Thursday, January 31, 2019

Offa and his Dyke

 I don't care what anybody says Offa was the first king of the English. OK, so on his coins he called himself Offa King of Mercia, but all that means is that he had no designs on becoming the King of the entire Island Group, and after that going on to do stuff like invading Europe followed by empire building. The more important point is, had he had billionaire type dreams of conquering our planet then the English language would today be called the Mercian Language. In the end I guess, there's a stronger temptation to argue that the first King of the English was actually a Norman Duke called William who spoke something like French, and the argument for this position is that the English part of the British Isles remained a bunch of quarreling land owners until a none English Speaking authority was able to wrestle sufficient organizational control of the executive, ignore the free and easy traditional ways, such as allowing a pet Deer to settle a land dispute, and deliver a serious thumping to the disobedient. It's a sad fact that when you get that sort of control over a bunch of quarrelling tribes, you basically got to look overseas for something to keep everyone fully occupied. Then when it all comes crashing down, as it does, you have for generation or two your Glory Days to look back on as you mull the question "What Happened?" Frankly it's a cardinal error to blame others, and failure to just get on with treading a path the fathers might not have trod explains Putin, Brexit, Persia and a long list of others who I would call morons had I not been blessed by a political correctness that retains a degree of admiration for the genuinely mentally retarded.

King Offa did build something like a wall from sea to dull gray sea. These days it's called Offa's Dyke, but as with everything there's fierce quarrelling tribes type debate around the original meaning of the word Dyke, and around the original function of Offa's Dyke. The Barrier, the Hedge or whatever, ran a line from the Severn River Estuary which is usually a gray brown, to Prestatyn which is now a holiday town a little left of Liverpool on the North Sea which is shiny and blue about three weeks of the year. The Dyke marked a boundary between Mercian Territory and the territory of the Welsh Princes. For those interested, in the late 20th Century some of us might have walked up and then down this 8th Century boundary, quite why they did so is a long complicated story that makes about as much sense as the argument from some of the more patronizing scholars that Offa, what with his coins and stuff, dug his ditch because when it came to keeping neighbors at bay he wanted to be more like a Roman, keep out the barbarians, stop them from raiding or messing with Mercian maidens, or corrupting Mercian boys, or stealing ponies, hogs and sheep, but he didn't have the resources or the technology to build a stone wall from sea to sea like the Emperor Hadrian. No doubt borderlands for a self absorbed power center can be treacherous, interstitial spaces rife with ideas, smuggling, intrigue and conspiracy, a sieve through which who knows what impurities might have passed to infect the Beatitude worshipping people of Mercia. More recent argument around Offa's Dyke sees something else. Offa had a loyalty problem, which he solved by persuading the land owners to prove their fealty to him by digging and paying for a ditch along his western front.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dewi Sant

The only thing about Dewi Sant was his "Walking the path our fathers had trod before us." Maybe it does maybe it doesn't but it could rather suggest a mind that might be a tad backward looking. At the same time, rather than picking out the good bits and ignoring a wide range of less than savory behaviors, practices and traditions the path trod by ancestors are worth grasping in their totality.  And again Dewi's world was under threat from the territorial ambitions of neighbors, most of whom were pagan and many of whom had had no lasting history of the Pax Romana, or if they had had a history of the Pax Romana had experienced it as an unsettling attack upon their own desires for self determination.

 Another point worth adding, is that in Dewi's time, the 6th century, it would have been very difficult to go anywhere without coming across the ruins of a once mighty and well organized authority. The Romans had crisscrossed the English and Welsh countryside with miles and miles of hard all weather roads, and as a matter of fact, it wasn't until the beginning of the 18th century that the United Kingdom's central authority actually gave thought to and provided the finances for building all weather roads. In short, the path Dewi's fathers trod were something to behold when put beside a bunch of painted banshees screaming for something like, I don't know, freedom, liberty, a wall or whatever..

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Dewi's a Bridge

Beginning to suspect that when he was cast upon the shores of the earthly plain your Devil's Advocate for the Medieval Christian Church might not have been granted the blessings of tolerance. Never liked the name David, nor am I a fan of the David of David and Goliath. Oh sure he could use a sling, not an easy skill to learn, takes a particularly impressive set of coordinations. My friend Okanya had mastered them, he could have popped off a giant at 100 paces, but I kept wrapping the sling around my head causing the projectile to pursue a series of random, friendly fire potential directions, something Okanya found humorous. It's true as you get older memories rather jumble up, but I strongly suspect the reason I've no faith in the David of David and Goliath could well have something to do with the number of people named David, who for one reason or another have to do a little better than become king in order to raise my expectations of their capacity to reach much above odious. It's a painful admission, and not something one really looks for in a Devil's Advocate and yet I'm a big admirer of Saint David of Wales so long as I can think of him as Dewi Sant, which is how the Welsh Language refers to him.  And in the end it's just absurd to even begin to permit an English language translation of an otherwise very respectable name deny Dewi Sant the qualities of wonder a genuine Medieval Saint invariably produces. At the same time, your Devil's Advocate for the Medieval Christian Church just has to come out and admit he's having what you might call a "titanic struggle" with the Medieval Saint Donald of Ogilvy. It's a remarkable and in some ways strangely beautiful story, maybe another time.

 With respect to Dewi Saint, he is firmly in the Medieval Period, even if he wasn't recognized by Rome for over 600 years, but what do you expect, by the 1100's the sneaky Norman Kings of England were plotting the down fall of an Independent Wales. No one really knows when Dewi was born, which is a very good sign for a Medieval Saint. He died on Tuesday March 1st 589, cynics might reckon on a bit of suspicion around such accuracy in dating, but records do suggest he died on a Tuesday in the springtime. He was a short man, one of his many capacities was his ability to raise a hill so that people could see him above the multitude when he was dwelling publicly on the word of God. He was, and this is very unexpected from a Medieval person, a vegetarian, which some have argued is why Doves were drawn to him and would often gather around him when he waxed profound on the subject of "walking the path our fathers have trod before us." During Dewi Sant's time on earth memory of the Roman presence was still fresh, the initial assault on the former Roman territory by unvanquished northern Celtic peoples of the Island had been repelled, leading to a period of peace and plenty, and some Britons had already reverted to considering more Roman behaviors such as indoor plumbing, bathing and more than likely washing up the dishes. Nor was Dewi Sant totally immune to offering guidance to soldiers going into battle, particularly if they were going into battle against Saxons. As a vegetarian his civilizing advice to the Welsh soldiers was to put a Leek in their helmets. The Saxons, who lacked elegance and had the more Germanic sense of humor, didn't know what hit them, a huge victory was won by Wales, and to this day anyone worth their salt always enthusiastically consumes every little bit of their Leek, not even the fragrance of that fine vegetable should be left on the plate.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Saint Aelfwold out of the Running

I think my own position on the so called category of Dark Ages has over the years been made abundantly clear, they started sometime in 2015. At the same time I'm well aware my understanding of the Medieval Period in Europe is subject to debate. While there are no hard and fast dates, I argue the Medieval Period essentially commenced following the retreats of the Roman Legions and began to end following the Synod of Charroux in France. This synod was a response to an activist movement amongst the landless and their sympathizers. The year was 989 CE. All very well back then the good work to be had in the castle building industry, anyone who was anyone was building castles, comparing dungeons, enduring castle envy, but it didn't seem to be stopping the random acts of appalling violence regularly being inflicted upon the none castle owning people. Nor was the church immune from these wanton and vile acts, and relying as they did upon the power of The Lord and the rightness of their cause they had for as long as anyone could remember eschewed things like building castles and employing roaming bands of heavily armed men as a source of personal security. In that year of 989 things had come to a bit of head in the more south western parts of France, the dreadful, barbaric behaviors of a few were undoing a hard won prosperity that certainly suited the great majority.

