Sunday, June 08, 2008

Carving and Scratching: The Decorative Arts. People Enriching and Recording their Daily Lives

Column capital, Medieval Battle, Malbork Castle, Poland*

Rather than spend tens of thousands a year on institutional public education, do this: somehow surmount the liability issues, and use part of that money to take very small clusters of students to any foreign country locale, with a castle, and live in that area for two solid weeks.

Learn all you can just by first hand observation and personal research. Knights, armor, types, customs, music, art, crops, trade, plague, religion. Malbork, or Marienburg, Poland is rich in all that.

What the students learn they record. What they don't see themselves, you don't tell them. Just steer their observing. Have them play the instruments, try carving. Was this castle later destroyed? By whom and why? See if they don't come back with a vital interest that does not come with all our dumb passive education feedings year after year.

Hradec Kralove, Sgraffito

The Czech Republic. Go to Hradec Kralove, not just Prague.

Sgraffito - decoration design by scraping away top layer of light plaster to reveal darker layer below, here at Hradec Kralove. See ://

The child diarist, Petr Ginz, World War II, tells us that his mother used to go back to this, the town of her childhood, from Prague. She came to get away, and return refreshed. See Places of Petr Ginz, Hradec Kralove. Young people can identify with one of their own in a war. Try them. Reading about it is not enough for empathy.

Telc, Sgraffito fooling the eye

Some forms of sgraffito are a trompe l'oeil technique - fool the eye - into seeing three dimensions, when there is really a flat surface.

The lower floor here is flat, with sgraffito. This dates from the second half of the 16th Century - a burgess' house. See ://

Exploring. No better way to learn. Bottoms up, kids.

On the way somewhere, see this in Poland.

Have the kids research it.

It is a visual hook to a pub down the road, for the chaperones.


* Malbork Castle, a/k/a Marienburg. See Poland Road Ways: Malbork as Marienburg, Brick Gothic, Archways, walls with roofs, Reconstruction after 1945, Teutonic Knights, Grand Masters.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Op lopveop yopuop - Language sites

Common ground. The world's languages. Learn some French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Chinese, "Other" - at :// Find some Polish there also, and Urdu.

And from another site:

Op lopveop yopuop
Means "I love you"
In "Op."

As in:

La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la-la means...

Universal human theme.

See the world saying it at ://

Special Ops. Diplomats, soldiers, tourists. Learn to say the basics wherever you go.

Op. Which way is Op? *
Need to meet
Op Ed.

Portunity knocks.

Testing... testing....


* Is this Opao, a language in an area near Papua, New Guinea, spoken by some 1116 people? See Ethnologue at //

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ethnic group rights or non-rights, migration, immigration and co-existence

Considerations for the world -

1. Which factors more: Equity and fairness, or Time passing since a conquering, and then comes the rule of tough (does England go back to the Saxons, or the Normans, or the Romans or the Celts); and would the US go back to the Native Americans (as a practical matter, hardly); whether the ethnic group now seeking recognition was itself the conquerer or instead followed on the coattails of conquerors since displaced (Kosovo); whether Scotland reverts to the "Scotties" in Ireland, the Basques away on their own from Spain and France, on the lineages cry, let us join with ourselves, and let us be. Then, most recently perhaps, the Tibetans from China.

2. Keep it IYBY. In your back yard.

We have a concept here in the US - NIMBY meaning Not In My Back Yard.That means that a solution to a problem may be fine so long as it does not affect me or my property. Put in the town water tower, but not in my back yard. That also applies to population changes - let them do as they like, so long as I and my lifestyle are not affected.

We look at areas like The Balkans, current borders a far cry from original ethnic borders, given its location as a crossroads for conquerors of religious and military and commercial bents over centuries. And our resolutions may well be too simplistic - these people are not in our back yard, think our officials, so impose a resolution and get on with it.

But would we be so fast to impose that solution in our own country? Doubtful. What criteria would work for multiple separatist situations, not just Kosovo.

3. Get rid. But where or how? And why?

Now, in the US, what to do with immigrants here, without documentation, having crossed open borders like an invitation for years, and the backlash is now against them by many who would like to turn back the clock

The Balkans have dealt with issues of "unwanted" and "uninvited" population groups (like successive conquerors) for centuries. What can we learn from the Balkans?
  • The issue moves from the legal or equitable right, of who to what; to a step beyond - what we have now, in 2008, and where to go with it now.
4. Dignity. The vital importance of it.

None of the earlier approaches have worked. They all included Rankism - me better than you.
Try the dignitarian approach instead.

We cannot undo history, we can only cope and adjust in a way that reasonably works, while affording full dignity to all groups - a new mindset. See ://; rankism and peer to peer studies at .//; and rankism at ://

Ethnic groups worldwide, and how to coexist.

Starting point: Here we are, up there in the top row of 18,000 in Hartford's main city center (listening to Barack Obama).

Background of issue: We were in process of correcting some errors in identifying a certain statue in Zagreb. Croatia - see Croatia Road Ways (our believed Officer Yallatchich turns out to be King Tomas, or Tomislav).

VM, who provided the correct information on Tomislav, asked about another issue common to all countries whose borders include ethnic groups that do not identify with the dominant: what rights attach to the defeated, the conquered, who now seek their own identity in a perhaps more (?) civilized and tolerant world.

Unresolved. But we in the meantime heard candidate Barack Obama here, and we would like to share our thoughts.

Immediate trigger. We heard Senator Barack Obama, with his mixed racial heritage and the claims of blacks and whites, and reds and yellows and blues and the just plain drabs, like me and, as ancestors of all colors and ethnicity we all have somewhere.

Who has what rights to land and identity.

Does power have to mean eradication, or can we get beyond that, for a common good.

Conflicts of laws addresses this in jurisdictional terms, with mixed results in acceptance, so this focuses on how to foster coexistence, so that separatist movements are not needed. People are ok with the arrangement.
  • So far in the US, the candidate addressing human issues on a global reference scale, and the dignity of people, is indeed, in our view so far, Barack Obama. He acknowledges all our own weird families and how that plays out in a culture. And uses that commonality to move forward.
  • We may well be into new analyses and understandings, as he suggests. We may need to look to the future, while respecting and acknowledging the inequities of the past - move on to consider entire mindsets, and administrations and assimilation, not deportations and population exchanges.
Only so many resources, yet populations at odds.

Can we overcome our fear of each other, that the gain of one group means the diminution of another's opportunities.

This is an open call for comment, because the Balkans have dealt with this for years, and the US is just beginning as a nation, and an identity, and we may yet trip over our own feet.
  • A starting point may be that small window of time where Islam in Spain coexisted for so many years with Jews and Christians, with handicaps and taxes to be sure in the "dhimmi" status of the Non Islam population. But it managed, without bloodshed.
What models can Europe, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, offer the US. We start with offering a moratorium on acting against undocumented immigrants here, until a new administration can review the situation. See PoseJuxta, Plank, Legal Temporary Immigration Status.

