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From History in Three Keys (Paul Cohen):

As we live our lives, we instinctively place them in a narrative framework. We "tell stories" to ourselves that make sense of our experiences: biographical, not historical, sense. So it isn't entirely correct to say that books explain while in life things simply happen. In life, also, there is a powerful need for understanding and explanation, which all of us experience, subjectively, every moment of every day.

And how we explain things to ourselves causes us to do things. Which is why the humanities matter; they are all about the stories we tell ourselves.


Sep. 26th, 2009 06:28 am
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My Asian history class is covering the Silk Road next week. The first book was about a series of painted caves carved out of a cliff by Buddhists a bit away from one of the major stops on the silk road. I'm pretty sure that the professor used the book for the Neolithic to Song class I took freshman year, because it was basically a recap of that, only with pictures of buddhas. The second book, which I haven't finished, is about the foreign excavations of the caves.

...It reads like a steampunk novel.

You have the Intrepid British Explorer (the phrase India Office might also appear) who hacks his way through Lots of Peril to the Lost Cities at the edge of the Mysterious Taklamakan and who bonds with the Lonely Daoist Monk (never forget that Shangri-La was actually in the Tianshan, not the Himalayas) in the wind-swept sands of central Asia over a long-lost Chinese legend. He, of course, steals the Daoist monk's treasures and is duly knighted by HRM.

Then you have a few other white dudes--five or six?--who all do similar things, only the last one (an American, late to the race) is actually more or less kicked out of China because the Chinese for some reason (!) are pissed at foreigners stealing their history. The Intrepid British Explorer randomly drops dead in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, you have the "enigmatic" and "mysterious" Count (who by the way is handsome, in a delicate sort of way) who manipulates the same Daoist monk into selling him a lot of the choice picks. He goes back to Japan (cuz he's Japanese), hits mysterious financial difficulty, and the collection just disappears. Careful scholarship twenty-thirty years later finds one third of his collection in Japan, one third in Korea, and one third NOBODY KNOWS WHERE! The best part? He's also a SPY. We think. Or so, at least Colonel Shuttlecock (or something like that) of the India Office thinks.

Then 40% of the stuff stolen by the Intrepid German Explorer gets bombed by the Americans during World War Two. Some eight or nine crates of it also disappears entirely into the USSR when the Soviets take over Berlin...



Aug. 29th, 2009 09:16 pm
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Speech allegedly documenting a Chinese 'plan' for eliminating the United States by biological warfare. The Chinese is ostensibly here, and it matches up pretty closely.

Epoch Times is, charitably, an uncesnsored account of what is going on in the Chinese mainland; uncharitably, it's as ideologically biased, one-sided, and unreliable as Maoist propaganda. The Chinese government hates them; if you google "epoch times," you can see that the Chinese cybermachine has made "crooks" a related search term. Given that there is a great deal of noise from both sides, you are not going to be able to find anything useful about them on teh intarwebs. There are probably a lot of articles with basis in fact because the Chinese government isn't nice, but this isn't one of them.

It is written, I think, by a Chinese dissident pretending to be a "leading CCP official." It appears to be less a coherent speech advocating a given plan of action than a hodge-podge effort to hit every single hot button issue among the anti-China crowd except for the planned birth policy. It was translated by someone with an ear for the expectations of the sort of white conservative who would read the Epoch Times seriously.

Taiwan, imminent inhumane threat to all Americans, contempt of Chinese culture (simply sage worship?), evolutionary theories of race (pointing out that Hitler was a Darwinist: big among contemporary conservatives), specifically anti-Christian sentiment, Communists-and-Marxists-are-really-Nazis, the Tian'anmen Square Massacre (June 4 Riots), cold war rhetoric ("nuclear bondage" = mutually assured destruction), the lie that 20 million people died from Maoist campaigns that weren't the Great Leap Forward, the "oh my gosh China is going to be a superpower" hysteria. It has an explicitly racial element: above all, the "speaker" is the cunning and lying Chinaman with the evil subhuman plan. If you had to build a straw man, Fu Manchu "Chi Haotian" is it.

China is not going to invade Taiwan so long as there is economic development; the United States would probably not intervene if it did; China is not going to be a superpower; I like semicolons. I'm pretty sure that the hysteria over all these is simply a modern manifestation of the Yellow Peril. Maybe there's a cultural problem in the US. We haven't gotten over the Yellow Peril, the Yellow Claw, or Fu Manchu, and it shows in what anti-Chinese people will countenance.

It's a caricature, one more manifestation of a vile archetype (see also the cartoon: do you know any real Chinese men that look like that?).

But twist it, a bit: it is true that the Chinese government takes interest in proving that there is one China for 5,000 years or more. It is true that the CCP still touts an explicitly Leninist view of race and ethnicity. It is true that Maoism is an especially violent strain of Communism--the CCP as a whole has moved away from Maoism, but if it's just one Maoist...

