...gonna kick the darkness 'till it bleeds daylight... musings of a hungarian in texas

©2003 by Annamaria Kovacs. All contents of this blog are the property of the author. Use with written permission only.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

New Bloglink

A new link up on the right: Yup, the LEO Test blog is finally up. For those who know what I am talking about, this was a long time coming. Everyone, go check it out. Now. You will thank me later. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Cat And Gunblogging

Two Carnivals for the price of one! That's BooBoo, my Pixie-Bob, and my new birthday present, a Bersa .38, gifted by The Lizard Queen and her husband. Aren't they cute?

Kitten update

They are back, after relocating a couple of times, and they are cuter than ever, if possible. Two of them are still up for good homes, if you are interested...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Curry-Chicken Salad

For those dog days of summer when you really don't want to slave in the kitchen.
You will need:

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked or grilled, cut into small cubes
3 Gala apples (try to find the firmer ones; if organic, just scrub the apples very well, if not, peel), cored and cubed
6 oz. Swiss cheese, cut into small cubes
16 oz. sour cream
2-3 tsp. curry powder
salt to taste

Mix cubed ingredients in large salad bowl.
Mix sour cram and curry powder in another mixing bowl. Pour over other ingredients, stir well, taste, salt if needed. Chill in refrigerator for an hour before serving on salad leaves. Garnish with crusty brown bread.

Optional additional ingredients:
walnut pieces
raisins/ grapes

It is fast and really refreshing...I made this over the weekend when it hit the 100 degree mark here in Irving. The recipe originates in the small deli at the Central European University in Budapest, where years ago (I hope they still have the business), a young couple tok over the deli operations and started to feature more healthy fare such as cold salads and fruit smoothies. This was one of their standbys, and first time I sampled it, I asked the young lady for the recipe. She told me it was REALLY simple. It is, really, and every time I make it, I remember that first time I had it in probably one of the very few air conditioned buildings in Budapest in the 1990s.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Good Book

Part of the birthday book stash The Husband gave me last week was Alastair Reynolds' Chasm City. Go read it. It is good: if I have to characterize it, it is a sci-fi redemption story told as a cross of Blade Runner,Total Recall,the voyage of the Santa Maria to the New World, and a random jungle movie.
No, really. You'll see.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


As I am waxed nostalgic all this weekend and beyond, I went on a little web search and I found some of my country's most beautiful poetry online. The following are two poems every Hungarian schoolchildren knows by heart: one is our national Anthem, originally an early 19th. century poem; the other is almost as dear to our hearts, another 19th c. poem called 'Appeal'. The translations I give here do a really good job in conveying just how deeply a brooding nation we were, are, and unless something profound happens, will be...

Ferenc Kölcsey

O, my God, the Magyar bless
With Thy plenty and good cheer!
With Thine aid his just cause press,
Where his foes to fight appear.
Fate, who for so long did'st frown,
Bring him happy times and ways;
Atoning sorrow hath weighed down
Sins of past and future days.

By Thy help our fathers gained
Kárpát's proud and sacred height;
Here by Thee a home obtained
Heirs of Bendegúz, the knight.
Where'er Danube's waters flow
And the streams of Tisza swell
Árpád's children, Thou dost know,
Flourished and did prosper well.

For us let the golden grain
Grow upon the fields of Kún,
And let Nectar's silver rain
Ripen grapes of Tokay soon.
Thou our flags hast planted o'er
Forts where once wild Turks held sway;
Proud Vienna suffered sore
From King Mátyás' dark array.

But, alas! for our misdeed,
Anger rose within Thy breast,
And Thy lightnings Thou did'st speed
From Thy thundering sky with zest.
Now the Mongol arrow flew
Over our devoted heads;
Or the Turkish yoke we knew,
Which a free-born nation dreads.

O, how often has the voice
Sounded of wild Osman's hordes,
When in songs they did rejoice
O'er our heroes' captured swords!
Yea, how often rose Thy sons,
My fair land, upon Thy sod,
And Thou gavest to these sons,
Tombs within the breast they trod!

