Saturday, August 28, 2010

Adorable Squid

Stitch London has produced an 8-metre knit giant squid as well as a lovable smaller version and other sealife.

Update: But wait, that's only the beginning of adorable knit, crocheted or sewn cephalopod goodness.

Elsewhere, the "the adorable yet ill-fated" Billy the Squid. The vinyl toy is reasonably adorable, but does not entirely capture the ill-fated adorableness of the original design from Pascalle Lepas of Zap.

Like Burning Man, Only Different

There's an annual camping event that's been compared to Burning Man, except it recreates a different time, and everyone there is supposed to be in appropriate costume.

I'm referring to Wasteland Weekend, a Mad Max reenactment event or living future history get-together.

They say there will be three Pursuit Specials. I assume there will be some sort of competition to determine which one is actually the last of the V8 Interceptors.

Muslims in America

Although there are about 1.5 billion Muslims world-wide, Pew’s 2007 survey estimates that they only form .6% of the U.S. population. There are higher and lower estimates, but even the most generous only put Muslims at perhaps 2% of the population of the United States.

Unsurprisingly, most Americans don’t know a Muslim personally.

Islam is a diverse religion, and the sects can be at least as different as Catholics and Quakers. In terms of their view of the proper relation of religion and government, Muslim majority nations range from the fundamentalist and autocratic Saudis to a theocratic Iran that struggles with the conflict between that rule and the ideal of consent of the governed, to democratic Turkey, where strong secular ideals restrict the wearing of headscarves by civil servants in public buildings, which would probably be seen as a restriction of the free exercise of religion in the United States.

American Muslims in particular are not a monolithic phalanx of Sharia imposers. According to a 2007 Pew poll, only 50% think their holy book is the literal word of God: about the same as U.S. Protestants. 60% say “there is more than one true way to interpret Islam” 51% are very concerned about the rise of Muslim extremism in the U.S. 62% think life is better for women here than in Muslim countries.

It would be unjust and unwise to treat a U.S. mosque as a symbol of militant Islamic extremism; like treating the Christian cross is a symbol of clerical child abuse.

Argumentum ad un-Americanum

Will Wilkinson responds to the argument that "America’s distinction is that it was the first nation founded on the principle that you have a right to pursue your own happiness without government interference."
Say what? Government programs to promote homeownership are American as flag-flavored eagle pie. The first clue is that there are so many goddamn subsidies for homeownership in democratic America. The second clue is that these subsidies are so goddamn popular with Americans, probably because American culture really does relentlessly assault Americans with the American idea that owning an American house is an essential American part of the best and most authentic American way of American living.

One could go on and on and on and on enumerating the ways in which government in America from the moment of its inception reserved the right to interfere with the individual’s pursuit of happiness, but that would be tedious.

Mmmmmm. Flag-flavored eagle pie. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rauf and his Critics

As far as I can tell, Feisal Abdul Rauf seems to be arguing that nations with Muslim majorities would be better off and more true to Islamic principles, to the extent they don’t already do so, if they allowed full freedom of religion, equitable rights for women, democracy, capitalism, an independent judiciary and the rule of law.

These seem like admirable ideas, but Newt Gingrich, too busy to answer himself, tells us through his spokesman:

Like Lexington, Gingrich recognizes the difference between moderate Muslims and radical Islamists and that the guilt of the 9/11 terrorists does not fall on all Muslims...

For obvious reasons, Americans don’t want to take any chances that radical Islamists who trade in political propaganda could come to dominate the historical interpretation of what happened there and why.

So of course, Americans who think Gingrich speaks for them will reasonably demand that any so-called moderate Muslims prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they are not actually radical Islamists. Guilty until proven innocent is the American way.

Apparently, the British Economist magazine thinks you qualify as “well-meaning” if you believe that “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened [on 9/11]”, which is what Rauf said in a [2001] interview on CBS 60 Minutes. Americans don’t find anything well-meaning about that statement.

Speak for yourself, Newt, but not for me. You do not speak for me. And not for Rauf, another American citizen.

I think that Rauf exaggerates the United States role in making 9/11 possible. But we did fund and arm Afghan militants, and we encouraged the Saudis to do the same.

