Sunday, February 26, 2017

Leading the way

Not.

From  Gail Collins in the New York Times:  


Next session, women will compose 19.5 percent of Congress. “We went from 104 to 104 — down one in the House, up one in the Senate,” reported Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. Obviously we could do better, but on the plus side, we’re just a sliver away from passing Equatorial Guinea when it comes to gender diversity in the nation’s legislature.
Of course, we are no longer taken aback by such comparisons.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Divine music

Recently I have been going to Sunday services with the local congregation of the Anglican Church of Canada. This may surprise some of my readers; let me add that the motive force behind this is my wife, who wanted to add one more singer to the ranks of the congregation. So my connection with the Anglican church is primarily through hymns and the liturgy of the Eucharist.

Since I am a historian whose teaching career has involved A LOT of ecclesiastical history, it's very interesting to return to this material (see? I told you I was a historian). Thanks to my training and my own scholarship I can't help but look at the liturgy and the readings as a collection of voices originating in far-flung times and places, and try to understand both the individual texts and their connections to each other. For example, the letters of Paul and... just about anything else in the Bible.

Throw in the hymns (the Anglicans have a huge collection) and it becomes quite a challenge to visualize for instance Regency-era country gentlemen retreating to their studies, having just returned from some gambling hell, and trying to turn King David or Wesley or both into a coherent representation of what is essential in Christianity.

About a month ago there was a hymn that depicted the universal chorus of God's creatures and how even pathetic human beings could add their little bit. That struck me as an entirely mistaken understanding of the divine, of music, and of humanity. You can say a lot of bad but true things about humanity, but our ability to turn any collection of noises produced by sticks and stones or our own voices into astonishing structures of sound is truly amazing. Faithful readers know how much I have been impressed by the innovative rock music of the 1960s and 70s (Jefferson Airplane, Yes). But pick your own faves. How about the Irish traditional band The Bothy Band?

Well over a decade ago I was driving to work listening to the Bothy Band and I was suddenly struck by the divine nature of their enterprise. I had a flash of anger against such divinities, that they could not spare some of their evident power to deal with the many problems afflicting humanity. But quickly I realized my mistake. Practical problems are for humans, as humans, to deal with. The divine nature of music is the proper concern of those seemingly human, but actually divine musicians. And that's my theology.

If you find this lacking in sophistication or rigor, I suggest you look into the "procession of the Holy Spirit," which has divided Christian churches for a thousand years, and then explain to me why this schism makes sense.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Revisiting Allen Drury, Advise and Consent, and A Senate Journal

Last month I announced I would occasionally revisit some of my better posts of yore. Well, today I recalled my discussion of a Pulitzer-prize-winning novel and its author, Allen Drury, whose books recall a lost time when FDR was the great villain of American politics -- because he ruled by an expansive interpretation of executive authority. Have a look at thee posts that use the label "Allen Drury," starting with this one.

Chivalry and the Ideals of Knighthood in France...by Craig Taylor

By coincidence I am reading this book for the second time, just as this review from the Medieval Review comes out.

I highly recommend the book. Craig Taylor is always good.

Taylor, Craig. Chivalry and the Ideals of Knighthood in France during the Hundred Years' War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. 345. £82.00(hb); £21.99(pb). ISBN: 978-1-107-04221-6.

Reviewed by Thomas K. Heebøll-Holm

University of Southern Denmark

thee@sdu.dk

The story of French chivalry and its miseries during the Hundred Years' War is an ever fascinating and puzzling one. With this book Craig Taylor breaks important ground by showing how much French knighthood in this period was shaped by and, in turn, shaped developments in the chivalrous ideology as well as by the changing military reality of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. While indebted to Maurice Keen's and Richard W. Kaeuper's studies of high and late medieval chivalry, Taylor refines these paragons' more general studies of medieval knighthood by concentrating on a specific time period and region, namely Valois France during the Hundred Years' War. France during this time period is especially fertile ground for such a study. Not only was it the epicenter of chivalry, but during the Hundred Years' War the French knighthood experienced a number of military catastrophes which forced French warriors and writers to critically examine and discuss the causes of these calamities and how one could remedy them. This debate is a treasure trove for historians looking to get a firmer and more nuanced picture of the muddled concept of late medieval chivalry. Indeed this concept is one of those that all think they know and consider to be simple, yet upon closer inspection find confusing, slippery and self-contradictory. It is an immensely demanding task that Taylor has undertaken. It is also one which he resolves splendidly.

