January 31, 2018

Final panels of 'Hot Box' (1954)


King Kirby

I recommend this fine book. From the introduction by Neil Gaiman:

And it's the Iggy Pop and the Stooges title from 1973 that I think of when I think of Jack Kirby.  The album was called Raw Power, and that was what Jack had, and had in a way that nobody had before or since.  Power, pure and unadulterated, like sticking knitting needles into an electrical socket... 
Jack Kirby created part of the language of comics and much of the language of super hero comics.  He took vaudeville and made it opera.  He took a static medium and gave it motion.  In a Kirby comic the people were in motion, everything was in motion.  Jack Kirby made comics move, he made them buzz and crash and explode.  And he created... 


0:27 I can't even...

January 29, 2018

Searching an empty, dangerous room

After a global fundraiser, a plea to Pakistan's Army for help, an ill-timed snowstorm and a daring overnight climb by a team of volunteer rescuers, French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol has been rescued from Nanga Parbat, one of the world's tallest and most dangerous mountains. 
But her Polish climbing partner Tomasz "Tomek" Mackiewicz, whose life she was attempting to save had to be left behind. 


Nanga Parbat, even more than K-2 or Everest, is the final boss of the great game of Himalayan alpinism.  It is monstrous, forbidding, sacred, and for a certain kind of adventuresome person, irresistable.
Bring it, mortal.

E.R. Eddison gave these words to the narrator in chapter one of the first volume of his Spinozan Zimiamvian Trilogy, Mistress of Mistresses:
I remember, years later, his describing to me the effect of the sudden view you get of Nanga Parbat from one of those Kashmir valleys; you have been riding for hours among quiet richly wooded scenery, winding up along the side of some kind of gorge, with nothing very big to look at, just lush, leafy, pussy-cat country of steep hillsides and waterfalls; then suddenly you come round a corner where the view opens up the valley, and you are almost struck senseless by the blinding splendour of that vast face of ice-hung precipices and soaring ridges, sixteen thousand feet from top to toe, filling a whole quarter of the heavens at a distance of, I suppose, only a dozen miles. 

Before the first person ever got to the summit, in 1953, 31 had died trying.  Dozens more would follow.  Even Messner, one of the few high altitude specialists to survive to retirement age, lost toes and his brother here in 1970. 

Some of the credit or blame for all this must go to Hermann Buhl, the brilliant Austrian who made that legendary first ascent.  It was simple, if not easy:  he woke up and told his climbing partner it was time to go.  His climbing partner sensibly urged him to go on ahead, said he'd catch up later.  So Buhl went on ahead, into the arena, to dice with death.

How hard could it be?

Forty hours later - after an overnight standing bivouac just beneath the summit...

As depicted in the 1986 movie, The Climb

...he staggered, hallucinating, back into camp, having completed the only solo first ascent of an eight thousander without oxygen, ever.

A year later he made the first ascent of Broad Peak, another eight thousander, and died on another climb a few weeks after that.  But the legacy he left behind - climbing by fair means, total commitment to the objective, being willing to take the big risk - inspired a generation of climbers, and got a large number of them killed.

“Mountaineering is a relentless pursuit,” he once said. “One climbs further and further yet never reaches the destination. Perhaps that is what gives it its own particular charm. One is constantly searching for something never to be found.”

January 28, 2018

Mothers of the nation

In 1666, after three generations of French colonial presence, Louis XIV’s minister for the colonies, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, complained that Frenchmen who wanted to trade—mostly for furs—still had to communicate in the natives’ language.

Part of the solution to this was to send out well-brought-up French girls, filles à marier, to marry the settlers and create French-speaking homes. Among them were the famous filles du Roy, ‘king’s daughters’, mostly orphans from bourgeois families, whose travel and subsistence costs—and in some cases dowries—were borne by the Treasury. 

Some nine hundred of them were sent out between 1665 and 1673, to boost the population (3,215 according to the census of 1665), and improve the sex ratio (2:1 male to female). 