Though in caves pursued he lie,
Even then he fears attacks.
Coming forth the land to spy,
Even a home he finds he lacks.
Mountain, vale - go where he would,
Grief and sorrow all the same -
Underneath a sea of blood,
While above a sea of flame.

'Neath the fort, a ruin now,
Joy and pleasure erst were found,
Only groans and sighs, I trow,
In its limits now abound.
But no freedom's flowers return
From the spilt blood of the dead,
And the tears of slavery burn,
Which the eyes of orphans shed.

Pity, God, the Magyar, then,
Long by waves of danger tossed;
Help him by Thy strong hand when
He on grief's sea may be lost.
Fate, who for so long did'st frown,
Bring him happy times and ways;
Atoning sorrow hath weighed down
All the sins of all his days.

Translated by WILLIAM N. LOEW (1881)

Mihaly Vorosmarty, 1836

Oh, Magyar, keep immovably
your native country's trust,
for it has borne you, and at death
will consecrate your dust!

No other spot in all the world
can touch your heart as home -
let fortune bless or fortune curse,
from hence you shall not roam!

This is the country that your sires
have shed their blood to claim;
throughout a thousand years not one
but adds a sacred name.

'Twas here brave Arpad's mighty sword
ordained your land to be,
and here the arms of Hunyad broke
the chains of slavery.

Here Freedom's blood-stained flag has waved
above the Magyar head;
and here in age-long struggles fell
our best and noblest, dead.

In spite of long calamity
and centuries of strife,
our strength, though weakened, is not spent;
our country still has life.

To you, O nations of the world,
we call with passioned breath:
"Should not a thousand years of pain
bring liberty - or death?"

It cannot be that all in vain
so many hearts have bled,
that haggard from heroic breasts
so many souls have fled!

It cannot be that mind and strength
and consecrated will
are wasted in a hopeless cause
beneath a curse of ill!

There yet shall come, if come there must,
that better, fairer day
for which a myriad thousand lips
in fervent yearning pray.

Or there shall come, if come there must,
a death of fortitude;
and round about our graves shall stand
a nation washed in blood.

Around the graves where we shall die
a weeping world will come,
and millions will in pity gaze
upon the martyrs' tomb.

then, Magyar, keep unshakeably
your native country's trust,
for it has borne you and at death
will consecrate your dust!

No other spot in all the world
can touch your heart as home;
let fortune bless or fortune curse,
from hence you shall not roam!

translated by Watson Kirkconnell

Brief Update

As many of you know, The Husband has lost his paternal grandmother last week: the funeral was Monday, and he's back in town now. We made an obligation to be back in DC for Christmas this year, which we haven't done in long years. Will do much good: it is times like this you realize that time spent with family is always to be cherished.

Speaking about which, I spoke to my little family in Hungary over the weekend. My Dad is busy with his lake house and is contemplating finding money to install a sprinkler system in the yard; given Hungary's climate, it needs to be winterproof, which pushes the costs to Himalayan heights; however, Dad starts to get sick of watering his large yard by hand.... And my sister want to get back to school to get a degree in alternate psychiology at the local equivalent of a community college. Whee!

For those of you who called or emailed with condolences for the Husband, thank you! For those of you who spent the weekend with me while he was in DC and cheered me up on my birthday weekend--I was more grateful than I could show. It was great, guys, and I truly appreciate it.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Pasta Pollo Tricolore

Antoher recipe from The Bunny''s cookbook: my little improvisation on Tuesday's theme--what's in the pantry, fast!