"At that time sinners were rising up like stalks of wheat."  I'm going to have to paraphrase Litaldus of Micy, who might have been a fan of the Angel Gabriel and who had a strong belief in divine largesse as his source of funding. "A great crowd of many people gathered in Charroux. Many bodies of saints were also brought there." There were miracles, it was a whole thing with hope, hymns and possibly dancing, maybe a little wailing that refreshed the souls, cleared the minds and gave everyone positive attitude toward their future. The Bishops responded to this out pouring with an "open your mouth wide and I will fill it." Nor did they allow "rustic speech" to any way interfere with their capacity to listen. Instead "..evils which fouled the fair countenance of the holy church of God" were "struck down by the sharp points of anathemas." Yes indeed, it was a genuine Medieval Happening. Nor did this popular movement stop there in Charroux, it wasn't that long before this idea of The Peace and Truce of God, the fining and excommunicating of the more odious sinners, took a hold of a great deal of Europe, and if you don't count the higher ups in the Church hierarchy some of whom employed armies to protect their interests, Swiss Guard in 1527 lost 148 of their 189 men saving Pope Clement VII from the ordeal of martyrdom, it wasn't until quite recently that there was absolutely no question whether the rest of us should be allowed things like guns in Christian Churches. Either way there's no chance Saint Aelfwold, the last Bishop of Sherborne, even if it is an act of perpetual penance on my part for having had very evil thoughts about my dentist appointment tomorrow, qualifies for a Gormenghast Bridge. He died in 1058

Sunday, January 27, 2019


A possibly bias analysis of the First Crusade might not make a Sunday. Oh sure, the Christian Byzantium Empire, last bastion of the Roman Empire, was being challenged by followers of Mohammed and the Eastern Emperors were having a particularly difficult time finding ways to deal with a tribe of people in that part of the world which is now called Turkey, a people who basically became the founding fathers of the Ottoman Empire. And there was the whole problem of Christendom trying to hold on to Jerusalem. But these were not Pope Urban II's main worries. The evangelistic efforts of the Western Church had advanced in a most impressive manner, even the Vikings had become Christians for goodness sake, but in the absence of an overwhelming European Authority some of the old ways lingered especially with the warrior class who had a bit of habit of doing stuff like stealing church property, robbing monks, and generally behaving in that restless way so characteristic of those us who are fundamentally bored and looking to get their old job back. One of the Church's first responses to this poor behavior from far too many of the warrior class was to go Pagan. Church boffins had read Tacitus and had produced passage or two from him about a more Northern Goddess of Earth who when she progressed through the multitude of permanently quarreling northern tribes would cause "the sound of war to hush, quarrels suspended, arms laid aside" and everyone got a chance to realize the blessings of peace and if only briefly learn something. The church in Europe, without going all goddess of earth, decided to use this old idea as best they could. Soon enough people were being excommunicated for stealing from the church, or going into churches with stuff like weapons, or robbing people who were in churches, and in places there were sanctuaries where people, whatever their perceived sins, were left in peace.

It was an apparently novel idea, but when people thought about it, searched back in the stories of the past, there was a realization that it made huge sense to have a safe place somewhere on earth. The Peace and Truce of God became popular, and it kind of worked to inform the behaviors of those of us who might be ruled by the viler passions. At the same time many had an understanding that it was a fragile truce, not like the Roman Peace where if you did something even a little bit wrong you could get yourself crucified upside down. About a hundred years after the truce was declared Pope Urban II, who'd had a problem or two achieving the title of Pope, there was a lot of opposition, the ruling classes and their restless warriors thought him a little strict in his interpretations of God's word, chose to firm up his position with the idea of a crusade to save the Byzantium empire and while they were about it take back the Holy Land for Christendom. The restless warrior class were absolutely delighted, couldn't wait to test their metal and get themselves a little booty for a cause that had obviously been ordained from on high. Ordinary people were very enthusiastic, they'd slag off anyone of military age who had bone spurs or whatever, snitches would inform the priest and not only where these objectors to the crusade excommunicated but anyone who had tried to go on the crusade but had returned home without being able to actually find the front lines were given a D minus and  also excommunicated. Pope Urban II and his church became increasingly powerful, something to be reckoned with, and he himself became big man on the block. For three, four thousand years, since we people started recording thoughts in a written form, the more existentially minded have considered the idea of reoccurrence. Not so much as History Repeating Itself but asking the desperate question "Is this what we are?" There'll be debate of course, some of it rough, but the answer is "no one will ever know."

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Value of Myth.

 It was George Sorel who amongst other things reckoned on the power of myth to control the excesses of the upper classes, and whatever you want to call them up there, the title upper class works well enough for me. Sorel's argument was that power fears one thing, and that one thing is confronting the inconvenience and costs of an opposite power. And he argued that the powerlessness of the masses had little more than a myth to keep their condition, hopes, needs and dreams within the consciousness of the upper classes, otherwise the bubble within which the upper classes dwell develops very false assumptions, that get falser with time. In the past day or so many of those false assumptions have been revealed, a commerce secretary, assorted relatives of the straw man, a bunch of others. The question for Sorel was what kind of myth might preserve a more constructive relationship between the upper classes and the rest of us. 

Had the shutdown continued the many in our number who are unable to feed their children without assistance from the state would have gone hungry. This didn't seem to matter to the upper classes and their pundits because they have grown accustomed to observing a set of their own myths which include the idea that people who can't feed their children are the idle, the thieves, the generally worthless all of whom are a long way from the comfortable class of Good and Obedient Help. At the same time, a great majority of us don't fly in airplanes, safe to argue that those who do are more likely members of the upper classes or are planning to join the upper classes when their next inheritance produces results sufficient for at least a first class seat. Sorel's myths to empower the masses included the idea of a General Strike. And had the Border Officers, the FBI, the Secret Service, the TSA and the Air Traffic Controllers made a habit of downing tools on any day they weren't paid....  It's a theory.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Decisions, Decisions

After a little pacing around, a few sleepless nights and after long internal dialogue your N Scale modeler has determined that of the eight Gormenghast Bridges one will be named after Saint Winifred and another will be named after Saint Chad. And on the off chance that something like fake news interrupts the progress of this very important decision these two names have been given an absoluteness, and no slicky boy lawyer is going to be permitted to raise this or that obscure point such as a few remaining doubts about Saint Chad or reference the sort of chaotic Brexit Referendum meandering that resulted in an incredibly expensive research ship being given the name Boaty McBoatface.  Yes we're talking bridge names that are written in stone, forever and ever amen kind of thing. And yet there could be a problem! Not so much with the Saint Chad, who according to the Roman propagandist Bead, had a deep and abiding loyalty to the band of monks who accompanied him on his mission to preach the Beatitudes to the Mercian Host. A fine quality, particularly when a more vivid imagination can conjure a Mohawk Tonsure for each of Chad's indomitable monks, and which in my view suggests that Saint Chad wouldn't be all that picky about how his memory might be recorded in the form of a railway bridge.

