Richomer

He was a Frank in service to the Emperor Gracian, also known as Flavius Richomeres, born 350, died 393. For a time he was Consul of Rome, he was also my 48th great grandfather.

How does this barbarian Frank become a Roman Consul? Well, first off, he was the son of a Frankish general named Teutomer, 310-363. Teutomer, was the Duke of Dacia Ripensis, the area in the northern Balkan peninsula, immediately south of the Middle Danube, roughly in Bulgaria. It was home to the 13th Twin Legion, also known as Legio XIII Gemina, a legion of the Imperial Roman army.

It was one of Julius Caesar‘s key units in Gaul and in the civil war, it was the legion with which he famously crossed the Rubicon on January 10, 49 BC. Emperor Julian made Teutomer the commander. Rome had felt it best to hire a barbarian to control the barbarians.

Teutomer’s son, Richomer, was trained as a Roman soldier, and eventually became head of the Imperial Bodyguards (Comes Domesticorum) of Emperor Gracien.

In 378, Emperor Gratien sends him East at the head of an army to help Co-empereur Valens fight the Goths, but the Romans are defeated at the Battle of Andrinople on 9 August 378. While Valens is killed in the battle, Richomer survived the rout and remained in the East, where he was second to Theodosius I, the new Caesar of the East. Again at the head of a Frankish and Roman army, he is ordered to march against his nephew Arbogast (possibly the son of Bauto) to quell his rebellion. Theodosius names him Master of the Militia for the East in 383, and then Consul of Rome in 384.

In 388, Theodosius sent him to the West to fight the usurper Magnus Maximus, and he defeats him at the Battle of the Save River, and forces his surrender at Aquilea, after which he executes him. After the assassination of one of the co-Emperors Valentinien II (15 May 392), Arbogast places Eugenius on the throne and Theodosius sends Richomer to fight them, but he dies shortly after his departure, leaving it to Stilichko, the Vandal general, to defeat Eugenius and Arbogast at the Battle of Frigidus on 6 September 394.

Richomer’s son was the future king of the Franks, Theodemir. He supported the usurper Emperor Jovinus (411-413) in the Roman civil war with Emporor Honorius. Jovinus was executed and his head eventually was displayed on the walls of Ravenna, and later Carthage, along with four other usurpers to the throne of Rome. In retaliation Honorius also sends a legion to capture Theodemir and his mother Ascyla, then had them executed. This pretty much guaranteed that the Franks would no longer fight for the Romans.

Theodemir’ s son Chlodégar, king of the Salian Francs at Cologne, and his brother Clovis, actively attacked the Romans, and is said to be the ancestors of the Merovingian Kings of France.

In just a few short years my 48th great grandfather, Richomer, who was a Roman Consul, produced a grandson who became King of France, my 46th great grandfather, Chlodégar.

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The Intersection

I’ve been pondering the complexities of “knowing” and “believing”. It’s oblivious to me that this is not a new concept, but sometimes it takes some research to find the shoulders of greater minds.

The closest I found was Thomas Aquinas, who spent his life studying Aristotle and blending philosophy with Christianity. He believed that faith and reason would lead to reality. Along with Albertus Magnus a rational view of the world came into view. Most people are familiar with Aristotle, even if they only know that his was employed as Alexander the Great’s tutor. Nice to know that the conqueror of the known world was led by the greatest thinker. Also, many people, particular those in religious circles, are aware of Thomas Aquinas, even though they might not be able to quote anything.

Hardly any people are aware of the importance of Albertus Magnus, apart from a few people majoring in philosophy/theology, (or attended the college in Connecticut).

Albertus Magnus, or Albert the Great, was a Dominican friar and bishop, who later became a saint. He lived 1200-1280 in and around Cologne, Germany. He was educated at the University of Padua in Italy, the second oldest college in Italy. Padua has just been founded by former students of the University at Bologna, the oldest university in Europe. Later, he was able to teach at the University of Paris, the second oldest university in Europe. It is safe to say that that Albert was very familiar with academia in the Middle Ages.

His expertise was generally Aristotle, and one of his best students was Thomas Aquinas. It is obvious that Albert had a great influence on the mind of Thomas Aquinas. Albert was the first academic to comment upon nearly all of Aristotle’s known writings. In addition, it was due to Arabic scholars that much of Aristotle was saved from destruction. Albert also wrote about the Arabic scholars Avicenna and Averroe, leading Albert to be at the center of academic debate.

According to Wikipedia, his writings included topics on logic, theology, botany, geography, astronomy, astrology, mineralogy, alchemy, zoology, physiology, phrenology, justice, law, friendship, and love. Obviously a curious and well rounded man. He outlived his famous student Thomas Aquinas.

While Albert was born very near to the death of Hildegard von Bingen, it would seem that he continued in most of the areas that Hildegard studied. He must have been aware of her work, and was obviously inspired by her depth.

Though he was a bishop and later a saint, his writing was mostly in philosophy and should be remembered as the greatest scholar of Aristotle.

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What I Know, What I believe

I know about physical mortality, I believe in spiritual immortality.

I know about free will, I believe in destiny.

I know about evil, I believe in the ultimate conquest of good.

I know about love, I believe it is attainable by everyone.

I know about science, I believe it is a gift from G-d.

I know about G-d, I believe in the existence of demons.

I know about the concept of evolving, I believe in evolution.

I know about a few concepts of time, I believe that time is truly unknowable.

I know I am sinful, I believe I am redeemed.

I know about the concept of purpose, I believe purpose is known over time.

I know about creation, I believe we can be makers.

(Starting a list of what you know, and what you believe, can be helpful.)

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I Believe

What a powerful statement! A verifying statement that determines the very existence of a thing or a thought. If you believe, it is there, if you don’t believe it isn’t there. At least that is one concept that is out there.

For example, there are two people arguing, one person makes a statement of fact, the other person hears that statement, processes the discrete pieces of information, and declares that he doesn’t believe. Now we have two people with two radically different ideas of reality. Theoretically there is only one reality, the question before us is whether realty is based upon an agreement with humans, in other words, that reality is based upon someone “believing”.

In many cases, this might be appear to be true. Humans can create potential realities that are described using language. The world is flat and the oceans fall off at the edge, descending into the Great Void. If one person hears this, and believes, then, it becomes a fact for him, and he will not sail too far lest he fall off the edge. If a person does not believe, he will sail, and no edge will appear.

Reality can appear to be created by “not believing”. Conversely, we can believe that gravity does exist by watching an apple fall from a tree. Because we believe it is real. Clearly stated this way, it is obvious that reality is independent of any humans “belief”. So where can we accurately use the word “believe”? I believe it is proper until we know! Just believing does not make it reality, but it is a preliminary stage to “knowing”.

A safe concept is to carefully observe reality, then declare that you believe that is exists. You are simply agreeing that you are observing correctly, and you can use that information in understanding more complicated realities. Knowledge is built upon correct observations. We don’t create the realities, we simply observe the facts.

Unfortunately the very word “believe” has the implication that “existence” is dependent upon a personal decision. This is the great dilemma in determining realty.

The silliest statement I can think of is “I believe in gravity” or “I believe in Light”. Yet we have an opinion whether we believe in evolution or “The Big Bang Theory”. In truth, both of these concepts are in the process of knowing. Some people are already there, they know! Some people are in the process so technically they “believe”. Some people do not believe, so they are comfortable in the denying of the existence. Reality is still reality, but are we in agreement?

The only way this is acceptable is by using the term “believe” until we know it is fact. We can’t allow a “belief” to remain as a static state. With careful observation, and repeated evidence, a belief transcends into a fact, and hopefully that expresses reality.

Does “false information” exist? Technically, if it is false, it does not exist, but only if we are correctly observing. Incorrect observation creates “false information”. And I believe (haha!) there exists a multitude of false information.

One last piece of information about “believe”, and that is being meaningful. Reality can often be perceived by humans as devoid of meaning. Believing is very often passionate, giving it great meaning. The solution to this is to be in awe of reality. Give great meaning, passionate meaning to the truth of realty. Unfortunately too many people develop so much passion in “believing” that they cannot accept the next step into “knowing” if it goes against a preconception.

We are complicated and ego-centric. Too many of us believe that we creat realities. There was only one moment of creation for everything. I know this!

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Worst Day in History

Norwegian Seed Vault

Time does exist, it may also be theoretical, but the reality of linear time is apparent to all. While “value” may be highly subjective, there has been some attempt to define the “worst day in history”. This could be seen as the birth of an evil dictator, a catastrophic meteor, the first use of atomic weapons, the election (or loss) of a presidency, or biting the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

In general, it is more than the event itself, but the linear consequences that follow the event, so pinning the “worst day” is very difficult. What part of the linear process is the crucial “point of no return?”

There are a couple of YouTube videos that suggest that 536 AD is the worst year to be alive in our history. More specifically, the early part of 536, due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland, North America, or El Salvador. We don’t know which or how many. In either case, it was the consequences that brutalized the world.

The amount of volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere created a “nuclear winter” for the summer of 536 AD around the globe. Creating famine and hardship for plants, animals and humans. Medieval scholar Michael McCormick, in 2018 nominated 536 AD as the beginning of massive changes around the world, including a mysterious “fog”.

