I know that I haven’t posted much in a while, and I have made vague excuses about conference papers and thesis chapters to cover for it. But now I feel that you’re all old enough to know the truth. It was for your protection, like when Tom Wopat and John Schneider had to take that season off from the Dukes of Hazzard so that Jimmy Carter wouldn’t have to tap the nation’s Strategic Awesome Reserve. Really, the worst thing that I can do for you is to become one of those insanely committed bloggers who posts every single month.
Allow me to explain–though even this explanation contributes to your peril. Lots of interesting things came out of the Da Vinci Code copyright case–which is by now old news, just old enough that it makes this post only 95% likely to harm you irrevocably. But as you well know, Dan Brown was being sued by a crackpot historian, Michael Baigent, whose book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Brown shamelessly ripped off to write the Da Vinci Code. Brown’s main defense was to claim that he ripped off lots of people, and besides it was mostly his wife’s fault, because she was his main researcher anyway, and he had lots better things to do like coming up with the clever puzzles that drive the plot.* But the judge provided him with a tertiary defense during the cross-examination of Mr. Baigent.
At issue was Dan Brown’s bungling of the date of the founding of the Priory of Sion. Brown says it was founded during the Second Crusade, in the reign of Baldwin II, but HBHG claims it was founded in 1099. As anyone with access to Wikipedia knows, the Second Crusade was called in 1145, and Baldwin II died in 1131. As the judge pointed out in the case, “Well, he certainly didn’t get it from you, because you wouldn’t have made the date error that he has.”****
There was some other legal mumbo-jumbo in the decision handed down last week, something about how you can’t copyright history even if you’re an insane crackpot, but I think it was clear that the real thing that saved Dan Brown was our most precious natural resource: ignorance about the Middle Ages. It’s what Medieval Times was created to foster, one giant turkey leg at a time, m’lord. And this blog is a threat to that.
Just think about that the next time you’re being tried for plagiarism or killing a hobo in England. You won’t be able to rely on the wrong date of the Second Crusade to save you.
To undo any damage that I’ve done by posting my Wikipedia-gleaned “facts,” let me direct you to two repositories of useful non-facts. Some Adult Film execs are putting together a grand timeline of porn. Here is the Middle Ages, as far as erotica is concerned:
1st century BC – Kama Sutra was created
1440 – Gutenberg Press Invented
It was a pious time. But it was also a time filled with Predator feasting rituals, at least according to The Movie Timeline, a site devoted to listing the various historical facts passed on to us by the movies. Watch 500 years go by, movie style:
500 Badon’s Hill, Hadrian’s Wall – Arthur wins the Battle of Badon’s Hill (King Arthur, 2004)
504 October 10: Predators arrive for their feasting ritual on xenomorphs and humans (Alien vs Predator)
604 October 10: Predators arrive for their feasting ritual on xenomorphs and humans
704 October 10: Predators arrive for their feasting ritual on xenomorphs and humans
804 October 10: Predators arrive for their feasting ritual on xenomorphs and humans
859 The House of Flying Daggers rises to oppose the governing Tang dynasty in China (House of Flying Daggers)
871 Alfred The Great becomes king (Alfred The Great)
904 October 10: Predators arrive for their feasting ritual on xenomorphs and humans
922 The last Neanderthal tribe dies out as one Arab and twelve Viking warriors kill the Queen and War Chief (The Thirteenth Warrior)
932 Arthur gathers knights for a quest for the Holy Grail (Monty Python & The Holy Grail)
993 Hogwarts school founded (Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone)
1004 October 10: Predators arrive for their feasting ritual on xenomorphs and humans
For the rest of the Middle Ages, you’ll just have to visit the site. But now you don’t know. And don’t knowing is half the battle… in court.
*Dan Brown’s main technique for puzzle-crafting was to create the character of Sophie Neveu, a professional cryptologist who is nonetheless stymied by such crafty codes as messages written in mirrored characters and anagrams. Naturally, she has to have these explained to her at great length by the book’s hero. Don’t get me wrong, the book is a page-turner. My wife and I listened to it on a very long car trip, and there was a mad scramble to switch out the CD’s every time we reached the end of one. But the central puzzle in the climax of the book is the sort of thing you’d see on Wheel of Fortune–and not even as the final puzzle where you only get to buy five letters and a vowel. We’re talking the warm up puzzle that they do to decide who gets to spin the wheel first, the puzzle Vanna doesn’t even bother to flip the letters for. The book’s hero, the Harvard symbologist**, has to race against time to answer the crossword puzzle clue: Newton’s orb. Five letters. And it only takes him thirty pages to do it in.***
**I have no clue what journals a symbologist would publish in, but I desperately want to be one. Apparently, being one means when you go to conferences, you get put up in the best hotel in town. When I go to conferences, I stay at the Day’s Inn.
***Quick clue: It rhymes with that soft-drink that Wendy the Snapple Lady used to do commercials for.
****Even quicker clue: That soft-drink rhymes with Blapple.
*****Keep in mind that they’re arguing over the date of an organization that doesn’t really exist.