5.20.2020

Chesterton - Word to Write By

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.❞


Great quote for writers like myself who gets easily discouraged with his writing, and is tempted not to write because he's "not good", "not going to be published", &c. General Sherman had a similar quote that "perfect is the enemy of the good" which I think has a similar meaning.

5.13.2020

Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Review by Godfrey Blackwell
 
 
Title: Edge of Tomorrow
Director: Doug Liman
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
Excellence: 4 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: Another very solid science fiction offering from Tom Cruise that features not just good action and special effects, but a very serviceable underlying plot, lifelike characters that the viewer will connect with, and a great new take on the "Groundhog Day" style reliving of the same day over and over.

This was one of very few films in the last couple decades that I took the time to go see at the theatre and was not disappointed by one bit.

The basic plot is quite straight forward: Lt. Col. Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is forced into what's little more than a suicide mission that is part of an attempt to halt the subjugation of earth by aliens called "Mimics". Killed within minutes, Cage then finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop - forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying over and over. He ultimately joins up with Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski and together they try to use his reliving of the same day to defeat the alien menace.

The cinematography was great and the world well-developed and realistic. This certainly helped with the suspension of disbelief, and the battle scenes were well-paced and appropriately devastating to give the viewer a very real sense of how desperate the human battle against the Mimics is.

The plot was fast-paced and well-conceived. There was even a bit of humour here-and-there, and the performances were, without exception, very well done. Special "props" to Bill Paxton for an unexpected (and very strong) performance as a drill sergeant from Kentucky. I was a bit skeptical about the Emily Blunt character going in, but I thought she was done quite well. That she goes into battle wearing a stength-enhancing combat exoskeleton compensates for one of my usual complaints about the "D&D Warrior Babe" trope (i.e. that women physically aren't as strong as men) and she did a good job of portraying a character who is much more than her exterior hard appearance suggests.

I only really had nits about the film. I wasn't crazy about how the military was portrayed, throwing completely untrained troops into battle, but I suppose this was done to convey just how hard-put humanity is. I also thought that Emily Blunt's character engaging in a very strenuous pre-battle workout was unrealistic since no soldier would exhaust themselves like that on the eve of battle, but I can see why it was done in the context of the film to convey her single-minded devotion to her craft (making war against the Mimics).

Overall, I thought this a fine, fine film. One of the most enjoyable new science fiction film I've experienced since Serenity way back in 2005. Unlike Serenity, it did quite well in the box office, thanks no doubt to a robust marketing effort and the star power of Tom Cruise -- who, it must be said, has only rarely let me down. He is a strange, strange man in his personal life, but he chooses good films and performs well in them.

5.06.2020

The Myth of Child Brides in the Middle Ages


By Godfrey Blackwell

Time for some more history! A few months ago I did a post about medieval hygiene -- here's an easy "filler" post for this week: demolishing the myth that young girls under the age of ten were routinely forced to marry much older men [in the Middle Ages]. Now, it's true that according to the Catholic Church's canon law, girls were considered eligible to marry as young as 12 years old, and boys as young and 14.[1] However, this doesn’t mean that everyone was indeed married at the minimum age. We can use common sense to discern this, since even today Church law allows for marriage at these same ages, yet few marry that young. Furthermore, we’ve already disproved part of the myth since marriage to a girl under 12 was illegal and invalid.

Interestingly, finding sources that can give us any definitive answer about what age people were married at is difficult at best – although one can surmise that the Protestants and Modernists who concocted such canards as the child bride conceived of them from reading about certain isolated (and highly publicised) betrothals of royal princes and princesses at a very young age. Even then, these cases almost always involved a betrothal in childhood that was not translated into a sacramental marriage until many years later, or the couple would not consummate the marriage until adulthood. Further, both were of similar age. Such was the case of Catherine of Aragon’s betrothal to Arthur of England at ages three and two respectively, but they were not married until age 16. The rare cases where a young girl was married to a much older man, such as Isabelle d'Angoul√™me’s marriage at age thirteen to King John of England (aged 33) in a.D. 1200, received much attention and remained in people’s memories precisely because they were unique occasions of scandal.

Of course, royalty were a very small percentage of the medieval population and it is more useful to see when the average person married. Looking again at The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England by Barbara A. Hanawalt, we see that wills, manorial court records, poll tax lists, and parish registers all fail to give ages.[2] We must therefore look to “circumstantial” evidence drawn from cultural attitudes reflected in the primary sources.

All in all, these sources, which include those mentioned above, as well as literature, hagiographies, descriptions of domains and synodal statutes, indicate that people married at roughly the same age, and at a relatively mature age.[3] Of course, “relatively mature” depends on the culture we are looking at, and we should keep in mind that people in the Middle Ages started work quite young, with many boys entering apprenticeship at seven.[4]

Looking to more specifics, we see that in 14th century England, at least, teenagers were considered too young to marry, as reflected by the fact that in rape cases, men whose victims were teenagers were singled out as especially reprehensible by the prosecutors.[5] This reveals an attitude that girls in their teens should be sheltered from sexual encounters.

It’s also noteworthy, that the age of inheritance was twenty-one, which means that a young man could receive no money from his parents until that age.[6] Moralists of the time such as Robert Mannyng (1275-1338), a Gilbertine Monk and historiographer, considered the marriage of children an outrageous sin. Even the artists of the time wrote in ballads stories of special and tragic circumstances surrounding the taking of a young bride. [7]

All of the foregoing would suggest that most people were married in their early twenties, which is not much different than today (at least among those who don’t live in public sin before marriage). A survey of familial literature (ricordanz) of mercantile “bourgeoisie” from the Tuscany region of modern-day Italy between 1340 and 1530 shows some 136 first-time brides with an average age of 17.2 years married to husbands averaging 18 years old.[8]



[1] Rock, P.M.J., “Canonical Age”, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. Nihil Obstat. 1 March, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
[2] Hanawalt, Barbara, The Ties that Bound : Peasant Families in Medieval England, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 98
[3] Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane, “Women and Children”, The Middle Ages, Fifth Edition. Ed. Brian Tierney. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999
[4] "Family Life" Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Ed. Norman F. Cantor, London: Viking, 1999.
[5] Hanawalt, supra at note 1, p. 98
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Klapisch-Zuber, Supra at note 3

5.04.2020

ARTWORK: THE WORLD OF HALF-AND-HALF

By Barbara Blackwell (January 2020, age 9)


A little piece of artwork Barbara made using a "how to draw" book she received for Epiphany from Grandma.

5.01.2020

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