Wednesday, August 31, 2011

History on Film: Deadliest Warrior

I usually think of myself as fairly traditionally feminine, and I'm sure most people who know me would agree. On this blog I've reviewed a lot of shows and movies, usually costume dramas with a good dose of romance; but sometimes even I want to see something blow up or someone get soundly beaten. For those times, there's Deadliest Warrior, from Spike tv.

Do you like historical weapons and battle tactics? Have you ever gotten into a heated debate with your friends over who would win a fight between disparate opponents (a la pirate vs ninja)? Do you like to scream with glee during gory testosterone-dripping battle sequences? Yes? Then you'll like this show. I'm quite certain that it started with a bunch of historical weapons experts sitting around debating pirate vs ninja (or viking vs samurai etc), and realizing that they had the ability to scientifically test their theory.

Bring on the pig carcasses, ballistics gel, and foam torsos. Oh yeah, and blood packets, lots and lots of blood packets. Lest you think it's entirely a bunch of frats boys shooting things and making war cries, let me assure you that there is a core of scientists, computer experts, and a trauma doctor who are equally interested in the endurance of armor, effectiveness of tactics, and realistic lethality of weapons. But, yes, they whoop a lot when a Zande sword takes an anatomically correct head complete with skull and blood off of it's attached torso. So do I.

It is interesting to see how a Spartan soldier fares against a Ninja, or sometimes even specific historical figures like Alexander the Great vs Ghengis Khan, and more importantly why the match-ups end in the results they do. It debunks some myths, like that bullets will go through armor, and surprises you in other ways. Who knew cotton padding could be so effective?

All in all, it's a fun, if at times gross, show to watch. Usually predictable, but always entertaining. If you have Netflix you can find at least the first two seasons on Instant Queue.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tom and Jerry, but which ones?

I was listening to a song this evening which was a ballad of WWI and happened to notice that it mentioned the popular nicknames of "Tommy" for a British soldier, and "Jerrys" for Germans. It made me wonder if the later cartoon cat-and-mouse duo were so named for being adversaries.

Several websites later and it would appear that there is no linguistic link between the two characterizations. Tom is so named for the common appellation of "Tomcat", and Jerry was originally called Jasper when he appeared in his first short.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In Their Words- Beatrix Potter

“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”- Beatrix Potter  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This Day in History- The Great Calcutta Massacre

I had meant to post this yesterday, so it's actually "Yesterday in History", and for those of you reading from farther east, perhaps even later still.

August 16th, 1946. In the aftermath of WWII Britain is in the process of handing over control of India to the native population. There are two major factions within the Indian government, however, The Muslim League and the Indian National Congress (which was mostly Hindu). The short version is that the Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted to form an independent nation, where the population was already predominantly muslim, called Pakistan, and let the other Indian principalities declare for India, Pakistan, or their own independent nations. The Indian National Congress rejected this plan, preferring instead to keep India geographially and politically (i.e. predominatly Hindu) as it was.

The Muslim League reacted to the outright rejection by declaring Direct Action Day, and calling for muslim-operated shops to be closed, people to march in protest, and possibly other things that would be explained to their adherents at the rallies. The exact numbers that turned out are difficult to calculate now because estimates varied so widely depending on the person reporting, but it was somewhere between 30,000 and 500,000; a huge difference.

Tensions had been building for years between the two entities in a city that was at the time 64% Hindu and 33% Muslim. It didn't take long for violence to errupt, and both sides seem to have come prepared and heavily armed. Within 72 hours about 4,000 people are estimated to have died as gangs of men from both sides caught and killed individuals from the other, ransacked shops and homes, creating terror and devestation.

The remaining British Raj seemed determined to stay well out of it, and declared a public holiday which they explained was a way to keep people in their homes where they might have a greater chance at safety, rather that sending them to work where they might be in danger. The violence spread in subsequent days to neighboring towns and provinces, paving the way for the Partition of India to come.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Few Good Resources

Back from my honeymoon with lots to share about historical sites across the Mediterranean, and the museums who love them. First though I thought I would share some sites and vendors who are my go-to resources in the historical and costuming worlds.

fabrics-store.com This is the place for linen. The sell it in a wide variety of weights and colors, both in bulk and by the yard. I use them for both reenactment attire where it has to be really accurate, and for theatre; in fact I once did a show where all of the costumes were 100% linen. If you get on their mailing list and sign up for rewards points you get additional coupons e-mailed to you, and earn points for every purchase you make towards a future one.

Richard the Thread Every costume shop I've ever worked in has ordered from RTT, and it's because they are a great one-stop shop for everything sewing. Boning, elastic, hem puffers, millinery wire, curved rulers, dressforms, buckram, you name it. Shipping is fast and the prices are competitive, which is how they stay at the top of every shop's list.

Shoe Icons Sometimes you just need to look at shoes, whether for research or fun, and this is a great place to start. It features a collection of over 1500 shoes from the 18th century on with details about the materials, construction, and styles provided for each item. If you feel like you just have to own a pair yourself, just hop on over to the giftshop section for a postcard.

That's all for now, happy Friday everyone!