Mar 21

Riding the Thunder Broom

I recently bought a bass guitar. I figured at this point in my life it would be a good idea for me to take up a new hobby or two. Beachy also wants me to be a “rock star” when I grow up. She approves of this purchase.

Music is not an entirely new thing to me. Dad was a guitarist in a few local bands in the 60s. I took piano lessons when I was in elementary school, although my passion for that was halfhearted at best. Most of my friends in high school were band geeks.

Strongly influenced by said band geeks, I acquainted myself with the works of Mike Watt, Geddy Lee, Les Claypool and others as a teenager. I’ve been interested in taking up bass for a good 20 years. Bass should be a good instrument for me. I fancy myself loud and low, and I think in terms of single notes rather than chords.

There were two main obstacles to that though. First, I’m left-handed. VERY left-handed. Dad tried to teach me guitar on a standard right-handed model, but I just wasn’t picking it up. Everything seemed upside down to me. What’s more, locating an affordable left-handed instrument in the pre-World Wide Web days was about as easy as picking up a bottle of Bacardi 151 in Riyadh. It just wasn’t happening.

The second obstacle – and probably the more important one – was my strong tendency to set the bar unrealistically high for myself when undertaking any new endeavor. If I wasn’t able to be a virtuoso in a relatively short period of time, it wasn’t worth it to me.

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And when I say “set the bar high,” I’m not dicking around here.

I’m a perfectionist by nature. It wasn’t until quite recently that I became somewhat comfortable with the concept of not having to be a world-beater in absolutely everything I did. Having your ass handed to you by bipolar type II will do that to you. That and the miracle of e-commerce finally convinced me to take the next step.

So despite being 39, well past the age many people take up these sorts of things, over Christmas I found a left-handed bass online and had it shipped to the local Guitar Center. Of course, not wanting to drop a ton of money on something I wasn’t entirely sure I’d take up in the long term, I went for – shall we say – a low-end model. It’s made by an outfit called Main Street Guitar Company.

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The Chinese call it quality!

Over the next couple months I picked up other necessary items, such as an amp, a cord, a shoulder strap and a gig bag. I’m ready to RAWK!

Well, I would be if I had anything resembling dedication. Everyone tells me, “Man, you need to practice every day or you lose your touch.” I have no reason to disagree with that. However, I play maybe twice a week at the moment. Never mind CORRECT notes. At this point I’m happy with CLEAN notes which don’t sound like hitting a metal coil with a sledgehammer.

I can play the bass line from “Once in a Lifetime” fairly well, but that’s about it right now.

A couple days ago I compared learning the bass to learning to type. Honestly I don’t know how valid that comparison is, but as a writer it seems logical to me. Music theory as traditionally presented has never been one of my strengths. I get the basic concept of such things as notation and time signatures, but I’ve always found anything but the simplest sheet music absolutely confounding.

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Yeah, this does nothing for me.
Image credit: Hyacinth

It seems to me it would be easier to think of notes as “letters” and bass lines as “words.” One needs to learn where the various notes are on the bass. After that it’s a relatively simple matter of constructing the line in much the same way one types a word on a keyboard. I understand this theory doesn’t take into account important things like tempo. I tend to view that as something one picks up innately.

Perhaps I’m over-thinking this and trying to unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. That’s another thing I’m notorious for.

Mar 20

History Wednesday: Changing the Alphabet

I’m generally against capital punishment except in cases of dumbasses willfully using “alot” as a word. That said, I fully recognize English spelling rules do no one any favors. For example, the words “sail” and “sale” are pronounced exactly the same but have entirely different meanings. So are “scent,” “sent” and “cent.” And don’t even get me started on that “i before e” crap.

Over time many have noted the problem lies in the fact that we use an alphabet which essentially hasn’t changed in 1,000 years. The English of Chaucer’s time only bears a passing resemblance to the English of today. So why are we still using the same damn letters? My guess is a combination of force of habit and general laziness.

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The Georgian alphabet never caught on here, not even in Atlanta.
Image credit: GeorgianJorjadze

Today History Wednesday focuses less on a leader’s personal shortcomings and more on ideas which just never took off. Despite a shaky start, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints succeeded in attracting many converts, building many temples and strongly influencing the histories of several areas in the Western United States, particularly Utah. However, not all of their grand plans came to fruition. Take their original 1849 proposal for a “State of Deseret” as an example:

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It’s said during quiet nights on the Metro, you can still hear Congress laughing.
Image source: Mangoman88

Still, you have to hand it to the early Mormons. They were bound and determined to do things differently than their 19th Century contemporaries. Different religious texts, different marriage rules, different ecclesiastical organizations …

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… Eh, same facial hair.

