Hello There, Still Alive and Working




Hello, I’m still here and breathing and reports of my death have been largely overstated.

This post is more of a referral than an actual post. I’m spending more and more of time drawing, entering exhibitions, working on my artistic portfolio, and trying to eventually make a career as an artist. Since there still seems to be people discovering this website (though as usual most of them are stumbling here while looking for gay porn, [No Judgement dude keep clicking]) I thought I would post a general link so people can see what I’m doing now.

Below is my LinkTree which will also be available on my contact page. Hope to see you when I see you. Remember that you’re loved, and also remember to call that girl back. Seriously, the two of you clicked and life’s too short give it a shot.


Five Days in the Behavioral Health Unit, or, Where I’ve been

On August 1st Ientered an inpatient psychiatric facility because on Sept. 31st I had a panic attack which culminated in a plan to take my own life.  My mental health has been bad for years but there was a significant event which finally pushed me into the possibility of finally killing myself.  I didn’t, ultimately, and when my wife found me the next morning she took me to the emergency room where they treated me and eventually transferred me to the Behavioral Health Unit where I spent the next four days.

I’ve been wanting to write this account since I was discharged, partly as a way of explaining why this blog has been inactive for so long, but also to try and compartmentalize the experience and process what has happened.  Since this event my wife and I have begun a divorce, I’ve started taking anti-depressants, and I am in the middle of a complete re-evaluation of my life, my passion, my goals, and what I want my life to be.

What follows is a day by day narration of my time in Unit 400.  I have shortened names to protect the privacy of those who were being treated alongside me. And certain details have been left out simply to protect people I love and care for.

I hope my reader does not find this essay as indulgent and sees it for what it is, merely an attempt to chronicle the worst four days of my life, and to try and see how it has changed me.

August 1

  • My wife holds my hand as the nurse goes through the bag of possessions that I will be “allowed” to have in the facility during my treatment.  She’s mad at me, and scared for me, and for herself.  The nurse looks through the book and smiles at the Super Mario Book. I’m denied the book about the Greco-Persian War because it “could be upsetting” despite the fact it’s by one of my favorite authors. Once this is done I’m allowed an hour with my wife who sits next to me.  I’m crying and I don’t want to do this but it’s already too late. One of the doctor has already checked my body for contraband, looked for any signs of self-harm or drug use.
  • Another doctor, a nice man with a thick African accent comes in.  He explains how the treatment will work, mostly group therapy exercises and some one-on-one therapy.  If they think I am better they will discharge me.  I am a voluntary patient, so I can leave at any time, but if I do this it will be “against medical advisement.”  This is a fancy way of saying Insurance won’t cover anything.
  • I tell him about my panic-attack.  About the plan to end my life (I was going to cut my wrists using a knife from the kitchen).  He listens quietly.  Assures me that they can help me.  He leaves.  I sit with my wife who remains quiet.
  • The nurse finally comes and I start to panic but I stand up and follow her down the hall.  I stop at one point and look back to see my wife.  She gives me a small wave and I try to smile.  We go through security doors and it’s a long hallway to Unit 500.
  • I enter the room.  It looks like a waiting room in a hospital.  There’s a large television set up on the wall.  The chairs are made of plastic and filled with concrete so it’s hard to move them (also means it’s hard to throw and attack people if you freak out).  There’s a stack of adult coloring books and a bucket of markers in the corner next to some “couches.”  There’s a single door which leads to a small, and I mean small, outside patio.  And on the wall by the television is a large chalk-board where someone has drawn rainbows, bible verses, crosses, an invader Zim, and best of all a super-trippy looking turtle.
  • I’m shown to me room where I see that I have a room-mate  There’s a shower room with cold grey tile and blank white walls.  We’re given slivers of soap and a single towel to dry off.  My room is by a window that’s cold.  The nurse tells me the time for group therapy and leaves. The ceiling is three times my height so every sound is amplified.
  • I crash on the bed.  It’s hard and feels like concrete and the pillows are mostly made of plastic bags.  I turn off the light.  Lie down.  And I cry for a long time.
  • There’s a knock on the door and a nurse informs me that it’s time for group therapy.  I get up and hold up my pants.  We’re not allowed to have shoe-laces or belts because they could be used to hang ourselves.  I shuffle to the main-room where people are talking.  The crowd’s a mix between young people (early 20s and late teens) and the elderly (early 60s through mid 70s).  A woman wearing a nice blouse and a generally cheery disposition announces that group therapy is about to start.  I follow her to the room as the rest the group shuffles in.  The exercise that night is “Perception of self.”  She tells us that the way we build ourselves in our mind is the way we ultimately see how we believe others see us and that we need to see ourselves honestly and love ourselves.  We read some poetry, draw self-portraits, talk about our experiences.  I try to talk because I know it will show that I want to get better.  Because I do.
  • Therapy ends.  We go back to the main room.  I sit at a table and some of the people say hello.  The first is an older woman named [MI].  She has psoriasis and talks and talks and talks.  The other one is a young woman named [HA].  She’s only eighteen and graduated high school a month ago before she was here.  She reads her bible a lot and transcribes passages into her notebook.  [JA] is a young guy, probably early 20s, and talks a lot about weed and drugs and keeps his hair up in a bun.  [RD] is an older guy, at least 60, with long grey hair and honestly he looks like Charles Manson but he’s really nice.  I notice the swastika tattooed on the inside of his elbow and I try to ignore it.
  • I get a phone call after dinner, it’s my wife.  She sounds really sad, almost crying.  She tells me about our cats.  Mortimer, the chonky tabby, is sleeping on my side of the bed.  Huckleberry and Sonya are at my Mom’s place.  She says she misses me.  We end the call.  In about 15 minutes my mom calls me.  She’s crying.  Asking me lots of questions.  I try to sound strong and fight back the tears.  Make lots of jokes.  She tells me about reading to her kids at the school where she volenteers.  We eventually hang up.  I go to my room and cry again.
  • I go to bed early.  My roommate comes in, his name is [RO].  He’s an old man who mumbles.  I try my best to sleep but the bed is uncomfortable.  I’m cold.  I don’t have ear-plugs.  [RO] begins to moan in his sleep.  This will eventually become cryng and screaming in his sleep.  The nurse knocks on the door every few hours to check on us.  I spend most of the night crying wishing I was home and holding my wife and my dogs.

August 2

  • Today is my first full day.  When I enter the main room I tell the RN about my roommate and ask if I can change rooms, I’m told no.  I grab a cup of water and sit in the room and start to color from one of the books.  I color everyday after this.  [HA] the young teenager sits next me and transcribes from her bible.  She says she wishes we could have worship everyday.  [MI] sits next to me and tells me that she’s written a poem about and would like to read it.  It’s long and ramble and all about god and Jesus.  I tell her thank you and keep coloring my deer-thing.
  • We have breakfast.  I sit with [HA] and [JA].  Breakfast is eggs and bacon and cereal.  We’re not allowed knives so we’re unable to spread the butter and jelly onto our biscuits. We’re allowed coffee and [JA] puts close to 30 packets.  We’re not allowed to drink caffeine.  We have to leave the unit and return the unit in a line like grade school.  An RN takes us back and forth.
  • After group therapy we take our medication and I get a call from my wife and my mom.  My wife is quiet on the phone and mostly talks about the cats, Mortimer misses me and sits on my side of the bed all day.  Mom tries her best not to cry and tells me she’s absolutely going to be there today.  I hang up and cry and go to my room and cry some more.
  • I begin a book, Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan.  The nurses thought tis would be uplifting rather than the “depressing” book about the Persian war.  It’s not a bad book, but [MI] interrupts me a lot telling me about her fiancé and how she’s going to be discharged soon and about her sister-in-law who doesn’t like her and after a while I begin to get frustrated and stick to coloring.
  • We have group activities and a nice man called Jimbeau teaches us about handling problems step-by-step.  It’s difficult mostly because some of the patients are older have been heavy users so they bumble about.  We get led back to the unit.
  • [JA] gets the remote and changes the channel to a music-rap station.  I bob my head to some Kendrick Lamarr and he and some people laugh at me but I don’t care.  I like it.  They give me the nickname “Baby.”  It’s a term of endearment believe it or not.
  • A woman enters the unit, she’s in her late sixties with grey hair and she looks really bad. She shuffles about.  Can’t talk.  A beadle of drool hangs from her lower lip.  A nurse has to accompany her everywhere.
  • [HA] offers me a magnate for my book.  It’s a little cross that seals on either side of the page.
  • I hear a loud scream coming from beghind the nurses’s desk.  [JA] informs me that it’s coming from Unit 500, the unit right next to ours.  That’s the unit for the psychotics.  The screaming gets a bit louder.  [JA] tells me a story about how he was in there briefly and there was one woman who would laugh while she drew circles on her face with a sharpie.
  • Visiting hours come.  My mom and my wife enter the room and I can’t believe how happy I am to see them.  I show them the pages I’m coloring.  I show them some of the people I’ve met.  Mostly though I sit with them both on either side of me, holding their hands.  I cry a little bit.  The hour passes by and I have to watch them leave.  The unit feels so small.
  • That afternoon we have “recreation” period.  The RN leads us down the hall to Jimbeaux.  We can read books that are mostly falling apart or else untouched.  There’s ping-pong.  Some of the older ladies paint crosses.  I ask for a pencil and some paper to draw.  I’m only allowed to have a single pencil.  If I need it sharpened I have to ask Jimbeaux.  The hour passes by so quickly and soon enough we’re back in the unit.
  • We’re told to pick out a movie.  [JA] and [KA] one of the new people wants to watch Grumpier Old Men and I’m down but [MI] asks for X-Men First Class.  I’ve never seen it before so I vote for that.  [JA] tells me he’s watched it almost every night since he’s been here.  The movie is great, but I realize now my memory of this film will be watching it in a mental hospital.
  • I take a shower.  Go to bed.  [RO] cries in his sleep before he starts to scream.