My vote could go here or there because there is time left before decision is needed. But for Obama's speech on race, try this:

Video: Barack Obama in Philadelphia

Is there hope for America? Dare we be audacious? All of us. And hope? Watch the Powers drive it down again. Or try.

For war issues, contemporary, much stemming from missteps and lack of understanding of the dynamics between other countries' ethnic groups or religious divisions, hear his ideas at

We are working on ourselves. I may change my mind. But so far, this is the most reasonable, optimistic yet realistic candidate. So there we are.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Believing: Religions. The Orthodox Christian

Ostrog, Montenegro, Orthodox Monastery

History of the Orthodox Christian Church: Since AD 29, Pentecost. Hear some chants, the Russian Orthodox, at :// Find Ukrainian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, many more.

See a timeline - always an efficient way to get started. See the timeline at the site for St. Ignatius of Antioch Orthodox Christian Church in Madison, WI: at :// But first, here is the home page (with bells at://

Site information from that timeline is summarized here, with other information as we find it separately listed.

For the first millenium: There was basically one church in claiming the direct line of the apostles since Pentecost, and five centers or patriarchates - Jerusalem, Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch and Rome. There have always been other groups that the "one church" called heretic or schismatic - Arians, Bogomils, look up "heretic" - although they saw their interpretations as having as much validity as anyone else's, or better. Most eventually were killed.

954- Orthodox Church in Russia

Meteora, Greece, Orthodox Monastery

In 1051, the Great Schism. By 1054, the Roman Church Patriarch had pulled away in order to pursue his view of the Roman Church as the sole and universal leadership of the Christian faith. The other four patriarchates have remained in full communion with each other. The Roman church also had by then added the "filioque" clause in the Nicene Creed, not only the Father, but the Father "and the Son," with the later phrase not having been part of the first 1000 years' theology.

Rome vs. Orthodox:
Roman Crusades: 1095-1291- with the "sack of Constantinople," obviously a Christian city, in 1204.
Rome omitting to act when Orthodox put to death in Nazi puppet states, Fascist Concentration Camps, WWII, Balkans (elsewhere?)

1453- Turks overran Constantinople, signaling end of the Byzantine Empire. Note the defensive positions of the monasteries on clifftops. A combination, I recall, of inspiration, signs; and necessity.

Rome dividing into other groupings:
1517, Martin Luther's 95 Theses; Protestant Reformation
1529, Church of England; Episcopal. The Anglican Communion.

1538 - Ottomans overrun Moldavia, Romania

1683 - Ottoman Empire was finally stopped at Vienna, see ://

1794- Orthodox missionaries arrive in Alaska

Rome's theology differing from Orthodox: (see 1054, "filioque" clause also)
1854 - Dogma, Immaculate Conception
1870 - Dogma, Papal Infallibility
See also the progression of terms in creeds, what is added, which groups disagree.

Customs, entering: See:// This site is by a technical writer, and easy to navigate. Go to the clothing and conduct section, at ://
Nin, Croatia, Early Christian Church (neither Roman nor Orthodox - All one Church then (9th Century?).

The church at Nin predates the schism between Roman and Orthodox, when the Christian Church was one church, and before Rome pulled away from the other four Orthodox patriarchates. This is said to be the smallest Christian Bishopric in the world.

Learn basic manners: Respect, respect. This takes forms that are not familiar to many of us, so read carefully and follow. Regardless of your own views, do as they. Do not cross your legs, that is too informal;. Skirts, are a must in some areas for women, and below the knee (the monasteries in Greece will give you a large square scarf to wrap around on top of your short skirt, or shorts, or jeans); long pants for men, no beach or athletic gear (defined?), no logos on T-shirts (how to get around these - are the scarves offered? I do not recall). Men, remove caps. Women may cover heads, not required. No smoking, including on entry steps, no gum;. When altar doors open, hands at sides or hands folded in front, no folding of arms, or hands in pockets, out of respect. Communion only for Orthodox;. Close doors softly.

Painted Orthodox church, Bucovina, Moldavia, Romania

The paintings are on fresco, see :// The churches date from the 16th Century, and the paintings are educative, didactic, a way to teach even outside the church. Armies also were mustered there, and walls surround many church complexes - teach the soldiers as well.

Wooden bars pounding, or beating wooden tablets, signal calls to prayer in many places, the Turks having forbidden the use of bells, and also having melted them down for arms. See geocities site.

Similarities in the hierarchical churches: Use of term, but differing meanings.

The "Metropolitan" is the term for the diocesan or "arch" bishop overseeing other, lower-ranked bishops in an area. See :// to get started. Info there:

Roman Church: "Metropolitan Bishop." In the Roman church, the lesser bishops are known as "suffragan" bishops. Metropolis used to mean the chief Roman city in an area, like a province or "ecclesiastical province."

Greek Orthodox: the "Archbishop" is above "Metropolitan."

Slavic Orthodox: the Metropolitan is above the Archbishop.

Those with distaff side repro apparatus need not apply, because repro apparatus is placed higher than head or heart, and those with other repro apparatus have so ordained, even though the Founder did nothing of the kind. See theological meander at

The Orthodox and the Roman branches offer a verbal ok to thinking on your own, but not to coming to conclusions on your own that differ from the established line. This was not always true - look to the earliest years when Croatians began doing mass in their own language, 900 AD or so.

Gregory, Bishop of Nin, Croatia, 9th Century

Gregory here started doing the services at Nin, Croatia, in the local language, educating the people. This was soon barred by Rome. The Church in Croatia did become Roman Catholic; the Church in neighboring Serbia, Montenegro and much of Bosnia became Orthodox; with Serbia and Bosnia then being overcome by the Ottomans, the Muslims, in many areas.

Facts arriving after the belief has etched are either a threat, so to be suppressed, as in the case of Gregory of Nin; or become unlikely to change anything thereafter, so get 'em believing early, keep facts out (or make up your own) and keep 'em iggerunt. Is that right? See Joy of Equivocating, Emoticon Dominance Theory.

Rub the toe of the Saint for luck. See :// And why the tall hats?

For a meander on theology and hierarchy in the hierarchical churches, do visit Martin Luther's Stove - Theology Anomaliesy

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Theme of the Arts - No Boundaries

Is it a fairy tale to want to see the arts put on the same educational footing as nuts and bolts?

This, an actual castle in Slovakia, at Bojnice - a 19th Century heir's renovation to an old, old place, to win the heart of his lady (it didn't work).

Still, young people every year put on a week's drama, pageant, dance, narrative, about his life - everybody learns history. Crowds and crowds come.

