Advice for the Soldier Returning From Iraq

Don’t kill yourself. Don’t beat your wife.

— from the title story of Iraq War vet Phil Klay’s collection Redeployment

Atop It All

If you’re physically on top of a thing or place — a mountain, a skyscraper — what type of scene do you want to share in your frame?

— Cheri Lucas Rowlands, The Daily Post

For this week’s photo challenge, ATOP, self pulled from her Archive:

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Fall 2016: Main Lobby of the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park: View from the 2nd Floor

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Summer 2016: The Tate Modern is housed in what used to be the Battersea Power Station. In keeping with its industrial spirit, everything in the Tate Modern has that utilitarian feel. Even the restaurant, on the 6th floor. It’s called The Kitchen. The Harry Potter Bridge (Formal Name: the Millenium Bridge) is to the right.

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Spring 2015: The Portrait Café, British National Portrait Gallery

Note to dear blog readers: The Portrait Cafe hosts an afternoon tea, which is booked weeks in advance. The day self showed up, early March, she could not get a seat. So if you would like to see this fabulous view while having tea, book in advance.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

p. 244, THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

Self will admit she has an enduring fascination with ancient Rome (She’s just imparting that to dear blog readers because aside from the story collection Redeployment, by Phil Klay, the rest of her reading list is ALL ROME, ALL THE TIME: Rubicon, by Tom Holland; SPQR, by Mary Beard; Conspirata, by Robert Harris. And she has a long, long way yet to go in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)

She read a biography of Cicero years and years ago (which was called, self thinks, Cicero) and she remembers in particular a section describing how triumphant Roman generals led post-victory processions throughout the capital. Standing just behind the general, in the same chariot, was a slave whose sole responsibility was to whisper into the general’s ear, over and over: Remember, thou art dust.

The minute self read that, her mouth dropped open. She was so in awe.

So far, the most interesting chapter in TDAFOTRE has been the chapter on the rise of monasticism. You would not believe what those monks would get up to! Especially when they were determined to abnegate themselves!

Now she’s into a chapter about Constantine building Constantinople. Very interesting descriptions of the Hellespont and the Bosporus. And then (Italics are mine):

  • As Constantine urged the progress of the work with the impatience of a lover, the walls, the porticoes, and the principal edifices were completed in a few years . . .

Oooh! Emperor Constantine had the impatience of a lover!

#Justimagine

Gibbon does not enter into any detail about Constantine as an actual lover, however, which in self’s mind is a serious omission. Unless the Emperor had no lovers, and dedicated himself exclusively to the cause of being a great Emperor. Which would be pretty sad, actually. For him personally. Not for posterity. Posterity is happy. Only eccentrics like self would bother themselves with wondering about the personal happiness of emperors.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide”: Sentence of the Day in THE DECLINE AND FALL

Self is still on Chapter VII (The Rise of Monasticism) of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. There are some fantastic stories in this chapter. Alas, self has not the time to share them. Suffice it to say, Gibbon gives short shrift to monastic life in Gaul, Italy, Britain, Syria, etc and focuses almost exclusively on Egyptian monasteries (which makes self want to go to Egypt; but she wonders, anyway, if any of those ancient monasteries still exists)

Gibbon seems to feel great affinity for the Egyptian monk’s life of simple arduousness. Perhaps it reminded him of his own scholar’s life?

But, Gibbon being Gibbon, he cannot escape a chance to probe their state of mind. And this is how he describes it:

The repose which they had sought in the cloister was disturbed by tardy repentance, profane doubts, and guilty desires; and while they considered each natural impulse as an unpardonable sin, they perpetually trembled on the age of a flaming and bottomless abyss.

In the “sixth century, a hospital was founded at Jerusalem for a small portion of the austere penitents who were deprived of their senses.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

from Chapter III: Aurelian and the Restoration of the Empire:

As soon as he was informed that the great army of the Danube had invested the well-known valour of Aurelian with Imperial power, he sunk under the fame and merit of his rival; and, ordering his veins to be opened, prudently withdrew himself from the unequal contest.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

ATOP: Daily Post Photo Challenge, 15 March 2017

For this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge, ATOP, self goes back to the pictures she took of a London church she visited in 2015. She’s not sure if she’s interpreting the theme correctly (“a view from the top”) but she’ll post this anyway.