Fortescu-Brickdale, Arrival of the Brides

Although the intendant of the colony, Jean Talon, told Colbert that he would have preferred village girls, ready to work like men, rather than these delicate young ladies, they seem to have been a good investment. The population of Nouvelle-France reached 20,000 in 1713 and 55,000 in 1755. The fertility rate averaged a whopping 7.8 children per woman.

- Ostler, Empires of the Word

The Wikipedia article on the founder effect makes special note of Quebec:
While the French Canadians of Quebec today may be partly of other ancestries, the genetic contribution of the original [8,500 or so] French founders is predominant, explaining about 90% of regional gene pools, while Acadians (descended from other French settlers in eastern Canada) explain 4%, British 2% and Native American and other groups contributed less.

January 27, 2018

A compilation worth owning

I Know You Got Soul
Eric B. Is President
I Aint No Joke
Paid In Full (Seven Minutes of Madness)
Follow The Leader
Lyrics Of Fury
Microphone Fiend
Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em
In The Ghetto
The Punisher
Know The Ledge

January 26, 2018

Where the cultural boundaries are

This data visualization fascinated me: the #1 song on YouTube in 3000 cities worldwide (I think in a 1-month window ending 12/17/2017).

Look at the US and it's borders, internal and external:

If you look at the site, you'll see that Havana (Camila Cabello) and Perfect (Ed Sheeran) are international mega-hits. But the three biggest rap songs Gucci Gang (Lil Pump), Gummo (6ix9ine), and Rockstar (see previous post) are uniquely popular in the United States.

Have a listen to Gucci Gang and you'll scratch your head see why:

I don't see what the Chinese government is worried about

Finally, I'm old enough to be shocked by the music kids are listening to these days.

Here's a rap song that's been on the Billboard's Hot 100 for 18 weeks, peaking at #1 back in December, and currently at #3: Rockstar by Post Malone.

(The video is a tad violent.)

The song's opening verses:
I've been f**king hoes and poppin' pillies
Man I feel just like a rockstar 
All my brothers got that gas and they al-
ways be smokin' like a rasta 
F**kin' with me, call up on a uzi
And show up, name them the shottas 
When my homies show up on your block they
Make that thing to gra-ta-ta-ta
To be honest, I have started to use the phrase poppin' pillies when I take my daily meds/supplements or four Advil for my arthritis.

January 25, 2018

Glashutte on clearance

Get 'em while they last!


January 23, 2018

Battleground: Alberta v. Saskatchewan

Alberta would obviously win, but how much effort would it take to crush and subjugate Saskatchewan?


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Then there was the time Jack Kirby did a big project based on The Prisoner, and never published it.  Just $79.99...July 10th, 2018.  (link)

January 22, 2018

"I think I am a completely normal person now"

Ummm - no.

And also...
"Lauda retired early on in the race, unable to blink because of facial burns from his accident in Germany." - Wikipedia

January 21, 2018

The Economist appeals to reason

This is a bad time for the special relationship to be under strain

Populists on both sides of the Atlantic are dragging Britain and America apart

This is fine article, particularly the peroration.  Some choice bits:

It is tempting to see the embassy fiasco as a metaphor for the state of Anglo-American relations. The special relationship is more important now than it has been since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The obvious reason for this is Brexit: there would be no better way to get Britain’s post-European future off to a good start than to strike a trade deal with the world’s biggest economy. There is also a subtler reason. Britain and America are both liberal champions that have been shaken by populism. Strengthening their ties, which were forged in wars against Nazism and then communism, is a good way of reminding both countries of their common liberal heritage.

. . .

But at the same time the special relationship has never been more imperilled. It was shaken by the Iraq war, which associated the relationship not with national liberation but with lies, incompetence and strategic disaster. 

. . . 