There were Visigoths in Spain from 600-800 AD. They weren’t indigenous, they came from Romania, because they were being pressured by Huns coming from the East. The Huns left the East because of famine in the Tundra. It was a cascading effect of the volcanic “fog” that created Hungary. And yes, certainly Attila had something to do with the success of the Huns, but leaders rise due to challenges, or their people perish.

This is just one example, more and more historians are attributing the climate change starting in 536 to the end of cultures in various parts of the planet.

So today we have bunkers to survive the initial nuclear blast, but can we survive two or three years of ash in the sky, blocking out the rays of the sun? How do we regain our plant life? What happens to our seed crop? Every farmer knows to put aside seed to plant new crops. A bad harvest may require dipping into the seed crop to provide food. Two or three bad harvests will eliminate the seed crop and the “shortage” of food will become permanent.

Never fear, there is a secure bunker in Norway. In 2008, the Norwegians finished construction of the Arctic Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It has been filled with seeds of every kind of plant. It is super secret, no visitors, and it will be the place to go in order to replenish the seed crop for the worlds farmers.

I hope they have enough.

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COVID Events

This could have happened in any case. But perhaps some AI has figured out that I would be interested. The older one gets, often there is less outdoor activity. Less activity outside often increases activity inside. With technology, increased indoor activity often means YouTube videos.

This is a long introduction to the last YouTube video that popped up in my social media feed. The title of “What if We Built the Deepest Bunker” definitely stopped my scrolling to other potential videos. This was something that I actually knew about! I watched with interest.

I wondering about the potential percentage of knowledgable people in the US about bunkers, and I’m guessing it is pretty small. I believe the standard US veteran percentage is about 1% that has served in the military. I’m guessing that the percentage of US military that has served in underground bunkers of any kind, is way less than 1% of the military. The number of veterans that served in hardened, substantial, bunkers is way less than that.

I spent nearly two years of my life serving in what was considered the underground Pentagon, in the Blue Ridge mountains of Pennsylvania. In the 1970s it was super secret. Later on, in the 1990s I believe it was deactivated, and even offered tours to the public. Local residents, who had known about the bunker had lined up first for the tours. Then 9-11 occurred, and it was activated once more, but in a reduced role. It was no longer super secret, but it was a super example of the Cold War, a Dr. Strangelove facility.

It can be found on the internet by researching Raven Rock, but doing so might place you on a “watch list”. Reading this blog might also place you on a watch list. I’m too old to worry much about it. Most of what I experienced has either been lost to time, or things have been changed. But I still remember being underground, safe from nuclear attack, and being at the center of a future wartime command center.

Three things come to mind. 1) There were offices for most of the important areas of the Pentagon, but they were 95% empty. Lots and lots of fully functional areas gathering dust. But since a lot of dust is shed skin cells, with no people, not much dust. 2) Most of the higher ups of the government/military had living quarters allocated. Not everyone could make it underground, but higher management had room for their families. 3) As a member of low ranking staff, there were no facilities for my family. In the multiple test alerts, where I had to be at my post with fifteen minutes of an alert, I knew that I would be safe, while my family was being vaporized outside the bunker. This was a burden throughout my time at this post.

The practical things of living underground? There were only a few exercises where we were required to stay multiple days underground. Usually we worked ten hour days, six days on, and two days off. The weekends were occasionally mid-week. Lots of down-time on the swing and grave shift hours when the higher ranking staff were not around. Hours and hours of walking empty halls, servicing empty offices.

The lasting memories is of multi-storied buildings, built in caves dug out of solid rock, lots and lots of bats, intense security, blast doors as large as a two lane road, a couple of lakes with fresh water, radiation showers with changing rooms with thousands of uniforms, pallets of food lining the interior access roads. Just a few of the memories.

The main thing I learned was that survival required lots of effort and planning. I grew more confident that leaders have put the effort, time and money to guarantee that this country will survive. The question will always be, at what cost?

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Language is Compressed Evolution

Sometimes a person reads a book and the ideas are so foreign that it takes hours of re-reading a paragraph, and in the end you still are unsure of the intent or the direction. It is as unsettling as sand beneath your feet.

If the opposite occurs, if the words on the page are so familiar that you know exactly what the next sentence will be, or the next paragraph, or G-d forbid the next chapter, then you might as well stop reading. You have already written this book, and it is boring, and a waste of time.

The sweet spot of language/literature/communication is when you follow the linear progression, and the concept of the individual pieces of data are understood, but the gestalt of that data is a brand new thought, or a familiar thought that you haven’t yet expressed. This is the glorious power of transferred information, whether is is acting, story telling, literature, or artwork.

My latest example of this, is a book first published in 1998, written by Leonard Shlain, titled, “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess”. It had me absolutely hooked in the first twelve pages. What is important is that I am not saying that I agree with his premise. I am not even certain of the boundaries of his premise. But I am completely enthralled with the problem, and the willingness to study the issue.

As I understand the problem, Shlain points out that women lost equality in the social structure, due to the development of written communication. He brings in a number of concepts that show a linear path to this conclusion. It is definitely worth reading more to verify what he believes.

One concept that he brings out, is the evolutionary development of the “opposable thumb”. It’s an old, yet compelling, discussion. Familiar, but not boring. Then he writes about the evolutionary development of “the heel”. I had never heard anyone write about this! It would be in the literature, but it hasn’t been in general discussion.

Two developments, due to environmental changes, the connectivity of the tree canopy disappeared. This forced some tree-based mammals to descend to the ground, and begin to walk. The grasping nature of the hind limbs, evolved into having a simple, hard, heel. Instead of four hands, they had two hands and two feet. This heel gave the former tree dwellers the ability to stand upright, and walk, and even run.

When the amazing hands no longer were forced to engage in limb grasping for climbing, they developed fine motor skills that allowed for tool making. This created larger brains in the mammal, but that was problematic for birthing. The evolutionary response was to make the pelvis wider in women, which made her walk different. If the brain size continues to grow then the women’s walk would become a “waddle”, so the brain size remained stable but certain developed areas became added later, after getting through the birth canal.

Al this makes perfect sense, even if all the dots hadn’t been connected. Evolution is marvelous and works amazingly. But it takes hundreds of thousand years, even millions of years.

At some point, when communication became strong enough, information important to the survival of the species, could be passed in less than a generation. That which depended upon a million years of experience, could be applied in less that a week. Communication compresses evolution!

Can’t wait for Chapter Two! Thank you Clay for recommending this author.

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Diestler Homes

Poking around Google Earth, I started a search for old residences of Diestler’s, at least the addresses that I could remember. This led to a general search of my photo file and the results where interesting.

This is by far the oldest Diestler home. A farmhouse that was in Prussia, now in Poland. Destroyed in WWII, it had “Diestler“ carved above the door, Built approximately late 1780s. Combination barn and home.

I tried to find where my father was born, but the 18 room farmhouse was moved from the acreage and I don’t know what direction. It was near Fingal, ND.

In the same way, all the known addresses of his home in Fargo have been torn down or flooded away. The Red River was not very controlled.

This is the “stoop” of the wartime housing. Our apartment is the door on the left.

In 1953 the family final bought their first house for $12,500, unfortunately it was haunted.

This photo was from 1958? The photo above that from Google Earth. Don’t know if it’s still haunted.

The family then moved to a duplex, with my brother living in the front apartment.

My parents then retired and moved in a cottage behind my brother’s house in Tacoma, WA

My first apartment after moving out was a small two bedroom upstairs corner unit.

Just before being drafted, I shared a home with Obert.

My first apartment after the military was in Point Richmond, a very small, very narrow studio.

Behind The Hotel Mac
First floor two bedroom behind the tree

A nice but windy rental…

The first purchased home
Extremely hot in the summer…

And that ends the previous home record…

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Some doors are one way…

If only we knew for certain that all choices can be undone without penalty. I can help with that statement, that all choices come with a penalty. The problem is the size of the penalty. For example, you are walking down a path, and you reach a fork in the road. You ponder which fork to take. From your vantage point you are aware that you have little information on which path will lead you in the right direction.

You observe the classic piece of data that one path is lightly used, the other path shows more wear. Briefly, you consider the old poem of choosing the lesser worn path. But this poem is not life, that was just literature. But then you measure the cost. You can easily retrace your steps should the path be not to your liking, so you enter the path least taken.

All is well until you look backward and you have lost sight of the fork in the road. You continue onward because you can still turn around. Many more paths converge from either side. This makes it harder to go backwards, but you can see the right path to take should you turn around, by following your footsteps. The tracking class you took really helps in this regard.

Eventually the path leads to a steep, long decline. The impact is that if you decide to turn backwards then it will take much more energy, and time, to get back to the fork in the road. The penalty of your choice is increasing. On top of everything else, it is beginning to rain, and the rain will erase all traces of your footsteps. Continuing now is a commitment to walking through the door, with no turning back.

This was not the thought when You first chose the lesser path. This is the important maxim to remember when facing a choice. You may try something without a full commitment, just to see if it is worthy, but if it begins to only make promises, and the path turns into a one-way choice, then back up!

I will hold to my maxim by following my choice. By choosing the road most followed, or by choosing the road least followed. What I will not do is let the road chose for me.

This is especially true in the coming elections. Some choices are one-way.

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A Solemn Day

Today is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement that comes after the ten Days of Awe, starting with Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year. Obviously if you are Jewish you would already know this. For the first thirty years of my life I was only vaguely of the terms, and mostly ignorant of the true meanings.

