Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Monday Papers: Part One

Portrait of a man reading by Rembrandt

One of the problems of the Internet is that there is quite a lot of it and despite being quite a conservative soul, I'm fond of it.

I must say that having a considerable portion of the knowledge of Mankind accessible via a machine that fits in my pocket is probably one of the more exhilarating aspects of life in a 21st century that has proved relatively disappointing thus far.

However, the flood of text and ideas is such that separating the wheat from the chaff can prove problematical. With that in mind, I'm hoping to start a set of regular post highlighting things about the Internet that I have found interesting or useful. There will be some wargaming content, but there will be other stuff also - I hope at least some of it proves of interest. 

Doctor Alexander O'Connor is a friend, a loyal opponent and thoroughly good company. He is also considerably cleverer than I am, though I flatter myself that I have better jokes. His blog features a similar weekly round up, which is where I stole the idea from. He runs rather more to technology and philosophy than I do - but he is worth reading. You can find his Weekend Reading here.  

Polemarch is an odd fellow and I think the first post-modern wargamer that I have encountered. He is very similar to Doctor O'Connor in some ways in that he never fails to make me think.  He is what Chesterton describes as a fellow with his heart in the wrong place - I am struggling to think of a single occasion where we have agreed. That he is wrong is clear, at least to me, but that he continues to be wrong in such an engaging and well written fashion is the reason I never fail to read him carefully and with attention. You can find the Polemarch here

"Then none was for a party; then all were for the state; 
Then the great man helped the poor, and the poor man loved the great. 
Then lands were fairly portioned; then spoils were fairly sold: 
The Romans were like brothers in the brave days of old. 

Now Roman is to Roman more hateful than a foe, 
And the Tribunes beard the high, and the Fathers grind the low. 
As we wax hot in faction, in battle we wax cold: 
Wherefore men fight not as they fought in the brave days of old."

Horatius - Lord Thomas Babbington Macaulay

I discovered Babbington-Macaulay late in life and I have been doing my best to rectify this serious omission ever since. Read Horatius, it's a long story poem of the sort they don't write any more and it thumps along like the heartbeat of the messenger bringing you the story in person.  I read it two year ago and it squirreled it's way in to my heart like no-one has since Joyce Kilmer. There may be better poetry out there, but I don't remember it.

His "History of England from the Accession of James the Second" may be Whiggish, partial and thoroughly dated. It is still however a skilfully written account of human drama, a story that encompasses the low as well as the high in time when history was mainly an account of the doings of Monarchs and Princes.  I've read plenty of history that informs, but Macaulay makes the period live through the beauty of his prose and his eye, and sympathy for, the frailty of persons.  I've yet to find a decent print edition, but if you're looking for an introduction, you can read him here.

Failing that there is an audiobook version produced by the volunteers over at Librivox. The quality of the readers varies, but this link has a lot more good than bad and will certainly give you enough to know if you've a taste for more.


  1. Conrad, old bean. . .

    I will indeed have a look at the blogs you recommend. They sound intriguing. However, I am looking mo st forward to more of your own engaging scribblings (wargaming related or otherwise)right here.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

    1. Thank you very much Stokes. I know the blog has been a bit patchy of late - mainly because of other writing projects. I tend to work on the blog when writing isn't doing very well elsewhere.

  2. Dear Joy,
    Splendid that you're on to Macaulay! I 've yet to find or read the History but it gives something to look forward to.

    1. He's magical - I listened to the second chapter of the history in the Doctors office this morning. I find his take of Cromwell very interesting - very much a case of loving the sinner, but hating the sin.

  3. 'Horatius at the Bridge' is a great narrative poem, of a kind I particularly enjoy (Like 'The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God', the 'Ballad of East and West', and 'Bishop Hatto.' I used the 'Horatius at the Bridge' title for one of my chess games that I annotated. It seemed apt, as in the Rook and extra pawn versus Bishop and Knight end game, my rook, alone and unaided, held up every enemy attempt to break out of a bind, until such time as my distant King could be brought into the action. One of my better games.

    1. I would never have thought of telling the story of a chess game. Intriguing thought.

      I paid tribute to Mad Carew this afternoon on your recommendation.

    2. There are stories in chess games - it's what I look for in annotating them. I've annotated more than one 'beginner's game' on Gameknot (check out the link on my blog), partly 'on request' but also because of the fascinating stories they tell. Probably my favorite is the one under the title 'The Prairie', a 90-odd move epic played by the son of an old school buddy of mine.

      Of master games, the ferocious 'Flights of Fantasy' features my Chess hero Mischa Tal, World Champion in 1960.

  4. "I've read plenty of history that informs, but Macaulay makes the period live through the beauty of his prose and his eye, and sympathy for, the frailty of persons."

    That is a saying I'll remember from now on. Serious historians often seem to think getting the facts and their theories right is the be-all-and-end-all of history.

    But as you so eloquently put it, there are other writers (perhaps less 'serious') who can make history actually live. And that is just as, if not more than, important.

    1. It's not without it's place. I just think academic historians sometimes forget that there are multiple uses of history.

      In some ways, I think it's a bit like learning physics or chemistry. I know that electrons don't actually orbit the nucleus of an atom like planets around the Sun, but when I first learned what little chemistry I knew - it was useful to think of it in that way. That we learned that it wasn't quite like that as we advanced in the subject doesn't make the initial step useless.

  5. Hi Mr Kinch,

    I have not read this but it has been on my 'to do' list for some time so you perhaps have spurred me into the right path.

    As an aside I am particularly fond of the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyham and often dip into the same when feeling in need of some uplifting.

    All the best,


    1. I'm ashamed to say a poem I was unfamiliar with except in quotations and even then I didn't know the source.

      "The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
      Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
      Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
      Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."

      This Monday Papers nonsense is worthwhile for that alone.

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