Little Rocket Man Historical Background and Apparel

Here’s a video on YouTube titled How the Kim Dynasty Took Over North Korea. It’s six minutes long and from the History Channel so it’s actually informative and legitimate.

Separately, for your viewing pleasure:

Made in China.

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Arch Stanton Guest Post: Episode 6 of Today I Learned – William Walker: Imperialist Batman

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You know someone is an interesting historical figure when no one can agree on how to identify them. Abraham Lincoln – President. John Wilkes Booth – guy who shot the President. John Lennon – songwriter. Mark David Chapman – guy who shot Lennon. Let’s get off this path. Describing William Walker’s legacy is a tricky proposition, so let’s quote Wikipedia directly – “an American physician, lawyer, journalist and mercenary who organized several private military expeditions into Latin America with the intention of establishing English-speaking slave colonies under his personal control, an enterprise then known as “filibustering”. So let’s get into William Walker’s time as a journalist lol jk we’re going to talk about how he repeatedly appointed himself President of both nonexistent and pre-existing nations. You are goddamn right there’s a story here about the Batman of nation-building.
Starting with the first instance of self-proclaimed presidency in 1853, William Walker and his Macys-Thanksgiving-Day-Parade-headed ass unilaterally decided it was his patriotic duty to protect California (recently granted statehood in 1850), and set out with 45 men/soldiers/pre-Minutemen Border Patrol members to conquer the Baja and Sonora provinces of Mexico. Yep, just like that, because that’s how international sovereignty, strategic warfare and the general laws of the universe work – you just decide something and it’s done without any repercussions. So this cluster of assholes (I believe that’s the proper plurality) shows up and just declares the Republic of Lower California to be a thing. They incorporated using Louisiana’s state laws, primarily because of the whole pro-slavery thing, but also because they were very interested in retaining the future right to get alcoholic beverages served to you at drive-thrus. The Mexicans were, unsurprisingly, surprised by their announcement (of the sovereign republic, not the alcohol at drive-thrus thing).
This reign lasted from October 3, 1853 (when the Republic of Lower California was declared) until January 21, 1854, when he seceded an enormous chunk of land to avoid retaliation from the Mexican army. The good news is William Walker could not be deterred, and declared a NEW republic, the Republic of Sonora, with a smaller, more well-defended territory. This territory was founded – you guessed it – January 21, 1854, and lasted until May 8, 1854, which did not end in some grand, noble battle, but instead ol’ Willie Walks fleeing because he was terrified of the impending Mexican war. He went back to California, where he was put on trial for “waging of an illegal war,” which is a thing I had never heard before outside of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in Cambodia. Seeing as how this was the era of Manifest Destiny, and showing up and declaring territories as your American was championed across the country, his jury acquitted him in eight minutes.
Shamed by his failure and apprehensive about trifling with the Mexican army again with only a cluster of ill-trained and ill-equipped men, William Walker immediately redirected his patriotic efforts to Nicaragua, where he was set to protect economic interests and trade routes through the country for Pacific-Atlantic trade prior to the construction of the Panama Canal. Nicaragua was currently in a civil war between the Legitimatists (what a Trumpian party name!) and the Liberals, the latter of which needed help and for some baffling reason, decided they needed this 5’2” failed despot to help them.
(Quick detour – in the intro, the word “filibustering” was introduced, and it’s not the one you’re thinking of but is instead the concept of the private citizens showing up in another country to foment dissent or revolution, either with or without their country’s explicit support. Once the “filibuster” takes the country, they are more or less free to do whatever they please; sometimes this mirrors their home nation’s foreign policy interests for the area while other times it reverts to petty dictatorships. The idea is basically a private citizen acts as a foreign policy vigilante. Shockingly, this is a very American form of foreign policy – see the Bay of Pigs, the Philippines, the entire history of Central America. Filibustering is basically William Walker’s raison d’etre.)
So the Liberals ask this guy to show up with 60 men to help stir some shit up. On May 3, 1856, he sets sail from San Francisco for Nicaragua. By July 12, 1856, he would declared himself President of the Republic of Nicaragua. Walker, embracing his role as “Chief Asshole”, rescinds Nicaragua’s emancipation edict freeing all slaves in the hopes it would spurn support of the South who needed allies in the run up to the American Civil War, as well as supply them with more slaves. In a bold move, Willie Walks all but ensured his eventual defeat when one of his first moves as Nicaraguan President was repossessing Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroads in the region (this story has layers) and gave them to Charles Morgan and Cornelius Garrison (SO MANY LAYERS) via bogus decrees/substantial bribes, allowing President Franklin Pierce to acknowledge him as the legitimate President of Nicaragua. Imagine Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg pissing in Jeff Bezos cereal with Donald Trump egging them on wait don’t do that because that’s gotta be coming up in the next few newscycles.
So Willie Walks hangs around, and actually kicks some Legitimatist ass for a while, but Costa Rico, Honduras and Guatamala, now with backing from Cornelius Vanderbilt, were not about this white asshole declaring countries his own and perpetuating American interests and uhhh, the slavery thing, and started to push Walker’s forces back. By May 1, 1857, he surrendered and was turned over to the United States Navy, who took him to New York City, where he was revered as a hero, until he shit-talked the Navy and blamed them for the failed… insurrection? War? Revolution? Still not really sure what you call this whole situation.
That’s the end of the story JUST KIDDING this motherfucker was arrested by the US Navy within SIX MONTHS of being returned for trying to return to Central America. SIX MONTHS. Even Hillary is impressed with his perseverance of becoming President despite the universe sending dozens of messages otherwise. Now THAT is the end of the stor- JUST KIDDING in 1860, he was arrested by British colonists in the British Honduras (modern day Belize) for attempting to create an English-speaking government for the region and, presumably, something about slaves. He was turned over to the Honduran authorities, who had just about had enough of this motherfucking shit, and promptly had him executed, proving the only way to rid yourself of an asshole is to have him blindfolded and shot in the face.
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Arch Stanton Guest Post: Episode 5 of Today I Learned – Papal Schism