For the last forty years of my life I have learned and applied much of what I have learned. That doesn’t make me Jewish, but I believe it brings me closer to G-d, with a better relationship.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the concept of reverence, and how that it is expressed in the world. We can see examples of reverence by people bowing, or by people not turning their backs to the object of reverence. It is important to note that if you see an example of reverence, it doesn’t not mean that you are being reverent. Reverence is a personal choice that manifests itself in an action. Witnessing the action doesn’t somehow transfer reverence to you.

In fact, simply coping the act of others being reverent doesn’t not mean that you are actually reverent. It must be your choice, your action.

The discussion then centered on G-D’s name. In scripture it is written that G-d shared his name as “I AM”, and in Hebrew this was written using four consonants, “YHWH”. It is also described as the Tetragrammaton. How this word is pronounced has filled volumes of books. From early on it became a tradition to never say the name, out of reverence. The name was written, but if someone would read aloud, that reader would replace the name with Adonai, LORD, or HaShem (the name). This was an act of personal reverence.

When Scripture was translated into Latin, the Y was changed to the letter “I” or later, “J”. This is why we see the Hebrew word “Yeshua” written first in Greek as “Iesous” and then in Latin as “Iesus”, and finally in English as Jesus. Even though the “I” was pronounced with a “J” sound, so it still sounded like Jesus.

As far as the Tetragrammaton, this was not quite as simple. Without the necessary vowel sounds, the word could sound vastly different. There is much evidence that the word YHWH was pronounced “Yahweh”, an in some translations this is how it is rendered. It is still not pronounced aloud, but often replaced with Adoni, by the speaker. Again, this was a personal act of reverence by the speaker.

Later translations used the “J” instead of “Y”, and choose slightly different vowel sounds, so “Yahweh” became “JoHoVaH”, or Jehovah. And for some reason this was okay to vocalize, but hopeful said with reverence.

At some point the Hebrew scribes decide that “YHWH” sound not be written, o out of reverence it was replaced with the words that were used vocally when the scrolls were read. YHWH became Adonai, or LORD, or even many of the other names that were used in the oral tradition. This was done out of reverence, but logically it was only the reverence of the scribe. This replacement took the action of reverence out of my hands. I could still have a general feeling of reverence, but it is much less personal.

In the same way, I can write God, and the capital “G” implies the name with accompanying reverence. But when I type “G-d” that gives the same message, but adds the active act of reverence by the author. The reader of “G-d” is not expressing the act of reverence by simply reading “G-d”.

As you can see, this discussion with my friend covered some fine nuances. But it did help me to focus my acts of reverence as an active choice. That I can “coast” on the acts of reverence of others. That I can become more knowledgeable of Scripture, but I must also make it an action of faith.

Glad to finally be in a new year.

Shalom!

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What Films Can Do!

All this sequestering has upped my cinematic experiences. I have a tendency to select action films. Action plus historical fact is a guaranteed winner for me. As far as genres, it is only a very narrow slice of what is possible, and I recently took the time to ponder that fact. What is possible in films?

The first thing that comes to mind is Warhol’s film of the Empire State Building. I haven’t seen it, and I’m told that individuals who have seen it, wear a badge of honor. It reflects their hipness to sit through eight hours and five minutes of a silent, black & white shot of the Empire State Building, from 5:00 pm until 3:00 am. Okay, the badge doesn’t really exist, but the mindset is real.

It is a movie with time as the focus. Years later Boyhood was filmed, taking twelve years to film, the same cast ages without makeup. Again, in simple terms it was a film about time, with people passing through instead of a building.

For most of history of cinema, the content of films mimics literature, the media it basically replaced. There is a storyline, filled with characters, locations, and some dialogue. The linear development stretches all the back to stories around the campfire. It is well known, scripted, choreographed, and performed from generation to generation in some dimly lit cavern.

Then it is written down, and read aloud. Then literacy increases, and more words are added, the story is embellished because it can be. Eventually it goes back to theater, and sets are created, standards are met, music is added. In the final expression it is recorded in film. And for the most part it is almost like the story, almost like the book, almost like the play. And yet film can be so much more.

In the same way, I often realize that websites are almost like books or magazines, click and the page turns. I suppose that makes it familiar and comfortable, but the internet can be so much more.

So, what examples do we have of movies stretching the limits of what is possible? At first thought one might say the use of special effects. This is naturally tied to the development of technology. Hanging small models of flying saucers from fishing poles might pass in the early 1950s, but today it is comical, and it really doesn’t change the story, it just makes it more believable. Except for the noisy explosion of rockets in deep space. It’s flashy in space, but it’s actually deadly silent. At some point filmmakers tested audiences, and noisy lasers built the necessary drama.

I suppose that the examples of avant garde genre is the current standard of “pushing the envelope”. I’m thinking of “My Dinner with Andre”, or the 2001 film version of “Waiting for Godot”. Hmm, the play was better.

Some of my favorite movies in this genre are:

1. Un Chien Andalou, 1929, with Salvatore Dali and Luis Brunel, famous for the razored eyeball scene

2. Anemic Cinema, 1926 by Marcel DuChamp

3. Destino, 1946 by Salvatore Dali and Walt Disney

4. Spellbound, 1945 by Alfred Hitchcock

5. El Topo 1970, & The Holy Mountain 1973, by Alejandro Jadorowsky (very weird)

6. Eraserhead 1977, by David Lynch

7. Koyaanisqatsi 1984, by Godfrey Reggio

8. Being John Malkovich, 1999, by Spike Jonze

9. A Field in England 2013 by Ben Wheatley

10. You, the Living 2007 by Roy Andersson

And several more that slip my name memory. And today I’m adding…

11. I’m Thinking of Ending Things 2020, by Charlie Kaufman

Truly, very few directors push the boundaries of what films can do.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
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Who are you voting for?

There are few direct questions that gives me more grief. Immediately my brain goes to “Why?” And my mental answer is always the same. It goes through the filter, “Is this person so confused that they are seeking clarity from me?” Hmm, the tone of the question isn’t right. That isn’t it. “Is this person trying to engage me in a political discussion in order to convince me to vote for their candidate?” Hmm, have I signaled that I’m confused and need education. Nope!

Okay, maybe this person is just looking for minds that think alike. Possible, so I might respond. “I believe completely in the principle of the secret ballot in order to preserve our rights!” A better question is to ask what principles I support.”

At that point they generally walk away.

I elect representatives, in order to make the decisions that I would make if I was in attendance. The representatives have made statements to me about platforms that I have strong opinions about. I don’t elect personalities. It’s not about the individual. I re-elect a representative based upon the “actions”, or the ability to govern. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they represented me, but lost. Generally, so long as they haven’t given up, I give them another chance. It is still based upon the platform.

No one has asked the more accurate question. Not “Who did you vote for?”, but “What did you vote for?”

My response is still, “It’s a secret.”

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I am old enough

I am old enough to remember the Free Speech Movement, not from the newscasts of NBC, CBS, and ABC (the only main sources), I know it because I caught a bus and walked up University Avenue. I didn’t have a driver’s license.

Over the next few years I went from a back row observer in demonstrations, to an active, front line member. I placed my body on the train tracks, I surrounded buses filled with drafted young men, pleading for them to get off the bus. They were heading to be cannon fodder in Vietnam Nam.

I was tear gassed dozens of times,I was trapped in the entryway of a store, then pressed by bodies who were being beaten by baton wielding police. Eventually I was pushed through a plate glass window. I was there during People’s Park riots.

I was a monitor on the San Francisco Peace March, I rode backwards on a scooter, shouting through a megaphone, “Keep to the curb!” I know about peaceful demonstrations, I know about violent demonstrations where lives were lost.

These were the formative years of my life.

The Vietnam War was still on, I was finally drafted. I was in the bus this time. Some of my acquaintances were outside the bus in Oakland, pleading for us to get out of the bus, “Do not let yourself to be cannon fodder!”, they shouted.

I was flown up to Ft.Lewis, Washington for basic training. I lasted two weeks before I got an honorable discharge. Then I enlisted for three years in the regular army. This counted as a re-enlistment, so I got additional “professional” pay.

I spent almost 15 months in training. I had secret, top secret, and top secret crypto clearances. I was stationed for a year in the underground Pentagon in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was also stationed on the DMZ in South Korea. This was during a mini shooting war. I heard bullets come my way, I sent bullets their way. One early morning, around 3am, I got a classified message that the Vietnam War was over. The peace accord was signed in Paris. Six months later I left the army.

Both events were shaping in very positive ways. Both events left their scars.

I used to know stuff, the older I get, the less I know. Some things still seem to ring true. There are honorable people in the world, and they are diverse. There are misled people in the world, and they are equally diverse. They are evil people in the world, not in huge numbers, but at times they have great influence. This is the way of the world.

Another truth, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

To the extent that it is possible, I choose to be under a corrupt system that still gives me the freedom to protest. In this way I can still influence change. The Vietnam War ended!

And I gave my oath to defend that system against those who would attack by violence. That oath is still active.

I am not conflicted.

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Nuremberg Chronicle Map

Mentioned in a birthday gift from a good friend. Thank you Peter.

