Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Election Season

A whole bunch of people, long hours and no overtime pay, they'll probably be peaky faced computer literate millennials desperate for employment, are currently engaged in attempts to reduce Liberal Democracy to an historical footnote. These workers are not so concerned with the USA's Republican Party who are already fully engaged marching around in uniforms, doing the right thing for the future of tyranny, rather their concern is to divide the Democratic Party, a loose leaf collective of quarreling tribes upon which the future survival of Liberal Democracy depends. Wishy-washy snow flakes are already on the receiving end, or on the Front Line as it should be called, and many groups will soon by persuaded to fall to outrage with other groups as a result of some devious fantasy dreamed up during someone's lunch break and introduced to the streams of social media.

Tactics employed by middle management will be to persuade their operators to pay heed to the assumptions of equality in the nature of the divisions between rich, middle class and poor potential Democratic voters by using words in such a way that definitions of something like the word socialism is always associated with words like destructive, traitor, Nazi, un-American. Electoral Reform becomes Power Grab. Climate Change Amelioration, Taking Away your cars, airplanes and starving you to death by making you eat vegetables. Labor Organizations, Taking Away your Right to Work. A Public Health Option, an attack on Freedom that encourages the undeserving lazy and illegal immigrants...  which raises the suggestion that Democrats will never fall for right wing talking points. Trust me, some will, and if you want to know why, you'll find the answer in the nature of the divisions between rich, middle class and poor, an area the US Republican Party has been manipulating for generations... 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Current Events

Trying to find the thing in the brain that strings words together enabling sentences to be understood has yet to reveal a pulsing life breathing golden egg. The idea was that if there was such a thing rules common to all languages could be derived, but until you actually find the golden egg that does this magic you can't really progress, and as a result many have concluded that something like grammar far from being an insight into how language works doesn't actually add much to an understanding of what language is or where it comes from, they go on to argue that something like grammar is better understood as a side effect of the processes in the brain that cause language to be possible.

It's a subtle difference, a more minimalist approach perhaps, but when you're looking for logical forms there's a flexibility in the brain that produces literally billions of possible logical forms and by logical we're not talking a language mathematics has yet learned to speak, rather we're talking the kind of logic many have come to fatalistically think of as just making stuff up as you go along. It's a distinction akin to the action/reaction experience many might be familiar with in obsessive tickle fishing for "Likes" from the Devil's algorithms on Facebook. In the end the tragedy of language is that it's about meaning, and don't worry pretty soon now we'll all be talking gibberish, but by golly it'll be meaningful gibberish.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Ned Broy, G-Man

 Eamon Broy was an agent for the Irish Republican cause during the Irish War of Independence, this two and half years of conflict from January 1919 to July 1921 has other names and as with so many things titles often depend upon perspective. Broy was employed by government authorities, so strictly speaking he was a double agent, in a department of the British and Loyalist interests devoted to anti-rebel activities, a division called G Division, a role that enabled him to pass a great deal of useful secret information along to his comrades in the Irish Republican cause. Those who worked for G Division called themselves G-Men. The war ended with a treaty, Ireland divided between Protestant north and Catholic south. Southern Ireland became a self governing state, the Free State it was called. Northern Ireland remained British. Not everyone liked the idea of dividing Ireland and soon enough a civil war was fought between supporters of The Treaty and those were against it. Broy was all for The Treaty, during the Civil War he became a uniformed colonel in the Irish National Army. After the Civil War Eamon Broy became Commissioner of the National Police Service of the Republic of Ireland, or the Garda Siochana, which translates as Guardians of the Peace.

Being a Police Commissioner guarding the peace in the aftermath of a civil war was tricky, fascism was on the rise in Ireland and there were still outposts in most of Ireland that still reckoned the Island shouldn't have been divided. Broy's tactics in the maintenance of peace in the Free State were sometimes very appalling. For British Authorities and the Loyalists Eamon Broy, whom they called Edward Broy, was a traitor to the Crown of England, whether the English Legal System would have agreed is debatable. But during the war Eamon Broy was instrumental in revealing the names of fellow G Men, six of whom were killed by the Irish Republican Army. During the war of independence around 230 Irish soldiers who had fought for the Crown of England in the First World War, joined the guerilla forces that fought for the Irish Republican Army against the Crown. Amongst the Irish, Broy was both a hero, a turncoat and a traitor to the cause of Irish Unity. In his later days Eamon Broy became the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland. Then there's the issue of how to spell Eamon. Is it Eamon or Eamonn. Well, when he issued an order as police commissioner his name was typed as Eamon, which translates to Edmond in English. Whereas Eamonn, translates to Edmund in English. Where the name Edward came from no one knows. As I understand it his nickname was Ned. "And the point of this list!" I hear the echo. Being a G-Man isn't Apple Pie and Roses.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Spartacus and the G-Man

