Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Voyages of Zheng He (video)

Here is Canned History video #3, detailing the life and adventures of one of the world's greatest explorers: Zheng He. Zheng doesn't get as much credit as his European counterparts, mostly because he didn't colonize the lands he visited, or exploit native peoples for their land and resources, or do the Spanish-patented "conquest dance" all over their gravesites and places of worship. Shouldn't he be more revered for not doing those things? I guess that's why kids these days enjoy the rap music more than good wholesome polka...

Canned Histories: The Voyages of Zheng He

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Battle of the Alamo

Fig.1: What's this place again?
They tell us that we must "Remember the Alamo!" But I've got a lot of stuff bouncing around my brain, like all 282 laws on the Code of Hammurabi, and the order of succession for the British throne (I'm only 486,593,204th in line!), and which establishments have dollar tacos on what days of the week. There needs to be a good reason for me to make room in my memory banks for yet another piece of information. So should we care about the Battle of the Alamo? Statistically, it's a relatively insignificant moment in the Texas Revolution, with the Mexican army overpowering a force of less than 200 Texian rebels to capture a small mission-turned-fort within a sparsely populated area. It also does not appear to be indicative of the overall war, as Texas would eventually shake off Mexican rule despite the loss, briefly becoming an independent republic before its annexation by the United States. So what's the point? Wouldn't we be better off remembering to have our pie à la mode instead? Well I guess the least we can do is take a look at the battle before promptly sending it to "working memory hell" along with everything we learned about trigonometry and the fact that there's a Caddyshack II (darn, I had to remind myself).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Great Zimbabwe

Fig.1: The Great Enclosure of the Great Zimbabwe is so 
great that is doesn't even violate the Double Great Rule 
that states two greats make a not-so-great!
Oh great, another "Great" thing! There are already people who are great, pyramids that are great, fires that are great, sugar-coated flakes that are great. How can there be so much greatness in the world? There must be certain great things that are greater than other greats! Well, let me ask you this: how many great things lend its name to an entire country? This is the case with the Great Zimbabwe (fig.1) in the Southern African nation of Zimbabwe (yes, Southern Africa has countries not named South Africa). This huge enclosed city once hosted the capital to a prosperous kingdom from the 11th to the 15th centuries, and still remains the largest stone complex in Africa south of the Sahara. The word zimbabwe, derived from the Shona language term for "large house of stone," described many such sites in the region, but only this one was considered to be the Great "large house of stone" (yay for adjectives!). This term then lent its name to the Iron Age kingdom that built the structure, the modern-day nation that houses it, and the next big celebrity birth (I'm looking at you, Jay-Z and Beyonce). I'd like to see your Great Depression do that!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Captain Henry Morgan

Fig.1: You know he's heroically propping 
his left foot on a barrel just off-sketch.
You know you've hit the pinnacle of historical fame when you have an intoxicating libation named after you. Great figures like like Samuel Adams, (Bloody) Mary I of England, and Vyacheslav Molotov have been so honored (although I wouldn't recommend ordering that last one at a bar), but among the most revered is the Captain himself. Before all that, Sir Henry Morgan (fig.1) was one of the most successful and most feared pirates at sea in the 17th century. The mere mention of his name caused nightmares for Spanish colonists throughout the Caribbean, especially ones where their house was being plundered while doing a public speaking presentation in their underwear. While Forbes ranks him as just the 9th wealthiest pirate of all time, his spiced rum generated over a billion dollars in sales in 2013 alone, and I think his reputation (and documented alcoholism) has something to do with that.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Australia (video)

Welcome to the C.A.N. World Facebook: a feature of my video presentations that cover the history, culture, notable features, and painfully obvious jokes regarding the nations of the world. Entry #1 is everyone's favorite country in the continent of Australia: Australia. From the fierce aboriginal society, the tenacious settlers descended from prisoners, its unique wildlife, to the obsession with the food paste known as Vegemite, there's a lot in Australia that can kill you. So come join me on a virtual trip to the land down under, where beer does flow and men chunder (whatever the heck that means).

C.A.N. World Factbook: Australia