Taylor approaches the topic by a combined study of the practice and ideology of knighthood as it appears in various types of late medieval narratives such as chansons de geste, biographies, didactic manuals and political, legal and moral treatises. Through nine chapters (including an introduction, a chapter on the texts and their context and a very brief conclusion) Taylor takes the reader through seven core values of French chivalry during the Hundred Years' War. These were honor, prowess, loyalty, courage, mercy, wisdom and prudence. While these have been separated for pedagogical reasons, Taylor immediately acknowledges that they were not isolated values, but should be seen as part of what I am tempted to call the chivalric kaleidoscope. They were interdependent and inseparable parts of a whole. However the weighing of the relative importance of the values changed with the individual writer's personal convictions and situation as well as his/her specific historical context.

In the introduction, Taylor presents and discusses the guidelines of his study. It is interesting to note that the late Middle Ages presents a new phenomenon in medieval literary production, namely that the knights themselves begin to write down their own experiences of chivalry and war. While this certainly does not remove the classic problem of to what degree medieval writing was dictated by genre conventions and socio-cultural expectations, it at least brings us closer to the military experience of the warriors, and Taylor's take on this problem is both prudent and thought provoking. These texts reflect not only practical changes in late medieval martial culture. They are also a goldmine for the historian as through them we gain access to the combatant's thoughts and recollections (flawed and biased as they may be) instead of having to rely on ecclesiastical middlemen who may have had neither interest in, or knowledge of the practical reality of knighthood. A topic which Taylor pays particular attention to is the medieval debate over chivalry and the right behavior of knights and men-at-arms. Essentially this debate came down to the difficult question of how to reconcile a proud military ethos and aggression with Christian values of humility, piety and salvation. Taylor makes the important remark that texts do not just mirror reality. They also have an influence of their own and thus enter a reciprocal relation with social reality, where texts form men and men write texts.

In the following chapter "Texts and contexts," Taylor concentrates more narrowly on the historical and literary context of the narrative sources analyzed in the book. Contrary to the practical and structural reasons for the French defeats as presented by modern military historians, contemporary writers argued that the reasons for the defeats were cowardice and moral laxity due to the corrupting effects of court life (among others). Consequently, they advocated for a reform of the mores of the knighthood especially by the adoption of the values and discipline of the Romans of antiquity. This emphasis on the Romans was, as Taylor shows, in no small part due to the fact that many writers implicitly or explicitly served royal Valois interests. To these kings, the Roman models of chivalry that focused on self-sacrificing loyal service to the sovereign and the commonweal were echoed in the military reforms from Charles V onwards--and vice-versa.

In chapter 2 Taylor deals with the central issue of chivalric honor. On the basis of philosophical, anthropological and historical theories of honor, Taylor produces a good and nuanced discussion which is firmly grounded in contemporary sources and contexts. In particular, the chapter contains thought provoking discussions of the relationship between masculinity and knightly honor and between honor and reputation. As Taylor shows, there was a continuous and reciprocal interplay between the chivalric values of society and those of writers of chivalric reform. He furthermore refreshingly argues that honor is not merely a societal tyranny of expectations and values. Rather, individuals knights can and do have agency. By their actions they entered a continuous (re-)negotiation of chivalric values with society.

Chapter 3 deals with what Richard W. Kaeuper has termed "the fundamental quality of knighthood," namely prowess. [1] As with honor, prowess is a difficult concept to grasp, not least because it, to a large extent, was propagated by writers with no personal experience of war. Moreover its portrayal of the brutality of war was dominated by genre over reality. Indeed, at the heart of prowess lay violence--just when used in the service of a higher cause (ideally crusades, but increasingly also in service of king and country), but criminal when used by lower orders against their superiors. Unfortunately most medieval war lay in the grey area between these two, and interestingly Taylor combines this discussion of right prowess with the one on loyalty. Here it seems that contemporary Frenchmen drew inspiration from Roman military ideals where the loyalty to commonweal and crown could discourage acts of vainglorious prowess as only actions against the common enemy ought to be considered as "true" honor conferring prowess.

