barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
Adams: We should do the thing!
Everybody: No, John.
Adams: But it's important!
Everybody: No, John.

Adams: Hey Jefferson, tell them they should do the thing.
Jefferson: I'm busy.
Adams: But it's important.
Jefferson: Boring.
Adams: But morality! Posterity! Doing the right thing!
Jefferson: *sigh* Okayyyyyyy.

Jefferson: We should do the thing.
Everybody: Hell yes!

Adams: That was great! Thank you so much!
Jefferson: Whatever. I'm going back to Monticello; come get me when the country needs a president that isn't you.
barnabas_truman: (army)
The other day I brought up the notion of a crossover fanfic bringing together Mary Poppins, Ms. Frizzle (of the Magic School Bus books), and Carmen Sandiego (monument-stealing criminal mastermind from a series of old geography edutainment computer games), presumably as they pull off some sort of absurdly elaborate heist. A friend suggested time-traveling to the glory days of the Library of Alexandria to save a bunch of the scrolls that have been lost to history. Here's what I ended up with an hour or two later...

-----

"Can I help you find something?" asked the old librarian.

"We're looking for, er, the big fire that's about to destroy the library," said Ms. Frizzle with a bit of uncertainty.

"Fire? What fire?"

"My understanding is that the Roman army set the city on fire during a war and the flames spread to the library, burning everything."

"Romans?" interrupted Carmen; "I recall being told that the scrolls were destroyed by a mob of violent and fanatical Christians who thought they were heretical."

"Pish-posh," said Mary. "I have always read that the scrolls were used as firewood by decadent and uncaring Muslims."

"That's not entirely true," said the librarian slowly. "Yes, Caesar's army set fire to the city, and many buildings were burned, but the librarians were able to keep the flames away from most of the scroll-houses. Yes, Pope Theophilus decreed that the pagan temples were to be destroyed, and that included the main museum itself, but we were storing most of the scrolls in outbuildings by that time. Yes, Amr ibn al-As conquered all of Egypt, but the rumors of his using scrolls as firewood were propaganda spread by his opponents. Kings and conquerers come and go but we librarians make do."

"Then where are the scrolls?" asked Carmen.

The librarian gestured towards a dark doorway at the back of the room. The three travelers rushed to it, only to find a large unfurnished storeroom, dimly lit by small high windows. Piled in the middle was a colossal heap of dusty scrolls.

Mary cautiously reached for one and gingerly picked it up. It crumbled to dust in her fingers.

The three stood in silence for a while, looking over what was once the knowledge of the western world.

"What has happened to this place?" asked Ms. Frizzle as they returned solemnly to the front room.

"We've got no shelves," said the librarian sadly. "We've got no scribes. We've got no money too. The apathy of the people and the abandonment of the government have accomplished what generations of conquest could not. No library can survive long without support."

-----

(apologies to Pratchett for shamelessly plagiarizing his "kings and lords come and go" and "we've got no ships, we've got no men, we've got no money too" lines)
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
"See, George Washington is basically just like George Bush, because George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, which made it into a cherry bush, so George Bush!"

"Rrrrrrrriiiiiight. Welp, good luck on your AP US History test."
barnabas_truman: (young whistler)
Sometime around 25 years ago, my parents took me to the Southern California Renaissance Faire for the first time. I watched plays and dancing and juggling, I listened to music, I bought a little pewter dragon, and I was hooked. I continued going once a year throughout elementary school and high school, dressing up as a young wizard and spending perhaps a little too much money on little pewter heroes and monsters.

About 15 years ago, I moved away for college, joined an English country dance group called the Merrie Pryanksters, and realized that instead of just *going* to the Faire once in a while, I could be *part* of it. At some point I discovered the Dickens Christmas Fair as well, and for the past five years I've been playing music there as well.

Two or three years ago, I was dressed up as a 19th century surveyor and playing Gold Rush music in Old Town Sacramento, and some friends invited me to play a Spanish conquistador in a light-hearted California history pageant. My role consisted of striding boldly onto the stage, wearing a sash and a helmet, pointing in various directions with a wooden sword, and saying in an outrageous accent "I am here from Spain, and *that* place is San Francisco, and it belongs to my king, and *that* over there is Monterey, and it belongs to my king also, and *this* here is Sacramento, and it's his too." I like to think I delivered my lines with precisely as much seriousness and respect as the scriptwriter had intended.

After I walked off stage, Kathleen Twombly took my props and said "Were ya nervous, performing in front of Phyllis Patterson herself?"
"Wait, Phyllis Patterson?" I spluttered; "The one who started all this historical reenactment festival stuff in the first place, way back when?? She's still alive??"
"Yeah, that was her in the wheelchair in the front row!"
That was the extent of my interaction with Phyllis Patterson, but I can at least say I performed for her once.

I'm told that Phyllis Patterson passed away this morning. I never really knew her, but I understand that she gave the spark that began the construction of this marvelous scattered playground where I have spent so many happy weekends of my life. So thank you, Phyllis; thank you for the plays, the parades, the pewter figures, the puppets, the jugglers, the tavernside chess matches, the late-night jam sessions at the Three Cripples Pub, and most of all for the community. We'll do our best to keep it going while you're away.
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
Interesting article on the current state of the shipping industry:

How Does All Your Stuff Get to You? Inside the Shipping Industry

In many ways it's a very different beast than the tall ships of yesteryear.
barnabas_truman: (dwarf)
Ever wondered why I wear a feather in my hat? Must be my Neanderthal ancestry.

Caveman Couture: Neandertals Rocked Dark Feathers
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
It's English folk tradition lesson time!

In old English churches there's a frequent bit of architecture called the "lych-gate," which is a covered gateway (to keep snow from clogging it) at the entrance/exit to the graveyard. Traditionally it's the gate through which corpses are brought into the graveyard for burial, but also the gate through which newly married couples parade out of the church. Nice bit of symbolic mirroring, that.

Also, since it's an English folk tradition, it's also customary for all of the kiddies in attendance to gather 'round the lych-gate and refuse to let the bride and groom leave unless they pay them a toll of a few coins. It's hardly an English folk tradition if it doesn't involve a shakedown from the local kiddies.
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
On Sunday I did something that I don't think I've ever done before: I spent an entire day at a historical reenactment event without playing any music. What I did do included a parade, teaching four families how to survey the height of a building, and teaching a foreign tourist how to play checkers. I still like playing old music best of all, of course, but I am pleased that I'm developing a broader variety of talents.
barnabas_truman: (oldstyle)
Apparently in 1951 some pieces of paper-like bark were discovered in northern Russia on which were written a child's homework from the 13th century: Cyrillic alphabet, simple texts... and doodles! It's nice to know that, although civilization changes all the time, in some ways kids have always been kids. Interesting variation on the modern idea of a stick figure too. See some examples at the following links:

http://bigbigpix.blogspot.com/2009/08/some-things-never-change.html

http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/ruwiki/381315

Check out this sketch especially. The bodies are crudely drawn (hey, hands are hard!) but the faces show remarkably deep expression with just a few lines.
barnabas_truman: (math)
The more I learn about the history of mathematicks and the sciences, the more I become convinced that the Logarithm is the most useful and important tool that Mankind has ever invented.

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