Thus, this Clearinghouse. This post is about putting in one place all the things about the arts development in various countries, that would be lost if put in the separate country blogs.

Here: Arts. Plays, music, theater, dance, photography, poetry, mime.

Here, Bojnice again.

Arts in other countries: see the rainbow.

Serbians. Some now in Ireland. Meet fiilm-maker, Goran Paskaljevic - "They've had 700 years of the English; we had 500 years of the Turks," says Mr. Paskaljevic in NYT 1/9/08 at E3, article by John Anderson. Both countries have had too-great shares of "internecine warfare, ancient resentments and cultivated hatred," says Anderson. Acknowledges Serbian role in the Bosnian wars that began in 1992 (see Bosnia Road Ways. Films: "Cabaret Balkan", a/k/a "A Powder Keg," dealing with the dissolution of Yugoslavia - attributing much to the "prejudices, beliefs, myths, courage and servility." Also, "Midwinter Night's Dream," a Serbian soldier's return and what he finds. Critics may say he "sensationalizes" but we would like to see the pending remake of "How Harry Became a Tree." The MoMa has a film series about displaced dreamers - that includes Mr. Paskalajevic. Read the list of films and abstracts. Come on, Hartford, we want that, too.

This topic brings a sadness as a former teacher, that these are being downgraded in priority in our educational systems. We have failed our children in basic reading and writing, and demands of technology and practical employment preparation, and now must catch up - but look at the butcher method. We are cutting out much of the arts.

Why not synthesize. Go about teaching writing after seeing a play, for example. Write a poem about a film, about a photograph that you have shown the class. Do it yourself.

Do it all, all at once. No need to compartmentalize.

Live with the bullet holes. If the budget does not permit covering over the bullet holes, as here at Bojnice Castle - leave it and it becomes part of living history.

Living is a totality.

So is educating ourselves.

Bullet holes are part of many lives. So is job-hunting. Reality.

So also are the arts. Support the arts, for everyone.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Battle and Ethnic Memory - Kosovo II. See Legend Overtaking Facts

Mostar, Bosnia (adjacent country to Serbia - Kosovo)

is (was?) a province of Serbia, a country next to Bosnia (a bombing-damaged section of Mostar, Bosnia, is shown here for illustration only). Serbia is about to become independent from Serbia. See post Kosovo I, at Europe Road Ways, Kosovo I, History to WWI .

For current news, events and comments on the Balkans and Serbia in particular see B92 Politika at ://, and navigate from there.

We are interested in the past here, however, the theme of battles, and ethnic memory, and legend about a country's past overcoming reality (that things may be irrevocably changed by now, or not), and how it impacts on the present. The past always does. Serbia, its Orthodox faith bearing the brunt of Ottoman Expansions, see ://, joined its religious beliefs with its fate at a certain battle, at the Plain of Kosovo. The depth of that feeling is not being much recognized, with current haste to simply declare Kosovo (Ottoman heritage through the Albanians who converted to Islam and moved in after the Ottoman conquests.

We could not enter Kosovo (car insurance limitation - no coverage if we did), but see the photos from adjoining Bosnia (one shown here, Mostar, Bosnia) and the inland photos of Montenegro for an idea of the topography. Expect more flat land in Kosovo, however. Do an Images search for it.

Now - Independence tomorrow - see :// To what extent will the cultural narrative adjust to independence, not ties to Serbia's mythology.

The point of studying Kosovo is to look at the role of ethnic memory in defining history.

History. There is a strong cultural narrative tying Kosovo to Serbia, but Serbia lost Kosovo to the Turks in 1389, and Muslims since entered in vast numbers from Albania, and have made that their home. And, with Serbian ethnic cleansing in the 20th Century, to try to force Muslim Albanians- Kosovo residents back to Albania, it has been a bloody hundred years since WWI.

Review the Battle at Kosovo Polje: The battle at Kosovo Plain 1389. The facts are unclear -unknown or largely undocumented. Still, in memory, and with myth taking over, history was changed. Watch the tellings and retellings of heroism and vast deeds that struck people's hearts and minds. The tellings supplant the reality - but the reality itself may be inaccessible, so what to do. No answers here.

1. Kosovo Plain.

This was the location of the battlefield, Christian vs. Turk, 1389. The Ottoman Expansion. The Plain a/k/a the Field of Blackbirds, north of Pristina, Kosovo. Do an images search for a map. For background, read the prior post on Kosovo I, at Europe Road Ways, Kosovo I, laying out the basic ethnic chronologies, religious groups, when and where, up to about World War I.

2. The Battle of Kosovo Polje, (Kosovo Field/ Plain) 1389.

The summary is roughly this: That Slav leaders by the 14th Century for years had allied with the Turks from time to time in separate alliances as a move against their own Slav enemies from time to time, and these alliances, creating vassalhoods, went back and forth. Then a Bulgarian prince fully joined with the Turks against other Slavs, enabling the Turks to get a foothold in an important area, free of conflict with locals. Sultan Murad I, the Turk, consolidated his forces and attacked. Serbian Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic, consolidated his forces and prepared to defend. Much folk literature and ballads about Lazar's next steps, alleging his vision not to fight or, in the alternative, to lead his forces to Christian martyrdom, and the consequences.

A national mythology emerged and grew, the battle was seen as a defeat changing the course of history to some, and with metaphysical and great symbolic import. :// These appear to be true:

3. NOW - The present. In 1989, Slobodan Milosovic (now deceased,see :// addressed 500,000 Serbs on the Plain of Kosovo, Kosovo Polje, Plain of Blackbirds. See ://

This marked the 600th anniversary of the Serbs' self-defined "epic loss" to the Turks in 1389 on that field, and 500 years of oppression thereafter.
The warning of Mr. Milosevic -battles to come, for protection of the Serbs. But 200,000 Serbs fled in 1999 when Serb forces were removed (UN), and Serbs in Kosovo now seem to prefer ethnic partition, the sides leading parallel lives, to independence under Albanian institutions. Each side has its own narrative of how the battle went, and its aftermath. This battlefield now appears to the Serbs, apparently, as strong an icon as Grunewald (Tannenbaum) to the Poles, that location of repeated battles against Teuton or Russian. See Poland Road Ways, Grunewald Battle 1410.

4. We are looking at why the devotion to Kosovo Plain's battle. A vast resource is the book, "Kosovo" by William Dorich, at ://
To get a grounding, see the chronology of rulers in Kosovo at that site. Why the devotion to the battle of Kosovo?