Ever since Theresa May barged her way to the front of the queue of foreign leaders waiting to pay court to the newly elected president, holding his hand and promising a state visit with all the trimmings, Mr Trump has been nothing but trouble. He has promised to provide the prime minister with her all-important trade deal, but has done nothing to turn hot air into boring old policy. He has thrown a succession of verbal hand-grenades that have forced Mrs May to put the state visit on the back burner, retweeting inflammatory videos endorsed by the far-right Britain First and insulting everybody who lives south of the River Thames, which includes the author of this column. The special relationship makes sense only if it is undergirded by shared values. Yet Mr Trump has made such a habit of trashing liberal values that 75% of Britons don’t trust his handling of world affairs.

. . . 

Tony Blair was only the most recent prime minister who persuaded himself that he could act as Greece to America’s Rome. He ended up acting not as a Platonic guardian but as a rather tawdry cheerleader. 
. . . 

Since the Iraq debacle, it has been fashionable to argue that the special relationship is a dangerous illusion sustained by Britain’s nostalgic desire to punch above its weight and America’s liking for yes-men. This is mistaken. The Anglo-American relationship is special because it is both deeper and broader than almost any other bilateral one. Deeper because America has borrowed so much from Britain, from common law, to joint-stock companies, to a version of the English language. Broader because the countries have intimate relations on every front, from economic, to cultural, to military.

. . . 

The proper way to deal with the special relationship is not to romanticise or rubbish it, but to re-galvanise it. It has been repeatedly reinvented as communism, and then terrorism, took over from Nazism as the main threat to the world order. It needs to be updated once again. The British and Americans must recognise that they share common histories and ideals that are far too deep to be dislodged by a pair of popinjays. And they must realise that they have a common duty to cherish those ideas for a world in which authoritarian populists are on the march.


Look, the Belichick-Brady era is the bottle of Half and Half that expired 3½ weeks ago. Every extra January is a miracle. We get it. We know the White Walkers are coming. It’s fine.   - Bill Simmons


January 20, 2018

Three and a half text news sites

Because fuck the 2018 Internet.

Reuters RSS page gives a similar effect.

January 19, 2018

One-way knowledge transfer

Entering Mexico, this new virgin territory for the Church, where bilinguals hardly existed at any level of society, the Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian friars immediately realised that they would have to work through the people’s own languages if they were to make serious progress in spreading the faith. This meant the languages would have to be learnt. The population to be contacted was vast: many million to set against the 802 friars present in Mexico in 1557. Clearly, this was work for many generations. And since there would necessarily be a circulation of missionaries, with old ones retiring and fresh recruits coming out from Spain—i.e. the tradition had to be carried on without the natural transmission of languages through raising children—the languages would have to be taught afresh, over and over, to each new generation of adult learners. For the first time in the world’s history, there was a clear demand for language-learning textbooks, specifically grammars (’Artes’) and dictionaries, as well as native-language versions of the prayer books and confessionals that were the tools of the Catholic missionary’s trade...

[Footnote:] Almost all the dictionaries are from Spanish into the alien language, not the reverse. The aim is to teach, rather than to learn: to encode a Spaniard’s thought, and so pass it to the Indians, rather than to try to decode anything novel that they might have to say.

- Ostler, Empires of the Word

January 16, 2018

"Hello Police? Chris Paul tryin' to beat me up!"

January 15, 2018

I heard that was an exciting finish

I feel this is what rock music has been missing

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, from their 2016 album Nonagon Infinity

Dan Gurney (1931-2018) was Hard Core

It always amuses me when I hear men disparage minivans as though they are to be driven only by women. I think so often of our friend Dan Gurney, racing legend extraordinaire and a man to be taken seriously in every way. For the past several years Dan has been driving Toyota minivans and having a hell of a lot of fun doing it. He says he always orders his with as few trinkets or extras as possible to keep the weight down, but does get the good wheel/tire package.