This is less something new I learned rather than perhaps my favorite bit of historical esoterica – the Papal Schism! (or the Great Schism) (or the Western Schism) (or the Schism of 1378) (or the Occidental Schism) (but not “Schism” by Tool, despite being a great song). Really, it’s probably just because of the word “schism” – go ahead and say it out loud. It’s delightful. Also, how many different schisms can there be where this many names are needed?
Anyway, for those of you who were not blessed to take AP European History with Mr Yanko in high school, this particular event concerns the time the Catholic Church accidentally appointed three concurrent popes. Three popes! An orgy of popes! The madness! Consider, if you will, the United States having three simultaneous presidents (rather than the current two – salute to our Comrade in Chief Putin!), and the chaos that would ensue. Now, imagine everyone actually GAVE a shit about what each of these people said, since your allegiance to the wrong one would lead to eternal damnation.
In the 1300’s, the head of the Catholic Church was moved from Rome to Avignon, France; the story behind this is pretty wild but we’ll keep it brief — the French king didn’t like the current Pope, who beat and tortured a 73-old religious figure until he died, leading to an emergency conclave to pick the next Pope, in which the French king forced the conclave to vote for the French nominee by pointing to the last guy who didn’t go along with his wishes; this French guy decided Rome was trash and moved the entire Catholic Church to southern France. The Middle Ages are considered the dark ages of history, but this is merely the background to a weirder story – the Middle Ages were WILD.
This Avignon papacy had developed a reputation for corruption, which alienated everyone that wasn’t French (the French – pissing everyone else off for as long as they’ve been around). After an Avignon pope died in 1378, the Romans saw their chance to reclaim the papacy for themselves, and they elected Bartolomeo Prignano, put fourth by the Italian mob (the Italians – hand-in-hand with the mafia since as long as they’ve been around), who became Urban VI located in Rome. Everyone was happy (note – still the Middle Ages, so no one was happy as everyone died all the time for like, NO reason, and you had to shit in buckets, assuming you were one of the lucky ones), until everyone realized Urban was kind of a dick to his cardinals. Or insane. Being the middle ages, who can tell the difference. The cardinals, being the catty mean girls of the Medieval period, fled Rome to Avignon to pick a new Regina George, electing Robert of Geneva (who became Clement VII) as the antipope located in Avignon. ANTIPOPE. THIS IS A REAL THING AND NOT A JOKE. The Antipope sounds like he was infected by a radioactive batch of holy water, and given the superpower of knowing the last time everyone masturbated. These cardinals claimed they were ‘pressured’ into their selection, and therefore it was all invalid, thus premiering the first ever anti-bullying campaign (or antipope campaign?)
Urban VI, with his feelings hurt by everyone’s change of heart, regretfully stepped aside. PSYCHE — he doubled down and proclaimed everyone who followed the other pope a heretic and destined to burn in hell. Medieval period Catholics were understandable not chill about this whole situation. An array of battles occurred between the cities and states on both sides while everyone tried to figure which side they were on. On the one hand, the FIRST pope (Urban) was in Rome, where the Catholic Church had historically been, but on the other hand, the SECOND pope (Clement) came as part of the the undisputed line of previous popes in Avignon, and all the Church leaders advocated for him as the legitimate pope. Eventually, after decades of separate papal lines, church leaders agreed they should hold an official church council to pick a newer, MORE official pope, but for realsies this time. The only issue is canon dictates an official church council could only be called by the pope, which neither would do at the risk of losing power. Wacky hijinks ensue.
In 1409 (thirty-one years after the original split), two groups of cardinals from both locations met and elected a new pope in order to solve the crisis, electing Alexander V to be the realest pope, damned if canon permitted it. TWO ANTIPOPES! Alexander died almost immediately, and John XXIII was elected in his place — this isn’t really relevant, but John’s original name was “Baldassare Cosaa” – Bald Ass the Pope.
In the most shocking twist of events yet, Bald Ass eventually agreed to hold an OFFICIAL church council, which the Roman pope at the time (Gregory XII) agreed to, thus bringing legitimacy to whoever was elected without lakes of bloodshed. This is the only time something has been decided by papal majority, with two of the three popes agreeing and overruling the third. John and Greg resigned, but the Avignon pope at the time (Benedict XIII) refused to abdicate; he was promptly ex-communicated. Being excommunicated was sort of like getting thrown out of a group chat, except you get condemned to burn in hell to boot. The new, OFFICIAL, NO FOR REAL OFFICIAL Pope, Martin V, was elected and resided in Rome. The Avignon papacy continued for two more popes but had lost all steam and support. Fun fact – Gregory XII, in 1415, was the last pope to resign until Benedict XVI did so in 2013.
Today, you (hopefully) learned that the Catholic Church is basically run the same way Charlie Day from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” approaches getting a cat out of a wall (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Wco2uE6vyQ). And there was a time you could name your kid Bald Ass.