We are finding Serbian Epic Poems - not historical fact - as a motivator, see ://; and :// And :// *

5. The Dead Hand: Dead hand control is a concept for "Ever-present, oppressive influence of past events." See :// Here, at Kosovo, look at the facts alleged in the epic poems, experienced by Prince Lazar before battle, and stated at://

There, the Kosovo Epic Cycle of poetry summarized there parallels the agony of Christ in Lazar, his acceptance of mission, the full story. Please go to that site - it seems to underly the fervors that were mustered after, but were not necessarily part of the times. There also is the part of the Maid of Kosovo, and the mother, etc.

5.1. The battle seems more important as legend later reframed it, than the reality, whatever that reality was or was not. Framing is a way of interpreting, a "cognitive shortcut" to understanding complexity, but also limiting what information is taken in thereafter as relevant. Once framed, like a house, it is difficult to change the configuration. See ://

For the battle accounts based on documentation from the time, see :// Also see the work of G. Richard Jansen, his home page at:// Read every word. This battle clearly captured imaginations and fervor, and each telling reinforced the view sought, but Jansen's point is that actual events and facts are not clear at all.

5.2. Accounts from the time are unclear who won, if anyone. For an encyclopedia overview of fiction and fact, see :// There read of a "vision" of Prince Lazar of the Serbs, by which he was supposedly convinced to lead his forces to martyrdom, is listed there; but is not at the Jansen research on original, contemporary materials.

5.3. Trying to piece it together. It does seem clear that it is the later view that the Turks beat the Serbs (or did they?), and the Ottoman Empire therefore expanded more easily and entrenched around the Balkans through Bosnia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro. In issue, and documentation is spotty with many sources being referrals to letters no longer found, are the circumstances of the deaths of both leaders - Prince Lazar of the Serbs, and Sultan Murad I of the Turks. Cult literature developed around both.

This is history as Process, its role in determining later acts because of interpretation, not history as Fact. Reframing by epic poem later, and by myth.

5.5 Views to explore: Conflicting views.

Either Serbian medieval social structure was defeated at the Battle of Kosovo; or it had fallen apart before, and Prince Lazar was already a vassal to the Turks,. In that view, Lazar then had to be punished for disloyalty to the Turk. So the battle was lost.

Either the Serbs "ought" to have won the Battle of Kosovo, and it was only another soldier's disloyalty, a Bosnian, Vuk Brankovic, that led to the defeat; or that Prince Lazar betrayed them by ordering his army to martyrdom, or not to fight, see vision at #4.

Either the battle resulted in defeat; or it did not - the die was already cast, as to Ottoman successful expansion through the area. The future was clear enough, this event was not pivotal, saved lives probably, and was not treated as significant to history at the time, only created so by later doctrinaire writers.

Other themes:
  • The Role of a Vision. Prince Lazar of the Serbs, who was killed at the battle, stood for the proposition that it is God's will that the people submit to a peaceful transfer of authority to the Turk. Death of a soldier became death of a martyr. Thus, the story of the vision arose. See the epic poem laying this story out at :// If you are defeated as a martyr, your cause lives on. If you are defeated as a soldier, you lose.
  • Deaths of leaders. Both did here. It was unusual for both leaders of both armies to die at the same battle event. Lazar died. Yet, Sultan Murad I of the Turks also died - either he was assassinated by the Serb Milos Kobilic in a daring raid on the Sultan's tent, before the battle; or the alternative version, that he was killed after the battle was won by the Turks. Either way, the deaths of both leaders is given great symbolic importance.
  • Those who lost, won. The Christians won after all, say some - they lived, they did what was asked. They martyred themselves, their cause lives on. For a flavor of the times, see that chronology of rulers in Kosovo at ://
  • 7. Nobody knows what happened because there is so little documentation. At least, get the cultural context at a site like this: "Kosovo" by William Dorich, article "Prologue to Kosovo: The Era of Prince Lazar" at //
  • None of the above. The facts do not matter as much as the perception. An eloquent view of the sacrifice of the Serbs (note "sacrifice") is at ://
.Epic poems. Kosovo cannot be understood apart from the famous epic poem cycle from Kosovo, that governs the view of History here. Read the epic poem of the martyrs at the srpska-mreza site. Some are trying to move past the Epic memory, to the future - see :// the practical approach to looking forward, not wallowing back.

Then again, the epics are so eloquent, so full of imagery and yearning, how can reality compete?

The storyteller wins over the facts-lister.

See the "Maid of Kosovo" - bringing aid to the wounded on the field, even taking the role of a Mary, with Prince Lazar as a Christ figure. Find her at ://

So: Does this particular, pivotal conflict, made so by legend and not by facts from the time, particularly exacerbate the ongoing violent boundary, ethnic and religious disputes of Kosovo, this province of Serbia; as it now approaches its declaration of independence from Serbia. It appears so, on a strong emotional level - with strong powers pro and con the independence.

Compare this to a particular religious overview: Note that this battle precedes the events given in the religious overview given in ://,. We were surprised to see the Battle of Kosovo left out there - its role in epic may well be more important to the psyches of the people involved than reality, and what is more important? The memory.

US application - Is this phenomenon of choosing fiction over fact like our Plymouth Rock, for example, where myth is taught rather than the hard facts. What if our schools were to teach the real Plymouth? The real Mayflower? Would we prefer the legends because they flatter us and the reality demeans us?

The dead hand having writ, writes on. Until somebody hits "delete." For the sake of all of us moving ahead here.

Is this the moral: f war depends on legend to perpetuate it, is it time to debunk the legends. No, some would say, because then we may have people looking at religions, and those "facts" and debunk what is added later. Can't have that. Not profitable or macho. And, if we debunk war, who would join up, and then what do we do when attacked. Do we need the myth.
* The Serbian Epic Poems. Are we all in that boat, living and thinking because of legend, not fact - who wants to be the first to debunk Plymouth Rock and its myths? Do read Nathaniel Philbrick's "Mayflower." See; and NYT review at ://

The concern is, Did anyone listen when that "Mayflower" book was written? Was even one school curriculum changed because of the facts collated in this book?

Who wants to listen. Who cares by now because we live in our chosen reality. We identify with our myths, take them from us and you die! Like a comic book, we are. Another time.

Bottom line. We all fill-in-the-blanks for important matters of memory. Then like it better than reality.

So, those who control the facts, can keep them hidden or spin them, can control our memories of them. In the US, today, and elsewhere. We have a fear of uncertainty, yearn for the connections, and where there are no "facts" to look at, we will otherwise make certain. Is that so? See Joy of Equivocating, Fear of Fog.

Facts? Ask those who go a Rovin'. Facts are inconvenient. Get rid of them and the storytellers can take over - get into hearts and minds of the people with their own message, their own cultural narrative, and sell it, uncontradicted. And that shapes the future.

Look at our own Mayflower era - we have "facts" - but the national "memory" is rather dependent on the later framing, not necessarily what happened. Check the facts out at "Mayflower", by Nathaniel Philbrick, Viking 2006, at :// Then compare it to what you were taught.