Also known as The Liber Chronicarum, of Hartmann Schedel, printed in Nuremberg by Anton Koberger in 1493. A complete history of the world from creation to the publication date. Famous as one of the most illustrated of all German books (printed before Gutenberg). Interesting, because many of the illustrated cities were adapted the same woodcut. Nuremberg was the largest city in the Holy Roman Empire, and the only city that had a two page illustrated spread in the book. The book also had a detailed map that illustrated “a parliament of monsters”, a collection of creatures believed to inhabit distant lands of the known world.

The book had well over a thousand woodcuts that were produced by the Michael Wolgemut Workshop of artists, which included Albrecht Durer. None of the artists signed their name, but Durer is suspected of helping to create many of the woodcuts. Albrecht Durer lived on the same street as Anton Koberger, the printer of the book, who was also Durer’s godfather.

The Sciapodes (Shadow Feet)

They were each owners of one very large foot and leg, while also being very nimble. In the summertime, while lying on their backs, they protected themselves against the sun by the shade of their single foot.

Six Handed Man

Said to have lived in India. Mentioned in the Histories of Alexander the Great, with some stories that were later deemed written by an author named Pseudo-Calliisthenes.

The Cynocephali

Dog-headed men of the mountains, possibly Ethiopia, perhaps based upon baboons. Solinus writes of the dog-headed Semeans who were ruled by a canine king. They communicated by barking, and used their claws skillfully to hunt birds. according to the Greek historian Ctesias, they numbered 120,000.

Alexander’s Bearded Women

A species of women with beards extending to their breasts, but whose heads are bald. Again this was part of the legends of Alexander’s travels. ‘

“Shun a woman with a beard as you would a pestilence.” -Pliny

The Blemmyes

In Lybia, there lived creatures “born headless and have mouths, and eyes”, writes Schedel. The Blemmyes were a real nomadic Nubian tribal kingdom described by Strabo as a peaceful race.in 700 bc. Later, they became factionalized as headless cannibals. Shakespeare mentions them in Othello.

The Panotii

In Sicily lived people whose ears were so large that they cover their whole body. The ears reach to their feet and they use them as blankets to keep warm. When frightened, they use them to fly away.

(Adapted from “The Phantom Atlas”, by Edward Brooke Hitching, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2018)

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The Ignorance of My Youth

This could be a very long blog post. I will limit it to a very short subject.

There was a time, when I was first introduced to Medieval Art, probably in high school. I was impressed by most, and some seemed almost stencil-like. As if there was a formula of neck length, head shape, and lip formation. A lot of the portraits looked like they were all family members. And most of the royals did intermarry. Very few actually painted the truth. And when they did, I remembered them.

Federico Montefeltro was one that I remember. Not his name, nor the name of the artist, I remember how odd he looked in that hat. And when I saw his wife, I just had to laugh. Two very homely people had found each other.

Battista Sforza and Federico Montefeltro

Time passed, I was now teaching art appreciation at the college level. I still made sure to present the two images, but this time I mentioned the artists name, Piero della Francesca, 1415-1492. The students looked at the images that were in the textbook, but there was no back story about the people, just their names. Wanting to be better informed, since I was making fun of their image, I finally did some research.

Federico was Duke of Urbino from 1474-1482 (Lord of Urbino from 1444). Urbino was a small duchy that was given to the Papal States by Pepin the Short, Charlemagne’s father. By the 1200s it had become connected to the House of Montefeltro, becoming famous under Federico’s reign. Later, it was also ruled by Caesar Borgia, and even the Medici’s. In general, Urbino fell into the camp that favored the Holy Roman Emperor over the Pope, after the Montefeltros left, it swung over to the Papacy.

During Federicos reign his court was the model of what a court should be. It attracted the thinkers, the artists, and the writers of the time. The only product that Urbino exported was their military. When Federico committed his troops to a side, the opponent sued for peace. For years Urbino never lost, so in the end, they no longer had to fight. Several times the opponents had tried to offer more money for Federico to switch sides. He never did, and his reputation increased. Eventually, the sons and daughters of European royalty came to study at his court.

I came to respect Federico, even if he looked a little odd. Then, I learned that he had lost his right eye in a jousting match. He not only lost his eye, but much of the right side of his face. When Francesca painted his portrait, that was the reason for the stark profile.

I felt a little ashamed of my ignorance.

Then I read about the bridge of Federico’s nose. I had made fun of that as well. It seems that he had a typical Classic Roman nose, even after his jousting accident. But with only one eye, during battle he had difficulty responding quickly to attacks coming from the right. Federico had his surgeons remove the bone and flesh bridge, so that his left eye could see better to the right.

I felt even more shame.

The likelihood is that there are hundreds, or thousands, of half-truths about individuals in the present, or in the past, that falsely justifies our “judgement”. I know this now, because I’m old.

(The hat is still a trip.)

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William I

My 25th great grandfather is William the Bastard, or William the Conqueror, as he was known later. That month of October in 1066, I had four great grandfathers fighting for the right to be king of England. Three that were ancestors from my mother’s side, and one from my father’s side. Dad’s side won.

I have always been attracted to “turning points” or “history hinges”. Sometimes the world is changed by one individual. Certainly everyone makes a difference, but in some cases it is radically modified, and cascades throughout the following years.

England was always a target for invasion. It has been referred to as the “anglo-saxon” nation, but that was only after the two different Germanic tribes, the Angles, and the Saxons, took to their boats and invaded the lands.

The land already had Britons, Picts, Celts, and Romans with developed roads, villages and towns. The Anglo-Saxons intermarried with most, and established various kingdoms that slowly became England. The Vikings also came to raid, and to settle. So, being invaded by the Normans under William was perfectly normal, but the change was dramatic.

William was a descendant of Rollo, a Viking who had raided the French coast of Normandy. He asked permission from the French king to settle the land if he agreed to defend against further Viking raids. In time, William Longsword, was made Duke of Normandy and the title was passed down to Robert I and even to William, although his legitimacy was an issue. Perhaps invading England was the motivation to remove “the Bastard” from his name.

William spoke French, not German or English. For centuries afterwards all the English kings spoke French, some never even learned English. The Normans immediately placed Norman lords over the lands that were conquered. They even sent for Norman royals back home in order to fill positions in the new country. Customs were changed forever. The world changed.

History will always have the debate of whether change is for the better. Harold Godwinsson was the last English king, but even he was the descendant of foreign invaders. Harold was also my 25th great grandfather. His kingship ended at Hastings in October of 1066, with an arrow in his throat.

William, the Conqueror
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The End

There was a beginning, there was most certainly a middle, it only makes sense that there is an end. I just never thought I would recognize it. I thought it would come like a thief in the night. That it would steal its way in, on padded silent feet, and I would taken in quiet surprise.

Or perhaps it would be in my half-sleep. The dreams where I go back to work, but everything is unfamiliar, brand new equipment is everywhere, but it’s all a sham, only for show. The cables are all disconnected, and mice have made nests in the corners of the desks.And I’m allowed a quick scan of the upper shelves, where I find the service cap of a first class uniform, with neatly drawn letters on masking tape fixed to the bill, identifying the owner. The owner is me! I have forgotten it all these years. And only now, at the conclusion of my thoughts, I have this old memory to process before everything fades. Only this time it’s not fading to consciousness, it’s fading to discharge. The circuits are shutting down, the electric synapses dim. It is the End.

But instead, there is this clear certainty, almost cold logic. No time to get ready, it is here, in sudden ferocity, with professionals stepping in to do their jobs, without direction from me. I am in the last moments, only along for the ride, fully alert but not in charge, not directing the next action. It’s now out of my hands.

It’s so surreal that I fail to communicate what is happening. When I close my eyes I still recognize what is happening all around me. I’m not sleeping, I’m not even resting. I’m registering events, moment to moment, proving my existence to myself, and then with almost a shout, it’s the beginning.

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Newsflash

I have some very stressing news. I just read a news article that I trust very much. It reports on trends based upon hard data, and it seems absolutely reliable. The hard data calculates (with a 98% accuracy) that within 100 years, over 7 billion people will die. That’s a seven with nine zeros behind it.

Fortunately, they don’t think it will happen all at once. Some are calculating that 170 thousand per year, but multiplied by 100 does not quite add up. By my calculation, 7 billion divided by 100 is 70 million per year on average. That’s a huge discrepancy, so I suspect some agency is trying to soften the data.

If the general public was made aware of the truth, I would think that some dramatic changes would be made. 7,000,000,000,000 is a staggering sum. 70,000,000 is also unimaginable, but the hard data suggests that almost 191,000 people will die every day for the next 100 years. Every day!

Of course this is an average, some days it might be less, but some days it could be as much as 400,000. World-wide, the brunt will be on Chins and India, but the US, Russia, and Europe are not far behind. It will be a world wide pandemic, affecting everyone.

The only thing that I can remotely think as similar is when God told Moses that 625,000 Hebrews will die before going to the Promised Land. That was 99.99 percent of the entire nation that left Egypt, everyone except Joshua and Caleb. Not even Moses was saved.

I’m not 100% sure that I will survive this event. I do plan to make things as right as I can. The data is pretty bleak for anyone reading this, so I suggest that you do the same.

(Math corrected from first post, haha)

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I Grew a Flower

The more I think about it, I have come to the original source of most of our woes on this planet. That’s a bold statement, so it should be “thoughtfully” thought about.

