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. 

Executioner

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.

swamp-castle-monty-python-and-the-holy-grail-591592_800_441

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. 

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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.

Lamprey

 

 

*Writer’s Note*

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

The Battle of Salamis by Barry Strauss

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The Battle of Salamis by Barry Strauss

21 March 2019

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

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cube

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.

Keira-Knightley

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.

[pause]

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…

[sighs]

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQAftcZJQLc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vbb_HvxOdE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IswE8dJNdLg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldGVvdtE_X4

 

***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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2c-X8HiBng

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.

Kingdom

 

*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:

https://www.uakron.edu/dotAsset/2178927

http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140102182140&fa=author&person_id=1319

 

***Writer’s Note***

Keira-Knightley

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.

bacon-cheeseburger

 

 

*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:

https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/pulp-fiction-1994

https://www.nytimes.com/1994/09/23/movies/film-festival-review-pulp-fiction-quentin-tarantino-s-wild-ride-life-s-dangerous.html

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/may/15/pulp-fiction-review

https://www.vulture.com/2014/10/review-roundup-pulp-fiction-20-years.html

https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-reviews/pulp-fiction-95345/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2014/10/17/pulp-fiction-is-20-years-old-read-the-washington-post-reviews-from-1994/?utm_term=.39fe358b949b

The Age of Vikings by Anders Winroth

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The Age of Vikings by Anders Winroth

8 April 2019

Knights and Dragons and Historical Inaccurate Presentations, Oh MY!: The Knight in History by Frances Gies

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Once and Future King

A young teenage boy receiving a copy of The Once and Future King that his mom picked up at a garage sale feels more like the start of a really underrated and under-appreciated straight-to-VHS movie that came out during the 1980s rather than the impetus which eventually helped me write my second novel.  I can only assume that this means the next time I go to Half Price books I’ll stumble on a film with that exact premise and discover that it’s been established as a “cult classic” and also discover that I lost out on millions in rerun revenues.

But, such is life.SwordintheStonePoster

While I detest Disney as a corporation, as well as a force which is steadily deteriorating the movie industry, I will never apologize for loving The Sword in the Stone.  It was a film I watched endlessly as a kid, largely because I loved that it had knights, dragons, a talking owl, and a funny old man who frequently lost his temper and yelled at squirrels.  I didn’t appreciate at the time that the film was actually based upon T.H. White’s book The Once and Future King until I was well in High school, and even then it took me until age 19 to actually sit down and read the book.    I’ll admit freely that I actually started on The Book of Merlyn, the “sequel/alternative ending” before the actual book.  And I’ll also admit, I only read it to impress a girl.  On a side note, I’ve discovered because of this that few women are actually impressed by a boy reading a book of re-imagined Arthurian Romances and so I would advise the next generation of young men to read the collected works of Poe instead.  If there’s one thing women love, it’s Edgar Allen Poe. 

Edgar_Allen_Poe

Moving on.

The Once and Future King, while largely re-imagined for a 20th century audience, is a wonderful addition to the great body of Arthurian romances (romances FYI, being the fancy-pants term for stories about knights) and inspired to pick up other books about Knight in History_GiesKnights and the Medieval Period in Europe which eventually led me to discovering The Knight in History by Frances Gies in the Medieval Europe section of Half Price Books. 

It was a quick read, with dozens of images scattered throughout the work and a careful historical analysis which, at the time, often went over my head.  And I admit, there were plenty of facts I simply passed over in favor of learning more about the romantic image of knights.  It might have been because I was young, or because I was playing hour after hour of Stronghold Crusader at the time, but I wanted to dig into the idea of Knights, rather than the complicated reality of them.

Gies book sat on my shelf for close to an actual decade before I picked it up again, and having recently finished the book now for the second time as I begin auditing a graduate-level history course about Medieval European Aristocracy, it seemed it warranted a second look.