Overview of religious wars, 1517-1651; and now 1922 to today, by G. Richard Jansen at the University of Colorado, at ://

Battle and Ethnic Memory - Kosovo I. Example. History of an Evolving Identity

Kosovo. A province of Serbia. Back in headlines as it declares independence from Serbia. Why has that area been in such turmoil for so long.

1. The Theme here. Cultural narrative, myth, defining history;not the "facts."

Here, the
Battle of Kosovo, or Battle of Kosovo Polje (Kosovo Field or Plain). The year was 1389. The Ottoman Empire was expanding, inexorably - this battle for them apparently was not a huge event - just another step forward.

But for the Christians in Serbia on that battlefield in 1389, as they stood in the way of the next step of the virtually inevitable Turkish takeover of their lands, as they lost Kosovo, the defeat was culturally defining: they lost their "heart" - their "heartland." Documentation is sparse about what really occurred' but myths and legends grew to explain it, and heroes and epics arose. The reference to "dead hand" refers to the control of the perceptions of the past, over the perceptions of the present.

This post looks at that battle, and its aftermath, to WWI. The next post, Kosovo II, looks at the chronology of events from
WWI to the present, independence for Kosovo. See post at Europe Road Ways, Kosovo II, Dead Hand, WWI to present.

2. KOSOVO, the Place, the Concept. FN 1

2.1. Where Kosovo is. Kosovo is a piece of land bordering Albania. A crossroads. See map at It is a landlocked province in a landlocked country (Serbia), in the Central Balkans, a circle in the middle of borders with Albania and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the south, Bulgaria to the east, larger Serbia to the north, Montenegro to the west. Sort of.

Farther south: Greece. Around Serbia: Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina. This part of the world has served for centuries as a cultural and migration gateway, and tumult-filled boundary, from Big East to Big West.

We are who we are, largely because of who defended or took what, in these areas, when we were culturally just in knickers; and long before. If they had not served as the buffer for further Ottoman Expansion, there goes Europe. History. No value judgments here. Just the way things go.

Maps. Essential Do an images search for Kosovo, and look close. Go to :// See things called intermediate boundaries, republic boundaries, autonomous province boundaries, national capital, province capital - Kosovo as a province of Serbia. Get another map - at :// Or :// Whatever it takes to etch its location in your mind.

2.2. Clarification. Sarajevo. Sarajevo is different from Kosovo.

Sarajevo is its own place and history. Sarajevo is a city in neighboring Bosnia (old Bosnia-Herzegovina) where Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, a trigger for World War I. See again the map at ://

We were prohibited from going both to to Sarajevo or to Kosovo (car insurance limitation) when we were in the Balkans (see Croatia Road Ways, Bosnia Road Ways, Montenegro Road Ways and Slovenia Road Ways at the trips hub, Europe Road Ways). Watch travel advisories anywhere. The issues there were car-jackings and flat tires and bad roads, or just being in the wrong place, wrong time. We do try to be careful.

2.3. Overview of the religious interests/conflicts in Kosovo. For an overview, see // America traditionally sees itself as a melting pot, mildly mixing (this changing, perhaps, with immigration overtaking the entitled majority). Over there, it is a boiling cauldron.

2.3a. Orthodox Christian groups in Kosovo.

First, local peoples (see below) existed with "Christians." See :// Serbian Orthodox. Then, Christianity itself split in 1054 AD into the Eastern Orthodox branch, centered in Byzantium (?); and the Roman Catholic branch centered in Rome. See :// Out of the Roman branch splintered the reform groups, Protestants and others, another story. The Eastern Orthodox branch became the new "Christians" in this area. This may be new to you. You may want to get an idea of what Eastern Orthodox Christianity is., its ancient traditions.

Orthodox Monastery, Cetinje, Montenegro (a country adjacent to Serbia - Kosovo)

This, is a monastery at Cetinje, in neighboring Montenegro. See shrines, special places: Decani Monastery, Serbian Orthodox, see lovely photographs and narrative at ://

As an outsider, you can just stand there, coming and going during the service, with everyone else, just watching, some shifting about, hearing, listening to the chants, responses, prayers in another language, and have no desire to look at the clock and leave, priests going behind curtains and walls, then back out, sacred items, incensors, bells, eucharists, a very natural place to be. A mosaic is over the door.

There is a wheelchair there outside, and inside, a young girl was carried in, with what looked like MS - like anywhere.

Religion in the Balkans as anywhere is closely connected often with ethnic groups.

"Albanians" who lived there were largely Christian as well, until osmosed into Islam via the Ottoman Empire in the 14th-15th centuries. Then Christian and Muslim Albanians, and Christian Serbs, still lived together. See this orthodox site, reaffirming the long years of co-existing as neighbors and friends at ://
and referring specifically to the Kosovo Cycle of Epic Poetry.

2.3b. Jews (research details pending - there were Jews here, and we want to be accurate on the history)

2.3c. The Christians. These, the "Orthodox," were defeated by the Muslims in the Battle of Kosovo .

3. Watershed. The Battle of Kosovo. 1389.

Details are sparse, with few documents, and the Muslims do not regard it as especially pivotal because they would have taken over anyway, but the Serbians see it as the defining moment for their culture.

Epic poems arose to take the place of unknown facts, myths, a Prince/King with visions on the eve of battle so he did not defend but instead let soldiers be sacrificed - believing he would go to heaven if he did not press at that time - the "Maid of Kosovo" appearing on the battlefield, ministering to the dying, closing the eyes of the dead. Do an Images search for Battle of Kosovo to see them all.

Read about the epic poem's role here, see sites with the myths, the Maid of Kosovo, Lazar the King, the ballads, epic poems or other overviews of history:

:// (go to the home page and read it all). The google search for Kaid of kosovo will bring up google books online about mother figures, religious analogies, art and nationalism.

New religion entered with the Muslim Turks conquering the Balkans, Ottoman Empire 14th-15th Centuries, see 4.4a below. Chronology of Turkish victories in Balkans: 1459 - Serbia and Kosovo; 1465 Bosnia; 1483, Herzegovina.

The status of "Dhimmis" to administer subpopulations in the Muslim lands**

This status was imposed on those Christians and Jews who were conquered by the victorious Ottomans in exchange for the conquered ones. Dhimmis gave up their land, primacy and then paying a special tax. Note these people are not just slaughtered, the preferred Western Christian approach to conquered religious and other groups. Generalizations have flaws, but also contain some truths.

