Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why No Blogging?

Because I'm grading term papers and final exams. If I start blogging, I'll use it as procrastination, and won't get my grading done.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Beowulf Marathon ... er, Painful Sprint

I don't know if two films a marathon make, but SciFi Channel is now showing the two worst film versions of Beowulf back-to-back: Grendel and Beowulf.

Avert your eyes!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

In the Year of Our Lord, 2009:

TMR Review of Global Perspectives on Medieval English Literature, Language, and Culture

Here's a review by Richard F. Johnson of my book Global Perspectives on Medieval English Literature, Language, and Culture.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

For your consideration:
Also, Richard K. Emmerson has won the Excellence in Teaching Medieval Studies award from the Medieval Academy of America. Huzzah! h/t In the Middle and News for Medievalists.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Herky-Jerky Politics of BBC's Robin Hood

Unfortunately, BBC's Robin Hood is only available through Season 2 in the United States, so I've not seen any subsequent episodes.

I was struck by the weirdness of the politics of the show, especially in the first season. While the second season settled into a bland, vaguely-left multicultural and semi-pacifist ideology, the first season was much more heavy-handed in its politics.

It wasn't weird that BBC had heavy-handed (indeed, often hamfisted) political content; the weird part is how inconsistent it is. It alternated wildly between Labour and Tory politics, rather than having a consistent pro-Labour political message like one expects from the BBC.

Take, for example, the episode "Turk Flu." You've got heroic striking English miners, oppressed cross-dressing Saracens, and all the trappings of a pro-Labour show. The Sheriff of Nottingham is depicted as an evil capitalist mine-owner, with a callous disregard for worker safety. Yes, the episode is one of the stupider ones, but it is what we expect the BBC to produce (er, the political content, not necessarily the stupidity).

On the other end of the spectrum though, is the pilot, "Will You Tolerate This?" In this episode, Robin is a former crusader (though haunted by the horrors of war) who returns to find his people suffering under excessive taxation. When Robin goes to the Council of Nobles meeting on Market Day and finds that there is no commerce because of the taxes, he suggests having a tax holiday every market day, and then offers a Cliff's Notes primer on basic capitalism as if he were channeling Adam Smith. Robin Hood is a tax-cutting capitalist Tory, and the Sheriff of Nottingham is depicted as a self-serving evil politician who pretends to have the people's best interests at heart with high taxes.

And so it goes, lurching back and forth from episode to episode. Sometimes the Sheriff is an evil right-winger, calling the fight against Robin Hood a "war on terror" and decrying the nanny state, and sometimes he's an evil left-winger, proclaiming the patriotic duty* of paying high taxes, and echoing socialist rhetoric that Robin Hood is stealing from us all.

I'm not sure what to make of the back-and-forth political play. At first, I thought it might be a case of dueling writers, each one trying to score political points through the scripts, but I've been unable to detect a pattern in terms of who gets the writing credit for each episode.

Perhaps it is simply that Robin Hood himself resists certain political interpretations. By his very nature, he is necessarily a populist figure, yet he fights the usurping Prince John in favor of the crusading King Richard. Robin Hood is not anti-authority; rather, he champions legitimate authority. Though in shorthand we often say Robin Hood "steals from the rich and gives to the poor," as we get past the bumper sticker version into full narrative we find that he steals from the (illegitimate) state and returns to the over-taxed poor what was already theirs. Ironically, for someone who is so often seen as a hero of wealth redistribution, Robin Hood is radically against the redistribution of wealth, and in fact distributes wealth back to those who originally produced it. Upon the return of King Richard, Robin Hood doesn't join a commune -- he re-takes his rightful place as feudal lord, master of his peasants. Robin Hood must flee to Sherwood Forest and take up arms because he is the rightful lord, fighting against the illegitimate authority of usurpers.

King Arthur is endlessly malleable in terms of his politics. He has been used as a symbol of both left and right, to good effect. Robin Hood, on the other hand, resists use as anything but a hero of the populist right. The further writers move away from that, the more their source material has to be stretched and twisted; it always risks popping back to its original shape.

*American audiences should note that the first season of Robin Hood preceded Joe Biden's claim that paying higher taxes is patriotic, so the similarity between Biden and the Sheriff is Biden's fault, not the writers of Robin Hood.