The Knight in History is everything that the title suggests it is, simply a history of the Knight, Knight 6specifically the armor-clad military unit specific to the Medieval European period.  This would seem at first glance to be a simple project, but as Gies explains to her reader, this figure is one which has been buried beneath mountains of speculation, discourse, and confusion largely due to popular media and also because what we know about the Knight is often either incorrect or else not well founded.  She notes this in the first chapter:

Scholarly controversy still could the emergence of the Medieval knight.  Records before the critical period are scarce, and semantic problems—the relationship between late-Roman terms for certain kinds of soldiers and Latin terms used in the Early Middle Ages—compound the difficulty.  Terms used for social classes in the time of Charlemagne and those of the eleventh century are equally ambiguous.  The prejudices of early modern historians also inhibited understanding.  In the nineteenth century, when feudal society was regarded as backward, barbaric, and chaotic, a school of German scholars headed by Heinrich Brunner attempted to prove that feudalism had originated not in Ancient German tribal custom but in eighth-century France.  (8).Knights 7

Gies goes on the next page noting:

Recent scholarship has favored a more complex picture of the origins of Knights, medieval nobility, and feudalism.  Most historians now do not believe the knights originated in the eighth century, or that they were the founders of either the nobility of feudalism.  The consensus is rather that there was a genuine nobility of blood and birth in the time of Charlemagne and his successors, but that its origins lay not in a class of mounted warriors recently raised from obscurity but in the old Frankish aristocracy.  (9).

The history of the knight, as Gies demonstrates here, is complex narrative due mostly to the fact that perceptions have clouded by bias and romanticism.  Having already begun to read more books about the Medieval period it’s become clear to me that numerous Victorian and Enlightenment-era thinkers are largely to blame for the perception of the Medieval period as a “Dark Age.”  And along with this, there is the complicated affair of the implosion of the Roman Empire.Knights 11

Like many I was educated about the “Fall of Rome,” and the language of this event reveals everything.  My understanding, and my education were that Rome as an institution “fell” rather than steadily crumbled, and that once the barbarian tribes sacked Rome twice, the empire virtually fell apart and Europe was nothing but a dark and chaotic mess of violence, rape, murder, and mayhem where dogs and cats got married and fleas traveled to Mars.  Shit was crazy yo, and out of this slough of despond and mania emerged the figure of the Knight, the King, and the landed gentry.  But, as so often is the case, this image was ultimately incorrect.  Rome did “fall,” but it largely fell inward as the expansion of the Empire waned, bureaucracy began to decline creating power vacuums, and centralized Knights 9authority began to disappear leaving many territories to run themselves which helped establish local leaders and the system that many know as feudalism.

Which is technically no longer in use, but I’ll save that for a later essay.

This is a simple history of the “Fall of Rome,” which from here on out I’m going to try to avoid using, but it’s a necessary one because hopefully the reader is able to observe that Gies is trying to create a real history of the Knight rather than just repeating his “greatest hits.”  Granted I loved “Getting Jiggy with it in Jerusalem” as much as the next 90s kid, but the fact of the matter is the Knight did not just appear.  And one of the ways Gies demonstrates this is describing the early armor of Knights.  She notes:

The knight’s armor in this early period, and for a long time after, consisted exclusively of a helmet and hauberk or body armor.  Knight BayeuxThe helmet was solid iron, canonical or round.  The hauberk was of chain mail, fabricated principally by a time-consuming hand process in which wire was wound around a Tod in a helical coil and then cut entirely down one side of the rod, producing a number of open rings.  The two ends of each ring were annealed and hammered flat, and the hauberk, in for of a shirt or coat, was fashioned by linking the rings and closing them by overlapping and riveting the flattened ends.  (15).

Most readers probably had this image in their mind already (though some might be wondering where the iconic cross was, be patient damn it…I’m sorry for yelling), but what I like about Gies’s book is how she balances historical perspective of the Knight alongside actual historical reality.  This description of the Knight’s armaments and armor demonstrates a change took place over time because while most of these elements are now part of the standard physical description of the knights, it is also an early uniform that would change as the knight became a more notable military unit.Kingdom 3

Gies actually notes the change in a Knight’s uniform in several passages throughout the book giving the reader an idea of how armor changed and how a Knight’s assemblage altered as his role and function in society changed:

Arming either four tournament or battle, a well-equipped knight of the 1340s would have first donned a close-fitting shirt, short breeches, and hose.  Over these would go mail leggings, heavy quilted thigh protectors (gamboised cuisses) with knee plates attached, greaves for the shins, and iron shoes (sabatons).  Next he put on the heavy fabric acton, over which went his hauberk with shoulder and elbow plates attached, and his coat of plates.  The surcoat went over everything.  A narrow belt circling the waist; the broader sword belt hung more loosely around the hips.  Gauntlets of iron plates riveted to layers of fabric, thinned to coppered against rusting, were drawn over the hands.  KnightA new rounded or conical helmet (basinet) had a visor to protect the face.  Its crown was lined with leather pulled together at the top by a cord; when it was placed on his head, the knight was ready for combat.  The shield had diminished in size, becoming a downward-pointing triangle with curved sides, but it was still considered indispensable.  (143-4).

