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By TheophileEscargot (Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 06:31:35 AM EST) Reading, Listening, Theatre, Me (all tags)
Reading: "Before They Are Hanged". Listening: "Terror of History". Theatre. Me.

What I'm Reading
Finished Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie. Second book in the First Law fantasy trilogy. Still pretty rollicking stuff, uses the fast switching between points of view to keep the tension up. The cliches are more apparent in this one though: has a near-obligatory Quest and Siege, as well as some of the annoying details like swords stuck through belts, sound-proof tents, trebuchets as deadly as modern artillery and the obligatory stew. Still, as before the appealingly twisted characters help lift it above the average.

Home to see the parents for a few days. Dad's midway through the radiotherapy for his cancer. Seems to be holding up pretty well so far. No hair loss on his head. Seems pretty active (considering his other conditions) though he says he gets tired more easily. Apparently the worst side effects happen 2 to 6 weeks after the treatment, so presumably things will get worse.

Went along with my Dad to one of his nukings. Hospital looks pretty new, clean and modern. Lots of blond wood and chest-height glass-block desks inside the radiotherapy ward. Looks a bit like an All Bar One: was tempted to go up and ask for a pint of Stella and 300 Becquerels of Gamma, please luv.

They give him free transport to and from the hospital which is handy since he can't walk far with his Parkinson's. Their timekeeping is pretty erratic though: sometimes an hour or two early or late. The hospital guarantees that they'll still see him even if the ambulance (or sometimes minicab) is late, but I think he still finds it stressful hanging around.

We made it to the Royal Exchange to see "Hay Fever": revival of an old Noel Coward comedy. A family of Bohemian eccentrics invite assorted squares (not sure what the Twenties slang for that was) to their country cottage and various culture clashes ensue.

Seemed horribly dated. Couldn't really summon up either sympathy or hatred for the tiresome family, and the guests just seem bland. Still, the cast did a heroic job of trying to inject life into the stylised dialogue.

Was curious to see it in the round. We were on the bottom deck with the cast in the middle: the set had carefully low divans so you could see across. Not sure the intimate environment really suits such mannered material, but did get to see quite a lot.

Nice costumes though.

Finished the latest TTC course: Terror of History: Heretics, Mystics and Witches in the Western Tradition by Teofilo F. Ruiz. Covers what it says, between 1000 and 1700 A.D.

Found it a bit vague and waffly. Covers a huge range of ground and suffers from sparse sources. I'm not convinced that the three phenomena have much in common. Ruiz seems to think that they're all linked via existential angst (the Terror of History) but that seems to me to be too generic to be helpful: you can use it as a catch-all for everything.

Some factoids I found interesting. The Abilgensian Crusade, the first time the Pope endorsed military attacks on unconventional Christians, seems to have been partly politically motivated, as a way for Northern French to get their hands on what had previously been independent kingdoms.

The irony that later on the Franciscans would a little later be an officially-promoted movement promoting largely the same beliefs that had been heretical in the Waldensians, is pretty well known though. Don't think it's that ironic anyway: the backlash against extravagance and corruption was pretty much bound to be initially resisted and finally part-accepted by the extravagant and corrupt.

What I found more interesting was his view that the Lutheran reformation was also largely politically motivated: German princes, afraid of a powerful Holy Roman Emperor with actual military muscle, grabbed the latest in a series of popular reform/heresy movements to fight holy with holy.

Ruiz also points out that some of the best known witch-hunts were highly atypical: the Salem witch trials for instance. In Salem it was mostly the poor villagers accusing the wealthier townies, and that the young were accused. In most cases, witches were single women past reproductive age, and were generally in the low ranks (if married, their husbands had generally been hired labourers). Complainants were generally family members or in-laws. Witch-hunts were usually rural, and in the medieval nuclear families the "witches" would have their own huts.

So, in general it seems that rather than irrational mass hysteria, witch-hunts were a somewhat pragmatic way to rid yourself and your village of eccentrics, annoying mother-in-laws, beggars and get your hands on any scraps of land or property they had.

Overall then, a moderately interesting course, but if you know much about the middle ages you'll have come across a lot of this stuff before.

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Hang spring cleaning | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden)
Minor niggle... by atreides (4.00 / 1) #1 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 06:45:37 AM EST

That is all.

He sails from world to world in a flying tomb, serving gods who eat hope.

Hmmm by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 07:01:37 AM EST
Not sure on that one. It's technically correct, but it's so common to talk about "the in-laws" that it feels very far from common usage.