"Some time ago I was driving up toward Mammoth Mountain ski area when a guy in a BMW X5 went by me. So I raced with him all the way to Mammoth and took him quite by surprise. I had a similar episode on the local toll road when a Mercedes M-Class AMG went by and I tucked in behind him and we had a lot of fun until I finally blew on by. If you keep the weight down, minivans are really a kick to drive."


Gurney began racing in 1955 and won in nearly every racing series he attempted. He drove for Ferrari, BRM, Porsche and Brabham in Formula One, then formed his own team. He won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1967 in his own car, the first and only time an American won an F1 race in a car of his own design.


"[At Spa in 1967] our car ran 196 on the fastest part so...you had your work cut out for you."


January 14, 2018

Not bad

One thing I had not noticed is that Allman manages to play slide guitar in duet with a horn section (extra credit: without crowding Aretha). Does it again here with King Curtis (I never gave that version a chance but geez, listen to that note they hit at 0:40 and the band groove at 1:25).

The language will lead them

[The] attempt to capture likely lads and train them up as interpreters was never a great success, although persisted with for thirty years or so. It caused resentment when candidates were taken by force—the native populations of Taino Indians already had bitter experience in their own culture of raids by neighbours for enslavement and human sacrifice—and far too often the apprentices died in the unnatural setting of life in Europe. 

More effective was the natural process whereby an isolated Spaniard, shipwrecked or on the run from his own people, would take up life in an Indian village, and so get to know their language, before returning to actas interpreter. There are a good dozen such cases on record. One of these turned out to be crucial for the first Spanish advance into the interior of America, when in 1519 Cortés penetrated to the heart of the Mexican empire. He communicated through a relay of two interpreters, one of them Jerónimo de Aguilar, a Spaniard who had spent eight years in a Mayan village after a shipwreck on the coast of Yucatán, the other the famous Malin-tzin, a Nahuatl-speaking woman from Coatzacoalcos who had been traded to a nearby Mayan community, Xicalango, in childhood...

After the conquests were achieved and Spaniards installed in positions of power, there was little in the new economic order that was established, with native inhabitants of a region assigned to work on the land or in mines, that would have encouraged widespread diffusion of the Spanish language. Repetitive duties among static populations would minimise the need for communication between master and subject. There was nothing analogous to military service in the Roman empire, or the spread of monasteries and universities in medieval Europe, which would diffuse the language of the Spanish masters around their domains. There was, in any case, a constant flow of Spanish speakers emigrating from Spain itself to boost the speaker population. Yet a substantial number of bilinguals would have been needed to organise the work of the natives. They would have arisen naturally as the Spanish immigrants, overwhelmingly male, took Indian wives or mistresses (mancebas) and began to raise families with them. Their children, known as mestizos, would learn both languages from their parents. ‘As early as 1503, the Court recommends to the governor of Hispaniola that some Christians should marry some Indian women, so that they may communicate with and teach one another.’

1770 painting of Spanish man, Indian woman, & Mestizo child (source)

It has been claimed...‘that always language was the companion of empire’.  Garcilaso certainly held the view, still widely held today though not among knowledgeable linguists, that a shared language makes for common understanding and good mutual relations: ‘because the likeness and conformity of words almost always tend to reconcile people and bring them to true union and friendship’.

- Ostler, Empires of the Word

January 13, 2018

The Fool Factor, or Tail Risk Haunts the Warriors Backcourt

The 2017-18 Warriors made various changes to their championship squad, but one of the most important was the addition of Nick Young.  Young is a fool, but a fool who shoots extremely well.  Here he is last night dialing long distance against two defenders:


The moment was indisputably swaggy, and apparently life with Nick Young is full of these.  Steve Kerr, for whom Joy is an organizing principle, has good things to say about the perennially disappointing man-child:
Nick brings a joy to the game and to the team,” Kerr gushed after Monday’s 124-114 win over Denver. “He’s just one of the most care-free guys I’ve ever seen. He wears that joy on his face when he makes shots. He just loves playing basketball and gets it going a little bit. Our whole team enjoys watching that process. He’s great. A really fun guy to have on the team and he’s playing really well for us.