Spartacus was an enslaved Thracian. Thrace was a territory, to the west of the Black Sea, it included parts of modern day Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. Alexander the Great, pretty much a wholly perverted teenager who conquered much of the known world and some perfectly contended places the ancients reckoned hadn't even been discovered, took the backbone of his army from Thracian Tribes. I guess too, somewhere amongst the modern day learned is a peer reviewed paper devoted to the anthropology of the Thracian Peoples, their habits and customs, their poems and sagas, their sense of identity as Celts and what might have happened to them when they were eventually granted Roman Citizenship. The trouble is no one alive today was actually there, and anthropologists ruled by their primary imperative, "Don't just make things up," can do no more than offer a pinhole through which to glean what we can. The point being, according to a review of a book written for him by collaborators, the G-Man who was recently dismissed from service hours prior to his retirement, an action which resulted in him losing his pension, apparently asked this question, "When is the right time to give up on people's general ability to understand any slightly complicated statement that they don't agree with?"

Putting aside the provenance of the book, it was written by others, I'd argue that this sentence requires at least another forty thousand words to explore more precisely what the G-Man meant. For odd reasons I find myself totally on his side were the question born of exasperation produced by being pawed over by the functional equivalent of Jelly Fish during the course of a couple of congressional enquiries the purposes of which were  to hunt a down a scapegoat. If so then I believe it has long been the case that frustration usually follows from any attempt to dialogue upon something like causes of rain with something like a brick wall. Then there's that whole area of thinking well summed by "I am surrounded by idiots," which in the end is as much an inability to explain as it is an inability to understand. Then there's the whole business of assumptions. Our G-Man assumed 'a general ability to understand' in the sense that Spartacus might have voiced were he to have suggested to his slave masters that even though he was of warrior stock, he didn't really like being a gladiator. And here had someone explained to Spartacus that he'd been defined as a casualty in the interest of a higher power, he might have accepted his lot had he believed in the worth of the higher power. The disenfranchised, as opposed to the enfranchised, more often than not are forced into acceptance when attempts at dialogue lead to impasse. Fair to say, Spartacus and our G-Man have much in common.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Boujees, Proles and Spartacus

In the end I guess it makes more sense to distinguish between the enfranchised and the disenfranchised. Spartacus was from Eastern Europe just north of Greece. As a Gladiator he was a slave and there can be no doubt that slavery is the ultimate cast of disenfranchisement. All points of view considered, mine would suggest he was pissed off with his lot in life, which was to kill or be killed for the entertainment of the masses, and having taken his disappointment to the streets, he was able to make the most of the absence of the Roman Army who were off in Spain trying to put down a Spanish revolt, and for around two years Spartacus with the support of many escaped slaves was the rebel military commander in what the Romans called the Third Servile War. One of the problems Spartacus had was that his supporters were actually more interested in pillaging and killing off the wealthy Romans than they were in coming up with some sort of a plan. While Spartacus had several opportunities to reach 'freedom' by travelling with his army beyond the territories Rome controlled where they might have made a society of their own, this guiding light was never sufficiently formed and what with the Romans being outraged by a revolt of slaves, Spartacus the commander never really got a chance to think beyond military victory or defeat. 

Marx reckoned that Spartacus was a most noble and real representative of the ancient proletariat. Sadly neither Marx of Lenin ever really understood the proletariat, they were both solidly middle class in their convictions, so when you hear someone like Steven Miller sneer out the word bourgeoisie as he answers a question, or hear Steve Bannon go one about Plutarch or attempt to define Leninism rest assured you're dealing with an intellect... and I don't quite know how to say this, but if you think of rainbow of crayons their box only really has one, maybe two colors, which has an effect upon their coloring book, and this means when asked why is the sky green their answer is more visceral than it is well considered. Trouble is, as the Ancient Greeks suggested  "stick it to them" rests firmly in the Liver and the Gallbladder, and down there it's all about bile. Generally speaking Peasant Revolts inspire the more unruly passions which are a force to be reckoned with, the results are usually counted by the number of Crucifixes lining the Apennine Way, which was the lot of Spartacus. And there's countless examples of sending in the Dragoons to quell riot. The reason Middle Class revolts are more successful has to do with enfranchisement, not necessarily as defined by a polling booth, rather because the middle class has skin in the game of society as it is. There are other opinions of course. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Current Events