The cousin of prowess, courage, is discussed in chapter 4. While written sources discuss these issues, they are difficult to use in historical analyses and they are very much dependent on conventions and literary stylings. Moreover they serve various practical issues such as encouraging group cohesion, leadership and discipline. In this chapter, Taylor touches upon the possibility of doing emotional history in regards to medieval warriors, but reaches the safe, if somewhat conservative conclusion, that emotions though characterized by universal triggers in their display of emotions are not human constants, but rather wholly shaped by society and culture. To this reviewer, this discussion is a bit lacking as Taylor flirts with but eventually shies away from the possibility of conducting emotional history on the basis of these sources. Though he acknowledges the promising prospects of studying the antonyms of courage, fear and cowardice, Taylor in the end resigns himself to a fleeting treatment of these two.

Chapters 5 and 6 deal with mercy. In chapter 5 the topic is mercy towards other soldiers while chapter 6 concerns mercy towards civilians and non-combatants. In regards to soldiers, Taylor provides an important corrective to the romantic notion that knights spared each other out of feelings of chivalry and nobility. Rather knightly mercy towards peers was the result of the prospect of rich ransom-money. Moreover, more lowly soldiers could not expect spared since they could not pay for their liberation and in fact were reviled by the nobility. In regards to civilians, treatment was also mostly dependent on social status. While theologians and priests celebrated restraint and mercy towards civilians, the fact remained that most medieval knights treated their social inferiors with disdain. Furthermore, structural problems lay behind the more general and continuous pillaging and ravaging of soldiers on civilians. Simply put, lack of pay caused soldiers to prey on civilians. Though the Valois kings repeatedly tried to enforce discipline in the royal armies, by 1450 Charles VII's Compagnies d'ordonnances were still reputed to be mostly manned by ruffians and pillagers.

Chapter 7 deals with the virtues of wisdom and prudence. In the research these virtues have traditionally been seen as the antithesis to knightly ones, yet Taylor admirably proves wrong. Chivalric culture in fact placed great emphasis on age, experience and prudence and many contemporary writers were openly critical of rashness and inexperience. Moreover, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries more and more French commanders collected written accounts of the experience of veteran warriors (contemporary as well as Roman) thereby suggesting a greater interest and emphasis amongst them for written advice. In regards to this, Taylor suggests that this rising interest was due to the defeats the French suffered in the Hundred Years' War. Interestingly, Taylor observes the same phenomenon in England in the 1440s when English reversals of fortune in earnest set in. This chapter is followed by a brief concluding chapter that sums up the book's major results.

This is an impressive book. One of its most important contributions is its demonstration of how inspiration from the Roman Empire was by no means an isolated Italian "renaissance" phenomenon. Throughout the book, Taylor demonstrates how these ideas came to the fore in France simultaneously with Italy and how they influenced and indeed pushed chivalric ideals from a more Arthurian, "feudal" model to a "republican" Roman one. Although imperial Rome had long been one of many ideals for the European knighthood (see for instance John of Salisbury's Policraticus), then the roving bands of routiers and self-serving knights in the late middle ages caused a yearning with many writers for this Roman republican ideal of fighting for the commonweal as the highest honor for a warrior. Another feat that Taylor should be lauded for is his insistence on treating the narrative source material in its historical context. This means that Taylor studies chivalry as a dynamic genre responding to current situations instead of a fossilized monolith--as it is all too often treated in research as well as in many popular presentations.

If I were to voice one criticism, it would be that, although Taylor discusses the complicated issue of routiers and their relationship with and role in chivalric ideology, his treatment of this issue is never quite to the satisfaction of this reviewer. While they on the one hand were part of the chivalric elite then at least a number of the English routier captains were indisputably of non-noble background--a fact that profoundly disturbed writers such as Jean le Bel and Geoffroi de Charny. However, this is a really minor issue.

In sum, this is a piece of impressive and lucid scholarship. It is well written and presents a refreshing discussion of chivalry, war, society and literature in late medieval France. Furthermore, it is also pedagogical. This reviewer has used the book with considerable success in his teaching. Thus not only do I recommend it for its research qualities, but also for its approach to a topic that is in fact much harder to grasp for students than they usually anticipate. This book ought to be consulted by anyone interested in late medieval chivalry in ideology as well as in practice.

-------- Note:

1. Richard W. Kaeuper Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 130.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

It is not to laugh

Karl Sharro in Politico says, "America, you look like an Arab country right now." Excerpts:
Dear America,

We have been watching the drama of your presidential elections with much interest and curiosity for some time now. It’s hard not to notice the many similarities between our own countries and yours. From fiery inauguration protests and bitter disputes about crowd size, to the intelligence service’s forays into politics and the rise of right-wing extremists, it appears that you are traveling very much in our direction—and at the same time, like us, becoming a curiosity for foreign correspondents trying to explain what’s happening in your region to the world. You might be distraught about where you are headed, but we aren’t! Perhaps this will be an opportunity to put our differences aside and recognize how similar we are.

