The Baths at Yavneh-Yam

If you're going to defend a strongpoint against enemy forces you're going to need to deal with field hygiene.  The Romans had that problem:
The Roman baths uncovered within the fortress, says Prof. Fischer, leave little doubt that in the 12th century, the fortress was still inhabited by Arabs rather than Christian crusaders. 
“This is an outstanding and rare find,” he says, describing the baths as a scaled-down version of traditional Roman baths, heated by hot air circulating between double floors and pipes along the walls. The crusaders did not build these types of baths, and after the end of the Early Islamic period, they disappear altogether. “You don`t see these installations again until the revival of such techniques by modern technology during the 19th century,” explains Prof. Fischer. “This marked the finale of the use of a traditional Roman bath house in 12th century architecture.” 
Most likely, the fortress played host to a changing roster of military captains and their men, installing the baths to provide these men with additional creature comforts. Although the baths themselves are largely destroyed now, researchers found large marble slabs that adorned the walls, and ascertained that the view from the baths overlooked the sea.
Given the news of the Iraq pullout, I am of course given to thinking of the thousands of shower trailers that we built -- in the form of shipping containers with the appropriate hardware -- and hauled to the desert.  We tried to take over existing structures -- Camp Victory was established in one of the most developed sites of Iraq, the Presidential grounds outside Baghdad where Saddam feasted the upper-crust of the Baath party.  There was nothing in existing hardware that was adequate to the task of Multinational Forces - Iraq.

One wonders what, if anything, archaeologists will make of our short time there.  Nothing, one assumes; the history before and the history to come will likely wipe out all trace of what we did to the physical culture of Iraq.  

As for the moral and political culture, that is in their hands now.  May God defend the right, as we have tried to do, according to our limited understanding and poor powers.  Yet I have faith in the people of Iraq, whom I have known in small ways over the years.  There are dark days to come, I do not doubt; but I trust that Fate, at the very last, shall be kind to that brave and long-suffering people.  They have chosen to take their chances with their own hands, and that is a choice fit for a free man.  Good fortune to them.

Ignis fatuus

Wikipedia tells me jack-o-lanterns traditionally were carved from turnips. Pumpkins became popular in the New World, being larger, easier to carve, and readily available on All Hallows Eve.

This is my jackolantern this year. It's not strictly kosher to carve something other than a face, but there you are. Anyway, there's a little face at the bottom being carried by the bat.

The Jack of tradition was a no-good thief who managed to trap the Devil with a cross, sometimes in an apple tree and sometimes in his wallet. Jack agreed to let the Devil go only if he promised never to take Jack's soul. Jack was not eligible for Heaven, either, so when he died he was forced to wander the Earth with a never-dying ember that the Devil provided him from Hell. He carved a turnip into a lantern to carry the ember in, thus becoming Jack of the Lantern.

Here in South Texas you can't carve your pumpkin ahead of time and leave it outside for more than a day or so, or by Halloween it will have collapsed into goo. This one is staying in the AC, where it will entertain our dinner guests tomorrow night. We're cooking up a feast of Indian food for some restaurateurs we've met in town, so the pressure is on to produce spectacular food and clean the house up into a more respectable state. My husband, usually Mr. Bah Humbug about holiday preparations, surprised me by specially requesting a jackolantern for a centerpiece. Next he'll be openly admitting he likes my Christmas tree and proposing Easter Egg hunts. Well, maybe not that last one. He did enter a local contest last week, though, and took home a trophy for his alligator jambalaya. That's getting pretty sociable.

While We're On That Subject: Miserlou

Did you know the original for this one?  It's from 1927.

More likely you know this one.

And most likely, you know this one.

Apropos of which, for those who have forgotten this -- we've done it before here -- there's this little song from 1939.

Gunn, With Occasional Music

So, you folks from the '80s:  Blues Brothers, or Spy Hunter?

Actually, it's from the '50s, originally by Henry Mancini.

You probably know the two songs he does here, too:

The Editor Replies

Deer sir:

Thank you for your letter, which it was our pleasure to reprint for the benefit of the community.  On behalf of the staff at our paper, let me promise you that we greatly appreciated your insight.  If you have more, please do share.

With all possible respect,

-The Editor

Declaration on Principle

The British have chosen an amusing recreation for us.
By 4 July, America's founding fathers approved a simple document penned by Jefferson that enumerated their grievances and announced themselves a sovereign nation. Called the Declaration of Independence, it was a blow for freedom, a call to war, and the founding of a new empire.
It was also totally illegitimate and illegal.
So a team of British lawyers came to debate the other night.  Some American lawyers joined them in the discussion.  Let us do the same.  Here are their cases:
The American case for the Declaration   
The Declaration is unquestionably "legal". Under basic principles of "Natural Law", government can only be by the consent of the people and there comes a point when allegiance is no longer required in face of tyranny. The legality of the Declaration and its validity is proven by subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just, based on the fundamental principles of equality and self-determination now reflected in the UN Charter.  
The British case against it  
The Declaration of Independence was not only illegal, but actually treasonable. There is no legal principle then or now to allow a group of citizens to establish their own laws because they want to. What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union? Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right. The Declaration of Independence itself, in the absence of any recognised legal basis, had to appeal to "natural law", an undefined concept, and to "self-evident truths", that is to say truths for which no evidence could be provided. The grievances listed in the Declaration were too trivial to justify secession. The main one - no taxation without representation - was no more than a wish on the part of the colonists, to avoid paying for the expense of protecting them against the French during seven years of arduous war and conflict.
Well, we've just finished discussing the origin of rights and governments.  Here is a case to which we might apply those principles.  What say you?

Viking Boat Burial Found in Scotland

This is excellent news!

