Brief Reviews of Two Catholic Books

Here comes that promised review of The King’s Good Servant but God’s First by James Monti in addition to St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s The Glories of Mary, which I happened to obtain free from the traditional Catholic organization, America Needs Fatima.  On occasion, their e-mails and newsletters kindly offer free books, religious medals, and even blessed rosaries in the hopes of strengthening the Catholic faith in America.  (Since I have not been able to donate for a while, I owe this force for good some advertising for all the free stuff they’ve sent me and will send me.)  At any rate, Monti’s biography of St. Thomas More sticks closely to historical facts and the Christian polemics raging at that time.  On the other hand, de Liguori’s work focuses on the passages of patristics, medieval saints, later writers, and miraculous stories associated with St. Mary in order to stir up one’s devotion.  As such, I can recommend the former to any studious individual (I myself could barely put the book down), while The Glories of Mary has devout Catholics as its target.

Annunciation

The goal of increasing devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary holds such value that one who propagates her devotion is certainly saved.  Also, all the saints attest to the necessity of being devoted to the Mother of God.  So, The Glories of Mary is quite a necessary book, though it did not stir my devotion as much as The Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude.  The best part of St. Alphonsus’s book lies in the many examples of St. Mary saving sinners from final damnation–even those sinners whose devotion to St. Mary was very slight or even those who just managed to call on her just prior to death.  One is reminded of the devil in Dante’s Purgatorio complaining about the many sinners St. Mary snatches from his hands.

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Links to Anime Season Reviews and the Battle of Gettysburg

At this point, I’d usually review the anime I’ve watched from this season and rate them from one to five stars.  This sort of season review might still come about on Medieval Otaku, but I already have reviews up for every show except Seraph of the End.  You’ll find these reviews scattered over three posts on Beneath the Tangles: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.  In the first part, Kaze gives Seraph of the End the same rating I’d give it.  The second part features an amusing picture of Hestia with a caption added by yours truly.  I found the picture particularly endearing because of it’s resemblance to the “Kilroy was here” image used by the Allies to mark their progress in WWII.

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Let me remind my dear readers, as I did last year, that we celebrate the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1st – July 3rd.  Lord Drako Arakis created a beautifully drawn and tragic music video to commemorate last year’s anniversary, and I hope that he has one planned for this year.  (His latest video is a ribald song not at all in the spirit of the battle, but click here if that doesn’t bother you and you want a good laugh.)  At any rate, July 2nd saw one of the most thrilling fights of the war on Little Round Top.  This was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of Maine’s most famous victory, which he wrote about in the article “Through Blood and Fire at Gettysburg.”  I highly recommend the article for how well Chamberlain immerses one in the action on that fateful day.  Also, Chamberlain stands as the greatest hero to serve in the ranks of the Army of the Potomac and is worth learning about the Battle of Little Round Top for that reason alone.

This picture commemorates the famous bayonet charge lead by Col. Joshua Chamberlain.  At the center, Chamberlain captures a Confederate at saber point whose revolver either misfired or was out of ammo when he tried to shoot Chamberlain.  Chamberlain simply said to him:

This picture commemorates the famous bayonet charge lead by Col. Joshua Chamberlain. At the center, Chamberlain captures a Confederate at saber point whose revolver either misfired or was out of ammo when he tried to shoot Chamberlain. Chamberlain simply said to him: “You are my prisoner.”

Reasons to Watch Scholagladiatoria

Matt Easton of the YouTube channel Scholagladiatoria recently posted a video thanking those who’ve spread the word about his channel to bring the total number of subscribers up to over seventy thousand.  Those of you who’ve clicked on my Guide to Becoming a Scholar of Swords and Swordplay page know that I place this channel above all the rest in terms of the accuracy of information one finds there and the breadth of Matt Easton’s knowledge.  But, let me do my part here by sharing some awesome videos of his with you, and I hope that many of you who have an interest in the Middle Ages or fencing will subscribe if you haven’t already.