And that did not end well.

If Rauf is so intent on “improving Muslim-West relations”, then why doesn’t he lead an effort to build the first church and synagogue in the heart of the Muslim world in Saudi Arabia?

As far as I can tell, Rauf seems to be advocating something along those lines.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Publish-on-Demand Makes It Easier to Publish Bad Books

Holy Warriors is even worse than I thought. Aside from the mangled history mentioned in the previous post, O'Neill has accepted the crazed Phantom Time hypothesis of Heribert Illig. This proposed that the period from 614 to 911 AD didn't actually happen, but was in fact a massive fabrication instigated by Otto III.

It used to be you had to put up a significant amount of money to self publish a book, but now you can be a published crank with minimal upfront monetary investment.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Misuse of History

Carl Prydum appropriately eviscerates Newt Gingrich’s distorted history of Cordoba:
If it's legitimate for Newt Gingrich to say the Great Mosque of Cordoba was built by Muslim Conquerors in their capital city wishing to symbolize their victory over the Christians, then it'd be just as legitimate to describe the Statue of Liberty as being built by English conquerors in their capital of New York to symbolize their victory over the Dutch.

Elsewhere, John J. O’Neill mangles history to tell us that it’s all Islam’s fault.
Worst of all, perhaps, from the perspective of culture and learning, the importation of papyrus from Egypt ceased. This material, which had been shipped into Western Europe in vast quantities since the time of the Roman Republic, was absolutely essential for a thousand purposes in a literate and mercantile civilization; and the ending of the supply had an immediate and catastrophic effect on levels of literacy.

This is of course, based on the Pirenne Thesis. O’Neill tells us:
Pirenne’s research was first class and was never effectively refuted by his critics. Nonetheless, his findings have been ignored.

Anyone who thinks Pirenne has been ignored hasn’t been paying attention. The papyrus issue is one where his work required considerable qualification. Later scholars have noted that the Papal chancery continued to use papyrus for documents into the 11th century.

Pirenne was a much more scrupulous than O’Neill, and never made the claim that papyrus was no longer imported into Western Europe, only that it ceased to come to Carolingian Gaul. Nor did he claim that it was “absolutely essential for a thousand purposes in a literate and mercantile civilization”.

Because it wasn’t.

By the fourth century, more durable parchment was displacing papyrus for book production as the codex replaced the roll as the preferred book format. Informal writing in the late classical and early medieval world generally used wax tablets rather than papyrus. Papyrus may have been cheaper than parchment, but hard contemporary evidence of the relative cost of parchment and papyrus seems to be nonexistent.

Other substitutes were available, like the thin wooden leaves found at Vindolanda.

But that's not the only thing O'Neill gets wrong:
Before the seventh century, Christianity had been largely true to its pacifist roots.

How he reconciles this notion with the conquests of Justinian or his crowd control approach during the Nika riots is unclear.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Still More on Pavilion Construction

The first and third pavilions from the left show a convex shape that would seem to require internal support by radial ribs. Meliadus, ca. 1352. Click on the image for a larger view. Here is the same image in color.

Henry VIII enters the tiltyard at 1511, inside a portable arming pavilion. From the Westminster Tournament Roll.

Pavilion Hoops, 1511

Green sarcenet, for the " boos" (boughs) of the forest, 26 ft. lo'ng, 16 ft. broad, and 9 ft. high, 153 yds.; lining a pavilion for the King, 42 yds.; for 12 hawthorns, 44 yds.; 12 oaks, 44 yds.; 10 maples, 36 yds.; hazels, 32 yds.; 10 birches, 32 yds.; 16 doz. fern roots and branches, 64 yds.; 50 broom stalks, 58 yds.; 16 furze bushes, 33 yds.; lining the maiden's sleeves, 2£ yds.; total, 542 yds. Yellow sarcenet for broom and furze flowers, 22 yds. Russet sarcenet for the 4 woodwos' garments, shred like locks of hair or wool, 48 yds. Russet damask, spent by Edm. Skill, tailor, for kirtles for the maiden in the forest, and those on the lion and "olyvant,'' 10 yds. Yellow damask for the maidens on the lion and "antlope," 10yds. Blue velvet for a pavilion for the King, 36 yds. Blue and crimson damask for pavilions. 1 yd. of blue sarcenet for a banner in the forest. 23 oz. of Venice silk, 16d. an oz. 31 oz. of fine silk, 14d. an oz.; " spent and employed on the said four pavilions for points to stay the hoops, which points were spent, stolen, and wasted at. the siege of Terouenne at the receiving of the Emperor, for the said pavilions did the King royal service to his honor." To Mrs. Christian Warren, for "a fringe of damask gold weighing by Venice weight, 140 oz. set on the King's rich pavilion, for the which she hath 14d. for every ounce working,"

