that with a quick google search.  Also, Blacks and poor Whites had vibrant cultures during this time period that I'm going to largely ignore because while all that is awesome, I want you to truly understand ALL the reasons why it's stupid and pathetic to glamorize the Southern elite, which means focusing on them.  The South was (and is!) REALLY AWFUL AND SCREWED UP and racism is part of that but not the only part.  But we will start a bit by talking about racism, because it's the root of so much other evil.

I'm sure you've heard that "race is a social construct!"  Let's look at how that construct got constructed, shall we?

How Black And White People Came To Be )

Economic Differences And Political Boondoggles, or, How The South Learns That Temper Tantrums Are A Viable Political tool. )

The South's Persecution Complex vs. the North's Manifest Destiny )

Taking Their Marbles And Going Home, Then They'll Be Sorry: Civil War Edition )

More Delusions Of Grandeur: The Whole Lost Cause Romantic Bullshit )

And I look at this and shake my head at the triumph of propaganda over reality, and also at the fact that ANYBODY, even a racist, could POSSIBLY think that those idiotic inbred delusional cretinous whiny pissbabies were cool or worthy of adoration.
white woman side eying someone.

beatrice_otter: WWII soldier holding a mug with the caption "How about a nice cup of RESEARCH?" (Research)
Lost recordings made just after World War II of Holocaust survivors singing songs have been rediscovered at the University of Akron. These recordings were part of a project by Dr. David Boder, a Latvian Jewish psychologist who had settled in the United States in the 1920s and quickly made a name for himself in academia and as a clinician. He became an American citizen in 1932, but he traveled regularly to Europe and kept in touch with his family until the war disrupted movement and communications.

In May of 1945, just days after the Allies accepted Germany’s unconditional surrender, Boder got the idea to interview displaced persons, Holocaust survivors, victims of the dislocations and horrors of World War II. His aim was first to get a record of victims’ experiences while it was all still painfully fresh.
Some of the recordings were lost, some they just didn't have a way to listen to anymore, but they are now all safely digitized.  You can read more here.
beatrice_otter: Elizabeth Bennet reads (Reading)
Title: From Castle to Palace
Fandom: Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Author: [personal profile] beatrice_otter 
Rating: Gen
Length: 17,645 words
Betaed By: [personal profile] arithanas 
Written for: [personal profile] eida in [community profile] yuletide 2016
Summary: The curse is broken. Belle and her Beast would be happy to just live quietly together in the curse-free castle. Unfortunately, the rest of France has other ideas …

AN: This supposedly takes place in France, but Adam is not a very French name. So, since I don’t know that that name is ever used in the animated movie (and if so, it is only very briefly), I am taking the liberty of changing his name in this story to Louis.

AN2: Also, as I was reading up on the French court of the Ancien Régime, I came across a LOVELY way to slip the Beast into actualfax French Royal Family and French history. This then sparked an idea that ate my brain. The historical details and personalities are as accurate as Wikipedia would let me get.

At AO3

The rest of that day was chaos. )
beatrice_otter: Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert (Javert)
As someone who knows a bit about history, there are a few things that most historical fiction (pro or fan) gets wrong ALL THE TIME, and it really drives me batty.  So I will be writing a few primers about basic details that people get wrong a lot, on an irregular basis.  It will not be a systematic "everything you need to know" basis, but rather "these are the things that bug me the most."  Unless otherwise specified, all these primers will refer to European and European-American culture and history.  (So, for example, your standard Regency AU.)

My first primer was on Corsets and Undergarments.

Today we're going to talk about class, titles, and formal modes of address!

You've all read this scene.  It's set in a different time period with really significant class differences.  Our Hero is a noble/really rich, and talking with a servant/lower class person, and the servant uses their rank or title, and Our Hero feels uncomfortable!  It's so stuffy and formal and weird!  And so they tell the servant/lower class person to just call them by their first name.  This is how you know that they are Egalitarian and therefore Good.  (Often the villain, if there is one, is very insistent on maintaining the visible elements of the class structure.)  And when the Good Egalitarian Aristocrat/Rich Person tells the Low Class Person to call them by their first name and treat them like they're friends and equals, the Low Class Person is happy with this and they become fast friends.