Aug 3

  • [HA] is sitting by herself reading her bible.  I sit next to her and start to read about how Nintendo began its launch of the Super Nintendo System.  [MI] sits next to us and [HA] sighs.  We listen patiently for a while but then I ask politely her if she could color or read a book since it’s so early.  She looks sad and apologizes and goes over to somebody else who’s just woken up.  [HA] and I agree she’s nice, just a bit much.  Everybody drinks coffee and waits for group therapy.  Somebody breaks out Uno.
  • [BA] falls in the early morning and we notice it before the nurses do.
  • My wife calls me and I talk to her.  I mostly just ask her questions.  She’s really quiet.  Tells me about the cats and her job.  After that Mom calls.  Tells me Dad’s doing okay, just worried.  My sister is worried sick about me and I feel like shit.  She says she’ll see me later.
  • It’s Saturday so the staff is short and there’s not a lot going on.  We watch T.V., mostly music, play Uno, wait for group therapy, read.
  • Group therapy happens and we’re told to talk about what we’re looking forward to.  The person leading the group is a different person.  They’re always a different therapist with a different exercise.  This woman has curly hair and wears a jungle print on her blouse.  I tell her I can’t wait to see my dogs and get back to my job.  [JA] says he can’t wait to get out.  When the therapist asks how he knows he’s going to be released [JA] mentions he’s been lying to the doctors.  He thought group was confidential.  When she tells him she’s required to tell the doctor [JA] freaks out.  After group he starts to cry.  We all try to comfort him but he gets up and leaves.  One of the psychotics from Unit 400 screams.  Then we hear a loud series oft huds from our wing and screams.  The RN’s go to the hallway where our bedrooms are.  [JA] comes back after a while.  He tried to kill himself.
  • We make small-talk about what would happen if the people from Unit 500 burst through the door.  We all suspect we’d be murdered horribly.
  • Visiting Hours happen.  My wife looks really sad.  Mom looks like she’s trying not to be.  My wife is quiet and I ask mom if she can give us a few minutes.  I ask my wife what’s wrong.  She tells me something, and at that moment our marriage is over, I just pretend like it isn’t. After that we sit together and talk until it’s time for her to leave.
  • That afternoon a new woman comes in, she’s my mom’s age and she’s a mother of a special-needs child.  She’s sweet and kicks my ass at Uno.
  • I notice that whenever I take a shower that, apart from the near lack of privacy and the freezing cold tiles, the big issue is the fact that the faucet runs out of hot water after a good five minutes, and water sprays over the toilet seat.  I use the toilet paper as best I can to clean it up but it doesn’t do any good.
  • Mom puts my sister and Dad on the phone when she calls me that night.  Dad is sweet and hides whatever fear he has.  Makes a lot of teasing jokes and says he loves me.  My sister is fun, but I can tell she’s crying and terrified.  I tell her some fun stories and she tells me about work.  I promise her we’ll play Borderlands soon.
  • My roommate is quiet for some of the night, but the bed still feels like concrete and the pillows still crinkle as I try to sleep.  I don’t dream, and I don’t cry either.

Aug 4

  • [HA] and I have begun a list of things we can’t wait to have back in our lives once we get out.  She misses butter knives for spreading jelly.  I miss my belt.  Real shoes would be nice too.  She misses her bra.  I miss my Keurig.  She misses her dad.  I miss my dog Huckleberry.  And I miss the wind.  And I miss the sound of trees.  And I miss feeling the real feeling of space.
  • There’s a new guy on the unit, his name is [LU] and he’s a body-builder and former prison security guard.  He tells a story about killing an inmate several times, goes into how he lost control and cut upon this guys guts and how he doesn’t regret it.
  • [JA] talks to some of the smokers about the nicotine patch they offer.  Nobody’s allowed to smoke, but smokers are allowed one piece of nicotine patch a day. [JA] tells the group that when it’s run it’s course you can rip it off, chew it, and it will release one last burst of nictine
  • The nurses inform me that I might not be discharged until Tuesday instead of Monday and that it might even be Wednesday.  I start to freak out.
  • This day is mostly reserved for Uno and we wind up playing a lot of it.  Since most of the doctors are gone and its Sunday there isn’t the same number of mandatory group therapy but there is a spiritual service for those who want it.  I don’t.  I just pull the Aliphant from the Tolkien coloring book and start to fill in the scales on its armor.
  • Visiting hour is better today.  Mom tells me about reading to her kids.  Edith talks about Huckleberry and Mortimer.  They both can’t wait for me to leave.  I show them my coloring.  When they leave [LU] asks if the younger woman was my wife.  When I say yes he says, “Damn, you’re a lucky man.”
  • I finish the book about Super Mario that night and move onto the Console Wars.  [MI] is driving everyone nuts.  [JA] starts to make a kind of mooing noise whenever she walks by. [HA] tells him to stop it.  I just stick to coloring.
  • [BA] isn’t getting better.  The spit from her lower lip is starting to stain her scrubs.  It’s always dangling from her lip and when she tries to talk it just wobbles.  She falls down again but this time her nurse is able to help her.
  • On the way back from dinner we run into the kids from Unit 300.  I didn’t know there were children housed in the facility.  One of them looks like a little version of me and he’s wearing a sick-ass Batman shirt.

Aug 5

  • The doctors inform me after group therapy that I’ll be leaving today.  I try not to get too hopeful.
  • There’s a fight right before group therapy.  [MI] was trying to read one of her poems to a patient and [NI] one of the older ladies didn’t like it and started yelling at her.  It spills over into group therapy and I sit between them while they argue.  Dr. [S] patiently calms them down and group resumes.
  • My mom and my wife arrive at vistor hours.  I’m actually getting excited and they’re visibaly happy too.  Before they leave I look up at the chalkboard and notice an empty space.  I grab a piece of pink chalk and reach up for it drawing a little cartoon head.  I make a word bubble and inside I write “Love yourself…Yo.”  I feel happy and satisfied with it and return to them both.  Mom tells me, while I was drawing, everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and watched me draw.
  • [HA] and [JA] offer me their contact information.  We’re not supposed to do this for valid psychological and health reasons but nobody really cares.  I lose it later and feel awful.
  • The doctors confirm that I’ll be released after lunch.  It’s actually in the afternoon.  I pack my paper-bag full of my possessions, sign the forms, and my wife and my mom lead me out of the unit.  Everybody waves goodbye and I wave back.
  • We go home, grab some food, and I feel the space of the world again.  I hug my pups, and my cats, and try to feel comfortable. I take an unique and lasting joy in being allowed to use a butter knife again.

This ends my narration.

As I said at the start, I wanted to write this down for myself first because over and over again since being discharged I’ve thought about my five days in the BHC.  There are some moments and details I left out of this record for the safety and privacy of others, and some details I have omitted because they are too painful to share.  Simply put I spent four days cut off from everyone and everything that made me happy and loved and appreciated.  My depression was a large factor in my ultimately entering the BHC, but I’ve realized more and more over the last few months that many of my choices, and some of the choices of those close to me,  are what pushed me into that space.  I don’t regret the experience, but I do wish there had been a better way.

I can’t promise my regular reader that I will continue writing, for my creative energies are shifting away from writing.  But, should anything change I will try to post again to this blog for it has been my space to communicate to people I have never met what I’ve thought, felt, believed, and understood and it has been, in spite of everything, a little space which has brought me happiness.

Thank you for your time dear reader, and know that you are loved.

Henry of Huntington and the Necessity of NOT Devouring Eels: The History of the English People 1000-1154


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Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks to the point of nausea as a child does not make one an expert on the Medieval Period.  This is because, if the reader took the time to notice it, Eglantine Price did not just use the spell of substitutiary locomotion to bring only suits of Medieval armor to life, she also brought to life the suits of Enlightenment era “red-coats,” the clothes of Reformation era gentlemen, three bagpipers, and what could have been a Norman era suit of armor which lead the entire army of ghost armor.  These facts are important damn it, but most people probably missed them because they were too busy either laughing at that one Nazi soldier who got his helmet crushed by that one knight’s foot, or else because they were, like me, contemplating the nightmares they were going to have after staring at the executioner for too long. 


Like, seriously, that dude was fucked-up.

The Medieval period was a time that I honestly believed I had a pretty solid conception of until recently.  I spent a significant amount of time during puberty either playing Stronghold Crusader and Rise of Nations both of which gave me a conception of the aesthetic of the times, or else I was watching Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings a film which, I had been told, was largely rooted in the Medieval period in Europe.  This last fact was untrue as the Lord of the Rings was in fact rooted more in Danish and ancient English mythology, but hindsight is always 20/20.  The reality of my understanding of Medieval Europe was that I didn’t actually have one.  I like many people fell for the aesthetic believing it to be the actual history of humanity during this period in Europe’s history to be nothing but rich and handsome men dressed up in armor sieging castles, fighting one another in tournaments, and rescuing fair damsels from tall towers.  That is of course when they weren’t contemplating the air-speed-velocity of unladened swallows.


