Some Monday Links and Asides

In the too cool department: Some animated satellite orbits, with representations of speed, altitude, etc., all linked up so that if you click on anything, you get background information.  Looks like this: 

This is just a picture. The original is animated so that you can get a feel for the relative speeds involved, and has the links.  

I found it trying to research a sky-hook type element for a story, you know, to make it all sciency and stuff, and then of course burned an hour or two checking it out. (Not about to do pages of math to figure this out, but will google around a bit.) Did you know that there’s an  Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee ? I do now. If you go to the link and click on Graveyard Orbit, that’s the kind of stuff that will turn up. 

Not sure if I’m happy or sad there was no internet when I was a kid. 

David Warren is at it again, elegantly and wittily telling us we’re all so, so doomed. He pens such gems as: 

It is the policy of the High Doganate to discourage rioting, even in France.

and 

For many of the older citizens, this must bring 1968 to mind. I know that I felt a twinge (ah, to be fifteen again, and wiser than those passing through their “terrible twos”). Indeed, Paris — where I once learnt the cobbles are numbered on the bottom so they may be put back in place after they’ve been used for missiles — has been unusually peaceful this last half-century. There used to be a revolution every ten or twenty years, and lesser annual uprisings over this and that. I can understand nostalgia.

and

But, according at least to me, the French are not unrepresentative of humankind. 

I have not made it to France yet, although I have flown over it to get to Italy a couple times. Should try to make it before I die, or before Notre Dame is replaced with a victory mosque. Whichever comes first. 

The phrase “sans-culottes” is one of those many phrases or words I have to google every time I see it. Just won’t stick. So here’s an experiment: if I blog about forgetting it, will I remember it? 

If this works, you may be seeing a lot more words and phrases I can’t seem to remember. 

Life in the past is neither rosy nor relentlessly desperate, even if it did run more often than not a lot closer to the relentlessly desperate end of the scale. But just because we would panic and despair if we were forced to live as medieval peasants doesn’t mean they were panicking and despairing. Mostly, it seems their lives were pretty OK by them. They certainly had the time and energy to build a large number of very nice buildings, for example, something relentlessly starving, desperate people can’t really do. You don’t build things that take lifetimes to complete if you’ve despaired. 

Was thinking of the Battle of Towton, specifically the Towton grave. This was the bloodiest battle of the War of the Roses; the Towton grave contains a few dozen of the estimated 28,000 men who died that day. On the one hand, this battle reinforces the notion that the Middle Ages were barbarically violent. On the other hand, the 38 men who were buried in the Towton grave were, first of all, fit enough and far enough from starvation to fight. In an article I of course can’t find at the moment (my google-foo has failed me!) the writers described that the bones were of men age about 16 to 50, mostly sturdy individuals with, for example, their teeth largely intact – at least, intact right up until a broad axe to the face loosened them up a bit.

Even the healed wounds tell of a life somewhat short of total desperation. Most all the skeletons showed signs of healed over injury, many having taken – and recovered from! – blows to the head serious enough to leave evidence of trauma in the skull bones! Yikes! But this shows that wounds were not always fatal, that the Medievals knew enough to take care of them hygienically enough that the body could heal even serious wounds, at least some of the time. 

Life was hard, death was close, but not so hard or close that it was not well worth living to the people living it, it seems. These people were fighting to the death, but not killing themselves in any great numbers. Instead, they built churches. Hmmm.

Thanks to all for the suggestions for what my mother in law might want to watch next. Taking a break from watching shows where good-looking people with charming accents kill each other in beautiful locales, she has settled into watching Heartland, a multi-generational soap opera – with horses! Attractive people with, sadly, bland American accents galavant around beautiful countrysides riding, taking care of talking about horses. The horses are pretty.

The plot and subplots as far as I’ve made out walking through the living room while the show is on seem to involve a lot of dramatic confrontations and arguments. So far, nobody has killed anybody that I’ve noticed. This thing has been in production for 10 season, of which Helen has gotten through maybe 2 – so there’s plenty of time still. 

The few minutes of it I have watched in passing illustrate a plot device similar to the notorious Idiot Ball: drive the plot by having people wildly overreact to every challenge and situation. On my occasional forays through the living room, I’ve seen characters engaged in vein-throbbing confrontations over business ideas, whether somebody loves her horse enough, trespassing, and butting in. Like Idiot Ball, if the people would stay calm and ask and answer a few reasonable questions, life would go on – but the show would not. Every routine interaction must become an existential crisis or challenge to somebody’s manhood or something. 

I’ve not watched more than a few minutes of soap operas over a lifetime to this point. I imagine this craziness is of the nature of the beast? 

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

7 thoughts on “Some Monday Links and Asides”

  1. I mean, compared to this last century and a half, every other millennium of human existence is downright peaceful, especially the Medieval period. The most martyrdoms, the most abortions, and the most wartime deaths. It just astonishes me that people, after the two 20th century wars of attempted imperialist world domination killed something like 120 million people (and those weren’t the worst things humans did to each other over that time period) still consider the Medievals violent! (Not that I think you are saying this, I know you have made similar comments before. I just mean in general.)

    1. Of course. A battle where 28,000 men died is at the top of the list of the most violent actions that medievals ever did to each other, which can’t even compare to what moderns do to each other in supposed peacetime.

      But they certainly had it rough in may ways moderns take for granted. My only point was – not so rough that they despaired. Unlike many today.

      1. I understand completely. It just bothers me that people have the misconception, but like I said I know you know better. I just couldn’t not comment. And yes, they certainly had it rougher; even the wealthiest, most powerful king in Europe was only a little better off than some of the homeless people wandering around Portland these days, considering some of them have RVs or campers and access to at least some modern medicine (though really, is that ‘homeless’?)

  2. The phrase “sans-culottes” is one of those many phrases or words I have to google every time I see it. Just won’t stick. So here’s an experiment: if I blog about forgetting it, will I remember it?

    I’m now associating French peasants with bloggers, on the shared “no pants” aspect.

  3. I’ve spent some time in France, and my impression is that there is an informal French belief that rioting is sometimes the correct response to a provocation from the authorities. (Or from John Duns Scotus, as the case may be). This has made me think: a hypothetical theory that said that people have the right to kill in self-defense but not to wound in self-defense, or that capital punishment is morally defensible but corporal punishment is not, would be a strange social theory. But as I understand it, the consensus of the Catholic tradition is that revolution—the intentional, violent overthrow of a government by its own populace with the aim of replacing it by a different government—is sometimes morally acceptable, but that there is no “right to riot” in the natural law. I’ll take the Church’s word on that, and even by my own lights I’m extremely skeptical of rioting as a tool of positive social change. Its record in this country is remarkably poor. But still, the Catholic position is kind of puzzling. One could argue that rioting uses the destruction of the property of the innocent as a means to an end, while it is merely a forseen but not directly intended effect of revolution; but it’s hard for me to believe that the Church would look more kindly on the whole thing if the rioters limited their vandalism to public property and only targeted policemen with their rocks and bottles. So I don’t know what to make of it.

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