Not a malevolent race with a heartless government, but one aging soldier seeing that what he worked for and believes in will not come to pass, is in fact actively editing itself out of existence. He wants to stop it, looks to his understanding of history, ideology, and capacities, and comes up with a plan. He presents the plan, they applaud him out of politeness, respect for what he did back in the old days. He recognizes what they're doing, thanks them for their time, and goes back home, presumably to die.

A modernist story would end there, sad commentary on how we all die and get alienated and despair and blah blah angst blah. A pulp story? No. He then tries to implement it himself--necessitating, of course, heroic intervention--by someone who's the product of the real new China, not the new China he thought he was creating.

It's not true, but it could be...
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I am sick of wading through Latinate gibberish and run-on, self-contradictory sentences that pass for careful analysis of concrete facts. It is unfortunate that the French decided to have a hissy fit over whether language means anything.

Literature is one thing. Academic analysis is another. Papers are written to influence and help other people in the same field. They need to be clear. If you have written a paper arguing something, and I cannot find your main point and the chief supporting arguments by skimming, then YOU NEED TO TAKE AN AX TO YOUR WORK. If you use terms like "the postsocialist historical feminist revisionism," then you should burn it.
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Title: The Mystery at the Adjectival Library
Fandom: Crossover between Nancy Drew and [livejournal.com profile] mina_de_malfois. Since I used [livejournal.com profile] cleolinda's outline to write this, those with allergies to meta are advised to flee the vicinity.
Pairing/Characters: Nancy Drew, George Fayne, Bess Marvin, Mina de Malfois, Archivist12, Xenalvr, and two OCs. There aren't really any pairings in here because, let's face it, Nancy/Ned does not qualify.
Rating: That depends on how violent you think being knocked out is.
Summary: There is a mystery. Nancy investigates! Nancy is knocked out. Nancy solves the mystery!
Disclaimer: I do not own Nancy Drew or Mina de Malfois. You can and should find the brilliant Mina canon at [livejournal.com profile] mina_de_malfois. I might have been lying about there not being any pairings in here. I blame my non-existent Clives for all miskates! And I love Nancy Drew, but sometimes I wonder what would happen if her leaps of logic and flagrant disregard for rules ran up against someone more grounded in reality and authority.

I regret nothing! )


Jun. 10th, 2008 06:32 pm
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"Asselar." The name rolled off Mansa's tongue as if it was coated in acid.

No. Had it been coated in acid, it would have burned a hole through his tongue.

The quote is from a book called Sahara, which has a good plot but terrible writing, characterization, pacing, and so forth. The book is 568 pages long, but if I'd been editor it would be more like 200. There's that much extraneous crap.

But it still has (a) zombies, (b) pirates (or at least a pirate flag), (c) the world at stake, (d) filthy rich people who can save the world, (e) the government being a pain in the ass, (f) random slaughtering of bad guys, and (g) buried treasure.
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Le Melodrame: Or, A Tragickal Tale of Woe

by a Lady

It was dawn, cold and grey.

Two pairf advanced acroff the mifty down towardf each other. They met.

'Will you not refolve your quarrel?' implored one, Lord M-- of Lofted Bedde.

'No,' said his companion, Miss B--, a steely-eyed Juno, and lady of negotiable affection. 'My honour is at stake.' She looked with miflike at another, quite unruffled and rather filly-faced woman, Lady K-- of Pekin. The latter shrugged.

'I'll take that as a "no,"' said her companion, the well-dreffed Duke P--.

'Well, then.' Lord M-- said dolefully. 'Have you the piftols?'

'Yef,' replied the Duke. He withdrew from some unfeen receff a cafe. 'They are in working order and loaded. Choose your piftols, ladies.'

The strumpet selected a small revolver, pearl-handled and pink (frillf were the latest fafhion in Parif, the City of Love). The other chofe a 9mm Springfield sub-compact XD. The Duke pofitioned the ladief so they were back to back.

'Take ten pacef, turn, and fire. One, two, three...'

As she was walking, Lady K-- confidered the queftion of Miss B--'s honour. It waf certainly non-exiftent. If Parmenidef was correct--and she never doubted but that he waf--they should not be talked about. Surely 'not worth talking about' could be logically extended to 'not worth killing for'? And B--, without honour though she may be, was not without merit. 'And in any case,' thought Lady K--, 'she cannot shoot. It would not be fair.'

'...Nine, Ten!'

She turned, raised her pistol, and fired into the air.

Her opponent did not. B--, that alleged pacifift, did know how to shoot, for she had practised all night in her study, shocking C-- and making his fiancee, Miss W-, that unfortunate Blueftocking, pofitively faint; which fainting pleafed C--'s irrepreffible cousin, Miss S--. Miss B--'s aim was true and Lady K-- dropped, dead.

B-- turned haughtily to the seconds, but they were gone. 'Lord M--? Sir P--?' she said expectantly. No reply, for the secondf had run off together. This was a perfectly natural thing to have done, because penguinf and comforterf get on swimmingly. B-- did not have much time to be vexed, for she, pantfless after her usual cuftom, was exceedingly cold. She froze to death. For it was dawn, cold and grey.


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