Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mohenjo Daro hits the big screen!

Mohenjo Daro is one of the sites associated with the very ancient Indus Valley Civilization, which is roughly contemporaneous with the earliest Mesopotamian civilizations. They had writing but we can't read it. Thus when somebody decided to produce a movie, named Mohenjo Daro, about this long-ago era, they had to make just about everything up.

The news here is that they seem to have done a good job! At least according to AE Larsen, a scholar who runs a historical movie blog An Historian Goes to the Movies . Have a look at the trailer above. It's gorgeous! Oh, yes, Larsen reminds me that the remake of Ben Hur is imminent. It looks good, too.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Socotra Island: The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth

Well, I just discovered this on another blog: Dark Roasted Blend. It's been around for a long time, and I suspect that it's a treasure house.

Here's some of the "alien" landscape of Socotra Island:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Not quite so welcome

Canada has got a lot of praise recently for its generous attitude towards admitting Syrian refugees. And rightfully so.

But Canadians are not so keen on another group: rich, mainly Chinese immigrants who have been moving into the Vancouver area for years and driving up real estate prices to a more than merely remarkable extent. That real estate boom (and a somewhat different boom in places like Toronto) has a major effect on the national economy as a whole. And it makes it easy to blame foreigners for this unbalanced, potentially perilous situation.

Of course, the word racism comes up, in part because British Columbia has a history of excluding Asian immigrants.

But it's not a simple situation. A recent article in the Globe and Mail discussed at length the fact that different groups of Chinese immigrants don't get along with each other; older immigrants and their children and grandchildren don't feel any great solidarity with new immigrants from other regions.

Here is one Globe and Mail article. There are plenty more. Like this one about the not exactly rich, not necessarily immigrant.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Loeb Classical Library saves civilization

The Loeb Classical Library is a bit over one hundred years old. It was meant to be useful to a wide group of readers -- each volume has not just the original text but also a facing translation into English. As you can imagine many people who had an excellent classical education scorned the project. The poet John Talbot is one of the defenders of the LCL:
I have a little apocalyptic fantasy that involves the collection of Loebs in my local library. It’s a complete set, from Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn to the twilight of Ammianus Marcellinus. The very sight of it is reassuringly tidy: all the sprawling energies of a thousand years of Greek and Roman thought and song, distilled and compacted into these snug matching volumes, the Greek bound in olive drab, the Latin in scarlet. Run your fingers over the spines. Here are The Classics.

Then comes a nuclear holocaust. My local library, like others around the world, is mostly pulverized, but an accident involving molten rubber preserves the case of Loebs intact within a sealed airtight cavity beneath the rubble. Centuries elapse and deposit their layers of sediment. Above ground, the descendants of the survivors plod on, speaking a crude version of English, and when their vestigial civilization is at last stable enough to permit cultivation of the liberal arts, their curiosity turns to the prior civilization, ours, whose evident sophistication is attested only in the occasionally exposed ruin, or in fragments of excavated texts. Of this second category, a half-page of Danielle Steele, the corner of a Dunkin’ Donuts advert, and the odd shred of Paradise Regained are all scrutinized, edited, and interpreted with equal zeal. The fragments are exasperating: they imply a vast literature, and behind it a teeming culture, all tantalizingly out of reach.

Until one day when excavation unseals that underground cavity, and for the first time in so many centuries, sunlight falls on those green and red spines. The whole Loeb Classical Library, dedicated to preserving whatever could be salvaged from an even earlier lost civilization, has itself survived intact. The excavators fall upon the cache and discover not only the English (which they can mostly make out, though it appears to them as remote as Chaucer to us) but also, to their astonishment, on the facing pages, two strange, even more ancient languages, one with an unfamiliar alphabet. Amid a storm of speculations it is posited that the English is the key to the other two tongues, and in time a latter-day Champollion steps forward and reconstructs the grammar of Latin and Greek. His successors, pioneer scholars of the recovered ancient languages, are at first awestruck—what are these voices speaking out of the dust?—and then electrified, as they begin to read and assimilate Homer and Sophocles and Lucretius and Augustine. These voices must be emulated; the standards are daunting but stimulating; though ancient, they point the way to something new. Academies are organized for teaching the new languages; young souls (they will become poets and historians and scientists) are once again smitten by the songs of Sappho and Catullus, the grave brilliance of Thucydides and Tacitus, the searching effervescence of Plato’s Socrates and Aristotle’s dogged earthbound inquisitiveness. The post-apocalyptic world shrugs off its torpor, hums with ideas and energy and hope. I suppose what I mean by all this is that it is good to know that the Loeb Classical Library is there, patiently waiting, in case any civilization (not least our own present one) should require a renaissance.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Kyrgyzstan: horses, camels and traditional costumes

Go see Oodarysh (or horse fighting).

