June 02, 2005

Wham! Wham! Wham!

That's the sound of me hitting myself over the head because I just realized I could have bought Jacob's present from Amazon.com and maybe actually gotten it. Then again, maybe I couldn't.

I'm just irritable because I have a tracking number for it, but the postal service doesn't recognize the number as anything it should be tracking. Buy.com has a procedure for declaring a shipment lost, but it only applies if the tracking information shows it's been delivered. They also have a reassuring statement about if you can't see tracking information for your package, but that only applies if your shipment just went out today. I have an impressive and persuasive pouty face, complete with trembling lip and big sad stricken eyes, but that only applies if there's someone to look at it. Looks like it's a stalemate.

In other news, I've been reading the interesting, informative and shamelessly oversensationalized book The Boxer Rebellion by Diana Preston. It's truly amazing how everyone in China in 1900 was either sexually lawless, tortured to death, or both. Actually, that's not quite true; there was one English girl who was apparently merely fat. If you tune out the yellow journalism, purple prose, and scarlet letters, though, it's a very good read. The Boxer Rebellion is one of the thousands of significant events of modern history of which I know next to nothing, so it's totally fascinating to me. Some of it really defies belief -- I'm a little stuck on imagining how this would play out today. I'm pretty sure if you had 400 foreign diplomats barricaded inside their own embassies in the capital city of anywhere, and being bombarded by Anywhere's national military right alongside Anywhere's unchecked peasant uprising, Anywhere would get bombed into Nothing pretty fast. I don't even think the U.S. could get away with that one.

In the interest of honesty, I'll also admit that the sensationalizing makes the book easier to follow. There are so many names of missionaries and diplomats and military commanders being thrown around that it's simpler to remember them as "oh, right, the gay one" or "the fat one" or "the one with all the mistresses" than to keep track of the names. It just makes it a little embarrassing to be sitting on BART reading what's allegedly a serious historical book and then realize that the person next to you is looking over your shoulder at a description of the Empress Dowager's favorite sexual position.

Posted by dianna at June 2, 2005 11:05 AM

I would email customer service and tell them about the problem. Because what if it doesn't come!?

The Boxer Rebellion book was a fun read. But became repetitive in a very strange way.

"And then there was this other group of people who were holed up in some other place. And, just like the other fifteen groups I've described, this one was shot at for months. Meanwhile, the Epmress Dowager had her anus tongued by thirty young men. Again."

Posted by: Jacob at June 2, 2005 12:20 PM

The book's POV was also a little weird. I felt the reasons for the Boxer Rebellion weren't given a fair treatment. To hear Preston tell it, the Boxer Rebellion was just a wacky religious cult with very little reason for trying to drive out the missionaries. The book mentions some cursory stories about the opium trade, etc., but much more time is spent on the rumors about European cannibalism. But mightn't Western political/religious/economic intrusion have more to do with the rebellion's general popularity than those rumors?

Then again, that's not quite as exciting to read about...

Posted by: Jacob at June 2, 2005 12:27 PM

Yeah, it's true. In fact, I think the book uses the exact phrase "just an obscure and poorly-organized sect" to describe the Boxers at the start of the rebellion. It definitely doesn't assign them much reason for being. It goes much deeper into the motives of the Empress (and her nephew and the other factions of the Imperial court) for supporting them instead of suppressing them, and there you get some treatment of the West's scramble to divvy up China and/or convert its population.

That leads me to the question, did the Boxers rise to so much power and influence because they were thinking about the big picture and the West's intrusion, or because they were in the right place at the right time and the Empress was thinking about the big picture? It could've happened either way, I think; wacky cult plus Imperial support equals major political and military power.

Posted by: Dianna at June 2, 2005 01:09 PM

As for the repetition, I absolutely agree. I was 20 pages into the siege of Tientsin (if that's how it's spelled) before I realized that I wasn't reading about Peking anymore. At least that explained why nothing seemed to match the maps.

Posted by: Dianna at June 2, 2005 01:12 PM