Exploring the origin and movement through time of a word does as a rule produce deeper understandings of the meaning lodged within a word, same with history and always worth remembering the role of political inclination in movements within both words and within interpretations of history. It's a wonderful and at the same daunting fluidity, sometimes a difficult area for a species for whom certainty however poorly grounded is more highly valued as a source of both mental and social stability than something like the honest truth seeking implied by the word sapiens. Which is why The Ides of March figure large in my own often pathetic attempts to come to terms with the endlessness of February. For me middle of March is called Potato planting. In the wider scheme The Ides of March had religious significance and for others its gone down in an utterance from a Roman equivalent to a representative of our own Supreme Court who according to both Plutarch and an Elizabethan playwright whispered the warning to Julius Caesar that he should Beware of the Ideas of March. The Romans were a superstitious peoples so let's not get into a huge argument around the mechanism by which we manage relationship with concepts of certainty, the entrails of Cockerels or long lists of sentences, same difference they're all seers, and it just leads to conflict, name calling, and the sort of incivility that ends badly for everyone as we try to explain ourselves to a variety of magistrates, many of whom are not yet even born and this rate might never be.

Of the interpretations, the Elizabethan playwright had some superior asides on the characters of Cassius and Brutus. Brutus was a comfortable, fat bottomed, jovial good old boy who was doing very well for himself, probably had freckles,  and it came as a big disappointment for Caesar to see Brutus wielding a bespoke ivory handled dagger. Not so Cassius. For Caesar it came as no surprise at all to see the glint in the eye of a skinny, peaky and sneaky, short, ambitious man, who might have had slicked-back hair and kitchen carving knife. The trouble with the Elizabethan playwright and possibly Plutarch they saw Caesar as a somewhat heroic figure who was badly misunderstood by quarrelling senators who in their own self serving way might not even have been able to a pour water out of a boot. Caesar's problem was that he was an incredibly ambitious man who'd massively increased Roman Territories through military conquests, he had become rich a famous, he'd caused years of civil war by denying the traditional authority of Rome's equivalent to our very own leader of the senate as the position holder might have been thirty or seventy years ago and Caesar had a gut feeling about how inadequately the bubble in Rome had grasped the tenuous control Rome had over its territories.  His "I alone can fix this" promise appealed mightily to the populace and many of their mostly unelected representatives. Oddly, while you don't get to be powerful without being well possessed by both narcissistic and paranoid impulses, there's never been any doubt that Caesar was an entirely sane man who could both read and write long books and who had a poor view of vengeance for vengeance sake.  Tomorrow, if I'm not pummeling an emergency white ball with a club, I'll make yet one more valiant attempt to compare and contrast "Peasant Revolts" and "Stick It to Them."

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Mars and Venus

There are Crocus and Snowdrops blooming in the outdoors, and the arch upon which Snake Gourd once grew surrendered to the inevitable, broke a good part of it's back to either a straight line gust of high wind, or possibly a night hunting Barred Owl attempted to perch upon it, a wandering Turkey Buzzard, there's a reckless, likely insane Fox Squirrel who's decided he's mastered the art of invisibility and of the other possibilities there's a chance The Kitten who is currently devoted to developing the skills of achieving altitude saw the arch as a vantage point from which to fearlessly leap upon unsuspecting prey in her eternal struggle to compete with the Girl Cat for the title of Ace Serial Killer.

The more sensitive of secondary caregivers might be inclined to for example declare that hunting down, partially dismembering and then delivering a White Throated Sparrow to a living room carpet an act of barbaric depravity not even Caligula would have been capable of. And yet had this gift of nourishment been something like a Vole instead of a wondrous Song Bird, the reaction would have been a more matter of fact reaction, a what goes round comes round type of reaction, a teach you to like Carrots, and all very civilized as a secondary caregiver attempts to grasp the fundamentals of how to open a can of carpet cleaner. Not so matter of fact for a Sparrow who can sing a tune of such marvelous simplicity it can inspire a path between sadness and joy in about four beautiful seconds. From the rest of us a White Throated Sparrow's seconds of effort require a special day, a corporate structure devoted to the pinkness of the pudgy offspring of the war god Mars and the Goddess Venus, a postal service, a couple of hundred thousand heart shaped helium filled balloons... it's all very symptomatic.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Mind

Ability to see creatures and faces in patterns of the landscape, in bits of wood, cracked paving and so on, has been given the name pareidolia by science. And it's also the case that on occasion some high powered facial recognition technology is able to insist that something like a door key was in fact the face of someone living in somewhere like Octavia Place, Lydney, who'd only ever travelled on an airplane once. Strictly speaking, pareidolia is defined as a tendency to observe a very vague stimulus as something or someone known to the observer. The word pareidolia comes from the Ancient Greek, para which has become an English a root word for instead of the actual real thing, or alternative, and the dolia part comes from the Ancient Greek word for image or shape, so in the end pareidolia is kind of like alternative facts, which makes the Man in the Moon fake news. And just as well, because as everyone knows there's a Rabbit in the Moon.