I was wondering whether Oodarysh players or jousters would feel they owned the macho high ground, should they meet. But then I realized that if the jousters I know are typical, they would all want to try the other sport, as soon as anyone would give them 30 seconds of instruction.

Courtesy of the Globe and Mail.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The stakes in the American election

I'm resisting the urge to comment on the presidential election as best I can, but this post by Hunter at Daily Kos is sensible and eloquent:
You may note, readers, that I have little patience for the premise that both parties are equally crooked and that We Might As Well Stay Home, or however it is being phrased in any of its particular election incarnations, and so have little patience for Jill Stein's pitch to Sanders supporters this go-around. We have already put this theory to the test, after all: We were told it would make no difference whether we elected a not-progressive-enough lifelong politician or his counterpart, an overprivileged idiot man-child with a middling business record and no intellectual curiosity whatsoever. We tested the premise, and came away with smoking holes in the ground, wars, worldwide instability, nuclear proliferation, massive deficits, and a global recession.

So, apparently, there is at least a little difference in results depending on whether you elect a not-progressive-enough, too-corporate-connected lifelong politician or an overprivileged idiot man-child spouting gibberish. There are not many opportunities to test political theories in real life, but we have tested this precise one using the entire collected resources of the nation, and been uniquely privy to the results.

There may once have been a time when it was true that there was insufficient difference between the parties to vote for either. It has not been true in my lifetime, however. When one party is proudly implementing voting restrictions against minorities, you are obligated to not merely ignore them, but defeat them. When one party is proposing an ethnic minority be scrutinized, rounded up, and shipped from the country en masse due to the "danger" they pose, you are obligated not merely to snuffle your theoretical disapproval, but to stop them. If you value a supposed American tradition of freedom of religion but suppose that the asked-for closing of the border to members of one particular religion would be an acceptable risk, so long as your own conscience is not sullied by having to vote for someone you don’t like very much either, you clearly believe your conscience to be worth more than other people's children.

You are proudly declaring that you will move forward, you will ford that river to a more progressive future in which racism is condemned and Americans who look different from you or believe different things no longer live in fear—but not if it requires getting your shoes wet. Carry me, my fellow Americans! Carry me across this one more time, and I promise I'll be right there marching with you again when we've reached the next dry road.

If you cannot tell the difference between the rhetoric and policies espoused by the Republican Party during the Obama presidency and that of the Democratic Party during the same period, or between now-nominee Donald Trump and now-nominee Hillary Clinton in specific—and it seems Jill Stein is among those who cannot, or who is willing to at least pretend at it—then you are declaring that those differences are no big deal. The xenophobia, the racism, the angry nationalism, plus the declarations from a sitting House member on the accomplishments of the white race, the insistence that religious rights of employers trump those of their employees, the mocking of the very notion that the American worker might deserve a little more than mere poverty, papers please laws targeting minority drivers and voters—those are all so unimportant to you as to be mere background noise to your own complaints. That does not speak well of your political acumen. It suggests a person who is not, in fact, paying attention.

It is something that can be spouted only by people who feel that the worst abuses of the idiot man-child and his allies will not fall upon them. They are not, after all, the ones being targeted. So the risk can be taken. You can be assured that the people whose shoulders that risk is being heaped upon, however, will notice.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

William Marshal

Some insight on the character of William Marshal. He is lying on his deathbed:

The Marshal called to John of Earley

and said "Shall I tell you surprising thing?"

"Yes my Lord, but do not tire yourself out."

"I don't know what it all means

But in truth I can tell you this,

That for the last three years or even longer,

As far as I know, I haven't had

Such a great lords to sing

As I've had these last three days;

I can truly say as much,

But I don't know that it will please God."

John replied: "My Lord, do sing

For the love of God, if you're capable

Of giving yourself to that. The heart would take comfort

In your body and that would be a good thing,

For your joy would be restored.

It please God, it would be helpful

For it might bring back your appetite."