Yup, ending up in Utah after being unceremoniously thrown out of every place else they’d been, the Saints wanted to do everything their way. They even created a new alphabet to communicate amongst themselves. Attempts to change the alphabet were nothing new, not even in the 19th Century. No less than Benjamin Franklin himself made such a proposal in the 1760s. However unlike Franklin, who apparently lost interest in his proposal soon after he made it, the Mormon Church made a serious effort to implement their alphabet for daily use. Thus, the Deseret alphabet was formulated.

LDS Church President Brigham Young, noting many of the same problems with English spelling rules that Franklin observed decades earlier, formed a committee at the recently-established University of Deseret (now the University of Utah) and charged them with creating a more phonetically friendly alphabet. In January 1854, the university announced it had succeeded.

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“Qapla’!”

Having between 38 and 40 letters in its various incarnations each corresponding to a different English phoneme, the Deseret alphabet was touted by Young as a solution to those silly spelling rules and that “the years that are now required to learn to read and spell can be devoted to other studies.” Young didn’t elaborate on what those other studies should be, but I’m willing to bet they didn’t involve 8 Ball.

Being a religion, the LDS Church set out to publish its scriptures in the alphabet, including the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. For a time the Deseret News published a section in the alphabet as well. A couple of textbooks were thrown in for good measure. There’s even an extant headstone and coin utilizing the alphabet.

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“And you should see how it looks on gold plates, man!”

Unlike fry sauce and Jell-O molds, the Deseret alphabet never caught on in despite Young’s enthusiasm. Public indifference and the prohibitive costs of transcription and printing combined to doom the alphabet. After Young died in 1877, the project was quietly abandoned.

Still, the Deseret alphabet isn’t quite dead. It’s been part of the Unicode standard since 2001. It’s also the official alphabet of the Republic of Molossia.

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Such as it is.
Image credit: Kevin Baugh

Mar 19

That Giant Sucking Sound

Back in 1992, part-time presidential candidate and full-time lunatic Ross Perot coined the term “giant sucking sound.” He originally used it to criticize the then-proposed NAFTA treaty. Later politicians also used it to play up the “jobs lost” bogeyman. Admittedly, in that context it really doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot for me around here.

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“Our jobs are secure. Now piss off.”

Nevertheless, it’s still a good phrase. It’s also one of the few notable things conceived during Perot’s presidential runs which didn’t involve pie graphs and/or batshit conspiracy theories. For me, the “giant sucking sound” is what I often hear in the back of my mind when I’m writing. It’s a thought along the lines of, “Hoo boy. I’m really posting a turd to the Internet today!” I’m having that thought right now, actually.

Yet one person’s manure is often another person’s manna. Regardless of what kind of artist you are – be it a painter, actor, musician, or a writer like myself – you fancy some of your works are much more awesome than others. However, what you think is good and what others think is good are often two different things. The same holds for one’s perception of crap.

Here’s a case in point. The late Alec Guinness thought of himself as an old-school English stage actor of the highest caliber, on par with his contemporary Laurence Olivier and with Patrick Stewart later on. Indeed, like Olivier and Stewart his Shakespearean chops were indisputably world-class. However, most of you out there know him for this role:

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“It’ll be just like Connery in Zardoz. No one will remember this.”
Image credit: williampcoleman

At best, Guinness viewed the Obi-Wan Kenobi role as a late-career afterthought and a retirement hedge. Indeed, thanks to some shrewd negotiating he made a ton of money off of it. But once it became apparent many would remember him from his Star Wars appearances more than anything else he ignored the subject as much as he possibly could, even going so far as to throw away Star Wars fan mail unopened.

Something like this happened to me, albeit on a much smaller scale. For a few years in the mid-90s I was on the staff of the Bengal, the student newspaper at Idaho State University. I started out as an op-ed writer and remained in that capacity throughout my tenure there. That’s how I saw my role there. Oh yeah, I also wrote some straight news stories, mainly for shits and giggles.

One day in 1995 I was informed I won first place in a regional college newspaper newswriting competition. This came as a complete surprise because (1) I wasn’t aware I entered a competition in the first place and, (2) the article I won for I found banal and pedestrian at best. I don’t recall exactly what it was about, but it had something to do with proposed fee increases, something dry and boring like that. To this day I’m somewhat bemused by the experience.