Arch Stanton Guest Post: Worst Fictional Towns to Live In

Do you ever get the feeling of resentment for your current place of residence? Traffic sucks, or shitty grocery stores, or sub par transport, or that weird homeless guy that is VERY opinionated on “the Zionists”? I find myself whining frequently in my Stepford Wives-ass suburb, but then I will watch a show and think, “well, shit it’s not THAT bad now that I think about it.” Without dragging this half-assed premise out further…

Gotham (Batman) – Obviously the first, so let’s just get it out of the way. Assuming you aren’t Batman (and you certainly aren’t because you’re wasting your time reading this), Gotham would be TRASH. The police force is nonexistent. It’s almost entirely rundown – do you ever recall seeing the “nice” parts of Gotham? The primary field of employment is “henchmen”. There are dozens of bad guys who are essentially domestic terrorists just constantly waiting patiently for their turn to blow up a school or hospital. On top of all of this, Constitutional rights are repeatedly trodden on. Batman is a vigilant who acts as judge and juror and, while he may not murder you (like everyone else in the town will), he will beat the piss out of you. Again, this is the GOOD GUY. Gotham in real life would be like Detroit but populated with the Son of Sam, Osama bin Laden, the villain from the Saw movies, the Zodiac Killer and like, a baby boomer who was really into crossword puzzles.