Two years ago, self was on a Shadowhunters reading binge. She took The Infernal Devices trilogy with her to the UK, and decided to plan her days around places cited in the books.

In her website, author Cassandra Clare says she used St. Bride’s near Fleet Street as the titular setting for the Shadowhunters Academy. And self did get to see this church. And it was one of the most beautiful churches she had ever seen.

You can see an exhibit on the history of St. Bride’s in the crypt. The spire was designed by Christopher Wren. Building began in 1671 and was completed in 1703:

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Rendering of the Steeple of St. Bride’s (aka “The Church of Journalists”) Just Off Fleet Street

The steeple was destroyed during the Blitz (see newspaper headline below).

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World War II London Newspaper

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A Modern Rendering of the Christopher Wren Steeple

The steeple has been rebuilt; you can see it from the top floor of the National Portrait Gallery. It’s a long, slim needle that feels surprisingly at home with the modernistic buildings surrounding it.

Self returned to St. Bride’s last year, with poet Joan McGavin. The main space was closed for refurbishing, but the crypt was still open to the public. While Joan went down to look at the exhibit, self chatted with a clergyman, who asked what brought her to St. Bride’s. And she said, Shadowhunters. He was highly amused.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Huh. Sounds Like . . . That Movie

The death of Marcus Aurelius, in 180 A.D., brought the felicity of the Antonine age to an abrupt end. His son Commodus was a tyrant who degraded the imperial dignity by personally fighting in the amphitheatre both against wild beasts and against professional gladiators. He was murdered after a reign of twelve years. His successor, the senator Pertinax, who sought to return to the methods of Marcus, lasted only twelve weeks. He was murdered by the Pretorian guards who now, resenting the restoration of discipline, “threw their swords into the scale” and, having thus made the throne again vacant, treated it as their property and offered it for sale to the highest bidder.  It was bought by a rich senator, Didius Julianus. But this claim of the Roman household troops to dispose of the empire aroused the resentment of the legions abroad. By a rapid march on Rome, the commander of the army on the Danube, the African Septimius Severus, deposed Julianus after a reign of 66 days, defeated his rival generals, and inaugurated the rule of a new dynasty: the last imperial dynasty of the Pagan empire.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter II: The House of Severus

#RidleyScottdoesknowhis #EdwardGibbon #HistoryofImperialRome

Quote of the Day: Chapters, Dublin

Sometimes it might feel like we’re living in a bleak, alternate reality from the burned-out brain of a paranoid science fiction writer, but there’s always a world worse off than us.

Check out our favorite dystopian fiction in store.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Impregnable Quebec: MONTCALM AND WOLFE, pp 531 – 532

At this point, with less than a hundred pages to go, the Battle for Quebec is finally, apparently going to happen.

Quebec’s location requires the British forces to storm uphill. It’s bad enough they have to storm at all, but — uphill?

To make things worse, Wolfe, the British commander, is taken ill (almost on the eve of the attack, of all the bloody ##@@!!) and has to stay in bed for five days.

Meanwhile, the French have planted small detachments (with cannon. And guns) on each declivity. So that once the British get through one line of fire, they’re met by another. All coming from above.

But the British have to attack because: 1) winter is approaching; 2) months in the Canadian wilderness have significantly weakened the British Army. Wolfe, the British commander, knows it’s now or never (Self is so impressed with this commander that she gave his name to one of the characters in The Rorqual, her horror story-in-progress.)

At this critical juncture, the British are able to send a small detachment of soldiers to a hill overlooking the city. So now this small British detachment (very wee: something like only 150 men) is able to see directly into the town, behind the ramparts, from above. The British are able to reinforce this detachment by sending ships, ships that go undetected by the French. (The French fully expected the challenge to come from the front because they believed that the hills behind the city were impregnable.)

But, let’s not underestimate British determination! Not to mention Parkman’s eye for the droll anecdote!

The 22 ships are joined by “a diminutive schooner, armed with a few swivels and jocosely named The Terror of France.” She sails by the city “in broad daylight.” The French, “incensed at her impudence . . .  begin blazing at her from all their batteries.” Still, the schooner is able to “pass unharmed” whereupon the schooner salutes the British commander “triumphantly with her swivels.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Book #3: Unit # 1, Tyrone Guthrie Centre

Mary Oliver’s Swan

Self has never read Mary Oliver before.

How I Go to the Woods

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unbearable sound of the roses singing.

* * *

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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