Pasta Pollo Tricolore

1 pkg. fusilli (I used fettucine actually, but the texture of this dish would work better with short pasta. Your call, Dear Reader)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
1 16 oz. can canned tomatoes (I highly recommend Muir Glen Organic Fire-Roasted for this dish)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp. butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
real Pecorino cheese, grated, to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. While boiling, prepare the sauce.
2. In large pan, sautee garlic in the olive oil until aromatic. Add chicken pieces, stir and sautee until chicken is no longer pink on the outside. Season with freshly ground black pepper and some sea salt.
3. Chop basil leaves and add to pan. Stir and cook for 2 m inutes until aroma wafting from pan becomes intensive and leaves wilt to dark green.
4. Add tomatoes, stir well and let it bubble for 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked throughout. Taste and season with more salt/pepper if needed.
5. If timed right, the pasta should be just about ready and al dente now; drain, put back to pot it cooked in, and mix in 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to kep it shiny and moist.
6. Stir in sauce from pan, mix well, and put it back to low heat to keep it gently heated until you grate some Pecorino cheese.

Serve in pasta bowls with Pecorino on top, and a fresh side salad of Romaine and cherry tomatoes. Buono appetito!


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How Weird.

We saw The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou last night (thanks to the Lizard Queen who came over with movie and CHERRY COBLER...YUM!) That movie is SO weird...my current running theory is that the entire crew, actors, directors, cameramen, were totally STONED while shooting it, plus, I suspect, during the post-production phase as well. If you'd seen it, you know exactly what I am talking about.
That being said, it's a really good one; no wonder it tanked in the theaters. As Jonathon said, it might be on its way to be a classic one day. AND he has not even seen it yet. Go rent it: it has (among many others) Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and Willem Dafoe in it, not to mention Anjelica Houston finally acting her age (and she is really great!)

As the LQ said: "I tremble at the thought of a movie marathon with this one paired with Napoleon Dynamite." Indeed.

Monday, June 13, 2005

To Water!

They sure look like they are really trying for the water--actually, they orient themselves by the sun's reflection from the sea. It is an interesting little tidbit the park rangers tell you before they let you to the site that if you have a white shirt on, it's best to cover it, or stand behing someone with darker clothing, because it might actually confuse the baby turtles.These babies were very active and about 5 minutes after they were lifted out from their styrofoam traveling boxes and placed to the and, they headed straight to the ocean. Unfortunately for them, but prolonging the viewing for us, the waves were so aggressive that Sunday morning that they were tossed back quite a nmber of times before a large but gentle roller finally came in, lifted them up, and washed most of them them down to the Gulf, where their ancestors came from. It was very touching, watching these little creatures doing what they always did, for thousands of years, but now, endangered by human activity, they were aided by and cheered on by humans...A park ranger further aside even fed the seagulls with cat kibbles so that they are not getting overexcited about a potential baby turtle breakfast.  Posted by Hello

Go, Zippy, Go!

Baby sea turtles are really small. These were the most endangered Kemp's ridley turtles, and the park rangers were extremely excited, as this far they already found 42 clutches of eggs, with 1.5 more months of nesting season to go, while last year they altogether had 46 clutches. Looks like their program, started in 1978, really works by now.Go, Zippy, Go! Posted by Hello

Morning over the campsite

The sun was barely up when we climbed out from our sadly dilapidated tent (I woke up the umphtieth time around 330 to one of the tent's inner pockets gently but constantly and rhythmically brushing my face due to the fact that the back half of the tent kind of collapsed over me). We headed over to a secluded piece of the national Seashore Park for this year's first baby sea turtle release. For moe info, here is the link at the Seashore's website.Posted by Hello

Part of our little group...

...enjoying Gulf water...that's The Lizard Queen, my very pale Husband, and The LQ's hubby. Missing, our dear friend The Marmot,who suggested the whole trip (and to whom this bunny is eternally grateful for the experience), back at the camp fetching an inflatable raft, and yours truly, sunning with SPF 50's sure protection and listening to the waves' dancing. Posted by Hello