This is what we call projecting modern views on history. )

Now, if you want to completely ignore all this and have your Regency AU just be modern people in weird clothes, that's cool.  But if you actually want it to matter that they're in the past for anything more than "oh, fancy parties, cool," please keep this in mind.
beatrice_otter: The Schuyler sisters from the musical Hamilton, pointing to the sky (Schuyler Sisters)
As someone who knows a bit about history, there are a few things that most historical fiction (pro or fan) gets wrong ALL THE TIME, and it really drives me batty.  So I will be writing a few primers about basic details that people get wrong a lot, on an irregular basis.  It will not be a systematic "everything you need to know" basis, but rather "these are the things that are most glaring to me."  Unless otherwise specified, all these primers will refer to European and European-American culture and history.  (So, for example, your standard Regency AU.)

And period clothing and fashion are things I know a bit about, given that a) I find it fascinating and b) I used to work in the costume shop of a theater, so that's the subject of my first post.

One of the most common clothing gaffes I see is, well, ANYTHING related to corsets.  We get that SOOOOOO WRONG.  The myths, they are strong with this one.  So I'm going to define what a corset is, and then bust some myths about them.

What a Corset Is and What it Looks Like )

Corset Myths )

General Undergarment Information, for Pre-20th Century Europe and America (both men and women) )

tl;dr most corsets weren't uncomfortable, unless you're going for high-fashion in the Victorian or Edwardian eras.  Most women could do anything up to and including play sports and do hard physical labor in their corset without a problem.  If you have a European or American woman of the corset-wearing era dropped into modern life, she's not going to think ditching her corset for a bra is the most awesome thing ever, although she may think the idea of getting to wear trousers when she wants to is.  A modern woman put into a corset-wearing era will probably adapt to the corset itself fairly easily, more easily than she would adjust to other aspects of the fashion (the skirts, and the things that held the skirts in whatever ridiculous fashion was popular in that era).  But the lower-class she's going for, the less elaborate they were--a working-class woman would wear simpler stays, and skirts with no under structure.  And a woman in a corset-wearing period, staying in her own era, probably isn't going to think about wearing corsets one way or the other, it just is.

And everybody was wearing two layers of clothing, and only the under layer would get washed unless there was a stain on the outer garment.

beatrice_otter: Les Mis stage show singing "One Day More" (One Day More)
So a couple of weeks ago I posted my thoughts on Hamilton the musical from a historical POV (no, Hamilton was NOT a great progressive role model any more than Jefferson was), but as usual, [personal profile] melannen has a much better and more in-depth post on it now! So go read it, it's really good.

Like. The arguments in the Cabinet Battles basically come down to TJ saying "Hey, Hamilton, your 'political policy' is based on making you and your friends rich and consolidating power at everyone else's expense" and A. Ham going "Yeah? Well you're a fucking slaveowner."

Which ADMITTEDLY is a valid burn but doesn't actually do anything to convince me that A. Ham's political policies are any good. Specially since (at least in the soundtrack) we don't see him trying to actually do anything about slavery except burn TJ with it.
beatrice_otter: Les Mis stage show singing "One Day More" (One Day More)
I love Hamilton the musical, yo.  It's great.  The music is good, the words are incredible, I absolutely adore it.

But the thing is, I know enough about history to be able to see what they're doing.  And the way they tell the story, Hamilton absolutely comes off like he is what we would today call a progressive or a liberal.  They don't actually say that, but with the multiracial cast and an emphasis on him coming up from the bottom of the heap (except not quite the bottom, because he was still an educated able-bodied white guy, you know) it's implied.  And they make a big deal about Hamilton being opposed to slavery and Jefferson the slaveowner and all of that.

It's a very pretty story.  But the thing is, none of the founding fathers were anything close to what we today would consider a liberal or a progressive.  They weren't much like today's conservatives, either.  Things were very different.  But even outright abolitionists weren't out to free slaves because they believed in racial equality; nobody was advocating for anything like gender or sexual equality; and very few were arguing for economic equality.

Vox explains Cabinet Battle #1 and gives all the background to show you just how misleading the show is.  Because if nobody was arguing about racial, gender, disability, or sexual equality, there were a few people trying to make things at least a little more equal for poor white men.  Trying to reign in the power of speculators, bankers, and other rich people from profiting on the backs of the working class.  And in the debate that Cabinet Battle #1 depicts, the guy trying to protect poor whites from rapacious rich guys?  That was Jefferson.  Hamilton's plan got American business off to a good start and set the stage for the economic expansion of the 19th Century.  It also royally screwed a lot of poor people.

