Sic Semper Semanis

Friday, March 27, 2015

Queen Mary Tudor: Rare But Not Too Bloody

So I don’t know how long “Bloody Mary” has been a thing, but it’s been around longer than I have – the thing where all the kids at a sleepover scare each other with the idea that if you look into a mirror and say “Bloody Mary” over and over again, Mary herself will appear and, I don’t know, scratch you face up or whatever she does. No one ever finds out because the whole point is to get seriously worked up as quickly as possible and chicken out before you actually do it and then run around screaming because …continue reading

Rafael Trujillo and Tropico 5: Or, the Disappointment of Getting Exactly What You Expect

Okay. So, this past week, I wanted to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, because everyone including the Pulitzer Prize committee says it’s pretty dang fantastic, and somebody linked me to a talk that Junot Diaz gave at the Key West Literary Seminar and he’s so sweet and thoughtful that I absolutely fell in love, grabbed my phone, and purchased the e-book on the spot. Now, between this website and the podcast and actually having a real-life full-time job, I don’t have as much time as I would like to have for reading fiction, but one of the …continue reading

Leopold II of Belgium: Putting the Con in Congo

When you think about Belgium, what springs to mind? Waffles, probably. Chocolate. Cuckoo clocks maybe, but those actually come from Switzerland, so you’re a little bit confused. How about mass murder, slavery, and genocide? Where does that fall on the list? The truth is, if you don’t live in Europe you probably don’t think about Belgium very much at all, because it’s one of those little countries that behave themselves and doesn’t have a whole lot of international push against, say, a Germany or a France, which are the two major powers that Belgium lies between. And the fact that …continue reading

Steve Jobs: Creating an Orwellian Future Since 1984

I think the reason I never did well in life is because I never had a garage. Think of all the things I could have done with a garage that would have led me to a better and more prosperous life than the one I have now: I could have had a crappy high school boyfriend who was in a band and they could have practiced there, or I could have raised some kind of exotic pet that was too smelly to go in the house but too delicate to live outside. Maybe I could have lived in the garage …continue reading

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. : Politics By Procreation

Joseph P. Kennedy is one of those people who was super famous for most of his life but it’s a little bit hard to say why. Mostly it boiled down to the fact that he was real real good at making two things: money and babies. Kennedy came from East Boston (which is not the same thing as regular Boston, but it’s close). His family was Irish Catholic and that comes with all kinds of stereotypes that he would cheerfully live up to, but they weren’t poor. They weren’t rich either – at least, not that rich. They were firmly …continue reading

Boudicca: Her Knockers Knocked Down Cities

Here’s what we know for sure: We know that in the year AD 60, somebody burned down three major Roman settlements on the island of Great Britain, and we know that there was a woman there when it happened. Everything else is extrapolation. According to Roman historians (to wit: Tacitus and Cassius Dio), that woman was a red-headed terror named Boudica, and she was coming to eat your soul. Yes, she was dead by the time they wrote about her. So what? All the really good soul-eaters are dead. Everybody knows that. Boudica’s part in history was actually rather small, …continue reading

Genghis Khan: To Mongolia, and Beyond!

Genghis Khan stands out as a conqueror among conquerors, and only partially because he conquered people who had conquered other people first. That was inevitable, because Genghis conquered pretty much everyone he ever met. He was arguably the greatest conqueror who ever did conquer, but the thing that’s so incredible on top of that is that there is very little reason why he should have been so good at conquering in the first place. Pretty much everything we know about Genghis Khan comes from a book called The Secret History of the Mongols, which is a book that Genghis commissioned …continue reading

Hernan Cortes: Old School Takeovers in the New World

Okay, here’s our premise: It’s the future. The year is… whatever year you want, it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow. NASA has decided to get its shit together, or else Richard Branson has thrown a small portion of his insane fortune toward setting up a viable space exploration program once again. A young, brash, Felix Baumgartner type comes up with a theory: maybe we can collect all kinds of valuable resources – like Helium-3 or extra ozone, or like, space diamonds or something – maybe we can gather all of these things at a minimum effort to ourselves, if we just take …continue reading

Louis XVIII, The Restoration King, and the Thing About Revolutions

So for some reason I’ve been thinking about revolutions lately. Revolutions are necessary sometimes. Risky, because you never know how they’re going to turn out later. But a lot of the time they ultimately work out for the good. Take the French Revolution, for example. People were hungry, the king was kind of an asshole, the queen was kind of a bimbo, and the patent office had just given a big old green light to one Monsieur Guillotine. The rest is history. And that’s when the French learned that just because you don’t like the government you have, doesn’t mean …continue reading

North Korea and the Kim Dynasty: Can You Believe This Shit?

The history of Kim Jong Il is the history of Korea, which has been around roughly as long as the rest of the earth, so either six thousand or a million billion years, depending on who you ask. For a long time, Korea was basically in charge of itself. Then for a while China came in and bossed people around, and then Japan took over at the beginning of the twentieth century. When World War II happened the country was up for grabs, but the Americans and the Soviets couldn’t decide who should be in charge of Korea (nobody ever …continue reading