Monday, June 27, 2011

Horrible Histories-Join the Royal Navy!-HD 1080p

Wooden ships and iron men, what-what? Or maybe just men with cast-iron stomachs...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Have a cold?

Or how about a terrible bowel complaint, or, like William Wilberforce, the famous British abolitionist, ulcerative colitis?

Then your nineteenth century doctor prescribes... opium!

Yes, opium, of indeterminate age, size or quantity, taken in granular form (or laudanum, a tincture of opium) so that one can never entirely control one's intake. Wilberforce himself took four grains three times a day for most of his life, and, despite the fact that he was hooked on narcotics, once remarked, "If I take but a single glass of wine, I can feel its effect, but I never know when I have taken my dose of opium by my feelings."

Wilberforce cannot be entirely held accountable for his addiction to opiates, as it was a standard treatment "to mitigate pain, to allay spasm, to promote sleep, to relieve nervous restlessness, to produce perspiration and to check profuse mucous discharges from the bronchial tubes and gastro-intestinal canal."

Gentle Readers, keep this remedy in mind the next time you or a friend wishes to check profuse mucous discharges from the gastro-intestinal canal.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Georgian Beauty Tips

Shocking that Elle and Cosmo don't feature any of these tricks.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stand and Deliver (for real this time!)

What I really love about this 80s glam rock song about Dick Turpin is how they mock one of my favorite 80s glam rock songs, Adam Ant's Stand and Deliver.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Oh my, where to begin?

For those Gentle Readers who were unaware, there exists such a thing as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is Exactly What it Says on the Tin. It is literally the text of Pride and Prejudice with new scenes of zombies. Granted, it also includes new scenes of Lady Catherine being a ninja, and the Bennet sisters being well-versed in the martial arts, but after the initial snorts of laughter over the jarring absurity of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet discussing the best method of killing zombie, the real laughs come from Austen's text, not the gruesome, Gothic additions. A lot of the literary devices, which Austen employed with such deftness and elegance, are either forgotten or changed so as not to make much sense.

One could make the arguement that it is very much in the Austen spirit, as it enacts the literary critic Bakhtin's idea of heteroglossia, where the dominant discourse is mocked or subverted, and different types of speech coexist. Here we have the discourse of subtle social commentary and the discourse of B-movie horror films. Amusing, yes, but perhaps not used in the manner that the Marxist Bakhtin would have imagined.

For those who are not Austen purists, it is amusing travel reading, for those who are, it is an abomination. For those who, like the Amateur Historian, like to maintain a critical distance from their reading material, it is not good. The inserted paragraphs are jarring and the characterizations that Austen gives and the new authors give are entirely at odds with each other. The authors seem to recognize this, as at the end of the book, they ask the question if one sees two halves to Elizabeth Bennet's personality, or if it is just sloppy writing. The Amateur Historian is inclined to believe the latter.

Granted, this was the first book the two authors wrote, so it could just be the ordinary faults of a first novel. It is a very creative idea, and a satiric look at the Western literary canon, but one that was somewhat clumsily executed. Though the Amateur Historian really has no intention (or desire) to read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters it is most likely better put-together.

Is there literary merit to these re-writes? The Amateur Historian thinks not.

Are they fun to read? ... sort of? It depends on what one is looking for, and one's stance on Austen and the sanctity, or not, of the Western canon. It is certainly a clever idea, but Austen's elegant cynicism and her subtle social commentary are quite absent, leaving a sort of illiterate Frankenstein's monster in a bonnet stumbling around a cardboard Hollywood set.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Prestige Review

Hello, Gentle Readers! The Amateur Historian has not reviewed anything pertaining to the time period mentioned in the header for a while, and so recently rented Christopher Nolan's The Prestige. This film, staring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as rival magicians during the end of the 19th century, in London, is a spooky, but stunning look at stage magic that somehow turns into a distrubing sci-fi story about a magician abusing the scientific powers of Nicola Tesla.

... yes, Gentle Reader, you read that correctly.

Now, from an aesthetic standpoint, the Amateur Historian beileves that one really cannot go wrong with any story that involves Hugh Jackman in period attire and yet... hm. Gentle Readers should be warned that the film is extremely bloody. One realizes that there is a great deal of danger involved in near-death escapes, but one does not really internalize it. The main conflict between the two magicians, Robert Angier (played by Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden, (played by Christian Bale) begins when the two work as audience plants for another magician's show. Angier's wife plays the pretty assistant to the magician, you know, the one who is generally sawed in half, or dropped into a tank of water with her arms and legs tied up. Unfortunately, due to Bordon, the tank of water trick ends in very violent tragedy, and, in a show of machismo, revenge and I think pathological obession, Angier and Borden keep trying to one-up each other to increasingly dangerous ends.

Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen the movie gets weird.

Perviously, Angier had worked with Michael Caine's character to come up with tricks, but, after recieving a mysterious clue on how to do the "Disappearing Man" trick, he jaunts off to the US to meet with, you guessed it, NICOLA TESLA.

I have nothing against Tesla, and I think the choice of David Bowie to play Tesla was nothing short of genius, but seriously, electricity can only do so much. I don't know if it was part of the book orginally, but I somehow doubt if electricity, wether AC or DC can clone hats, cats or Wolverines. Apparently it does. Who knew? Maybe Edison had something on Tesla being a danger to society.

The main problem with the film is that it veers off genre without any real set-up for it. It appears to be a very bloody look at the end of century, Alaistar Crowley sort of magic, where the veneer of civilization is but a veneer, and the darkness and wolfish nature of man is always rearing its Lockean head to show us we are rather nasty brutes after all. Then it turns out to be about clones.


The other problem is the Amateur Historian's own sense of aesthetics. The Amateur Historican has never been one for the gothic, prefers Austen to Bronte, and Voltaire to Locke. Thus, a film that takes the view of a brutish humanity is not likely to please. However, if one enjoys horror, or enjoyed the film Gothic in an unironic manner, one is likely to enjoy this film.