Saint Winifred however, is a whole different jar of wax. Let's put it this way, there's a reason her suitor Caradog cut off Winifred's head when she basically told him she'd rather enter a nunnery than have anything to do with him. Certainly boys of all ages react often very poorly to rejection but the extreme reaction of chopping off someone's head has hinted to many that Winifred was more winsome than shall we say sturdy. Some images of her do suggest elegance of the flowing robes kind. Already I can hear two arguments against this position. The first is a downright dismissal along the lines of they had no television in those days so how could you possibly know. The second concerns the issue of you're a boy so how can you even begin to know what it's like being a girl around boys. And this point of view would demand I visit a battered woman's shelter so I realize how idiotic I sound with this winsome nonsense. But the defining debating point could be this, I don't think I'm actually capable of making an elegant bridge that might do justice to a winsome Saint Winifred. Such a bridge would need graceful curves and perfectly carved stone, all of them joining to make a "that bridge looks like a flowing robe type bridge" statement. In the end I guess it's this sort of conundrum that resulted in the Ancient Egyptians settling on a pyramid.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

An End in Itself

Have to think the Girl Cat, who is a Cat and does have short hair, would be mightily offended were she to discover that the veterinary professionals refer to her as Domestic Short Hair. Certainly offends me, lumping everyone together like that, and classic of the kind of one tracked algorithmic thinking that results in a hand puppet becoming commerce secretary. Nor was I going to get all worked up and ratty before lunch today, the weather was perfect for indoor activities, and I was going to remain calm, I wasn't going to risk aggravation by internet radio which seems to insist I have a fascination with adverts about country music and that odious collection of chirpy tragic cases that pass for country music musicians. But No!  None of that happened, by 9.30am I was doomed to a series of visceral reactions which frankly all started popping off with the discovery the Girl Cat had been referred to as Domestic Short Hair.

A bold objective observer might have the temerity to open the possibility that I might have a bit of problem, and to soften the blow they'd suggest it was perfectly natural phenomenon found particularly in old white males so they might regularly get their chance to view death as a blessed release. Then they'd advance the theory that males are often inclined to value what might be called winning, which, because males can be a tad thick headed and simple minded, is usually reduced to a straight forward juxtaposition with losing, which is why we like top ten lists, have an unnatural capacity to remember cricket scoreboards and produce poets like Pindar. But for a considerable number of us boys, winning can become an end in itself, has less and less to do with achieving a useful or in any way symbiotic end, and more and more to do with an emotional addiction to the momentary release of simply winning, or at least being a member of the winning team. It's a theory that explains a lot, but in no way does it excuse a veterinary professional reducing the Girl Cat to Domestic Short Hair.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Golden Calves

Nothing actually wrong with Bull Worship, but like anything when taken to extreme it becomes a tool of dreadfulness, brings out the worst in people and serves only to make some of us enjoin with the idea of A Rapture in the simple hope that the Great Oneness will proceed to gather up the faithful so that the rest of us can get on with our lives. The Cattle Tribes in their panoply of believes have a relationship with death that is well summed by the prayer "follow the Lead Bull into the night and return again as a child." It's a beautiful prayer to my mind, contains solace and peace, and it doesn't mean that I'm going to  start getting all worked up about a Golden Calf while Moses is having a word  or two with God on the top of Mount Sinai. At the same time I'd most certainly argue that forcing his people to burn their Golden Calf, scatter it on water and then drink the water was itself the product of a radical, dangerous, possibly unbalanced mind. At the time, the Golden Calf Apologists claimed they were rather hoping for a God that looked and behaved more like they did, someone who'd understand them, feel sorry for them, say things like "You can have as much vanilla ice cream as you want to." A more transactional God, who'd adhere to the "You pat my back, I'll pat yours here on earth" philosophy. And instead, it seemed to them, they were getting an incomprehensible, almost tyrannical, possibly crazy map reading god who only ever spoke to Moses.

"What's this got to do with N Scale?" I hear the passionate plea for common sense. Well I have a little bag of glass marbles, they're just far too precious looking to become projectiles for a catapult used to discourage Raptor, Rabbit and Deer, and I was thinking of using them as a recurring symbol in the construction of Gormenghast. I've had visions of them on top of rectangular towers, in the walls of railway tunnels and stuff like that. It's been one of those Inchworm ideas, progressing across the blank spots, pausing but never quite stopping anywhere. Recently I find myself more drawn to the idea of a Golden Calf as a symbol of Gormenghast. A number of problems, no way have I the skill to carve little calves without ending up in a rubber room, and investing resources both financial and emotional in little plastic calves from an on line source, which can then be painted yellow, just doesn't sound like cricket to me. But, whichever way you look at it, you'd have to wonder what the Genuine Medieval Saint Winifred would think if she finds out that a bridge that takes a rail line directly into the heart of golden calf worshipping Gormenghast would think. My own opinion, there'd be fireworks and pretty damn sure Winifred would win, and there might even be a little scattering of ashes over water from her. She's a wonderful Saint and in the tradition of "keeping it in the family", her mother's brother was a Saint, a Bishop Bueno, a name English speakers translate to Bono. And everyone knows that Winifred translates to modern English as Pelosi. Yes indeed, something about genuine 7th Century Saints that put these modern namby-pampy saints to absolute shame.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Saint Chad and his Relics

Senator Kamala Harris wonders how she'll respond to the next generation should they ask her "And what exactly did you do during the shutdown?" The senator's reply, "I ran for President." Asked the same question, your correspondent anticipates his capacity to be truthful and his reply would be, "I attempted to grasp the collapse of wave function to further an understanding of the source of meaning, and I quarreled fiercely with a succession of Popes over their definition of a Medieval Saint."  Pretty sure the response to my reply would fall far short of "Thank goodness someone did!" Nonetheless, the Eight Bridges of Gormenghast require identities, the current trial concerns the possibility of naming one of the bridges after the extremely suspect Saint Chad. A wholly political saint, recognized by Rome. A man whose older brother, a monk named Cedd, was also a Saint, a circumstance that simply spanks of nepotism. And there's the matter of the current era associations between the word Chad and essentially obnoxious behaviors that rightly should have resulted in long jail sentences in a Soviet Gulag. On the plus side, and this is a very big plus in my mind, there's the undocumented and very unlikely possibility that Saint Chad wore the Mohawk Tonsure while preaching the Beatitudes to the Mercian Host. Sadly, no matter how I try to use hope and wish, hope and wish do not pass for evidence, but worth noting the closest you can get to Saint Chad as he was when he was walking the earth is The Venerable Bede, whose histories were frankly the kind of propaganda you'd expect from a 7th Century Latin Speaking Hannity, so even if Saint Chad's fantastic Celtic Mohawk was common knowledge at the time, Bede would have kept it quite. The well documented saga of Saint Chad's relics however, could well tip the scale in his claim to be worthy of a Gormenghast Bridge. After he was buried Saint Chad rested peacefully while his relics grew in stature, then at the beginning of the 16th Century the eighth Henry became king of England. Back then it was fashionable to be overweight, it was a sign of wealth, and Henry the Eighth was very fashionable. Back then too they had no television much beyond wondering what their king might do next, and classically enough King Henry the eighth became popular with the mass of his subjects.