The following video explains how to accurately grip a Viking sword.  More people grip a Viking sword incorrectly than any other blade.  While one can often get away with a wrong grip in the case of other blades, doing so with a Viking sword will cause the pommel to jab into one’s wrist when cutting, which leads to the user hating a perfectly good sword.  One cannot but admire the facility with which Easton shows that he can wield the blade when gripped correctly.

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Cool Sword Channels on YouTube

As you know from my handle and previous posts–especially this one, I’m fascinated by medieval swordplay.  I’ve discovered several great channels on YouTube by enthusiasts of Historical European Martial Arts and figured that I should share the best of them here.  Some of my dear readers are no doubt curious what the difference is between real Medieval swordplay and what Hollywood portrays.  Medieval swordsmanship had been been lost until people in the latter half of the twentieth century began to try to reconstruct medieval swordsmanship from old manuals and the ergonomics of the weapons and armor.  There is a particular degree of ignorance in the study of the long sword and other weapons–as Skallagrim admits here; but one of the virtues of this community of enthusiasts is that they correct each others’ misconceptions.  You may watch this video where Skallagrim points out some errors in a prior video.  The other nice thing about that video is that he links to other channels which he considers valuable resources.

Naturally, I place Skallagrim at the top of the list.  He easily runs one of the most entertaining channels.  Though he calls himself a beginner, his videos make it obvious that he’s studied swordsmanship for a long time.  I disagree with him on religious issues–as you saw here; but his videos on swords, fencing, guns, gun rights, and various rambles make for informative viewing.  Many medieval sword sparring videos on YouTube make it seem like the opponents are trying to ding each other with the weapon rather than cut each other down.  Skallagrim’s videos show good technique based on the historical manuals and practice, which reveals that Europeans of the Middle Ages did more than just bang at each other with their weapons.

Next, I would place Matt Easton on the channel scholagladitoria.  He’s practically an encyclopedia on warfare and swordplay from medieval times to the 19th century.  His memory for original source material on his topics is rather amazing.  Also his demonstrations of sword techniques are quite good.  I found myself rather impressed by his skill with the broadsword.

About as entertaining as Skallagrim is Lindybeige.  His specialty seems to run from ancient to medieval weapons (good man 🙂 ); yet, as a history buff, he’s fluent in most areas of European history through the 19th century as far as I can tell.  As with Skallagrim, I disagree with him on religious and philosophical topics.  (He’s a determinist, for example; but, freely admits that the knowledge that he does not have free will does nothing to change the way he interacts with society.)  Other than that, his videos are very entertaining and informative.  His rants can be particularly fun and cover every topic under the sun.

Lastly, I just discovered ThegnThrand, who’s a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.  This rather long video reveals that his knowledge of the history and use of medieval and ancient weapons is astounding.  Also astounding are the demonstrations with sharp weapons involving a partner.  They do seem to have great awareness in regard to what their doing, but I myself would not trust anyone less than a master, e.g. Nidar Singh, to demonstrate a technique with a sharp blade on me.

There you have it.  I hope that you enjoy some of these videos on medieval swordplay.  I’ll get back to writing about anime pretty soon.

 

 

 

 

Liebster Award Again!

Medieval Otaku has once again nominated for a Liebster Award, my dear readers!  At first, I thought that I would have to refuse since my site now boasts more than two hundred followers, but the rules have been amended since last I received the award.  This time, I must thank three fellow bloggers for their nominations: Masq of Behind the Masq, Tobby of The Overlord Bear’s Den, and Josh W of Res Studiorum et Ludorum.  (I love that pretentious Latin title.)  Masq nominated me back in February, but I kept putting off this post.  The other two nominated me recently, and so reminded me.  I shall answer all of their questions and hope that this post amuses you for the two hours or so it will take to read.  (Just kidding!)

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Let me post the most current rules for the Liebster Award, which Wording Well displays on that site:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.

5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)

6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

Hajime Saito

To my mind, it seems more orderly to list the random facts about myself first.  Here they are:

1.  I love swords.  I currently own four of them: a Norman sword (a broadsword which favors the cut but has enough of a point to stab with), a viking sword, a Catalonian sword (circa 14th century.  A light sword which cuts as well as it thrusts.), and an O-katana (a katana with a thirty-six inch blade–the kind only carried by the strongest samurai.)