Gies’s book begins with this early vision of the Knight, follows him through the Crusades, establishes the tradition of Troubadour poetry which turn establishes Knights in literature, she discusses the Templar order and other similar orders of knights, and then spends several chapters discussing individual knights like William Marshall or Bertrand Du Guesclin in order to contextualize how these men helped establish the figure of the Knight before the figure Knight 4eventually faded away into the symbolic title rather than a functioning military unit.  Gies’s book is not a transitionary history in the sense that she’s following a period of change, but rather she’s trying to demonstrate to her reader how change affected one aspect of the Medieval period and how it has impacted the larger society.  Such a history is important and relevant because, as I explained before with my own experience, Knights continue to inspire artists and readers the world over.

A knight has become a sort of ideal to many readers, an example of nobility or virtue when in fact this was anything but the case.

Gies explains this on just another page:

In his person, the real-life knight of the tenth century had little in common with the courtly heroes of the Round Table.  Ignorant and unlettered, rough in speech and manners, he earned his living largely by violence, uncontrolled by a public justice that had virtually disappeared.  Civil disputes and criminal cases alike had ceased to be adjudicated by the enfeebled royal power and instead were settled by the sword.  (17)

For the reason, an early ideology and a pseudo-precursor to chivalry was established titled The “Peace of God” which helped curb the violent liberty-taking of Knights.Knights 10

At this point however my contester emerges with an ever poignant question.  So what?  Why should I care about a Medieval military unit that involved armor and swords and shields and shit?  I barely have time to catch a few minutes of Netflix before I have to put the kids to bed before I have to do the dishes, do my taxes, change the oil in my car, and before I have to load the car up to recycle after work tomorrow.  Why should I give three fucks about knights?

As always my contester has a fair argument.  From afar The Knight in History doesn’t appear to have much “real-world relevance” to the casual reader.  Unless one has an interest in Knights and castles and history period, Gies’s book probably isn’t going to offer much to the reader who is simply looking to be entertained.  As I wrote before though, in my essay about 1453, I’ve become more aware of the fact that I want to enjoy reading and writing and podcasting about history because I like it.  Gies’s book is a chance to nerd-out and learn more about a topic that I’ve always been aware of butMartial de Paris, known as Martial d'Auvergne (Circa 1484) never truly dug too much into despite the near-constant presence of knights in my life.

Though reflecting that way might offer a more satisfying answer.  Knights are figures who embody a special place in the culture.  For many they’re paragons, examples of virtue and nobility in a world that is often defined as a “dark age,” and as society has continued and developed the Knight’s heraldry and armor has persisting becoming whatever we need it to be.  Whether it’s fantasy games like Skyrim, novels like The Once and Future King, or films like The Sword in the Stone or that god-awful Clive Owen King Arthur movie readers and viewers have continually gravitated to the imagery of Knights because it provided some idea that inspired.  A book like The Knight in History is relevant then because it takes an honest look at the way knights lived and existed.

Gies’s closing passage gives the reader a good summation of her closing argument:

Of the three elements of chivalry, the military, the courtly, and the religious, the medieval knight found the first the easiest to practice.  Many successfully imitated the heroes of the chansons de geste in their loyalty and courage, and too many in their rashness and vainglory.  The second element, the courtesy, and liberality of Kingdom 11the troubadour tradition, also fitted broadly into knightly life-style, though real-life behavior toward women often fell short of the prescribed ideal.  It was the third set of virtues, set forth in the codes of chivalry and celebrated in the Arthurian romances, that was the most neglected.  Knights fought for profit and killed without mercy, robbed those whom they should have defended, and violated those whom they should have respected.

Many Medieval knights were Rolands, few were Galahads.  (207).

