One of my favorite undergraduate history classes was East Asian Civilization. It’s not my specialty but I excelled in it primarily because I studied so hard to compensate for my ignorance of it. I find these documentaries as well as the Osprey military histories on the order of battle to be intriguing.
“Kings and Generals animated historical documentary series will cover the Imjin War – the Japanese invasion of Korea between 1592 and 1598, as the unification process started by Oda Nobunaga was continued by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Japanese daimyo and samurai needed new land and so they attacked the Joseon Korea, planning to then invade Ming China. The first battles of the war were the siege of Busan and the battle of Chungju.”
“Kings and Generals animated historical documentary series on the Imjin War – the Japanese invasion of Korea between 1592 and 1598 continues with a video on the rise of Korean admiral Yi Sun-Sin and turtle ships. Admiral’s whose naval prowess and ships changed the course of the war against the proud daimyos and their samurais. This video will cover the battles of Hansando, Imjin River, Sacheon and Okpo.”
“Kings and Generals animated historical documentary series on the Imjin War – the Japanese invasion of Korea between 1592 and 1598 continues with a video on the aftermath of the rise of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and the battle of Hansando, as the Japanese forces are pushing deeper in Korea. At the same Chinese Ming Empire starts a counter-attack led by Li Rusong, leading to the siege of Pyongyang of 1593.”
“Kings and Generals animated historical documentary series on the Imjin War – the Japanese invasion of Korea between 1592 and 1598 continues with a video on the aftermath of the first invasion, as Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s armies leave Korea after the allied Chinese-Korean counter-attack. However, this wasn’t the end of the invasion. The Samurai attempted the second one in 1597 and met the admiral Yi Sun-sin at the battles of Myeongnyang and Noryang.”
Dan Davis Author offers this insightful video on the First Horse Riders: “Who were the first horse riders in history? We know about horse domestication but knowing who were the first horsemen is more difficult. The idea of the Yamnaya Bronze Age horse warrior riding down a fleeing Neolithic farmer is a powerful image but is it true? Were the people of the Botai culture the first horsemen? Was it those of the Sredny Stog or perhaps the Khvalynsk culture? Or was it even the people of Bronze Age Mesopotamia?”
“The Kings and Generals animated historical documentary series on the ancient civilizations and history of Japan continues with an episode on the history of Ainu – the indigenous people of the Japanese islands. In this video, we will learn about their culture, society, religion, economic activity, traditions, as well as their struggle against the Japanese Empire.”
I was introduced to the Yellowstone series by my father. He had heard the hype. We watched the first episode as he suggested I do the same in 2018 which I did. Yet he never ironically watched it again. Nevertheless I watched every episode that followed through the end of Season Three. It stars recognized actor Kevin Costner (of Dances With Wolves, Waterworld and The Postman fame) as rancher John Dutton along with a cast of actors and actresses of lesser notoriety that are basically earning their notoriety through the series itself. I initially had some superficial attraction to the show from the onset. After all, it was thematically set in Montana, a state I called my home away from home from 2014-16.
I am disappointed with the fact that this supposed prestige television drama is so bleak, dark, and nihilistic. It’s a neo-noir Western-themed television series for the twenty-first century. I ascertain that life itself is a checkered, pox-marked affair full of violence, sin and depravity. I could see a theologically-rich Augustian statement in the 2018 series trailer from Chief Rainwater about human nature: “All men are bad, but some of us try real hard to be good.” So I don’t have to decry everything that’s not family-friendly nor religious-oriented in the entertainment world. With that being said, Yellowstone is thematically set in what amounts to a conservative state, and the overwhelming majority of its populace of 1,000,000 souls claim adherence to a religious faith, typically one of the major Christian confessions. The series revolves around a protagonist family of ranchers that soon turn antagonist towards one another after fighting off their earlier antagonists, spanning the chasm from greedy unscrupulous land developers to criminal casino owners.