Nor did a king's incapacity to produce a male heir really trouble anyone much beyond wondering why no divinely ordained heir and who to root for when their king croaked. Back then too, the Roman Church had a poor view of anyone who failed to observe marriage vow to stay married through thick and thin. The stories of how Henry's many loving relationships ended and his dispute with the Roman Church are well known, but some results of his decision to suppress the monasteries in his kingdom are less well known. Saint Chad had been buried in the Mercian town of Lichfield, over time his relics figured larger and larger in the imagination of the devoted and it took something like 200 hundred years to build a cathedral of sufficient magnificence to house them. There was a special place for his head, called the Head Chapel. Henry's decision to impoverish the Roman Church in his kingdom put a huge burden on what might happen to Saint Chad's relics. With some delicacy, in the dark of night, they were removed from the Cathedral by an unofficial officer of the church, the idea being to keep them safe until sanity returned. Over time the officer of the church came to the end of his days and Chad's relics passed to one of his nieces. In the world beyond a big huff developed between Protestants and Catholics, the location of Chad's relics became more and more of a secret. One day, a Farmer Hodgets, a down to earth kind of person, took to his deathbed and began calling to Saint Chad to rescue him from eternal damnation.  A visiting priest asked "Why Saint Chad?" "Because his bones are in the head of my bed." Rather than bring out the Town Crier the priest thought it best to quietly have Saint Chad's relics removed to safe place in Catholic France. It's also true that there's a bit of an underworld in relics, and in time possibly as a result of the relic trade Saint Chad's relics found their way back to the British Island were they were discovered in the 1830's and presented to the Bishop of The Midlands, who instinctively declared them genuine, but more central even the Vatican agreed they were genuine. It was a big day for everyone, a home was found for Saint Chad inside a recently built church. At the end of the First World War Saint Chad was paraded around Birmingham, which is Mercian territory, a tradition that has lingered to this day. In 1985 the more suspicious decided to check the validity of Saint Chad's relics by subjecting them to rigorous scientific examination, carbon dating. All but one of  three femurs were deemed to have origins in the 7th century. In my view, along with his possible Mohawk, the saga of his relics tip the scale for a Gormenghast Bridge named Saint Chad.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Doing a Penrose on Chad

All very well your correspondent patting himself smugly on the back for having adjusted his attitude to the name Penrose. On reflection it was a self serving back on the pat and had little to do with generosity of spirit. I guess too, in the matter of the Bridges of Gormenghast the same confluence of idea will have to be applied to developing a more constructive attitude toward the name Chad. Prior to the events of the fall of the year 2000, the Hanging Chad when yet another US President was 'elected' by a minority of the electorate, my own Beasts of the Forests included a youth called Chad and have to admit the combining of the word Hanging with the word Chad did provided a certain glow in my ugly heart. But all that will have to be returned to "It Was" and ignored rather than rationalized. It's also true that Saint Chad falls outside the parameters laid casually down by your Bridge Builder for a Genuine Medieval Saint. Saint Chad is a Political Saint par excellence and he's naturally recognized by Rome. Both charges that should expel him from the list of Bridge Names. But he was other things. He came to the Lord in Lindisfarne, a school of religion founded by Saint Aiden of the Celtic Church and this was a few years before the Synod of Whitby which was when the Celtic Church and the Roman Church came to agreement on the somewhat passive issue of how to calculate Easter Day, but more important they came to an agreement on the shape and form of the Tonsure.

 The Celtic Church adhered to the notion that a Tonsure was to reflect what these days might be called a Mohawk, a wonderful expression of ferocity of purpose, a generally impressive "I couldn't Care Less" style as opposed to the "I'm a bit of simpleton" Roman Church's choice of hairstyle for their devious monks. There's no actual photographic record, but I'm anxious to believe that Saint Chad had a Mohawk, and sometimes parameters just need to be stretched so as to encompass the quality of charm in order to do away with the sin of dogma. The other thing about Saint Chad, he's that rare creature a Mercian Saint. Of the powerful pagan clans that moved in to fill the vacuum which followed the retreat of the Roman Legions in Britain, the Mercians were the last to consider Christianity as a useful tool in their armory. And I just love the idea of a mohawk wearing monk taking the Beatitudes to the Mercian host. These days it's no longer fashionable to draw too much of a distinction between the Roman and the Celtic Church, it's all part of a rationalization of "It Was" that has to do with the Church, any church, still attempting to enter into the consciousness of the Industrial Age, a long way to go before they even begin to think about the current century, there's a good argument snake handlers are more devoted. The final point about Saint Chad, and this is definitely a positron in the neurological web, is the truly enlightening saga of his relics. A long story, maybe tomorrow. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Saint Mildred of Thanet for Example

No shortage of Medieval Saints, over the years, following rule changes a great many of them were demoted by the Pope. Amongst the Girl Saints of the Medieval Period an unnatural number were the daughters of kings. Of the Boy Saints far too many had political ambitions. And when it comes to thinning the choice of Medieval Saints, I think it best to get rid of the ones who might still be recognized by Rome, treat with suspicion the daughters of kings, and tread warily when it comes to the more politically minded Boy Saints. As well, and this is critical, the eight railway bridges yet to be constructed surround Gormenghast, which is a very long way from a bastion of the sort of values a loving god looks for in his creations, indeed Gormenghast is probably a better reflection of what happens inside the walls of the Vatican. Finally the charm of Medieval Saints is their association with place, it gives them an authenticity, a lasting earthliness and I'll give you the example of Saint Mildrith of Minister-in-Thanet, which is in Kent, England, and in Mildrith's time Thanet used to be an island separated from England by a swampy channel. It's a story I'm going to have to shorten, and in the process stick to the basics which invariable brings out the worst in the more pedantic detailed orientated characters, but that's just the way life is in N Scale where because there is no plan interpreting as you go along is a prime source of divining meaning. And too, worth bearing in mind it's possible that your modeler might be having an eccentric reaction to the absurdity of the current, some might consider medieval, political circumstances. Or possibly it's a quite normal, entirely forgivable reaction to the number of bricks he's been making for walls without apparently getting anywhere closer to an idea of Gormenghast.

Following the death of a landowner a quarrel ensued about who was to get what. Observing the traditions of the time, two young boys with a very strong claim to the property disappeared. No one was fooled but where was the proof, the boys could not be found. A little while later things had settled down, the new owner had taken possession, when a heavenly light revealed what had happened to the two boys. They'd been killed and buried. It wasn't so much shocking as it was aggravating and what with the heavenly light something was very wrong. The decision was taken to impose a fine of something like fifty Deer hides on the possessor of the property. Thing is, one of the higher born young ladies, a youngster called Mildrith, had a pet Deer and following a difficult discourse it was agreed that instead of bumping off a whole bunch of Deer to pay the fine, much better to pay the fine in property which is how Mildrith's pet Deer was given the important work of deciding how much property. Blood oaths were taken, it was a pet Deer after all, probably wouldn't do much more than scamper around a little, the agreement was publically made and Mildrith's pet Deer was allowed to run a course. That course was pretty much a majority of the disputed property. It was like a heavenly thing, a dictate from above and in appreciation of the temporal nature of earthly meaning the new possessor agreed to build an abbey. Young Mildrith saw her chance and became the Abbess of the new Abbey. Much more to the point, when years later the Abbey fell into disrepair because of pillage by Vikings, Saint Mildrith's relics were removed by church authorities, some sent to God's regional headquarters in Canterbury, which is also in Kent, others sent to Holland which is the country of Holland. The locals of Thanet were heart broken, they felt robbed of a most precious part of their time on earth. Then in the 19th Century, over a thousand years later, Thanet managed to get some of Mildred's relics back and they are now kept in a Priory in Thanet still cared for by Benedictine Nuns.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Bridge Building