The surreally crisp colors of Malaquite Beach

...our weekend destination. It is higly recommended to those who do not mind a little isolation from civilization, but don't necessarily want total primitive camping, a.k.a like me. Showers (cold rinse only) and clean toilets are available at the campsite, but that's about it. Also, watch for sand burrs (can rip the tent side open if not careful...and fire ants. Even though the wind completely snapped one of our tent poles and pulled up two tents (ours half way and the Lizard Queen's and her husband's constantly) it was a great experience; even though yours truly had a rather fitful night of sleep what with the wind continuously tugging on the tent and the rainfly. Why? Above are some more images... Posted by Hello

Friday, June 10, 2005


It is good.
I had my yearly evaluation with my boss today, and it went very well. It made me smile, actually. It's funny, really, how when you have such a close work relationship with someone as a personal assistant, after a while (we worked together for almost 4 years now) you start to kinda being a counterpart to the other in the 8 to 5 sense of things (most of you know exactly what I am talking about). This is not exactly the job I imagined when I came to the US--but, I have to tell you, it could have been much worse. There are sucky moments and days, and it's generally pretty hectic here, but after so many years tending to someone's appointments, travel arrangements, emails, spelling problems and reports, and listening increasingly often as the person uses you as a sounding board and contributing with some minor ideas--you kinda grow on each other, and after the few frictions at the beginning, you both learn to respect each others' little quirks and habits, leaving the big ones alone while carefully trying to improve the ones that you actually can.
Really weird. Besides learning about business and transportation, finances and report analysis, I learned a TON about interaction, relationships and just plain old social interaction in this job. And that is a Good Thing...seeing the positive in the less desirable outcome of my life.

And this weekend we are going on a real camping trip down to Norh Padre island, with a chance to see sea turtles! Yay! Ocean, beach, animals and travel...with industrial-strength sunscreen, sun hat and mosquito repellent, of course.

UPDATE: Another good thing working here: if the managers who work for your boss catch you in the cafeteria before you had a chance to pay for your lunch, they buy it for you, unasked. I was waiting for my pizza to get ready and two of them, with their lunches already done, sneaked up on the cashier and paid for mine. Sweet...I am sure they''ll expense it, but still...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Roasted the lonely duckling from my freezer last night...goodness gracious, why does that sound SO wrong? it was yummy...I think I freaked out my friend Miss Vilya by telling her stories how we eat duck and duck parts in Hungary.

You see, in my homeland we love grease. We have long, hard winters, cold, rainy falls and hot summers, so we need all the energy we can get to make it through, traditionally. So: when a duckie is roasted, we do not SKIM the fat and THROW IT AWAY, or TAKE THE SKIN OFF AND DISCARD...Nooo. In MY family, you take the duck, cut it up, put it on a plate, put some potatoes next to it mashed with onions sauteed in the duck fat, add some red cabbage also sauteed in the duck fat, add some dill pickles, garnish the whole thing with two big slices of crusty potato bread to sop of ALL the grease that is sloshing on your plate gloriously, and slam it in front of your guest. With Pilsen-type beer. And be annoyed it they don''t ask for seconds.

Aand...after the duck is eaten, you pour the rest of the grease left in the roasting pan into a jar (glass or, in older households, one of those cute enameled lard pots with two handles and a hinged lid) and store it in the fridge. If you had the duck's liver, you poured milk and some of the grease on it, and sauteed it on the stove until tender, then stored it likewise, and for a quick but entirely satisfying fall-winter dinner, you tooklarge slices of bread, smeared duck lard over it, sprinkled with salt and paprika, sliced some onions and duck liver on it, and ate it drinking hot tea with sugar and lemon as a chaser.

Fortunately, my family does have a gene for swift fat metabolism, so I could have something like this once a week and not get fat, except that fateful year when I was attending the majordomo school and we had to eat everything we cooked, so I kinda ballooned up--I have photos! It all came off during first year as an archeology student-fieldwork does that to you.

The duck is gone, of course. Even the cats looked smug and happy last night.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Summer Chicken

For your summer cooking pleasure: I give you the very simple chicken recipe I made over the weekend. Feeds two for a couple of days.