The Yellowstone series from the onset has the lead characters making bleak nihilistic statements all of the time. In the pilot episode, during a fight over cattle, Kayce Dutton shoots his brother-in-law dead after his brother-in-law shot his brother dead. Just before dealing the coup de grâce head shot, Kayce has to sneak in this snarky nihilism-tinged line: “In case you don’t already know, there’s no such thing as heaven.” My father lamented how the Hollywood media always has to sneak in their stark godlessness into everything after that scene. He never watched another episode of the show.
Later in the third season, Kayce’s sister, Beth Dutton, is having a philosophical discussion with her lover, Rip Wheeler, about what she believes, and she relays influence from Friedrich Nietzsche in order to quell his guilt over murder. The two then concur morality doesn’t really matter. Earlier in the series, the family patriarch John Dutton was having a conversation with his priest (implying the fictional Dutton family has a nominal Catholic-Christian pedigree,) and John was telling the priest that he “didn’t regret a single sin he had committed.” These people are supposed to be ranchers, and ranchers in a rather conservative religious state, namely Montana. Montanans, and most normal American folks for that matter too, don’t prowl around muttering bleak nihilistic lamentations all of the time nor espouse disheartening ruminations of existentialist philosophy. The show briefly hinted it could have been rescued from its dismal descent into the dark Nietzschean bloodbath it ended up becoming. It had an early morning scene with a coffee-drinking John Dutton giving a faint glimmer of a mustard seed of faith whereby Kevin Costner’s daughter Lily sung a Gospel song entitled Heaven’s Gate in the background soundtrack. But alas the show’s writer seems determined to crush the possibility of the Dutton’s rapprochement with God and faith.
The chief culprit for the show’s underlying nihilism is really just the show’s director and lead writer, Taylor Sheridan. He’s an outspoken atheist trying to turn the series into his bully pulpit soapbox for his dark worldview, and wants to put his own black heart on display for the world to see. Sheridan’s claim to fame was the nihilistic 2015 Sicario film about the U.S. national intelligence community’s morally compromised handling of the illicit international drug trafficking trade along its southern border with Mexico followed by the gritty 2017 film Wind River.
Who else is to blame for the show’s failure? None other than A+ List actor Kevin Costner. Costner could reign in on Sheridan if he so desired. Yellowstone is a mass-market entertainment franchise. And Costner himself could dramatically influence the direction it takes as a condition of his participation. But well, it’s glaringly obvious by now that Costner dropped the ball and decided he wants to be associated with such sleazy soap opera trash.
The series too has a remarkable lack of originality. When actor Neal McDonough was cast as one of the evil Beck brothers, Malcolm Beck, it seemed to be little more than a conjuring of McDonough’s casino crime boss character Jay Hamilton in the 2004 film Walking Tall. Sheridan too mirrored a kidnapping scene of a young Native American girl from Wind River in an episode of the series.
The Yellowstone series had a lot of potential and promise, but has ultimately failed in its execution precisely because of this crass nihilistic writer Taylor Sheridan. Some of his writing was just cheesy like a bad episode of the 1990s Fox TV show Beverly Hills, 90210.
The other factor to consider too is that the writing and plot of any show really are critical to its success. It’s taken for granted Hollywood filmmakers can do a superb job with cinematography, transitioning between scenes, and musical soundtracks, but substance ultimately is at the heart of good film. Substance of any film is found in the scriptwriting and storytelling at the end of the day! Thus Yellowstone‘s excellent cinematography cannot redeem it nor can its alluring TV show trailers. It’s a colossal disappointment and one I doubt I will reengage in Season Four. The show has fallen flat on its face in spite of its mystery suspense ending in the third season to rival an episode of Dallas in the 1980s.
Make no mistake. Life is full of violence, heartache, and betrayal, and the culmination of all of these things gives us cause for reflection upon man’s depravity in a fallen world. J.R.R. Tolkein’s epic novel The Lord of the Rings too was full of violence, but it had redemption in its meaning and is a profound morality play. Without morality, and without God, we flawed humans will never make any sense of the world, nor draw any true meaning from it. The Yellowstone series fails to offer a meaningful morality play in its senseless bid for ratings with its gratuitous violence and nihilism-tinged statements from its protagonist characters. Nihilism, the philosophy of Nietzsche is an omnipresent reality amid today’s banal entertainment. As Nietzsche said, “if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
Survive the Jive offers a documentary on the domestication of the horse which was likely brought to fruition by Indo-European steppe riders.
