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.