2 boneless, skinless full chicken breasts
1 bag frozen artichoke hearts
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organic Fire-Roasted)
2 tbsp. olive oil
flourm salt & black pepper to taste
1 clove of garlic, chopped

1. Pat dry chicken breasts with paper towel; gently pound flat. Cut each into half. Dredge in flour and black pepper; set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in LARGE pan. Saute chicken breasts on both side until no longer pink on the outside. Lift out of oil and set aside.
3. Scrape up pan juices gently in case it got burned to bottom a bit. Pour canned tomatoes into pan; heat until starts bubbling. Add frozen artichoke hearts and wait until it starts bubbling again. Add garlic. Cover and cook on medium for about 6-8 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed. Add the chicken breasts and continue to cook on medium, covered until chicken is thoroughly cooked and no longer pink in center.
4. Serve over steamed rice and with fresh plate of salad.



Late Spring cleaning...I changed the template, and realized too late that this will wipe out all the previous comments and all my sidebar customization, because I am still only on my Coffee Numero Due only...grrr...
Anyhoo, I retained elements of green as in green The Bunny likes (hey, just getting deeper into my persona) and tried to put back as many links as I was possible. I will work on it later to expand. Until then, enjoy the long-promised Kingdom of Heaven un-review below.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Kingdom Of Heaven?

You know...
I promised this SUCH a long time ago, because it was asked. I kept putting it off, first because I was sick, then because I just did not find the right words...
You know...
It's not that I despise Ridley Scott, the director. I adore and admire what he did with "Blade Runner", both story-wise and cinematographically (is that an English word?). The weird thing is, after the first five minutes I could even like and actually get into "Gladiator". I started automatically look at it as a movie about Roman times, a remake of the long-winded but magnificent sword-and-sandal epic "The Fall of the Roman Empire"--and I went almost ballistic in the "Corvin" theatre in Budapest, until it just clicked: it was a fantasy flick. With names that were rather, but not quite Roman, with weapons, clothing, equipment, furniture, etc., rather, but not quite, like Roman stuff in 2th c. AD. And I could believe the story that way. And, last but not least, the acting was okay. Well, actually, Richard Harris and Joaquin Phoenix were quite excellent...and well, even Russell Crowe managed to act some.

Now. Onto this installment of histerical...erm...historical...experiments Hollywood lately likes to excrete, the one they entitled 'Kingdom of Heaven'. When I saw he preview trailer on the Internet I was blown away. I went 'Wow! They GOT it...' That preview, if you recall, gave the impression of a sweeping, accurate reconstruction of the historical events of the fateful year 1187 on the Holy Land: the struggle between the King of Jerusalem and Saladin, te Seljuk soldier who became Sultan and later, conqueror of the Holy City. Yes. The weaponry, the costumes, the emotions, all seemed right and right there...and the scene with the catapults throwing flaming fireballs over the City of Cities just took my breath away.

So: while in Kalamazoo at the Medieval Congress at the beginning of May, two days after the movie came out, we stumbled into two of our colleagues from the De Re Militari society at the book fair, and they said: "Well, we plan to watch this Kingdom movie tonight at the local multiplex. Wanna come?" I felt a tad better from my what I know now was walking pneumonia, at that point feverless, brave and almost happy, so I said: "What a great idea...sure!" And so we went, with those two brave souls, The Husband and The Lizard Queen as my escorts...I promised I will not scream too loud; a promise, I am sad to confess, I was not able to keep.

The most enfuriating thing about it? That they got SOME of the events right, some of the background right, some of the historical figures correct, and some of the preps were spot on.

By now most of my dear Readers have probably seen the movie, so I will not spoil anything if I tell what actually DID happen. In case anyone is really interested in how the whole thing came down, I encourage you to consult a number of quite good books on the subject, that are easily available, and which the scriptwriters, quite obviously, have seen for five seconds, one day three years ago, after a heavy drinking binge. Maybe. In my darker hours I doubt even that. But Sir Steven Runciman's History of the Crusades, or Stephen Howarth's The Knights Templar gives an excellent reconstruction and a vivid image about those troubled times. Or, for further reading, one can go to the De Re Militari website where our unfortunate colleague in pain (we'd seen the movie together)Mr. Konieczny, the web editor compiled a whole section for educating us, moviegoers about the era of The Kingdom of Heaven.
To keep this simple, I will just concentrate on the main characters in the movie and very briefly sketch up what is wrong with them...hopefully that will give an idea about why am I so bitter about this one.

