Historical inaccuracies throughout history

Alright, I’m at the AGO (the Art Gallery of Ontario for those many people who wouldn’t Google it) during my trip to Toronto (more on that… eventually) checking out the art. The building itself is quite pretty and it has a pretty decent collection – though I am a little miffed that they make you pay extra for special exhibitions. That’s pretty bullshit. Anyway, the stuff I do see is great, but as I wander through the gallery the thing that jumps out at me is some of the cultural anachronisms I keep on seeing in the art from certain time periods.

Y’see, a lot of those post-Renaissance painters (and a few of contemporary Renaissance painters as well) had the habit of painting their subjects in the arms, armour and general regalia that they were used to seeing. It’s why a painting of some Gothic king bears a striking resemblance to Henry Tudor and why the Greek soldiers in another painting bear a closer similarity to the modern Swiss Guard than to what we’re pretty certain hoplites actually looked like. I’m making these up for the drama, but I reckon if you know your way around a painting you know exactly what I’m talking about.

What really got me laughing though was this painting right here.

Pieter Claessens the Elder (15th century), published without permission from anyone I'd probably need to get permission from.
Artist was Pieter Claessens the Elder (16th century), hanging in the AGO. Published without permission from anyone I’d probably need to get it from (please don’t sue).

Magnificent right? Right. Nah. Not my favourite painting in the gallery, colour’s a bit flat for my taste and I’m a bit more partial towards Impressionism and Cubism. But what got me is what the painting is supposed to depict. Namely, that white kid in the middle is supposed to be Moses (as in the Biblical “Let my people go!” Moses) breaking a crown in Pharaoh’s court (as in ancient Egypt, pyramids and mummies).

Does that look like Ancient Egypt to you? It sure as hell doesn’t look like ancient Egypt to me. I mean, aside from the fact that almost the entire court could be described at our most generous as ‘a little tanned’ (except for the one black kid, of course), the dress, throne, and background has more in common with how we’d picture the Medici family dining room than anything a bloke named Ramses would get within a thousand years of. Put bluntly, that is not ancient Egypt and it boggles the modern mind that anyone would ever think that it is.

But it shouldn’t. 2004’s King Arthur (the one with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley) was an attempt at a historically accurate-ish retelling of the classic tale, and it too leaned heavily on the ‘ish.’ The Last Samurai; Dancing with Wolves; Alexander; Troy; Robin Hood; The Patriot; fucking Pirates of the Caribbean. Even the fantastical films, the ones where we know they’re just making shit up, these still inform our views of time periods throughout history.

On a more recent note the past two years have seen some pretty heavy controversy regarding the casting of white actors into the roles of non-white characters, most prominently in abysmal blockbuster flops Gods of Egypt and Exodus: Gods and Kings. Apparently we’re still casting Moses and his mates as white guys (the costumes are still pretty atrocious as well). The more things change the more they stay the same, aye?

I should have a bit more of a point to this… right. Recognise your own biases, do some proper research when writing or copying a particular time period and for the love of god don’t make everyone white. Good? Good.

Talk soon.

So about what happened on Tuesday

So I honestly don’t really want to add to the noise, but this is sort of my wheelhouse so I guess I kind of feel duty bound to not let the moment pass without writing a few words on the subject. And here they are.

Certainty.

I’m gonna start by saying that I’m not gonna claim to be one of those people who predicted Donald Trump’s victory. Give it a week, there’s gonna be tonne of them. Economists, pollsters, analysts, ignoring the pages and pages they wrote about Hillary’s inevitable victory and claiming that they just knew somehow that Mr Trump was gonna pull ahead. They just knew it in their bones. It always happens, just check the literature in the aftermath of the GFC.

Nah, I’m not one of those. But like a lot of far smarter people I wasn’t surprised by the victory, and that’ll make all the difference in the next few weeks, months and years for a lot of folk.

Y’see from an international perspective, I reckon what we’re gonna see real soon is two distinct types of planning: those who assumed that The Donald had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the presidency and those who realised that hell had frozen over right around the Brexit referendum. Both sides are scrambling, but one side at least had an idea of what to do next.

I understand why so many governments didn’t plan for Mr Trump’s ascension. Most pollies come at government from an economic perspective, and if there’s one thing that economists strive for it is certainty. When you decide on policy you want to be certain that the world will conform to your desires and the results will be what you expect.

Personally I like the saying, “expect the best, plan for the worst.” We’ll see who else agrees.

Who benefits?

As a white Australian (who thank god is about to watch it all unfold from across the fucking Pacific Ocean), I’m gonna come right out and say that it is not going to be alright for a lot of people. Specifically women and sexual, racial and religious minorities. Even if Mr Trump and his cabinet of cunts aren’t terrible for everyone who isn’t a white Christian upper middle class male (ha!), there’s a lot of very hateful folk in the US and the rest of the world (I’m looking at you France) who are gonna be feeling very empowered right about now. And that’s gonna make things very dangerous for a while. Stay safe folk. Maybe look at taking a four year holiday to Australia for a while. Or Mexico. Mexico is nice, and the irony would be fantastic.

As for who else loses and benefits from this election? We’ll just have to wait and see what policies and promises Mr Trump decides to keep. Not all that many of them by the looks of it.

Who’s to blame?

Good question. The head of the FBI, Hillary Clinton herself, dumb Americans and ignorant Americans (there’s difference and crossover), and of course Bernie Sanders. Yeah, Bernie Sanders. Look, I like the guy, but he should have conceded sooner and with more grace when it became obvious to everyone that he wasn’t gonna win the Primaries. Sorry mate, but you fucked up and now the Republicans control all three sections of the government headed by a bright orange egomaniac.