Let’s start at the beginning. During the campaign we were surprised to learn of the influence that the head of the American mukhabarat (state security, i.e. your FBI) can wield over the election process, simply by choosing to pursue a certain line of investigation. As you may know, this has been a constant feature of our politics since independence. Our surprise turned to astonishment when we started to witness the blossoming feud between the then-president-elect and the American mukhabarat, another important feature of Arab politics.

On top of that, we started to hear reports of foreign meddling in your elections, which some say may have influenced the result. Of course, we are quite familiar with that situation, too, not least because of the efforts of your own administrations over the decades. Yet it came as a surprise to hear talk of “foreign hands” and “secret agendas” in a country like America. We sympathize.
...
The moment at which we felt real solidarity with the American people, though, was when we started hearing BBC reporters talking to your citizens with the patronizing tone they normally reserve for the Middle East. Correspondents were sent to far-flung corners of the United States to talk to farmers and factory workers to try to understand how they feel and to ask condescending questions. I’m from the British Broadcasting Corporation, are you familiar with the BBC? Where do you get your news from? Do you feel angry? Does religion play a role in how you are voting?. (The only thing missing were pictures of people with blue ink on their thumbs; please consider introducing that practice in the future.)

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Some good news on the democracy front!

From Romania!
The largest anti-government crowds since the violent 1989 revolution that toppled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu succeeded Sunday in pressuring Romania’s new government to repeal a hastily adopted decree that would have eased penalties for official corruption.
The law, opposed by the influential Romanian Orthodox Church, would have weakened the country’s emerging anti-corruption effort, which has begun to make progress against a ruling culture accustomed to acting with impunity.
The government backed down Sunday following six days of street protests, but plans to introduce another version of the law in Parliament, where it would be debated and possibly passed.
The late-night introduction last week of an emergency ordinance< to turn a blind eye toward abuse in office by officials if the amount involved was less than about $48,500 provoked a lightning response from Romania’s civil society.
Nightly throngs in Bucharest and other major cities pit angry citizens who believe a modern, pro-European Romania must not condone corruption in high places against a moneyed elite that stands to benefit, if the law eventually passes.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Trump's rhetoric

Using Trump's words against him.

Heather Havrilesky is on to something. If you are entitled to vote in the USA, your opinion means something to your Representative and Senators. Instead of ranting at your friends who already agree with you, and at real Trump supporters, who never will, try this strategy:
In just two short weeks, President Donald Trump has destabilized the globe and quickly eroded even our most trusted alliances. This is exactly what his likely sponsor Putin wants, of course. This is exactly what his white supremacist advisor Bannon wants — he’s said so on the record (“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too.”). And if sowing fear in the populace offers the GOP an excuse to pump up military spending, so be it. Most Americans, however, prefer to sleep well at night. And if we’re going to take a clear, resounding stand against this unthinkable menace, we have to use his own tricks against him.

For instance:


Think about how you might discuss the head-spinningly bad judgment that led to his first and failed military operation in Yemen. Instead of talking about how all special ops are sticky but President Obama, in spite of his flaws, was incredibly careful about not putting American forces in harm’s way, try this: It was a disaster, a huge disaster, and totally preventable. Trump messed up. Completely incompetent. Or maybe you'd say: Those SEALs went in there, and got torn apart. Nightmare, never should’ve happened. Trump messed up, big league. Completely unstable. Of course, Democrats and progressives are incredibly afraid of using rhetoric of fear, like Trump and Bannon do. But isn’t fear our new reality? Aren’t we scared out of our minds over Trump, a man who has quickly demonstrated that he’s self-obsessed, unthinkably reckless, and utterly incapable of making even the faintest diplomatic sounds come out of his mouth? We can’t sit back and wait, because his mistakes are going to build on each other until they snowball into a global disaster.

Think about how you might discuss the head-spinningly bad judgment that led to his first and failed military operation in Yemen. Instead of talking about how all special ops are sticky but President Obama, in spite of his flaws, was incredibly careful about not putting American forces in harm’s way, try this:


It was a disaster, a huge disaster, and totally preventable. Trump messed up. Completely incompetent.

Drink Your Blood! sketches for the graphic novel of the Combat of the 30



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The right words at the right place at the right time


Dietrich Bonhoeffer's words live.