Mind you, I don’t try to write garbage on purpose. Well, not usually. However, I sometimes wonder what would happen if I gave up all attempts at humor, intellect and integrity, and wrote entirely for the lowest common denominator. I could totally pump out dreck for the Oprah-addled masses if I wanted. I imagine the result would be akin a mashup of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and the Twilight series.

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Illustrated by the undead Thomas Kinkade, of course.
Image credit: ojimbo

Ultimately I’ve learned over the years to discount the giant sucking sound, at least to an extent. It’s often completely wrong anyway.

Mar 18

Just Under the Wire

Yup, another one of those completely non-productive days here at the Command Center. It’s just over an hour until midnight and no blog entry. I thought about skipping it entirely today, but I have a good streak going which I don’t want to break. What the hell, I’ll just half-ass it today.

Besides, I never promised literary genius here.

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“So put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

Last night during a sometimes heated discussion with an old friend on art, writing, criticism and, um, Debby Boone, I was introduced to Phantahex, a relatively new local band. My aforementioned old friend is half of Phantahex. According to the site they play “improvised ambient psychedelic electronic music.” I happen to think it’s pretty damn good. Y’all should check it out.

Dammit, there was something else I wanted to write about tonight …. “You Light Up My Life” is a horrible, wretched song? Well, yes, but that wasn’t it. Ah, whatever. I may remember and write about it another time. I leave you with this gem I found researching yesterday’s entry. This is quite possibly the best live commercial in the history of Western civilization (NSFW):

“Ya can’t get even!”

Mar 17

More Embarrassing 80s Videos

A little over a month ago I wrote about a couple video relics from the 80s which stuck with me over the years. As a writer I find this is a pretty good well to go back to. If my site stats are any indication, you agree. So here we are again.

If you know what the image below is, this will all be review. As for the rest of you, prepare for an education.

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No fair Googling or using Tineye.

You Can’t Beat Our Meat

I had the “honor” of working at the Wendy’s in the 2T in 1991. Before I say anything else, let me assure from personal experience that this is 100 percent REAL.

As those of you who have worked fast food know – which I assume is damn near all of you – the job sucks. It’s sweaty. It’s greasy. You don’t get enough hours to qualify for benefits, and you have to wear the same goddamn shirt every day. You’re also controlled by corporate shills who just don’t understand the “younger scene.”

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“But, but, everybody loves Justin Bieber!”

And no, I didn’t live in the “good old days.” Consider this 1989 training video on “grill skills,” which I was instructed with in those dark days. It’s a bit slow at times. I’m posting only the second half, but stick with it and bathe in its innate cheesiness. The first half features a lot of the late Dave Thomas blathering about your “important job” in a curious accent. If you really want to watch that, it’s here.

Who’s up for chili?

Check out the rap and country rock excellence here. It’s somewhere between Biz Markie and, um, Billy Ray Cyrus or something. Incidentally, they had me wearing the exact same teal shirt featured, unfortunately without the glitter.

I was so glad when I got to leave and go to Idaho State later that year. You have no idea.

Canoe, Canoe?

Oh man, every time this spot appeared on MTV I cringed. Just cringed. Even though at the time I had no chance whatsoever of dating a hot chick – and if I somehow managed to succeed I would have blown a gasket – I knew this was just … wrong. If you kids think the marketing for Axe is over the top (and you’d be correct), you should have seen what it was like a generation ago.

So from the same pheromone experts who brought you such venerable female magnets as English Leather and British Sterling, Canoe allows you to talk to hotties familiar with international maritime signal flags, and smell like you raided a 10-year-old’s Christmas stocking in the process.

“We now return to Julius Caesar on an Aldis Lamp.”

I don’t know about you, but to this day I’m pretty sure if the first words out of my mouth in any singles setting were, “Oh! Canoe canoe?” a restraining order wouldn’t be too far behind. Afterwards, every once in a great while MTV would redeem itself by giving me a glimpse of the mystery girl in the Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” video, but usually this crap was followed by more crap like Night Ranger.

The Proto-King of Cars

OK, this never aired nationally per se, but the basic concept plagued several media markets throughout the country in the 80s. The 2T was one of them. As a matter of fact, this guy like the 2T so much he actually moved there from somewhere back east later in his career. I want to say he was originally based in upstate New York, but I’m not 100 percent certain about that.