Final thoughts.

Is the world gonna be alright? Dunno. Maybe. We’ll see in a few months. Honestly, it’s too early to tell and I’m tired, full of gin and about to climb onto a plane home (woo). I’ll probably expand on all these subjects in the future (I want to) but right now it’s hard to guess exactly how fucked the international order is. It might not be fucked at all. I mean, it probably is at least a little, but maybe it isn’t.

Things might be about to go to hell in a handbasket but, in the immortal words of Dr Zoidberg, at least it’s not boring.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (10/11/2015)

God I’m sick of hockey. A bit surprised I’m saying that. But I am. I’m sick of hockey. It feels good to say that, and I’ve been saying it a lot. Funnily enough, I’ve found a lot of Canadians (the maddest of the hockey-mad) actually agree with me on this.

Why am I sick of hockey? Why are we sick of hockey? Because it is on all. The fucking. Time. I mean seriously, even in the off-season Canadian sports news is dominated by the hockey. They talk about the upcoming draft season, changes to coaches and managers, replay “classic” games and, going by one muted exchange I tried to interpret while having a beer at a bar in Gastown, what brand of underwear one particularly bearded player wore beneath his uniform (it was an unusual sequence of images). Then there’s the draft, and that’s all anyone gives a shit about for a couple of weeks (especially as far too many people for my liking begin to construct fantasy teams). Then there’s the pre-season, which is where a bunch of the new players try to prove themselves by playing extra hard while the old players try to avoid injury by playing extra carefully. Then the season proper starts, which is about a month old about now, and that’ll go until the Stanley cup finals in, like, fucking May.

It goes from the middle of autumn to the beginning of summer. Then you get maybe two months where they’re just talking about the upcoming season and replaying old games and greatest hits, then the draft begins again.

The thing that gets me though, the thing that really gets me, is just how many games are on. Seriously, check out the NHL schedule for the regular season. There is a game, usually more than one, sometimes more than a half dozen, every fucking day except for a couple around Christmas and the like.

I was out the other night, having a drink at one of my usual spots. And the hockey was on, a couple of knots of people watching as the Canucks were being beaten by a team called the Penguins (I can’t help but feel like naming a team playing an exclusively Northern Hemisphere sport after an exclusively Southern Hemisphere type of bird is a little ridiculous). I asked the bartender if it’d cause a riot to change one of the TVs over to the cricket (Australia was spanking New Zealand in the first test at the time). She nodded seriously and said “probably.”

The game cut to commercial, then cut back with one of those… infographics I think they’re called? Just graphics? Anyway, bright red letters flew across the screen proclaiming “WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOCKEY” and I just began to crack up. Do they do that for every game? There was hockey on Tuesday, there’d be hockey on Sunday, there’d be hockey on Thursday, there’s hockey on every day. Did the person in charge of the graphics ever get it wrong? Did they ever forget to change it or had “[Insert weekday here] NIGHT HOCKEY” flashed up on people’s televisions by accident? So many questions, none of them I have any interest in learning the answers to.

Now I understand sports fandom. I’m an Aussie. We get it. And I’d guess that other countries have just as much of a problem with football (soccer). Shit, I’ve known a few people to care just a little too much about the Rugby League or AFL. But even the most diehard Rabbitohs fans would start to get bored if their team was playing every two or three days. Yes, even Russell Crowe. There’s just such an oversaturation of hockey that it’s become boring.

So yeah, I’m sick of hockey. And that’s a shame because, while I never developed any emotional investment in who wins or loses, I enjoyed watching the barely controlled chaos and violence.

And, hell, maybe if they actually paid proper attention to some other sports they might be able to field a decent rugby team.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (27/10/2015)

G’afternoon everyone. Getting right into today’s topic I’d like to talk about bagels. I bloody love bagels, those dense doughnut-shaped buns that form part of a balanced breakfast for millions of people everyday. Wonderful things. My basic breakfast consists of eggs, cheese, tabasco sauce and, of course, a bagel. But that’s really only since I moved to North America.

They’re not a huge thing in Australia. I mean, they’re around, you can definitely buy them. It wouldn’t be that hard to find a cafe that sells breakfast bagels filled with ham and cheese or other time-of-day appropriate fillings. But they’re not common like they are up here in Canada and the USA. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course. I haven’t seen the kind of variety in Canadian breads that I’d expect in an Australian bakery or supermarket. Like I don’t see focaccia or pita or Lebanese bread (fuck I miss really good Lebanese bread). And you’re probably more likely to find crumpets or (ahem) ‘English’ muffins on an Aussie table. But we don’t have a lot of bagels back home. And bagels are awesome. I just ate one before coming here to write this. It was delicious.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that when I go home, eventually, in like a year or something, I’m gonna have to find a new source of bagels. They’ve been one of the best parts of moving to Canada, and I don’t think I’ll be able to give them up. Complain as I might about North American domestic beers and the lack of good Thai and Indian restaurants around, well, I can’t complain about their bread choices. Because bagels are amazing. Think I might go eat another in a moment.

So not so much an irritation today (though it might turn into that if I travel somewhere else and there aren’t any bagels), but that’s why we have the other part of the title. Tried to think of something Halloween related to talk about (I carved a pumpkin last night!) but couldn’t. So just think about how terrifying a world without bagels would be.

I fucking love bagels.