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 (29/3/16)

So, Canadian coins are a little stupid. So are American coins, since they’re basically the same (aside from the fact that the Yanks haven’t gotten around to getting rid of the penny or the dollar bill like normal countries), but I live in Canada and use Canadian coin to give Canadian change to Canadians so this is going to be a more specific rant about Canadian currency (Canada!).

I don’t have a problem with the one and two dollar coin. Those are fine, and I’ve even gotten used to calling them loonies and toonies. They’re a good size and feel pretty substantial. Good shit. No, I’m talking about the silver. Well, technically I’m talking about the nickel-plated steel, but silver sounds so much cooler. Anyway, there are two things that piss me off in particular: size discrepancies and making change.

Size-wise I am of course talking about the nickel and dime. Why the bloody fuck is the Canadian ten cent piece so much smaller than the five cent piece? Why is the more useful, more numerous larger denomination the more inconsequential of the two? I don’t know why and, quite frankly, I don’t want to know. What I do want to know is why you haven’t changed this Canada? Is it because they’re basically the same size as the American nickel and dimes and you’re worried that it might hurt tourism if you got your own currency Canada? Is that it? You don’t want to confuse poor American tourists? Well guess what, Americans don’t fucking care. The smart ones expect foreign-looking coinage in foreign lands and the stupid ones are too mesmerised by the fact that you have your own currency at all to care. Make your ten cent pieces bigger!

As for the second item on the list, making change, you need to ditch this whole ‘quarter’ nonsense and pick up on the Australian and New Zealand system of having a twenty and fifty cent system. Yes, I know it means printing a whole new coin (is it still printing if it’s not a note or bill, or is it called, like, stamping? Stamping new coins? Forging new coins? Can someone google this for me?) but guess what, you’ll need fewer coins in the system because shops, restaurants banks will need fewer coins in the till. Let me explain. Let’s say you need to give someone seventy cents change. Now to do that in Canada you need a minimum of four coins, two quarters and two dimes. In Australia on the other hand (with a fifty, twenty, ten and five cent piece available) you need a minimum of just two coins, a fifty and a twenty. And Australia beats or breaks even with Canadian on all but two occasions, twenty-five cents (a single quarter in Canada, a twenty and a five cent in Australia) and thirty-five cents (a quarter and a dime in Canada, a twenty, a ten and five cent in Australia). All the others are either ties or Australia wins. Need to give someone ninety cents? In Canada you need a minimum five coins, in Australia you need a minimum of three. Forty cents? Three in Canada, two in Australia. Fifty cents? Two and one. Less coin, more easily broken. Ipso facto, quarters are stupid as well.

Now, do I believe that Canada should change its money on my say-so alone? Of course I do. I’m fucking brilliant. But do your projections, work out your costs, mine your data. You’ll see I’m right, and you’ll regret not listening to me sooner. Because I’ll already be gone, back to the sunburnt land and our superior, grown-up currency!

Seriously though, loonies and toonies? Perfectly acceptable currency, very functional and I like the fact that you’ve given them nicknames. Also, thank God you got rid of the penny. Man, fuck the penny.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (15/3/16)

Yesterday was the fourteenth of March, 14.3 for most of the world but 3.14 for these arrogant North American wankers. Now I can complain long and hard about the American system of dating things, and I will at some point in the not too distant future, but this time I want to talk about something else. Y’see, thanks to the entirely irrational dating system used in North America yesterday was Pi day. Y’know, π. That number that ‘geniuses’ on TV use to prove that they’re geniuses by quoting it to the sixty-third decimal or some such bullshit, but us mere mortals usually round up to 3.14 (but never to exactly 3).

So yesterday was Pi day and that seems as good as any reason to complain about the lack of pies in Canada. The edible kind, not the numerical kind.

Well, there are pies up here in the northern hemisphere I suppose. I had pumpkin pie for the first time last Thanksgiving. It was alright, tasty enough, though it still doesn’t quite feel like it should be a dessert if you get my meaning. And other dessert pies aren’t unusual. It’s possible to get the occasional shepard’s pie floating around, made with mince that might even have come from a cow and reconstituted potato.

But I’m not talking about any of that, I’m talking about the proper Aussie meat pie. The kind that comes in a foil tin, fits in your hand and available from anywhere with a power outlet to plug in one of those mini-ovens (for keeping things warm and on display). Fuck 420, I wanna fuckin’ Four’N Twenty meat pie at that perfect temperature where the heat brings out the flavour of the beef and gravy but doesn’t burn the roof of your mouth. Mrs Mac or Sargents, drenched in tomato sauce (not ketchup, bloody tomato sauce) I wanna walk into a Vietnamese bakery (they don’t seem to have those here either, damnit) and a grab a steak and pepper pie on my way home from work, or suddenly realise that since I’m in Newtown I can sneak into a gourmet bakery and switch things up with a curry chicken or lamb and rosemary pie. I wanna goddamn meat pie. And a lamington. But mostly a goddamn meat pie.

There are a few places around that cater to the Aussie palate, but the only one that’s worth getting from a pie from is all the way up in Whistler (Peaked Pies, give it a go if you’re up there). Not surprising given the concentration of Australians up in Whistralia, but not a practical option down here in Vancouver. The other places just tasted… not good… enough? Yeah, not good enough. Like the meat was worse than the lowest grade horsemeat put into a service station pastry or the gravy tasted chalky and had the consistency of flubber or the pastry lacked the structural integrity to hold everything together or some combination of things. Just, not good enough. And still difficult to get to.