Anyway, meet Dave Campo, the undisputed master of local used car ads. In the 2T he worked for an outfit called Latham Motors, which was at the time the local Chrysler dealership. Sadly I was unable to find any Campo-era Latham Motors ads, but in his heyday his modus operandi was the same for all his clients. Take a look:

“With all the candy!”

Campo made what the industry calls a “shitload” of ads during his career, easily over 1,000. To this day anyone who lived in the 2T while he was active can recite the basic ad structure word for word, myself included. Campo died a few years ago. His favorite client Latham Motors went under at around the same time. Yet his legacy lives on in loudmouth used car TV spots to this day.

Is the US a lucky nation or what?

Mar 16

At One With Nature, Sort Of

Today Beachy is with me. Nothing like trying to keep an eight-year-old busy for an entire weekend without going bankrupt. The fact she lives in the 2T and Boise has so much more to do exacerbates the issue.

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She also has a pretty hardcore YouTube habit, thus the late post today.

Fortunately the last few days have been relatively nice outside. That opened up my options a bit. It was a pleasant enough day to go to the zoo, a relatively cheap and time-consuming activity. Frankly I’ve had my fill of child-friendly indoor diversions such as Pojo’s for the time being. Beachy considers herself an expert on those claw crane games, exploiting every opportunity to practice her craft. I still have a big bowl of hard candy she won something like six months ago. The Pyramid Brothers like to play with said candies. Here at the Command Center, finding a pack of Smarties behind the toilet at two in the morning is a rather common occurrence.

Beachy insisted we use sunscreen before going out. This struck me as a bit bizarre as it was 59 and partly cloudy in Boise today, hardly sunburn weather. I went ahead and got some. We’re going to need it when the Command Center’s HOA opens the pool.

More often than not, my experience is a visit to the zoo is little more than a two-hour walk past a series of empty artificial habitats, the alleged animals always sleeping in the back or whatever. Today was more successful than that. The animals were out more than usual, although most were fast asleep. A good thing for second graders, not so much for fans of blog snark. Sorry ’bout that.

There’s a carousel at the zoo, and Dippin’ Dots. Oh yes. No trip to Zoo Boise is complete without those damn Dippin’ Dots.

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Truth be told, a pretty good use for liquid nitrogen.

We proceeded with the obligatory carousel ride. As Beachy is finally over the height requirement, I observed from the sidelines. There are distinct advantages to having a older, taller kid at the zoo. No stroller required, and they don’t ask to be lifted up as much.

While Beachy was on the carousel I got strafed by a Canada Goose. Trust me, you don’t need to pay $11.25 to get up close to these things in Boise. They’re everywhere. My craptacular camera phone wasn’t able to get a decent shot of the perpetrator, so here’s a boring-ass Wikipedia image instead.

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You should see what they do to the Idaho State Capitol.

The highlight of the zoo is undoubtedly the African Plains Exhibit, set in a meticulously and accurately re-created Maasai village. Yup, it’s straight outta Tanzania, baby.

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Totally.

Anyway, the lions are always a hit and there are always plenty of monkeys about. The giraffes appeared to be hidden for some time. How the hell do you hide a giraffe? We finally found them before we got out of there, with the Dippin’ Dots of course.

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Did I mention how authentic this place is?

We were done with the zoo. My ankle was done, period. Headed to the car I was strafed again, this time by a seagull. You don’t need to pay to see those here either, especially this time of year. Thanks to my phone … aw, screw it.

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Here’s the boring-ass Wikipedia image. *sigh*

Mar 15

Friday Crap Roundup V

Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen! It’s time once again for the Friday Crap Roundup! Now 30 percent dafter for your reading enjoyment!

Breaking Precedent, Rome Style

Earlier this week I opined on papal names and how they rarely deviate from accepted standards. Only six names had been used by popes since 1800. Well, make it seven thanks to Pope Francis. Now while he didn’t take my advice and go with something screwy, he broke a very longstanding precedent anyway. I like that sort of thing in religious leaders. As a matter of fact one has to go all the way back to 913 CE to find the last pope who chose a name never used by any of his predecessors.

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That’s right. Pope Lando.

And so with the conclave over I don’t expect to mention the papacy again for the foreseeable future. All the best to you guys out there in the Vatican.

Ignoring Precedent, Tulsa Style

Speaking of precedent, someone should explain the concept of judicial review to this guy, who actually said:

Just because the Supreme Court rules on something doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s constitutional …. I hear this all the time from Republicans – they say that the court is the arbitrator and after the arbitration is done, that’s the rules we have to live under and we can go forth and make legislation given those rules. That’s not the case.