 The Rabbit was put there by a demi-god who, as a test of purpose for the beasts of the field, disguised himself as a very old mortal man on the verge of succumbing to starvation. Naturally the beasts of the field leapt into action, the Fox stole fish for him, Monkey's collected nuts, but the Rabbit who was all about grass had nothing to offer so he jumped into the old man's fire, got himself roasted alive and in this way the Rabbit gave of his meat. The demi-god finally pulled himself together, and in gratitude for the Rabbit's ultimate sacrifice decided he'd place the Rabbit in the Moon where the Rabbit might live for ever.  "Typical bloody demi-gods!" Is a perfectly natural reaction to why there's a Rabbit in the Moon, and at the same time it's a long way from the reaction of a majority. Same with the Loaves and Fishes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sentence Making

 One theory of language resolves itself around the idea that there's something in your brain that strings words together, and this stringing of words together makes it possible to connect words in such a way that a sentence makes a sense that can be shared. This theory of language suggests that this something in your brain that strings words together isn't much subject to variation and as a result this something produces recognizable  patterns that all languages share. This theory is not so much about where words come from, it's more about why it is that we can string them together in a useful manner. This theory also supposes that this something in the brain is unique to us people and a creature like a Mockingbird who is very much a maestro of voice, a genius of communication, can cut directly to the point when it comes to charming the ladies, engaging gardeners and discouraging interlopers, has no capacity to construct sentences.

"So what you're trying to say, in as pompous a way as possible, is that 'there'll be no top ten list of thou shalt not's from a big-wig Mockingbird.'" Exactly! Doesn't mean to say that Mockingbirds don't know the difference between behaviors, they know how far to push the envelope and sometimes there's debate between Mockingbirds about where exactly the envelope is, and no Mockingbird has ever ever considered something like the Beatitudes because they know that with us living things sneakiness is a given, and if you don't believe me try growing Strawberries. Naturally having a thing in our brain that permits us to string words together does make us super-duper special. Without this capacity, I for example, might never have discovered that a Democratic Candidate had had to ask whether she used a fork or her fingers to eat some kind of local delicacy of deep fried crispy something or other, a question, the wrong answer to which by some accounts prevents her from ever being elected to chief executive of these here United States.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Homo Iratus


I was going to talk about the distinctions between slavery, servitude and indentured servitude but if you don't know the differences odds are you have no wish to know. I then gave consideration to discussing the sense of shame many descendents of slaves and indentured servants, as well as convicts, have had to endure as they navigate their passage through the world, and I'd go on to mention the possible relationships between a sense of shame and sin that can leach the hope out of being until that sense of shame is replaced with a sense of pride. I was then going to examine the many and varied ways the descendents of slave owners in the USA have dealt with any sense of shame they might have felt for the life styles of their forefathers, their statues, their battle flag, their heritage and amongst these many and varied ways is the phenomena of blackface. A phenomena I would suggest that shares commonalities with the allergic reaction the beaky cap known as a MAGA hat has on a percentage of us.


Then I thought about the obstacles facing any attempt to replace the species name that we have as members of the genus homo, which despite the rumors is currently still sapiens. Me I'm all for referenda, 75% of me is a big fan of the name Boaty McBoatface, democracy in action, a refreshing blow for freedom, sticking it to the Sir Harries by keeping it a real reflection of national will, and so on. The other 25% recalls the ultimate surrender the ancient Greeks briefly explored in their search for purity, instead of something like a Supreme Court as a place to pass intractable complexities on to, they went for a lottery to determine their leadership, pretty idea, but didn't end well. Then there's the issue of the historical moment, which is clearly in glorious flux and will in the near future resolve itself somewhere between harmony and extinction, and whether this is the right moment in time to be messing with the wording of our species name. But to hell with it, I'm going full blown blue Pepsi Cola can on this and will be submitting Homo Iratus. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Withy Peelers, Delvers and Stuff

Since the Doomsday Book an English census of one kind or another has traveled an insidious journey to the present. The 19th Century saw a burgeoning of occupations and for one or other obscure census reason all of them were recorded and many of them had been around a very long time. A Delver for example was someone who used a spade and dug ditches. A Hedge Looker was someone employed to supervise the repair of hedges and fences, excellent work if you could get it.  A Withy Peeler was someone employed to remove the bark from Willow. And for those interested in the origins of surnames a great many have their beginnings in an occupation that frequently moved along several generations. "Which Bob do you mean?" "Bob the Rubbler." There were 600 people with the surname Rubble in the US 1940 census. "Oh that Bob. I thought you meant Bob the Tide Gauger."  There were 3,000 people with the surname Gauger in the US 1940 census, and yes a Tide Gauger had the perfect job of measuring the tides for pay while a Rubbler sorted the smaller stones in quarries.