Great Britain, J. S. Brewer, Robert Henry Brodie, and James Gairdner. 1862. Letters and papers, foreign and domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII: preserved in the Public Record Office, the British Museum, and elsewhere in England. London: Longman, Green, Longman, & Roberts. p. 1495

Saturday, August 14, 2010

More on Pavilion Construction

A Jehan de Montfort (...) : pour quatre poullies pour le grant pavillon (...), pour cordes pour les poullies de l'espervier (...), pour habiller l'arbre dudit pavillon (...), pour quatre anneaux pour lesdites poullies (...), pour cordes nécessaires pour le retrait dudit pavillon (...), pour sangles et vettes (...) ; pour fil à couldre (...) ; pour la peine d'un cordonnier qui a adoubé ledit pavillon (...) ; pour deux cannes et demie d'aultre toille pour ledit pavillon (...) ; pour les bastons de la muraille dudit pavillon (...) ; pour l'arbre dudit pavillon (...) ; pour une peau de mouton (...) ; pour deux pelles de fer pour icellui pavillon (...) ; pour deux haches de fer à buscher boys (...) ; pour deux serpes à tailler bois (...) ; pour ung sac de cuir à mettre les ferremens

(Comptes roi René A., t.2, 1453, 327, in Dictionnaire du Moyen Français).

King René's own cool is that? The pavilion is equipped with four pulleys,, and there are rods for the walls, like the battens illustrated in his Book of Love

Oh, and it seems that in Middle English and medieval French, pavilions and tents were seen as different in some way.

My translation:

To Jehan de Montfort (...) for four pulleys for the big pavilion (...), ropes for pulleys for the bed canopy (...), to dress the pole of the said pavilion (...) for four rings for the said pulleys (...), for ropes needed to draw back the pavilion (...), and for straps and ropes (...) for sewing thread (...) for the trouble of a cobbler who has equipped the said pavilion (...) for two and a half cannes* of other canvas for the said pavilion (...); for rods for the wall of the said pavilion (...) for the pole of the said pavilion (...) for a sheepskin (...) for two iron shovels for that pavilion (...) for two iron axes to chop wood (...) for two billhooks to cut wood (...) for a sack of leather to put the iron tools in.

In Southern France, the canne was a unit of measure equal to about six or seven feet: roughly a fathom.

A Tent with Two Shoulders

This elegant pavilion appears in Lancelot du Lac et la quete du Graal, (Bibl. na. Francais 343 f. 31v) Note that the lower edge of the walls is attached to the tent pegs with ropes connecting about a foot off the ground, with a low vertical wall falling from that point. Something very similar is shown in the Fresco of Guidoriccio da Fogliano. Note that this differs from the "sod flap" often included in modern reconstructions.

Only two guy lines are visible. Another, hidden behind the tent, would make three, sufficient to steady the tent if it had an internal frame at the shoulder.

Here are more, from the same manuscript. Only the tent in the far right foreground has ropes from the upper shoulder, and they seem to be there to hold the wall opening open rather than serve as guy ropes.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Ombrellino, Umbraculum or Pavilion and Medieval Tent Construction

A 13th C. fresco of Sylvester I and Constantine, showing an ombrellino held over a papal tiara (source: Wikimedia)

At least as early as the 13th c., a sort of parasol, called an umbraculum in Latin, an ombrellino in Italian, or a pavilion, was carried for certain medieval dignitaries. It was particularly associated with the Pope, but also carried for the Doge of Venice and others. It served at least two purposes: protecting them from the sun and showing their importance and dignity.