Heavy rain, followed by snow, followed by some kind of an  invasion by Polar Air, a vortex or something, temperatures falling toward lows difficult to maintain in the forecourt of an elderly mind which sometimes has nightmares about cold weather, and for the currently very fortunate all of it is perfect weather for N Scale, more precisely Bridge Building. At the same time if the electric fails your modeler may well wax considerably less Christian as he devolves into Devil worship, Satanic rituals and the whole panoply of the demonic approach to meaning. There are eight critical new bridges. They are in your face bridges, they are not shy, they are definitely "look at me" bridges and it would be failure of character should I suddenly decide to do little more than stick a couple of decorative accents on them, then hide them with greenery or whatever. And at the same time eight bridges issued from my own greed for track, wide curves and multiple locomotives, an empire of train that threatened to relocate a Carmelite monastery that resulted in the curse of a brick making purgatory laid upon me by the Superior of Saint Teresa's Barefoot Carmelites coming true. One route out of this mess is to give all the bridges Saints names, not as easy as it sounds, there's months of research, possibly a little re-interpretation of the often misleading texts but at least the matter of where to start is usually solved by laying out parameters and this time there will be rigid discipline, none of this drifting off, getting side-tracked, boxed into a corner by a tasty morsel, such as the suggestion by modern scholars that Saint Teresa's visions were a consequence of hallucinogens from a mold that can develop in certain kinds of bread.

Down deep inside me I always knew it was more likely an error to play fast and loose with my own timeframe for the Medieval Period as a well spring for idea within the County of Saint Barbara. And by no stretch of a fevered imagination can Teresa be considered a Medieval Saint.  She was a product of the reformations that hit Europe in 16th Century and in my own understanding, there'll be vicious debates of course, the Medieval Period began with the retreat of the Roman Legions and had easily ended by the 11th Century. In the Medieval Period it was friends and peers that decided who was worthy of Sainthood, none of this Devil's Advocate from Rome turning up and asking silly questions like whether or not causing the earth to open up and swallow an unwanted suitor, or causing lightning to strike a really horrible person was something the Lord looked for in his earthly spokespeople. Entirely possible in a county named after the Saint Barbara of lightning strikes and causing there to be windows in a prison tower despite the express wishes of her father, she's the patron saint of artillery for goodness sake, could possibly get along with a non-medieval saint who chose not to wear shoes as a statement of her determination to remain a pure mendicant. The other thing to keep in mind is that Saint Benoit, the Patron Saint of Bridges was actually buried in a bridge he built over the Avignon River, typically enough he wasn't a Medieval Saint, far from it, and it was because of his suspect branding activities, stuff like healing the lame, straightening up humpbacks, his work with the blind and so on, that the wealthy decided to fund his bridge building ambitions in the course of their own desperate search for an alternative path through the eye of a needle.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Moving Beyond

"It Was" is as much to do with "Now" as it is to do with something that might have happened yesterday or seven hundred years ago. To open a book written by someone with the name Penrose, your apprentice will have to either just pull himself together, grow up or whatever, or he must reappraise "It Was."  Maybe Penrose, the Keith Richards wanna be, when the flow of his passage through the world so upset the flow of my own passage through the world was merely going through some kind of horrible, reptilian creepy phase. And possibly that difficult phase was a necessary one for him to realize that unless he improved his social skills, his future would be pretty much doomed to psychologically damaging every third person he met until one day he met his superior in the area of total complete and utter toe curling ickiness, they probably formed a bond, lived happily ever after in glorious isolation, shunned by the rest of the species. It's also possible my own reactions were, still are... shall we say a tad on the extremist side.

And in the grand scheme what does it really matter whether the current English Queen's oldest boy child has a thought or two around the poems of Leonard Cohen, it has nothing to do with urgings of a public relations firm desperately attempting to promote the idea that the titled are just ordinary people stuck in a carousel of damn stupid outfits and Grouse hunting.  Yes Indeed, the Sages were quite correct, for us people the passage toward better meaning in our miserable lives is to move beyond "It Was." All of which is quite a relief because it means I can now hunt down a copy of Roger Penrose the Mathematician's Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness, without getting all bogged down, wheels spinning in a mire of what could be High Principle. Penrose's point, I have gleaned, is that when things get very small, down there where the elemental is, wave function collapses, which means you can have two states, both of which make sense and are possible in the mathematics that reach beyond algorithms. That doesn't happen up here were big stuff bumbles around in an orderly, plodding and predictable algorithmic manner. Penrose reckons that neurons, the brain part of living things, contain tiny, tiny tubes inside of which stuff is so small wave function collapses. Yes! we're talking Slope in a Random Place, all very exciting for some, not so for others, but all might agree it's rather sad, deranged possibly, to think I've been trying since 1994 to open Penrose the Mathematician's book.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Final Straw

It was in the kitchen of one of those young people fashionable restaurants, the kind where the wait staff all thought they were either the splitting image of one of the Ramones, Suzi Quatro or at a pinch Debbie Harry. We're talking the 1970's when I already felt old and working there made me feel even older in that mature and sneering, superior kind of way.  A Keith Richards wanna be, his name was Penrose, was one of the waiters who so got on my nerves it soon became very apparent to fellow kitchen staff who, while rolling a cigarette out back in the ally, would express concern for my mental well being, general attitude and job prospects. And it's true all of us kitchen hands were basically deemed too ugly, old or unfashionable to even be seen by the clientele. As well I was bottom man on the greasy pole, which is how most in the culinary arts think of the dishwasher. So, should I ever make the error of seeking psychiatric assistance there may well be dozens of reasons why Penrose got on my nerves .

 The tragic thing is Penrose is also the name of a mathematician with incredibly interesting views on the possible relationship between consciousness and quantum physics, his wise question in the early 1990's was why no exploration of consciousness from mathematics? But such has been the lasting impression made upon me by Penrose, the Keith Richards wanna be, that despite having had several opportunities I've never been able to open a book by anyone called Penrose. It's pathetic, it's tragic, a sad commentary on your correspondent's capacity to be reasonable. Nor has Penrose been the only one, there's the obvious unmentionable name that rhymes with hump, then there's Descartes with his useless 'therefore', anything associated with a Mill, there's Jane Austin, does go on a bit. More recently I read the dreadful news that Queen Elizabeth II's oldest male child has positive thoughts about Leonard Cohen, which for me when it comes to the names Leonard and Cohen could well be the the ultimate Camel's back breaking straw. And is why I'll be forced to never again even consider pausing over the meaning of Cohen's several mentions of traveling blind in his really very beautiful poem, Suzanne.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Oh Gosh

John Walking Stewart, whose books and pamphlets were written back when printers replaced the s sound within a word with a double f, such as the well known tangerine beafft of the forrefft, not an easy read for the better speller but huge fun for those of us who find spelling a challenge, had a theory about Laplanders and the English. He thought them advanced and the reason he did so was because in both Laplanders and the English, subservience did not come eaffy. Well, Good Lord, one of the great minds is turning in his grave at the moment, crawling to get out and anxious to rewrite his Moral State of Nations, particular with reference to the English Speaking Peoples. 