Hamilton was not the community activist working for his peeps and keeping it real.  He was the brilliant guy from the wrong side of the tracks who got a scholarship, got out, never looked back, and was happy to join the system with no qualms about enforcing and strengthening it. Because anybody who was smart like him could make it out the way he did, and if you weren't smart and dedicated enough, you deserved your lot in life.

I love the musical.  But it's a perfect example of how the way you tell the story--even if technically all the major details are accurate--can drastically change the meaning.

beatrice_otter: When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. (Action and Consequences)
If you haven't been reading the stories from the Night on Fic Mountain ficathon, you should, because there are some great stories.  Here are my favorites, but there are a lot of fandoms in there that I'm not familiar with or not interested in, so there are probably gems that I did not discover, so go read them all!
Star Wars Legends: Thrawn Trilogy, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, Ancient History RPF, Agent Carter )
beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
[personal profile] jedibuttercup asked: "You have a two way trip in a time machine backwards only. When do you choose to visit and return to the current time?"

Hrm.  That's really difficult.  I mean, I do have a degree in history and there are so many times and places where I would love to go back and be a fly on the wall.  Or, better, hide some small cameras and/or audio bugs around key places and times.  (As long as, you know, I didn't have to actually stay there.)  If I were doing it for personal interest ... maybe the time of Christ, and follow him around?

You see, we have no historical documents about Jesus or any of his disciples.  None.  We have the Gospels and Acts, of course, but those are not history books and were never intended to be.  (Even by the standards of the day, much less our standards.)  This is what people who read the Bible today pretty much always miss.  While the Bible tells true stories, that doesn't mean it tells factual ones.

Look, when a historian today works, they gather all the facts, sift through them, and try to figure out what they mean--to figure out, in other words, the truth.  And if they get any of their facts wrong, they get ripped to shreds.  But in ancient times, historians worked differently.  They figured out what the truth was, and then figured out how best to arrange the facts and garnish them so as to help people understand that truth.  Which is how you get things like Josephus giving us what he says is the speech given in the fortress of Masada the night before its inhabitants committed suicide to the last man.  Either he "improved" things and there were survivors to tell him about the speech, or he made up the speech because he thought it would be the most interesting way of conveying to his listeners the ideals the Jewish rebels at Masada were fighting for.  So even when you're reading history from the ancient world (or, in fact, any place prior to the Enlightenment, or any place where Western scientific theory hasn't come to dominate academia) you have to take that into account.  They told history like a story and would sometimes alter/embellish the facts to fit or dramatize things.

But even by ancient standards, the Gospels are not history books.  (There are history books in the Bible--Kings, Chronicles, Samuel--but they give very different pictures of the same events, and are definitely of the ancient model, which is not what we modern Western people expect history to be.)  The Gospels are "gospels," in Greek "euangelions"--and if that looks familiar, it should, it's the word that "evangelism" comes from and literally it means "good news."  The Gospels are designed to teach people the good news that Jesus came to bring through stories about Jesus' life.  The theology is the important part, not the history.  Which is why, for example, different Gospels record that Jesus was crucified on different days.*  Jesus' death was near Passover and theologically connected to it, but different Gospels explained that connection in different ways, resulting in different days for the crucifixion.  The theological point was more important than factual accuracy.  And more than that: the effect of that theological point on the reader or hearer was the most important thing.

All of which means that (despite all the ink spilled on the subject) there is very little we know for sure about Jesus and his disciples, from a factual historical point of view.  I've always been curious as to what actually happened, but it's not a matter of faith for me--that is, if I went back and found that things were very different from the way the Gospels tell the story, I doubt it would affect my faith because I don't read the Gospels for historical fact in the first place.

*Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the Synoptic Gospels) record that Jesus' last meal was a Passover meal (eaten on Passover Eve), and that he died the next day (still Passover, because the Jewish day starts at sunset).  John, however, records that Jesus' last meal was an ordinary friendship meal the day before Passover Eve, and that Jesus died on the Day of Preparation (i.e. he died while the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple).  John wants to hammer home that Jesus is the Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God, the one who dies to save the people from the angel of death, so he dies as the lamb dies.  The Synoptics want to hammer home that the Lord's Supper is connected to the Passover Meal, eaten the last night before the slaves become free, and Jesus' body and blood (in the form of bread and wine) are like the blood of the passover lamb, even though he doesn't die until later.  All four make similar connections, but there are different shades of meaning.  People argue: which day did Jesus die?  (After all, he can't have died on both days, and he can't have had two Last Suppers.)  I don't think it matters.  I think that if the writers of the Gospels knew people were arguing about it and thought it was a major deal, they would have been shocked and horrified.  But with our modern fact-based educations, that's the sort of thing we focus on.
beatrice_otter: Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross (St. John of the Cross)
A day late, [personal profile] alexseanchai asked this: Historical Christian attitudes towards lesbianism? I specify lesbianism because I can't think of a Bible verse specifically prohibiting it, while everyone knows about the "to lie with a man as with a woman is abomination" and the arsenokoites.

And I'm sorry I missed your birthday!  This has been a helluva week.  (Two deaths in the congregation means two funerals, in addition to grief work.)

But the thing about historical Christian attitudes towards lesbianism is that there ... really isn't much.  For several reasons.

First, the whole way we understand sexuality is a modern phenomenon.  As in, the word homosexuality did not exist until the 19th Century, and there were no words that covered the same concept, because the idea of being attracted to the same gender as a state of being ... nobody really got that, it just wasn't a category people thought in.  As they understood it, everyone was attracted to the opposite sex, but some people had appetites so huge and so kinky that the opposite sex wasn't enough.  Which is why "what the Bible says about homosexuality" is a lot trickier to talk about than "what the Bible says about" almost anything else--we're really comparing apples to carrots.  They're not even both fruit.

So what was sex about, for historical Christians?  Sex was, in no particular order, about power, about marriage, about money, about children, and about sin (as in, Augustine's theory that sinfulness is inherited through sex and the act of conception).  In particular, sex was about penetrating and being penetrated.  The one who did the penetrating was masculine and male and had the power, and the one who was penetrated was feminine and female and had no power.  Without that aspect of power and penetration, it wasn't really sex.  And women can't penetrate one another (well, they can with fingers and dildos, but there isn't an organ to do it with) so while they were at least aware of male homoerotic behavior (i.e. men having sex with men), they weren't very aware of the possibility of female homoerotic behavior.  And even when they were, well, it's not like a woman could take her female lover's virginity (as they understood the concept of female purity and virginity), she couldn't get her pregnant, she couldn't make her any more feminized than she already was, she had no status to lose ... no big deal.  (And remember, for most of the history of Christianity, homosexual behavior was no morally worse than adultery or gluttony, it wasn't until the 19th Century that it went from "frowned upon" to "THE WORST THING EVAR WITH JAIL TIME."  And even then, Lesbians mostly got overlooked--Queen Victoria wasn't the only one who simply didn't believe it was possible even when people tried to explain it to her.)

So what did lesbians do?  Some of them got married because they had to, for security or because it was necessary to continue the family.  (But remember that marriage wasn't about "being in love" it was about family and security and money and property and heirs and curbing the sexual appetite.)  Some of them never married and carried on longstanding affairs with "friends" or "companions."  Some of them set up spinster households ... but since women couldn't live alone, really, it's very difficult to tell from the historical record when you have a lesbian couple or just two women who never got asked to marry a man and couldn't/didn't want to live at home.  The thing is, they would get crap for being spinsters and get general misogyny thrown at them, but not really any anti-lesbian stuff, because it wasn't so much a concept and even if they had understood themselves as lesbians and tried to explain it, people would not have understood and probably shrugged and gone about their business.

All of the stuff I've been talking about is cultural, because there wasn't really a religious aspect to it; Christianity really didn't have much (if any) understanding of it.  Which is not to say that lesbian couples were welcomed with open arms (they got the same religiously-justified misogynistic crap that all women got), it just wasn't directed at lesbians specifically.

Of course, then you get into the 19th Century and our understanding of sexuality changed and the whole idea of a sexual identity developed and homosexuality became criminalized, and that's the point at which homosexuality goes from "one of many possible sexual and venal sins" to "a special kind of sin" and something that merited jail time.  But even so, it was mostly directed against men, and not women.
beatrice_otter: Miss Piggy in a superhero costume: Were you looking for flying pigs? (Were you looking for flying pigs?)
I've heard a lot of good things about Sleepy Hollow, so I decided to give it a try and am four eps in on Hulu.

