Friday, July 21, 2017

Spain (video)

This is entry #4 of the C.A.N. World Factbook, returning after a near-three year hiatus during which thankfully nothing really changed in the world (wait, who became the U.S. President?!). Today, we are looking at a European country that pretty much been on a downslide since 1659: Spain. Nevertheless, its culture, language, and cuisine continues to have a large impact on other nations all over the world, even if a good chunk of Spain itself wants nothing to do with it. As they say: the pain of Spain causes quite the brain drain!

C.A.N. World Factbook: Spain

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Eighth and Ninth Crusades

Welcome back to Crusades Month, where they, just like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, only got worse and worse as they continued to churn them out! Here is a history of the last two "numbered" crusades, which came to an end not just due to ambivalence about restoring Christianity to the Holy Land, but also because you were lucky to find someone from the time period that could count any higher than nine.

Fig.1: Even this guy was dead a 
hundred years before the Eighth 
and Ninth Crusades.
By the late 1200s, the crusading spirit had been alive in Europe for nearly two hundred years, and like many other things that are that old, it was really starting to get rotten and moldy. No crusade had seen any long-term military success since the First one, and those guys were long dead (with or without the abbreviated lifespan of the Medieval Age). The Crusader Kingdoms that were left behind were falling apart; the Kingdom of Jerusalem had not even included the city of Jerusalem since 1187, with Acre remaining as the only stable Christian city in the Holy Land. Even the Byzantine Empire that was destroyed by the wayward Fourth Crusade had come back to reclaim Constantinople in 1261, meaning the Crusaders couldn't even hold on to places were Christianity already reigned supreme. Nevertheless, Europeans still longed to see the land they read about (or, let's be honest, accepted their seemingly infallible priest's word about) in the Bible be rid of the scourge of Islam. (Not that I think there's anything wrong with Islam! So please don't hurt me!) And so two more numbered crusades would be called in the late 1260s by two European kings. Unfortunately they would be half-hearted crusades, so they will each be half-heartedly discussed in the same history (hey, if they're not going to put everything they have into this, why should I?).

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Battle of Adwa: Africa's Victory over Europe

Fig.1: Africa in the late 19th century was like a game of Bingo: 
not a lot of free spaces.

We know the story by now: from the late 15th century onward, Europeans came, saw, and conquered whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted. The Americas, Australia, Asia, Africa; anyplace that began with an A could expect to be taken over by European explorers (look out, Andromeda Galaxy, they're coming!). Believe it or not, there have been a few exceptions of non-European nations who violently resisted respectfully declined the exploitation opportunity of colonialism. Africa's major example (okay, really only example) of retaining their independence in the face of a European attack also began with an A: Abyssinia, known more commonly today as Ethiopia. In 1896, Ethiopians defeated a European military force set on conquering East Africa, and successfully pushed the invaders out of their territory. The fact that the European country in this instance was Italy, which was essentially considered a D-League power at this time (even Denmark had more colonies around the world than they did), has not contracted from the significance of the event. Ethiopia's victory at the Battle of Adwa destroyed preconceived notions that Europeans were inherently better than Africans, and would inspire other nations throughout the continent to try and shake off colonialism during the 20th century. Taylor Swift would be proud.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Queen Lili'uokalani

Fig.1: If only Liliuokalani had a hula-dancer
tattooed on her arm, which she could make
dance by flexing her bulging muscles.

Hawaiian names are always fun to pronounce, and extremely useful when naming Dragonball attacks (just ask King Kamehameha). The best name in my opinion is Lili'uokalani. Granted, she's more than just a name: she remains one of the most revered leaders in the islands' history to this day, over a century after her reign. She became Queen of Hawaii in 1891, and though she was its last monarch before its takeover by the United States, her short reign and its aftermath proves that she was a woman with determination, tenacity, and rock-hard biceps (fig.1). Her contributions to the Hawaiian Islands beyond the realm of politics make her a focal point of the people's culture and national identity. Plus, she was as sweet as the sugar that caused the exploitation of her kingdom in the first place. (Is that irony? I don't think anyone knows what irony really is anymore.)