The worst part of all of this is Robin – put some goddamn pants on, kid. All these people/criminals live in this city most likely because this is their rock bottom, suggesting a far higher density of child predators/molesters than a normal city, and this idiot is wrestling them in his underwear.

Angel Grove (Power Rangers): Do you remember Power Rangers? Five ethnically diverse teens from an idyllic suburb put on outfits to fight guys in rubber suits/aliens from outer space and their henchmen; the Power Ranger gain an upper hand; the enemies up the game by jumping hundreds of feet into the air into their monstrous robots, where they fight again, but this time the teens are in robot-dinosaurs or some shit, until they form a robot-dinosaur-robot. When you really distill it to its essence, it’s a terribly bland and repetitive show, but when you were eight this was the fucking SHIT. ROBOT-DINOSAURS FIGHTING ALIENS!

You don’t want to live here because the insurance premiums alone would just be outrageous. Turns out, fights between monsters a dozen stories tall are bad for resale values.

Sunnydale (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): In a cosmetic sense, Sunnydale is basically the same town as Angel Grover. The only difference is Sunnydale is, unfortunately, on top of an area known to vampires, the undead, and various other demons as “Hellmouth”. Shockingly, you probably don’t want to live near Hellmouth, a literal portal to hell responsible for spreading darkness and all that presupposes across the regular world.

The premise of the show is a high school girl is a slayer, which is basically a super badass responsible for whooping the ass of all these demons while going to high school and maintaining a social life; “high school is Hell, but literally”. With all the vampires, I imagine the price of garlic in this town is RIDICULOUS. People must resort to throwing garlic bread and over seasoned Olive Garden as alternatives.

Dreadfort (Game of Thrones): To be clear, I don’t want to live in any part of Westeros – a land torn apart by generations of war, with vasts swaths of the population impressed into armies or reduced to homeless wanders, or just straight-up bandits. All the cities risk coming under siege, men being tortured or sent to die in fruitless battles while women can become prostitutes or (double checks notes) … whores. Yikes. The only good place to live would be Sunspear in Dorne. You’d still end up poisoned or with your skull dashed on the bricks of a faraway land, but… the wine and weather seem pretty neat.

Despite the lack of habitability of the entirety of Westeros (Essos isn’t much better – you are a slave, which would be bad, or a slave master who is about to be murdered ruthlessly, which also seems pretty bad), Dreadford has to be the worst. Consider: all the shit-ass weather of Winterfell, without being the seat of power or housing the ruling family, the lack of, ya know, ANYTHING like most of the North, with the addition of TONS of torture. Living anywhere in Westeros is like getting hit in the dick with a whiffle ball bat, but living in the Dreadford would be like getting hit in the dick with a whiffle ball bat covered in spiders.

New York City (dozens of films and shows, but let’s go with Gossip Girl): A serious lack of privacy, perpetually crowded, exorbitant real estate costs, and unending waves of people who are are obnoxiously pretentious or horribly delusional (checks notes) ahh I see people actually choose to live in this real-life butthole. It smells all the time, people are always touching me, and I have to take public transportation. Get all the fucking way out of here with that bullshit.

Bedrock (Flintstones): The dinosaurs would be fun, and checking out Wilma all the time would be great (‘sup girl), but c’mon, am I expected to use MY FEET to get around, and perform MANUAL labor? I don’t know if there’s an equivalent to “white guilt” for dinosaurs subjected to singular monotonous tasks, but I would be wracked with whatever-you-call it making dinosaurs eat rocks in the sake of neolithic capitalism. THERE ARE NO ETHICAL CONSUMERS IN CAPITALISM, FRED.

