Cartoon History

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I said in a previous post that I’m reading the Cartoon History of the Universe Part 3. Here’s the page I’m on now about Japanese civilization.

The Cartoon History series is now complete with five books. The first three are called Cartoon History of the Universe Parts 1-3 and the second two are called Cartoon History of the Modern World Parts 1-2.

The author’s name is Larry Gonick. He does a bunch of other cartoon non-fiction books as well.

I own Larry Gonick’s Cartoon Guide to Physics, Cartoon Guide to Chemistry, and his Cartoon History of the United States.

All his books are funny, informative, and quick to read. You can check out more of them at his simple website, www.larrygonick.com

I started reading the series in third grade when I was homeschooled by my parents.

Only the first two books existed then. I’ve read them cover to cover dozens of times since. This repeated reading is probably why I know so much about ancient history, but a lot less about anything after the fall of Rome.

I showed the books to my father-in-law recently because he was interested in the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empires.

His reaction upon flipping through them was surprise at the vast amount of sex in them.

Gonick doesn’t shy away from portraying the sexual scandals in his books. If sex between two people influenced their actions and their actions affected history, then he includes the sex.

I read the books when I was eight if that matters to anyone.

Gonick also writes a comic feature for the children’s science magazine, Muse. The magazine is written for ages 10-14.

The feature is a page comic of archetypal philosophers from different cultures talking with each other.

The philosophers also fool around and crack jokes in the margins of other articles throughout the magazine.

I’m rereading the later three Cartoon History books now so that I can fill the gaps in my natural recall of different historical periods.

I’ll probably need to reread it another dozen times before my recall of anything past 500AD is perfect, but I’m hoping that I’ll get there!

That’s all for tonight!

-Mister Ed

Vampire Physics

That’s a picture of my favorite vampire, Spike. He’s a recurring villain/anti-hero from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I always like anti-hero characters and Spike is one of the better ones. He starts off as a villain, but fails spectacularly at that. He then tries his hardest to reform and become a hero, stumbling and falling all the way until he martyrs himself to save his love, Buffy.

Vampires are a very mutable part of our culture. The rules that define vampires change depending on which story you’re reading or watching. My dad and I refer to these rules as the “physics of the story.” Magic can have physics or superpowers can have physics or a particular type of monster can have physics. The important part of physics in a story is consistency. If the vampires can shoot lazers from their eyes, that’s fine as long as they all have that power or its absence is explained.

Vampire physics are consistent in most stories about them, but horribly inconsistent if you look at different stories.

Twilight vampires are supernaturally fast and strong, sparkle in daylight, need to be ripped apart and burned to be killed, and each individual vampire has a superpower of some kind.

Buffy vampires are strong and burn in daylight or when exposed to sanctified objects such as a cross or holy water. Buffy vampires turn to ash when a stake goes through their hearts, cast no reflection, and need to be invited into private residences before entering them. 

I might be remembering this one wrong as its been a long time since I’ve seen this movie. The vampire in Vampire in Brooklyn (Eddie Murphy in a classic gory vampire movie if you’re interested) has super speed, super strength, the ability to magically charm people, some sort of sixth sense, and the ability to create zombie-like servants.

In D&D, vampires are strong, fast, fear sanctified objects and mirrors, can’t cross running water unless in a boat, and are killed by decapitation or staking in the heart (but will return if the head is reattached or the stake removed). D&D vampires can also turn into a bat or a wolf and summon such creatures to do their bidding as well. D&D vampires can turn into mist, must sleep in coffins, can magically charm people with a glance, and can walk on walls.

All of these are part of the vampire myth and each is consistent within each story, but it becomes difficult when new vampire stories come out to discern what the rules will be. The sparkling vampires in Twilight were a new thing for a lot of people. Dracula isn’t killed by stakes in Van Helsing but can only be killed by werewolves. Another part of the vampire myth is a constant feud with werewolves, present in Twilight, Van Helsing, and Underworld.

That vampire-werewolf connection is actually pretty interesting. One of the theories is that vampire and werewolf stories started when rabies first reached Europe. People didn’t know what it was. All they saw was a bite turning a normal person into a beast of some kind whose bite would also transmit the disease. These people started being called vampires and werewolves (possibly even the same word that shifted pronunciation).

Anyways, I’m thinking about all of this because I’m writing about vampires in my True Colors Hornblower story. I’d like the vampire physics to be consistent, but I haven’t nailed down which rules I’d like to use. I’ll probably closely follow Buffy as that’s the story where my favorite vampire lives, but I’ll ditch those restrictions if they don’t fit the story.

That’s all for tonight!

-Mister Ed