The five metre-long (16-foot) grave, thought to contain the remains of a high-status Viking, was discovered at a site estimated to be 1,000 years old. 
The Viking was buried with an axe, a sword and a spear in a ship held together with 200 metal rivets.
Archaeology being a slow study, we can expect details to come out over time. Keep an eye out!

First Photograph of New York, 1848

From a cool new site I just came across, called Retronaut.
Below is the explanation that accompanied this picture.

“This half-plate daguerreotype of a country estate is believed to have been made in Manhattan in October 1848 or earlier. The daguerreotype shows in the foreground what is almost certainly the old Bloomingdale Road, referred to as ‘a continuation of Broadway’ in the city directories of the day. In the deep well of the road, to the left, is a horse-drawn carriage with passengers that has come to a halt for the photographer.”

 - Sothebys

There Stands a Piper

Jump about five minutes into this clip, and the piper lays down the Uilleann pipes, and picks up a set of Great Highland Warpipes.  The piper's name is Neil Anderson, and he's by far the most talented piper I've ever seen. Twenty years ago, he used to do the Stone Games as a part of a band called Seven Nations.  He was really that whole band, and when he left it, the thing turned into a shadow of itself.  Lately he's been back to the Games with a new band called Rathkeltair.

Crank it up, and give him some of your time.  You can try this one, too, which has "Atholl Highlanders" in it about halfway through:

Unfortunately, recording just doesn't capture the Warpipes in their glory.  They fill the air like a thunderstorm.  If you've heard them before, you'll have to do the rest with your imagination; if you haven't, you simply can't.


Or try this one:

Again, skip halfway through to find the best part.  Or don't, and watch the cinematography.  The problem this band has got is that they think they've got a lead guitarist.  They don't:  what they have is a lead piper, who is carrying the band.  Until they sort that out, they won't be able to break out to where they ought to be:  and they ought to be great, for they have one of the masters of his generation.

How to Co-Opt a Protester

James Taranto is the master.
For a protest against business, Occupy Wall Street seems to be generating a lot of it. For one thing, it's a tourist attraction: We talked to a college girl visiting from Salt Lake City and a guy who had come up from Maryland. (He is photographer Ed Fagan, whose work accompanies this column and whose protest slide show can be viewed here. He is available for weddings and other occasions.)
Maybe he can find out where we can hire some of those Guy-Fawkes-mask guys to cater our next birthday party.

What is Most Worthy

Having considered all these different forms of the practice of arms, it is now time to speak of the truest and most perfect form which exists and is to be found in a number of men-at-arms.  It is embodied in those who, from their own nature and instinct, as soon as they begin to reach the age of understanding, and with their understanding they like to hear and listen to men of prowess talk of military deeds... and as they reach adulthood, the desire in their hearts grows ever greater to ride and to bear arms.
[They] cannot be satisfied with themselves if they do not realize to the full their wish to find themselves there and to learn.  They want to observe and to find out how to set up an expedition to attack and fight one's enemies, and to observe the deployment of light horsemen, the deployment of men-at-arms and foot soldiers, and the best way to advance in a fine attack and to make a safe and honorable withdrawal.... the defense of castles and walled towns... still they are unsatisfied, for they always want to learn more because they hear about how one can lay siege to walled towns and castles.
-Geoffroi de Charny
Geoffroi de Charny was a Knight of the Order of the Star, who died with the sacred banner of France in his hand at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.  It would be on point to our recent discussions for me to quote his remarks on marriage and love, which are not dissimilar to his remarks on men-at-arms.  He invariably says that 'we should praise most those who are most worthy,' exploring deficiencies and then perfections for men and for ladies, and for men and ladies together.

For now, though, I want to draw your attention to his remarks on the best kind of man.  Notice how similar the knight's argument is to Aquinas' argument below.  We begin with a natural drive which has as its end a good:  the desire to ride and to bear arms, which defends the weak and upholds the just; or the desire to love, which brings children and joy.  There are many ways to do each of these badly, and Aquinas and de Charny both speak at length about what is imperfect, and just why it is imperfect.

The goal, in both cases, is to perfect your nature.  The road, in both cases, is through reason:  "the age of understanding," "with his understanding," "to hear and to listen," "to learn," "to observe and find out."  "They cannot be satisfied with themselves if they do not realize to the full their wish to find themselves there and to learn."

This last shows that the fullest and most perfect virtue is a virtue of deeds and not merely of understanding alone.  It is not enough to know what is right, but you must also realize what is right through your actions -- for to "realize" is "to make real."  This is the subcreation of which we have spoken:  we are directed to make it exist.

This weekend at the Stone Games I spoke to many people who shared this drive, and taught on these subjects:  how to defend and attack, and not just yourself but in formations; how walled cities were taken and how you could organize against infantry or cavalry, or with archers; and how these medieval tactics and strategies align with our modern ones, so that you might begin to see the military art in full.  Many came who clearly shared this drive in their hearts, but to whom it was not given that they should be able to realize it fully in their actions.  Some were crippled of limb, and a few of mind, but their hearts were likewise drawn to virtue.  It is important to help them achieve it as far as they can.  It is wise to remember that we also have limits and weaknesses, and fail to do what would be most perfect.  It is therefore an honor to help those who would do more than they can do, as we hope to be forgiven for our limits or for our weakness, and to find help in achieving perfection.

We spoke very little of Aristotle, except for some of the Physics, but Aristotle is there present in all of this.  Ever since the Spanish knights began to recapture the lands that had fallen to Islam, the commentaries of Averroes on Aristotle spread into the West and began to inform our understanding.  De Charny is following his model, as informed by Aquinas and others.

Such is the path, which begins in your own nature and is perfected through understanding and deeds.  Ride, and bear arms.