It Ain’t Necessarily So…

A lot of what I’ve been reading, particularly about medieval and Renaissance history, has been traditional accounts interspersed with “Oh duh, that makes perfect sense” moments of something new. Like corsets can’t have been that horrible or women wouldn’t have bought them by the tens of thousands once they became inexpensive to cheap. Other things are a little less obvious (I mean, look at photos of Victorian and Edwardian street scenes. Duh.) but are still intriguing. Continue reading


Culture and Stress

No, this is not a post about angst in academic places, or the latest museum display fight (I’m sure there is one going on, somewhere.) It is about how culture affects how people react to stresses. Sort of, since I’m not a psychiatrist, or psychologist, and I don’t play one on TV.

What brought this to mind was Peter Grant’s post about the upcoming Robin Hood movie.

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G. K. Chesterton and Orson Welles

On a December 1941 Christmas broadcast of his popular radio program, Orson Welles presented part of the Gospel of Luke, the short story “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde, a few other Christmas things, and closed with a most unusual Christmas poem.

It was by G. K. Chesterton, and Welles’s reading came as the US was still reeling mentally from Pearl Harbor.

Fast-forward to 23:00. The text is below.

The Truce of Christmas

Passionate peace is in the sky—
And in the snow in silver sealed
The beasts are perfect in the field,
And men seem men so suddenly—
(But take ten swords and ten times ten
And blow the bugle in praising men;
For we are for all men under the sun;
And they are against us every one;
And misers haggle and madmen clutch,
And there is peril in praising much,
And we have the terrible tongues uncurled
That praise the world to the sons of the world.)

The idle humble hill and wood
Are bowed upon the sacred birth,
And for one little hour the earth
Is lazy with the love of good—
(But ready are you, and ready am I,
If the battle blow and the guns go by;
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one;
And the men that hate herd all together,
To pride and gold, and the great white feather,
And the thing is graven in star and stone
That the men who love are all alone.)

Hunger is hard and time is tough,
But bless the beggars and kiss the kings;
For hope has broken the heart of things,
And nothing was ever praised enough.
(But hold the shield for a sudden swing
And point the sword when you praise a thing,
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one;
And mime and merchant, thane and thrall
Hate us because we love them all;
Only till Christmastide go by
Passionate peace is in the sky.)

Put Castle Here

When you do something regularly for a while, or when your final exam grade depends on learning how to see and evaluate certain terrain and aquatic features, you develop a bit of skill. If your survival depends on reading the landscape properly, the learning curve is a lot steeper. And if you are exposed to something, even though you are not trying to learn how to read the land, after a while you start doing it. I can’t not evaluate a stream as I walk past it. And I can’t go through rolling or mountainous countryside without mentally adding strong points, choke-points, and castles. Continue reading

The Problem of Remembering

Howdy Instapundit readers! Thanks for stopping by.

How important is it to remember unpleasant things from the past? Should they be forgotten, left alone to fade away and disappear? Or do we need to recall, to acknowledge them, and then move on? For individuals the answer varies based on the events and the individual. But for nations, the questions are tied to politics, to national identity, and even to how a country understands itself and its place in the world.

The UIL* social studies test this year is based on a book about the end of the USSR and remembering and forgetting. It seems especially apt, at least to me if not to the students, because western Europe is in the process of trying to decide if they will remember or forget, and if so how much and why. Should Western European civilization, especially German and Scandinavian, disappear? Is the past so specially terrible that it is better for humanity if Western Civilization goes away, bowing to demographics and the need to atone for that past? If not, what should be remembered, and how? For the people of the USSR, especially in Russia proper in 1989-1992, the question was one of memory and survival. Do you ignore Stalin or do you bury him? A few would prefer to praise him. Continue reading

“On December 7th, 1941, a Day which Will Live in Infamy”

Lest We Forget.

What is the lesson of Pearl Harbor, other than not to park all your ships and planes so close together that a few bombing and strafing runs can take all of them out? I don’t know. I have a few ideas, but I’ll leave that to the dedicated naval historians and military historians, who can fight with the diplomatic historians.

Battleship Row Today, looking toward the USS Arizona Memorial.

The US and Great Britain avenged our dead, but the cost… Hard fought and very necessary.

“The tumult and the shouting dies, the Captains and the Kings Depart, still stands Thy ancient sacrifice, an humble and a contrite heart.

“Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget.”

Rudyard Kipling, “The Recessional”

Webb’s Great Plains: Firearms

After some thought, I decided to make this a separate post.

The question arose last week, about why Walter Prescott Webb gave credit to the culture of the Great Plains for favoring the handgun over the rifle. It seems a bit counter intuitive, since rifles could drop a buffalo and a handgun really didn’t do so well. Rifles are long-distance weapons compared to pistols, and if there’s one thing the plains have it is distances. But Webb is thinking like an Indian or a Texas Ranger, and to that he attributes the preference of the revolver over the rifle.

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