In time some surnames became a little dubious, subjected their owners to degrees of puerile sniggering, and one surname that has a topographical origin changed from Bottom, the name's origin in low lying land, and who was a weaver in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, to Botham, an English Cricketer who had his family contained generations of unrestrained stubbornness and retained the name Bottom might not have been knighted by the Queen of the English for his services to English Cricket. The question of the hour, at least in my clearly degenerating mind, is why the owners of a surname with an origin in Pressing and Packing Herring haven't pulled themselves together sufficiently to find a replacement for their surname of Pecker. Mind you it's a rich tapestry, and possibly future generations will all follow the David Pecker trend of using the more modern meanings in their inherited names to inspire their life's calling. And come to think of it, I have sometimes wondered about the possibilities of making candles, its the whole nut eating perfumed come to Jesus hot wax thing that kind of puts me off.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Slang-Whanging

"By tricky use of words one can have power over others."  Then there's "Pseudo reality created by mere words." And there's Orwell's rather rigidly sensible "Stereotyped jargon consisting of formulas and empty slogans, whose purpose was to prevent people from thinking outside the boundaries of collective thought."  And there's a rarely used but a wonderful expression "Slang-whanger" which has been used to describe successful practitioners of this art and in my view at least slang-whanger is a much better conceptualization of this whole area of social interaction than Dawkins' inadequate little 1976 word, meme, or the beast of the Political Correctness, or the whole plethora of contrivances that fall into the category Talking Points, all of which fall into the class of Government by Logocracy.

Mind you, and worth bearing in mind the benefits of some form of logocracy, or government by words, because there was a time when a reputable member of the political class would react to such an accusation as "Sir, you are a scoundrel and a slang-whanging bounder," by his requesting pistols at dawn or calling out his military wing. It's not that I haven't been around a bit, I wasn't always a shut-in, and I'm very well aware that the word whang, whanger, whanged has in some parts of the world a use associated with the anatomy of boys, but at the same time given the current political climate, its ire and its many scandalous behaviors, this meaning in the whang part of the expression would seem, in my view at least, to add to the charms of the expression "Slang-whanging" as a really very appropriate all encompassing description of wide swathes of our public discourse.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Winter Projects

Some of us might have got themselves a little too involved with their Winter Project. And it's true all Winter Projects for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are essentially a devious attempt to avoid obsessing on the possibilities of hibernation, the obvious culprit the creator for his, her or its shortsightedness in his, her or its determination to produce entertainment by devising the elements of a species doomed to aimless wandering in its wretched search for calm. Then with the food source secured your correspondent heralded a new beginning by determining that wishing he could hibernate through the short days just wasn't working, and better to find an alternative winter activity that actually lay within the possibilities of his genetic inheritance. Sadly with an unseasonable warmth, humid winds, thunder storms, spotty sunshine and the panoply of green giving every impression of being on the verge of burst, up from the river there came the sound which in times past had filled being with a sense of hope, enthusiasm all of it reflected in expressions of serenity, but because of over commitment to his Winter Project your correspondent's reaction to this sound was a long way from decent.

Pseudacris Crucifer is the culprit. Crucifer is that sort of tall cross that's carried in procession during Christian religious events. Pseudacris has to do with pseudo, meaning false and acris meaning either acres or air or for some reason or other sharp. A little mysterious, but let's just go for it, not get to involved in a whole Penrose, Chad, Domhnall digression, indeed I suspect that acris is a general name for possibly Frogs that will insist on shattering the ambiance of warm evening with high pitched chirping that just goes on and on and on.  Much easier to call them Spring Peepers than False Sharp Airy Acres Processional Crosses, and yet for those of us who are reluctant to come to the end of their cave dwelling Winter Project, the second title seems incredibly appropriate. Either way, how ever you want to think of it, over commitment to a Winter Project is clearly symptomatic of a mind wholly engaged in the process of rapidly degenerating and I would argue is yet one more demonstration of why it is necessary to add an amendment to the US Constitution that places an age limit of something like 56, Julius Caesar's age when he became Tyrant, on our elected representatives, our Justices of all stripes, our billionaires...... and its a very long list.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Tapping the Admiral