2.  My favorite composer is Antonio Vivaldi, especially for his La Stravaganza.

3.  My favorite work of Tolkien’s is The Hobbit.  I like that book so much that I even bought the Latin translation of it, Hobbitus Ille.

4.  Despite my avatar being Sven Vollfied, I’d have to say that my favorite anime character is Hajime Saito of Rurouni KenshinAku Soku Zan!

5.  My first experience of the Japanese came through watching WWII films, from which I concluded that the Japanese were the most lousy, underhanded, and cruel race upon earth.  If not for my interest in martial arts, I might have retained that unfortunate opinion–only applicable to certain Japanese of the Second World War.

Anti-Japan2

6.  My favorite Japanese actor of all time is Toshiro Mifune, especially for his samurai roles.  He became an actor by his friends applying to a “new faces” contest in Mifune’s name without his knowledge!

7.  I learned Japanese so I would not have to wait for Viz Media to translate Inuyasha.  They’re abominably slow, I tell you!

8.  One work in my possession, The U.S.S. Seawolf: Submarine Raider of the Pacific, was a Christmas gift to me from my grammar school library, because no other student wanted to take it out.

9.  Arizona is my favorite state.  I hope to be able to retire there if I cannot find a way to become a permanent resident sooner.  My brother’s beating me to it by going to law school there.

10.  I am part of a very small minority who not only likes Lost Universe, but considers it one of their top twenty anime.  As a matter of fact, the existence of another such person is highly improbable.

11.  When I was young, I used to be part of the Sea Cadets.  At the time, I hated the experience, but it gave me many fine stories to tell and made me a little less shy.

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Now, onto the bloggers’ questions!  Here Masq’s list with my answers:

1. Why did you start blogging?

My dream has always been to write fiction, particularly fantasy fiction a la Tolkien.  But, the desire to write fell dormant after I won placed third in Athanatos Christian Ministries’ Short Story Contest for The Death of St. Magnus of Orkney until the writing bug hit me again two years ago.  This blog covered all my hobbies with the hope that my writing muscle would become stronger by doing so.  Now, my writing serves an aspiring cartoonist, and I hope to have a couple of novels out before the end of the year–sans blague!  (That’s French for “no kidding!”)

2. What is your favorite anime to date and why?

Rurouni Kenshin.  The characters have great personalities and compelling back stories, the animation is beautiful, the fights are awesome, the story arcs mesmerize the viewer, the characters defend interesting philosophies with both their blades and their words, and it gives surprisingly accurate historical information on Meiji Japan.  I doubt a better anime will ever come out of Japan!

3. What is your favorite video game and why?

Crusaders of Might and Magic.  Ask my brother and he’ll tell you that the frequency with which I replayed this game drove him nuts.  I loved Drake, the noble mercenary who defies a powerful necromancer as he foils all the necromancer’s plots.  It’s an old game and somewhat simple, but I loved the story and the combat.

4. You discover a Pokemon egg in your room.  It will hatch into whatever Pokemon you wish.  What do you choose and why?

An Arcanine.  I never got into Pokemon, but that one looks cool.

Arcanine

5. If you were to give advice for someone trying to start a blog, what would be the one tip you’d give them?

Be sure to read and comment on other blogs.  That’s the most important thing.  It’s better to write once a fortnight as long as one is active in the blogging community than to write frequently in obscurity.

6. Apples or Oranges?

Oranges.  They taste better and are used for more cocktails–especially the Old Fashioned!

7. What is your favorite non-anime TV show?

Magnum P.I.  Tom Selleck plays a great Hawaiian P.I. with a very complex history and persona.

8. Name one old TV series that should not be rebooted.

The Brady Bunch.

9. What board game should Michael Bay turn into a movie next?

Shadows over Camelot.  It would be fun to see how he weaves the game’s features into Arthurian legend–especially whether he shall include a traitor among the Knights of the Round Table.

10. What is your favorite Animal?

Wolves.  I have always been fascinated by how wolves run a kind of society and they are beautiful creatures.