I was thinking about Robert Heinlien’s book “Stranger in a Strange Land”, it’s a classic book that shought be revisited now and again. It particular I was thinking about a character in the book that was called a “Fair Witness”. This was a person that was trained to assist in legal trails and the making of contracts. An example was how the “Fair Witness” would describe things. The lawyer would ask “What color is that house on the hill?”, the “Fair Witness” would respond, “The color I see reflected is based upon the daylight from our sun, but I only see that from the side facing me. I do not know what colors are being reflected on the backside of the house.”

Is takes thoughtful work to tell the truth, “I grew a flower!” Really? Or did you plant a seed, and then tend the flower that grew? Most people will say that it’s the same thing, we only like the first sentence because it’s simpler and shorter. I think it leads to sloppy, ego-centric thinking. Extend that same concept outwards and you have a real mess of half-truths, with your own ego in the middle of it all.

I long for “Fair Witness” training.

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Terror House Magazine

Terror House Magazine is published on-line by a division of Terror House Press, based in Sheridan, Wyoming and Tirana, Albania. A combination that is international and certainly unusual. The magazine was founded in 2018 in Budapest, Hungary by author and journalist Matt Forney, Terror House’s mission is to publish outsider literary fiction, literary nonfiction, and cultural criticism/analysis. It’s published mission statement is, “follow in the tradition established by trailblazers such as Fluland, Loompanics Unlimited, and Feral House, publishing works that are too edgy, unusual, or honest to be released elsewhere. We stand against both the stultifying Beigeism of major New York publishing houses and the hysterical cliquishness of the “alt-lit” community. Both groups seek to crush literature by promoting an endless stream of hack immigrant coming-of-age stories and sterilized Iowa Writers Workshop pieces from pampered white trust-funders. Terror House Magazine seeks to cultivate the Charles Bukowskis, Louis-Ferdinand Célines, and Philip K. Dicks of the 21st century: bold, audacious writers who depict human life in all its ugliness and comedy.”

Well…

I was encouraged to submit a story here, and since I have never done so, I decided a rejection from Terror House might be some sort of literary badge. Instead, I was published. So I immediately sent another. They published that one as well. I sent a third, thinking surely this was a mistake. They published that one. I think a fourth was also accepted, maybe a fifth.

They would like to expand and produce a typical paper product, but for now they are still collecting authors. They keep an author page, and it is quite interesting.

My poet/author friend Lucy encouraged me to investigate Terror House, and I’m thankful to the extreme.

http://www.terrorhousemag.com

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Trees Wearing Pants

You never know what you are going to find in a Google search. I once put that title in three different search engines, and I got nothing, zip, zero. Not even a literary reference. I suppose you are thinking that would be the expected result.

I was checking because it was something that I had nibbling in my brain since I was 15 or 16. That’s a lot of nibbling over time. I wanted to know if this nibble had repeated anywhere that could be found in the net. Nope, it appeared unique to me.

Well, I thought I would pop it in one more time, and this time an artist based in New York popped up. He had lovely photos of trees in pants. I was inspired to write the following letter.

Peter,

It was probably in 1966 in the SF Bay Area. My best friend and I had a habit of going to the local mall after hours to sing at the top of our voices, what is now called “classic rock”. Lots of Simon and Garfunkel, maybe even Jefferson Airplane. It sounded great, the music bouncing from one window display to another. It was an outdoor mall with a half dozen planter boxes, each with two fully grown trees to provide the shoppers with shade.

With no “mind altering” apart from rock and roll, I began to see these trees as fallen giants from the clouds. They plummeted head first into the soft ground, buried up to their waist. You could see the trunk, and then the crotch, and then the legs disappearing up to the leaves. Never saw a foot, but sometimes the tree took a bend, and it looked like a knee. My friend just nodded, but I know I failed to communicate what I saw.

Fast forward 35 years and I’m teaching photography at a community college. I have used this example in a lesson plan teaching the taking a picture of a concept is a far better way to describe your vision. Naturally, the students asked to see my “trees with pants”. Of course I didn’t’ have them.

So, I made it a priority. I asked for donations of Levi’s, big Levi’s because I wasn’t sure what type of tree I would find. Students gifted me with several pair. I already had a large roll of Velcro hook and tape. In less than a day I had my pants, now I just had to find my tree.

I decided to utilize a walking trail near my house, it was a paved trail, a disused railroad, with lots of mature trees on either side. My idea was to place the pants, and a title card, then a notebook for comments. I would leave it up for a few days then uninstall “the installation”.

Everything worked well, I even hung around as a bystander to engage in any conversation that occurred. That probably was not the best idea. Some people were offended. “If they wanted to see art they go to a museum”, “did they have permission?” ‘This was public property and that was like graffiti on a BART train. I quickly turned to drive the fifteen minutes to home.

I went through several hours of contemplation, then went back, and took the pants off the tree. The label was still there, but not the notebook.

It wasn’t important to show people who didn’t want to see, so I took a lot of pictures, of that tree and others. Then I stopped thinking about the giants that fell from the sky. If I had to describe it, I could show the photos.
The only item of note is that my college aged daughter brought a small potted tree that was mostly dead. She took a weekend, sewed a small pair of Levi’s and gave it to me for Christmas. I still treasure it. I think this was 2004.

So I write this to let you know that while we may not have exactly the same vision, you should know that you are not alone. I completely understand the ins and outs of trees in pants.

Making art whenever I can,

John
http://www.johndiestler.com

johndies1

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Writing Prompt- City in the Sky

Someone I know had the grace to encourage writing by constructing a small phrase that may have a cascade effect. A few words that opens a gate for a torrent of words. Of course I only know her by the words she has given, but I like what I’ve read. Her second prompt stopped me in my tracks. 2) City in the Sky. Wow!

It is a widely known theory that communication is largely based upon common understanding. Speaking the same language is 99% of the issue. Have the same context and meaning is farther down the list, “City in the Sky” has such wonderful classic contexts ranging from St. Augustine to the Wizard of Oz. And throw in interpretations of clouds and you have thousands of potential words.

But I didn’t go there. Instead I went, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

About 15 years ago I purchased a new digital camera. Better resolution, better walk-around lens, so I made a small trip to San Francisco to test it out. At some point I took this shot that had the intersection of three distinct architectural styles. I redrew it a bit in PhotoShop and it made a nice image that sold a few times.

But something about it caused me to start thinking. I was thinking about the negative space. I went back to the city a few weeks later. I made a bee-line for the financial district, and quickly took shots from the middle of intersections. At the very least I stopped in the crosswalk and took vertical shots of the streets between buildings.

That created a ten year project of a half dozen cities. San Francisco, Portland, Boston, Chicago, NYC, and Seattle.

The writing prompt has reminded me to continue with what I have started.

Three different buildings
Interest in the negative space
The buildings create an upside down sky building
Sky skyscrapers
Sky skyscraper

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The New Normal

I’ve been moving around on this sphere for over a half century, so that has given me some perspectives. Some things I have seen, and some things I am seeing again. That is as it should be. But there are some new things. The cycles are longer for some things. You have to do some research to dig back in the past to find when some things last made their presence known.

When was the last time we used the phrase, “the new normal”. I certainly don’t remember it from any historical texts. I’m thinking that, “keeping up with the Jones’ is not exactly the same thing. Or “have lemons? Make lemonade!”

Something tells me that “the new normal” comes out of counseling or recovery ministry. It does beg the question “what is normal”.

Theoretically there is no judgement there. Normal is equilibrium, action and thought that is unique to the individual, and not the result of outside influence. So, this “new normal” is not normal. I had a whole life planned based upon my past and the general sense of past history. The “new normal” has me masked and living in a bubble. A strong Darwinian sense is the only motivator. It’s possible it won’t be enough.

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I Think Gestalt


I think what I love about poetry,
Is the spaces it creates.

Not only the scenery,
With the wild descriptions,
And the subtext messages.

But also the gaps of the story,
Filled in by the reader.

It is a sort of joint project,
The poet providing a phrase of context,
And the reader remembering the unsaid words.

In the end, the poem is true gestalt, more than the
sum of its parts.

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Rod McKuen- Stanyan Street

www.youtube.com/watch

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After a Time

After a time, a very long time of muteness, a word was made. It was a very good word, or so it thought of itself. Perhaps it thought too highly, because the word left to go search for the best ear, in order for it to be heard. Not any ear, but the very best ear.

This brought up all sorts of judgement, categories, assessment, and labels. None of these things were natural, and certainly none of these things had anything to do with the word, except that the word felt it was justified.

The word travel the length and breadth of the land in search of an ear. It received many hints that the best ear lived just over the hill in a river valley, not far off. The word immediately went in search of the home. There was a fine home perched on a small hill, this must be the place! This word knocked on the door and waited patiently. While waiting, the word practiced being the word, and felt it would be heard correctly. But no one answered the door.

A neighbor walked by and said that the ear had left on a long trip, searching for a perfect word.

A small story for my small grandkids, but it is still true today. There are words in search of a proper venue, and there are thousands of venues scrolling past us on digital highways. Maybe there is a perfect match somewhere.

The best thing we can do is to freeze the word in time by writing or recording, and then placing it somewhere safe and accessible. Perhaps in time it may be found, or a least discovered in a concentrated search.

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Leonard Cohen- Famous Blue Raincoat

www.youtube.com/watch

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Leonard Cohen- Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye

www.youtube.com/watch

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Leonard Cohen- Is This What You Wanted?

www.youtube.com/watch

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Leonard Cohen- Anthem

www.youtube.com/watch

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Family Art

www.youtube.com/watch

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Hollywood Art

www.youtube.com/watch

Check paxvox.com for some great music.