Okay, not that, but you get what I mean.

Studying Medieval Europe in a graduate level history course has totally reworked my conception so that I’m having to confront the actual realities of the time period.  Medieval Europe was not just chivalry and feudalism (both words now largely absent from Medievalist vocabulary for the record), nor was it just armor and castles.  The goteborg-svenska_frimurare_lagret-medeltidens_kosmologi_och_varldsbild-100521323518_nperiod was in fact a fascinating time of change and growth of a new noble class of people’s who were trying to find some level of autonomy and government structure following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.  As much as this period has been written about as a “dark age,” there appears in the actual records and history a real attempt by the people of this age to find something new, or at least something stable so that life can resume its normality.

Which of course leads me to the bloody conflict of the Norman invasion of 1066, and the subsequent period of chaos and bloodshed. 


What?  It’s history.  Get used to it.

While reading book after book of secondary sources, aka works by historians and writers long after the events in question who try to create some narrative from the raw accounts and data, I was also assigned a primary document.  If the reader doesn’t remember college (you were going to be a dancer remember?  Diego thought you had a beautiful smile and you used to wear your hair in that bun?  God what happened to us?) A primary document is any work which later history is written on.  Some obvious Henry of Huntingtonexamples usually being The Histories by Herodotus, just about anything by Plutarch or Livy, or, in the case of this class, the work The History of the English People 1000-1154 by Henry of Huntington.

Henry’s work specifically tries to understand the conquest of England by the Norman people’s led by William the Conquerer and the resulting effects it had upon the local population.  I suppose I should preface the remainder of the review by noting that, spoiler alert, he wasn’t a terribly huge fan.  Except when he was.  It’s complicated.  We’ll get to it.  What’s important about Henry’s book is that while the events of his time period are “chronicled” far more often Henry’s work is about the implied morality of his subjects.

Diana Greenway, who translated and compiled the Oxford University Press edition I read, gives her reader and understanding of Henry’s unique history:

Henry is not a collector of facts for their own sake.  The idea of an objective study of history would have been quite alien to him and his contemporaries.  In his world, history was a literary genre, and the writing of history required imagination and Knight Bayeuxrhetorical skills.  He did not seek to be a realistic reporter, but rather to represent selected events in an overarching interpretation and in appropriate style.  He was following the ancient dictum that style should match content.  Like the best writers among his contemporaries, Henry had developed his literary style from his training in rhetoric.  (xxiv)

Henry of Huntington (heretofore referred to as HOH, JK, NVMJK, BYOB) was a man of real academic training and served as the Archdeacon of Huntington until his death in the 1150s.  His position explains better than anything his training and skill in rhetoric as it was far more likely for a privileged and high ranking religious official to have training in classical rhetoric  than a fieldworker who had to grow crops and try not to die from plague.  Reinforcing only moderately accurate stereotypes aside, Henry’s “history” is a fascinating document, at least to nerds like me, because it’s not really a true history, or at least not history by modern standards.Knights 11

One need only look at his description of William the Conquerer to observe Henry’s unique vision of the time:

William was the strongest of the dukes of Normandy.  He was the most powerful of the kings of the English.  He was more worthy of praise than any of his predecessors.  He was wise but cunning, wealthy but avaricious, glorious but hungry for fame.  He was humble towards God’s servants, but unyielding towards those who opposed him.  He placed earls and nobles in prison, deprived bishops and abbots of their possessions, did not spare his own brother, and there was no one who could oppose him.  He seized thousands in gold and silver, even from the mightiest.  He went beyond everyone else in castle-building.  If anyone caught a stag or a boar, he put out his eyes, and no one murmured.  (32)

Henry goes on just further down the page to note:

Alas! How sadly is it to be lamented that any man, since he is ashes and a worm, should be so haughty as to exalt himself alone above all men, forgetful of death.  (32)Knights 7

These two small quotes provide a pretty accurate presentation of reading Henry of Huntington’s history.  While there are lengthy passages of actual events and genealogies of the various Norman dukes, generals, kings, and even local leaders, these factual description are constantly checked by Henry’s seemingly unending moral assumptions.  William the Conquerer is presented as a “great” man, but then is simultaneously denigrated by a character failing, and even after a long back and forth Henry often reminds his reader of the inevitable mortality of the people he’s describing.

This most likely has more to do with Medieval Christian and cultural sensibilities, and it’s likely going to be difficult to a modern reader.  Before the Christian church became a bloated self-parody of would-be priests writing motivational self-help books, there was a real connection to the reality of death, and especially in early church there was a concern to emphasize the separation between the soul and the body.  The body was an ephemeral object rooted in sin and subject to whims and pleasures, tumblr_mbxzkz8iif1rw1tkoo1_500all of which served as a distraction from the more important reality of the afterlife.  Henry seems bent on always reminding his reader of the troubles of the body, especially as he tackles these “great men,” who lead the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons following the Battle of Hastings.

What’s wonderful, truly fantastic about Henry, is that his personality makes these reminders the stuff of greatness.  The best example of this is probably his description of the death of King Henry 1st.  He tells his reader:

The king was provoked by these irritations to anger and bitter ill-feeling, which were said by some to have been the origin of the chill in his bowels and later that cause of his death.  He had been hunting, and when he came back to Saint-Denis in the first of Lyons, he ate the flesh of the lampreys, which always made him ill, though he aways loved them.  When a doctor forbade him to eat the dish, the king did not take this salutary advice.  As it is said, ‘We always strive for what is Bee skullforbidden and long for what is refused.’ So this meal brought on a most destructive humor, and violently stimulated similar symptoms, producing a deadly chill in his aged body, and a sudden and extreme convulsion.  Against this, nature reacted by stirring up an acute fever to dissolve the inflammation with very heavy sweating.  But when all power of resistance failed, the great king departed on the first day of December [1135], when he had reigned for thirty-five years and three months (64).

I’ll admit without shame that reading this passage legitimately made me laugh out loud.  I recognize that death is not always a pleasant subject, nor is it supposed to be funny.  But damn it a king dying because his doctor told him not to eat lampreys is just so damn weird I couldn’t help it.

And Henry himself only added fuel to the fire a few pages on when he described the treatment of Henry’s body:

Meanwhile, the body of King Henry was still unburied in Normandy. […] The remainder of the corpse was cut all around with knives, sprinkled with a great deal Knight 4of salt, and wrapped in oxides, to stop the strong pervasive stench, which was already causing three deaths of those who watched over it.  It even killed the man who had been hired for a great sum of money to cut off the head with an axe and extract the stinking brain, although he had wrapped himself in linen cloths around his head: so he got no benefit from his fee.  He was the last of many who King Henry put to death.  (66)

My LOLing rose to a pretty high pitch and it only got worse as Henry only went further:

Although it had been filled with much salt and wrapped in many hides, a fearful black fluid ran down continuously, leaking through the hides, and was collected in vessels beneath the bier and cast away by attendants who grew faint with dread.  See, then, whoever you are reading this, how the corpse of a most mighty king, who’s crowned head had sparkled with gold and the finest jewels, like the splendor of God, whose hands had shone with sceptres, while the rest of his body had been dressed in gorgeous cloth of hold, and his mouth had always fed on the most delicious and choice foods, for whom everyone would rise to their feet, whom everyone feared: see what the body became, how fearfully it melted away, how wretchedly cast down it was!  (66-67).1

In my mind this passage could only ever be followed by an “oh, snap” or else a quickly timed, “damn son” but for my own part I could only laugh.

Henry’s history is, as has been stated already, not a history that modern readers would be terribly familiar with because there is no concern with objectivity.  As Greenway noted in her introduction Henry isn’t writing about the events of his time-period out of a concern for creating a lasting record, nor is he concerned with the minutiae of the actual runnings and doings of England from 1000-1154.  Henry isn’t concerned or troubled with these details because details aren’t important.  What is important is creating a document that translates a moral message to his reader.

But on the note of readers mine interjects.  Well so what?  This book sounds like a boring,  sanctimonious, and “holier-than-thou” collection of clap-trap that I don’t have time for.  If I wanna read abut the Medieval period I want to know about the actual details of the time, not just the opinion of one privileged man who’s not even telling me about any of the cool battles and stuff.  Why should I care about Henry of Huntington.

Knight 6History is, like any and all of the studies of humanities, largely subjective.  Each reader and writer is going to bring their own concerns, experiences, and biases to a work and as they go about trying to understand the significance of a work they’re going to find their own narratives and relevance.  In response to my reader then, if they wish to understand the details of the Battle of Hastings, or the types of metal used in making swords and flails, or the battle strategies employed by great generals then they’re very unlikely to find much of anything in Henry’s History.  THis is just reality, and so if that’s what they’re really after they’ll have to find another work to appreciate.

