Back when I was an undergrad at Swarthmore College, one of my favorite professors introduced one lecture by saying that since we'd forget most of our history education whatever he did, he'd cut to the chase by telling us the three things he knew we'd remember years later. The first was that the people of Paris survived the siege of the city during the Franco-Prussian War by eating the animals in the zoo. (I often feel compelled to share this factoid with friends when we're visiting a zoo, especially when an unusually tasty-looking animal is nearby.) The second "fact we'd remember" requires a little bit of background: during Russia's Decembrist uprising of 1825, thousands of opponents of the new tsar, Nicholas I, gathered in St. Petersburg's Senate Square and chanted "Konstantin i konstitutsiia!" Many of the protestors thought they were chanting the names of the Archduke Constantine and his wife, but their chant was actually the Russian for "Constantine and a Constitution!" (Constitutions were an alien concept in Russia at the time...) Amusingly enough, I don't remember what the third item on the list was, but the class did help convince me to go to graduate school in history.
I was reminded of my professor's lecture earlier today, when I learned that the maker of one of my favorite recent movies, The Triplets of Belleville, will be producing an animated movie on a very familiar theme. According to The Scotsman, the French animator Sylvain Chomet is producing a movie called Barbacoa, set for release in 2005; the film "is set in Paris and is the story of the vet at the zoo fighting to protect Barbacoa the monkey and other animals being eyed by hungry children as Prussian troops lay siege to the city." (Other sources agree that Chomet's next film will deal with the adventures of a band of zoo animals during 1871's Paris Commune.) Sounds like a lot of fun!Posted by Ed at June 27, 2004 04:23 PM