Friday, May 17, 2024

Geological Rocks

Only one link today, because it leads to other links and lots of comments.  One of my most-visited posts ever, and reposted a few times, Sexism in Narnia.

We will be at Giant's Causeway today, and Dunluce Castle (the supposed inspiration for Cair Paravel in Prince Caspian) and hoping for clear skies northward for the Aurora Borealis. 

Ain't gonna happen.  It's Ireland.  It will rain most days we are there.

This will be nice crossover worship music from where we left off to the mid-20th C (Pentecostal preacher from extreme SW Virginia), covered by Johnny Cash, 

And more recently by Molly Skaggs at Bethel Church, with an updated verse

Very much that "people's music" style I just wrote about.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

More From The Archives

We expect to be around Belfast today - North Down Museum, Titanic Museum, and CS Lewis sites. Then on to Carrickfergus Castle, part of the Causeway Coastal Route, and then up near Giant's Causeway.

In the meantime, I did an adult Sunday School class in 2007 on the history of the lyrics of Christian hymnody. We tend to think that traditional worship music was what our grandparents sang.  That stuff is mostly pretty new, when you start to look into it.  We have changed greatly over the years, not only in musical styles, but lyrical.

And I still think that "Be Thou My Vision" should be sung freely and quickly.  Maybe I can get someone here to do it for me.

Ancient Hymnody

Not-So Ancient Hymnody

Hymns Get Ridiculously Complicated, 16th-18th C

19th C Hymnody - Jesus as Cosmic Pal For those who deplore what they see as modern "Jesus is My Boyfriend" worship music, it is a direct descendant of this style. And theology.

The People's Music - Spirituals, Camp Meeting, and later Bluegrass 

Crummy Hymn  More recent, but not CCM

The class went more weeks, but I didn't post about those.

Related: I also wrote later about festival worship a few times.

Festival Generation

Festival Worship  

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

From the AVI Archives While I m Away

We are now looking at piles of rocks in Ireland. Today is Bective Abbey, Trim Castle, Hill of Tara, and maybe the Monasterboice High Crosses. When we first went to Ireland in 2002 I worked very hard to make sure we could find someplace where we could hear traditional Irish music.  I found a hotel with a top floor apartment we could rent, perfect for a couple with three teenage sons.  And on the ground floor, a pub, with traditional music many nights of the week!  I was enchanted, and brought the sons over to look at the pictures.

We had not even finished unpacking and it was clear that the problem was not going to be finding Irish music, but getting away from it. Even the bad boys of Ireland can't seem to get away from it.  The sentimental tunes often have some anger in them, and the angry ones some sentiment.  Here are the Pogues, who Tommy Makem* said were the worst thing to ever happen to Irish music, getting together with the Dubliners.

“The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”

GK Chesterton "The Ballad of the White Horse."

*My sister-in-law was friends with the Makem girls growing up in Dover, NH.  They all went to Saint Thomas Aquinas Highschool.

From January 2007 

I am going to flood you with enough content while I am gone that you will be begging God to bring me home sooner so you can get some rest.

Teach Your Children Well  Take your children to the movie first, teach the history lesson second, and take them on the expensive trip after.

Homage to Troy Brown, who did go to the Patriots Hall of Fame and is now a coach. 

The Nine Nations of North America changed how I viewed the whole continent in the 1980s. Others have taken the concept forward since then, including Colin Woodard's Eleven Nations of the US. Those may be better now, but it is Garreau's original that was revolutionary for me in terms of seeing our cultural regions.

The World According to PJ. As in O'Rourke. Who protests?  I think this is as true as ever it was in 1991.

The track record of the European Intelligentsia in the 20th C. It's not pretty.  And I even give them some credit for things.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Piles of Rocks

We leave today for Dublin via Reykjavik. We have our proposed piles of rocks we are going to see mapped out. I suppose Belfast isn't so much piles of rocks, as we will be seeing the Titanic Museum and the CS Lewis sites. Pubs, gift shops, and gardens aren't all that rocky. Some of the half-dozen castles are standing and in use, though I still think "pile of rocks" applies. But everything else...

I will post from the 2007 archives and throw in some Irish music.  They are already loaded up, just waiting for the calendar to publish them.

The podcast from Razib  on that massive Indo European genetic origins study just dropped, so maybe I'll understand it better now. I gave you what little I had last month. Apropos of the archive links, I note that half of the psych, and 75% of the prehistory I linked to and commented on back in 2005-2007 is now so out of date as to not bear reposting or even relinking. It's why I learned the constellations in the 1980s, even though I live in a hilly, forested region with no good look at the sky in most places: at least that knowledge would be the same in 50 years.

Monday, May 13, 2024

The Productive Elite

 From Rob Henderson's Newsletter:

A small percentage of workers in an organization or field is responsible for the bulk of the output. The top 10% of the most prolific elite can be credited with 50% of all contributions, whereas the bottom 50% of least productive workers contribute only 15%. The most productive contributor is, on average, about 100 times more prolific than the least. (source). Relatedly, in their intellectual biography of Lee Kuan Yew (the founder of modern Singapore), the authors write:

The most able in society would have to be drawn into the top rungs, given the most important jobs through a strictly meritocratic system. This group at the top – [Lee] guessed that they made up between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of the population in any society – was the yeast which would raise the lot of the entire society. These people would have to be thrown up by a meritocratic system – or sought out by the society’s leaders – and nurtured from a young age. To them would fall the responsibility of the top jobs, both in government and the private sector. Lee dismissed suggestions that such a system was elitist. Rather, he contended, it was based simply on a pragmatic recognition that not all men were of equal abilities and talents. He once said, only half in jest, that to bring Singapore down, an aggressor need only eliminate the top 150 or so men on whom the country relied most for it to keep ticking.

