Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Mirror Crack'd

This blogging is an odd thing.

It really doesn't matter much in the sum of things. Just a little trickle of more noise, really, lost amid the greater noise of our cacophonous Information Age where we are carpet-bombed with light and sound until we shout just to be heard yet find ourselves one of millions of shouters whose voices drown each other out.

I wish I could pretend to have some trick worth coming to read, some facility within that produced some wisdom without, some internal depth that would translate into words on the screen that you would clamor to come to ingest them, and ponder them, and that would in turn provoke you to some great insights within yourselves. I can't.

I don't have any real insight into politics, or human nature, or sex, or warfare, or knitting. I have the contents of my head, and I take them out and air them here, in hopes that they will touch something in you. I don't know why I feel compelled to do this. Vanity? Probably; I'm a trifle vain of my own erudition and skill with words. But I haven't the skills to make a living at it.

Well, there's David Brooks, then.


Let's say, rather, that I haven't the skill that should allow me to make a living at it.

But this odd little forum allows me to natter away without consequence, and allows me to at least pretend that someone or someones come to read my nattering. Looking back at last year I seem to be losing something; I didn't manage to find enough to talk about to match my postings for the year before, and certainly not from the Big Year, 2008, where I found enough materials lying around inside my skull for almost a post a day.

I'm not sure why.

Perhaps it was the official "end" of the Third Gulf War and the plainly-visible-to-everyone-outside-Victor-David-Hanson outcome (like "a dragon by the side of the road", as Bill James once said) of the Umpteenth Afghan War. Maybe it was the final, painful realization that my country is going to slide back into a half-assed sort of Gilded Age without even the prospect of enough dismal jobs in meatpacking and ironmongery to keep the parents of the future match girls and breaker boys in laudanum and cigarettes.

Maybe it was just preoccupation with the usual sorts of things we use as excuses for our national lack of political, economic, and social concern; work and family.

I don't think I'm done here. And I certainly want to thank and appreciate all of you who take the time to stop by, to read, and, especially, to comment back, especially those familiar friends and comrades; Lisa, jim, basil, Ael, Don Francisco, Pluto, Dee, Podunk Paul, Big Daddy, labrys, mike, Leon, are always welcome here, and welcomed. I hope to continue our epistolary friendship in the year to come. So this blog will be here, and I will be here, and, I hope, you will, too.

And I will continue to blab out whatever's in my head; poetry, and war, and love, and Korean in-laws, and kids, and ire at fucking Newt Gingrich, that vile staff-banging plutocrat, and soccer, and politics, and Portland, and the Northwest.

Oh, and I have eight more beers to review!

So, I hope, that even if I have nothing much to say I can say it well.

Welcome, friends, to 2012. I hope it finds you all well, strong, douce, and happy. And may we all leave it better, saner, happier, stronger, and kinder people than we enter it!

"On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And through the field the road run by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott."

~ Fred Tennyson


BigFred said...

Charge 4 Green Bag!

Merry New Year.

Podunk Paul said...

Don't underestimate yourself, Chief. You have real talent. Some of your stuff I read over and over, trying to see how it works and what can be stolen. You seem to have whole libraries in your memory. And with all that, you've got the main thing -- the passion for the word.

So why not publish? If only to leave something of yourself for your grand kids. Something to put depth into their heritage.

Barry said...

Keep going, until the only readers are the ones in your head.

Trust me, we're still real.

[would we lie to you? us?]

Lisa said...

You know you can count me in for 2012 :) I think I can speak for all of us, your readers, when I confirm that we do "clamor to ingest and ponder" your words.

You far exceed David Brooks; all you need now is the pink shirt (sigh).

You always say it well. To match your poetic excerpt (from today's Rumi-thon):

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn't make any sense

Leon said...

As Paul said, don't underestimate yourself, you got good content.

Funnily enough since you mentioned Victor David Hansen. I just finished a book on ancient Greek warfare - the subject that got him his soapbox.

(Long boring section that most who aren't into ancient history can ignore) Hanson had postulated that in ancient classical Greek warfare, the combat described as "othismos" was what was literally described - a giant push or rugby scrum of soldiers. This polarized opinion into two groups: the 'push' supporters and those who believe in more conventional (stab at each other with spears) supporters. A book by Hans Van Wees (a poncy European no less) does a good job of demolishing (IMO) Hanson's theory of Othismos.

Not a good time for Hanson, first he's had to admit that Iraq was a fiasco and now the Euro's are chipping away at his classical legacy.


FDChief said...