Let's start with the protagonist: Balian of Ibelin. As no doubt you'd read somewhere else already, Dear Reader, you need to be disappointed now...the esteemed Mr. Ibelin was not a blacksmith, never been to France, and was most assuredly NOT a bastard. He was the completely legitimate son of Balian the Elder, Baron of Ibelin, one of the oldest noble families that lived in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. He was much older than he was portrayed in the movie, and at the point of time that is described therein, was married the Dowager Queen of Jerusalem, Maria Komnena,Byzantine princess and close relative to the reigning Emperor of Byzantium; widow of King Amalric of Jerusalem and mother of Princess Isabella of Jerusalem, half-sister to the Princess Sybilla. What? That Scott never mentions these people? Sorry. It gets better.
Princess Sybilla was the daughter of King Amalric of Jerusalem by his first wife, Agnes de Courtenay, whom he divorced because they were close cousins (oops...) At least that was the official reasoning. Later events probably point to the truth in the rumor that the real reason was the royal lady's adultery on an almost industrial scale. After the divorce, Amalric married the Byzantine princess Maria, by whom he had another daughter, Isabella, who is not even mentioned in "Kingdom". Not even en passe, even though she plays an absolutely vital role in the years after 1187, as she becomes the sole heir of the kingdom of Jerusalem. But you know, more than one female lead might be confusing to stupid movie audiences, because, as we all know by now, Hollywood's basic premise is that all movegoers are idiots and are to be treated accordingly, with force-fed half-truths and such. After all, who cares what happened REALLY to a bunch of dead Europeans and Middle Easterners? We want to get the MESSAGE accross, dammit. And if the facts only partially support The Message (you know, the one about War Is Always Bad, People Want to Live In Peace and Harmony Under Visionary Rulers on Both Sides Of the Fence, and Said Rulers Are Forced Into War By Evil Warmongers; Furthermore, Religion IS Bad For You Because It Is Nothing Else But Fanatism.
Anyway. Back to the real events and background.
After King Amalric's death, his crown passed to his son by his first marriage, Baldwin IV, the Leper King. Baldwin, wonder of wonders, and pain of my heart, is actually portrayed almost to the perfection in the movie. Ah, Edward Norton is SO good in his role, he saved a number of scenes where I was ready to scream. He would have been an amazing ruler had he lived long enough. But he did not. He died, and his heir was the ten-year old boy child of Sybilla by her first marriage. The first husband died early, and shortly after she married Guy de Lusignan, whose older brother, Amalric, one of the main officials of the Kingdom, was also the lover of Sybilla's mother, Agnes. You know, stay in the family.

Got the impression it was decidedly NOT as clear-cut as in the movie? Wait, there is more. Guy the Lusignan was young, beautiful and totally incapable of making decisions on his own. By marrying into the royal family, he became one of the possible heirs to the throne, plus, his family being the vassals of the Plantagenets, the Kings of England and half of France suddenly became VERY interested in the game played in the Holy Land (Richard the Lionheart anyone? And, by the way, WHY is that NONE of the knights in the entourage of Richard at the end of "Kingdom" lops off Balian's head AT ONCE when he fails to even BOW to a KING???)