"Be quiet, John," the earl said,

"Such a song would do me no good at all,

For the people here, I believe,

Would think I was a madman.

Most of them would think, hearing me sing

That I was out of my mind."

He would not sing, nor could he.

Then Henry Fitz Gerold said:

"My lord, in the name of our God of glory,

Send for your daughters,

And they will sing some piece

That will do you good and comfort you."

The daughters were sent for and they duly appeared,

For they were glad to obey his commands.

"Matilda, you be the first sing,"

He said. She had no wish to do so,

For her life at the time was a bitter cup,

But she had no wish to disobey

Her father's command.

She started to sing Since she wished to please her father,

And she sang exceedingly well

Giving a verse of a song

In a sweet, clear voice.

"Joan, sing on as best you can!"

She sang one verse from a routrouenge,

but timidly.

"Don't be bashful when you sing," said the earl,

"For, if you are, you will not perform well

And the words will not come across in the right way;

the words you've just sang certainly didn't."

So the marshal taught her

How to sing the words.

Once the song was finished, he said to them:

"My daughters, go in the name of Christ

Who guards and protects all those who believe in him;

I pray to him to grant you his protection."

As was fitting, they took their leave.

Once they had left his bedside,

He said: "There are five of my daughters,

I believe. If all of them hold together,

So it please God, it could well be

That great good could come of it."

-- From the S. Gregory translation of the History of William Marshal, Anglo- Norman Text Society

Friday, July 29, 2016

Why the Middle Ages Are Important

Back when I was still teaching medieval history at Nipissing University, I was asked to introduce a display on the Middle Ages put on by the North Bay museum @Discovery North Bay. I wrote this script but did not deliver it. Only a handful of people showed up for the opening, so I was able to lead them through the display and make the same points in a more personal way, while discussing the artifacts and reconstructions. It was fun, doing it that way. Nevertheless, coming across this script on my harddrive today, I found that I liked it. So here it is. Note the first paragraph, which explains what I found rewarding about working at a small, obscure university.

Why the Middle Ages Are Important

May 24, 2008

@Discovery North Bay, opening of "Once upon a time..."

I would like to thank @Discovery North Bay for the invitation to speak at today's opening. Nipissing University was founded by citizens of North Bay and the surrounding region because they believed their home region could make an original and worthwhile intellectual and cultural contribution to Canadian life. When the university and the community meet here on occasions like this, we are fulfilling the dreams of those founders.

Why are the Middle Ages important? I don't have to argue today that they are important because the exhibit itself is proof enough. It was not created by professional academic medievalists, but by museum staff who work with the public all the time, and their judgment was that people in Ontario want to know more about the Middle Ages. If their own contacts with the public were not good enough, they could point to such recent films as the Lord of the Rings, or the three different recent movie versions of Beowulf, or the wild success of the Da Vinci Code, book and movie both. None of these modern cultural products show the Middle Ages as they really were. They are all consciously or unconsciously legendary or mythological reworkings of medieval material. Tolkien knew medieval literature better than almost anyone, and was a brilliant and original analyst of Beowulf, among other things, but when he wanted to talk to a contemporary public, he created a whole new world, similar to northern Europe in the Middle Ages but in many ways vastly different. And it's not just modern people who have reworked the Middle Ages to make a point. The anonymous Beowulf poet didn't show his hero as a normal person in normal country in a normal time, but put him in a landscape full of monsters and superhuman challenges. Thus when modern film directors mess around with Beowulf they've got good precedent.

But “Once upon a Time,” even though its title evokes the Middle Ages as a source of modern dreams, is not a mythological treatment. Like scholarship in other forms, it tries to get behind the myths and legends and appreciate the people the Middle Ages in this case the later Middle Ages as the home of real people with real problems and real aspirations, who came up with solutions and created social institutions that are still alive in our own world.