“Professor Alan Outram, Head of Archaeology at University of Exeter is one of the world’s leading experts on ancient horse DNA and the domestication of the horse. In this interview he explains how his views have changed since his 2009 paper on the Botai domestication of the horse. Prof. Outram contributed to a paper, published in May 2018, entitled, “The first horse herders and the impact of early Bronze Age steppe expansions into Asia” in which the Yamnaya, most likely the Proto-Indo-Europeans, are posited as the potential domesticators of modern horses, rather than the Botai who were pushed out of Kazakhstan by the Yamnaya or related steppe pastoralists. He also discusses the role of the Sintashta culture in developing horse based warfare and chariots, the related Andronovo culture’s contribution to Indian DNA and the Afanasievo culture’s spread into East Asia.”
Dan Davis Author offers an insightful video that puts the listener in the point of view of an ancient teenage boy among the Yamnaya people on the cusp of manhood, and he explains the initiation of the warrior known as “Koryos.”
“In prehistoric Europe and Western Asia the people of the steppe waged war against one another and settled peoples in the form of the raid. Bronze Age warfare was like that. There were no armies in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Conflict between groups was waged by small warbands stealing cattle and abducting women with which to strengthen their own tribes. The youths would undergo a long and complex warrior initiation on their path to manhood and the koryos was the climax of that process.”
Doggerland (also called Dogger Littoral) was an area of land, now submerged beneath the southern North Sea, that connected Great Britain to continental Europe. It was flooded by rising sea levels around 6500–6200 BCE, and its catastrophic flooding may have been the result of tsunami emanating from an avalanche in a Norwegian Fjord. Geological surveys have suggested that it stretched from what is now the east coast of Great Britain (in present-day Anglia) to what are now the Netherlands, the western coast of Germany and the peninsula of Jutland.
“Celts are known for tartan, faeries, druids, bagpipes and the British Isles – but the origins of the Celtic culture lie in the Unetice culture of Bronze age central Europe and it spread out with the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. In this history documentary, I look at the genetic evidence for the spread of Celts into Britain and Ireland in the Iron Age, as well as the Galatian Celts into Anatolia. Then I examine some Celtic archaeological artefacts such as the Gundestrup cauldron and the Marlborough bucket and I introduce the viewer to some of the basic aspects of Druidry and the Indo-European religion of the ancient Celts.”
Survive the Jive documentary on “Ancient History of Ireland: Newgrange, Celts, Vikings.”
“Ireland has a rich and fascinating ancient history; from the great megalithic structures of the Neolithic, like Newgrange, to the spectacular gold jewellery of the Indo-European Bell Beaker folk, the weapon hoards of the Irish Bronze Age, the enigmatic La Tene Celtic art of the Iron Age and the intricate knot-work of the Hiberno-Norse in the Irish Viking age. I look at all of these in this brief account of the history of Ireland, and then I discover a gothic castle called Knockdrinn, in which my ancestors lived, and which local people believe to be haunted. Finally, I read some spooky accounts of the ghostly creatures of the castle taken from the folklore collection at University College Dublin.”
Dan Davis Author narrates this informative video on the early Indo-European people of the Corded Ware Culture.
“The Corded Ware culture existed between c. 3000 BC – c. 2300 BC, spanning the late Neolithic, through the Copper Age, and the early Bronze Age. The name Corded Ware comes from the cord-like impressions on their pottery. They encompassed a vast area, from the Rhine on the west to the Volga in the east, occupying parts of Northern Europe, Central Europe and Eastern Europe. They were descended from Western Steppe Herders populations (like the Yamnaya) who moved into Neolithic Europe and merged with the farming populations from the Globular Amphora culture and the Funnelbeaker culture. These people were, to one extent or another, ancestral to all northern European people from the Baltic to the Atlantic.”