Sybilla's sister, Isabella, married a young man named Humphrey (Onofroi) de Toron, whose stepfather was none other but Reynald de Chatillon. You know, the guy with the multicolored beard, the crazy villain from "Kingdom"...Humphrey was wildly educated, spoke Arabic, read Noth Arabic and Latin, and was generally liked by everyone, but was considered a bit too bookish and shy to rule a war-torn land. Isabella's stepdad, Balian of Ibelin (remember, married to Maria, widow of a King), and him both supported the Regent the Leper King named to govern in stead of his ten-year old nephew...Raymond IV, Count of Tripoli and Lord of the City of Tiberias...Ah-ha: you were wondering where that name came from in "Kingdom" didn't you? Yes, the character played by Jeremy Irons who so gruffily and authentically worried about the fate of the Kingdom (The Husband's eyes got THIS big when I mentioned Irons and said: "OMG, you are right, he WAS there! Good acting, I did not even noticed it was him..." ) Now WHY was he disguised as 'Tiberias" when that was merely the title of one of his WIFE's fiefs, only Mr. Scott's scriptwriter knows. Must have been that drinking binge I referred to earlier.

I will try to be brief here, I see I am getting long-winded as this time and place in medieval history is one I actually digged into deeper as the REAL characters and events at this point are SO vividly real and so exciting...::sigh::

The little King, Baldwin V did not live too long. During his one -year reign, however, (totally omitted from the movie) the conflicts that were kind of touched upon on the screen escalated.

The rapidly rising Saracen ruler, Saladin (real name: Salah-Ad-Din Yusuf), was actually a Kurd soldier from a solider family who united most of the warring Moslim states in the area under his rule and thus produced far larger armies and organization than the Crusading states were previously facing. Actually, one of the reasons the Crusades succeeded in the early years was preciselty the lack of a unified Moslim leadership in the region. Thus, you see, Dear Reader, Saladin was far from the 'tolerance preacher' guy Mr. Scott portrays him. He indeed, by all accounts, was a generous, even chivalrous leader of his people, capable of surprisinlgy great acts (like, during his siege of Kerak--the REAL siege--when he learned that a wedding is held in one of the towers of the castle, he ordered his men not to direct catapult fire and assault towards that tower. Ironically, the wedding there was that of Princess Isabella and Humphrey of Toron...remember, Kerak was Renauld de Chatillon's castle...you know, the guy with the multicolored beard....) However, he was, first and foremost, the ruler of his empire, with the dream all his subjects and soldiers shared: to hold the Holy City again.
And so, once the time was right, he did not hesitate. When the little King died, the Kingdom was tossed into the feeding frenzy of 'who will be King?' Obviously, there were two heirs: Sybilla and Isabella, and, through them, their husbands. In his will, the leper King decreed that should his nephew die, the next King should be decided by the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Kings of France and England, all stakeholders in who sits on the throne of Jerusalem. The problem was, these powers were far away, while the party of Guy de Lusignan, and through him, the power-grabbing ex-queen, Agnes of Courtenay and her brother Joscelin, magnate of the Kingdom, much closer. In a move worthy of a MUCH better movie, they managed to remove Raymond of Tripoli from the scene, rushed Sybilla and Guy to Jerusalem, and there they were crowned in a coup full of scenes that are BEGGING to be filmed.In all these moves the Templar Grand master, Gerard de Ridefort played a crucial role, but well, he does not even SHOW UPin the freakin' screen. Moreover, the Templars are delegated into this weird role of the private army of Guy de Lusignan and Reynald de Chatillon (guy with multi-colored etc.) I will probably dedicate a separate post to the actual events of this coronation, just to make you weep, Dear Reader.

But well, there it is. A new King is crowned by his wife... an interlude of necessary wait and dance while everyone realized the situation and submitted to their rule, however reluctantly (like, oh, Raymond of Tripoli, or the Isabella-Humphrey-Balian of Ibelin-Maria Komnena party) and then, when they needed peace the most, Reynald de Chatillon went ahead and broke the standing peace with Saladin by attacking a caravan and plundering it out of all of its goods. Yes, they got that piece right, except that Reynald would not DARE to kill Saladin's sister. Ever.