Yeah, apparently he hasn’t heard of cases like Marbury v. Madison, Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, and so forth. Judicial review, that is the prerogative of the court system to strike down unconstitutional laws, has been a central tenet of the American judicial system since, oh, 1803 or so. But you don’t need me to tell you that; anyone who paid attention in high school government class can tell you that.

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“And tell ’em the Big Marsh Man sent you!”

Well, apparently Jim Bridenstine wasn’t paying attention. Unfortunately, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives last year from the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area. C’mon, you guys. Politics is stupid enough without willfully electing this sort of cement-headedness.

Setting Precedent, Boise Style

Recently I wrote of my adventures (if you really want to call them that) with a mysterious person who may or may not be a woman known as “gr8tits2play.” Well, less than a week later, when one does a Google search for that name guess who comes up, like, a lot?

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Oh, lovely.

I suppose it’s in the common interest for me to inform you I’m not “gr8tits2play,” I don’t have a dead uncle in Mali with a fortune I need to smuggle into the United States, I’m not a representative of the lottery in the UK or anywhere else, and I have no problems whatsoever with penis size.

TMI? Fine, let’s move on.

Track of the Week

It’s been one of those weeks, but I hope to finish strong. I need to. Beachy will be here tonight.

In the meantime, play this over and over.

Mar 14

The Indifference Strikes Back

“A blog entry every day, no matter what.” I swear sometimes I’m such a bitch to myself.

“And make it funny, dammit!” Yeah, yeah, yeah …. This is easier said than done when one is battling bipolar depression, insomnia and cats who want to sit on one’s face at three in the morning.

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Yes, I’m looking at you, Sneferu.

Today I’ve been thinking about the benefits of carbonite as depicted in the Star Wars series. For the benefit of the three of you who have never heard of Star Wars, it’s a series of science fiction films involving good guys, bad guys, terrible laser gun shooting, something called the Force, curious swordplay, and of course explosions and shit. As a four-year-old I declined an invitation to see the first (fourth?) movie when it first came out in 1977. I thought it sounded stupid.

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A good cereal notwithstanding, C-3PO needed to be slapped, repeatedly.

Anyway, carbonite. According to the august, authoritative Star Wars database Wookieepedia, carbonite “was a metal alloy that was made from carbon. It was mixed with tibanna gas, compressed, and flash-frozen into blocks for transport.” In addition to its industrial uses and thanks to several convenient leaps of logic, carbonite was an ideal medium for placing people, and presumably other living things, into a state of indefinite suspended animation. Han Solo was placed in carbonite towards the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

Too bad it’s not real. Given my chronic sleep issues I’d love to place myself into suspended animation from time to time. Today being a perfect example. At least as far as my experience is concerned, depression isn’t a constant state of sadness as much as it is a constant state of “fuck it.” Of course, if it were real I’d probably have to pay royalties to Disney, as they own Star Wars now.

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Behold your corporate overlords.

Personally I’m more of a Star Trek fan. The technology featured in that franchise strikes me as much more practical overall. I’d love to see a real-world transporter in action. Space travel wouldn’t be necessary to appreciate its benefits; you could just as easily use it for those nasty commutes.

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“I’m going to Albania for the afternoon. See you at 5.”
Image credit: tkksummers

Of course, the airline industry lobby would delay transporter technology for years.

All right, so I’m in the 400-word range with this. Good enough for me. I’m going back to bed now.

Mar 13

History Wednesday: Time to Ring the Bells

As we learned a few weeks ago, immediately after founding a major empire it’s generally not a good idea to kill the heir apparent, because his younger brother is likely to be a total dumbass. You’d think after a few centuries people would figure this out. You’d be incorrect.

So today History Wednesday visits the happiest place on earth, 16th Century Russia. In 1533 a three-year-old became Grand Prince of Moscow as Ivan IV. As Ivan approached adulthood he had himself crowned with a new title: Tsar of all the Russias. Eventually he became known as Ivan the Terrible.

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Pictured: Autocrat of all the Metalheads.

Over the next 27 years Ivan’s rule produced mixed results. He added some mad acreage to the Russian Empire, conquering Kazan, Astrakhan and Siberia, the latter providing him and his successors a convenient place to exile undesirables. However, prolonged war, oppressive domestic policy, periodic famine and proto-Yakov Smirnoff jokes dogged the tsar throughout his reign.