But Henry’s History is important for the way it reveals the feeling of the English people from the years of 1000-1154, or at the very least, one English person’s perception.  And while this perception is not objective in any real way, it does at least give historians of today something to work with.  Records from this time period are scarce and so much of the work of a Medieval historian is often speculation coupled with real research.  The History of the English People 1000-1154 is not an objective record, but it does possess enough detail and bias to give historians some idea of what the feeling of this time period was.  The Norman conquest and establishment was a time of chaos and uncertainty, and while there were some lords who established power and brought relative peace, there were a great many lords who were, according to Henry, just pathetic or ridiculous.Knight

In one particular passage he gives his reader his honest sentiment:

The count of Aumale [William le Gros] appears, a man who is remarkably consistent in wrong-doing, swift to enlarge it, intransigent over giving up, because of whose intolerable filthiness his wife left him and became a fugitive.  That earl appears who stole the said count’s wife, a manifest adulterer and distinguished lecher, a faithful follower of Bacchis, though unacquainted with Mars, smelling of wine, unaccustomed to warfare.  Simon [of Senlis], earl of Northampton, appears, whose action is only talk, whose gift is mere promise: he talks as if he has acted and promises as if he had given.  But up to now I have had to be silent on the subject of the fugitive William of Ypres.  For words have not yet been invented which can properly describe the extent and ramifications of his treacheries, the filth and horror of his obscenities.  There also appear nobles of the same character as their king, practiced in robbery, defiled with pillage, grown fat on murder, and lastly, every one of them tainted with perjury.  (77).Knights 10

This passage reveals a great deal, the first being that if a man wants to keep a woman in his life he’s going to have to bath every now and then.  I wish I had processed that as a teenager but, such is life.  But this passage also offers the reader a glimpse into the perception of the nobility of this period and how many men only held the title of “noble” as a title.  Henry’s History is an attempt to understand the morality of these men, and while it may not seem terribly important, that concern with morality is more than just his religious bent and bias.  The Norman conquest established a new political order on the territory of England, and the men who established it allowed their new power to become an excuse for depravity and vice.

And once again, I must think of the Great Philosopher Dennis who said it best:Dennis

Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

William the Conquerer ultimately invaded England not because some watery tart threw a sword at him, but because he felt he possessed a legitimate claim to the region of England, and that perception altered the course of history.  Henry’s record of the deeds and moral character of his followers and successors attempts to understand the reverberations of that perception and decision.  England became a realm of uncertainty before order steadily began to settle in, and even then the history of England would become one of conflict between English monarchs and French aristocracy who felt their own claims to the throne were valid and justified.

Henry’s History of the English People is preoccupied with morality because he sees the violence and chaos and the distraction it has from the larger concern of mortality which ultimately arrives at near the end of his short work:Knight 2

But you ask why, at the end, after the dead, I speak of the living as also having come to nothing.  The reason is this.  Just as the dead have come to nothing, so the living will soon come to it—indeed, I may say, with some freedom, that they have already done so.  For, as Cicero says, what is called ‘life is death.’ It follows that to begin life is to begin death.  (109).

There is in this life, a struggle to find the difference between perception and actual cold fact.  Looking at my own life I realize I spent a large amount of time believing a certain set of realities that weren’t actually true.  The Medieval period wasn’t composed of nothing but chivalry, people dying of plague, fair damsels waiting in towers for knights in shining armor (probably spending most of their time jilling off because, I mean, why not and what else ya gonna do), and the movies and video-games that reinforced this world-view didn’t help. But in their own way they at least set a foundation of understanding that would be later corrected.Henry of Huntington

Looking at Henry’s History this feels terribly relevant.

The History of the English People 1000-1154 is not a perfect, or at least objective record of the actions of human beings, but it at least set something into the record.  History is not always about reporting just the facts or events and times, it’s also about capturing the feeling of an age and understanding the moods and ideas of the people who lived during that time.  Henry of Huntington saw the chaos, violence, and corruption of the early new order and was disgusted and so his effort was to write a moral and literary record about the men of his age who were allowing their vices to distract them from their Christian and political responsibilities.  And those of us who read his prose long after the man himself set his ink to page are better for having such a record.

If nothing else, Henry’s reminded us that lampreys are just gross and should never eaten under any circumstances.  I don’t really feel like that was a lesson that should ever have been needed to have been written down, but thanks to King Henry 1st we at least have it recorded for posterity.




*Writer’s Note*

All quotes cited from The History of the English People 1000-1154 were quoted from the paperback Oxford University Press edition.

What’s Up in the Air with Anomolisa?—Loneliness, Hotel Rooms, And Trying to Find “Someone Else”


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I’ve never been in a hotel room and not been either uncomfortable or extremely horny.  One probably feeds the other I suppose, but there’s something about the space that just inspires either a psychological discomfort, or else a biological surge to procreate.  The only thing I can figure to explain this reaction is that, because the room is so empty and dead while also trying to be inviting, my brain isn’t sure whether to be content or miserable.  And, in my defense, I don’t believe that this ambiguity of reaction is necessarily a personal idiosyncrasy.

That’s my fancy-pants way of saying, “I ain’t the only one.”

Anomalisa 4

I’ve noted several times in these essays that working at the library has it’s joys and pitfalls, the joys outnumbering the unpleasantness (an old lady calling you an asshole over the phone just because you don’t have a phone number on hand being one of them).  While helping kids find books that they’re looking for is without doubt my favorite part of the job, a close fucking second is discovering all the different books and DVDs that find their way to the desk or the tables.  These gems, often left on a chair, or clumsily hidden on the top of the shelf, are often pithy self-help books or else nauseating “history” books about alien influence on ancient architecture.  But sometimes a book or movie comes down the pike that just grabs you. Anomalisa Cover

Looking at the DVD shelf while Circulation was busy helping patrons I spotted a DVD on the shelf that grabbed me.  The cover was a man looking into a fog-covered mirror he had partially wiped clean and he was looking put-out and miserable.  The man himself was unique, because he was clearly not human at all, but a doll of a middle-aged man that resembled the art style of a show I had begun watching recently on Adult Swim entitled The Shivering Truth.  It was a Nightmare-Surreal-Horror show vaguely reminiscent of Twilight Zone without the linear narrative arc, but no matter how many times the show left me puzzled, and in fact often looking at my wife to ask, “what the fuck just happened?” I was still impressed with the animation.

Anomalisa then seemed to be a feature film in the same vein, and so on impulse I picked it up, watching it before the Colette DVD I got the day before.  I’m sorry Keira Knightly.


I did not see Anomalisa coming.  I mean that from the sincerest part of me as I write this.  It seemed at first like the film would be just a movie about alienation and isolation in the new global economy and the plight of a lonely businessman as he dwells on his life in his hotel room.  I worried that that would be the conflict because, for whatever reason, that’s always the freaking conflict.  The hotel room has become, in many works, the empty void where characters find themselves the space to address the problems and indulge in their darkest moods much to the chagrin of the audience who could have gone to see Fun Home but Sharen told us Shawn was in this show and we’re trying to get out more after we found out that Greg was cheating on us with that hussey from the Grocery store, the one with highlights and dimples and now we’re stuck in a movie theater wondering why we should care about yet another business yuppie wearing a suit, hiring a hooker, and talking to his reflection who of course is talking back.

Do we sound bitter?  Because we are.

But Anomalisa didn’t pursue this trope because, while the film was about a man with a growing sense of isolation, his loneliness became something far more interesting.  The film is produced using stop-motion animation, the same kind of animation employed in movies and shows like Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs, and of course, Robot Chicken.  It’s a medium and artistic structure that hasn’t been employed often enough to become passé, but it has often been regulated either to children’s entertainment, or in the case of my last example, adult comedies centered around corruption of nostalgia and crotch-shot humor.  Humor, for the record, that I unapologetically enjoy.   The Crooked-Cop-Godzilla sketch is gold and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

Robot Chicken Godzilla Cop

Anomalisa was unique because it was the first “realistic” stop motion film I had ever seen before.

The plot follows two days of the protagonist Michael Stone, a successful author who’s written a book about customer service which has revolutionized many companies and industries and so he’s been invited to give a speech about the topic.  While he’s there he spends time in his hotel room, smokes a few cigarettes, watches a man jerk off in his office across the street, and then calls up a woman who he used to be involved with romantically which ends terribly before he finds himself once again back in his hotel room where he hears the voice of “someone else.”Anomalisa 7

This wouldn’t be terribly interesting were it not for the fact that the voice-over cast is contained only of three people: David Thewlis (who will always remain Professor Lupin to me), Jennifer Jason Leigh, and then Tom Noonan in the role of, literally, Everyone Else.  This didn’t make much sense to me at the start of the movie as everyone was beginning to sound the same, the film itself opening with this brief exchange:

Everyone else: [Passenger sitting next to Michael] Sorry, I-I grabbed your hand.

Michael Stone: It’s okay.

Everyone else: [Passenger sitting next to Michael] It’s a reflex. I’m usually sitting next to my wife.

[pause]Anomalisa 3

Everyone else: But I don’t like to fly.

Michael Stone: I said it’s okay.


Michael Stone: You can let go now though.

The effect of “everyone else” having the same voice at times falls flat, but as the film progresses and the reader is able to discover fairly quickly that Michael is an asshole of the most supreme nature, this effect is important because it reveals his character.  Michael Stone is a man who is living largely in a haze where he cannot connect with other people in anyway whatsoever, to the point, that the people around him just disappear into these robots, these empty souls who all say the same thing and sound the same.  This creates an opportunity for a lot of play with the animation, which is regularly obvious as the figures have outlines on their faces where Anomalisathe dolls are changed to show movement, at one Michael’s face literally coming off of his skull during one of the most disturbing dream sequences I’ve ever seen in my life.

The film is built around Michael falling more and more into his isolation until he hears a voice, a voice that is someone else.  It belongs to a young woman who’s come to hear him talk and Michael begins to woo her before actually sleeping with her.  I wish I could offer a longer exchange of dialogue but alas IMDb who provides me with these quotes only has a paltry offering.  Michael’s interest in this woman is observed clearly in this brief exchange:

[From trailer]

Michael Stone: [to Lisa] I think you’re extraordinary.