“Medieval” is often used to mean something like “unfathomable cruelty,” a phrase I stole from Carl Pyrdum, a graduate student at Yale, but much that we are familiar with and value in the modern world originated in the Middle Ages. The people who invented the phrases “dark ages” and “middle ages” meant to put down the postclassical era, and inspire people to build a better modern world to rival the great accomplishments of antiquity. Yet we can hardly do without the heritage of the Middle Ages. To take two examples relevant to Canada, both parliament and universities came out of the efforts of knights and warriors on one hand and clerics on another to improve their own society. The original members of the House of Commons were knights, seeking effective and fair government, the original university students and teachers were members of the clergy, seeking to understand theology and law, universal and human order. The Middle Ages created things so large that we hardly appreciate their medieval origins: in pre-medieval times there was no England, no France, no Poland, no Russia. The Romans had fantastic public bathhouses but no mechanical clocks, yet by the end of the Middle Ages every important town in Europe had a public clock. Think of Big Ben next to the British Houses of Parliament and not far from Westminster Abbey or the University of London and you think about our practical medieval heritage.

I hope you enjoy “Once Upon a Time…” which highlights some of the more striking and beautiful accomplishments of the Middle Ages. But I hope you will take a moment, when looking at the artifacts and reconstructions, think about the people behind them: the real medieval people who are the subject of the exhibition, and the real modern people who put it together for you. You'll get a taste of the fascination of the Middle Ages today, but just a taste. I hope it will inspire you to look closer. One thing about history is that no matter how good a given reconstruction is, there's always more. Life is big and complicated and hard to describe. “Once upon a time..." can be the end of your journey to the Middle Ages, but I rather hope there will be a beginning or perhaps a new beginning.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Joe Biden speaks for America

I heard that Joe Biden's speech to the Democratic National Convention was really good so I had a look at it. It surely was a classic American speech. Its very accurate and very straightforward attacks on Donald Trump were appreciated too. What I really noticed, however, was this how the speech revealed something I've noticed before in American rhetoric. Americans have no problem believing and saying that their country is unique and uniquely good, that it includes all the virtues of all of humanity, and always has led and is leading the way into the future, which America owns. (That last bit was pretty much exactly what Biden said at the end of the speech.) How many countries in the world can believe this about themselves? Most of us who do not live in the United States or say China perforce have to take a considerably more modest view of our place in the universe.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The war comes home

Saddam Hussein's Iraq was once known as the Republic of Fear

. There were at least two books with that title. Today I saw in a grocery store the cover of the Canadian newsmagazine Macleans. The cover story was -- you guessed it -- The Republic of Fear. And what country do you think Macleans was talking about?

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Among other things, perhaps the nicest thing ever said about Canada?

Two days ago the Globe and Mail published "Finding a home, away from home," perhaps one of the best articles that it has ever published in my nearly 40 years of reading the paper. It was by Ian Brown, who also showed himself in championship form, and it concerned Syrian refugees in Canada, and the Canadians who have helped them settle here. It struck me as a very balanced account. About halfway through the article this passage appeared, and it struck me as perhaps the most complimentary thing ever said about the country.

When Omer and Aliye register for their health cards, the clerk asks if they want to be organ donors. Islamic scholars are divided on the permissibility of organ transplants, although compassion and saving a life trump doctrine. For that reason live transplants tend to be more common in Islamic societies than the use of organs that have been harvested from dead bodies. It’s a rich and complicated subject. In any event, Aliye declines.

But Omer says yes. Aliye speaks to him in Arabic, and explains the situation, as she sometimes does. The translator checks twice, as well, to make sure Omer knows what is being asked of him. But Omer says yes again.

“This is what they do here, in Canada,” Omer replies. “I am in Canada.”

Of course there is room for a lot of ambiguity in interpreting this episode, but read the whole article, which is among other things about generosity.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Talking Erie Canal: Jack Kelly's Heaven's Ditch

Jack Kelly's Heaven's Ditch has the enticing subtitle "God, Gold and Murder on the Erie Canal." When I first saw it, I assumed that the important part of that phrase was "Erie Canal." I was wrong: the key word is "God."

The western arm of New York State was the stage for some of the most dramatic developments in the United States in the early 19th century. It was large and fertile and potentially one of the best routes connecting the Atlantic Coast to the new Midwestern states. The geographic advantages led ambitious engineers and politicians to dream of a huge artificial waterway, the largest in North America. The same kind of ambition, directed to a different goal, inspired a different kind of dreamer to build godly societies. Western New York became the incubator of many different religious and social movements. People poured into the region in high hopes of striking it rich. Some succeeded, others were disappointed, sometimes times again and again. But winners and losers alike refuse to be discouraged. Western New York, its economy energized by the building of the canal, nourished wild dreams. And among those dreams were dreams of salvation and the creation of a Christian society.

