24 May 2018

Egg House

What, exactly, is the Egg House?

How does one even begin to describe the Egg House? Well according to its website, it's "a place where we can come together and celebrate our dreams & aspirations and see what great things New York City has in store."

A more accurate but less fun description? Egg House is an instagram-friendly pop-up art project made by recent grads of NYC art schools such as Pratt Institute, NYU, and the School of Visual Arts. It's kind of like the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco (that's right, California friends, I've seen all your insta and snapchat posts!) except... egg themed.

More specifically, Egg House has a charming story about a little egg named Ellis.

23 May 2018

A Time Traveler's Dinner Party

It was never one of my more popular posts, but this is honestly one of my favourite posts on the blog. However, I never dreamed when I came up with the concept that I would one day host my own real life historical dinner party for some of my history-loving friends. Granted, Alexander Hamilton and Sarah Winchester did not show up - but I did invite friends who I met through my time giving tours at Mr. Hamilton's and Mrs. Winchester's homes. So I guess that kind of counts, doesn't it?

I called it the Time Travelers' Dinner Party, as my friends and I are all as close to time travelers as it gets in NYC, what with all our historically-inspired jobs, events, reenactments, and more. I curated a menu inspired by historic food and drinks from the ancient era all the way up to the Edwardian era, encouraged my guests to wear clothing inspired by historic eras and figures, played appropriate music, and dressed like a Viking to play hostess!

Thank you so much Lindsey for this elegant photo!
I think I pulled it off pretty well, if I do say so myself. Read on for the deets if you're curious about just how time travelers have a dinner party...

18 May 2018

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Ancient and Medieval Ghost Stories

FROM THE ARCHIVES note: This post is from an older blog of mine that has since been taken down from the internet. It is presented here with minimal editing because I still find it interesting enough to share. The original post was published on 18 August 2014.

I have long been fascinated with the idea of ghosts. Even in my teenage years, when I called myself an atheist (agnostic may have been a better description for my belief system at the time), I was a firm believer in ghosts, even if I never could wrap my head around the science of them. I'm pretty sure my house is haunted, but the spirits in the house (my old cat, a little girl, and a couple others) are pretty benevolent. I live down the street from the Bernal Ranch, one of two locations in San Jose that is certified as being haunted - the other being, of course, the Winchester Mystery House. (Also apparently being certified haunted is a thing?)

But do you ever notice that most ghost stories you hear about never seem to go back any further than the Renaissance? You hear about the ghosts of Anne Boleyn and Marie Antoinette and all those Civil War soldiers and murder victims from the Victorian era all the way up until now. But human history is way older than all of that. Millions and millions of souls have died after all - surely, there must be older ghosts. Did they all move on? Why don't we ever hear about them?

The thing is, if you do a little research, you totally can learn about them. For example, the Ancient Romans divided ghosts into 3 different categories - those crazy scoundrels loved orginising things into categories:

Lares - good spirits who were willing to help the living
Lemures - truly evil spirits who physically harmed the living
Manes - largely indifferent but generally good(ish) spirits

I am going to share with you three stories about ghosts, all from before the year 1000 CE. You're welcome.

12 May 2018

Party Like It's 1789

Do you know those mornings after you were out half the night and you're exhausted and slightly dehydrated but you had so much fun that you're too happy to care about the exhaustion and dehydration?

Yeah, it's one of those mornings for me. Because last night was the first annual George Washington Inaugural Ball, a commemorative fancy fundraising event thrown by my friend Lindsey (of Lindsey Loves History) who is one of the smartest and most hardworking women that I have the pleasure of calling my friend. (Of course, all my friends are smart and talented and perfect in their own way but Lindsey def deserves a special shoutout here.)

It was a magical night filled with food and drink (for those who wished to partake) and fancy gowns (of both the modern and 18th century variety) and dancing and harpsichord music. And I am so lucky I have the friends I have and that I was able to attend.