There are, indeed, a lot of good things about it.  Each episode has been interesting and entertaining, and there is a diverse cast featuring a black woman as co-lead.

Alas, I my undergrad degree is in early American history and my grad degree is in theology, and that is a bad combo to watch this show.

I keep getting thrown out of it so hard.

The historical details aren't so much changed for dramatic purposes as a few pop-culture elements thrown into a blender on high.  And their interpretation of Revelation is just as bad.  I was hoping that once the first few episodes set the scene that there would at least be less historical references, so I would only have half the problems.

Alas, that does not seem like it is going to happen.

I don't know how many eps I can take before it gets to be too much.

beatrice_otter: History will attend to itself.  It always does. (History will attend to itself)
I'm watching Rio Grande, one of the greatest Westerns ever made. But there is something really ironic that was not intended to be so. John Wayne's character's estranged wife, played by Maureen O'Hara, comes to visit because Reasons. She's a Southerner, John Wayne is a US Army colonel. Fifteen years ago, he was a captain during the Civil War, and in the march down the Shenendoah, he gave the order to torch his wife's family plantation. There is a lot of angsting about this from all sides (the general who sent him to do it and is now still his commander, the sergeant who was the one who actually held the torch, etc., etc.) At one point the general wonders what history will make of their actions in Shenendoah.

Well ... not much, actually. The destruction was fairly limited, and civilian casualties were low. Southerners gripe about it, but actual historians and everyone who isn't from the US South go meh.

What doesn't get a "meh", what people care about and shake their heads over, is the persecution and destruction of Native Americans who were forced from their homes and either killed or confined to reservations (i.e. the worst land available that nobody else even wanted). You know, the stuff that's the action plot in this movie, that everybody's taking for granted as the right thing to do.

(Also, I think it's hilarious that the movie takes place somewhere between 1877-1879 (depending on which Shenendoah campaign they're referencing), and at one point an Irish guy requests that old great song, Down by the Glenside (The Bold Fenian Men), which wasn't written until 1916 ...)

Still, it is a very good movie.  John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara are at their best, the supporting cast is excellent, the script has a lot of great bits, and the cinematography is gorgeous.
beatrice_otter: Star Trek symbol--red background (Red Shirt)
Fair warning: I am not an economist.  The sum total of my formal economics training comes from a J-term college class called "The Economics of Science Fiction and Fantasy Worlds" in which we read eight novels in a month and discussed the economic underpinnings of the worlds described therein.  My undergraduate degree is in history, however, and history is very much concerned with the economies of the past.

First, let's start with the Federation.  The Federation, we are told, has no money.  Nobody gets paid; nobody gets a bonus; things don't seem to work on a barter system, either.  There are credits, which appear but rarely, and are used as a unit of exchange; but we are repeatedly told that there is no money and credits aren't money even though we see them used as such.  Various Star Trek people, including Ron Moore, thought this was absurd, but Gene Rodenberry insisted it was so.

I always thought this was absurd, myself.  Look, resources have to be allocated.  Work has to be done, and people have to be compensated for their labor otherwise the dirty un-fun jobs won't get done.  If you don't need money to live on, I can see people having certain careers just for fun and for something to do.  Starfleet officer?  You  betcha, you would not need to pay me to be a Starfleet officer.  Musician, author, various forms of artist, sure.  Engineers and doctors and such, yes, I know people who would do those jobs without being paid (as long as their basic needs were taken care of.)  Construction, yes.  You might have a problem getting enough people to fill your society's need for those jobs, but you could get some and I'm willing to handwave that with automation and such you would need fewer of them than we need per capita today.  But plumbers?  Miners?  Bureaucrats?  You can replicate just about everything, but you still need to have people to make and maintain the replicators, and fabricate larger things.  Like houses.  You're telling me you have enough people who do that just out of the goodness of their hearts?  I thought, you don't have to run your economy the same way we do today; there have been lots of economies throughout history.  You don't have to use your money the same way, but there does have to be some form of exchange, whether money or barter.

Economic patterns from hunter-gatherer to the modern world: a history in five paragraphs. )
Future patterns with a Star Trek twist. )

So when I put all of this together, all of a sudden the Star Trek "no money in the future" schtick seems a lot more plausible than it used to.  I'm not convinced things will go this way, but I see how they could.