Lisa: Why?

Michael Stone: I don’t know yet. It’s just obvious to me that you are.

And while I despise including videos in essays I did manage to find this brief clip which is arguably one of the most beautiful and heart-breaking moment in the film:

Ultimately even Lisa disappears into the haze of “everyone else,” and Michael’s isolation finally crashes down on top of him during his speech which, truly, the stuff of greatness.

Michael Stone: Always remember the customer is an individual. Just like you. Each person you speak to has had a day. Some of the days have been good, some bad, but they’ve all had one. Each person you speak to has had a childhood. Each has a body. Each body has aches. What is it to be human? What is it to ache? What is it to be alive?

[scoffs]Anomalisa 2

Michael Stone: I don’t know. What is it to ache? I don’t know. What is it to be alive? I don’t know… Uh, yes. “How do I talk to a customer?” How do I talk to a customer? These are the important questions for a customer service representative. What do I say? Do I smile while I’m on the phone? Well, they can tell, if you’re smiling, even if they can’t see you. Did you know that? Try it as an experiment on the phone with a friend. Try it. Go ahead. Watch.

[turns around]

Michael Stone: I’m lost.

[chuckles and turns back around]

Michael Stone: See I was smiling when I said that? I’ve lost my love. She’s an unmoored ship and she’s drifting off to sea. I have no one to talk to. I have no one to talk to. I have no one to talk to. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to burden you with that, I just don’t know what else to do because I have no one to talk to… Be friendly to the customer. Think of the customer as a friend…


Anomalisa FacesAt this point my contester interrupts.  So what?  So what about a weird little animated film by the guy who made Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind and Being John Malkovich?  Why should I care about somebody else’s individual loneliness when it’s obvious that Michael is a dick and a self-obsessed jerk?  I don’t want to watch an animated movie about egomaniacs?  I want to watch something I would enjoy!

This is a fair point, and in response to the last point my only argument would be: then don’t watch it.  We all have to gravitate to media which reflects our own desires and curiosities and so if a film isn’t your cup of tea don’t waste your time on it.  The only other response I have however is that if you do decide to take this course, you’re missing out on a wonderful film.  Anomalisa is a movie which explores isolation in a profound and unique way, and put aside the animation itself, by the end of this film I was left saddened that someone like Michael existed and couldn’t see past his own ego.

Though perhaps there was also some identification with another character: Ryan Bingham from Up in the Air. Up in the Air Ryan

Despite having read the original novel and felt largely apathetic to it, the film remains one of my favorite movies about the current economic and inter-personal landscape largely because the director, Jason Reitman, who also directed Juno, always manages to capture the beautiful and awkward quality of humanity.

Up in the Air is about Tyan Bingham, a professional contract worker who fires individuals for corporations who would rather outsource this work to spare employee emotions.  The company he works for elects to change the system and begin firing employees over the internet, which Ryan disagrees with, largely because he wants to make his goal of earning a million frequent flyer miles which would lift him into the “lifetime executive status.”  This goal is also part of his desire to continue a relationship with a woman he met in a hotel bar who is, in her own words, “yourself, only with a vagina.”Up in the Air

Up in the Air lacks the level of despair that Anomalisa does, but it is still an interesting meditation on a professional individual dealing with loneliness and isolation.  Ryan often plays or taunts his coworker Natalie Keener as they travel the country together, one scene probably summing it up best:

Ryan Bingham: [on the docks in Miami] You know that moment when you look into somebody’s eyes and you can feel them staring into your soul and the whole world goes quiet just for a second?

Natalie Keener: Yes.

Ryan Bingham: [shrugs] Right. Well, I don’t.

Natalie Keener: you’re an asshole.

The tone of Up in the Air lends well to this nature of ribbing as Ryan constantly and playful throws out his isolation as something to laugh at rather than to be curious about or to pity him for.  In fact his character his largely built around this self-imposed isolation.  He even gives public speeches about this lifestyle:

Ryan Bingham: [giving a motivational speech] How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel ’em? Now I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things. The things on shelves and in Up in the Air 4drawers, the knick-knacks, the collectibles. Feel the weight as that adds up. Then you start adding larger stuff, clothes, table-top appliances, lamps, linens, your TV. The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. And you go bigger. Your couch, bed, your kitchen table. Stuff it all in there. Your car, get it in there. Your home, whether it’s a studio apartment or a two bedroom house. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now try to walk. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it? This is what we do to ourselves on a daily basis. We weigh ourselves down until we can’t even move. And make no mistake, moving is living. Now, I’m gonna set that backpack on fire. What do you want to take out of it? What do you want to take out of it? Photos? Photos are for people who can’t remember. Drink some ginkgo and let the photos burn. In fact, let everything burn and imagine waking up tomorrow with nothing. It’s kind of exhilarating, isn’t it? Now, this is gonna be a little difficult, so stay with me. You have a new backpack. Only this time, I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office, and then you move into the people that you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, your brothers, your sisters, your parents and finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend or your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack. And don’t worry. I’m not gonna ask you to light it on fire. Feel the weight of that bag. Make no mistake – your relationships are the heaviest Up in the Air 3components in your life. Do you feel the straps cutting into your shoulders? All those negotiations and arguments, and secrets and compromises. You don’t need to carry all that weight. Why don’t you set that bag down? Some animals were meant to carry each other, to live symbiotically for a lifetime – star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not those animals. The slower we move, the faster we die. We are not swans. We’re sharks.

Looking at Up in the Air not long after watching Anomalisa was an opportunity to reflect a little on the Information Age, Post-modernism (if that’s even still a thing), and then simply isolation period.  I’ve noticed more and more lately what inter-personal fullsizeoutput_2456relationships I’ve developed and cultivated in my life, and I’ve noticed as well that, despite the fact that I have a great number of associations and acquaintances, I really don’t have that many close friends, and that’s largely been by design.  A great number of people can say that they know me, and that they’ve had coffee with me, but few of them would probably be able to say that they really know me, largely because, I avoid people.  It’s not anything malevolent on my part I just usually prefer the company of my cats, my pups, my wife, and my books.  There is some aspect of getting older that has played a part in this, but even as a kid I considered myself a lonely person.

So much so that a coworker recently christened me as “samishigariyasan” a Japanese word that literally translates to: “one who often gets or becomes lonely.”  When she called me this (believe it or not in a positive way) I just sort of “clicked” because it was a moment where I thought, “yes, exactly, that’s absolutely me.”

I’m a lonely person and that’s largely because I prefer to be alone more often than with Lost_man_by_MichelRajkovicother people, a condition that seems, as I observe and consume more and more media, not terribly uncommon.  As humanity develops more and more technologically and communication strategies and structures change so quickly, the way to find another person is changing at the same rate.  More and more it seems clear that there’s a message in the art that human beings are trying to find another in these purely professional landscapes of hotel rooms, conferences, airplanes, taxi-cabs, and hotel bars.  Looking at Ryan Bingham again that message seems terribly relevant as he talks to Alex about his “backpack” speech:

Alex Goran: Back home I don’t get to act the way I do.

Ryan Bingham: That’s why I don’t go back home.

Alex Goran: I know, you’re so cool Mr. “empty back pack”

Ryan Bingham: You know about my back pack?Up in the Air 2

Alex Goran: I Googled you.

Ryan Bingham: You did?

Alex Goran: It’s what us modern girls do when we have a crush.

Ryan Bingham: Does it bother you?

Alex Goran: It depends, is the bag empty because you hate people or you hate the baggage they come with?

Ryan Bingham: I don’t hate people, I’m not exactly a hermit.

Alex Goran: You don’t want to be tied down? Or the whole responsibility thing?

Ryan Bingham: I don’t know what originally sparked the back pack, I probably needed to be alone recently. I’ve been thinking about emptying the back pack or put everything back in it.

Anomalisa and Up in the Air are both films which explore the alienation of affection in the professional landscape that dominates so much of human experience.  They’re films about lonely men who are trying desperately to find some level of happiness in a world Up in the Air 8of change and yet seemingly bland uniformity.  Michael has pushed to a point where he cannot even recognize other people as anything other than robots, while Ryan only sees relationships as an impediment to success.  These stories reveal a great deal about the current landscape of a significant number of human beings who are simply trying to do their jobs and live their lives as best they can.

Loneliness is never going to go away.  It’s the way we as individuals combat our loneliness that will reveal the nature of our character.  Looking at myself I may often be a lonely person, but I have my pets, and I have my stacks of books about ancient Greece, and I have a keurig which helps me drink my own weight in coffee.  It may not be the strategy that works for everyone, but at least it’s not cheating on my spouse in a hotel room before apathetically buying my child a sex-toy because I can’t be bothered  to take an interest in my child’s life.

Anomalisa Hand



*Writer’s Note*

All quotes cited from Anomalisa and Up in the Air were provided by IMDb.com.


**Writer’s Note**

I’ve provided a few links below to videos about the production and analysis of the film Anomalisa.  I’d highly encourage them if the reader would like to know more about this incredible film.






***Writer’s Note***

Let the record reflect that I wrote an entire article about the movie Up In the Air without once bringing attention to the fact that I have an unashamed crush on Anna Kendrick and that…that…

Up in the Air 5

Sigh…one day I will have self-control and dignity, but until then I remain a fool.