Elsewhere, I have seen this region called the Burnt-over district, a reference to the many religious revivals that sprang up here or came through. The young United States had had a fair number of skeptical irreligious people, with both ordinary people and people of ambition following the founding fathers in rejecting the established religions of the early American colonies. But in the wilderness areas being settled after 1800, there was a revival of enthusiastic Christianity.

Heaven's Ditch is rich in personality sketches and anecdotes that illustrate the religious flavour of social change that took place in the wilderness. No doubt this comes from contemporary newspapers, which the literate if not highly educated American public enthusiastically read. We learn about many self-appointed leaders who went from settlement to settlement preaching conversion to a born-again, Biblical Christianity. More often than not they taught ideas quite different from the mainstream Protestantism which had been dominant for so long. William Miller for instance became famous for predicting that the end of the world would take place sometime around 1843. His prophecies reached far beyond the districts around the Erie Canal. A famous and significant failure-turned-leader was Joseph Smith, the prophet of Mormonism. And there are many more. In the brand-new society by the canal there was a free market in preaching and teaching. It was possible to write a huge new biblical testament such as the book of Mormon, one revealed to you by angelic and magical means, and be seen not as a probable fraud, given your lack of biblical languages such as Hebrew, but as a wonder of the new do-it-yourself society.

Of course it was not all smooth sailing. Richer and more established members of society were very sceptical of the new religious leaders, who they saw as marginal characters with little legitimate qualification to teach or reconstruct society.

One of the most interesting conflicts of the 1820s and 30s was between the Masons and their opponents. The Masons were an old-fashioned movement, devoted to an Enlightenment-style skepticism. In the Revolutionary period many of the Founding Fathers and other patriots were Masons, and as time went on, many of the local leaders of society joined the organization. But as time went on, Masons came to be resented for their domination of local society. Their cult of secrecy was seen as a threat to republican liberty. And when the new revivalist Christianity began to grow, the religious movement of course opposed the Enlightenment Masons.

In September 1826, an apostate Mason named William Morgan was kidnapped by some of his former friends, who were angry with Morgan because he had published a book revealing many Masonic cult secrets. Morgan was never seen again, and no one who actually knew what had happened to him was willing to go public. Morgan's fate became a widespread popular mystery, and more. For critics of the Masons, it proved that the secret society saw itself as above the law. Outrage turned into a movement, and a new political party, the Anti-Masonic Party. The Morgan scandal was the beginning of a great decline of Masonry; as years went on Masons were seen not as an American Enlightenment movement, but as a dangerous conspiracy of vigilantes. The Anti-Masons went on to be a national party that contributed to the formation of the Whigs.

This is just a single example of how the new country on either side of the Erie Canal generated wild, enthusiastic projects which seemingly came out of nowhere but went on to contribute to the mainstream. (Even the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints have to be regarded as such, given their nearly 200-year-long history and their prominence in the Mountain States.) And if American life and culture and politics seem wild and enthusiastic today, Jack Kelly's book reminds us that America comes by this kind of stuff honestly.

This is a very entertaining book, but I do miss a final discussion of how the Burnt-Over District settled down to be an unremarkable part of New York State.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why I didn't join the SCA

I didn't go to the 50th anniversary celebration of the Society for Creative Anachronism, but I did contribute some of my recollections of my very early days in the organization.  Flieg was kind enough to present it three times at the event.  For those who missed it, here is my story of:

I wasn't interested in the SCA – I was a fan

By Steve Muhlberger (Finnvarr de Taahe)