May. 14th, 2014 07:04 pm
beatrice_otter: Men may move mountains, but ideas move men. (Ideas move men)
One of my favorite bloggers, Ada Palmer, just reviewed a new SF/F short story, The Litany of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys that is up for free at or for $1 here if you want to support the author. The review is here: Discontinuity and Empathy: a non-review of “The Litany of Earth” by Ruthanna Emrys.

First of all, I've never read a Cthulhu-mythos story, but this looks so interesting that I may read it anyway.

Second, this is the single most interesting book review I've ever read. It's not a synopsis, a critique, or a highlighter of the best bits. It is, instead, an exploration of the ideas and connections that the short story evoked in her. If you are at all interested in the history of Western thought, comic books, or shared-worlds meta-fic, you should read this review even if you aren't interested in the story she's reccing. Because the review is interesting enough to stand on its own feet and not just as a "should I spend my time/money on this story?"

Third, if you have any interest in the history of Western thought or comic book fandom (or how the two interact), you should already be following Ada's blog exurbe.

beatrice_otter: Captain America (Captain America)

I realize that in the movie they just said "the Smithsonian", as if it was all one museum.  But, in fact, the Smithsonian Institute is a large organization with sixteen museums in DC (plus the National Zoo and a sculpture garden and regular gardens and the castle which houses admin stuff) and another two museums in New York City.  (If you're curious, the list is here.)  The most famous are the Air and Space Museum (i.e. the one with the moon rock), the Natural History Museum (i.e. the one with the dinosaurs), and the American History Museum (the one with the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz).  Many of these museums are close together; there's a whole cluster of them ringing the Mall, which is the big huge grassy area in DC with the White House at one end and the reflecting pool and all the monuments (The Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Viet Nam Memorial, the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, etc.).  There's maps here.  The Mall is frickin' huge.  (Google tells me it's almost 150 acres; two miles long, and 1500 feet wide at its widest.)  The museums that are there are pretty spread out, and there are always LOTS OF PEOPLE.  (Well, except at night, but then, the museums aren't open at night.)

Now, when we see people walk in to "The Smithsonian" in the movie, they are walking under all kinds of planes and spaceships, which is the Air and Space Museum.  (Duh.)  But I can't imagine why the Captain America exhibit would be there; it makes much better sense to have it in the Museum of American History, which is a ways down and on the other side of the park.  Having been there, it takes at least twenty minutes to get from one to the other by walking.  I'm trying to handwave this.

But.  Please, for the love of God, ficcers, the place is huge and there are many Smithsonian museums.

(By the way, if you don't know the history of the Smithsonian, it's fascinating.  There's a great book about it, The Stranger and the Statesman.  Basically, Smithson was a rich Englishman who resented England because his birth (he was a bastard) denied him lots of opportunity.  So he left his money to America, which he'd never visited even once, to found “at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”  The government dithered about what that might mean--a university? a museum? What sort of university or museum?--and eventually created a museum that was basically a place to send any (hopefully interesting) piece of junk anyone gave to the government.  It eventually became the behemoth it is now.)
beatrice_otter: Poirot: Little Grey Cells (Little Grey Cells)
So there's this Renaissance scholar with a blog that's really cool. 2/3 of his stuff is really interesting meta on history and how it affects us today, and the other 1/3 is a random mix of stuff including how to tell just by looking if a gelato place is good and some awesome Loki-meta.  (Yes, as in Avengers Loki.)  His latest post is about the history of thought, how skepticism and the scientific method developed and why and it's awesome, you should totally go read it.
beatrice_otter: History will attend to itself.  It always does. (History will attend to itself)
“The Borgias” vs. “Borgia: Faith and Fear” (accuracy in historical fiction)
An interesting take on the historicity of the two current Borgia TV shows, from a professional Renaissence historian. Interesting from the perspective of the history buff, the fan of the shows, and for anyone who wants to write a story set in another time period.
In a real historical piece, if they tried to make everything slavishly right any show would be unwatchable, because there would be too much that the audience couldn’t understand. The audience would be constantly distracted by details like un-filmably dark building interiors, ugly missing teeth, infants being given broken-winged songbirds as disposable toys to play with, crush, and throw away, and Marie Antoinette relieving herself on the floor at Versailles. Despite its hundreds of bathrooms, one of Versailles’ marks of luxury was that the staff removed human feces from the hallways regularly, sometimes as often as twice a day, and always more than once a week. We cannot make an accurate movie of this – it will please no one. The makers of the TV series Mad Men recognized how much an accurate depiction of the past freaks viewers out – the sexual politics, the lack of seat belts and eco-consciousness, the way grown-ups treat kids. They focused just enough on this discomfort to make it the heart of a powerful and successful show, but there even an accurate depiction of attitudes from a few decades ago makes all the characters feel like scary aliens. Go back further and you will have complete incomprehensibility.
beatrice_otter: History will attend to itself.  It always does. (History will attend to itself)
It seems somehow appropriate that the SCOTUS decision regarding DOMA and Prop 8 came the week of the anniversary of the largest massacre of LGBT folks in our history. Dozens of members of the congregation of the Metropolitan Community Church in New Orleans were gathered in an upper room. A fire was set, and 32 perished, including the pastor and assistant pastor. The churches refused to allow memorial services. An Episcopal priest who held a memorial prayer service was censured by his bishop. Yet this event is virtually lost to history.