Being Strong of Body Brave and Noble…And SUPER Complicated: Bouchard and Chivalry and Incorrect History


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Knight 2

Perception is a tricky damn thing, and can lead you to ignore obvious facts. 

For example it is a plain fact that Assassin’s Creed Unity was just unwarranted garbage, whereas Assassin’s Creed Revelations was arguably one of the finest ends of any trilogy Assassins-Creed-RevelationsI’ve ever read, watched or played.  Ezio Auditore da Firenze is without doubt one of the most interesting and complex characters I’ve ever encountered in the wide varieties of media I consume and yet, for some reason, Assassin’s Creed Revelations is consistently ignored or else disparaged.  This makes no sense to me since Revelations contains Suleiman the Magnificent, fights with actual janissaries, and the Hagia Sophia, and Unity literally, didn’t, work.  In the latter game’s defense, it did at least throw in an interesting segment where you played during the final dissolution of the Templar order of knights, but one gold flake on a mountain of turds does not a masterpiece make.

This is my perception, not simply because it’s an opinion I’ve formulated after directly playing this games and forming an opinion about them, but also because I’ve Strong of Bodyencountered other people who share this opinion and that collected sentiment builds towards larger understanding of the video-game series overall. 

And I recognize that none of this really seems to have much relevance to Constance Brittain Bouchard’s academic book Strong of Body, Brave, and Noble: chivalry & Society in Medieval France, but come on dear reader did you really expect me not to take a pot-shot at Assassin’s Creed Unity?  I mean, Ubisoft was just asking for it.  Moving on.

Hopping back into appreciating history, or, far more accurately, continuing my love of history just with more passion, direction, and book purchases, has been delightful and eye-opening at the same time.  While my passion is more geared towards Ancient Greece, I’ve been reading more and more materials about Medieval Europe.  This is largely because I’m auditing a graduate level history course at my alma mater, and, since starting it, my perceptions of the Medieval Period in Europe have undergone a pronounced transformation.  Bouchard’s book is partially responsible. Condstance Brittain Bouchard

Strong of Body Brave and Noble is a book that, while it is most definitely academic, is still pretty accessible to the common reader, or at least a semi-informed reader who has an interest in the period.  Though before I say anything else it is important to recognize that Bouchard’s book is not so much a history of Medieval France, but rather a history of the history of Medieval France.  I know that sounds odd, but stay with me.  Bouchard’s book is about understand the conversations and pedagogy which has defined the history of the Medieval period, specifically France, and in the first pages of her introduction she lays out a pretty clear thesis:

In this study of the nobility in high Medieval France I hope to tie together many of these recent findings (including some of my own work) and to provide an introduction to medieval nobility and chivalry in a form accessible both to scholars and to students of medieval history and literature.  (x).

And she continues on the next page saying:Knight 6

Because this book is meant to be an introduction, I have for the most part done no more than suggest the complex historiographical debates that swirl around many of the topics I am addressing.  I have made no attempt to be exhaustive in citing extensive scholarly literature.  (xi).

I recognize this quote doesn’t seem to have a lot of dynamism to it, but it’s important moving forward for my reader to understand exactly what Bouchard is trying to accomplish.   When talking about this book recently in class many complained that Bouchard frequently didn’t dig into much of the actual detail of the Medieval structures of society as much as they would have liked.  Another student, and myself if I can have a moment of heroism, did our best to argue that that really wasn’t a weakness at all.  Bouchard said in her introduction that she wasn’t trying do anything like that, and that instead she wanted to discuss the development of the nobility in France, while focusing on the larger conversation itself.

Throughout her book Bouchard touches upon aspects of Medieval society while trying to create an introduction to the period and addressing persistent problems in language.  Perhaps the best example of this is the problem of the word “feudalism.”

Bouchard notes the issue at the beginning of chapter two when she says:

Recently a great deal of scholarly effort has gone into disproving certain very persistent myths about medieval social structures, which continue to appear everywhere from high school textbooks to Time magazine to scholarly monographs by those whose own areas of specialization is not medieval social history.  It seems wise, in view of this persistence, to begin by saying what medieval society was not.  Most important, it was not neatly divided into “three orders,” however appealing it may be to visualize a society made up of praying churchmen, fighting warriors, and working workers.  (28).Knights 7

This argument is further clarified a few pages over when she notes:

The word “feudalism” might at first glance appear valid, inasmuch as it comes from a genuine medieval Latin word, feud.  A feud, usually translated as “fief,” was a piece of property which one aristocrat, called the vassal, held for his lifetime from another, his lord, in return for his loyal support.  Fiefs were given, in return for fidelity, not for a monetary rent, and fief holding involved only the aristocracy, not the great mass of society.  (35)

And, look, I know it’s probably derailing the conversation by doing this, but immediately upon finishing this quote I feel compelled to provide a link to this video which perfectly seems to manifest and deconstruct the perception of feudalism in Medieval society:


While the matter of divine providence and strange women lying in ponds is a matter for another essay, Bouchard’s previous quote is important because it’s most likely the monty-python-holy-grailperception that many casual readers have experienced.  Part of the annoying realities of grade school education, and sometimes even college educations lets be real, is that too often educators have to follow what has come before rather than what is constantly being discussed and debated.  Teachers have hard jobs, especially in the United States where they’re labeled as “losers and whiners” rather than the people who are shaping the minds of the next generation, and rather than provide them with the money and training they need to do their jobs, teachers often have to acquire a general knowledge and hop into the profession before they time out for getting a good pension.

This is just my way of saying one of the problems of the real history of Medieval Europe is that too often teachers provide their students with a psuedo-pseudo-history that has been repeated over and over despite the steadily growing libraries of scholars and Kingdom 3historians who have come to the realization that feudalism, as a concept, is rather misguided and largely incorrect.

Bouchard points this out when she notes:

But over the last three centuries the word has been loaded with a multitude of other meanings.  Scholars and the popular press alike have used the term in so many different ways—many of them mutually exclusive and even contradictory—that it is often impossible to carry out a productive discussion about the various institutions that might be described as “feudalism.”  Everyone who uses the term seems to have his or her own definition.  (35).

Bouchard then later says plainly that most Medieval European scholars have largely abandoned the term when writing about the period.  And at this point Bouchard more or less blew my mind.SwordintheStonePoster

I noted to my reader in a previous essay about The Knight in History by Frances Gies, that growing up one of my favorite films was The Sword in the Stone.  Whether it was Merlin defeated Mad Madam Mim by turning into a germ, Archimedes saving Wart from a giant gar in the moat, or Arthur being chased by the obviously horny red-headed squirrel the film was simply magical but it was the knights that made me fall in love wit the film.  The Sword in the Stone established the foundation for a love of the Medieval period and so I began to ingest books and media which reinforced that opinion, but, with the exception of Gies’s book, I didn’t read into the actual history of the period and in fact I only took one college level course over it.

I didn’t challenge my knowledge or what I thought I knew about Medieval Europe.  Instead I let myself grow comfortable into the cartoon image because that was far more fun.

There’s a great deal more in Bouchard’s book that’s worth exploring as her primary focusKnights 9 is the misconceptions of the Medieval period and the aristocracy.  Her arguments explore the misconceptions of Feudalism, the development of Chivalry and the troublesome nature of that word as well, the role and function of Knights in Medieval society, Noble families, and finally the function and role of the church.  Each of these points are written about effectively and by the end I head learned more about the period, but I wanted to focus on the trouble of Feudalism largely because it’s in this chapter and section that Bouchard feels the most passionate.

In fact to be honest by the end of the book I feel that she had lost a certain energy.  It’s not that the final chapters aren’t good, anything but.  It’s just that she is clearly far more invested in these early chapters where she’s clearing up the misconceptions of Medieval Europe, so it seemed best to focus my attention there.  The development of a class of nobility was a developing system, and by focusing on the trappings of the Medieval period which have become cultural icons and cartoons rather than realistic structures, the real story of the Medieval period has largely been lost beneath the colorful heralds and glittery armor-clad knights in courtly love dramas.Kingdom 6

Bouchard notes this herself when she elaborates a point made about the institution of chivalry:

An understanding of twelfth-century Chivalry is made substantially simpler when one realizes that there was no single standard (or “code”) which people of the time always meant then they referred to chivalrous (or courteous) behavior, and that modern scholars need not, therefore, seek a comprehensive definition.  For a long time scholars assumed that in the twelfth century—if not indeed in the eleventh—there was a unitary knightly class, composed both of the descendants of the serving knights of the year 1000 and of the descendants of the great nobles who had ruled western Europe for centuries, and Knights 11that they shared a single code of conduct called chivalry.  As the concept of a unitary knightly class has been rejected, however, so has the need to discover some monolithic ideal with clear rules that all knights and nobles followed.  (104).

Before I can continue my contester interrupts.  Well so what?  We talked about this already: there’s a lot of bullshit about the Medieval Period in Europe and a lot of people don’t know what actually happened during the period.  But who cares?  I go years without ever even thinking about the Medieval period in Europe, so what relevance is a book like Strong of Body Brave and Noble have for me?

The plainest answer is very likely none at all.  If the reader does not give any shits about the Medieval Period in Europe then this book is almost definitely not going to interest them in any way whatsoever.  That’s just honesty. 

But even if the reader gives zero shits, they should at least consider the idea behind this book, and the implications it has for education and educators.  While digging into theRoyal 12 F.XIII, f.42v development of a Noble class of people’s in France during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Bouchard is able to address the issue that often narratives about a time period take hold in people’s mind and remain there despite the evidence to the contrary. 