This is a story about how I didn't join the SCA. It might be more accurate to say that it's about how I passed on plenty of opportunities to get in on the ground floor.
We can argue about where the ground floor is but I'll just say that I did not go to the first tournament and I didn't attend a West kingdom event until 1975.
Let's start in 1967 when I moved from Ohio to New Jersey. This made it possible for me to go to the World Science Fiction Convention in New York that year. I was in heaven! While I was there I picked up a lot of free fanzines and announcements of various sorts and bought a few books as well. One of the fanzines was a one-page newsletter that older science-fiction fans will know went on to greater things. It was Locus number one. And in that fanzine was an announcement that there would be a meeting in New York City with the intention of founding an East Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I looked at it said something like, "huh" and paid no further attention. I was not interested.  I was a science fiction fan.
While at the convention I joined the next year's worldcon, called Baycon. It was taking place in Berkeley on Labor Day weekend of 1968,and those who were lucky enough to go had a great old time. Part of the festivities was a tournament put on by the SCA and lots of people were very impressed. Some of them went home and started working on creating their own branches of the SCA.
I was not part of this. I didn't have the money to go to Berkeley so what I got out of it were the handouts that all convention members got in person or by mail. One of them was a guide to the Current Middle Ages, a very practical little booklet written by the SCA which showed how you could put on a tournament in your backyard. I looked at it, said something like "huh, " and thought no more about it. I wasn't interested.
A few weeks after Baycon I started at Michigan State University where I joined the Tolkien Fellowship – something that made me deliriously happy . Other Tolkien fans! At least two of the members, Tracy Brown and Bob McNish, had been at the Baycon and had taken pictures of the tournament. They were trying to sell their friends on the idea of putting on a tournament in East Lansing. They didn't have any luck. Me, I looked at the pictures, said something like "huh," and thought no more about it. I was not interested.
The next year, 1969, I had a bit more money and I got to go to St. LouisCon. Part of this worldcon was the coronation of the first king and queen of the Middle Kingdom. Representatives from both East and West were there to take part, or as they saw it, run the show. For various reasons there was a long delay and several times my friends and I walked through the room meant for the coronation and glanced at people in medieval customs. There weren't very many of them. We didn't even stop to ask them about it. We were off to panels or the book  room or something else more standard and science-fictiony. It's probably just as well I didn't try to get interested because the conflict between the two senior kingdoms over running  the coronation might've turned me off. On this occasion I didn't even say "huh", and I certainly thought no more about it. I was still not interested.
That fall I was back at Michigan State having more fun than ever with the science fiction and fantasy clubs. They were pretty big by now and we had a lot of energy. As Halloween approached, many of us decided to dress up. There was not a lot of consultation about what would be fun and appropriate, but when we got together it turned out that a whole bunch of us had adopted sword and sorcery personas. And then, seeing her opportunity, Signy Dimraedela (Tracy Brown) stepped forward with her Baycon photos in hand, and said wouldn't it be interesting if we did a medieval tournament SCA style? And suddenly I was interested. As were a whole bunch of other people. And that was the beginning of the barony of North Woods, one of the earliest and most dynamic  Middle Kingdom groups.
And that's the story of how I was not interested in joining the SCA.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Is this America?

CBC's Radio program "The Sunday Edition" interviewed Rebecca Solnit and Andrew Solomon on the "Trump phenomenon" and violence in American politics. They were appalled, of course. Solomon said among other things
The gap has got wider and wider and wider ... The Trump phenomenon is so bewildering to the people who do not subscribe to it and feels so urgent to the people who do subscribe to it that I have the sense of a country and people who have no understanding of one other. Many friends of mine have said to me that "I thought I was an American but I don't know if I am if this is going on in our country." And I think that there is a real feeling that the sides are so far apart and that in particular the Republican side is so uninterested in compromise of any kind on any topic no matter how much such compromise might serve the public good I think ...the level of anger and frustration and alienation on both sides has escalated to a point that I have not seen in my lifetime.
I don't know how old Solomon is, but I wonder if he remembers the civil rights movement and the murders and the riots of the 1960s. He certainly does not remember the imposition of Jim Crow to put the African-American population of the South back in their place, but I am sure he has heard of it.

What this all reminds me of is the 1840s and 1850s, where besides the intense battle over the possible extension of slavery to the West, there was a strong anti-immigrant, anti-foreign religion, anti-intellectual movement best seen in the American Party, also known as the Know-Nothings. Of course, there were differences: back then the undesireable immigrants were Irish and German, and the bad anti-American religion was Catholicism. But what really reminds me of today was the possibly apochryphal origin of the name Know-Nothings: "I know nothing...except Americanism." Yes, this is America. Image: The Know-Nothings repel the invading papal hordes.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Donald Trump as eccentric knight errant

Kevin Baker in the New York Times:
...he risks becoming completely untethered — nothing more than the slithering id of a nervous age. He comes off too often as the candidate of “Game of Thrones” America, a bombastic, misogynistic knight errant in an endlessly wandering, unfocused narrative; traversing a fantasy landscape composed of a thousand borrowed mythologies, warning endlessly of a dire apocalypse that never quite materializes.
I've read Arthurian romances like that...