Remembering the UpStairs Lounge, the largest masacre of LGBT people in American history.

beatrice_otter: I don't want to be killed because of a typo.  It would be embarrassing. (Typo)
Okay, you all know about Project Gutenberg, right?  Project Gutenberg works to get books and magazines that are out of copyright online for free in text form.  They've got almost 30,000 books available, with more being added every month, and there are a lot of sites that take books Gutenberg has put up and offer them on their own site.  It's awesome.  And the process of getting books ready is pretty cool, too.  Distributed Proofreaders is a system whereby texts are scanned, OCRed, proofread multiple times, formatted, and made ready for posting.  The whole system is designed so that people who want to volunteer their time can do as much or as little as they want, and still contribute.  Have twenty minutes to spare?  Log on, find a book that interests you, and proofread a single page.  Have more time?  Do more pages.  Alas, there are some steps that simply can't be broken down like that, and content providing--i.e. finding books, scanning, and OCRing them--is one.  (Well.  A lot of the time, you can use Google Books or The Internet Achive or various university libraries to 'harvest' page scans from, and that speeds things up considerably.)

Well.  To make a long story short, I have just finished scanning a book.  It is now ready to be handed off to someone else to OCR.  The book is True Christianity, by Johann Arndt, which was one of the major Lutheran devotional works of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and was the first spark in what became the Pietism movement within Lutheranism.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, if a Lutheran household was going to have only two books, chances were one of them was the Bible and the other was True Christianity.  Which makes True Christianity a major work, and one that should be easily available, for scholarly research if no other reason.  And while part of the book is on Google Books, it is nowhere complete, and the Google Books version isn't that readable, as is so often the case.  So I checked an 1863 copy out of the seminary library, borrowed a scanner from a friend, and have spent the last month scanning pages while doing my homework.  And it is now finished!  Yay!  All 542 pages!
beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
So, we all know that stories shape perception, right? Of both individuals and societies. There is a reason Jesus taught in parables, and a reason charities pick someone's life story to use in their advertizing for why their work should be supported, and a reason that the debate over what should be taught to schoolchildren in history class can be so heated. The way we look at ourselves and the world is determined by the way we interpret the "story" of our lives, which in turn is guided and shaped by the stories we are told about the world around us. This is why I get real tense when people dismiss what happens in shows as being "just television" or "just a movie" and try to dismiss its importance. It is not just about being PC, not by a long shot.*

This is a major problem for people of color, particularly those living in the Western world, because on those few occasions when the stories that shape their culture are used in mainstream media, they are just that--used. Shaped in ways that fit the perceptions and needs of the white people who, by and large, control the entertainment industry. Shaped in ways that are unhealthy for the people whose stories they are.

Enter the Remyth Project: )

I particularly recommend:
"Little Girl With An Inner Dragon" by [ profile] tielan
"pirates of the caribbean" by [ profile] bossymarmalade
"Mirrors" by the-willow
"a moses moise" by [ profile] skywardprodigal
"I am not what you call me." by [ profile] gabby_silang
"in the sky, there is no distinction of east and west" by [ profile] ciderpress

*BTW, the protest against the casting of The Last Airbender's Asian and Inuit characters with White actors is still going strong, check out [ profile] aang_aint_white for details about how you can help.


beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)

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