Maine (any Stephen King novel): Maine, in real life, is great. Maine in a Stephen King novel means you are about to get the everloving-shit haunted out of you by a dead pet or child. If you have anything in common with me, you are total chickenshit and scared of the basement with the lights off, unexpected knocks on the front door, dead bugs, and the idea of r/creepypasta. I would be one of the first deaths where the townspeople start to think, ‘hmm that’s unusual’ but still elect to do nothing while the terror escalates. Unrelated, Stephen King novel’s are lame, and you are lame if you enjoyed them.

Arch Stanton Guest Post: Episode 4 of Today I Learned – Viking Thralls

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A recent study mapped the DNA of modern Icelanders and determined the Icelandic men were roughly 80% derivative of Norse/Scandinavian countries, but traits passed down only through females show over half of the population was Celtic. At first look, this a quirk of genealogy, but with a bit of math and good ol’ fashioned logic, this suggests Vikings pillaged their way across the North Sea collecting wives to deposit in a different land. No better way to prove your wife’s faithfulness than kidnapping her and isolating her in a barren land remote from everyone she knows! Vikings were the original pick-up artists.

What you and I would call “slaves”, Vikings called “thralls”, which seems exciting until you really start to come to terms with the concept of “Viking slave”. One of the pros of being a thrall was your master (or jarl) would defend you — basically a knight of the Middle Ages but with rustier armor with all the sea water — and give you cool new Viking names like Stinky, Stumpy and Stupid. That is not a joke. Another pro was you didn’t have to go to into battle — for me, that seems like a pretty healthy positive because I’m coward, but in Norse culture, not fighting is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to man. If you were female, you were often taken as a wife — obviously, this is not ideal in modern culture but… if you were enslaved by a Viking you at least got married and he would be responsible for you and your happiness, compared to slaves, uhhh, anywhere else. Plus, historians now believe Vikings were exceptionally well-groomed and hygienic compared to their Medieval counterparts around the rest of the world. I’m really trying to work in a “Queer Eye for the Straight Eye” joke here but I’m having a hard time.

As you would expect, Vikings didn’t really abide by cultural norms of surrounding nations, and were notorious for kidnapping strangers for ransom or reselling them on the Volga River (modern day eastern Russia) and beyond. At the risk of confusing your sense of historical reference, Vikings frequently sold slaves to the caliphates in Baghdad as well as traders in Syria, Byzantium, north Africa and even as far as China. This has been uncovered by foreign silks and coins being found in Viking hovels and burial sites around Scandinavian. Imagine being an Irishman in your mud hut, complaining eating another meal of GODDAMN POTATOES, when this immaculately clean Viking shows up, murders your neighbor, rapes your wife and ships you to fucking Baghdad. The skin cancer this ginger asshole was to be subjected would be enough to kill him ten times over… assuming the whole “slave” thing didn’t first. Because of the long distance traveled with slaves into Islamic territories, the trade was estimated to be worth BILLIONS of dollars.

On a brighter note, many scholars believe you could earn or buy your freedom, or your jarl would just give it to you (or you could be sacrificed when your jarl dies so you can continue serving him in the afterlife – the toughest of breaks). That, coupled with the notion that Norse women were allowed to vote, operate in politics and largely regarded as the heads of household (hard to pay taxes or feign interest in zoning issues while you are pillaging and burning all the time), presumably means you could be a women kidnapped, enslaved, brought to Scandinavia, wed into Norse culture, and become a political leader. I bet this was unlikely, but hey, a thrall can dream right?

Eventually, after a tumultuous civil war that pitted clans against each other, slavery was outlawed in the late 1800s… JK jarls willfully freed their slaves in the 14th century, folding to both secular and church pressures. Organized Christianity and moral decency compelled the Vikings to disband their slave trade roughly four hundred years before it had to be forcibly torn away from the South. The South – less chill than the fucking Vikings.

The takeaway today is slavery sounds pretty terrible in all regards (apologizes if the tone here reads as ‘it was rad being enslaved by Vikings!’ — reader, I assure it was not), but if you were a Norse thrall, you could at least get to travel to faraway lands and possibly get freed later, unlike you, who will work at your dead-end job until you die of heart disease before retiring or traveling anywhere. Thanks for reading everyone!