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I’m a Big Fan

I’m a big fan of Annie Dillard. I read most of her work in the 1980s, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” and “Teaching a Stone to Talk”, to name a few. I really was fond of her short stories, never quite sure that she was just fortunate to document some interesting people, or that she just brought out their interesting sides. And of course, as a writer she could have simply invented the entire character.

One particular short story was abou a man, I think living alone in a cabin, that had found an interesting stone on one of his walks, (it may have been down by the river). He brought the stone back to his house and put it on his mantle. Then he studied the stone, the more he pondered, the idea began to take shape that he would begin a process of teaching the stone to talk.

Each time he would take ten minutes to vocalize sounds and syllables, building up to words and sentences. He was at it for quite awhile. The story stuck with me for years. I’m not sure the person was real, or that he really tried to teach a stone to speak. The idea of it delighted me. I was thirty.

Now, forty years later, I have other thoughts. I still appreciate the unique “out of the box” thinking, but it comes through a filter. The dedication, or discipline, to start a process of teaching a stone to talk without considering the possibility of success is admirable. Assuming that the stone wants to communicate with us is slightly egocentric. It seems to me now, that the stone is an unwilling participant. In protest, I might not speak as well.

The next thought I have is on whether the stone is already communicating, but we are not going to listen until it speaks our language. More ego-centric concerns.

This morning I followed a thread. I would like to describe thread to you. I have a tool box, filled with files, chisels, implements to shape objects. I had left the toolbox in torrential rain, and now I paid the price. Everything had soaked in water for days and was now fully in the process of rust. The first part of the thread is that I really liked these tools and had used each one in various projects. So I patiently cleaned and re-oiled each one. I haven’t found a new toolbox yet.

The second part of the thread is that I thought about how I had used these tools in the past. The list went on for a while, but I lingered over how I had used these tools to sculpt small pieces of soapstone.

The third part of the thread was my recent study of the Second Commandment, “thou shall not have graven images of anything above the earth, on the earth, or in the sea.” Well, that seems specific. In fact, there has not been one example of a Jewish statue found it antiquity. Lots of Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Assyrian, Canaanite… but nothing in Israel.

Clearly statues of people can become idols, but so can some animals/objects. And forty years after the commandment was given, God told Moses to put a “fiery serpent” on a staff for all to see, and to cure them of snakebite. I’m pretty sure this was a graven image, so did God change his mind?

This thread challenged my self identity. I had always thought of myself as a maker of graven images. Sometimes using only my hands with clay, mostly using stone with hand tools.

The fourth part of the thread is going to the front porch to find that chunk of soapstone that had been there for at least five years. There it was, hiding under the table. So then, I carry it to the back porch where all my resurrected tools are waiting, and I prepare to make something.

My process is to look very carefully at the stone, turning it around several times in my hands. I’m looking for any cracks or veins that stand out. How solid is this piece, how stable? Then, I ponder about what figure is hidden within the stone? The famous Michelangelo statement. what is the stone saying to me?

This is when the thread comes back to Dillard’s teaching the stone to talk.

So, I start to use the tools to begin shaping something. I’m really not sure what it might be. I’m making some very general reductions, I’ve determined a base, and now I’m beginning to rough out an object, nothing defined, not man, women or boy. Not plant or animal. So far, just an object connected to a base. I’m using s small hammer, a saw, and a “pointing” chisel. Tapping the chisel gently removes small chunks. Filing or carving, creates tons of dust and takes a long time to rough out an object.

I’ve got about an hour into the project, and I was just about to chip off a small piece that would give the final edge to help define the future object. One small tap, and the piece broke off, then the entire cube of soapstone also fractured right down the middle, creating two almost equal pieces. The stone had spoken, I was not going to have enough real estate to make any of the future objects I was contemplating.

The stone had communicated with some finality. I didn’t like it, and at first I was a little miffed that I had not seen the “flaw” that created the fracture. That is some more ego-centric based thought. It was a flaw because it foiled my predetermined plan to make something. It wasn’t a flaw to the stone, it was just a line of fracture should there come a time when the stone was turning into dust. Very natural.

The final thread was to revisit Annie Dillard and her story of stones that refused to talk. But maybe I just heard one this morning.

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“I don’t understand!”

“Well, I’m not surprised. Did you perhaps take any theoretical physics classes? Do you have a vague understanding of ‘string theory’? Are you at least aware of the electrical activity of your physical brain?”

“Yes, of course. I know about synapses and maybe a little about dementia. I’m not so sure about psychosis, and perhaps what I’m experiencing right now.”

“Okay then, one more time. You’re dead, or at least your body has died. This isn’t heaven, or even purgatory. Maybe they both exist, but for right now, this is what you have. The essence of who you were was a collection of electrical charges that continued outside your physical body, and found itself in the electro-mechanical properties of what we might call the ‘fifth dimension’, not the group you might remember, but a couple of dimensions up from the three dimensional world that you knew so well.”

“Umm, how do you know this?”

“Great question, I don’t know. We don’t have books, and no internet, I wish I knew what that was like. Everything so far seems to be a thought download from others, who have been here longer. In a way, it’s like an ‘oral tradition’, except we don’t really speak, or hear. You might notice that my lip memory is a little out of sync from the thoughts that I’m communicating to you. I’ve been here long enough that I’ve forgotten some physical controls.

You are going to meet some people that don’t even bother with lips or ears. In fact, some go all the way, becoming glowing balls of electrical light.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen that on the way here, in fact, I was surrounded by them at first. They seemed to know me.”

“Sure, they were your direct ancestral family. Electrical DNA is still a thing. It’s a lot easier to connect, or maintain connection. Close friends somehow make the connection as well, so some of those that greeted you might have been friends from the past. It’s a bit of a shock, so maybe… well, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t understand. Haha, “walk towards the light,” and all that!”

“Umm. No one said walk towards the light. I just remember going in for a procedure, then waking up here.”

“Well, everybody is different. Oh, by the way, I’m your great grandfather, mother’s side, call me Michael.”

“Really? Damn, no one knows anything about you. You left a wife and six kids two years after you came over. People think you went to Canada and were eaten by wolves.”

“Almost true, I was looking for work, for several months, I got drunk and joined the Canadian Army, went to France and got gassed. Then I was here.”

“So, you’ve been here awhile?”

“Well, time is more of a ‘fourth dimension’ thing. As eternal creatures, we begin to restructure our thoughts about time. It’s accurate enough to say that I’ve been here awhile. It’s nice to know that I’m still remembered.”

“Not in a good way!”

“Your great grandmother is here, and she seems fine with me. Of course she has more experience with my electrical essence.”

“Are your flaws also recorded?”

‘“Every thought and deed is recorded. It is what it is.”

“Okay, okay, so just tell me. What’s next? What am I supposed to do? Where do I go? Am I waiting for something? Is there like… a judgement or something?”

“Dunno, maybe. So far, I’ve only noticed one thing.”

“Well, tell me! I want to know!”

“Um, well… sometimes you can see some people slowly fade. I mean their image fades. Doesn’t seem to matter if they have kept their body image or the ‘ball of light’, they just seem to slowly discharge, then ‘poof’, they are gone. I’ve seen it myself, hundreds of times, maybe more. Again, it’s just something I know, counting is not the answer. It isn’t true because of numbers.”

“Well, we aren’t exactly solid anyhow, transparent is more accurate. But you say that we can get more transparent, and then we are gone? Do we go somewhere else?”

“Well, if we are eternal, then yeah, we probably go somewhere else, but no one has come back to explain it. It just happens.”

“It happens to everyone?”

“Well, yes and no. Again, time is a slippery thing here. But I’ve been told that Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle still hang out, and they don’t seem any the worse for wear. Then again, others seem barely visible.”

“This can’t be happening, there must be some rational structure. There has to be reasons for things. Tell me what most people who have been here a while, what do they think?”

“Okay, okay. There are theories, but only theories. It seems that our electromechanical connection in this fifth dimension is connected to the electromechanical structure back there in the third dimension. Not sure how that works, but it seems to be true.”

“Tell me more.”

“Back there we were created as a unique person, our physical bodies created electromechanical impulses that extend here. When we left there, that gave us only our electromechanical essence here, but not maintained by our physical body because that was buried or cremated. Are you following this?”

“Yes, of course. Wait, so what is our connection back ‘there’, if we have no physical body?”

“Exactly… good question. Memories! Other people’s memories, which are still electromechanical and somehow sustain that connection to those of us that haven’t faded.”

“Wait…so you are saying, because my family remembers me then I get to be who I was, here in this place?”

“Well, it’s a theory.”

“And I suppose, if you somehow managed to write a book, or get discovered as a long lost poet, then you don’t fade away?”

“Yes, it does explain why some people seemed to fade, and then mysteriously come back stronger, only to fade again. Can’t really be sure because we can’t know what is going on back there? It’s all conjecture.”

“So, souls are connected, and if you are forgotten there, you disappear here?

‘“Yep, pretty much it. Except, the Electromechanical DNA factor changes things, sorta. Who we are here, is based upon the person we were from our existence… and the electromechanical essence created by others who only read about us is based upon their memories. Something gets lost.”

“This is getting weird. I am who I am!”

“Careful there, only one essence can actually say that…”

“God, are you talking about God? Is he here? Can we go see him?”

