This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Archive for the category “history”

Your Halloween Post, Plus An Answer To Your Dad’s Question „How Is Studying Medieval History In Any Way Useful?“

charlesthebadI’ve been hesitating to write about this incident for some time.  I have a couple of guidelines for my Halloween posts that are not easy to meet: the post must be horror-themed, it must be about a true story, but it may not treat human suffering as a source of amusement.  (I guess that pretty much encapsulates the problem with Halloween as such.)  I therefore must apologize to my readers in advance that this post deals with an absolutely horrific death that I wouldn’t wish on my own worst enemy.  If it makes any difference, the victim was a very, very bad person.  Very bad.  So bad, in fact, that „the Bad“ became his royal moniker.  I am, of course, talking about Charles the Bad a/k/a Charles Le Mauvais(*) a/k/a Charles II, King of Navarre from 1349 to 1387.

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On Fidel Castro’s Death; Or, When My Fellow Liberals Insist On Losing Credibility

Berlin, Fidel Castro an der Grenze

I was waiting to calm down and process the election before I wrote anything — and then Fidel Castro died.

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Lenin’s Tomb (A Halloween Post)

lenin-mausoleum_1Here is a perfect story for Halloween: the story of how I got to see Lenin’s mummy on the occasion of being inducted into the Young Pioneers.

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Cimetière des Saints-Innocents: A Post in Honor of Halloween

Caspar Friedrich,

Caspar Friedrich, “Abbey Ruins” (1809)

If you go to Paris today, you will see a nineteenth-century city.  That is because — I’m saving you the tedium of reading that guidebook — the medieval city that Victor Hugo described so longingly in The Hunchback of Notre Dame was almost entirely razed beginning in the 1850’s and replaced by a new, unrecognizable one.  New Paris is, of course, much more elegant (and also cleaner) than its predecessor; but, speaking as a medieval history buff and someone writing on Halloween, I have to say New Paris is also a lot less cool.  Old Paris, of which virtually nothing remains today, was, as kids would put it, hardcore.  Nowhere was this more apparent than at the city’s very center, at Europe’s most notorious cemetery, the Cemetery of the Holy Innocents. Read more…

Letters From Russia: The Story Of (Nearly) Forgotten Murders

Britt Reints, "A Butcher's Stall" (2011)

May you live in interesting times.

~ old Chinese curse

On an unknown date in 1988, the Soviet Union executed Tamara Ivanyutina (maiden name Maslenko), a former school dishwasher, pig farmer, wife, daughter, sister and serial poisoner. She became the last woman executed by the USSR and one of only three executed in the post-war period.* As per standard Soviet practices, her execution was not announced beforehand, and it is not known how her body was disposed. The notification of her death was sent to her unincarcerated next-of-kin — who happened to be one of her victims, and the child of two additional victims. Not surprisingly, he did not bother to hold a memorial for her. The lack of ceremony or mourning surrounding her death was particularly ironic in light of her personality and motivations. Unwept, unhonored and unsung** — such was the ignominious end of a woman who was propelled on her life path by a powerful conviction that the world did not treat her with due respect. Read more…

How To Be A Real Great Poet

A PROPER poet

A PROPER poet

In nerd news: fragments of smoking pipes with traces of cannabis have been found in a location that was once William Shakespeare’s garden. Although it is not at all clear that any of these pipes belonged to the Bard (or indeed if they even date to his lifetime) scholars are excited: after all, here is a chance, however slim, of demonstrating that the boring stuffed shirt that was Bill Shakespeare really did write all that nice poetry. Maybe he was high as a kite. Read more…

Myths And Illusions: The Myth of Paracelsus’ Scientific Contributions

A page from "Rosarium Philosophorum", an anonymous 16-century alchemical treatiseI want to begin this post beating up on Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim, better known as Paracelsus, with a brief digression. As a student of the Middle Ages and Renaissance during my undergraduate days (as well as an Ancient History buff), I noticed an interesting phenomenon. When we talk about the store of knowledge humanity has acquired over the course of its existence, something is deemed to have been “discovered” only when (1) it’s explicitly attested to in writing (2) by a man (3) who has a name. Knowledge possessed and applied by women, or by illiterate societies, or by anonymous people is deemed to not exist; and women themselves, as well as “natives”, are matter-of-factly treated as passive objects of study, rather than human beings capable of possessing and using information. Thus, you might hear Hippocrates credited with “discovering” the early symptoms of pregnancy – even though midwifery existed as a recognized profession for at least 1,500 years before him, and papyri with instructions on how to calculate gestational age date to about that far back. (Sometimes the credit is given to Imhotep, instead.) Read more…

On Antonin Scalia’s (In)Famous Dissents

Sorry, I couldn't resist: I do think THIS is where Scalia would have been most at home.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist: I do think THIS is where Scalia would have been most at home.

What a great week last week was for America! I am talking about, of course, the Supreme Court decisions upholding the Affordable Care Act and the Fair Housing Act, as well as finding same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. (I mean, yes, upholding the death penalty still sucked, but we take what we can.) Yet on some level, it was an irritating week too, due to primarily all the fawning over the world’s most overrated jurist, Antonin Scalia. Read more…

Some Of The More Absurd Things A Lot Of “Smart” People Believe

Viktor Vasnetsov, I am continuing my list of remarkably inane things people say remarkably often. (Previous installments: here, here and here.) Today’s theme is smart people’s stupidity. Intellectuals can sure embrace some bizarre ideas, and through processes I can’t even begin to understand, some of those ideas enter mainstream smart people’s thought. Ideas like: Read more…

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The Burning of Sodomites (unknown artist, German, 1482)
My previous post, Teabagging Jesus, provoked a lengthy discussion in the comments, which devolved into a general argument about the supposedly unfocused and shifting nature of liberalism. At one point, a guest commented that people who harass confront (let’s use a polite term here) women in front of abortion clinics are motivated only by a good-faith concern for those women’s souls, not maliciousness. It’s important that we all understand that, the guest contended. After some reflection, I decided the topic deserves its own post. Read more…

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