But is he Steve?  IS HE?

Credit Where Credit is Due

Well...(mumbles under his breath), yes.  Yes he is.  There is a problem, but before we get to that,  give credit where credit is due.  Just after the halfway point, the Warriors have played 43 games.  Steph Curry has been out a lot, missing 15 of those.  Kevin Durant has been out a lot as well, missing 10.  And the Warriors still lead the Association in winning percentage, sporting a record of 34-9.  A local radio host marvels that "they're on pace to win 66 and they're not even trying."

Young has to get some credit for this.  As much as I love Shaun Livingston, he cannot be a full-time backup because of his physical limitations.  He gives you 16 minutes a game, but you don't want to push it.  Also, despite his many virtues, Livingston has one major weakness: he will not shoot threes.  Young is a great complement because his range is actually similar to Curry's, which makes it harder for the opposing defense to crowd the paint when the two-time MVP takes a breather.  Curry has an effective shooting percentage this year of 60.8%, Klay Thompson is 58.1%, Young is 57.5%, so there's hardly any drop-off in shooting accuracy when he comes in.

Early in the season, Young didn't know the offense, but he seems to be getting the hang of it, and his cumulative +/- is now solidly positive (although -20 the past two games pulls it down a bit):

If you add Livingston and Young together you get a perfectly adequate third guard:  29 minutes a night, 12 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds.  Both are 6-7 and can defend (Livingston better than Young, obviously), and both create matchup problems against smaller opponents when the ball is in their hands (Young's threes, Livingston's midrange attack).  It all adds up to a plus/minus of +198 season-to-date, so both men can claim a share of the team's success so far.

The Problem

I went back into the game-by-game data to investigate something I thought I was seeing with my own two eyes.  The Warriors don't get blown out often, but, I thought, when things are going sideways Young always seems to be in the mix (Livingston, like Eliot's Macavity, is not there).

So I sorted each man's games by +/- score.  What emerges is: from a +/- perspective Livingston and Young are the same player, except for one thing:

Tail risk.  The bane of America's hedge fund managers, the angel of Victor Niederhoffer's destruction.  Swaggy P is as good a team player as Sensible Shaun most of the time.  But...six times this year Young has been a direct participant in regrettable incidents, unpleasant occurrences, mishaps, and misadventures that Livingston seems to have a knack for avoiding.  Here is the same data visualized another way:

Young gets you range, but also the small but nonzero probability that his airheadedness will help turn that night's Warriors effort into the Poseidon Adventure.

Long ago, Seneca said "joy can only be attained by the wise."  Be careful Mr. Kerr, be very careful.


January 12, 2018

U.S. ambassador to Netherlands is WEAK. Sad!

The embattled U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Hoekstra apologized Friday for making unsubstantiated anti-Muslim claims at a conference in 2015, after his first week in the post was clouded by questions about the incendiary statements.

Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan and recent political appointee, made the apology during an interview Friday with De Telegraaf, one of the largest Dutch newspapers, at the end of a particularly rough introduction for the new ambassador.

“Looking back, I am shocked I said that,” he told the newspaper. “It was a wrong statement. It was wrong.”


January 11, 2018

Here is a good "web page"


Small hole found in universe*


* been waiting 35 years to use that one

Greenland blues

An archaeologist at Hunter College of the City University of New York, McGovern has spent more than 40 years piecing together the history of the Norse settlements in Greenland. With his heavy white beard and thick build, he could pass for a Viking chieftain, albeit a bespectacled one. Over Skype, here’s how he summarized what had until recently been the consensus view, which he helped establish: “Dumb Norsemen go into the north outside the range of their economy, mess up the environment and then they all die when it gets cold.”

. . .