Given the date I will attempt to compare and contrast the distinction between a Bucket and a Keg with special reference to how to better conceptualize words and meaning. No word or words in particular, just any word you want, "presidential harassment" if you'd like to and by meaning I am using an understanding of Being as Meaning. The main difference between a bucket and a keg is that while both may contain something, odds are it's easier to see what a bucket contains. And when it comes to carting either type of container around the content of a keg is more likely not to spill out. And yet there's the illuminating story of Tapping the Admiral. When Horatio Nelson was killed at sea, instead of being tossed overboard which was the traditional lot of most sailors who died at sea, his body was placed in large keg of rum so that his remains could make it home without getting eaten by rats or whatever. When the keg was opened, Nelson's body was fairly well preserved, but the keg contained no rum. One argument presented was that because the seal on the keg of rum had been broken, sailors had had access to the rum and on the long sea voyage home they had succumbed to temptation and they had Tapped the Admiral.  Me, I blame the mortician in Portsmouth who opened the keg. Nonetheless, whoever you want to blame for taking the rum, kegs are not always as secure a depository for the meaning of a word as the casual observer might assume.

At the same time it was untoward behavior that Tapped the Admiral, and in the process changed the meaning contained within the Admiral's Keg. With buckets, stuff can easily spill out and when it does the spillage is usually unrelated to deliberate behavior but not necessarily, much depends upon the willingness of the bucket carrier, a little spilling lightens the load, done it myself. There again, it's possible that owing to a structural deficiency, rough seas, something like that, rum leaked, drip by drip from the Admiral's Keg. The other thing to keep in mind is that even in the 1970's good home made cider, not the corporate stuff, wasn't really cider unless the fermentation vat contained some sort of meat product which would suggest that back in the early 18th Century any delicacy around something like an Admiral in a keg of rum wouldn't necessarily have been a high priority on the continuum of niceties. We could of course just sit here hooked up to the flashing lights of a technical device, watched over by dictionaries, but no doubt language is our tool of choice when exploring the experience of meaning, which in the end is an exploration of the wellsprings of meaning which over the generations have poured forth from our being in a free and abundant manner only to find themselves gathered up and popped into a keg, or ladled into a bucket and subjected to no end of nefarious and often very disgraceful tapping.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Pundit

The word Pundit goes back about 3,500 years. I'm told it's a Sanskrit word which was used to describe a person of erudition, wisdom and learning. Of the many Hindu Castes, the Brahmin Class was the highest ranking class, and if you had a question, or wanted to get married, or wanted to know when to plant the crop, or wanted to improve your chances at blissful oblivion in the next life it was the Pundits of the Brahmin class who had the answer to everything. During the British Occupation of the Indian Subcontinent the English used the word Pundit in two ways. The first way was to describe a local expert in local traditions and laws who'd advise the British Justice System within the territories the British controlled. A useful sort of thing for an occupying force attempting not to aggravate too many of their Empire's many and diverse subjects.

 The other way the English used the word Pundit was when for example they wanted maps of and information about territories they did not control but hoped to soon. This second kind of Pundit was basically a spy, or a double agent who in the furtherance of their own ambitions would disappear into the unknown and come back with useful information. Some time toward the end of the British Empire the word Pundit earned the category of a derogatory term and came to mean something like a Talking Head, a worse than useless rabble rouser expressing subversive unsubstantiated opinions for the highest payer. And now welcome to the 21st Century, where our Pundits are better than your Pundits, our Pundits can chew gum and  tie their own shoelaces at the same time, yours can't, and so on. It's a rich passionate dialectic, which would be huge fun to watch if you lived on the potentially habitable planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, only four and a quarter light years away.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Winifred-ness

 Saint Winifred's been painted. Always a depressing process, she looks a tad wan, and even though I associate her more with the color green, she has no green anywhere on her structure. I had thought about her necklace, which is the scar around her neck where her head was miraculously reattached and I'm beginning to think I should pursue that aspect of her time on earth by considering something chain related that travels her balustrade and this necklace-like accent on her structure could well be green. Absolutely no chance I could make anything like a chain, so I thought maybe sewing thread. There's a way you can twist lengths of string so they twine upon each in such a manner that they begin to possess chain-y-ness, but then there's the problem of the distance between Winifred as she was upon earth and the jailer aspect that anything like a chain might suggest.