It must have had some sort of internal frame to spread it open, perhaps a frame of radial ribs like the modern or classical parasol.

It also provides evidence of how medieval tentmakers might have solved the similar problem of building a round tent with an internal structure spreading the roof.

There are a number of possible solutions: sloping radial ribs like a parasol, horizontal spokes like a wagon wheel, a rigid hoop in the valence, or a combination of hoop and spokes or ribs.

Here's a larger version of the fresco shown above. There's no evidence of horizontal spokes, and the canopy is visibly convex, suggesting flexible ribs.

Here the Ombrellino is shown over St. Peter on the ceiling of the Chamber of the Popes in the Lateran Palace. There are no horizontal spokes visible, and what could be sloping ribs are visible beneath the canopy. There could be a rigid hoop structure within the valence.

is the form carried behind the Doge of Venice, from a 19th c. reduction of Jost Amman's Swiss woodcut ca. 1565. Here the canopy has two levels, with a concave curve to the lower level. Modern patio and beach umbrellas often have a similar two level canopy, to allow an exit path for wind. The bearer seems to have some sort of support for the bottom of the shaft

Update: Tracy Justus found this, from Concilium Constantiense by Ulrich von Richental, printed in 1483.

Thanks to Karen Larsdatter for pointing out the umbrella held over the figure in front of a temple on the left side of this image from the Utrecht Psalter.

If any of my readers have had a chance to view the underside of surviving ombrellinos from the Middle Ages or Renaissance, or seen any other depictions in the iconography of the period, I welcome your comments. Ombrellinos are still part of Papal regalia, and one of the privileges granted to Catholic basilicas, although I don't know how the modern construction relates to the medieval.

Here are more posts on medieval tent construction.

Here is a useful thread on pavilion structure, discussing a modern reconstruction of a round pavilion with a rigid wooden internal hoop.

Here is another that discusses pavilion construction

A table of medieval and Renaissance tent pictures. More images here.

Medieval Pavilion Resources

Illustrations of 15th c. tents

Illustrations of 16th c. tents

A surviving Portuguese/Spanish tent of 1542-45. Another view.

A surviving 17th c. pavilion at Basel

In addition to ombrellinos, we can also look at canopies of state and bed canopies to look at how medieval tents and pavilions might have been constructed. Several of the conical canopies of state in this thread show strong evidence of a hoop. Bed canopies were usually rectangular, but here is an example of one with a conical canopy.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Update: The Seneschal of Hainault's Challenge

Please note that the Pennsic schedule now shows a later start time than originally announced:

This deed will occur on Tuesday August 10th from 3-6 PM on the Main Battlefield (West)

I've edited my initial post to conform with the current Pennsic schedule, as published online. I've queried the battlefield scheduler and coordinator and not heard back. I have to assume that the latest schedule determines when we'll be able to fight. I see that they no longer have any of the smaller lists that day, so I assume they wanted all of the available battlefield real estate for the Castle Shootout, which ends at 1:30

Speeches for a Challenge

The speeches here are extracted from this composite outline of a 15th century deed of arms.

The appellant shall come to the east gate of the lists in such manner as he will fight, with his arms and weapons assigned to him… , and there he shall abide till he be led in by the constable and the marshal. And the constable shall ask him what man he is which is come armed to the gate of the lists and what name he has and for what cause he is come. The appellant shall answer:

"I am

the appellant, which is come this journey to accomplish and perform the acts comprised in articles sent unto

(name of the defendant)
(If other appellants come with him they are announced as well)

Then shall he open the gates of the lists and make him enter with his said arms, points, victuals and lawful necessaries upon him and also his council with him; he shall lead him before the judge (where he may do his reverence) and then to his tent, where he shall abide till the defendant be come.

In the same manner shall be done for the defendant, but that he shall enter in at the west gate of the lists....

And when brought before the judge he may say:

"Right high, right mighty and right excellent prince (or lord), I am come hither before your presence as my judge in this party, to accomplish and fulfill the acts of arms contained in certain chapters to me sent by

(name of appellant),
under the seal of his arms, that here is."

And the judge then gives him leave and license to perform them.

