Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Eliza-butch the First

Elizabeth_I_(Armada_Portrait)Here’s an awful article by the Mail Online, which, as you know, trades in awful articles the same way numismatists trade in cob coins. The paper disingenuously promotes a theory Elizabeth I was a man, mainly to promote what looks like an awful book.

The proof seemingly is that there have been other conspiracy theorists on the subject, namely Bram Stoker, not that any historians were actually consulted. Supposedly, Elizabeth died 470 years ago of plague while still in her teens. Her handlers were so afraid that her father would punish them with slow, painful death that they found a boy to take her place, and they taught him to live life as a princess, then later a queen, all to hide the original lie. She grew into “the Virgin Queen” and was cloistered from society, all to hide her manhood.

Of course, in truth, Elizabeth I had plenty of boyfriends and did want to marry one of them but couldn’t for political reasons. If that’s not enough to persuade you she was a woman, maybe it would be the fact that she lived rather transparently in front of a full court, plenty of whom could have exposed her masculinity but instead focused on the fact that she was kind of slutty, vain and had a filthy mouth. Still not enough? How about you consider that by the date of her supposed “death” in 1543, she wasn’t even really a contender for the throne. She came in last for succession behind her younger brother, her older sister, and any other children they might have had, not to mention any new male children her stepmother might have had with the king. In other words, she wasn’t remotely important enough at that point for a “Weekend At Bernie’s” type fraud.

I’m trying to decide what I find so distasteful about what is obviously a tongue-in-cheek article by a saucy tabloid that only wants to excite my basal ganglia with fun gossip. Is it a feminist reaction to the Mail’s suggestion that no woman could have possibly defeated the Spanish Armada and turned England into a world power? Nah. Is it the fact that conspiracy theorists are so able to supply filigreed detail to their suppositions without creating a plausible basic narrative? Nah. Is it that spreading this shit is a quick way to make friends, and that it has likely been that way for 500 years? Yeah. That’s the one.

Lies are more rugged as memes. They propagate faster than truth because they somehow forge local bonding, a trend that behooves us as primates, to close ranks against interlopers. Truth, meanwhile, is unhelpful. It is complicated. While we sit contemplating truth, we are often paralyzed by the analysis it requires. That makes us helpless to act, and as we are stuck in reflection, introspection and narcissism, meanwhile our group is easily preyed upon by hyenas and tigers and honey badgers.

Still, if I can recommend a highly paralyzing read, I’d point you to Carolly Erickson’s books on this subject, “The Great Harry,” “The First Elizabeth” and “Bloody Mary.” As for the Daily Mail, I recommend that you limit yourself to its Kate Upton pictures. That is, if you can trust that she’s female.

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The 9/11 Tribute In Light

Here’s something I don’t post very often: A story I wrote almost ten years ago–five short bios of rescue workers who died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. As I posted last year in a more personal account, the Sept. 11 attacks caused me, at the time a not-so-serious journalist, to confront a more serious world. One of the hardest things I was asked to do by editors at the time was call up bereaved families while the story was still in progress. For a long time, I shrank from that task. Chasing grief was not something I had ever wanted to do as a writer in New York City; all I had ever wanted to do was be creative. But with mayhem all around, with ashes of the iconic towers snowing down on my neighborhood and with no real idea of what I was doing, I had to finagle a subway ride into Manhattan and go interview people. I had to come to grips with my limited talents and see if there was something (anything?) I could offer the world as a writer to deal with something so monstrous and inhuman when I’d led my life before chasing whimsy. One wonders at a time like that how competent he is, how necessary in the vast scheme of things, when all around there is need and he hasn’t prepared himself. One wonders, I hate to say, about things he hoped he’d never have to, even about topics he’d shunned since his teen years. I wondered for a time what is masculinity, and would I have served the world better as a warrior or a burly firefighter rather than a cowering writer in my garret. These are the psychological wounds that 9/11 inflicted on some of us, too.

And as I confronted these problems, nearly wanting to collapse with heartache, instead, I made myself write something; I made myself be part of the world.I’d ask you to click the first link to see the brave men (and women!) who didn’t have to think about it, because they were too busy acting on instinct to save people, and for that died.

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I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Malinche, or Marina, the Nahua woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast who was sold as a slave to Cortez, became his translator, his mistress, mother to his child, one of the first mestizos and therefore the symbolic mother of Mexico. I’m obsessed with her story because nobody in literature seems to be as exalted and at the same time maligned. She’s considered a forerunner of her new country on one hand and a traitor to her people on the other, a motherly whore. Even her nickname “Chingada” means literally “a woman who is fucked.”

Cortez & Malinche

Her legend is such that she’s been referenced everywhere from Laura Esquivel and Octavio Paz novels to Neil Young songs and even Star Trek.

I myself have been so intrigued by her tale and this legendary beauty of hers, one so great it supposedly undid a culture and bewitched statesmen and warriors, that I’ve named at least two different characters after her in my fiction. I also wrote a song about her when I was 22, which I’m sharing with you now in an updated version.