But good god I miss pies.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (16/2/2016)

Have I complained about North American toilets yet? I’m gonna complain about North American toilets. What is there to complain about North American toilets you ask? Calm the hell down son, I’m about to tell you what there is to complain about North American toilets.

There’s too much fucking water in North American toilets.

Don’t give me that look, this is a serious issue. It really is. Listen, the country I come from is mostly desert. The rest spends five out of ten years in drought. We are a very water conscious people, and our dunnys reflect that. The half flush? Aussie invention. Waterless urinals? Aussie invention. Toilet bowls that aren’t filled unnecessarily near to the brim? Not sure if that’s an Aussie invention, but we certainly seemed to clue into it before everyone else.

High efficiency and low water usage, because we actually act on concerns about water-security in our day-to-day, unlike some countries and cities I’ve visited. Seriously, what the fuck California? When I was in LA we drove by what looked like a fast food joint that had fucking water misters for keeping customers cool. Fucking water misters spraying an empty patio. I mean, no wonder you lot are running out of water. That is not how you do water restrictions America. Not at all. And it’s reflected in your loos.

They’re loud, they’re wasteful, and there’s a very real danger of splashback. C’mon guys, shape up and get yourselves proper crappers. You too Canada, you’re not getting out of this unscathed.

This is a classy blog. I’m gonna stop while I can still make that claim with a straight face.

God I miss Australian toilets. Amazing what you miss most about home, yeah?

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (19/1/2016)

Bloody hell, tuesday already? Almost slipped by me. Changing work schedules have messed up what day of the week I think it is. Anyway. I wanna have a quick chat to you all about skateboarders.

Now, I have nothing against most skateboarders. I’ve known and been friends with a lot of skateboarders over the years I’ve been kicking around this planet. I have a lot of respect for a talented skateboarder, with their ollies and kick-flips and well-tuned senses of balance. Hell, I respect untalented skateboarders even more. Falling off a skateboard can be a hilarious affair for everyone else and anyone willing to still climb back onto that narrow piece of plywood (or whatever skateboards are made out of) after a plummet deserves a nod. What grinds me the wrong way, however, is people who simply must travel any distance, no matter how short, on their board. I mean, after a while it just becomes unpractical.

Case in point, a couple of nights ago I was getting off the skytrain (still the most pretentious name for a public transport system around) and there was this kid who got off at the same station, from the same carriage, using the same door as me. A kid with a skateboard. A kid who promptly dropped his skateboard to the ground and rolled on it over to the stairs down to the street, a distance of roughly three metres. No, really, three metres, maybe three and a half, at a painfully slow pace made slower by the fifteen or so people who’d climbed off the train with us and were also converging on the stairs. I was halfway down the stairs by the time the kid managed to pick up his board and start his own descent. And I couldn’t help but think, “why didn’t you just fuckin’ walk it?”

And I get that if you love doing something you want to do it whenever humanly possible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. You don’t see cyclists riding their bikes up and down the platforms (well, I did once, but he more just stood on one of the side pedals and pushed). Just because someone can parkour their way down the side of the building doesn’t mean that they don’t occasionally use the stairs. And sometimes just because you’ve got your skateboard handy doesn’t mean you have to use it. Fucking walk it.

And with that, I’ll take my leave. Have a good week everyone.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (8/12/2015)

So it’s December in Vancouver (and the rest of the world that uses the Gregorian Calendar for that matter) and apparently that means rain. Quite a bit of it in fact. Funnily enough I’d be willing to make the claim that it’s a bit similar in Australia, except the rain would be part of a tropical storm in the worst cases and a spectacular thunderstorm after a scorcher of a day in the best. Vancouver doesn’t seem to get thunderstorms. I miss them quite a lot. Ah well, not here to talk about thunderstorms. No, umbrellas are the topic today.

More accurately people who use umbrellas but have the spacial awareness of a three year old driving a ute (pick-up truck for my non-Aussie readers). Y’know, the kind of people who just don’t seem to give a shit exactly where they’re swinging their temporary shelters, and the potentially eye-taking spikes that hold the whole thing together, making you wish they handed out goggles (“they do nothing”) whenever you left cover and turning a walk down the street into a Matrix scene where you’re performing amazing contortions in order to avoid these people’s twirling hexagons of doom. In slow motion of course.

And getting past these people is no easy feat. Unsurprisingly the kind people who have no idea where their umbrellas are swinging are also the kind of people who have two speeds: so slow they couldn’t even get next door in any time-frame that could be referred to as “soon”; and stationary. So staying behind them is never an option for us busy, go-getting millennials. But try and overtake them at your peril, because they always seem to choose the moment you’re right beside them to suddenly veer towards you while laughing raucously, sending the sharpest point of the six or seven they’re carrying into your unprotected ear. Your poor, soft, fragile ear. The bastards.

And don’t expect it to be any safer when their umbrellas are down. No, that simply means there’s more power behind their thrust and swing. If it’s a long umbrella, probably gives them more reach as well. And since they’re not limited by the need to keep the thin synthetic membrane stretched across four to nine spears between them and the rain, they have much more freedom to include their umbrella in grand expressive movements that are a danger to everyone within two metres. No, you’re never safe from these people, not as long as they’re permitted to carry such deadly instruments.

Now, I know these aren’t bad people. Simply unaware. And some people have a valid excuse, they’re tired or sick or thought they were in fact carrying rather large novelty candy canes. But please, when you’ve got your umbrella up this season try and be a bit more aware of the people around you. Try not to stab anyone in their poor, fragile ears.