He also said:
“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” 
Thanks, Dietrich.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trouble in Capital City!



In my years as a university professor, I taught both the English Civil War (=Revolution) and the French Revolutions, and the American one as well, all of them at various levels of detail.  On all of them, I read far more material than ever got into my lectures.


I've always had an interest in constitutional law and constitutional change and so lots of facts and theories continue to rattle around in my head, waiting for a moment of relevance when they will pop out.

Here's today's moment of relevance.

It is a sign of real trouble to come that Trump has managed to alienate a large number judges in his first week in office.  Any political system that has a meaningful constitution (not necessarily a good, or  democratic or even a healthy constitution, just one that more or less functions) needs the support of the judiciary and the senior lawyers to get anything important done.  The collaboration (usually an uncomfortable one) between the elected officials and the judiciary etc. is a well-known feature of the American political system; but this applies to places like Pakistan where more than once a quite corrupt, autocratic and military-based government has been stopped in its tracks (or at least slowed down) by lawyers demonstrating and resisting.  (On at least one occasion I remember hearing that the lawyers brought clubs (which looked a lot like sticks of rattan!), whether for offensive or defensive purposes I don't know.

In both the English and French Revolutions, some of the earliest conflict was between the executive branch and the constitutional courts.  The judges, if I recall correctly, took a "conservative" stand, while the king and his  ministers were trying to introduce innovations (partly to raise money) and justifying their actions on the right of the king, or at least the crown, to tell everybody else what to do.  The argument over what was constitutional soon got out of hand.

I am not saying that we are on the brink of an American revolution.  But the situation has tremendous potential for instability.

Image:  Don't mess with this guy!


Saturday, January 28, 2017

How to respond to Trump

I am a regular reader of Josh Marshall's politics website, talkingpointsmemo.com.  Back in the early 2000s, I found him one of the most sensible and honest American commentators on both the Bush regime and its disastrous wars.

Recently Josh wrote an optimistic piece on the current political situation, optimism meaning "not primarily a prediction but an ethic, a philosophy, a way of confronting the world."  Granting all the terrible problems Americans (yes, and others) face, he also sees a positive challenge.  He does it by referring to the famous Lyceum speech made by the young Abraham Lincoln in 1838.  A theme in that speech was the apparent lack of opportunity for Americans to win the glory won by the founders of the republic.


[Sez Josh:]

 Lincoln explained that his generation faced a paradox. They were blessed with free government. But their dutywas simply to preserve it. They had no field for glory and great deeds like those who had lived during the revolutionary era, the last of whom were just dying at the time. To Lincoln, his generation was both immeasurably blessed and yet robbed of the chance for greatness, condemned to a competent and steadfast mediocrity.
 As Lincoln writes ...

The overall message:  Let's not be crybabies.


Elsewhere on the Web I have noted other people arguing for an equally important point.  Fact-checking Donald Trump at this point is going to be of limited utility.  Anyone who cares to know Donald Trump and his character knows what they need to know.  Getting involved in debates on his latest outrageous statement just lets him set the terms of the debate, and since he doesn't play fair, what does that get us?
.  A sense of our own virtue?  But that doesn't win elections, deal with climate change, or achieve any of a number of worthwhile goals.


What's needed is for that same fact-checking, critical energy to be put into organizing --  some of which will be reporting facts people need to know, but also in building organizations and movements to resist Trumpism and achieve real political goals. To Americans, let me suggest that the make-up of the House of Representatives and what to do about it should be something you think about ALL THE TIME.  The Republicans are in charge now.  Make sure, using tactics pioneered by the Tea Party, that they have to take responsibility for every disaster that takes place on their watch.  There will be no lack of them.


Friday, January 27, 2017

My history of the SCA


Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of the Society for Creative Anachronism.  As a professional historian who has been a member of the SCA from practically the beginning, I seemed to be a logical choice to write a history of the organization to be distributed to people who would attend the celebratory event.  I found the idea intriguing.  I've spent much of my life studying how medieval writers created histories and chronicles.  Now I was being asked to do much the same thing for my own times, based firmly on my own experience.  Quite different from writing scholarly history of some long-ago era.


