Friday, July 29, 2011

Horrible Histories - Pupil Rebellion -HD 1080p

The British school system was, I think, much more entertaining back in the Georgian era. If this was the sort of education that gentlemen of rank and fortune received, it is very easy to see how British parliment evolved the way it did. The Amateur Historian is personally very fond of how British MPs can boo each other at will.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shake it, shake it, shake it like a Tesla Oscillator

Many times has an older relation or land-lady complained that a younger person has been playing their music so loudly/otherwise do something believably anti-social they would bring the house down. This hyperbole has mostly passed into cliche, save when one adds Nikola Tesla to the mix.

Nikola Tesla, possibly the world's only real mad scientist, was Edison's rival and a multi-talented scientist. Though Tesla is famous for his alternating current electricity, which is still in use today, he also experimented with mechanical devices. One was an earthquake which, you guessed it, Gentle Reader, causes earthquakes. The machine uses resonance frequency to shake buildings and the earth. Though MythBusters says it is only a legend, Tesla allegedly caused a small earthquake in his lodging house and had to take a sledgehammer to his device before the police arrived.

I am sure it put the whole neighborhood into a quake thereafter.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Immortal Beloved Review

It is always difficult dealing with a mystery that has plagued the academic community for years. When one is... not actually an academic, it most likely necessarily follows that the answer to that mystery is going to be a) academically unfounded and b) a little bizarre. However, to give credit where credit is due, the director a) brilliantly picked Gary Oldman to play Beethoven, b) did an extremely good, if sometimes overtly violent job at matching images to Beethoven's music, c) has a beautiful first act where one of Beethoven's potential Immortal Beloveds falls in love with him and realizes that he is deaf, and d) cast Gary Oldman in a cravat role.

Take a look, Gentle Readers:

The director performed a service to humanity with that bit of casting. The Amateur Historian, at least, personally feels that her life was better for seeing Gary Oldman storm about Romantically in period costume.

The plot is relatively simple. After Beethoven's dramatic death in the middle of a thunderstorm, underscored by the beginnings of his 5th Symphony, his biographer, Anton Schindler (actually Beethoven's first biographer, so good job movie) finds three letters addressed to Beethoven's Immortal Beloved. This leads Schindler on a quest throughout Austria and through the flashbacks of the candidates for the title of Immortal Beloved. It is a very different and ingenious way to explore the tumultuous life of a great composer, and, to the movie's credit and certainly to Mr. Oldman's, Beethoven is presented precisely as he was in life: passionate, paranoid, tumultuous, brilliant and completely over-the-top. Whether it's music or life, Beethoven must HAVE IT ALL and he must HAVE IT HIS WAY OR HE WILL BREAK SOMETHING.

However, like Beethoven, the movie is not without its flaws. It is extremely bloody-- a trait which will perhaps recommend it to certain Gentle Readers, but not to the Amateur Historian-- and the third act of the film is an incredible disappointment. When the dramatic denouement, underscored with Beethoven's own music and the apparently requisite thunderstorm, unfurls, the end is somewhat inexplicable and disappointing. For no easily discernible reason, Beethoven's Immortal Beloved agrees to meet Beethoven in a hotel, where he will presumably propose, but then she leaves the hotel and then marries someone else, leaving Beethoven to hurl chairs about in rage.

Jeez, Immortal Beloved, I know your boyfriend has hearing problems, but you should have just invested in a fan.

Bref, the movie is not without its merits, though it fails to live up to the high standard it set for itself in its first act, where Beethoven's loss of hearing is handled with such beautiful artistic delicacy. For the romance novelists out there, the first act is also very helpful in terms of very late 18th century undergarments, as there is a surprising amount of nudity, dressing and undressing that occurs. However, the ending does not make very much sense once the film is over and the final moment of beauty, where Beethoven's Ode to Joy is playing in the background as Beethoven, as a young boy, lays in a lake reflecting the stars and the camera pans back to see the entire Milky Way, is eclipsed by the randomness of the script's solution. Immortal Beloved, you are not who all the actual scholars say you are.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Horrible Histories - Georgian Pinching Match

The summer is the best time to begin a new sport or exercise regime, Gentle Readers, and so the Amateur Historian suggests looking back to history. Pinching matches are sure to be all the rage at your next outdoor party! It gives any gathering that touch of old British civility.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Les inconnus - La révolution

Happy Bastille Day, Gentle Readers! The Amateur Historian apologizes for this video being in French, but if any Gentle Reader does speak it, the video is hilarious.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Cutting Remark

It is nearing Bastille Day, Gentle Readers, and, in that spirit, the Amateur Historian wishes to draw your attention to Charles Henri Sanson, the man who owned and operated the guillotine in Paris.

Charles Heri Sanson had hoped to be a doctor and was averse to his family's profession, particularly as he had been kicked out of a convent school in Rouen because his father was the national executioner. However, his father became paralyzed and Sanson had to take up the gruesome trade.

However, he is best known for his work with the guillotine from 1792-1795, when his son took over the position. Charles Henri was a strong proponent of the guillotine, both out of humanitarian principles and professional pride (his sword grew dull during repeated executions, the cost of repair was unfairly placed on the executioner, who owned the weapons of execution, and the physical exertion was likely to result in accidents). It is said that Napoleon Bonaparte once asked Sanson if he could sleep well after having executed 3,000+ people.

Sanson replied, "If emperors, kings, and dictators can sleep well, why shouldn't an executioner?"

Monday, July 4, 2011

1776: Sit down, John! (1972 Film Version)

Happy "Screw your taxes, George III" day to those who celebrate it!