But over the last decade a radically different picture of Viking life in Greenland has started to emerge from the remains of the old settlements, and it has received scant coverage outside of academia. “It’s a good thing they can’t make you give your PhD back once you’ve got it,” McGovern jokes. He and the small community of scholars who study the Norse experience in Greenland no longer believe that the Vikings were ever so numerous, or heedlessly despoiled their new home, or failed to adapt when confronted with challenges that threatened them with annihilation.

“It’s a very different story from my dissertation,” says McGovern. “It’s scarier. You can do a lot of things right—you can be highly adaptive; you can be very flexible; you can be resilient—and you go extinct anyway.”


538 analyzes my second-favorite basketball player

#1 now and always is Shaun Livingston.  However, 538 has done a wonderful analysis of my second favorite player and one of his most interesting...quirks:
Perhaps better than anything else, player statues exemplify what NBA greats were known for during their careers. A bronzed Michael Jordan is soaring over defenders for a dunk in Chicago; John Stockton and Karl Malone look as if they’re completing another successful pick and roll in Utah; and Magic Johnson, who led the Showtime-era Lakers, is leading a fast break. 
If Jusuf Nurkic ever reaches this level of immortality — which, OK, is probably a long shot — his statue would display him getting elbowed in the mouth. The 23-year-old Trail Blazers center is good at many things, but he stands alone in the NBA when it comes to getting whacked in the face.

Apart from his unique ability to get hit in the face, there are many other good things about Nurkic.  In the era where the big man is supposed to be obsolete, he gives you Bogut-lite defense, shot-blocking, and passing, but is also quick on his feet and has an actual low post game.  He can even do a spin move.  Three and D?  How about a dunk in your face AND ONE?

The Bosnian Beast.

Signature quote 1
“We set Zaza screens [in Slovenia].  You set a screen and someone gets injured immediately."

Signature quote 2
"We know I'm not the same guy that I'm supposed to be right now [2017 playoffs].  We all decided to give it a try. The start of the game was pretty OK, a little pain but I tried to fight through. The pain level was high. I played with a broke leg tonight, yeah, I played with pain."

Signature quote 3
“I’m not going to say names, but some of my good friends are OK with scoring 20 points and losing.  I’m not that guy."

Signature quote 4
"If I don't fight for myself, who is going to fight for me?"

Origin story
...is more truth than myth. His cop father, Hariz, really was written up in the local newspaper for his starring role in a brawl that landed 13 people in the hospital. His first agent, Enes Trnovcevic, really did travel to Tuzla, Bosnia, to seek out Hariz and ask whether the larger-than-life policeman (6’10”, well over 400 pounds) had any children interested in translating their genetic advantages to the hardwood. His mother Rusmina, a housewife, really did agree to let Trnovcevic ship off 14-year-old Jusuf to a boarding school in Slovenia, even though her child hadn’t studied the Slovenian language, hadn’t yet hit his growth spurt, and had rarely spent a night away from home. There was also the little matter of Nurkić’s lack of formal basketball training. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I was a minus-10,” he said. “I didn’t even know how to run.”  (link)


Career line so far:  20 minutes a game, 10 points, 7 rebounds, a couple of assists, a block.

He is 23, 6-11, and as pure as a Counter-Strike headshot.  Come to think of it, he'd look good in a Warriors jersey...

Every damn day

CNN Analysis: This is a new rock bottom


January 09, 2018

BBC: Lemurs ripped my flesh

Interesting article on deleted articles

Thing we were happiest to learn: There are some great band names in here. Ant Tantrum. Atoms In Bulgaria. The Beef Seeds. Confederate Air Force. Drugbunny. Evil Pig. Fake Fake. Improper Fraction Arena. Men Without Pants. Monkey Wedding. Peanut Butter Jones. Stoned Jesus. Super Panda. Vegetable Monsters. And everyone’s favorite Brooklyn hipsters, Pick Up The Phone Booth And Die.