Also in this case a universal use of the popular form would not deprive the language of something useful, as with "begging the question".
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
I think both are in common usage by lm (4.00 / 1) #6 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 10:21:06 AM EST
The OED has fairly old citations for mothers-in-law in the mother-in-law entry and *-in-laws in the -in-law entry.

My view is that -in-law is a suffix, it becomes part of the word. The proper plural is then made by adding s at the end. But, of course, this doesn't mean that it would be incorrect to add the suffix to a plural word. Consequently, both forms are correct.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
But what about... by atreides (4.00 / 1) #7 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 10:50:32 AM EST
Commanders in Chief?  Secretaries of State?  Surgeons General?

He sails from world to world in a flying tomb, serving gods who eat hope.

[ Parent ]
What about them? by lm (4.00 / 1) #8 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 10:52:58 AM EST
If you're looking for consistency, perhaps a natural language is not the place to look for it.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
<fist shaking> by atreides (4.00 / 1) #9 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 10:55:46 AM EST
Before they are hanged. by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #3 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 07:13:46 AM EST
Glokta is an interesting anti-hero though, eh?  Abercrombie at least attempts to engage with his audience, too.

Have you got the third book queued up?

I love Glokta by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #4 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 07:21:35 AM EST
I have the third one sitting in the book-heap. I may finish the current Rebus and Aubrey/Maturin before I go back to it though.

Abercrombie reminds me a lot of Stephen Donaldson. For one thing, the big quest, item not there plot gimmick was used in The One Tree.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
He's an utter bastard, Glokta by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #13 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 03:06:21 PM EST
But not without redeeming features.

I'm sure there's other "queat item not found" gimmicks elsewhere - Dark Tower series for example.

[ Parent ]
Politics and religion overlap by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 3) #5 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 09:26:47 AM EST
I have great difficulty understanding what is going on when people believe in Christianity or Islam. If I believed that my immortal soul was on the line I would studying the books to find out which religion to believe in and which, of numerous variants, was the true one. What do I have to do to be saved? Faith? Works? It is all terribly unclear and I would worry myself into a nervous breakdown within a month or two.

I look at the Anglican communion and its troubles with homosexuality and I don't get it. There seem to be only two choices. 1) God forbids it, so repress your urges. 2) What God forbids is OK, so give up Christianity.

People actually try to talk through their differences and reach a compromise, perhaps that pairing is love and God is love so that's OK, but cottaging is lust and that's what the bible forbids. So it seems to me that religion is a form of politics with power and negotiation. An odd kind of politics, cloaked by a polite fiction of divine revelation.

I think its a neuro-typical thing. One wants the emotional support of a divine revelation. God's silence makes this difficult. First you must talk among yourselves to decide the revelation. Then you must engage in double-think, believing it is handed down by God, despite one's own active involvement. Finally one engages in collective worship, each worshipper helping the others validate the collective suppression of the origin of faith.

Sometimes faith needs updating. This involves dangerous and painful diving into the depths of the subconscious. There lurks that truth of the human invention of religion and the possibility of change. The emotional support that religion offers comes in part from having the certainty of unchanging truth, so necessary upgrades are always traumatic.

We can imagine a sharp boundary between politics and religion, but in such an imagining, Hell is a place that you could actually visit. Questions of morality could be settled by visiting Hell and asking folk what they did, much as you could visit a prison and ask the prisoners: what are you in for. Such childlike faith strikes me as being both true religion and the socially marginal province of barely sane. Mainstream religion is a strange kind of politics, separated from the ordinary kind by a broad and fuzzy boundary.

Terribly unclear? by Tonatiuh (2.00 / 0) #12 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 02:10:16 PM EST
Ha! That is an understatement.

If such stuff was clear at all you would not have the myriad of denominations claiming to be the real deal.

This goes  pretty much for any religion frankly. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, you name it.

Which is no wonder, because they are dealing with an invented imaginary subject (sorry, sorry, sorry, I know, flame away).

[ Parent ]
How old's your Dad? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #10 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 12:08:28 PM EST
Here's to his speedy recovery, mate.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Thanks! by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 12:14:55 PM EST
He's 69.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
The spiritual is political by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #14 Wed Jul 09, 2008 at 05:01:30 AM EST
I think it's a fair point about the political interests behind the success of the Reformation, and of course the Church itself had significant political power in that era, but it still seems to me the spark was religious, it just needed favorable political conditions for the flame to catch. What's the bit from On Liberty ... thanks Amazon ...

To speak only of religious opinions: the Reformation broke out at least twenty times before Luther, and was put down. Arnold of Brescia was put down. The Vaudois were put down. The Lollards were put down. The Hussites were put down. Even after the era of Luther, wherever persecution was persisted in, it was successful [...]

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

Hang spring cleaning | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden)