Saturday amusements

Spent yesterday afternoon working on my motorcycles. I have a plan for a cross-country ride in the fall, that's creaking into motion now, slowly. The 929 needs new brake fluid badly. Since I hate bleeding brakes, it's going to a mechanic.

I'd like to ride the 929 on this trip. Yeah, it's a full-on sportbike. That's the pleasure and the peril in one noun. It'll be so sweet in the twisties. This plan might founder on my inability to find mounting hardware for hard luggage for it. Givi discontinued theirs. Ah, well, I've spent only half an hour on this problem so far. I might yet find a solution.

In other news, spent the evening with nemaihne and husband. We had dinner, watched 300, had coffee, then I inflicted two episodes of House on them in an attempt to addict them. We also had a little incident at a bookstore, at which I bought :

- Kage Baker, The Life of the World to Come. The latest Company novel is out in hardcover now, and this is the one before. Wonderful books, if you haven't read them. About time-traveling cyborgs all over history. The first is In the Garden of Iden. Set in 16th century Spain and England.

- Larry Niven, some collection of Draco's Tavern short stories. I, um, have a weakness for ol' Larry. Hubby & I bonded early on over a shared frightening knowledge of trivia from the Known Space books. You know how they say the Golden Age of SF is age 13? This is what I read at age 13. This and Sayers.

- P. D. James, The Lighthouse. Dalgliesh novel.

- Bernard Cornwell, The Winter King. Arthurian retelling that I've been meaning to check out for a decade or so.

300 is... well, I wonder what heterosexual men are thinking when they're watching this movie. Are they aware they're watching gay porn? Spoilers? Can spoilers can be said to exist for this movie? The most important thing to know is what everybody already knows about Thermopylae: a bunch of Greeks including 300 Spartans went there; they fought a delaying action against Xerxes at a natural choke point while the main Greek army escaped; they all died.

The movie gets about a 1 out of 10 points on historical accuracy. At some points it was so ludicrously bad that I laughed out loud in the theater. The idea of Spartans, who had required by law the pederastic paedagogy that the Athenians merely had as optional custom, mocking other Greeks for loving boys! Tee hee. And of course the concept of helot-keeping totalitarian Spartans thudding out portentous lectures about freedom is... amusing.

The name "Sparta" and the martial culture they did in fact have make attractive starting points for fascist fantasy stories, though. Frank Miller wrote a fun one. Should be a staple of Marine barracks film nights for decades to come. Subtexts will not be parsed. (Why is the iconography of fascism so homoerotic? I'm quite sure that many tedious essays have been written about this. What's the one-sentence answer?)

Visually stunning, however. Just gorgeous. Lots of lovely waxed male chests to enjoy. Leather codpieces, well-stuffed. Chains and piercings on the Persians. The high point of the movie is a slow-motion fight sequence where we watch Leonidas slaughter an endless series of Persian soldiers with spear and sword and shield. Great stuff to look at. Worth seeing on the big screen just for this sequence.

Final image was interestingly Christian: St Sebastian pierced with arrows.

David Wenham was dishy. I hope he ends up with a nice career so I can look at him some more.
  • Current Music: Chasing Cars (Topher Jones & Blake Jarrell Bootleg) : Snow Patrol : Eyes Open
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Ohh I actually can't wait to see "300".

However, if you want a cracking fantasy that shows a more realistic view of Sparta etc, then you could do worse than David Gemmell's "Lion of Macedon". There is a follow-up "Dark Prince" which is just as good.

I love them to bits - as I do with all David Gemmell books. Definitely worth a read.
Yeah, I think you'll totally dig this. Big dumb fun gorgeous movie, with loads of violence.

Thanks for the Gemmell pointer! I've never read him.
Oh wow - never read Gemmell?

I wish I could go back to the first time I ever read a Gemmell book - that wonderful feeling of discovering an author of the type that you KNOW you are going to fall in love with each and every one of his books.

I hope you'll love them as much as I do.
That is seriously the best review ever.

You know David Wenham was in LOTR, right? And that his nickname is apparently Daisy?
Yeah, in fact I had to call him "Faramir" when talking about the actor with my husband. Otherwise he was all, "huh? who?"
Well, at least according to Dominic Monaghan and and Billy Boyd, so take it with a grain of salt.
Woah! That is some sportbike. I'm all jealous of the trip you're planning to take. Sounds marvelous :)

That's a fantastic haul of books! *sigh* I really need to start reading stories in which actual trees were killed in the process, lol.

So do I, oddly! I haven't read dead trees books in ages. I'm not sure which one to start with. Maybe the mystery?
The projected motorcycle trip sounds like a real adventure. :-)
Solo motorcycle trips are neat. They are indeed adventures. And because you're on a bike, you're moved to take back roads, twisting little roads through the middle of nowhere. Which is the real way to see the country, I think.
Yay, you're getting the bikes out! :) Even without knowing details of where you're going or for how long, it sounds awesome.
Tentative plan is to take the north route across to the DC/Virginia area, meet up with theblackmare, and perhaps have the husband fly out to join me for a few days of Smithsonian indulgence. And then the south route on the way back, because by then it should be late September and less soggy through the south. Maybe hit some neat places in the southwest.