January 07, 2018

When an Empire falls

The history of western Europe after the German invasions is the tale of how the kingdoms established by the conquering tribes went on to become distinct nations. Dialectal differences in the Latin that people spoke widened, and wide-ranging travel became less common, as the road system decayed and public order became unenforceable far from cities. No longer was there a Roman army with a common tradition, and troops that might expect to be transferred anywhere. Where literacy survived, principally in the Church, so did written Latin. But this was not enough to maintain any spoken standard. The gap between spoken and written language widened, but without people having any sense of what was really happening, namely that the spoken language was changing. Little by little Latin spelling came to seem more and more irregular and perverse: but this obscurity was acceptable, even desirable, as reading and writing were the preserve of a small elite, mostly clerics and lawyers.

This period, the second half of the first millennium AD, gives us our main evidence of what happens to a universal language in the western European, Christian, tradition, when it begins to lose currency, when people, although still speaking it, begin to lose sight of its vast scope, and live above all in their local communities. Three hundred years after the Goths and Germans had divided up the territories of the empire, it had become extremely difficult for the people of Spain, France and Italy, when they did meet, to understand one another’s speech. The learned, the only ones who would be conscious of the problem, came to call anyone’s ordinary speech an idioma, to be contrasted with the universality of grammatica, which was the normal word for Latin in the Middle Ages.

- Ostler, Empires of the Word

January 06, 2018

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Today the Clippers, tired of watching Curry rain down threes on them, tried a new approach, fouling him at every opportunity. The result: Curry goes 15-16 from the line, scores 45 on 21 field goal attempts in 29 minutes, Warriors take a 30 point lead before the mop-up crew comes in.

Curry's 15 points on foul shots were higher than any teammate's total points.

All of this with Durant out.  Madness.


When the Roman Empire stopped being Roman

There is an interesting pattern to the Byzantine losses in the mid-seventh century. The places that held firm were precisely those where Greek was the majority language, spoken by the people at large and not just elites. 

ca. 650 AD

This had an effect on the linguistic self-image of the Roman empire (for they still considered themselves Roman). Latin had been dropping out of use for some time, losing even its last redoubt in the law: since the time of Justinian, a century before, most legislation had been drafted in Greek; and the emperor’s second-in-command, the praetorian prefect, was now often a man who knew no Latin. The empire still held much of southern Italy, and would hang on to parts of it for another four hundred years, until the middle of the eleventh century. But now for the first time Greek, not Latin, was seen as the unifying language of the whole community...

[L]ooking back from the mid-tenth century, the emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus remarked that it had been in the time of Heraclius that the Romans ‘had been Hellenized and discarded the language of their fathers, the Roman tongue’.

- Ostler, Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World

Byzantium still had gas in the tank, though.  Wikipedia reckons the late peak was 1025, after Basil II's reconquests.

January 05, 2018

Phil Hill's son on the GTO (good with headphones)

Froze my ass off in Chicago, now wind and rain tonight in California, I'm all like...

Showdown at St. Peter's

I enjoyed, perhaps a little too much, the In Our Time podcast on the Concordat of Worms (12/15/11).

As every schoolchild knows, the Concordat of Worms - "an agreement between Pope Callixtus II and Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor on September 23, 1122" (Wikipedia) - tied up some ecclesiastical loose ends and helped clarify the roles of church and state, and, more specifically, the relationship between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor.

The Concordat itself is not without interest, but what I found most diverting was the series of events leading up to the agreement, which included:
  • The excommunication of Henry IV in 1076, which greatly weakened his political position.  (Fun fact:  During his colorful reign, Henry was excommunicated five times by three different popes.)
  • The election by the Germans of Rudolf of Rheinfelden as anti-king of the Germans in 1077.
  • Henry IV's defeat of Rudolf (accompanied by Rudolf's death) at the Battle on the Elster in 1080.
Rudolf dis-armed

  • The betrayal of Henry IV by Henry V in 1106, the defeat of Henry V's army by Henry IV, followed by the illness and untimely death of Henry IV in that same year.