 I remember years and years ago a night watchman explaining to me the relationship he had with his Prophet Mohammed. The Watchman was a man prone to the belief that much of humanity dwelled in an abyss of ignorance, and high flown matters had to be explained slowly and patiently. He claimed that each one of us had a chain from our being into the clouds. At the other end of the chain was the Mighty One. And if someone was behaving in a particularly untoward manner the Mighty One would tug on the chain. The thing was that each of us had a responsibility to ensure that their own end of the chain was kept well oiled to protect it from rust. And here, he explained, the oil wasn't like bicycle oil, the oil was doing stuff like saying your prayers, demonstrating an occasional moment of charity and so on. As well there was a degree of accusation in his eye when he enquired after the condition of my own chain, his point was that if the Mighty One tugs at your chain and it breaks, then you're  pretty much doomed to an eternal purgatory. So I got that on the side of the green chain argument for Winifred's bridge, her chain was always in perfect condition and still is.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Domhnall of Ogilvy is a Bridge

"I am what I am," is possible the most feeble excuse conceivable for abjectly appalling behavior. That said, there are areas, such as idleness around learning the rudiments of spelling which might have a series of possible good excuses. There's dyslexia, which is up there at the top of any kind of top ten list, and down somewhere near the bottom along with too many hours spent in Spelling Detention is a sort of sneer at the Champions of the Spelling Bee which goes something like, "some of us have better things to do than pour over the 18th Century meaning of the word work in order to persuade Supreme Court Justice originalists that work includes what sub-contractors get paid to do." And by the way it's also true that February is by far the longest month in the year, April just zips by.

Anyway, not to get too carried away, after a sleepless night, and a long arduous road trip which failed to produce a Model Shop which had as the saying goes "Up and Left" robbing me of an opportunity to purr at the many and sticky corporate elements of N scale I have added the name Domhnall to my spell check.  A sad day, I know, but I have chosen simply to call myself a sinner in whom there is no hope, and I am endeavoring to find solace in the understanding that Saint Domhnall of Ogilvy's wife and nine daughters wouldn't even have heard of the English name Donald. They would have spoken Gaelic and so basically I'm sinning no more than aiding and abetting that majority of our Supreme Court Justices who apparently exist in an alternate reality and probably have had the misfortune to have never spent a second of their formative years in Spelling Detention..

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A deeply flawed person

A Holy Roller Sunday. Check all assumptions at the door. It's a direction that does not come easy to your correspondent, whose primary source of inspiration goes something like, "I don't care what anybody says, I will insist..." He then nibbles around a subject, such as the effort any one of the hundreds and thousands named Donald needs to produce in order to be deemed worthy of respect, and he comes away totally unsatisfied as he dwells upon the possibility that "it doesn't matter if Donald of Ogilvy was called Donald."  I guess it's a sort of "poison ivy by any other name" type muddle of meaning.  And it was while nibbling around for alternatives that your correspondent reached for the Dewi Sant solution to the visceral reactions he was having to the name Donald. Obvious really, just had to search the source languages for the more original name of a genuine medieval saint who these days has the misfortune to be referred to as Saint Donald of Ogilvy.

The English name Donald derives from a series of mispronunciations of both Norse and Gaelic names. There's Ronald which comes to English from the Norse, Rognavldr, and there's Donald which comes from the Gaelic, Domhnall. Both Norse and Gaelic names tricky to spell, impossible for an English tongue to pronounce, nonetheless my reaction was blissful, the Saint of Ogilvy was Gaelic and clearly he was Saint Domhnall of Ogilvy. Had I left it there, all might have been well, but Rognavldr means advice, decision, ruler, and  Domhnall means world ruler or world wielder. It's the sort of discovery that really does put a person off even attempting to rectify his own character flaws. At the same time, as far as I'm concerned, and I don't care what anybody thinks, this whole idiotic "I am what I am" approach creates a ranting and raving rubber room reaction in me. Saint Donald of Ogilvy, the man, and I do feel a little shaky saying this, is easily worth a Gormenghast bridge. He was a Job like character, but without the vices.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Saint Odran

Waterford is a port town in the south eastern part of Ireland. In the 900's Viking raiders took control of the area and settled. The Irish managed to dislodge them, a couple of years later the Vikings were back and what with one thing an another, this time they remained and in many ways Waterford became a bulwark for the Norman kings of the English in their avaricious schemes to occupy Ireland. "Bang the drum, why don't you!" I hear the call. Well the Vikings, many of whom were by the late 900's paying lip service to The Beatitudes cast about for a Patron Saint for Waterford. They chose the genuine medieval Saint Odran. Certainly the region in Ireland between Limerick and Waterford, called Tipperary had a claim to Odran who'd spent 40 years of his life building a church in a mining area called Silvermines, a little west of Limerick, and it's possible the Vikings just said "why not this Odran character." Nor am I a big fan of Vikings, suspect that of the collections of genes in my own gene pool the Viking part is to blame for foul temper, intemperance around vanilla ice cream, blind intolerance and so on, but I'd still like to think that even the Vikings would have put a little more thought into their choice of Patron Saint for Waterford. The point being that Odran was a great deal more than a fine and diligent priest in a small mining town. And fair warning to those who might be drifting off, this is a long complicated story with hundred's of footnotes, and yet it is the central argument for a Gormenghast Bridge being called Saint Odran. The man was a pillar of Medieval Saints and while some might argue he may have been a little slow, there's no question in my mind that Saint Odran was amongst the brightest of  stars in the often very ugly firmament of ambition and intrigue so many of the infinitely less worthy so called saints fell prey to.