I feel like I’ve done a disservice to Gies’s book because this review has discussed more the perception of knights than some of the actual history itself.  Gies’s book isn’t perfect and in fact, I do have some issues with the way the book is written and the language that it employs.  It’s difficult to really find a thesis in this text at times, and apart from the fact that the knight changed over time I’m not really sure that she has one.  The Knight in History feels very much like an observational book; it’s an opportunity to just observe the changes that took place in the Knight over the course of the centuries.  But, in fairness, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.Shawn Assassin's Creed

The Assassin’s Creed franchise offered many beautiful moments of reflection, but one of the best moments of the franchise was in Brotherhood when Desmond is talking with Shawn about the Italian village of Monteriggioni and how it hadn’t changed much.  To this Shawn had a beautiful response, “That’s the point, history is the study of change.  If things don’t change it means they’re static, it means they’re dead.”  While there are some exceptions in this life, change is natural because the state of nature and human culture follows this structure.  The Knights began as cavalry units of the remnant of the Roman military structure, and over the course of several centuries they eventually became part of the nobility after becoming vassals of the previous nobility.Knight 2

The Knight in History is an important book because it’s one that observes how such a change took place, and what forces in the culture allowed this change to take place.  It may not have any sort of immediate “real-world-relevance,” but upon a closer examination, Gies’s book has an important message about how structures in society can be altered by culture, economics, and shifting political structures.  Gies’s book isn’t perfect, but it is still a fascinating observation nonetheless.

I suppose all that’s really left to observe is her final statement is true.  Not many knights were Galahads when all is said and done, but that might just have been because they didn’t have any Lancelots saving them from the endless spankings and oral sex of the Castle Anthrax.  Such is life I suppose.

Holy Grail_Castle Anthrax

 

*Writer’s Note*

All quotes cited from The Knight in History were provided care of the paperback Perennial Library edition.

 

**Writer’s Note**

Almost the entirety of the YouTube Channel Shadiversity is dedicated to Knights, castles, dragons, swords, and armor, and so honestly the reader could go to ANY video in Shad’s entire video series (I’m partial to his series about the forging process of the Katana).  But looking through them specifically about Knights I found this gem which is about the inaccuracies about the perceptions of Knights and the realities of who knights were and what Chivalry actually was.  I would definitely check this dude out and not just because I’m a patron of his on Patreon.  Seriously, check him out he’s awesome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LygKNa-xDW4

And because I am a shameless fanboy, Shad and Blue did a video together about the Normans which explored briefly knights and their early use in combat.  I’d highly recommend it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqBRUEmVzmU

 

***Writer’s Note***

If the reader would be interested in Frances Gies’s books I’ve found her author page on Harper Collins’s webpage.  You can follow the link below:

https://www.harpercollins.com/author/cr-102688/frances-gies/

 

****Writer’s Note****

I just wanted to add one more link, or two, about the “fall of Rome” narrative, because it really is worth talking about.  Narratives drive our culture and society and it bothers me when a mass rhetoric founded on nothing but bullshit is allowed to proliferate.  So, I wanted to post two links here as a starting point for future discussions about how Rome did not “Fall,” or at least not over-night.  Like any complex entity, Rome was a vast network and what many people consider to be Rome was only the Western Empire, the East Empire, which began after the Great Schism of the Catholic Church in 1095 considered themselves and continued to do so until Mehmet II sacked Constantinople in 1453.  That was the last “Fall” of Rome, but that isn’t a convent narrative.  History is complicated and so it’s important that, when we talk about it we understand how complicated it is.

So, yeah, Rome fell, but not in the way many people believe.  Below are two small pieces about the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.  Hope they inspire you to dig a little deeper than some shitty “history” book “written” by Bill O’Reilly.

https://www.pbs.org/thinktank/transcript501.html

https://newhumanist.org.uk/articles/4979/there-is-no-such-thing-as-the-fall-of-the-roman-empire

https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/when-did-rome-really-fall

https://www.salon.com/2012/01/07/when_did_rome_really_fall/

https://knowledgenuts.com/2014/01/30/rome-didnt-fall-quite-the-way-you-might-think/

This Reddit feed actually provides a far, FAR MORE NUANCED perspective.  Definitely check this one out:

https://www.reddit.com/r/ancientrome/comments/726w5n/did_rome_really_fall_in_476/

 

*****Writer’s Note*****

Let the record reflect that I wrote and published an entire essay about Knights without making a single Kingdom of Heaven reference.  Not one.  And this one doesn’t count…it doesn’t…aw crap it does.

Kingdom