Aug 28

History Wednesday: Brother, Can You Spare a Fishscale?

I love coins. How much you ask? Well, at one point in the late 80s I was the only Boy Scout in the entire Snake River Area Council to hold the Coin Collecting merit badge.

Coin_Collecting

We’re talking a special order item here.
Image credit: MeritBadge.org

That said, in today’s cashless society, coins – especially smaller denominations – are becoming increasingly obsolete. At this point they’re often produced at a loss to the taxpayer, in no small part because no one wants to piss off the zinc lobby.

Of course, obsolete coins are nothing new. We’ve had plenty of others in the past.

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May 23

The Myth and Tyranny of the Muse

I truly am my own worst tyrant.

When I started this blog back in February I resolved to post an entry every single day. To date I’ve only failed to do so once, and that was because I knocked myself out somewhere on Orchard Street.

orchardstboise

Somewhere around here, I think.

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Apr 24

History Wednesday: Kingdoms for Fun and Profit

Back when I wrote about the Deseret alphabet I mentioned in passing a place called Molossia. As it turns out, y’all are somewhat interested in the micronation near Carson City, Nevada. I can tell because the link repeatedly turns up in the “clicks” section of my blog dashboard.

Molossia_-_Customs_post

I can see why. It’s a happening place.
Image credit: Kevin Baugh

That said, today’s History Wednesday isn’t about Molossia or micronations. That story has been covered elsewhere. Although inspired by Molossia, today we’ll take a look at the Kingdom of Sedang, one of the more bizarre chapters in the never-boring history of Southeast Asia.

This story has its roots in the mid-1880s when colonialism was all the rage throughout Europe. After a relatively successful war against China, France established control over the majority of Southeast Asia east of present-day Thailand. They called it “French Indochina.”

HOMECOMING

This caused some problems later on, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, shortly after the Sino-French War in 1888 Chulalongkorn the Great, king of the independent Siam, began claiming lands on his border with French Indochina. Unsurprisingly, this prompted the French to take steps to bolster their claims to the areas in question. Enter a certain Marie-Charles David de Mayrena, a rather sketchy character who owned a plantation in the area. Prior to his involvement in French Indochina, Mayrena worked as an arms dealer. He was suspected of embezzlement back in Metropolitan France. He had also been kicked out of the Dutch East Indies, which we know today as Indonesia.

Charles-Marie David de Mayréna1SMALL

In other words, a 19th Century Destro.

Ever the opportunist, Mayrena convinced the Governor-General of French Indochina that he was the perfect guy to negotiate treaties with people in the area who weren’t definitively subjects of the French-controlled Emperor of Annam. Upon arrival he magnanimously negotiated fair treaties to everyone’s benefit.

Heh, no. He totally took advantage of the ambiguous political situation in the immediate area. In June 1888 he was somehow elected by several local tribal leaders as their king. He took the title “Marie the First, King of Sedang.”

800px-Pho_in_Saigon

Because nothing says “Vietnam” more than a guy calling himself “King Marie.”
Image credit: Andrew Dinh

Mayrena rather incongruously declared Roman Catholicism Sedang’s state religion despite the fact most of his subjects in present-day central Vietnam were Muslims. Eventually recognizing his demographic error, Mayrena converted to Islam himself and promptly took advantage of the religion’s liberty regarding plural marriages. He also set about to create a flag, print postage stamps and establish a national award, named after himself of course.

Now Mayrena wasn’t the first random foreign dude to take over a distant land on charm and bullshit alone. He was, however, somewhat more pragmatic than some of the others. Much like the leaders of the short-lived Republic of Texas and the even more short-lived California Republic, Mayrena’s Sedang almost immediately resolved to negotiate a union with a stronger power. However unlike Texas and California, Sedang was, shall we say, less than successful.

He first tried his native France, offering the country to them in exchange for “monopoly rights” over the area. He also told the French government that if they weren’t interested, the Prussians might be. Predictably, Paris – infuriated this guy created a kingdom in “their” territory in the first place – passed on his offer.

439px-Franz_von_Lenbach_-_Portrait_of_Otto_Eduard_Leopold_von_Bismarck_-_Walters_371007_-_View_B

As for Prussia’s Bismarck, he reportedly asked if the day’s Wienerschnitzel was properly tenderized.

Next Mayrena tried the British up in Hong Kong. They were similarly disinterested. Finally Mayrena went to Belgium, where he convinced another shady character named Somsy to provide him with money and arms in exchange for mineral rights. Finally fed up with his shit, the French refused Mayrena’s entry into Vietnam upon his return and seized his arms shipment in Singapore. The erstwhile king spent his last days in exile in present-day Malaysia, where he died in November 1890 under mysterious circumstances.

And so that was the end of Sedang, even though today a Canadian group wants to inexplicably revive it. As for Molossia, there may be a story there if I went to visit. Indeed, it’s on my shortlist after my planned junket to Thermopolis.