Human beings, as I’ve noted over and over again in these essays, are ego-driven creatures who like narratives.  That’s largely because narratives are easy to digest and use to assume meaning.  The narratives of the American Civil War as a states rights rather than slavery issue is an easy narrative to digest because it assumes less responsibility.  The narrative that the founding fathers of the United States believed in Freedom for all is an easy narrative to digest because recognizing that several of them were unapologetic slave-holders makes things complicated.  The story that Columbus “discovered” the American continents is an easy narrative because trying to explain that Vikings and “North-men” had discovered the continents 500 years earlier, and that even Africans and Chinese sailors were said to have discovered the regions even before that, is far more complicated and doesn’t rhyme with “ocean-blue.”  These are some of the more potent examples that are used in historical discussions, and there are plenty more I could supply but each reader probably has their own narratives that they can imagine or remember that lends weight to the issue.

The collapse of the Roman Empire and the development of new bodies of government and societal structures are complicated and nuanced narratives, and the fact of the matter is most people simply don’t have time, or else they do not perceive that they have Knight Bayeuxthe time.  And so pretty stories about knights and princesses and chivalry and feudalism provide people and educators a quick easy story to peddle to children while they’re trying to instill basic civic virtues and real-world knowledge.  The disservice is not simply to the history but also to the larger structure of education.

Easy narratives are easy to tell and digest.  Bouchard’s book is relevant then because it offers the chance to show the reader that the details are far more nuanced, and therefore more interesting to learn about.  History, as a discourse, works when people are willing and able to use the facts and records to challenge established ideas and write new stories that are far more accurate to the reader.

Knights of the eleventh-century may not always have been “Chivalrous” men clad in armor, composed entirely of virtue, but many of them were probably at least good men trying to find their way in this new world and order.  It’s far more complicated story, but one that’s definitely worth telling nonetheless.



*Writer’s Note*

All quotes cited from Strong of Body Brave & Noble: Chivalry & Society in Medieval France were quoted from the paperback Cornell University Press edition.



**Writer’s Quote**

In case the reader is interested I’ve provided below a few links related to Bouchard and her work.  The first is a pdf of her professional CV, followed by links to her books.  I would have provided a few reviews of the book itself, however as this book is an academic work most reviews available are going to be found behind paywalls in databases I don’t have access to.  At some point I intend to write an essay and do a podcast about my personal opinion about this.  The short version is that while I understand that academic periodicals do cost a great amount to operate and publish, these paywalls do a disservice to humanity at large because there are a great number of people who are interested in reading the arguments of scholars and academics to deepen their understanding of certain issues, or else because they’re independent researchers who want, and need to know what the current research about their topics are.  The struggle is real people.

Nevertheless, hope you enjoy:




***Writer’s Note***


The above photograph doesn’t really have anything to do with Bouchard’s book, or Chivalry, or Medieval Europe.  But when I typed the word “knight” into my media library there were several photos of Kiera Knightly and I thought to myself: “Sure, why not?”  SO please enjoy this lovely image of a lovely and talented actress who I think is awesome.



****Writer’s Note****

I actually review this book on my podcast “Jammer Talks About” which can be found on Soundcloud.  You can go to the “Jammer Podcasts” page at the top of the screen, or follow the link below to listen in:

Righteous Anger, Royals with Cheese, and Decent Folk: Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction


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A McDonald's Big Mac and French Fries ar

I mean, I would argue that the film is enough to make the case for the United States to start using the metric system.  It would make going through a drive-through a lot more enjoyable, and would also give one a sense of class.  Ordering a quarter-pounder with cheese sounds like I’m buying auto-parts or tanks of oil rather than a delicious cheeseburger.  Whereas if I had to say I’d like a Royal with cheese?  Come on America, it’s time.  We can join the rest of the world already, and maybe at the same time we’re finally getting rid of day-light savings time?

I can dream.

Pulp-Fiction1I write a lot on this blog about moments in my life that were moments of transitions, or else when I encountered a work of art which profoundly altered the course of my life.  I recognize that this can be a bit frustrating for the reader who probably sees me now as a kind of Polly-Anna who can’t see a butterfly without undergoing a kind of spiritual and intellectual Eureaka moment.  But I am honest, or at least try to be honest, when I write about the films and books and graphic novels that I read and enjoy whenever I write these essays and so I hope my reader believes me when I say that no film has ever so impacted my life as much as Pulp Fiction.

Along with Stephen King’s The Green Mile, the film was “given” to me by my sophomore high school English teacher Miss Tucker who told me I should see the film when I got the chance.  The two of us would often talk before class about literature, art, film, and what we thought about such works. I admit completely without shame that I had a small “intellectual” crush on the woman, she was just really wise and smart and funny and I loved her.  The conversations often dealt with Stephen King, and while I would gush about his prose, and too often about the violence in his works, she would ask me what I thought about the work as a whole and what I felt he was trying to do with the work.  And somewhere, somewhere in all this dialogue, she told me that I needed to see a film entitled Pulp Fiction.  I wrote the title down and hit my local Hastings grabbing up the film and watching it.

My first impression was the basement scene.  Because, well, it’s the basement scene.  But after that I found other elements of the film to appreciate.

Pulp Fiction Basement

Pulp Fiction didn’t just take over my life, it totally consumed me, and so when my friend TJ was looking for films for the Movie-Group program at the library where we both work I suggested Pulp Fiction without hesitation.  He said yes, and in April of this year I finally got to watch Pulp Fiction in an actual movie theater, though I suppose the word “watch” is a misnomer as I spent most of my time in the back row mouthing along to virtually every line of dialogue.

I’ve tried so many times to write about Pulp Fiction for this blog and every one of my efforts have ended either in disaster or abandonment.  My problem stems from the fact that, if it hasn’t been made clear, I really love this film and there’s nothing more 149113640-Pulp_Fiction_-_Shot_Marvin_in_the_face.gifobnoxious than listening to someone prattle endlessly on about why something is awesome.  Passion, and conviction of passion is one thing, but somebody telling you that you NEED to see a film is galling.  And especially with Pulp Fiction, a film I’ve now seen close to 30 times, I run the risk of letting my passion get ahead of me.  I wanted to try and focus on at least one aspect of the film that felt important or significant and as I watched the film again I kept asking the same question: Do I still feel that Jules is a good person.

More writers and critics and YouTube bloggers that you can swing a cat at have tackled Pulp Fiction and the dialogues of good and evil and so I don’t want to try to even tackle that conversation.  Much like Citizen Kane or Vertigo before you even start to talk you have to acknowledge everyone who’s come before you, so when I write about Jules here I want to make absolutely clear I’m only writing about my own perception of the character and not anyone else’s.

Jules to me was always the heart of the film, or at least the intellectual center of it, and Pulp Fictionthat never really changed.  Even when I was young I would watch the film for Jules.  Vincent was interesting, and I admit that I had a crush on Mia, and even Honey-Bunny and Ringo were somewhat interesting to me for their dialogue and choice to rob a restaurant, but even then their characters were secondary to Samual L. Jackson who just managed to steal the whole damn show.

It doesn’t help that he has arguably some of the greatest lines in the entire film.  Looking at just one scene one is able to feel the full force of his character.

Jules: You, flock of seagulls, you know why we’re here? Why don’t you tell my man Vincent where you got the shit hid at?

Marvin: It’s over th…

Jules: I don’t remember askin’ you a Goddamn thing! You were saying?

Roger: It’s in the cupboard.

[Vincent starts looking in the upper cupboard]

Roger: No, no, the one by your kn-knees.Pulp Fiction-Suitcase

Jules: We happy?

[Vincent continues staring at the briefcase’s contents]

Jules: Vincent! We happy?

Vincent: Yeah, we happy.

Brett: I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name. I got yours, Vincent, right? But I didn’t get yours…

Jules: My name’s Pitt. And your ass ain’t talkin’ your way out of this shit.

Brett: No, no, I just want you to know… I just want you to know how sorry we are that things got so fucked up with us and Mr. Wallace. We got into this thing with the best intentions and I never…

Jules: [Jules shoots the man on the couch] I’m sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn’t mean to do that. Please, continue, you were saying something about best intentions. What’s the matter? Oh, you were finished! Well, allow me to retort. What does Marsellus Wallace look like?

Brett: What?

Jules: What country are you from?

Brett: What? What? Wh – ?

Jules: “What” ain’t no country I’ve ever heard of. They speak English in Pulp Fiction Say WhatWhat?

Brett: What?

Jules: English, motherfucker, do you speak it?

Brett: Yes! Yes!

Jules: Then you know what I’m sayin’!

Brett: Yes!

Jules: Describe what Marsellus Wallace looks like!

Brett: What?

Jules: Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!

The interrogation scene in the apartment with Brett has become more than just an incredible moment in cinema.  Apart from becoming a meme, it has become a cultural staple that’s been parodied and plagiarized by comedians and artists for decades and, while the dialogue is incredible, it’s Jackson’s performance and delivery that makes the scene what it is.  Jules appears all at once as a frightening and dangerous man who, up to this moment did not seem terrible ferocious.  Or, put it another way, he seemed like an average every-day human being.Jules-Pulp Fiction 4

Pulp Fiction is incredible for making murderers, drug-dealers, gangsters, and criminals terribly human so that, while we’re watching them, we either see ourselves or people that we know.  The set up to this scene is not two men discussing how they’re going to murder Brett and his friends in horrible way, nor is it bragging and boasting about the people they’ve killed in the past.  Instead it’s two men, two friends almost, discussing hash bars, the differences between American and European culture, television pilots, foot massages, and finally taking the boss’s wife out on the town.   And this last conversation only further humanizes these two men:

Jules: Why you so interested in the big man’s wife?