Ottoman victors termed the Balkan area Christians, and Jews, as "dhimmis," or "people of the book," according to their long tradition; and the Christians and Jews were thus entitled to protection by the Turks in exchange for the Turks letting them live. This dhimmis is an ancient status, stemming from the 7th Century, in a kind of dispensation by the Prophet Mohammed with the Jews. At that time, by treaty the Jews gave up their right to their lands, had to defer to the Muslims, and pay a tax. "Dhimmitude" became a term for both the dhimmi status and servitude, and came to be applied to any peoples conquered, including Christians. See "colostate site" below.*

Read about the gradual conversions, not traumatic as had been the Christian course in forcing conversions to Christianity, at this extensive site - the complexity of the area's history comes out in page after page - right to the present - see ://

4. Continuing Ethnic Conflict. Some groups did not assimilate into the Muslim culture.

These have a long history. See details at "A Short History of Kosovo" by C. Richard Jansen at Colorado State University at :// ("colostate site")

4.1 This is not surprising - see the chronology of settlers, events, history in Kosovo and area, until the Ottoman (Muslim) Invasions:
  • 300 BC - area conquered by Alexander the Great
    Illyrians (called that by Romans and Greeks both)
  • 400AD - became part of Roman Empire, Dardania
    There were also unromanized Illyrians and Dardanians from Thrace (Greece)
  • Albanians claim a direct descendency from the Illyrians/Dardanians. This is contested by scholars who find Albanians arriving through intermarriage with other locals, early middle ages. But they appear to have spoken "Illyrian", and language came to be known as "Albanian," see colostate site. Here to be referred to as "Albanians."
  • Slavs. 6th Century AD - say 500-600 - Slavs cross Danube, enter Balkans. See ://, a Bulgaria news site. Migrations of these Slav groups "weaken" the Byzantine hold, see 4.3a here.
  • Albanians move into Kosovo. Soon become secondary to the new Slavs.
  • Slavs divide into three: Serbs, Croats, Slovenes.
  • Slavs hold. By the 12th Century, all cultivatable land was in Slav hands, Northern Albania and Kosovo, whether Serbs, Croats, Slovenes - Croats gravitated to Croatia, Slovenes to Slovenia, about this time or later?
  • 12th Century. 1190: Serbs take over Kosovo/ Serbia. Area became known as "Old Serbia." Serbs coalesced there "Serbia," as one of the three Slav groups, and develop Kosovo as its medieval "administrative and cultural center."
4.2 Events during the Ottoman Occupation. The old Serbian rule had lasted for 200 years until the invasion of the Turks, the Ottoman Empire, and the battle of Kosovo Polje. They never gave up on their lands, Kosovo.
  • 14th Century. Turks. Invade. Ottoman Empire.
  • BATTLE OF KOSOVO POLJE 1389. Serbs are defeated in epic memory, but perhaps not according to documentation at the time, see Europe Road Ways, Themes, Kosovo II. Kosovo Plain - Field of Blackbirds, see ://
  • 1443 - Serbian Djuraj joins with Hungarian John Hunyadi and Polish Vladislav Jagiellon and push back the Turks, but not for long.
  • 1453 - fall of Constantinople
  • 1459 - Serbia falls to the Turks
  • 1492 - Serbs began trying to reunify Serbia (need more info)
  • 1489 - Turks claim full sovereignty over Kosovo as part of Ottoman Empire.
  • 15th Century. Albanians. Albanians begin to move back in, in the wake of the Turkish victory. Albanians still predominantly Orthodox Christian at this time, live peacefully with the Orthodox Christian Serbs.
  • Religious Conversions. Subsequent gradual conversions, Albanians to Islam. Less so among Serbs. Note that the Turks did not compel conversions at this time - imposed "dhimmi" status, thus encouraging many to convert on their own to regain economic and other privileges. See 4.3c above
  • Response of Orthodox Christian Church - Great opposition to Kosovo citizens' conversions to Islam, many seminaries, monasteries in Serbia
5. Many migrated elsewhere in response to Ottoman Occupation
  • 17th Century. "The Great Migration;" Displacement; Serb Exodus to Belgrade area. Serbians begin to leave Kosovo, going north, also result of military activity of Turks. New "center of gravity" for Serbs. Has remained.
  • Albanians move back in as Serbs left. They filled the by-then underpopulated Kosovo area. Albanians still were both Christian and Muslim.
  • 1871 - Serbs establish large, prestigious seminary at Prizren in Kosovo Province (look up a map).
  • 1878 - Russo-Ottoman War, Ottoman Turks defeated. Boundaries change: Peace settlement. Serbs get Mitrovica and Prizren in Kosovo; Turks keep rest of Kosovo.
  • Muslim Nationalism. Response of Albanians: nationalism. "The Prizren League." Muslim landowners sought to protect interests against Balkan neighbor incursions; intellectuals also sought to unify Albanians under Turkish rule; then toward independence when a pan-Islamic effort by the Sultan appeared to falter. League tended anti-Christian over time, even against Albanian Christians.
  • Ethnic Cleansing. Muslim leadership fostered "ethnic cleansing." Serbs again start to leave Kosovo for the north, Serbia.
  • 1898 - Serbia independent. Russia was forced at Congress of Berlin to reduce Bulgaria's size, give inhabited Albanian lands back to Ottomans. Serbs and Serb troops forced to withdraw.
6. The Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 19th-20th Centuries
  • 19th Century - "Dhimmitude" finally abolished. See dhimmi status, 4.3c above. Condition not really mitigated, however until 1912.
  • 1912 - Serbs reoccupy and control Kosovo
  • Electoral law - prevents many (most?) from Kosovars from voting because law required knowledge of Turkish language - Kosovars, both Islam and Christian, were not necessarily Turkish speakers, so were left out
  • 20th Century. "Young Turk" movement, liberal, opposed Sultan (not sure why), opposed nationalism, sought centralized Ottoman power ( how fit with opposing the sultan?)
You can get more detail up at World War I and just before that, at ://

Conclusions so far:

1. The memory of oppression frames and governs present decisions. The dede honde, or dead hand. Old English for "dead hand" - ongoing, malevolent influence, the dead over the living. Or something different? Search for it here - :// What is that? Manus Mortuo. Latin same idea. Nothing new here. Just finding it again and again. ://

2. Memory is framed not just by the facts of what happened, but by how it is later spun in epics, legends, myths. Here, a cycle of epic poems about Kosovo appear to have more motivating power than what really happened - which is not at all clear.

3. Conflict and its consequences. A cultural narrative is in many ways like a family narrative. Our present attitudes as a society are often based on how past experiences were spun, interpretations, who told what. Past trauma. And events can be cyclical - the beaten child may well, in turn, beat. A cycle of abuse can also be national - among ethnic groups, as a component of any conflict at any level. Kosovo warring again the loss on the 1389 battlefield. Redemption sought?

4. Cultural narratives are stronger than facts. What if the earlier "abuse" or defeat was the product of legend later, and not the events of that particular time? Are we back to human use of propagandizing for other political and social or religious goals. How to debunk, and would anyone listen, and why bother because the reality has become the myth. Are we that lost. Maybe. Myth of Aryanism, myths of Plymouth Rock? We all are in it.