Apr 01

Unexpecting the Expected

Hot damn tamale Mephistopheles! It’s April Fool’s Day! I suppose this means y’all are expecting me to base today’s post on some absurd, blatantly false declaration then cry, “APRIL FOOL’S!” Well, I did consider it.

Claim to have an epiphany and pledge to channel the spirit of the undead Jerry Falwell? Nah ….

Become the world’s most annoying Buddhist monk? Nah ….

Announce the end of SB to write at RedState instead? Nah ….

Tout a diet consisting exclusively of carrots, celery and Pabst Blue Ribbon? Nah ….

carrots

Oh, hell no.
Image credit: Chasqui

Then it occurred to me. Last night on Facebook I announced my intention to record an EP for download. I’m very seriously considering this. I mean, seriously ….

Friends, I’m happy to announce I’m going into the studio to record my first EP, Taxil and the White Noise. It’ll feature a cover of Allais’ Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man, La Double Vie de Théophraste Longuet as inspired by Leroux, the eponymous original composition, and Cage’s masterpiece 4’33”, which was voted one of the most important American musical works of the 20th Century. Look for it soon!

The key to a lasting presence on the Internet is going multimedia as soon as you can. SB regularly gets 50 hits a day now. That may not sound like much, but given that this blog was started less than two months ago with an advertising budget of absolute zero, I happen to think it’s pretty damn good. Hell, those guys from Smosh recently put out an album. If two kids from northern California can make it big by using pink sprinkled donuts and churros as props, then I can become famous too, dammit!

As you may recall, a few days ago I mentioned John Cage’s 4’33”. A groundbreaking work like that is exactly what I need to give this EP some serious gravitas. No less than Frank freakin’ Zappa covered 4’33”, man. I understand it’s pretty easy to play, and that it can be recorded on a shoestring budget. This is a good thing given my limited musical skills and financial resources. Just gotta get the timing down, or something ….

Rebecca_Black_-_Friday

The concept doesn’t need cheesy production, or Auto-Tune, or anything. I’m golden.
Image credit: Kenal

Last night I composed the title track, Taxil and the White Noise, on a state-of-the-art Walgreens Model 890-WGN cool moisture humidifier. The 890-WGN is a frequently overlooked instrument, which I think really makes the piece pop. You’re gonna love it.

So no, I’m not yelling, “APRIL FOOL’S!” I want to make this happen. More details are sure to follow.

Mar 23

Here We Have Tone Deafness

When I was a wee wiseacre in the 2T I learned about the Idaho state emblems. Every state has them. You know, state bird, state flower, state tree, state cottager ….

461px-Larry_Craig_official_portrait_-_cropped_

OK, just kidding about the last one. Maybe.

Like every other state we also have a state song. Some state songs are well-known outside their borders, such as “Georgia on My Mind,” “Home on the Range,” “Oklahoma!” and … “Born to Run.” Seriously, you don’t mess with the Boss in New Jersey.

Our state song is “Here We Have Idaho.” Chances are decent you haven’t heard it, even if you’re from Idaho. There’s a reason for that. It’s bloody awful on every conceivable level.

Oh, the humanity.

Now please don’t think I’m picking on the performers here. There’s simply no way to sing this piece without sounding like you’re clobbering a rabid hyena with a Louisville Slugger. I chose this particular clip because apparently no one else wanted to be caught dead singing the song in its entirety on YouTube.

Just look at how this turd was constructed. The music was composed by a Sallie Hume Douglas in 1915 under the original title of (no kidding) “Garden of Paradise.” A couple years later, the original lyrics were written by a couple of people at the University of Idaho who were unaware of the tune’s provenance. By 1930, two other sets of lyrics were written because, why not?

Finally in 1931 the Idaho Legislature, noted patrons of the arts they are, declared the Douglas tune the state song along with lyrics written by the then-director of music for the Boise Public Schools. In other words, “Here We Have Idaho” was essentially written by a proto-Oprah fan and your elementary school music teacher. I’m somewhat comforted by the fact I’m not the only one to recognize its banality.

Oh but it gets better. The lyric, “Here we have Idaho, winning its way to fame” is bad enough. However, the original lyric was, “Here we have Idaho, scourged on its way to fame.” Wow, you can’t get much more metal than that.

Flagellants

Pictured: scourging your way to fame.

This state needs a lot of work in many ways. However, I think we can agree we need a new state song, one that’s not completely embarrassing. Granted, there’s not a lot out there to go on. I tried looking tonight on YouTube, but I didn’t find much. I did come across a band called Idaho in my search. They’re actually pretty good. Check them out. Unfortunately they wouldn’t work for this purpose, as they’re from California and their most recent album is titled You Were a Dick.

395px-Seal_of_Idaho.svg

There’s no way that’s getting through this government.

Still, write your legislator. Give Butch a call. Do something. If I give the world one less thing to laugh at us about, I’ve done my job.