Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ivan the Terrible

Fig.1: If anything's terrible,
it's that robe.
Back in the day, epithets really defined what people were all about. Sure, there have been plenty of "the Great"s, but let's not forget awesome ones like Richard the Lionheart, Suleiman the Magnificent, and the attractive uncle-nephew duo of Charles the Bald and Charles the Fat (until they morphed and became Charles the Danny-DeVito-Doppelganger). But my favorite epithet was given to Tsar Ivan IV Vasilyevich of Russia: the Terrible. Granted, the word terrible is being used here in its original sense (as in one who strikes terror in people, which can be seen as a good thing if you're always at war with your neighbors like Russia is), but its modern definition as bad, unpleasant, and just downright jerkish also would apply to Ivan. Examples of his terribleness include imprisoning people for no reason, destroying cities within his own kingdom, taking over indigenous peoples in Siberia, and killing his own successor so that his kingdom would fall into chaos within 15 years of his own death. If anything, maybe Ivan should be called something worse than "terrible," since that merely puts him on par with your average Adam Sandler movie.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

War of Jenkins' Ear

Fig.1: I miss the days when people loved their lobes so much, they were willing to fight for them.
A wise man once said, "War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. (Say it again, y'all!)" Indeed, many people have fought and died over petty reasons, such as land, money, resources, and some chick named Helen. But possibly the silliest thing that war was ever declared over was a severed ear. Think I'm making this up? Well don't tell that to British captain Robert Jenkins, whose ear was sliced right off in 1731 by a Spanish commander who claimed that he was smuggling goods out of the West Indies. While this was not the sole cause of the war, it essentially because the straw that broke the camel's back (or the sword that broke the captain's ear), and open hostilities commenced between Great Britain and Spain. In a sense, this was one of the first "world wars" in history, as fighting took place within their colonial possessions across five continents, with Africa being the only inhabited one to escape the bloodshed (they got lucky, for once). Who knew that an ear drum would lead to the beating of the war drum?