“La Chingada,” by ER Salo Deguierre is either further exaltation or further insult, depending on how much you think the song sucks. The good news is that, if Malinche were here, she would no longer have to listen to the song on MySpace. That’s right, I’ve upgraded my Word Press account and embedded the song on the blog. Just press to play.

La Chingada

I hope to post (and repost) more music here in the next few days.

La Chingada
By Eric Rasmussen

Copyright, 1992, 2010

Marina they trade you for horses

And swift galleasses that slice through the seas

Marina, they trade you for flowers and meat

And took you away from me

When you came back you had learned a new language

Were decked out in colors, a mistress to kings

But do you remember at all

When we sat all alone

and knew none of those things?

Marina, caught up in intrigue

You helped the invader to bring down a king

Sat by while his own people stoned him to death

For the shame that he brings

Marina now some fish swims inside of you

What kind of child will you be mother to?

Will he hate your impossible beauty and body

As much now as I do?

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What New Year’s Resolutions have people been making throughout history?

–*20,000 B.C.: I must move to a new cave.

–*3000 B.C.: I will kill my friend Mordred and have his woman.

–*2800 B.C.: I think it’s time to have a baby.

–*2500 B.C.: I think I could make a killing with this bronze stuff.

–*2400 B.C. This town really could use a new megalith, and I’m just the cruel bastard who can get it done.

–*2300 B.C. It’s time to stop dicking around finally finish my plan to invade Mesopotamia.

–*35 B.C.: I shall make myself some new sandals.

–*33 A.D. Must betray Jesus, buy new farm with the money.

–*55 A.D.: I shall cut open a bull to exalt the mighty goddess Diana so that by her divine intervention I may reap more grain.

–*70 A.D. Time to do something about those Jews.

–*345 A.D.: I vow to stop persecuting the Christians and shall in fact make Christianity the official religion of my great Roman Empire. Also, I’ll try to randomly kill people less often.

–*582 A.D.: I shall give up this foolish hobby of writing epigrammatic poetry, finally listen to my friends and return to law school in Alexandria.

–*1182: No more crusades for me. What a freakin’ dry heave that was!

–*1209: Time to do something about those Cathars.

–*1524: My dad always beats me in the after dinner belching contest. This year I’m going to kick his ass.

–*1555 A.D. I shall honor my vow of celibacy and only bugger other men.

–*1556 A.D. I shall flosseth more.

–*1688 A.D.: I’m sure to sire a boy this time as long as I follow the instruction of the most advanced books on the matter and tie a wrenching knot around my left testicle with sisal rope.

–*1787: I will stop cleaning sewers, take the idea of madras fibers to the West Indies, and along with my man-servant Doro, will reign as king.

–*1889: I will smoke more, as my doctor says it’s good for my bronchial tubes.

–*1912: I shall go south to Spain for another rest-cure, getting away from my husband so that I shall not cause him more distress with my hysterical neurotic collapses and screaming fits.

–*1928: I’m going to make a boatload of money in this thing my brother told me about called the stock market.

–*1935: I will eat rat and like it.

–*1955: I will try to do my best to root out communists in my midst at all times, even if they are my neighbors, my kinsmen, or my wife.

–*2003: Time to do something about those Iraqis.

–*2009: Time to pay the tax bill for my war against the Iraqis. Hmmm…I wonder if I can get out of it by throwing a temper tantrum.

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(Originally posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007)

Things That Have Been Said At Some Point In History With Much Confidence

–“Of course the whole universe revolves around the Earth. That’s just common sense.”

–“Dewey will easily defeat Truman.”

–“That Richard Nixon is a straight shooter.”

–“That James Frey is a pretty straight shooter.”

–“All you need to do to sire a male child is tightly rope off your left testicle during sexual relations.”

–“Leeches will move the bad humors down to your knees, where we will then bleed you for an hour, and that should take care of your runny nose.”

–“As the world’s most beloved aviator who made the first Trans-Atlantic flight, I feel confident when I say that these Nazis are very advanced and their armies are unbeatable.”

–“Our new castration techniques are proven to be highly effective in stopping homosexuality once and for all.”

–“Fred Flintstone is just the exact kind of symbol we need to advertise our cigarettes.”

–“I tell you, if man ever broke the sound barrier, he’d just turn into a great fluff of talcum powder.”

–” ‘Birth of a Nation’ is a very true look at what happens when you intermarry with black people.”

–“As an astronomer, I tell you there are only seven planets, because if they numbered more than the holy number 7, it would be offensive to God.”

–“When one country turns communist, all the others around it turn communist like a bunch of dominoes.”

–“Obviously, the United States will eventually encompass all of North America, including Canada and the area all the way down to Colombia.”

–“We shall create a law in which excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. I call it ‘Amendment 8.'”

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