AVI writing: I'm not sure what they are measuring about productivity.  Are the top 10% of police officers doing 50% of the work?  10% of the nurses? I am guessing that the closer one gets to concrete tasks, the more this levels out - though I absolutely saw this phenomenon in action in my own hospital of 20 supposedly-equal doctors, 40 supposedly-equal social workers, etc. A few of us got a lot more done, others were placeholders.  Yet I really don't think that four of us did half of all the work.

The more we move into the territory of abstract work, or perhaps managerial work, the more I think this leveraging of talent becomes reality.

Best Moments

 There are a dozen overlapping "Best Moments" of Bill Belichick. I picked this one at random.

He wasn't done yet, either.

Not allowed.  Okay, let's try this one.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Medieval Life

One of the great myths that keeps resurfacing about medieval (and even up to 19th C) life is that they had less attachment to their children.There is no evidence from the record, even back to Iron Age times, that this was so. Children are buried in embrace of other relatives, or siblings holding hands. Even after horrible violence and devastation there is care and delicacy in how children are arranged in burial. When there is written record, letters and histories tell us that mothers (and sometimes fathers) are completely undone by the death of a child, go into depression, are never the same for the rest of their lives, etc.

Cemeteries, letters, diaries - the actual data - can tell us a lot.

The belief likely comes from a bit of reasoning that says "Well, they just had to be less attached than we are now, because death of children was so much more common. They just had to be.  I mean, how could they keep going on if they cared about their children as much as we do?" People get through horrible things now, including the deaths of children, and go on to have lives that have some joy despite the scar tissue. Do you think they didn't really love those children? So also did the medievals love theirs. 

Yes, they tolerated a level of violence toward beast and man that we find unnerving.  Yet much of that was the upper classes, engaged in warfare, or controlling servants, or those for whom the violence of animals and strangers was no joke. Among the common folk there was more violent death than we have now, but not so hugely as we imagine.

From the cemeteries we can also tell a great deal about nutrition in childhood, which was intermittent. Infants born in the fall had less sunlight, less vegetables, less calories in general - or if they were nursing, their mothers had fewer of those things. The higher the latitude, the more this was true. The survival rate was worse, and the prevalence of rickets and other developmental diseases of deprivation was greater. There is a myth that teeth were healthy until sugar became fashionable, but cereal diets can produce rot and abscesses as well, especially among those who take no care of their teeth. The genetics of our teeth were mostly selected in the many tens and hundreds of thousands of years of foraging, hunting, and gathering, not the last few millennia of crops and pastoralism.

I think the myths come up because we want to make stories about them, as if we understood them.  Reading and listening to the professionals, even they keep drifting off into speculations, talking about how rewarding it is to imagine what their lives must have been like. Well, I like it too, but I don't know that it's the only thing. There also seems to be a sort of one-upmanship of showing how many different scenarios they can imagine might be true before reminding us (you silly people who only read the popular articles), that there is so much we don't know.

We know that this was a high-status individual who was burned on a funeral pyre.  But we don't know what that ritual meant to the community around him. Was everyone in the village expected to bring a bit of wood to cast on the flames, or was this the work of specialists within the community?  We don't know, as they left no written record. Was the family supposed to be in charge of performing the ceremony or was this under the direction of a priestly class? We can't tell for certain, but there are tantalising clues...How soon after death was the ceremony? Ah, we don't know. Very few of us now have much contact with the dead but these were a peo0le for whom death was an ever-present reality...there are things we don't know about death now that were commonplace then...You have to consider why that particular pottery vessel was placed the way it was* and how it compares to other burials across the continent to understand the whole a burial, the dead are on a journey to somewhere in any society**... They all had objects around death that were important to them, just as we have today with churches and stone markers*** and archaeology asks us the questions we need to ask ourselves****

I enjoy a limited amount of this sort of speculation very much myself. Any excuse to stare off onto the horizon, be it field, forest, or ocean, and think Grand Thoughts is right up my alley. Or to look at the interior of a recreated dwelling and think what it must have been like to have six in this room in the winter, in times of a successful hunt/harvest/fishing expedition or an unsuccessful one - yes, that is a fine thing, and encouragement of fellow-feeling with anyone else in humanity likely has some follow-on effects in any society.  But I just came through 45 minutes of a podcast where that was the whole show.  It's like Robert Klein, fifty years ago now.

(Start at the 29:02 mark.  The automaticity of Blogger allowing various time entrances no longer operates.  I imagine there is a simple way to get around that, but I don't know it.)

*What pottery vessel? When? You haven't mentioned a single specific or even regional type yet. 

**Mention a couple of real possibilities.

***What objects? Flowers?  Knives? Dead servants? When does this discussion come down from 30,000 feet?

****That's like ten questions, built around no data. Not only archaeology, but weed can do this for you.  F-you.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Greta Shows Her True Colors

Greta Thunberg showing up in a keffiyeh to hound an Israeli pop singer over Gaza is actually the most accurate story about climate change activism ever.

Oops I Did It Again

Thompson is very clever, hearing things and thinking things the rest of us miss. 

It was he who took the challenge to list 1000 years of popular music seriously, beginning with "Sumer is Icumen In" before ending with this one.