5. Serbian Epic Poems. Is it true that the Serbian Epic Poems so fully displaced history that we are dealing with conditioned response now. And if so, what next. How do decondition any of us after our indoctinations? See the epic poems at ://

6. Our other main interest. Components of war. At Studying War, find roles, the stratifying of cultural groups that foster domination by some over others, and other fostered mindsets, that lead to instability and conflict in the long run. All fine, but sterile. What is the tipping point that preceded, motivated that social organization.

7. The "Grab Mindset"**, followed by Persistent Epic and Ethnic Memory. Was there a tipping point, and is it really unique. Was there a take-it mindset on the part of a conqueror, combined with the I-will-not-forget mindset of the defeated, as to ethnic or other battles that changed their/our world, and that just will not rest.

The Grab Mindset* is easy enough to swallow. Is war really just three simple stages: 1) "I want that;" or, "I deserve that;" 2) preparing for The Grab; and 3) perpetuating what is Grabbed - the Enforcement and After-Justification. The mindsets are partially - just as a start - laid out at Studying War, and support that idea. Everybody falls in one line or another; this approach codifies what we all probably experience as "human nature." Get what you can; and awareness can help you move, if you are so inclined.

  • FN 1 KOSOVO - A good example because we could not go into Kosovo - car insurance would not cover, and how to safeguard the car if we took a bus for a few days, and roads iffy and etc. We were close, from Montenegro through numerous checkpoints in the mountains both ways from there through Bosnia and back to Croatia. We are learning here, too.

    KOSOVO is again in headlines as it approaches its declaration of independence from Serbia, or not (not all countries agree with independence for Kosovo), see :// (the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, or "UNMIK,"praising Slovenia for its support, and Slovenia heads the EU in 2008);

    This looks to history. Is a group that has been defeated to its core (is this part of Serbia's feeling it has lost its "heart" and can never let Kosovo go?) ever able to overcome the memory of that, and the drive to make it right again, the way it should have been except for this or that tipping point that tipped the wrong way.

    Dead Hand - "The oppressive influence of past events or decisions." See
* The "Grab Mindset" This Grab Mindset also fits with a religious view - for those who want that. We are made from dirt, so it is in our nature to want more dirt (original sin? or, perhaps the Original Mistake in Creation). Therefore, we are Doomed to the consequences of our wallowing in and grabbing more of it. But we can be Saved if we adopt some formula for feeling superior when we do grab. So we say: It's ok for us to grab, but not them. It's ok for me to judge and force, but not them, because I am right. We rechannel the turf-grabbing into areas of religion, "reframe" the old urges and call it religion, not turf-grabbing. Highly successful.

Miracles - Displays, Beliefs, Need, and Littlewood's Law

Context: Preserved saints' bodies. Apparitions. Sudden healings. Places dedicated to miracles, pilgrimage destinations, magic wells, just touch this, and their persistence even after formal repudiation by some authority (debunking). The beliefs are as many as the form taken by the "miracle." See the Medjugorge post, Bosnia Road Ways, Medjugorge post; and the numerous cathedrals with exhibits, grottoes showing where this miracle occurred, or that, and the devotion of followers.

Sometimes: Even after Church authorities say to stop making claims about Medjugorge, that nothing has been affirmed in their processes, the Medjurgorge institution still does, just in a more roundabout way. Watch the buses. People want, the market provides. Maybe the event or vision or healing did occur, but is it a miracle. How about mind-body connections, synchronicity, confirmation bias, coincidence, even hysteria in the older term, all to be looked up.

1. Littlewood's Law. For some, go no further. The assertion is enough. Believe. For some of the rest of us, we would like to know more. At Cambridge University, a Professor J. E. Littlewood framed a law during the course of his work with huge numbers ("Law of Truly Large Numbers") that goes like this:
  • a person is awake and alert say 8 hours per day
  • during alert periods, a person experiences a thing a second - see this, see that, as the eye darts about
  • 35 days of this kind of visual (does the law include things heard, felt, etc?) onslaught means the person experiences some 1,008,000 things while alert during a little more than a month
  • define a "miracle" as "an exceptional event with particular significance" that occurs "one in a million" times
  • by all that, a person can expect to experience a miracle about once a month
All this from :// The article sites as further reading for the interested, a book by Freeman Dyson at :// (debunking pseudo-sciences, esp, telekinesis, and - it says further - learn the magic tricks yourself in order to be convinced, to avoid being deceived). NY Review of Books article is from 3/25/04, vol,51, no.5. "Debunked"

There is also "Miracle on Probability Street," in Scientific American by Michael Shermer, August 2004, at ://

Is this so?

Back to other topics relevant to whether an event is "miraculous" - mind-body, synchronicity, coincidence, confirmation bias. These can help where the event occurs by dream, or sudden elucidation, or other non-visually or when someone is not alert, for example?

2. This segues us to the delights of Eponymous Laws - where connections/observations get stated as laws and are coined by or attributed to people whose names then get attached to the law. Murphy's Law, for example. See the long list at ://

Duffy's Law - "Most people are wrong about most things most of the time." Bradford's Law from 1934 - the "exponentially diminishing returns" of a library search. :// Persi Diaconis, another mathemetician, quoted at :// he supposedly said that if you study a large enough group long enough, "any damn thing can happen."

So we end this search. Look up testimonials on miracles and you will see what you will see.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Immigration, Secessionism - A Function of Light at the Ends of Tunnels.

Some place else has it better. Go there. For yourself, your family. Your health. A drive eons old.

A forced boundary, an enforced separation. Unstable from the start. People heal the rift. Move across anyway. Go through. Over. Around. This, a view of the Castle District of Budapest.

No group has long been able to keep another group out. All factors are interrelated. No solution can exist on its own, by its own. A status quo takes root, regardless of the sudden indignant gasps of those ignoring the open doors for so long.

The role of brokering to keep the peace, or the boundaries. I give you this if you give me that. I admit you to this if you will give up that. Sometimes a move to independence, as a way of getting out from under, works. But never easily.

Present example - Kosovo: that province of Serbia, mainly made up of ethnic Albanians-Muslims by now (look up vestiges of Turkish conquest). It is declaring its independence (UN administration since about 1999) and that is favored by the US and Germany, and not opposed by France, Britain and Italy; and opposed by Russia, and some other EU countries, like "Spain, Slovakia, Romania and Cyprus," source here is NYT 1/11/2008 A5. No date set yet for the recognition.

The UN Security Council has not been able to agree. Slovenia (independent from Yugoslavia in 1991) holds the presidency of the EU for the next 6 months, and wants to send a UN police and civil force to Kosovo before independence fully declared. Montenegro is already independent of Serbia, leaving it without a port.