Vincent: He’s goin’ out of town, Florida. And he asked me if I’d take care of her while he’s gone.

Jules: [motioning a gun to the head] Take care of her?

Vincent: No, man. Just take her out. Show her a good time. Make sure she don’t get lonely.

Jules: You’re gonna be taking Mia Wallace out on a date?Quentin Tarantino

Vincent: It is not a date. It’s just like if you were gonna take your buddy’s wife to a movie or somethin’. It’s just good company, that’s all.

[Jules looks at him as though to say, ‘Really?’]

Vincent: It’s not a date. It’s definitely not a date.

This commonplace attitude relaxes the viewer and gets them acclimated to Jules and Vincent, but watching the movie again I was struck by how subtle Jackson was in conveying the real threat of his presence.  After these long conversations about seemingly mundane actions and realities, Jules enters the apartment and, if the reader pays attention they can see that his later actions are not so totally random.

After entering the apartment they watch Jules steadily build the tension:

Jules: Hey kids! How you boys doin’?

[to man laying on the couch]

Jules: Hey, keep chillin’. You know who we are? We’re associates of your business partner Marsellus Wallace. You do remember your business partner don’t you? Let me take a wild guess here. You’re Brett, right?Jules-Pulp Fiction 5

Brett: Yeah.

Jules: I thought so. You remember your business partner Marsellus Wallace, don’t you, Brett?

Brett: Yeah, yeah, I remember him.

Jules: Good. Looks like me an Vincent caught you boys at breakfast. Sorry about that. Whatcha havin’?

Brett: Hamburgers.

Jules: Hamburgers! The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast. What kind of hamburgers?

Brett: Ch-cheeseburgers.

Jules: No, no no, where’d you get ’em? McDonalds? Wendy’s? Jack in the Box? Where?

Brett: Big Kahuna Burger.

Jules: Big Kahuna Burger. That’s that Hawaiian burger joint. I hear they got some tasty burgers. I ain’t never had one myself. How are they?

Brett: They’re good.Jules Burger

Jules: Mind if I try one of yours? This is yours here, right?

[Picks up burger and takes a bite]

Jules: Mmm-mmmm. That is a tasty burger. Vincent, ever have a Big Kahuna Burger?

[Vincent shakes his head]

Jules: Wanna bite? They’re real tasty.

Vincent: Ain’t hungry.

Jules: Well, if you like burgers give ’em a try sometime. I can’t usually get ’em myself because my girlfriend’s a vegitarian which pretty much makes me a vegitarian. But I do love the taste of a good burger. Mm-mm-mm. You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?

Brett: No.

Jules: Tell ’em, Vincent.

Vincent: A Royale with cheese.

Jules: A Royale with cheese! You know why they call it that?

Brett: Because of the metric system?

Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett! You’re a smart motherfucker. That’s right. The metric system. What’s in this?

Brett: Sprite.

Jules: Sprite, good. You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?

Brett: Go right ahead.

Jules: Ah, hit the spot.

Having spent now a good decade watching this film regularly I never really noticed this scene.  It was just more filler before the violence, but watching it again I saw everything,.  Jules doesn’t just enter in, act cool, and then shoot one of these men.  Once he’s in the room he goes at these men aggressively.  He doesn’t yell or scream at first, but he does show that he can do what he wants with them without fear or hesitation.  I Jules-Vincent-Pulp Fiction 2wouldn’t let a stranger take a bite out of a cheeseburger I paid good money for, it’s my cheeseburger, and yet Jules asks for a bite  knowing he’s going to pick it up anyway.  And even while he’s chewing it he compliments them for having good taste before then grabbing Brett’s Sprite and drinking the entire soda.

It’s subtle, and something that I missed for ten years before I actually saw Jules for what he is: a violent person.

Now Jules does, many have argued, come to some kind of redemption by the end of the film, for not but a few seconds after this interaction he has a near-death experience that permanently alters his perspective, not just about his own life and actions, but existence overall.  He decides that he’s done with crime, and in fact that he’s going to lead a life defined by pursuit of some new ideal:

Jules: Whether or not what we experienced was an According to Hoyle miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that I felt the touch of God. God got involved.

He then follows this up with:Jules-Pulp Fiction

Jules: I’ll just walk the earth.

Vincent: What’cha mean walk the earth?

Jules: You know, walk the earth, meet people… get into adventures. Like Caine from “Kung Fu.”

And then of course, the most infamous scene in Pulp Fiction apart from Marvin’s death, and the basement scene, and the adrenaline shot scene, and the dance at Jack Rabbit Slims, and the royal with cheese…okay, in arguably the most dramatic and character driven moment of the entire movie I should say, Jules delivers the most powerful lines in the film as he observes his own condition and address his desire for redemption:

Jules: I’m not giving you that money. I’m buying something from you. Wanna know what I’m buyin’ Ringo?

Pumpkin: What?

Jules: Your life. I’m givin’ you that money so I don’t have to kill your ass. You read the Bible?

Pumpkin: Not regularly.

Jules: There’s a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak Jules-Pulp Fiction 2through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.” Now… I been sayin’ that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ass. You’d be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this mornin’ made me think twice. See, now I’m thinking: maybe it means you’re the evil man. And I’m the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here… he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. And I’d like that. But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.

Put aside the fact that Jules consistently misquotes the Bible (Eziekiel 25:17 doesn’t actually read this way) this moment has been dissected by film scholars, Tarantino Fans, and that one obnoxious dude who has “real evidence” that there’s a masonic conspiracy found in the “messages” of this movie all over the world.  People gravitate to this Jules-Pulp Fiction 3moment because, again, it’s the scene that has the most dramatic effect in terms of character in the film.  Jules at this moment becomes the center of Tarantino’s film because he’s the first character who really seems to be trying to change and achieve redemption of some kind.

I’ve noted in previous essays that when I was a teenager gangsters and criminals really appealed to me in terms of my media consumption.  Whether it was watching Goodfellas endlessly or memorizing almost every line of The Departed, movies about violent criminals appealed to me as I was trying to figure out who I was, what I wanted, and ultimately who I was going to be.  Puberty is a bitch, and as I noted in my previousDeparted 10 essays, I think what appealed to me about these characters, their lives, and their worlds, was that they were dark, and darkness even if it was vicarious felt satisfying.  These men were taking control of their environment, and in the chaos and confusion of their existence they somehow managed to find control which was something I lacked.

Pulp Fiction, in hindsight was different from these movies, because while these films ultimately revealed that such a life would ultimately lead to destruction, Tarantino offered the character of Jules who, despite the chaos around him, seems to find some kind of redemption by turning away from his life.  And in some way I would argue that he does.  His story ends when he delivers the glowing suitcase to his boss Marcellus Wallace which means that he ultimately escapes the chaos of a life of crime. 

But at the same time watching the film again, I’m not in such a rush to defend Jules, or to argue that he totally redeems himself.

Jules is a criminal at the end of everything, and a man who has made a living stealing, killing, and hurting people, and even his “redemptive act” is still tainted by the fact that he allowed Honey-bunny and Ringo to leave with several of the other patrons’s money and goods.  He himself notes that he’s not a decent sort of man but that he’s trying to be, and so while there has been an effort by many fans and critics to argue that Jules achieves redemption, in my view there really shouldn’t be a rush to argue for redemption.  Instead if there is any virtue in Jules, it’s in realizing that that there isn’t a redemption, but choice.

Jules choses to alter his life and try to be a new person and that, ultimately, is the real sign of strength. Jules-Vincent-Pulp Fiction

Having recently turned thirty, and having seen the choices I’ve made in life in this life to date, I’ve become more cognizant of my faults and mistakes in life, and I’ve tried to actively work on them.  It doesn’t mean that I have totally and completely changed, and in fact I probably never will.  There’s a sadness in this realization, but also a comfort.  I make the choice to work on these faults and try to become a better man and friend and worker and human being, and that choice reveals a nuanced perspective of life that I recognized in Jules as I stood in the back of the movie theater watching Jules point that gun at the viewers, many of whom stayed and gave us one of the best nights we’ve had thus far with the movie group.Pulp Fiction 2

Life is not about achieving redemption and then being perfect.  Life is more about the daily victories and choosing to try and be better, and so a longer and far more impactful lesson in Pulp Fiction this time around for me was not in looking for one moment that changed everything, but one choice.

It’s the choice to help Honey-Bunny and Ringo rather than just shoot them and get out of the restaurant that reveals that Jules as a man wants to try and be a better human being.  It’s the choice of a young man who’s spent his life hating himself to try and find beauty in existence and to keep chugging coffee and hope that, if nothing else, some review he wrote about Pulp Fiction might finally generate enough political will to get Americans to start using the metric system.

It’s a long shot, but maybe one day I’ll finally pull up to a McDonalds and order a Royal with cheese with large fries.  One can only hope.




*Writer’s Note*

All quotes cited from Pulp Fiction were provided by IMDb.com.


**Writer’s Note**

I’ve provided a few reviews of Pulp Fiction from the time it premiered originally in 1994, to a few more recent reviews.  Hope you enjoy:







The Age of Vikings by Anders Winroth


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The Age of Vikings by Anders Winroth

8 April 2019