Thanks, gang! And I didn't mean to dis BigFred, but I wasn't sure if you were a regular around the joint - welcome back!

I guess the only reason I don't want to publish is because I don't want to contribute to the noise machine. There's so MUCH stuff out there it's already nearly impossible to keep up with it. I'm not sure if the value of my stuff is worth the time and effort it'd take to try and turn it into print.

Plus, frankly, I like the ephemeral nature of blogging. It's like the old tradition of oral storytelling; the time and place matter as much as the story itself. In this case the story DOES still exist and can be recalled with a minimum of effort...

Leon: Not having read the Hanson work I'd have to say that I'd have instinctively resisted the notion of imagining the phalanx as a sort of human tank. I don't care how hardcore you are, the notion of being trapped inside a mass of people with the guys behind you literally forcing you onto the dory (or the later sarissa) in front of you is the sort of thing that only some ideological fathead who had never been in mortal danger in combat could come up with. If you were some sort of death-seeking samurai or assassin you might accept it, but a free Greek citizen would probably start fighting with the guys around him rather than passively accept that sort of fate.

What I can see happening in phalangite combat is an initial clash, where the two spear-bristling blocks marched together with some sort of escalating approach velocity, probably accelerating to a rapid jog right before collision. The idea being that if you were better trained, better organized, and timed your collision better you MIGHT just shatter your enemy's phalanx-front and win the fight right there.

But IMO the more likely outcome between relatively evenly-matched opponents would be a stand-off at pike-length. At that point I can't see where some goofy rugby-push sort of thing would actually work as opposed to a pike-fencing match where you and your immediate buddies could cooperate to try and kill your way through the enemies' front line. Particularly since the likelihood of panic in the interior of the phalanx seems so high.

Correlation between looser tactical formations and both military skill and success is evident in almost every military organization in history. Given that the phalanx is an extreme endmember I still suspect that the better the Greek army the more room for individual skill with the pike their phalanx organization and tactics were designed.

The other coherent objection is that I don't see how the historical record backs up Hanson's idea.

At Delium the eight-rank phalanx on the Athenian left stood off the 25-rank Theban right for some time (they were pushed back eventually and defeated, but picture a four-man scrum holding a twelve-man scrum for more than a couple of minutes and you get the picture about how this doesn't really fit the "scrum-push" ideas) Xenophon says of the Spartan twelve-man rank right wing that it was able to stand up to the 50-rank (!) Theban left for some time but was eventually overcome and broken. That sounds to me more like the result of attrition to me rather than a smash-and-pushover sort of thing.

Not saying that Hanson HAS to be wrong, just that without stronger evidence than his supposition that to me, as someone who has been both a soldier and played rugby, his ideas don't pass the initial sniff-test.

rangeragainstwar said...

i believe the greatest question in life is-why do we always continue another day?
simply put we must believe something and keep taking the next step, otherwise it's a glock to the brainpan.
so far i still take the next step, even when i feel like i'm pissing up a rope.also that's what we both do.
when i'm in the depths i keep myself going with this mantra- everyday that i'm alive i'm screwing the army for 1 more day.
think about it!

FDChief said...

jim: For me it's the chance to at least try and get things right at the local and regional level. I'm not ready to head into the hills to fight for the Republic of Cascadia...yet...but I still have hope that we can do the right thing our here by breaking from the national mainstream.

If there ever comes a point where it becomes obvious that the bulk of my fellow Northwesterners are as lost to common sense as the two-thirds of the rest of the country that has got us here, well...then maybe it IS time to just check out and enjoy the remainder of my declining years in the imperial sunset.

Leon said...

Always a home for you in Canada with our commie healthcare. I'll put in a good word for you with the minister.

RE: Hanson. I think Van Wees does a good job demolishing him along with a lot of established dogma - In my opinion as an "amateur semi-expert" (in that I've read up quite a bit on it but have no formal education in it).

VW doesn't even believe in the overlapping shield formations, that the term "shield to shield" was more a literary metaphor (or something). That they formations were far looser and disorderly (than most depictions of classical era phalanxes) as they were comprised of militia. Excepting of course the Spartans, which would explain why they beat the pants off of everyone else.

Really interesting book, I'd recommend it: Greek Warfare - Myths and Realities by Hans van Wees.

BigFred said...

Daily troller, Chief, comment a little read a lot. No slight felt. I very much enjoyed your post on "what am I doing with my life/where am I going/is this it?" so much that I printed it out and gave it to my wife while I was between jobs, and said, "This".

You add value. Your content matters.