Two Wolves

Now for Tobby’s questions:

1. What sort of music do you like?

J-pop, Classical, and 80’s music.

2. Is there a foreigner-made artwork that you really like?

I have a print of Jesus during the agony in the garden signed by Vicente Roso.  I believe this is the same Roso who’s famous for the comic Florita, but I might be wrong.  I love how the picture displays the world lying in darkness while Jesus is the light which will scatter this darkness.  In addition, Christ appears alone against all this darkness–even the three apostles lie in a deep sleep, but He is looking up to show that He has confidence in His Father’s plans for Him.

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3. Is there a fictional story that you would like to recommend?

Having read the comment that no one reads Sir Walter Scott anymore and determined that experience shows this to be true, I want to recommend Quentin Durward to my readers.  It focuses on a young Scot who travels to France to join King Louis XI’s Scottish bodyguards.  It also features the character Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy and stands as the most fun and easy to read of Sir Walter Scott’s works–at least, to my knowledge.

4. What do you usually do when you’re in the Internet?

I suppose blogging or playing on chess.com occupy most of my web browsing.

5. Have you ever had to deal with a really short-tempered child?

No, thankfully.

6. Do you think that you are an optimist?

Yes, sometimes I think that I’m crazy for being one, but I still am.

7. What is your preferred way of dealing with people who hate you?

I pray for them and stay out of their hair.  If I were a better Christian, I would greet them with smiles, but I confess to being rather lousy!

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Padre Pio, one of my favorite models for leading a Christian life.

8. Do you think that the death penalty is a good way to curb crime?

Yes, it prevents repeat offenses.  At any rate, there seem to be a certain set of people who are either impenitent or will repent at nothing less than the threat of their own demise.

9. Who is the family member that inspired you most?

I believe that my mother, father, grandfather, and grandmother have all inspired me greatly.  Of all of them, I feel most inspired by my grandfather, who had several languages under his command, was a great student of European history, and led a very interesting life in Croatia during the Second World War, under the Communists afterwards, and when he emigrated for America in 1967.

10. In three to five words, what are your values?

Wisdom, Knowledge, Compassion, Patience, Loyalty.

11. What is your favorite food?

A stew based on a family recipe known as gumbo, though the concoction of pasta sauce, barbeque sauce, Tabasco, peppers, garlic, onion, chicken, and hot Italian sausage does not count as a traditional gumbo.  Over spaghetti with the right amount of heat, nothing else is so good!

Inuyasha and Ramen

Now for Josh W’s questions:

1. Prog rock or punk?

Definitely progressive rock!

2. What book(s) are you reading right now?

I have the horrendous practice of perusing many works until a particular work absorbs my interest and I read through it.  At the moment, I’m reading the following: Virgil’s Aeneid (in Latin, of course.  Translations of this work are lame.), The Lord of the Rings, St. Thomas Aquinas’ On Prayer and Contemplation, Aquinas’ Catena Aurea: Gospel of Matthew, Michael Dirda’s On Conan Doyle, Kipling’s The Light That Failed, volume one of Churchill’s history of WWII, Vikings: A History of the Norse Peoples by Martin J. Doughty, and Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova.  I might also add that I listen to Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities or Stevenson’s Treasure Island while driving or occupied such that I cannot focus on a printed book.  I could also add various manga, but that list is already long enough.

3. If you could instantaneously become fluent in one language which you are not already, which would it be?

Might as well pick a language I feel is beyond my capabilities: Classical Chinese.  Then, I would read the Four Great Classical Novels in the original form: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh, Journey to the West, and Dream of the Red Chamber.

4. Name one piece of media, literary, musical, visual etc. which you believe has had a significant effect on your life.

Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk by Fr. M. Raymond.  This is the most profound work I’ve ever read.  It teaches about the importance of each individual person in the history of salvation, and I would highly recommend my fellow Catholics to read it.

SSOTM

5. Has your worldview ever undergone dramatic changes? How many times?

I suppose that reading Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk counts as the first.  Oblomov convincing me of the importance of friends stands as the second.  I can think of other changes, but they do not seem as dramatic to me.

6. Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest?

Never played Dragon Quest, and so I must go with Final Fantasy–especially Final Fantasy VIII.  I remember the days when the graphics of that game held me spellbound!

7. Favourite kind of verse?

Classical love poetry.  Ovid is my favorite poet, and I would heartily recommend his Heroides and Erotic Poems.  Concerning the latter, the seventh poem in book three has to be the funniest poem I’ve ever read–and not rated X, I assure you!

8. Are you a bot pretending to be a human? Please type: rI45yeARal3

Aquinas Bot

9. Favourite short story collection?

Of anything which I have read, nothing beats Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes.  I’ll just put The Complete Sherlock Holmes here.

10. Is it obvious that I am straining to come up with questions at this point?

It was obvious at #8.  I’ll be in the same boat shortly.

11. Would you rather be in Agamemnon’s army, or Odysseus’ crew?

Agamemnon’s army.  The chance for glory on the battlefield seems greater than finding it by risking death from cyclopes, oblivion by way of opium, or walking off a roof with a hangover.

Diomedes

My nominees:

Gaikokumaniakku

A Journey Through Life

Croatia by Us

Fox Diary

GAR GAR Stegosaurus

Gentlemanotoku’s Anime Circle

Yaranakya

Viking History with C. J. Adrian

The Null Set

Pretense w/Glasses

Head Noises

I hope that you enjoyed reading my answers in this oppressively long article!  Now, I shall wrap up with the questions I have for my nominees, which may not significantly differ from the questions I answered above.

  1. Do you watch the Olympics?
  2. Who is your favorite historical figure?
  3. Vikings vs. Samurai.  Who wins on a level playing ground?
  4. Do you like Jane Austen’s books?
  5. If your were marooned on a desert island with little possibility of rescue, which five books would you want to have with you?
  6. Also, a lifetime supply of what drink would you want to have with you on that island?
  7. Have you ever thought about joining the military or joined it?  Which branch?
  8. If for one night you could dine with anyone–living or dead, who would it be?
  9. If for a fortnight you could be transported into a fantasy world before returning to the real world, which one would it be?
  10. (For men) If you could grow a beard like JEB Stuart’s, would you?  (For women) If you could be any height you wished, what would it be?
  11. What’s your favorite sea creature?

And here’s a picture of Jeb Stuart if you are unfamiliar with his glorious beard:

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The Literature and History Blog Up and Running

I’ve had the chance to write a few posts for my new blog: Aquila et Infans.  This is Latin for “The Eagle and Child,” which you Inkling fans out there will recognize as the name of the pub where that group had their meetings.  I intend this blog to concentrate on literary and historical articles so that I can concentrate purely on anime and religion here.  I hope that those of my dear readers who are book lovers will find this a great site to follow.

www.aquilaetinfans.wordpress.com

Smoking-Pipes

Conan the Barbarian, Light Reading, and the Wholesomeness of Myth

You know, dear readers, meditating on my past few articles has caused me to realize just how ponderously they were written.  How long back was my last attempt at humor?  (I promise to read and comment on five posts of whoever is able to find that out.)  In order to attain the proper mood, I have stuck a pipe in my mouth and positioned myself under an automatic light which periodically requires me to walk eight paces forward in order to reactivate.  The hope being that the uniqueness of my position causes humor to infect my pen.

By 1redgirl1 of deviant art

By 1redgirl1 of deviant art

(Now to take a short break to retrieve a forgotten and essential pipe cleaner.  Alright, having been delivered of the sensation of sucking the bottom of an empty glass with a straw, let the subject matter commence!)

tolkien-pipe

Anyway, reading Conan the Cimmerian brought home to me how ponderous my present reading list is.  Take a gander at these works: Cicero’s De Inventione, a book on the War of 1812, the British officer Frederick Mackenzie’s diary of the Revolutionary War, Anton Chekhov’s major plays (you know how those went from this article), E. D. Hirsch’s work on why America’s schools are failing, and An Honest President by H. Paul Jeffers.  Only the last, a biography on Grover Cleveland, may be considered light in any degree.