Nazis and Odinists Wanted

In its current incarnation, my work on the nationalist reaction to Beowulf: Prince of the Geats only has Nazis and Odinists represented through their e-mails of complaint to the filmmakers and the American Cancer Society, whereas the producers of the film were interviewed by telephone and in person. None of my e-mails to the various Nazis and Odinists have gotten any response.

I would really like to be able to interview some Nazis and Odinists, particularly if they have seen Beowulf: Prince of the Geats. Unfortunately, the Nazi who came to one of my public lectures left before I could get his contact information.

So, if you're a Nazi or an Odinist and would be willing to talk with me regarding Beowulf: Prince of the Geats in the next week or so, please send me an e-mail.

Morning Medieval Miscellany

It's the last full week of classes here at Troy University, with all the accompanying insanity! I hope these links help you hold on to the frayed edges of your psyche.
And, most importantly, Carnivalesque 49 is up! There were some weird technical problems when it first came across the RSS feeds last week, but it appears to be running properly now.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

A few tidbits for you this Friday morning.
Acephalous asks for help on a medieval/Pan's Labyrinth question.
A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe tells us about Anselm Day at the Bodleian Library.
The Cranky Professor has a post about Giotto e il Trecento.
Henchminion has some comments about a marginal image on Got Medieval.
Magistra et Mater has a post about charters and Matilda of Flanders.
Want to go to grad school for medieval lit? You might want to read Papa's Secret Voodoo Boot's chronicle of the day in the life of a grad student in medieval lit.
A Stitch in Time has a post about a new book called Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns.
Studies of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages announces two new books: Cinematic Illuminations: The Middle Ages on Film (a great title), and Queer Movie Medievalisms.
Getting Medieval has a new poll.
Medieval Silkwork discusses some illustrations of a tool for winding yarn.
In the Middle plugs Levinas and Medieval Literature: The "Difficult Reading" of English and Rabbinic Texts.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More on the Distance Between Heaven and Hell

In an earlier post, I talked about the calculations one of my students had made about the distance between Heaven and Hell. Lingwe questions my student's assumptions, and Horseman, Pass By argues that the question is moot anyway because of a flawed reading of the text -- so maybe the question would be how far an angel would have to fall to be knocked unconscious for nine days?

Morning Medieval Miscellany

A happy Thor's Day morning to you!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Caedmon's Hymn (West Saxon Version)

AnSaxNet has had a lot of discussion of this video of Caedmon's Hymn. The singer is Clay Paramore, with the modern English translation by Erin Murray. Clay does not know any Old English, so Erin tutored him on pronunciation.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Least Cool Sword Fight of the Year

Sword fights are cool (in the modern world, anyway) -- but is there anything less cool than swordfighting someone thirty years your elder, and then accidentally killing a woman in her late 70s?

Way to go, dude. You just took one of the coolest things in the world and ruined it. After centuries of swordfighting moving away from its history of brutality and violence, and moving toward sport and historical recreation, you've knocked it back to being a tool of evil and stupidity again.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dante's Inferno Balls

In New Orleans last week, my students bought me a box of cinnamon candies called "Dante's Inferno Balls."
I'm not sure where to take this joke: "They taste like Hell?" "I'll bet Beatrice never saw Dante's Inferno Balls?" "Perhaps he over-dosed on Viagra?" The mind boggles with possibilities!
I do have this one question, though: Is Dante's Inferno really such a marketable name? Is there a "Jean de Meun Florists" out there in the world somewhere? Or perhaps a "Peter Abelard athletic supporter?" Or a "Julian of Norwich Framery?"
So, to review: Odd product, lame jokes, mind boggling, more lame jokes.

Morning Medieval Miscellany

This this Monday morning:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

One of the joys of delayed posting is that I can do this MMM on Saturday night, without cutting into my Easter celebrations!
Oh, one more thing: Here's a blog that somehow escaped my notice: Getting Medieval.

*Wasn't it a couple of years ago that ever-humble Berube quit blogging, claiming he had "taken the medium as far as it can go?" Apparently, he hadn't quite transcended the medium yet.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

A quick MMM before heading off to Nawlins.
Unless I get unexpected internet access, probably no blogging until Saturday at the earliest.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Distance from Heaven to Hell

In Paradise Lost, Satan and the rebel angels fall for nine days through Chaos before landing in Hell. Today in class, I wondered aloud how far Heaven is from Hell, assuming standard rules of velocity.