I liked the result and so did many readers, so I decided to publish it for a wider public.  Thanks to Stonebunny Press, the book is now available


Here is the back-cover blurb:

The Society for Creative Anachronism, which started out essentially as a backyard party in the ‘60s, is now a world-wide organization with members in the tens of thousands. To mark the occasion of the Society's 50th anniversary in 2016, Steven Muhlberger was asked to write a history of the organization, from its fledgling days when hobbits and elves were not an uncommon sight, to recent times when much more emphasis is placed on historical accuracy. Dr. Muhlberger was uniquely qualified for this task. He is a professional historian with seven scholarly books to his name, and has a long and diverse experience in the SCA, where he is known as Duke Finnvarr de Taahe. Under that name he has been recognized for excellence in tournament combat, reigned twice as king, and been honored for high accomplishment in the arts and exceptional service to the organization. Dr. Muhlberger describes how the Society originated in the unique environment of California's Bay Area; how a combination of discontent and whimsical creativity led a small group of young people to stage a tournament and then found "the Current Middle Ages;" and how this movement grew to include, eventually, participants on every continent. This is the story of how 20th-century America produced one of its most interesting and popular historical hobbies. This volume is a must for anyone interested in the SCA and its origins, in medieval re-enactment and its connection to science-fiction and fantasy fandom, and in what has been called "inter-kingdom anthropology" – how the Society relates to the larger society around it.
 
And here is the front cover, by the inimitable Merald Clark:


https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51MOVetSm%2BL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Courtesy



 I have been talking recently to several people who share my interest in the chivalric virtues of courtesy and franchise.  My methodology has been pretty crude, largely restricted to looking at scholarly dictionaries in English and French, and reflecting on my own experiences of those languages (but mainly English).

It makes sense to me to trace courtesy back to "court" meaning an enclosed space, a farmyard or a courtyard.  The same word designates a judicial institution, so the court is an enclosed space under the control of some kind of superior authority.  Go back to that recent article on the British kingdom of Rheged and the reconstruction of its capital in northwestern England.  There is exactly one building in that royal settlement that is big enough to have a court(yard). 


Court can also mean the business that takes place in such a space, or the institutions that provide the context for legal business.   

But legal and political business are not the only things that take place in an enclosed space under superior authority.  The people who have such authority also have the wealth and prestige to support a distinct culture.  Says Froissart in his description of the court of Foix:

In short, everything considered, though I had before been in several courts of kings, dukes, princes, counts, and noble ladies, I was never at one which pleased me more, nor was I ever more delighted with feats of arms, than at this of the count de Foix. There were knights and squires to be seen in every chamber, hall and court, going backwards and forwards, and conversing on arms and amours. Every thing honourable was there to be found. All intelligence from distant countries was there to be learnt; for the gallantry of the count had brought visitors from all parts of the world. It was there I was informed of the greater part of those events which had happened in Spain, Portugal, Arragon, Navarre, England, Scotland, and on the borders of Languedoc; for I saw, during my residence, knights and squires arrive from every nation. I therefore made inquiries from them, or from the count himself, who cheerfully conversed with me.
 David M. Parry would have us think about court culture in connection with Trump.  Is America growing a court culture?  Ask Alexis de Tocqueville.  (Someone worth reading any time if you haven't done so already.)




`
If you like to play linguistics on the amateur level, get hold of the Oxford English Dictionary and read the many, many meanings that the word "cheer" has had over the centuries.  A good word to think about in connection with the 14th century.

Monday, January 23, 2017

More Yes (And you and I, from Close to the Edge)


Sad preacher nailed upon the coloured door of time
Insane teacher be there reminded of the rhyme
There'll be no mutant enemy we shall certify
Political ends as sad remains will die
Reach out as forward tastes begin to enter you
Oooh, ooh

I listened hard but could not see
Life tempo change out and inside me
The preacher trained in all to lose his name
The teacher travels, asking to be shown the same
In the end we'll agree, we'll accept, we'll immortalize
That the truth of man maturing in his eyes
All complete in the sight of seeds of life with you

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A post-Roman British royal capital

The capital of Rheged?
The Scotsman has an article on what seems to be the rediscovered post-Roman capital of the kingdom of Rheged.
The best part of it is this artistic reconstruction of the settlement. It didn't take much to be regarded as a king in the 6th century. The difference between "king" and "emperor" was big.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

No one will ever know what it was like...

...to be a bull-jumper in the court of King Minos.



 I have decided that every once in a while I am going to recycle a past blog entry.

 I occasionally run across really good posts from the past that I myself have forgotten. I don't think there is any large group combing through this blog to see what's in it. So if I like it enough, I will put in a link.

Here's the first: Spectacular, transient art.