We'll see if I scale this back. I've done long solo trips, but nothing this long.
That sounds like so much fun! Having your husband fly out for a few days will probably give you just enough recovery time before the return trip. The most I've done is four days on a bike and I was beat tired after all that riding - not to mention sore. ;)
The Spartans required boys and young men to have sex with their elders? I didn't know that. Where can I find more? (Taking time off from the really bad story I'm writing. Feh.)
Read all about it on wikipedia in the articles on erastes and eromenos. I read up on this recently for the Greek-inflected crackfic series that I'm still in the middle of writing. (Before my spring_with_xan story emergency commenced. So I'm in total sympathy with you today. Heh.)
You're having an emergency too? I'm sorry to be feeling glad, but I'm happy to have company in my misery. I'm just fucking hopeless when it comes to writing stories. I try to have some dignity about it, but it all falls apart under the duress. And if I recall, I think I got you into this one, didn't I? Sorrier than I can ever say ;-{
"Gay Porn"
According to my husband, as long as they aren't intimately touching, ie, kissing or penatration (his words), he is only concerned with the killing. So they could be naked, as long as they are killing each other and covered in blood. Although by now he knows that I can pretty much find gay porn in anything with more than one man. If you really want to see a homoerotic display, you should watch an Ultimate Fighter match. It's all about sweaty men grappling, wrestling and hitting each other, shirtless and dressed in small shorts. Sometimes they even have their faces in each other's groins. The first time I watched it, one of the other ladies at the party leaned over to me and asked if it was just her, or was watching this like watching gay porn without the fluids. I totally agreed.
Re: "Gay Porn"
My husband is completely mystified by this homoerotic reading. "Huh? What? This was not deep with the sexual content. I don't care if gay porn is full of images of chests like those. You're just one of those people who sees teh gay everywhere." Which I'm not, but oh well! There was plenty of beheading for him to enjoy.
you see what you believe
We don't know that much about Sparta since they were practically illiterate. They abandoned the arts in 600bc after getting their asses kicked and became a communal military society (kibbutz?). But we do hear from Aristotle and from Xenophon that they did not have as much homosexuality as other cities; _chaste_ pedarasty. Xenophon himself is no prude, and I thought you'd be interested in this bit of archaia, to his eromenos:

"Now I look upon Clinias with more pleasure than upon all the other beautiful things which are to be seen among men; and I would rather be blind as to all the rest of the world, than as to Clinias. And I am annoyed even with night and with sleep, because then I do not see him; but I am very grateful to the sun and to daylight, because they show Clinias to me."

You will probably be shocked to learn that amongst HMBLA anal sex was considered depraved and inappropriate, and I never heard they were much into oral sex either. Look up "intercrural".

The best greeks to mock for their boy loving were likely Thebans who were pretty famous for it in their warriors a hundred years later (don't know about then). (

Helots were not slaves despite that common modern gloss, they were serfs, able to marry and form contracts and pretty much owing nothing except tribute to the landowner. Helot hoplites of which you hear so much were generally volunteering in exchange for total freedom. The slaves in Athens etc. were generally true slaves. The article starts by excluding helots. There was indeed a helot uprising during the great earthquake. What exactly was going on (a demogogue proclaiming signs from heaven?) no one really knows. Helots in general gave up less of their income than we do.

Spartan men and women were everywhere renowned for their physical beauty and fitness. Both sexes generally exercised nude. Spartan women were among the best educated in Greece, the better to raise fine babies. They were also allowed to own property, and usually did do to widowhood.

The un-cuirassed Spartans would fit well with the general Spartan ethos (no city walls, etc.) but I don't know if there's any evidence. Hardly anyone ancient or modern shows a spartan in a cuirass, but that's probably the pecs. Hardened leather cuirasses would have a been a good choice, and generally looked just like chests anyways...

Oh yeah, pretty much everyone murdered Xerxes' envoys.
Re: you see what you believe
I did quite a bit of reading on the pederasty thing while researching the Greek-AU stories I haven't finished yet. (And that you categorically refused to read!)

Helots weren't quite slaves, but they also weren't free as we understand it. And the Spartans were enough afraid of them revolting that they dragged them along with their armies rather than leave them behind. However, fighting as a soldier was such an important component of Greek citizenship that this set up social tensions: helots were acting as citizens! Sparta was the least democratic of the Greek city-states. (Though as you were pointing out this morning, because they were backwards illiterates, we mostly have only the Athenian view of them.)

None of this complexity was present in the film. Spartans real men! Grunt! Real men fight! They don't have trades like blacksmithing! Grunt! Real men fight nude! The film was obviously a fantasy, mind you.
Re: you see what you believe
Sparta was actually the most democratic, but they also had the most restrictive definition of who a citizen was ;) You are unintentionally parroting some anti-spartan propaganda, though. Fpr instance, consider the concept that Spartans were enough afraid of the helots that they dragged them along rather than leave them behind. If that were actually meaningful, what fraction of the helots would have to be "dragged" along? Remember that helots outnumbered Spartans perhaps 10 to 1 during Thermopylae and 100 to 1 a century later. Many were armed and armored, many were allowed the military education of the citizen. There was a minor revolt during the great earthquake, and every now and then helots could be bribed into fighting against Sparta, but for the most part they were simply neither oppressed nor rebellious.

The Spartans kept no slaves, but the Athenians did and therefore the Athenians were always in fear of slave revolts. They project their fears onto the Spartans, and never understood why the Spartans were not afraid.

Spartans were the real men of Greece, though. Of them it was said "We all knew what was right, but only the Spartans did it."