After that, it was straight way to hell for the Kingdom. A smaller battle at the Springs of Cresson cost 140 Templars their life, when the Kingdom really could not afford it, and soon after that Saladin marched on Jerusalem...and the Kingdon's forces, due to some bad, bad planning, were crushed at the Horns of Hattin. After which, that scene in Saladin's victory tent is almost word-by-word out of the chronicles in the movie, and makes me want to throttle the director...it is SO well done!!

The Siege of Jerusalem happened months afterwards; Balian of Ibelin, the real one, was indeed inside Jerusalem at that point, but originally jut to retrieve his wife, and his children. he received a safe-conduct from Saladin to do so, under the conditions that he will NOT stay and engage in war. In a rather desperate plea, however, the inhabitants asked him to stay and help to organize the defenses, such as they were. Remember, this happened three months after Hattin: a lot of people had fled once the news of the catastrophe had reached the city. Balian wrote a letter to Saladin asking for his forgiveness for breaching his oath and engaging in hostilities, but he cited his duties to his King and God. After almost a full month of siege (not days, mind you)... Balian started negotiations and at a point he actually threatened with burning everything inside the city, starting with the Moslim holy sites if Saladin does not grant free departure to most of the inhabitants. Saladin eventually did, for a steep price on everyone's head (he had to fund his army from something, right?)--and even then, there were a lot of people who could not pay and ended up on the slave markets. In October 1187, Jerusalem fell.

Balian went back to Ibelin, with his wife and children. Guy de Lusignan was taken prisoner at Hattin, released years later, went to Acre, found that his wife Sybilla and their daughters died of pestilence, and he lost the claim to the throne. Reynauld de Chatillon died just like the movie showed: by Saladin's hands after Hattin. Raymond of Tripoli, escaping from the battle, got pneumonia and died very shortly after the City fell. Princess Isabella, the only surviving member of the royal family of Jerusalem, was forced to divorce Humphrey to marry a more suitable candidate to the royal throne, then, after his death, was married to the candidate the newly arrived crusading Richard of Lionheart chose for her. She was not even twenty-five and he was married three times. Her daughter by her third husband stood to inherit her claim and title, at this time of history not much more than the city of Acre and some coastal lands.

Weep, I say. This could have been SUCH a great movie. Let me know if ayone is interested in my little re-telling of the story of Guy & Sybilla's coronation and I'll put it up here somewhere. In the meantime, I would be VERY much interested in how others had viewed the movie. Comment away, please.

I cannot help but repeat what one of my old colleagues at the Museum of Visegrad in Hungary liked to say when we discussed various 'historical' movies or re-enactment events: "You know, I just don't get it. They could have stayed with the events that actually happened instead of making up shit. Making up shit actually costs more that just following what actually was...and it looks a LOT worse, not to mention the stink."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Brief Newsflash

Seems lately we work off lists, so here's mine:

1. The Husband's blog has imploded; he has a temporary one up at the same address. We have no idea what happened, except that it was, obviously, Blogger. Everything that he had up there previously is gone, which is a crying shame. Lots of good stuff.
2. Kittens continue to be adorable and cute, all over our front porch and hedge. More pictures are coming!
3. House continues to eat our money--on the other hand, with all the improvements we made in the past two years alone, it will be not only worth significantly more than we bought it for, but it is MUCH more comfortable. This past week, we had 12 inches of insulation, soffit vents and ridge vents intstalled to improve attic ventillation and insulation, and had the leaking roof repaired yesterday (there is nothing like a Texas summer thunderstorm literally dropping on your office, right on top of your computer, I tell ya...)
4. The Jeep is still in the shop, after TWO weeks--they were waiting for 3 different parts to come in from 3 different parts of the country. Crazy. AND these guys supposed to be a big Jeep dealership and service...bah. I am SO not impressed.
5. I STILL owe a review of that piece of...erm, celluloid, 'Kingdom Of Heaven' don't I?
::sigh:: Okay, after a month, I think I can look back without retching and review it with some objectivity and relatively small hair loss. This weekend. Really.
6. It's Friday. Need coffee and chocolate.