If I recall, his point was based upon his suspect observation that the English Yeoman and the Laplander would look the Lord of the Manor straight in the eye when being addressed, whereas lesser language groups would bow their heads, kneel, cow-tow, do anything but look the Lord of the Manor or their cultural equivalent straight in the eye. Oddly, Walking Stewart, in one of his travels was accused of suborning blasphemy while visiting Boston Massachusetts  resulting in his having to quickly find passage back to the British Islands where soon enough he found himself in trouble with the secret agents of the authorities over his views on the English King George the fourth's choice of wife.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


By some accounts, many, many generations ago, toward the end of the Cretaceous Period while Dinosaur still lumbered around before getting their act together by becoming Birds, our ancestors were four legged, tailed, furry and inclined toward skittering around in an often nervous manner. We were good at hiding and when chased by something cold blooded we could scamper up what passed for the trees  Not that easy for us to scamper up trees these days, but back then we more likely did so in the way that Squirrels and Cats do today. In short, we had claws, not nails. Diet-wise we were omnivorous, and not hard to imagine the brief period of plenty we benefitted from when the Dinosaurs succumbed to environmental challenges, it must have been kind of like giant lumps of manna from heaven and we probably multiplied in a dramatic manner, so we were ready for the Paleocene which was when we mammals came into our own, started bossing every one else around. And it was probably during the Paleocene when to avoid the more bad tempered meat eating mammals our variety of mammal took to the trees which back then would have included Conifers, and pine nuts, all very healthy and wholesome.

Your correspondent isn't one to look at his feet very often. Never had a good or affectionate relationship with them. They are fundamentally unattractive, they are prone to exuding often foul odors, they are constantly complaining and I have found that it's just better not to dwell upon them. But I do have to cut my toenails now and then, which means being brave, getting up close and personal with them. It's not a chore I ever look forward to, yet over the years I have noticed an interesting quality to my toenails, they are thickening, they are curving and frankly are becoming more like claws than nails. It's exciting. Possibly in old age there's been a wonderfully dramatic genetic slippage in my collection of genes, rather than retreating closer and closer to the womb which is the sadly dictated direction for so many of us as we enter dotage, I am in the process of retreating to the more Squirrel like phase of our species, back to the good old days when we had claws, far too busy for nonsense like tool making and no time for language much beyond "Uh-Ho" and "Yum-Yum." Nor would we have had any problem making sense of our world. And one things for sure our remains would have been snapped up by the Paleocene's equivalent to birds of the air, none of this domination by the funeral home industrial complex....

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Boggle

Don't envy anyone who has to work the outdoors, particularly on winter's days such as these last few days. There's an element out there of damp in a light drizzle that slowly gets into the bones, and if you don't have the right clothes, can't get warm and dry at the end of the day at home or in the snug of barroom that damp stays with you and slowly it builds in a painful kind of way until sunshine returns to warm your back, which in some parts of the world can mean waiting months. My own thin blood, weak character and elegant wrists preferred a barroom and a change of subject. Not all barrooms were the same and in those days in that city there were many more barrooms than churches, so there was plenty of choice for places to forget. The other thing about barrooms, like churches, each creates an orbit around which like minds might gather, and you could often get a sense of the clientele by the content of the ashtrays, unfiltered cigarette butts were sure sign of wholesomeness, no showing off with the lardydar filtered brands. And it was in such a bar that I shared many a conversation with an old man who'd been railway worker. He was a Scotsman from Glasgow, his accent as powerful as a foreign tongue, his vocabulary would have challenged a dictionary and when he said, with a glitter in his eye, that he had a new boggle at home, I was mystified, but in keeping with the masculine nature of unfiltered cigarettes I reasonably assumed he'd remarried, or maybe he had a new girlfriend.

Either way, the new boggle was the joy of his life, beautifully dressed in red, well made hands, little boots, had a wonderful hat, he was very lucky to have found her and he was having a hard time wondering where to keep her. This was a problem which would easily be solved if Cathod did the right thing and got himself run over by a bus. My own polite suggestion was that Cathod sounded like a bit of a trouble maker. And indeed he was, Cathod apparently had poor habits. My friend didn't use the words poor habits, he used another word, which I still blush to think about, and which covers anything from being a little untidy around bed making through vomiting all over a kitchen table, and onward toward unspeakable acts of depravity such as crossing a picket line. When my friend noticed a confusion in me, he became professorial and in some detail, with great patience, explained how the urine of an overly passionate male cat damages precious paintwork and then he went on a bit about the trouble they'd had with cats when he worked the railway yards. It was many weeks later, I was working an unfamiliar milk route, rounding up the debts on the weekend, Thatcher and her Tories had begun the pogroms that ravaged the safety nets to make the world even safer for billionaires. And lo, I bumped into my friend, he was way behind on his payments, he could manage a shilling or two, and he showed me his Boggles. He lived alone in a row house, to get to the walled backyard you had to go through his home. Boggle is an old Scottish word for elves and sprites, some angelic, mostly evil. My friend's boggles were little painted gnomes, hundreds of them.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Revulsion Against Time

Revenge is mine, sayeth the Lord. I guess if you hunt the scriptures in a desperate attempt to find what you want to find, then you're well into the alternative facts business. God's not there to comfort you, never has been never will be. He's there to save you from yourself and by so doing add to the betterment of the world. At least that's the theory. Alternatively God is a snake oil salesman, a purveyor of opiates. Then several thousand years later amongst some of the more metaphysically minded vengeance became "It Was." Glaze over if you wish to, but "It was the butler colluding with Colonel Spratt's mistress what done in the Colonel's wife!" And the Great Detective summons the constabulary, miscreants dragged off in chains. A chance of course that the Great Detective was wrong, while examining the walking stick he'd missed an important clue and two innocent people were hanged. Even in daily life the role of facts is kind of central in the dour process of reducing error. "It Was" however, is an uncertain quantity when assigning blame, which is one of the reasons it's often soothing to claim God moves in very mysterious ways and vengeance is his job because God knows all the facts.

Me, I'm a master of "It Was." Naturally it was a Confederate military man who introduced Johnson Grass. No doubt about it Swallowtail Butterflies of Kilimanjaro constantly wreak havoc with the weather in South Central Kentucky. It was the Kitten that brought N Scale to a screaming halt when she sent my tweezers to a landfill by deliberately knocking them into the trash bin. The Great Minds have through the generations suggested that vengeance is a prime cause of the wretched condition our species continually finds itself in. Nonetheless we are reluctant to criticize competition, the Olympics, football, climbing the greasy pole to wealth and fame, the whole badinage of literary criticism, it just goes on endlessly and it does so because "This is what we are, and there's nothing we can do about it."  It's a short step from there and we're talking the decline of the Roman Empire. A bunch of self entitled people feeling sorry for themselves, and worse they have "It Was" as their savior, their giver of purpose, the describer of their meaning. It's sad, it's pathetic. Oddly I was going to talk about a boggle in the barn. "It Was" the news headlines this morning that prevented me from doing so. Maybe tomorrow, meanwhile worth remembering: "Revenge," sayeth some sages of metaphysics, "Is a revulsion against time."