The human soup. Once in the pot, the flavors blend. See "The World Fact Book" at :// That is a CIA site, but start there or pick your own spot.

Next? KURDS - Sunni. See :// Carve that out, or what leverage is there to hold this bifurcated group apart?
Iraq. Some 74% Arab, 15% Kurd.
Turkey. Some 80% Turkish, 20% Kurd.

BASQUES - have long said they are not "Spanish" - see ://
Spain - does not even give us percentages for Basques, but do give the percentage who speak the language of the Basques at 2%, Castilian at 74%, and Catalan at 17% and Galician (what is that?)
at 7%.

FRANCE - composed of "Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese and Basque minorities"

US. Soon to be Hispanic majority, with Asian superior test scores, white Euros indignant again, and blacks left floundering as the funding goes elsewhere. Everywhere, similar issues, similar resistances, inclusions, exclusions.
What we do know is that mustering the helicopters to move people won't work and shouldn't. Relax, offer sustenance and healthcare regardless and see if matters don't stabilize.

Pending issues globally: incorporation of minorities and is there any real alternative except carving out homeland after homeland in postage stamp sizes and then how get people there and to stay, and why bother, just stay flexible and mind your own store?

Muslim Conquests - Expansion Theme, and Context

If Islamic studies, movements of culture in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, were not part of your schooling, go to this site for a map of the reach of early Islam - and ask why we teach as though the West is the compass point. Go to Historical Maps Overview, at Map, the Muslim World 814AD. Look at the size of Baghdad.

The roll of the Muslim territorial and religious expansion.

In no time at all, within 10 years, within a century, of the death of the Prophet in 621 AD. In that short span, the new religion had established itself firmly throughout and beyond the Arab lands of origin, and was still going, the rule then moving from the Arabs to include the Turks, and the Ottoman Empire taking over for centuries beating at Europe's doors. Europe, paying others to buffer for them (the Venetians hiring others in the Balkans, so Venice could be uninterrupted in its Empire building, for example), kept up its own religious arguments and internal and external persecutions, geneologies on thrones competing, but was there more that aided the Muslim expansion. This is not to downplay the commitment to belief that drove the movement, but to set it in a context.

Here, the Alhambra Palace, the Fountain of the Lions, at Grenada, Spain.

Black Death. Combined with local violence. Spain, Romania, the Balkans, accounts of battles against the Turks, the reign of Caliphs, what made Eastern and Central Europe so vulnerable. The role of disease and violence in history. The weakening that results, combined with lack of commitment to a relatively fixed belief system. There were differences persisting, and emerging conflicts between cultural social and religious justice-economic systems.

Here: A new book. It seems that the Black Death had a role in religious conquests as well as in other economic, social areas. Look at the speed and efficiency of the Muslim conquests after the death of the Prophet Mohammed.

To be read: "The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In," by Hugh Kennedy, Middleast Correspondent, The Economist, Da Cap Press 2007, see International Herald Tribune, at ://; Steve Goddard's HistoryWire at :// Highlights from the NYT review by Max Rodenbeck:

1. Chronology provided: Unity and focus of Islam's faith, one text, virtually immediately upon the death of the Prophet Mohammed. Compare to Christianity 10-100 years after the death of Jesus, where people were still arguing over what should be in the Bible or not, "canonized" - see ://; in the fourth century or so; and still are discussing what happened there; and an additioal current topic - how do later writings relate, see ://

  • 632 AD: death of the Prophet Mohammed
  • By 647 AD: followers had "erased" Persia, decimated Byzantium's power, extended an empire's reach "as vast as that of Rome at its height.
  • By 732 AD: Muslim armies had reached China to the East, extended 5000 miles to the West, and "had charged across Spain to clash with the Merovingian princes of what is now France."

2. Scope

Military; one faith, uprooting local religions (Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism); severing of "1000 year old links" that had bound south and north Mediterranean areas; linguistic - Arabic supplanted Latin and Greek as main conduit, "repository of human knowledge."

3. Factors primarily identified include:

Timing. "Exploitation of weakness." Plague had reduced populations in Near East and Mediterranean. "Political Turmoil" left Byzantium and Persia profoundly weakened. Areas were unprepared to counter the Muslim attacks.

Christianity was fractured - many Egyptians and Syrians sided with the Arabs against the Byzantines. Byzantines had tried to use force to convert. Muslims were more lenient, in many areas, allowing other worship, without onerous conditions (in many areas, not all). However, resistance could also be met with destruction in others.

4. Double fronts. Arab strength at outset, Turkish strength later in pushes through Balkans, East Indies, Spain. Then, stability of borders, after further upheavals several centuries later, once Spain was reconquered, and Turkish Muslims pushed back from Balkans, East Indies.

Mainly used in the book = texts, rather than archeological evidence, but we are not sure quite what that means. Waiting for the book at the library.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rip-offs. Currency Conversion, Fees. The Commonest Themes of All

1. Hotel rip off. We expect the big hotels to bill fees off the wall, especially for parking, valet. Sometimes we stay there in a pinch because we are tired, lost, the streets all go the wrong way, and the four-star is right there when you need it, as in Bucharest, Romania. Just expect it, and pay your bill each morning so they do not add up, and so you can move out if need be.

2. Currency conversion. How you pay counts.

2.1 Check your fees in advance. We do not expect the US of A to do it to us, but credit card companies do anyway. We just got a notice of a class action suit against, among others, Mastercard and Visa, for hidden fees for exchanges of currency. Yes. You get home and lose your teeth as you mouth drops open. This is for a settlement, no trial, but watch your mail and apply for it. Maybe we get enough for another trip!

2.2 Without Amex traveler's checks any more, watch out for prepaid cards. Say at AAA (bless their hearts), you put in so much money and expect to be able to draw on it, but you may get a 7% surcharge. Your own credit card may only charge 1%. See NYT 10/21/2007 - even Rick Steves, the travel guru, says to get your advance payments in Euro before you go.

Do use AAA for some of the country's currency before you go. Like yeast. Don't land with nothing; or cross any border without some seed money.

2.3 Mastercard and Visa may charge 1% of the purchase price. The article says that, if the euro is 1 and dollars are at $1.40, a 1% would show as another $1.40. At 3% surcharge, you get hit for $4.20.

Look for the 1% deals and read the fine print. Go to Do not let anybody convert to dollars when you are there - big surcharges.

2.4 ATM. We use those all the time. Make your $200 per day if need be. But check your own bank for charges. Tell your card people that you are traveling and where because they may freeze your card if odd locations appear. Our card number was stolen in Romania, and thanks to Farmington Savings Bank, they froze the card when new charges appeared six months later, and before before there was a loss.I think it was the fancy hotel. Ha.