(There is some variation in custom, and in some places the defendant enters the lists first. The weapons may be examined and measured, and sometimes equal weapons are supplied by the champion issuing the challenge, or a common length for the weapons is specified in the challenge)

And then the constable shall command the marshal for to cry at the four corners of the lists in manner as follows:

"Oyez, Oyez, Oyez. We charge and command by the judge's constable and marshal that none of great value and of little estate, of what condition or nation that he be, be so hardy henceforward to come nigh the lists by four feet or to speak or to cry or to make countenance or token or semblance or noise whereby neither of these two parties

appellor, and

defender, may take advantage the one upon the other, upon peril of losing life and limb and their goods at the judge's will."


"Since it is so that the most christian and victorious prince

by the grace of God King of England and of France and Lord of Ireland, hath licensed and admitted the right noble and worshipful lords and knights,
(or list other rank if applicable)


(Appellant and Defendant’s Names and Titles)

to furnish certain deeds of arms such as be comprised in certain articles delivered unto his highness by the said

(Appellant’s Name)
sealed by the said

(Defendant’s Name)
with the seal of his arms, for the augmentation of martial discipline and knightly honor, necessary for the tuition of the faith catholic against heretics and miscreants, and to the defense of the right of kings and princes and their estates publics:— for so much we charge and command you, on the behalf of our most dread Sovereign Lord (add here present, if sovereign is present in person) and on my Lords the Constable and Marshall, that no manner of man of what estate degree or condition he be of, approach the lists, save such as be assigned, nor make any noise murmur or shout, or any other manner token or sign whereby the said right noble and worshipful lords and knights which this day shall do their arms within these lists, or either of them, shall move, be troubled or comforted; upon pain of imprisonment and fine and ransom at the King’s will."

And afterward the constable and the marshal shall void all manner of people out of the lists except their lieutenants and two knights for the constable and marshal which shall be armed upon their bodies, but they shall have neither knife nor sword upon them nor any other weapon whereby the appellant or the defendant may have advantage because of negligence in keeping them. But the two lieutenants shall have in their hands either one a spear without iron to separate them if the judge will make them leave off in their fighting, whether it be to rest them or other thing whatsoever pleases him.

The constable sitting in his place before the judge as his vicar general, and the parties made ready to fight as is said by the commandment of the judge, the constable shall say with loud voice as follows: "Lessiez les aler"; (that is to say, "Let them go”) and rest a while; "Lessiez les aler," and rest another while; "Lessiez les aler et fair leur devoir de par dieu"; (that it is to say, "Let them go and do their duty in God's name.") And this said each man shall depart from both parties, so that they may encounter and do that which seems best to them.

And if it happen that the judge would take the quarrel in his hands (by throwing down his baton) and make them agree without more fighting, then the constable, taking the one party, and the marshal, the other, shall lead them before the judge, and he showing them his will, the said constable and marshal shall lead them to the one part of the lists with all their points and armor as they are found and having when the judge took the quarrel in his hands as is said. And so they shall be led out of the gate of the lists evenly, so that the one go not before the other by no way in any thing; for since he hath taken the quarrel in his hands, it should be dishonest that either of the parties should have more dishonor than the other. Wherefore it has been said by many ancient men that he that goeth first out of the lists hath the disworship...

Monday, August 02, 2010

Speeches for the Melee

First, the combatants are summoned together, and the rules are explained to them. They are divided into two teams, under captains A and B. They process to the two gates of the lists. A leads off first so as to arrive slightly before B.

Herald for A:

My honored and redoubted lords, the very high and powerful (rank of A) and my redoubted lord …… master, who is present as appellant, presents himself to you with all the noble baronage that you see, whom you have placed under his banner, very eager and ready to begin the tourney assigned today with my very redoubted lord ...................................................... and the noble baronage equally ready to fight under him; asking that it please you to prepare for him a place, so that the ladies who are present can see the entertainment.

Herald B:

My Master, ....................................................., and the Baronage under him, are equally ready and eager to take their parts in the tourney.