“Umm, maybe. No one seems to know. It seems reasonable.”

“This just got weirder. Are you telling me that we can tell when we are forgotten? And we can tell the difference between the family remembering us and when someone else just reads a book, or sees a movie about us.”

“That wasn’t so hard, it’s taken others a lot more time to get this, if we had a better sense of time in the first place.”

“So, our purpose here is only to wait, and watch until we fade away, and then we move on to some other place. Unless we are recreated as a fictional memory, then we are stuck here until media itself disappears back there?”

“Well, maybe. It’s hard to say. Physics in the fifth dimension doesn’t seem to be an exact science.

I can’t say for sure, but I get the feeling that maybe someone in my own family never knew of my existence, except in the sense that I must have existed because DNA got passed along. Then, suddenly, old records popped up, maybe a photo or two. Then I get mentioned at some family dinners. And here I feel more like me, like the person that I remember. I’ve been told that the fictional electromechanical essences know that their real essence is gone, but they don’t have any memory of it.”

“At least that’s the sense of the last download I remember. See that? I can explain this so much better with the new technology of your time. Download is so much more accurate than how this was explained to me. We talked about “essence letters” back then, potentially very confusing. What language were they in? Was it paper or parchment?

“Can I take a nap?”

“Always.”

(From a partially awake dream)

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The Orders

Teutonic Knight, Wilhelm von Ütgenbach, Herr zu Ehrenstein. My 18th great grandfather, and his grandfather, Teutonic Knight, Gerlach von Ütgenbach und Ehrenstein. My 20th great grandfather,

Teutonic Knight, Gottfried III, von und zu der Heess. My 17th great grandfather

They belonged to a crusading military order, officially named the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, founded as a military order c. 1192 in Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Teutonic Order was formed to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to establish hospitals. Its members have commonly been known as the Teutonic Knights, having a small voluntary and mercenary military membership, serving as a crusading military order for protection of Christians in the Holy Land and the Baltics during the Middle Ages.

It is also true that there were many other reasons for a noble house to join an order beyond the stated “protecting pilgrims”. While it is important to always be aware of changing motivations, it is also cynical to believe that the founding reasons weren’t sincere. Within a very short time there were more than a dozen military orders that a noble family could pick from in order to assist in their need for piety in action. Basically, there had been two lines for the male children to follow, there were the succession lines, princes that would succeed their fathers, perhaps two or three in number. Then there wer male children that were dedicated to the Church, to become priests or bishops, or perhaps scholars. The creation of military orders was a third option. You could still utilize your military training, but do it in the service of the Church, and the Grandmaster of the order.

The most famous of the Orders is probably the Templar’s, or the Order of the Temple, as they took residence on the Temple Mount after the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099. Much has been written about the First Crusade, but there is no doubt that the timing was just about right for the Crusaders, the main fighting force they expected was busy somewhere else putting down rebellion.

Actually, the first Crusade is really in two parts, the first part was composed primarily of peasants, women, children, and a few militia that set off for thr a Holy Land under the guidance of Peter the Hermit. They couldn’t wait for the organized military, they would go, and conquer the county because “God wills it”. Along the way they would terrorize local communities, commit atrocities, pogroms against Jews, pillaging villages for food, etc. The Byzantine Empire was between them and the Holy Land and they did not respect the Empire. The Empire was Greek Orthodox, and that was barely a Christian. The city was closed to the horde, so they moved on into Seljuk Muslim countryside. Within weeks they were either slaughtered, or captured, and sold into slavery. Not one of the People’s Crusade made it anywhere near Jerusalem, anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 people went missing.

The official part of the First Crusade is sometimes called the Prince’s Crusade, because it was led by five princes from the noble houses in Europe. This was the premier fighting force of knights trained to do battle. They were also political to the extent that the Byzantine Empire received and supported them. They were intended to win back the lands that the Empire had lost. This was not something that the princes ended up doing, treaty or no treaty.

The reality of fighting in the Holy Land became very evident. There was a need to provide protection for Christian pilgrims. As the numbers of pilgrimages increased the local authorities did not see them as helpful tourists. The Muslims had taken Jerusalem from the Byzantines, and they were not giving it back. A few churches had remained occupied throughout the Muslim takeover, but this increase in pilgrimages was seen as a threat.

The five top military orders in terms of power and influence were: the Templar’s, the Hospitaliers, the Teutonic Order, the Order of Santiago, and the Order of the Sepulcher. Most had centers of operational control, most had established hospitals for pilgrimage and Crusaders, some were also fully trained as medical doctors. All were heavily armored and supported by their families and home countries, some orders became very wealthy with donations in cash and land.

Overtime, the pressure and temptation of wealth and power overwhelmed the primary mission of the orders. And of course, eventually they lost all that they had gained by losing territory. Jerusalem fell, and they retreated to Antioch and Acca. Antioch fell, and they were pushed out of Acca. They went to Cypress in order to reorganize for another attempt at Jerusalem. They were pushed out of Cypress, and the Hospitaliers went to Malta. The Templar’s became advisors to most of the kings in Europe, and abandoned any attempt of protecting pilgrims. They had become financial bankers to royalty, using the wealth that had been donated for a different cause. Eventually, Philip IV of France, with the Pope’s blessing, attacked the leadership throughout his country on one day, trying capture the control and wealth of the order. They mostly succeeded, although there are still rumors of Hidden Templar Treasure. While other counties did not arrest and execute Templar’s, their power was broken.

The Teutonic Knights were the only order that simply moved to a different location, and continued the fight against pagans, they went North, to the Baltic area. The local Christian kings were under constant attack from various groups. The Teutonic Knights came in with their experience in the Holy Land and made a difference. Within two hundred years most had converted to Christianity. The Teutonic Knights had also nearly wiped out the pagan Prussians. When the Prussians had captured a knight they generally threw him, and his horse into a bonfire, armor and all.

After years of conflict, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania were all Christian and the Teutonic Knights lost their mission. The kings withdrew there support and the order reformed to do charitable work. This is true today with almost all of the orders that still remain. Only the Templar’s are missing completely.

My three great grandfathers had taken a vow to be in the service of the Grand Master, and the Order. They had families, they had property, but they also had a religious commitment to serve the Church with their sword.

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I am pondering

This is always a potentially dangerous start. On this blog it could be literally anything. This thought is about numbers, and how we use them to find an edge to a concept. My daughter just gave us a lot of plums from her tree. Yes, she owns a tree. They bought a house, it came with land, and the land had a tree. For the first time in her life she owns fruit from a tree. She gave us a lot of plums. Okay, she gave us 22 plums, ( I just ate two, so that means 20).

I point this out because when it was just a “lot of plums” it was a thought of a generous amount. Suddenly, when it was 22 it had edges, a finite amount that was going to quickly decrease. It is still good to number things, to find the “edges” of concepts.

I have been researching and writing about great grandparents. Because we exist we have grandparents. Because of biology we each have the same number of grandparents. Because of biology it’s a factor of two. I only know of one example where a earthly human only has one parent. Thousands of people only know of one parent. Hundreds of thousands do not know any of their grandparent, but they had to exist.

I have tried to be aware of my grandparents and great grandparents. To the extent that it is knowable, I want to find their names, and maybe a little about their story. So far, if the databases are correct, I have a total of 4,264 great grand parent names, going back over 2,000 years. That sounds like a lot.

But here is the problem. If you only consider me, the one individual, I have 8 great grandparents that were alive in the early 1900s. That seems possible, 8 out of millions of folks in the world. But if you take just one persons ancestors back 40 generations, how many people is that? According to the math, it took 1,099,511,627,776 people to create me.

40 generations means about 1500 years ago approximately. Apparently, just to create me (or you),there were 1,099,511,627,776 people in the year 500. Of course they were also busy creating a number of other people, all of whom are my cousins. But the point is that the planet did not have that many people at that time, so… I know I’m obviously missing something fairly important. One that stands out is that I only know of about 3,000 of the 1,099,511,627,776 possible great grandparents.

Biology is a fact. Numbers related to biology should also be a fact. There must be a logical reason for the discrepancy. Even if I have hundreds of great grandparents that are doubling up, or cousins marrying cousins, it doesn’t change the numbers that much. I have searched articles about this and none have answered my question to the extent that I understand, numbers have proven that I am dense.

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Is it the Person? Or is it Fear?

I have the pondered the point of writing this. Do I expect that I will change minds? Sadly, no I don’t. Primarily because on the basis of WordPress analytics I have approximately 7.5 readers per week, and three of them repeat every other day. I am not an influencer, nor am I ever likely to go viral.

So I generally write history for history sake. I wouldn’t be able to sit at history’s feet and not comment on these historic times.

First thing, I do not play well with others. I am on Facebook, and periodically i get a request from a Facebook friend to make a comment, then cut and paste a certain paragraph and pass it on. An electronic version of a chain letter. I didn’t do it with stamps, and I’m not doing it with the internet.

Recently it has been suggested that I “take a knee” in support of the current protests around the country. Ha, I’m a child of the Sixties, raised near Berkeley. I protested from the time I was 14 or 15, from Free Speech, People’s Park and the San Francisco Vietnam Peace March. I have some experience. I will not take a knee.

There are reasons to protest, sometimes it helps to change things, most times it only changes the protester. That can go well, or it can south.