Wes Cowan, one of my students, went to work on the question. Here's the answer:

Terminal Velocity: 176 ft/sec
Seconds in a Day: 86,400 sec/day
Days in fall: 9 day/fall

86,400 sec/day x 176 ft/sec = 15,206,400 ft/day
15,206,400 ft/day x 9 day/fall = 136,857,600 ft/fall
136,857,600 ft/fall / 5280 ft/mile = 25,920 mile/fall


  • This math assumes that the terminal velocity of a falling angel is 176 ft/sec through a matrix of chaos. Being that chaos probably has no air or fluid to resist movement through drag or friction (since it is a void), terminal velocity would be the same as initial velocity.
  • If we assume that chaos is indeed “a yawning void” the velocity of the fallen during their entire trip would be the same as their initial velocity. This leads to the troublesome question of, “How fast did God throw the fallen angels from heaven?” If the initial velocity of the fallen angels could be determined by discovering God’s level of wrath and strength of arm at the time the fallen angels were thrown, then the answer could be known.
  • This answer also depends on whether or not God has chosen to allow the employment of Newtonian mechanics in regards to chaos and God’s ability to throw.

So, there you go. Los Lonely Boys have their answer. Not really all that far, considering.

Blogroll Update Ahead

After months of being out of commission, it seems that Blogrolling is working again. In that time, I've added a lot of blogs to my RSS feed, but haven't been able to add them to my blogroll.

If you've got a medieval-content blog and would like to see it added to my blogroll, please send me a link. Even if it's in my RSS feed (which you would know if you appear in the Miscellanies), I don't want anything slipping through the cracks.

Also, I'll be purging old, dead blogs. If you consider your blog active but haven't posted in many a month, it might be time to post again!

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Ah, Dan Brown, you're probably hoping for another fat royalty check --
For those who haven't seen it before -- the K'zoo blogger meet-up is being organized over at Purring Prophecy.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

For your Monday morning:
That's it! Not a lot of medievalia over the weekend.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

PCA/ACA Roundup

You might not normally think "medieval" when you think of the Popular Culture Assocation / American Culture Association joint conference, but every year it has a strong showing in its Arthurian section and its medieval section.

I myself will be going, arriving Wednesday afternoon and leaving Friday evening. Who else plans to be there?

Morning Medieval Miscellany

For your enjoyment on this Sunday morning:
  • Medieval Material Culture Blog says that there's an archaeology exhibit in Freiburg through July 26th. As I don't read German, I'll take her word for it.
  • The Medieval History Term of the Week is entry fine.
  • Medieval Silkwork is working on a project "based on a ca. 1300 purse in the Sint Servaas treasury in Maastricht."
  • News for Medievalists has an update with links to medieval headlines and new medieval articles online, including an announcement of a lecture entitled "How Medieval Nuns Invented the Postcard." That's absolutely ridiculous, of course. Everyone knows the postcard was invented by the Earl of Postcard, who didn't want to interrupt his card game to write a lengthy letter, so he popped of a few words on the back of the sketch of a sandwich. Or something like that.
Can you tell I'm taking great pleasure in being able to post Miscellanies again?

Oh, and by the way, I've been watching the BBC Robin Hood all week, and I'm finding the ideology of the show curious. I may post on that later if I'm not too busy preparing for PCA.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

... and back to our normally scheduled programming.
I'm glad there weren't too many things to link to today; I'm still getting used to this keyboard. Hopefully, the MMMs will once again be a semi-daily posting.

Friday, April 03, 2009

In Honor of My New Work Computer

I offer this as a love song to my new, zippy computer:

I love Technology

Morning Medieval Miscellanies -- Returning Soon!

My new computer has finally arrived, and now I can have more than one window open on the screen!

What does this mean for the Unlocked Wordhoard? Regular blogging should resume, particularly the Morning Medieval Miscellanies that so many had come to rely on.

My great thanks to Karma and Rivkah for stepping in and doing some Miscellanies while my technology was uncooperative.