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“In Rurik Muscovy, Cossack horse rides you!”
Image credit: Buchoamerica/en.wikipedia

In spite of it all, Russia transformed itself from a minor feudal state to an emerging regional power in eastern Europe. Still, whoever succeeded Ivan the Terrible faced many daunting military and political realities.

Ivan had two major problems with providing an heir to the throne. The first was of his eight kids, only two survived childhood. The other was his unpredictable temper, resulting in the accidental death of his chosen heir Ivan Ivanovich in 1581. By 1583 his only surviving children were an infant named Dmitry and Ivan Ivanovich’s younger brother Feodor. The Russian Orthodox Church did not recognize Ivan’s marriage to Dmitry’s mother, officially rendering the boy illegitimate and ineligible for succession. Ivan had no choice but to name Feodor as his heir apparent.

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I think you see where this is going.

This may have been all fine and good, but Feodor was in poor health, possibly mentally disabled and completely uninterested in politics, exactly what Russia didn’t need in a ruler. Recognizing this, Ivan appointed a group of advisers led by Feodor’s brother-in-law, a boyar named Boris Godunov, to assist Feodor once he became tsar.

Sure enough, after Ivan’s death in 1584, as tsar Feodor proved to be about as qualified as drunk, one-armed neurosurgeon. Instead of addressing the increasingly unstable situation in Russia and abroad, Feodor busied himself doing such things as visiting various churches in his realm to ring the bells. Meanwhile, Russia was fighting tooth and nail with several of its neighbors, notably the Poles and the Swedes.

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Those aren’t IKEA representatives, y’all.

So while the extremely religious Feodor spent his days ringing bells and praying, the task of actual governing fell to Godunov, who unsurprisingly took full advantage of the situation.

In 1591 Feodor’s ten-year-old half-brother Dmitry died under questionable circumstances, possibly on Godunov’s orders. Meanwhile in one of the great dick moves of the early modern period, Godunov issued the decree which effectively solidified Russia’s brutal policy of serfdom for the next 250 years.

With Dmitry gone and Feodor unable to produce an heir to the throne, the 700-year-old Rurik Dynasty came to an end upon Feodor’s death in 1598. This allowed Godunov, who by that time had already run the country for around 15 years anyway, to take the throne for his own damn self. Although Godunov managed to keep a lid on simmering tensions until he died in 1605, a quick succession of weak tsars who followed him – including some random dude who actually managed to rule the country for nearly a year posing as the dead Dmitry – threw the country into a state of chaos known as the Time of Troubles. The situation would not stabilize until 1613, when the Romanov Dynasty under Michael I came to power. Thanks to the Romanovs, Russia would never have a problem with its leadership ever again.

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“EVER!”
Image credit: Kremlin.ru

Mar 12

Habemus Deliramentum!

I’m not entirely sure why, but every time there’s a papal conclave I watch events intently. I’m not Catholic. I’m not even religious. So what’s the attraction?

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White suits? Nah ….

The historical aspect certainly has a lot to do with it. This is only the fourth papal conclave of my lifetime. For those of you who didn’t pay attention, there were two in 1978 and one in 2005. The fact Benedict XVI resigned just makes it more intriguing this time around. As you may have noticed, I’m into history. Besides, with Elizabeth II staying put for the foreseeable future there’s not a lot of excitement in this arena.

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“Tell me about it ….”
Image credit: Dan Marsh

Another facet that captivates me is the regnal name the new pope will take. While this has the potential to be exciting, in reality it isn’t. Since 1800 popes have only used one or a combination of six names: Benedict, John, Paul, Pius, Leo and Gregory. In addition, we haven’t seen a Leo or Gregory since before 1900. I’m writing this before the much-anticipated white smoke appears, but I suspect the new pope’s name won’t deviate from this format much, if at all.

That’s too bad. There are a lot of awesome papal names throughout history. Some of my favorites include Sylvester, Hormisdas, Anastasius, Gelasius, Hilarius, Cletus and Lando.

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Yes, seriously.

I think it would be nice to see the new pope take one of these names, or something equally bizarre like Jehoshaphat, just to force the world media to use it for the next few years. Given the very unfunny scandals the Roman Catholic Church faces and will continue to face, a little bit of levity may be in order.

Or he could go off the deep end and take the regnal name “Blue Ribbon.” Why? Well, the German word for pope is “Papst,” so …

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With my brain constantly coming up with stuff like this, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since 1985.

The Catholics are concerned about growing secularization. This is one way to bring the hipsters on board.