One of the things I learned in the Army (I was drafted, but later I re-enlisted) is to salute the uniform. You can disagree with the man, even hate the man, but you respect the uniform and the concept ot military authority.

But sometimes you protest the injustice given to an individual. JFK, RFK, or MLK being murdered. You feel like you know them, it seems personal, and they rightfully become martyrs, and icons/examples for senseless injustice. Were they perfect? Not at all, but they were not so imperfect…

The individual that has risen to heroic levels in this current crisis is anything but heroic. He was a violent man, convicted in a court of law for breaking into a home, holding a gun to the belly of a pregnant woman, while his friends looted the home. This was the primary of his offenses, which are lengthy, but the sum total paints the picture of a man that should never be a role model. Nevertheless, what happened to him was unjust.

Can we say his crimes were the result of his social condition? That’s a slippery road, some people had things much worse and lived better lives. We need to improve conditions. Having an ordered life, a strong family, with well paid jobs reduces crime.

For me, i back up and don’t go down the road I don’t know. I know about the reactions that the Police have been exhibiting for years. There are many factors, it is a stressful job, their lives are at risk, there are people who wish them harm. But the numbers do not support that it is rising. Yet their reaction seems to tell me they think otherwise. Enforce better training, reduce the fear.

I can support the protest that brings light to the injustice caused by unsupported fear. And action based upon solid facts and evidence will make a change. In this case, not the man, or the senseless greed and revenge.

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Brunehilde der Wisigothen

Or better known as Brunnhilda of the Visigoths. I am stepping out from my usual story telling to include this tale of the wife of my 40th great uncle, not grandfather, Sigebert I, King of Austrasia.

For some of us the name Brunnhilda brings up the cartoon of Broomhilda, certainly a clever use of the name. The green skinned witch dressed in black is a far cry from the tall, blonde, pigtailed, armor bearing shield maiden. The operatic Brunnhilda of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, a cycle of four German language epic music dramas. Wagner appears to have used an old German fable that may have been based on an older Norse fable called, the Völsunga saga and some Eddic poems.

There are many versions of the tale, in most of them Sigebert, or Sigurd/Siegfried, is a “go between” for a suitor that wants to marry Brunnhilda. Unfortunately, the suitor does not have the strength to penetrate the shield wall (or the wall of flames) around Brunnhilda’s tower. So Sigurd/Siegbert/Siegfried changes shape into the suitor, gains entry into the tower and takes away Brunnhilda’s virginity. As a reward she gives him her belt and a ring.

Later in the tale, Brunnhilda marries the suitor thinking that he had gotten through the flames, and Sigurd had married another Queen. So the two Queens were arguing one day about whose husband was stronger or braver. Brunnhilda claims her husband crashed through the wall of flames to take her virginity. The other Queen says that it was actually her husband that did that, and produces the belt, and the ring to prove it. Brunnhilda gets angry and plots to have Sigebert/Sigurd/Siegfried murdered. Once that is done she laughs, then commits suicide. At least that is how it ends in several versions.

The interesting part is that it seems to be based upon real real characters in history. Sigebert I was King of Austrasia about the time of Attila the Hun’s invasion of Europe. In fact some sagas have Brunnhilda the daughter of Attila. Brunnhilda did have a sister, Queen Galswintha, but Fredegund, mistress of Chilperic I of Neustria, had her murdered so that she could become Queen. It almost sounds like another opera. Fredegund goes on to have Sigebert killed and Brunnhilda imprisoned. Eventually Brunnhilda escapes for a time.

She continued to rule the kingdom, but it was no longer the handsome couple in charge, with everybody happy. Her subjects began to resent her harsh rule, and they were happy that Fredegurd’s son, Clotaire II, captured Brunnhilda, who was now 70 years old. He tortured her for days, then had four horses rip her apart, and dragged her body parts throughout the city. Clotaire II ruined the Merovingian Dynasty and paved the way for the Carolingian Mayors of the Palace to take over.

So ends the wife of my 40th great uncle, and legendary shield maiden of the opera.

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Another attempt at Terror

Snick!

There was a satisfying weight in his hands. Weight meant significance, weight implied power and meaning. He had hold of a chunk of steel with power and meaning, and weight!

The folding knife with its six inch tanto styled blade was very sharp. The blade itself was nearly 1/4 thick so that the overall weight in his hand was substantial. The technical advantage, besides the strength, was that the blade had a natural desire to drop from between the slabs of G10 scales that made up of the handle. It didn’t of course, that would be foolish and dangerous. Four fingers would be sliced off in a millisecond. No, the blade remained in the handle. But it wanted to come out.

The young man thought the weight would be a comfort in his hand, but not at the bottom of his jacket pocket. On his last assignment he carried a knife with a long enough blade, but with a thin stiletto steel. It had an assisted opening mechanism which flipped the blade out quickly if he kept his fingers out of the way. It was only a very quick movement to change the grip to an upward slash at the jugular, and then withdraw in order for three quick stabs to the armpit. The gentleman made not a sound and slipped to the ground, crumpled like old newspaper. The other businessman on the subway platform barely noticed.

It was a simply job, in and out. For some reason, a reason backed by lots of money, for some reason, someone did not want the gentleman to attend this morning’s business meeting. Or perhaps a husband needed him to stop visiting his wife on Tuesdays. In any case, the job was standard, the young man had gotten it down pat and disappeared namelessly into the crowd.

Edged weapons were the tools of professionals. Most folks think the choice would be a gun, a revolver. The movies always have some long slide automatic spewing evidence as shell casings all over the room. And the sound that it makes turns every head even with the bulky silencers. The young man had entertained using a revolver that kept its shells intact, but the awkward length of the silencered barrel didn’t feel right for a quick move. He even considered a smaller .22 style derringer like some of the Mafia hit men of old. Still too noisy. He was committed to the edged weapons.

The sameness of the jobs allowed him to consider the finer subtleties. How many ways to get at a close enough range? What was the arc necessary considering his height? Was there power enough if his arm was fully extended? Did the noise of the assisted mechanism alert the target? It was good to look at the details.

Over time he obsessed with two concerns. Some rumors that potential targets were beginning to wear body armor. Not the bulky plate armor, but slim, form fitting, Kevlar based fabric. It would take penetrating power to defeat that, and his slim stiletto might be defected at some point. He still had his first jugular slash but the chest penetration for insurance might not happen. And there was still the sound to consider.

The stilettos sound was small, but sharp. It could almost be like a ball point pen click. Who would notice a random click, even if it was close? It was insignificant, and death would soon follow this insignificant sound. It began to seem unfair, like the click of a trigger when hunting. It was the click that could be heard, because the blast of the bullet came after the round had caused the death. At least this was his thought process.

He considered that the click should have more of an ominous sound. His targets should register the sound as ominous, not like a pen click. Not enough to be able to move or deflect the strike, but at least ominous enough to ponder, “What was that?”

He looked at the heavy tanto styled blade in his hands. He performed the gravity drop flip to open the blade. There was a satisfying “snick” as the blade locked open. Now that was an ominous sound! It carried weight, like the weight in his hand. It was remarkable, it was significant. It had the ability to freeze men in their tracks if they knew what it might mean. It sounded as dangerous as the sliding action of a shotgun loading a shell. Of course, most people would only hear “dangerous”, and still not move. There wouldn’t be time to move anyway, the slash is less than a second after the “snick”.

This idea began to please the young man. The idea that his target’s brain would be considering “danger” just milliseconds before his slash seemed fitting. Most of his targets were thinking about a hot cup of coffee, or how late the train is running. Wouldn’t it be better to go out by an edge, and actually be on edge. The concept brought a rare smile to his face. The same individual that warned him about the Kevlar defense fabric had suggested this heavy tanto blade. If he wasn’t his competitor he would have to thank him the next time he sees him.

Up ahead on the platform he can see his next target, briefcase in his left hand, folded newspaper in his right, reading a column. He would approach from the front, slash the jugular on the left, then penetrate the chest wall in the right armpit, just under the upraised arm.

As he moved from the wall, heading for the target, he was momentarily paralyzed by fear, not physically paralyzed because his legs kept swinging, he was paralyzed mentally because he heard the sound, and he knew what it meant.

“Snick!”

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Chlotilde of Burgundy

My 43rd great grandmother, and wife of Clovis I, King of the Franks. Chlotilde was a Christian, but she married Clovis who was a very vigorous pagan. The Salian Franks were primarily pagan at this time, but a few were being baptized as Aryan Christians by Bishop Ulfilas. The pagan belief system was based upon sacred oak trees, rituals, a pantheon of various gods, later writers would give them the names of the Roman gods, but they were uniquely German. One of the major aspects was that they practiced polygamy. I suspect that one of the conditions of marriage was that Clovis would not have multiple wives.

The important issue was that the almost all of the Christian leadership in Europe was Aryan, and when Clovis was baptized he followed the Nicaean Creed, which was Catholic, and followed the Pope in Rome. This meant that Clovis’ descendants would also be what became as traditional Catholics, and led to the Pope to eventually declaring Charlemagne as the Holy Roman Emporer. This was a bit irritating to the Eastern Orthodox Church because they technically already had a Holy Roman Emporer it was contentious for a thousand years. The Aryan Christians were eventually declared heretical and disappeared.

Chlotilde was a remarkable woman, and did not give up on her desire to have her husband come to faith. By her action the future of Europe changed, the future of the Church changed. Sometimes it comes to one individual.

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