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Oh, this is a political cartoon of Grover Cleveland. Not a picture of Conan the Barbarian.

A certain repressed part of my mind seemed to click as I read through the adventures of Conan the Barbarian.  Who would not be stirred by reading tales of him rescuing a maiden from Neanderthals, chasing a women clothed in sheer gossamer upon snowy vasts, being captured by a voluptuous pirate queen, and being madly embraced by her after a mating dance?  Pardon me.  This list of adventures might give the impression that any stirring in me was of a localized and prosaic kind.  Let me rather point out him adventuring for treasure, slaying eldritch monsters, prowess in battle, journeying through fantastic lands, and narrowly escaping treachery.

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I had once opined that language seemed more geared to narrative than academic purposes.  I might even say that the full richness of language expresses itself more fully in myth than in even the best tales of 19th century realists.  Myth affects the psyche on the level of beauty more than goodness and truth; though, a good myth will obviously also contain the latter ideas.  In the Conan stories, one is particularly struck by the detailed depictions of the countryside, the uniqueness of the scenarios, the atavistic mindsets of the characters, and the curious utility or opulence of the apparel.  Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian, employs a particularly rich vocabulary to convey all of this.  Forcing even a highly literary man like me to look up at least one word per page.  (That’s not bragging if it’s true, right?)

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So, burdening one’s mind with only works of academic rigor or factual events cannot but have a negative effect.  The mind needs to indulge in the beautiful and fantastic.  As Dostoyevsky wrote, “Beauty will save the world.”   It also saves the mind from stultification.  (That’s a real word, right?  Yes!  My dictionary confirms it and that my usage is perfect.)

Well, my pipe is done, and it’s time to step back into my nice, air conditioned house.  Good night to you all!

Feeding Frenzy at the Book Sale

Hello, dear readers!  I’m sorry that I haven’t been posting as regularly as I used to on this website.  So, I promise a few more serious articles in the future.  At the moment, there’s a book sale going on at the Eastern Branch Public Library in Shrewsbury, New Jersey.  They shall be running this book sale until the end of this week.  After reading what I deemed a sufficient amount of Plato and a book on the Hellenistic Age, I went down to browse the books here.  On the way in, a sign saying “one dollar per bag” intrigued me.  When I asked the cashier to explain precisely what this meant, she replied that all the books I could fill in a rather large bag would cost one dollar.  In a most abrupt manner, I snatched a bag and began perusing the books.  It began with a volume of Wordsworth’s poetry and ended like this:

IMG_0562Well, three of those books I got for other people.  My sister dreams of going to Switzerland and has an interest in designs of all sorts.  Therefore, that book on how to design gardens and the one on Switzerland were for her.  Then, the picture book on Bl. Pope John Paul II was given to my grandmother.  The rest intrigued me in one way or another, and one day I intend to read them.

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The books on Tokyo, Japan, and Ireland I got for myself, thinking that one could at least walk about the streets of Akihabara, admire the cherry trees of Kyoto, and be seated in a classic Dublin pub vicariously–even if yours truly finds it doubtful that such a trip can be made any time soon.  Though, a good friend of mine also dreams of going to Japan, and it might be possible to pool together enough money in a few years.

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IMG_0565

Some of these other books demonstrate my eclectic tastes.  I’ve always wanted to read Theodore Dreiser, if only to see why his books have been added to the list of perennials.  So, you can see Sister Carrie in the second picture.  I also love histories of war.  People show their true colors when placed in such stressful circumstances.  As Joshua Chamberlain said: “War makes good men great and bad men worse.”  So, I have a history of an American Civil War battle, WWII in the Pacific Theater, the Roman Civil War toward the end of the Republican period, and Theodore Roosevelt’s account of his actions in the Spanish-American War.  Also, I couldn’t resist adding Walter Lord’s account of the sinking of the Titanic to my collection, A Night to Remember.  I’ve also read his history of Midway.

The rest of the items on the table reflect my tastes in literature.  I’ve always loved Dryden’s wit and want to read more of him.  I picked up the Dorothy Sayers work because I want to give her another chance.  I found her writing style a bit pretentious and overly judgmental in the first work of hers I read.  If I don’t like it, I’m sure I can find someone else who will.

