Sic Semper Semanis

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Robert Mugabe and the Exciting Legacy of Colonialism

I really love the city I live in, and that’s good because I don’t get to travel much. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I belong to the lower middle class. There were signs in my early twenties that I might end up living a sort of vagabond lifestyle, but as it turns out I was not willing to be the sort of vagabond that can live on no money at all so I settled down and since then there has never been quite enough money for temporarily unsettling. I’m not asking for pity. I’m offering explanation. …continue reading

C’thulhu, or Fear of the Unknown: A How-To

“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu lies dreaming.” Thus is translated the main chant of the so-called “C’thulhu Cult” that once lurked in the gulf swamps south of New Orleans, according to one inspector John Raymond LeGrasse, who along with his colleagues put a stop to this ridiculous behavior in or around the year 1907. After busting up the cult, which was in excess of fifty members, LeGrasse found himself in possession of a small stone artifact that rather upset him. Hoping to find someone who might be able to offer a clue as to the thing’s origin or …continue reading

Muammar Gaddafi: Breaking Hearts and Taking Bullets

NOTE: This essay was originally written on October 22, 2011, immediately after the bombing of Libya and the death (?) of Muammar Gaddafi. Something is rotten in the state of Libya, and I have to say I’m not surprised considering the heat there. I mean, that macaroni salad was like, all mayonnaise. You should have put it in the refrigerator if you weren’t going to eat it. Come on. Up until about, oh, yesterday (adjusting for time difference), Libya was run by Muammar Qaddafi for the last 42 years, which is an especially impressive achievement considering that most African countries …continue reading

Queen Mary Tudor: Rare But Not Too Bloody

So I don’t know how long “Bloody Mary” has been a thing, but it’s been around longer than I have – the thing where all the kids at a sleepover scare each other with the idea that if you look into a mirror and say “Bloody Mary” over and over again, Mary herself will appear and, I don’t know, scratch you face up or whatever she does. No one ever finds out because the whole point is to get seriously worked up as quickly as possible and chicken out before you actually do it and then run around screaming because …continue reading

Rafael Trujillo and Tropico 5: Or, the Disappointment of Getting Exactly What You Expect

Okay. So, this past week, I wanted to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, because everyone including the Pulitzer Prize committee says it’s pretty dang fantastic, and somebody linked me to a talk that Junot Diaz gave at the Key West Literary Seminar and he’s so sweet and thoughtful that I absolutely fell in love, grabbed my phone, and purchased the e-book on the spot. Now, between this website and the podcast and actually having a real-life full-time job, I don’t have as much time as I would like to have for reading fiction, but one of the …continue reading

Leopold II of Belgium: Putting the Con in Congo

When you think about Belgium, what springs to mind? Waffles, probably. Chocolate. Cuckoo clocks maybe, but those actually come from Switzerland, so you’re a little bit confused. How about mass murder, slavery, and genocide? Where does that fall on the list? The truth is, if you don’t live in Europe you probably don’t think about Belgium very much at all, because it’s one of those little countries that behave themselves and doesn’t have a whole lot of international push against, say, a Germany or a France, which are the two major powers that Belgium lies between. And the fact that …continue reading

Steve Jobs: Creating an Orwellian Future Since 1984

I think the reason I never did well in life is because I never had a garage. Think of all the things I could have done with a garage that would have led me to a better and more prosperous life than the one I have now: I could have had a crappy high school boyfriend who was in a band and they could have practiced there, or I could have raised some kind of exotic pet that was too smelly to go in the house but too delicate to live outside. Maybe I could have lived in the garage …continue reading

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. : Politics By Procreation

Joseph P. Kennedy is one of those people who was super famous for most of his life but it’s a little bit hard to say why. Mostly it boiled down to the fact that he was real real good at making two things: money and babies. Kennedy came from East Boston (which is not the same thing as regular Boston, but it’s close). His family was Irish Catholic and that comes with all kinds of stereotypes that he would cheerfully live up to, but they weren’t poor. They weren’t rich either – at least, not that rich. They were firmly …continue reading

Boudicca: Her Knockers Knocked Down Cities

Here’s what we know for sure: We know that in the year AD 60, somebody burned down three major Roman settlements on the island of Great Britain, and we know that there was a woman there when it happened. Everything else is extrapolation. According to Roman historians (to wit: Tacitus and Cassius Dio), that woman was a red-headed terror named Boudica, and she was coming to eat your soul. Yes, she was dead by the time they wrote about her. So what? All the really good soul-eaters are dead. Everybody knows that. Boudica’s part in history was actually rather small, …continue reading

Genghis Khan: To Mongolia, and Beyond!

Genghis Khan stands out as a conqueror among conquerors, and only partially because he conquered people who had conquered other people first. That was inevitable, because Genghis conquered pretty much everyone he ever met. He was arguably the greatest conqueror who ever did conquer, but the thing that’s so incredible on top of that is that there is very little reason why he should have been so good at conquering in the first place. Pretty much everything we know about Genghis Khan comes from a book called The Secret History of the Mongols, which is a book that Genghis commissioned …continue reading