Iona is a small island in the southern Inner Hebrides, and when Saint Columba led a mission of 12 Celtic priests from Ireland to save the souls of the incredibly pagan Picts and the Scots they chose the Island of Iona as their base of operations. If you're interested, the mission, which included Saint Adran, crossed the choppy seas between Ireland and the Inner Hebrides in a wicker currach, which is the Irish version of a Welsh Coracle, and rather sweetly there's another Irish name for currach which has the feminine diminutive and translates into English as "little holy one" or "little girl saint." Either way, Columba had his priests were having a few initial problems with the foundations of their mission's headquarters. Every morning the previous days work had crumbled to the ground. Saint Columba suggested that Odran, who'd already spent forty years of his life building a church in Tipperary might give consideration to the old Celtic tradition of Foundation Sacrifice. To cut to the chase, foundation sacrifice was all about killing someone and burying them under the foundations of new stone buildings. With the Christian Church, some might argue, this was truly Picts and Scots type behavior, and anyone who suggested such a thing was expressing some very un-saintly views. But apparently not, in the interest of doing his bit, and possibly he was just tired and emotional from the stress of dealing with the Moses like attitude of Saint Columba, Odran agreed to be buried alive under the foundations. It was like a miracle, week after week work proceeded a pace. Then one day Odran poked his head out of the ground and he said, "there is no hell as you suppose or heaven that people talk about." Always dispute around these things, by some accounts Saint Columba ordered Odran to be dug up and buried in consecrated ground. By other accounts,  removing Odran's corpse would have rather defeated the whole point of a Foundation Sacrifice, so Saint Columba directed others to simply cover Saint Odran with more earth. Damn right Saint Odran deserves a bridge, and to be Patron Saint of a Viking Town.

Friday, February 1, 2019

A Wall In Libya

The Rome of Romulus and Remus was a small territory surrounding the seven hills of what is now Rome. Soon enough Romans took control of the entire Peninsular of Italy. Then in 476 ad the Western Roman Empire collapsed, Italy divided into regional states controlled by regional Princes, and Italy disappeared as a united country until 1800's when once again a social movement inspired the Peninsular toward the more romantic idea of a unified Italy. In 1871 Rome again became the Capital of Italy. Back then to really make its mark on the world a country needed colonies. Italy looked around for likely spots on the Horn of Africa, came away with the beginnings of an Italian East Africa, and in 1911 they decided to take Libya from the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans had no control of the sea, no question of reinforcing their Libyan garrisons and the Ottoman soldiers were forced into a series of guerilla actions, none of which ended well for Istanbul. Much of Libya is desert, it goes from a reasonable well watered coast in the north and as you go south it's basically down to a more nomadic existence of sheep and goats in hilly terrain, until you reach miles and miles and miles of sand rock and if you can get water there are plenty of places to hide. Libya is also the 17th largest country in the world, it's not big on the census but in 1911 the population would have been well less than a million souls.

 I mention all this because during the Italian occupation of Libya, great swaths of the country remained wholly independent and for Italian leadership this became increasingly unacceptable, particularly when the indigenous people reckoned they should be treated fairly by their overlords. And it was in the 1920's, with fascism on the rise, economic problems at home that Mussolini dropped all pretence of being an elected Prime Minister and basically became dictator. He turned his eyes to Libya and he directed his army to embark upon a campaign to subdue all of Libya's many factions and get them all to start behaving like conquered people and pay their taxes without demanding something in return.  It was a brutal business, suspect tribal groups were rounded up and put into concentration camps, land was confiscated, there were public executions, reports of mustard gas being used against villagers. All of which seemed to only encourage the insurgents and it started to cost the Italian Government more and more. Pride has it's place of course, but what with one thing and another it was decided to cut off the insurgent's eastern supply lines, the gun runners from Egypt who'd been much encouraged by the problems the Italian Empire was having in Libya. Again and again military attempts to cut off the supply lines failed, so the Italian Army went into the wall building business. It wasn't so much a Hadrian's Wall as it was a barbed wire fence and it ran about 160 miles south from the Mediterranean to where the Sea of Sand begins. The question, did the wall work? Well in conjunction with pretty much a third of the indigenous population of  Eastern Libya being starved to death in concentration camps and the remainder deported, their property and land given over to Italian Colonists, the Italian Military called it a win.