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Balsa Wood

Balsa is in the Mallow Family. Like most flowering plants Balsa grows fast and we're talking 90ft in fifteen years. One of the things about Balsa wood is you can't really get your grubby little fingers on it by going to the mail order. The reason, for those of us who might be incredibly picky about these things, is that of the grades the grade that goes to make planks can often contain more harder bits than softer bits and vice-versa. And there's nothing worse than a harder rather than softer 1/8 inch plank when what you really want is 1/8 plank that's soft as cold butter. It's frustrating, can lead to tears and is a real downer on the Zen that flows through the modeler who might be wondering whether the USA would be better off with something like a Panda as its chief executive and maybe Koala Bears as the cabinet members. Oddly one of the Chinese Emperors eventually had to marry off his daughter to one of the Northern Clan leaders to prevent breaches to a border wall. They were a really very, very long way from Me Too back then, but no further away than say Abraham, you had to wait until the Medieval Girl Saints before there was even an inkling.

The point is, yesterday I broke the sole new year's resolution which was to attempt to cogently engage the English Language as it is written every day of the increasingly arduous year of Our Lord 2019. My excuse was the experience of crossing at least four county lines in search of a hands on Balsa Wood Shopping Experience. Fortunately the Artist accompanied me, she's pretty much a world traveler when it comes to stuff like crossing county lines, takes it in stride, is frighteningly relaxed and jovial. Nor was there any need for anything like access to a geo synchronized satellite, the device remained firmly locked in the Artist's glove compartment, which was a big relief because the Artist can get into terrible quarrels with technical devices, especially when they're offering suggestions. For my part I'd almost given up on finding Balsa Wood planks and had devolved into a possibly unfair critical analysis of modern day hunter gathering. Then there it was 1/16, 1/8 and 3/8 planks, and typical there was no 1/32 and no 1/4. Obviously it had been picked through, some of it dinged and all of it carelessly returned to the compartments by what could only have been a barbaric horde.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Butterfly Apology

I'm not one to believe that Butterflies alighting on a Nile Hyacinth blooming in the wetlands of Lake Kioga have me in mind when they set off a weather pattern that illuminates my own lodging on our planet, I can curse them whenever I wish to, but sometimes I wonder. Perfectly happy to accept that recently I had poor and somewhat childish reaction to several days of unseasonably warm weather forcing me into the outdoors to dig over the bed formerly known as the Potato Bed.

My point if there was one is this, the month of January should be about socks, romper-wear and a single minded devotion to getting ahead with Winter Projects. Warm spells introduce a nagging guilt that probably goes back to the absurd Anglo Saxon idea that "fresh air and exercise is good for you." Given the totally unexpected frigid temperatures this morning and equally terrifying forecast for the weekend, could be well worth my while to offer sincere apologies to all Butterflies everywhere.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Positive Approach

Many years ago, probably centuries ago, and I forget the name of the progenitor of the confluence, most likely a European with a hard to spell name, two ideas mingled. Capacity and appetite, and this was called Will, or was translated into English as will.  This precisely argued confluence was rather a depressing one for some, it suggested a breach in the ties that bind social existence and could easily lead to such vile suggestions as "Greed is Good, nothing wrong with stealing your neighbor's Ox." This concern raised the question of whether the confluence was in any way rational, and in the end most preferred, still prefer, to think of rational in terms of an inevitably, indomitable process guiding all things. To explore the question, find the rational, the confluence called will was examined by the Great Minds. Around the time Napoleon Bonaparte was codify the European systems of measurement, the understanding of our confluence produced the Hegelian Dialectic, which was very quickly attacked by a group of thinkers who gave us the word Nihilist, they were the Cynics of the 19th century, who basically said "Sounds great but how do you know the bounce of idea from one wall to the other produces anything like objective meaning!"

In comes the idea that our confluence is about Power, and the Will to Power, a badly misunderstood book by Nietzsche, whose body of thought includes the idea that to pass beyond the condition of man it would be necessary to do away with vengeance, remove it from the vestibule of consciousness, so keep that in mind. In the 20th Century dominated by the Empiricist thinkers for whom our confluence responds almost entirely to the material world, which means examining the experience of consciousness is a total waste of time and can be cured with stuff like pharmaceutical products, second homes for the wealthy and washing machines, there's been an increasingly poetic grasp of will that's adopted the idea that Being, the I part, the Ghost in the Machine or whatever you want to call it is about meaning. It's the meaning we make that advises us on how to proceed through the storm of existence, and that meaning doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what's real, or true, or even demonstrable. Yes indeed the Arc of the Covenant is in Ethiopia, the Holy Grail is in an attic in Budleigh Salterton down there on  the Jurassic Coast of East Devon. But if you wait for a misty morning, you'll see the drift of meaning as it chases shadows through the woodlands of possibility. Meanwhile tomorrow is another day that doesn't necessarily belong to you or I.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Seasonal Complaints

No one likes the wind, more accurately no one I know likes the wind, there might be few anomalous personalities around, but generally speaking I'm in favor of any theory that suggests that any wind beyond a light breeze on a hot day is not one of the Great Pooh-Bah's better ideas.

My other problem, for those of us misfortunate enough to live outside the tropics, is unseasonable temperatures. And today has been very windy, almost hot and I thought overly humid. Nothing worse for the flow of important indoor winter projects than having to take the socks off.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Insane Influences

In the grand scheme my own developing allergic reactions to the color red, almost at the point of developing hives, it'll be boils soon enough, doesn't mean a great deal. Nonetheless I do my bit for Justice and the American way. In N scale there are just a few remaining recalcitrant power centers against which I will take our orders of eminent domain to deprive them of their properties unless they get with the program and change the color of their roofs, but then there's the problem of walls which are a central plank in a vision of Gormenghast that haunts my dreaming hours, we're talking 2am until around 6am. It doesn't happen often but if there's a useful conclusion I remain happily snoring under the blankets until the Girl Cat checks me for a pulse, an adrenalin surge if ever there was one. 

I've tried everything. I've tried thinking of walls as retaining walls, privacy walls, ornamental walls, theatrical walls but the sad fact is a wall is a wall, and most especially something like octagonal towers of any sort are pretty much a metaphor for the kind of ensconced tyranny that's running out of people to poke with sticks. My current thinking is deep in a Wonder of the Ancient World described as a major feat of engineering that comprised ascending tiered gardens, Date and Palm trees, vegetable plots, vines and plenty, all amidst a riot of bloom. It was a mountain for plants built on mud bricks, never the like of it seen again, except maybe in Bali. Trouble is Gormenghast is more of boiled sausage place, a preoccupation with laundry, a snuffling social status, not a plant to be seen except the root vegetables, beetroots bleeding on the kitchen tables. If I was skilled enough, I could build it as a ruin under which trains pass.

Sunday, January 6, 2019


As the day warmed your gardener reintroduced himself to his shovel, and I can tell you this much it wasn't the act of particularly willing gardener rather it was the act of a sniveling and guilty gardener. You can't just sit in your boy cave happily contemplating glamorous octagonal towers for Gormenghast while the sun works the earth into the beginnings of a frenzy that gives those more aggressive of our number their chance to escape their own contemplation of octagonal towers. They too have empires to conquer, horizons to seek out, pogroms to conduct, and they're all considerably younger than I am, many yet to germinate. The thing is it's only the beginning of January, so in some respects we did feel foolish enough to smile at Walnut trees but at least the rest of us realized the call of purpose instead of just sitting there in blissful nothingness.