So, has anyone else gone on a book shopping spree lately?

The Awesome Charlemagne and A Short Hiatus

Well, dear readers, I must now prepare to go on vacation.  We leave at 4 AM first to visit my brother’s in Richmond.  The next day we travel to Sanibel and Captiva, Florida with the intention of staying there until July 1st or until we begin to feel sorry for leaving our cats.  The change of routine will do me well; however, this will cause a short period of inactivity here.  Nevertheless, I shall attempt to read some interesting works and to scribble some essays in my down time which will find their way to this blog after July 1st.  Yes, I’m an incorrigible bookworm, but this mode of being has some benefits.

The greatest bookworm of them all, Yomiko Readman!

For example, when Pliny the Younger’s guardian, Pliny the Elder, enthusiastically suggested that they go and see the eruption of Mount Vesuvius up close, Pliny the Younger replied that he would prefer to read a certain book.  Pliny the Elder no doubt chided his namesake concerning his lack of a spirit of adventure and scientific inquiry, but this turned out to be Pliny the Elder’s last scientific foray.

But now to begin my review of the Penguin edition of The Two Lives of Charlemagne by Einhard and Notker the Stammerer.  The latter’s life of Charlemagne is a string of anecdotes mocking worldly churchmen and poking fun at foolish nobles.  It provides a very personal character sketch of the ruler: one gets a picture of a hot tempered, wise, commonsense, and powerful monarch–both physically and regally–with a good sense of humor, which only makes me happier to account him as one of my ancestors.  (I must confess, dear readers, that probably half of you are as nearly related, so I shouldn’t feel too proud of this; but, it’s still nice knowing that one is somehow related to an emperor.)

Here are some examples of the anecdotes to which Notker treats the reader: Charlemagne gives a merchant free rein in order to trick a bishop known for buying silly trinkets and baubles.  The merchant, declaring to the bishop that he possesses a rare oriental creature, convinces him to buy a painted mouse for “a full measure of silver” (something over fifty pounds of silver, I suppose).  This same bishop later receives an edict from Charlemagne to the effect that he must preach a sermon on a certain feast day or else forfeit his see.  While the bishop realizes that he severely lacks rhetorical skill, he does not wish to relinquish his see.  So, he stands behind the pulpit as if to sermonize, then notices a certain person who, in order to conceal the redness of his scalp, has his head covered in church.  The bishop demands that the man be brought to him in bold tones.  Then, once the man is in arms’ reach, he snatches off the covering and solemnly declares to the congregation: “Lo and behold, you people!  This fool is red headed!”  Forthwith, he continues the mass.  When some of Charlemagne’s representatives reported this to him, the monarch is said to have been pleased by the bishop making some kind of effort to obey his edict.

This one stands as my favorite: the Greeks have a custom that the king is disgraced whenever a fellow diner looks through a pile of meat for a better cut.  One can only take whatever is on top.  While visiting this country, a clever knight of Charlemagne’s does so, and several Greeks demand that he be put to death for “disgracing” the king.  Charlemagne says he must do as they say, but he tells the knight that he may ask for one final boon.  The knight requests that all who have seen him do this have their eyes put out.  Charlemagne agrees to this strange request and is closely followed by the queen in declaring that he did not see him do this, swearing by God.  The end result is that all the Greeks and Franks at the table swear by God and the saints that they had not seen the knight do this, who is spared from capital punishment for lack of a witness.

Einhard, unlike Notker, actually lived during Charlemagne’s time as a close confidant of the emperor, admired for his learning and character.  His work is much more historical than Notker’s, and especially useful since he was present at all the events he chronicled.  He gives more details concerning Charlemagne’s wars and even provides us with a physical portrait of the emperor.  Though, it describes the emperor’s character in a matter of fact way, it is still almost as engrossing as Notker’s anecdotes.  So, this is a very good edition for those of you who both want the historical background of this man’s times and a more personal sketch of his character.

May you all also enjoy pleasant vacations and good books this summer!