The future queen was born in 1838 and named Lydia Lili'u Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamaka'eha, which makes me feel grateful for the shortened twelve-letter version we use now. She was named by King Kamehameha's sister who was suffering from an eye infection and obviously had nothing else on her mind at the time, since "Lili'u Loloku Walania" means "smarting, tearful, burning pain" (there's one than one way to scar a child, I suppose). Hawaiians liked to practice informal adoption during this time, and Lydia (as she was called before her reign, to the saving grace of my typing fingers) was given to the family of Chieftain Abner Pākī, who had no children of his own. As a result of Pākī's position as King Kamehameha's top adviser, Lydia grew up around the Hawaiian royal family and received the best education (alongside the best views of the ocean, of course). Her prestige only increased when her biological family also became influential among the ruling elite. Must be nice to have not one, but two sets of rich parents.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

What was the Holy Roman Empire?

Fig.1: Where to begin with this madness?
The 18th century French philosopher Voltaire (you know, that guy that snug people pretend to understand) once said, "This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire." And like most things Voltaire said that I totally understand, he definitely had a point. The Holy Roman Empire, which officially existed between 962 and 1806, is certainly difficult to characterize in such simple terms. It may have been "Holy" in the beginning, but centuries of conflicts with the Catholic Church should have probably forced them to discontinue use of that adjective. It really wasn't all that "Roman," since it was mostly centered around present-day Germany and only controlled the city of Rome for a fraction of its existence. And, yes, while the big boss of the Holy Roman Empire was called an emperor, he came to possess so little power that using the word "Empire" to describe it is practically akin to calling Waffle House a 5-star restaurant. Nevertheless, as the political, military, religious, and geographic center of Europe for much of the second millennium After Doughnuts (AD), it's hard to ignore this confusing monstrosity when discussing world history. I guess that's my job or something.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hangul, the Korean Alphabet

Fig.1: Korea's two biggest contributions to culture. You 
decide which one is more important.
Many nations take a lot of pride in some of their own innovations. Canada loves their sport of ice hockey, and lately have been unwilling to share their gold metals with anyone else. Argentina lives to make people feel uncoordinated and uncomfortable with their tango dancing. Even India celebrates their invention of the number zero during the Gupta period by having nine of them when their population is rounded down. But perhaps one of the most interesting and original creations from any culture occurred in Korea in the 15th century: Hangul, the Korean alphabet. Unlike many other writing systems that were either developed over a long period of time or largely adapted from another, Hangul was specifically designed to match the Korean language. The alphabet has become so revered in the peninsula that its creator is considered a legendary hero, a national holiday commemorates its implementation, and its use is one of the few things that North and South Korea agree about. That alone makes Hangul worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thomas Jefferson

After a nearly two year absence, the Canned Historian is back! And just in time for President's Day once again! Since you're not able to go to the bank, post office, school, or video store (though most of the latter are closed 365 days a year anyway), you might as well stay in and read my continuing series on the U.S. Presidents! And when you're done, check out my previous histories on George Washington and John Adams, since they did some presidential things as well.
Fig.1: Jefferson doesn't even need to sign the waiver to
order the ghost pepper wings anymore.
Everybody knows Thomas Jefferson: author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the Democratic Party, third President of the United States, patron of the University of Virginia, sage of Monticello, and world record-holder of most hot wing challenges beaten in the former Thirteen Colonies (fig.1). But are we getting the full story here? Does Jefferson really deserve all the accolades that historians, politicians, and third-grade biography-report-writers heap upon his powdered head? Just like with George Washington, many are beginning to take a more skeptical view of Jefferson's contributions; unlike Washington, however, this skepticism is 100% deserved. Upon a closer glance, turns out that Thomas Jefferson is nothing but a liar, cheater, plagiarizer, credit-stealer, backstabber, profligate, and womanizer who pioneered for future American politicians to be all those things as well! So allow me to expose this fraud, whose face should be plastered on signs that read "Do Not Accept Checks from This Man" as opposed to national monuments.