Chief Herald:

Very high and very redoubted lords, my lords the judges have heard and understood what your heralds have said for you; to which they answer that your presence is very pleasing, and they well perceive the great and high will for honor and desire for valor that is in you and the barons present under you, for which reason and because the tourney was proclaimed several days before, so that it could come to pass on good time and joyously, they assign there the place within the lists on that side to you my lord............................. ........................, and that on the other to you my lord ........................................ And you may enter in God's name when you like.

When they have entered:

High and powerful princes, lords, barons, knights and squires, each and every one of you, please raise your right hand on high, towards the saints, and all together, as you will in the future, promise and swear by the faith and promise of your body, and on your honor, that you will strike none of your company knowingly with the point of any weapon but the spear of peace, or below the knee, and that no one will attack or draw on anyone except when it is permitted, and also that if by chance someone's helm falls off, no one will touch him until he puts it back on, and you agree that if you knowingly do otherwise you will lose your arms and horses and be banished from the tourney; also to observe the orders of the judges in everything and everywhere as they order delinquents to be punished without argument: and also you swear and promise this by the faith and promise of your body and on your honor.


Yes, Yes.

Chief Herald:

Moreover, I advise you that when the trumpets have sounded the retreat...

(trumpeters demonstrate retreat)

...if you stay longer in the lists you may not win the prize. Now make yourselves ready.

(when they are ready)

Laissiez-les aller, Laissiez-les aller, Laissiez-les aller, now do your devoir right readily!

(when they have fought long enough)

Let the banner bearers ride out, leave the lists, and await the words of the heralds. Ride out! Ride out!

For Another Melee on the Same Day

When they are ready:

Chief Herald:
My lords the judges pray and require that none of you gentlemen tourneyers strike at another with the point of any weapon save the spear of peace, nor below the knee, as you have promised, nor strike nor draw except when it is permitted; and also that none of you attack anyone whose helm falls off until he has put it on again, and also that none of you beat anyone more than you should out of anger or malice.
Moreover, you know that when the trumpets have sounded the retreat and the barriers are open, if you stay any longer in the lists you will not win the prize.

Laissiez-les aller, Laissiez-les aller, Laissiez-les aller, let them do their devoir right readily.

When the last melee is done:

Let the banner bearers ride out, leave the lists, and return to your lodgings: for you lords, princes, barons, knights and squires have so done your duty that henceforth you may go out and leave the lists in good time: for already the prizes is awarded, which will be given by the ladies to him who deserves it.
(If only one melee is fought that day, you may use the final paragraph above to end that instead.)

Prize Presentation

If a prize is to be given to the best of each side:

Then cometh forth a lady, by the advice of all the ladies and Gentlewomen, and gives the prize unto the champion who has shown the greatest prowess. Saying in this wise: "Sir these ladies and Gentlewomen thank you for your disport and your great labor that ye have this day in their presence. And the said ladies and Gentlewomen sayen that ye have fought best of the appellants this day. Therefore the said ladies and Gentlewomen given you this …………and send you much worship and joy of your lady."

And then she will say to the one who deserves it: “Sir, these ladies and Gentlewomen say that you have this day fought best of the defendants, and Therefore the said ladies and Gentlewomen given you this ……………and likewise send you much worship and joy of your lady.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sir John Hawkwood and the Friars

This was the merry answer which Messer Giovanni Augut gave to two minor friars who, going to him on some business at one of his castles where he happened to be, and coming into his presence, said, as was their custom: "God give you peace, my lord." To which he replied instantly: "May God take away your alms." The friars in alarm said: "Signor, why do you speak so to us?" Hawkwood replied: "Why did you then speak so to me?" The friars replied: "We thought to be kind." And Hawkwood said: "How could you mean to be kind when you come to me and say: 'May God make you die of hunger'? Do you not know that I live by war, and that peace would be my undoing, and that as I live by war so you live by alms, and that the answer I made to you was the same as your salutation!"

The friars shrugged their shoulders and said: "You are right; forgive us. We are stupid men." . . . And certainly it is true that this man fought in Italy longer than any other man ever did—he fought sixty years, and nearly every part became his tributary. So well did he manage his affairs that there was little peace in Italy in his days. And woe to those men and peoples who believe too much in his kind, because peoples and cities live and grow by peace, and these men live and grow by war. —

Sacchetti: Novelle, 181.