The experience felt more like an act of contrition, just a little less severe than being directed by a monk to beat myself with chains. Yet I did sense the passage of the season as I worked the more suspicious of my many parts, the back, the knees, the left foot, the wing, it's a longish list. And it was interesting to sense this passage or whatever it was because the idea of "passing across" and the particular kind of movement those two words inspire has for some produced an insight into the way thinking works and what it might be. There's memory, there's facts, there are desires and passions which are often produced by knee jerk and vengeful chemical reactions in the older parts of a person's mind, and there's this misty thing which passes over and through these stubborn rocks, does a little dance of victory, maybe laughs before it moves on.  Yes indeed all the great minds are proud gravediggers, their books are their tombstones.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Full Confidence

Humility is more often defined in terms of low self opinion. "He's a humble boy. Doesn't think much of himself." In Latin,  humilis, or something like it, meant of inferior origin in the sense of low quality, a lowly birth, low class in some places, a category of low rank that depends upon the assumption there is a high rank and that within the continuum of rank some fortunate and others unfortunate, it's a total playground for the eugenicists and all those -ists that copout of thinking and metastasizing into -phobics where all human progress goes to die. Which is why some of us force ourselves to go to town every now and then.

Argue if you wish to, but fundamental to my own understanding of humility is the word arrogance, and fundamental to arrogance, as well as extraordinarily high self esteem is the bald faced reluctance to admit to error. It's some combination of humility and arrogance that produces the word confidence. Again from a Latin word that was used to mean, not just Trust, but Full Trust. In what that trust might be remains unspoken, could be anything. "He has my confidence." And when your tongue is deep in the cheek of deception, "He has my full confidence." With respect to the sadder outliers of our species it's quite amazing what can be learned from the current US President.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Crisis in N Scale

OK Chaps! A crisis in N scale where I am king. It's called painting, and your correspondent is way below hopeless at it. Hours and hours of painstaking work, in comes the paint brush and poof we're talking the sort of disaster that produced the Soviet Apartment Building. To the end of the earth with attempts at realism, just going to have to go full blown tie-dye, kaftans, sit-ins and Jimmy Hendrix album covers.

Does put a bit of burden on the Gormenghast end of N Scale, but so what, maybe they were all tripping out in a joyous manner released from the constraints of red ties, white shirts, maleness and flannels when the painters arrived. Wasn't it nice to see the freedom of meanings at the current speaker's oathing ceremony. And no, not a believer in the streaming of consciousness as producing anything useful this side of a rubber room of lies.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Black Holes and Root Vegetables

One of the Great Minds when he was nineteen years old wrote, "I was born as a plant near a churchyard, as a man in a pastor's house." A plant emerging from its seed pretty much knows what it's doing, knows its roots go downwards and its leaves go upwards and everything else takes care of itself. A person on the other hand appears to need something more, in many ways he or she is the least free of all creatures, constrained, shackled by the burden of possessing the processes of mind he or she inherited from the thousands and thousands of generations that came before. But as a person settles to the condition of man, those shackles fall away and they do so not because they are gone but because they become less and less visible. Another Great Mind offered the following, "What is most thought provoking is that we are still not thinking."

 "The Singularity" are Black Holes in the universe that alter space time in ways difficult to conceive. The theory suggests there's a one dimensional point that consists of a huge mass contained within an infinitely small space where gravity becomes infinite, where space time curves infinitely and where the laws of physics as we have understood them cease to exist. Also "The Singularity" is often used to describe a moment, in our existence as people, when our creation of technology produces an intelligence that results in technological processes that will change our world in ways that we are incapable of understanding. Some in our number will argue that "Yes" we are brilliant, able to runaround, jump up and down, engage in synchronized swimming, we're totally in charge of our destiny. Others might think about thinking, ask "the most thought provoking question" and suspect that in the end we're already not that different to plants, the singularity will likely realized it for us. To each his own I guess, but in me, I hope the future sees an entertaining root vegetable.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Acting Primary Caregivers

It was after her breakfast, she'd runkled a couple of rugs, thrown up, leapt onto the kitchen counter, it's all part of The Kitten's usual exhausting morning routine and I was absolutely delighted when she asked for the front door to be opened so that she might let off a bit of steam in the outdoors. I calmed by self by giving consideration to the burden placed upon an Acting Primary Caregiver, the 'acting' part reduces the authority of the position in much the same way that a Temporary School master has no chance of controlling a detention class, they must be giggling in the corners of many a high office charged with administering our Federal Government. A brief news note caught my eye as I settled to a morning cup of coffee, apparently in faraway California during divorce proceedings pets are deemed to be members of the family, not property. The sneer that went through me was a wide as Pacific Ocean, the absurdity of such thing. Then around 8.30am I couldn't find The Kitten. The Girl Cat was on her colorful poufee, which is the snotty name for a pouf. But The Kitten's chair was empty. And given my momentary attitude to the class of Domestic Felines, I decided that in keeping with all other acting officers I wasn't going to sweat the matter. Probably about ten minutes later I went looking for The Kitten. On the short grass around the front of the house I saw a scattering of feathers. They weren't big feathers, they were someone's breast feathers, light to dark grey with a hint of brown on the tips. For one reason or another I decided they belonged to the Great Horned Owl the hoots of which, when they don't sound like a little cat wanting attention, can send shivers down the spine. I heard one a couple of nights ago, and might even have seen one high in the Shagbark Hickory. The Great Horned Owl is in the family of Eagle Owl, they have a wingspan of up to 5 feet and when a Great Horned Owl clenches it's talons you'd need 25 pounds of effort to force them open. A terrifying thought, and it suddenly became obvious that The Kitten had been taken from this world, the breast feathers were her last grasp at catlyness.

Nor is The Kitten a lightweight, far from it, wherever she'd been taken it could not have been far. I ran for the boots, tromped circles around the house, wider and wider. No sign! "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord" and at the same time I gave serious consideration to a fully automatic anti aircraft weapon. Meanwhile I clung to the slim chance that The Kitten was in the barn or the studio, both of them alive with hiding places, and it's sad a fact The Kitten is deaf when she wants to be. Around 10am I was in the house, still looking. Nothing. "I have failed" I told the Girl Cat, who in a typical feline manner didn't seem to give a damn, a classically ruthless approach to loss. In my room I attempted to carry on, upper lip stiff. I herded Ladybirds back into their corners, opened the glue pot, cut a couple of bricks, did a little sanding, ended up just staring at N Scale, and there might have been a few sighs, the odd loud vocalization that often distracts the Girl Cat from her morning nap. Around 1pm I thought about Lunch, I unrunkled the rugs, wistfully I stared at The Kitten's chair, I noticed her bowl and I might have done a little loud wailing, it's all part of the correct procedure for mourning. But I just couldn't face lunch, I returned to my room, opened Nietzsche's Ecce Homo, another proper procedure for mourning the lot of us people, a brave book by a brave man who I'll still insist died because his heart had been broken by his understanding of how irredeemable our species was becoming and not of syphilis. Then, out of the corner of my eye I noticed the Girl Cat in my room. She's always silent, very polite, but she doesn't usually come upstairs until at least 4pm. I nodded at her sadly, but uncharacteristically instead of asking for something she settled herself to staring at and sniffing the piles of books and boxes under my bed where there are a couple of spots for a cat to hide during thunder storms. It's leaning down with flashlight work to see under there. In the beam I saw two wretched ears. When she was satisfied the Girl Cat returned downstairs to her poufee, yawned a bit, went back to sleep. It was worrying, very worrying, a little unnerving to believe. I guess my emotions are mixed, I'll not be speaking to The Kitten for a while, the Girl Cat is clearly a goddess of some sort.