At this point, Henry V has won the field and is clearly the rightful Holy Roman Emperor, both by right of hereditary succession and because the other contestants are dead.  Now all he has to do is get the Pope to crown him.  In Our Time picks up the story:
  • Melvyn - We've got our horse now, because Henry V was the emperor who went to the Concordat of Worms in 1122, so, briskly, what sort of emperor was he?
  • Henrietta Lyser - Well, he gets bad press because he betrays his father.  But, equally, he's also very careful, because he knows what the game is.  So he's very careful, actually, during one of the protracted negotiations with the Papacy...he gets absolution for his father, and he manages to get him re-buried with considerable dignity at Speyer cathedral.  There are so many different fights going on.  So I think Henry V does what he can for imperial dignity.
  • Melvyn - Fine, now we're going to drive towards the Concordat through the investiture controversy. John Gilliam, the Pope at the time of Henry V's coronation was Paschal II, and Henry tries to strike a deal with him over the investiture controversy.  Can you just say what moves they made?
  • John Gilliam - Well, because Henry V had managed to rescue his dynasty - the family dynasty -  by portraying himself as a man willing to make a peace with the popes, unlike his father; a man very sympathetic to the cause of Church reform.  In order to follow logically with that he had to come to terms, negotiate with Pope Paschal II.   And the obvious occasion to do that is when he wants to be emperor, wants to get crowned in Rome.  And so in the year 1110 he marches south with a huge army, perhaps the biggest army the German emperors ever had, thanks to a lot of money he had got from England because he had been betrothed to Matilda, the daughter of Henry I.  And with all that money he goes south with a huge army and meets the Pope's envoys not very far out of Rome at the beginning of February, 1111.
[A deal is negotiated to resolve in the investiture controversy, under which bishops focus on souls, and give up their worldly rents and emoluments.]

  • Melvyn - And then what happened, Kate Cushing?
  • Kate Cushing - On Henry's coronation day, there is an uproar in St. Peter's.  
Welcome to Thunderdome
  • Melvyn - Inside the...
  • Kate Cushing - Inside the the basilica.  The clergy, the magnates, are are horrified.  Henry V then refuses to sign the documents, Pascal refuses then to crown him.  In the uproar, with his very large army, Henry V seizes as many cardinals, magnates, priests, and the Pope, as he can.  

After turning back various rescue attempts, Henry "left Rome carrying the Pope with him. Paschal's failure to obtain assistance drew from him a confirmation of the king's right of investiture and a promise to crown him emperor.  The coronation ceremony accordingly took place on 13 April, after which the emperor returned to Germany..." (Wikipedia)

The moral of that story being, I think: don't fuck with emperors who have large armies in your basilica.  This is one of those special rules that is applicable only on certain occasions, but sure to give good service when those occasions arise.

Later on they patched it all up with the Concordat of Worms.

All good?
All good.

And let history note that Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, was a straight-up badass playa who redeemed his father and his dynasty, compelled Rome to recognize his rightful status as Holy Roman Emperor, and reconciled with the Church, through the judicious use of the  Biggest Army Ever.

And also a faithful servant of God

Respect, sir.


Is everyone enjoying our Fox and Friends presidency?

For those who are not, I suspect the basis of effective countermeasures will be:
  • Respect for the intrinsic value of a human person.
  • Respect for science.
  • The courage to confront.
It should be an interesting year.


The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and was the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site, the previous two having been destroyed by rioters.


January 03, 2018

To be fair, Anatolia, Egypt, and Syria have a combined area of 750,000 square miles...

A vast expansion of the world where Greek was spoken had come about in this way; but outside Anatolia, Syria and Egypt there is little evidence for its everyday use having spread much beyond the community of Greek émigrés.

- Ostler, Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World

Yeah, as bad as you'd think

Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. "I got as far as the Fourth Amendment," Nunberg recalled, "before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head."