The Seven Days meme: Day Five

day 01 | a song
day 02 | a picture
day 03 | a book/ebook/fanfic
day 04 | a site
Day 05 | a youtube clip
day 06 | a quote
day 07 | whatever tickles your fancy

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Well, isn’t this convenient. The 2010 Olympic replica gear collection just happens to have been unveiled @ the Hudson’s Bay Co. today; naturally, along with the 2010 Olympic replica gear commercial. All I can add is… yeah, if nothing else, we were definitely made to have caribou on our clothing.

Inauguration musings, for what they’re worth

Weirdest quote on yesterday’s events comes from Toronto MetroNews TV columnist Rick McGinnis:

“The inauguration was as uninteresting as it was overwrought…”

Dude. Anger, sure I can understand that; also cynicism or even the more moderate forms of paranoia. But if you were unable to find anything interesting in what happened in Washington yesterday, then you need to pack up your little columnist bags right now, ‘cause you have no business dictating to the human race on pretty much any level whatsoever.

My personal interest, although great, was not so much in the whole ‘dawn of a new tomorrow!’ hype, partly because I’m not American (and apolitical with it), and partly because I have always been unable to rid myself of the suspicion that Obama’s greatest strengths – the ones on display yesterday – may also be his biggest weaknesses.

Whatever your ultimate POV, he is the closest thing the Western world currently has to a politician who means what he says; heady stuff, that. Just standing there at the podium, he made any number of impossible dreams real – albeit, as Martin Luther King III seems to have been alone in pointing out yesterday, not quite the one to which his father gave iconic voice. Racism still exists, political divisions still run deep, and there were security snipers lining the tops of buildings on the inaugural route yesterday.

All this also leaves President Obama alarmingly vulnerable to spectacular gulfs between ideal and reality, and I don’t think it’s going to take long at all for them to emerge. If his transition is any indication, he’s already gone into cautious mode. His first speech was a stirring call to arms, yes, but not to the soaring imagination that launched his career. He will be a good President, I think – if for no other reason than that he seems to want to be, in ways that the Bush machine could not even fathom. But no, he cannot change fundamental human nature, and so he will not bring on a new dawn flowing with milk and honey.

Still…for the moment it is possible to believe that the saddest, most sordid chapter of American history might have a happy ending after all. That’s insane. Seriously; for a long and uncomfortably recent while there, the notion of a Negro/Black man/African-American/person of colour as President would’ve been considered literally crazy. Opining about politics in yesterday’s context is ultimately kind of irrelevant; this moment belongs to emotional healing, to everyone who’s ever been made to feel less than human.

And it has its effect too on those who belong to the ‘privileged’ classes. LJ-friend[info]briansiano made several interesting points the other day about the uncomfortable Catch-22 well-meaning types have to walk in re: racism – on the one hand needing to be totally free of it and on the other, to be hyper-aware that it exists. We are compelled, as per a klutzily pretentious teenage poem of mine, to understand the finest points of something we can never understand.

And now the presidency of Barack Obama – the happy ending – has brought those details out into the open, lifted the guilt enough to make dialogue possible. It may be fractious and contentious dialogue in a lot of respects, but it will be there, and it may turn out to be a lot more fascinating than any of us expected (as klutzy me discovered when I once attempted to discuss the lack of black characters in Star Wars with a co-worker of colour. Let’s just say he was embarrassed long before I was.)

‘Uninteresting’. Damn, Rick, what were you thinking?

Reprint (sort of): Paris when it giggles

So I finally got around to watching Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola’s reimagining of the tragic Last Queen of France as an…um…an 18th-century version of a 21st-century Paris, is the best way I can describe it. This would possibly be a good time to reiterate that the French Revolution has been a hobby of mine for about twenty years now, which as far as I can tell puts me way out of the target demographic.

See, the thing is, this lady was the, y’know, Queen and stuff. That’s the reason people want to make a movie about her in the first place, 200-odd years later. Meaning you can’t tell the story only from her POV, as though she were Jane Private Citizen, accountable only to herself; it doesn’t work. Or perhaps it does…just not solely as a series of Uplifting Shopping Montages. Set to I Want Candy, yet. Accompanied by endless shots of Antoinette and her pastel posse biting into luscious – wait for it – cakes. I think I’d be truly miffed on Coppola’s audience’s behalf if I hadn’t watched Clueless: The Series one too many times. More

Epilogue: What happened to the children of Henry VIII?

Short answer: In soap-opera terms, Henry VIII’s kids were totally The Colbys to his Dynasty…only maybe not so much with the UFO abductions.

Edward VI was nine when dad handed over the reigns – or, more accurately, handed him over to his uncle, Edward Seymour, the Protector. (actually, Henry had envisioned a co-regency of many nobles, but in true Aaron Spelling fashion, whoopsie, the will got lost in all the confusion surrounding the burial.)

Little Eddie was quite the fun kid. Fanatically Protestant, ie disapproving of anything that might be remotely construed as self-indulgent; the phrase most historians use is ‘priggish’. One of those pale little child geniuses forever trying to win acceptance with the popular kids – or in this case, live up to his larger-than-life father. The story goes that he once called for a pet falcon and proceeded to tear the poor thing to pieces bare-handed, remarking that this was how he was treated now, but when he reached the throne…well, you get the picture. More

Reprint: “Never with the mother…”

So you thought I was kidding when I mentioned the French Revolution, didn’t you? Hah.

Actually, I thought I’d start off with something a little less apocalyptic, not to say a neat tie-in with the new movie, The Other Boleyn Girl. Not entirely certain if I want to watch that one or not; for the same reasons why I haven’t read the Philippa Gregory book it’s based on. Tudor history was so determinedly florid as it was that any effort to fictionalise and sensationalise tends to come off as unnecessary at best, and wholly ridiculous at worst.

In real life, almost nothing is known about the the Boleyn sisters’ relationship, for the simple reason that quite frankly nobody cared until Anne vaulted onto the English throne; they were women, after all, and commoners to boot. Mary, the eldest (although even their exact birthdates are unknown) does seem to have been a very pretty girl in a soft, Scarlett Johanssen-y way, all blonde curls and blue eyes. In no time she became basically the court hobbyhorse, racking up an impressive mileage even before King Henry – still in his tall athletic Golden Boy stage himself – decided to try her out.

Anne, on the other hand, was either much more demure or much more cunning, depending on who’s telling the story. It’s assumed from the modern perspective that she must have been at the least rather contemptuous of her sister, whose royal liason lasted all of about six months before she was married off to an obliging minor nobleman, but there’s no contemporary evidence to show it. Mary simply retired to the country, while Sister Anne, her replacement in Henry’s heart if not his bed, became Queen.

The legend goes that some years later, accused of sleeping with all the Boleyn family women in succession, Henry muttered ‘Not with the mother – never with the mother.”

At any rate, it all makes a nice preamble to a piece I wrote for the old forum some while ago, plus some later addenda…

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…I listened to a knowledgeable schoolchild pronounce on a presumed portrait of Anna of Cleves: “That’s her, the ugly one.” To which her companion agreed: “That’s right, she’s dead ugly” – except that they were both actually looking at a picture of the Temptress, Anne Boleyn.

–Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry VIII More