11 May 2018

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Viking Heroes for the Modern Age (Hiccup vs Ragnar)

FROM THE ARCHIVES note: This post is from an older blog of mine that has since been taken down from the internet. It is presented here with minimal editing because I still find it interesting enough to share. The original post was published on 8 June 2014.

I've been meaning to do this post for months, to be honest. Last semester my big 20-page research paper for one of my classes was entitled "From Hávamál to Horned Helmets: An Examination of Vikings in Popular Culture". In the paper, I analysed how the role of Vikings has changed in pop culture, from the Wagnar operas of the Victorian age all the way up to History Channel's "Vikings" TV series. I'd like to share the whole paper, but for fear of plagiarism after I worked so hard on it for months, I cannot do so.

However, with the newest installment in the "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise coming out in less than a week (I AM SO EXCITE), I absolutely can reference that paper to create a blog entry that talks a bit about the modern role of Vikings in our movies and TV shows.

You see, it used to be in movies that Vikings were largely considered villains. Horned barbarians, hell-bent on murder and pillage, something straight out of an 8th-century monk's worst nightmare. But recently that has started to change - Viking enthusiasts have fought back against this unfair stereotype of what were really a highly technologically advanced society. And with this backlash, we have a new type of Viking character in modern popular culture. The Viking hero is cunning, brave, often strong in an unconventional way. And I feel this new Viking hero has two great examples on the air right now:

04 May 2018

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Let's Talk About Aliens and Fairies

FROM THE ARCHIVES note: This post is from an older blog of mine that has since been taken down from the internet. It is presented here with minimal editing because I still find it interesting enough to share. The original post was published on 4 January 2014.

Picture this: You're lying in your bed. It's dark, and you have been sleeping. Suddenly, though, you wake up. It's dark and you try to sit up - but you can't. You feel numb, sedated even! You look around with your eyes and see blurry humanoid - but not quite human, they're off somehow - figures staring down at you. You try to struggle, but you can't move. Something is very very wrong. You black out. It's only later when you wake up in your bed and wonder if it was just a strange nightmare - until you look down and notice marks on your body as if you had been operated on or probed!

Now what does this sound like?

01 May 2018

The Starfleet Academy Experience

I have a confession and an apology to make, all.

For years, I turned up my nose at "Star Trek", believing myself too good for something so "nerdy", even as I regularly nerded out over the Viking age and  the American Revolution. (Hypocritical, I know.)

I didn't feel, at the time, like I was being judgmental. I could respect what a historically diverse show it was without watching it, and I never once looked down on Sarah for being a fan of the show. I just didn't think it was for me. After all, many years ago another good friend had tried for years to get me to watch "Star Wars", and when I finally sat down and did it, I was bored and underwhelmed. And "Star Trek", as a TV series, was much longer - I wasn't about to sit through hours of being bored and underwhelmed.

Turns out I was being unfairly judgmental and I am sorry. Because I finally sat down and started watching "Star Trek: The Original Series" and I am completely and utterly in love with it. Obsessed, even! How could I have let myself miss out on this joy for so many years? And why, because I was afraid it was too nerdy for me? How blind I was!

Even though it came into my life later than it should have, I'm grateful for it now. My confession to you all? I was an asshole, I am sorry for it, and I am now, one week later, a thoroughly devoted Trekkie.

Live long and prosper, bitches
Go ahead and roast me for it. I deserve it for what a jerk I was about it.

But the point is I love it now. I am learning (slower than most adults) to like the things I like without caring so much about what other people might think of me for it.

And this past Sunday, to thank Sarah for introducing me to it, I decided to treat her to a certain Trek-themed museum exhibit before it closes next month. We journeyed back into New Jersey to head to the Liberty Science Centre's Starfleet Academy Experience. Basically this exhibit, in between props and costumes from all the Star Trek series, uses interactive tests and games (including the infamous Kobayashi Maru test) and at the end of it all, you're placed into a different section of Starfleet. Kinda like a sci-fi version of being sorted into your Hogwarts house.