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A new home

Note: New site may not be exactly as appears

Note: New site may not appear exactly as shown

Well, I’ve finally completed a long deferred project: Archipelagoes has moved to a paid hosting provider and now has both its own domain name ( and a fresh design. The new site will be my primary location on the web, though of course I’ll maintain the same cross-posting relationship with sans everything, and my plan is to move my existing published articles archive there as well. I’ve already transferred all of the past postings and comments from this current site to the new one, so there’s no need to return here to look something up.

That said, please go visit the new place, update your bookmarks, and don’t be afraid to bring some flowers or a nice housewarming gift.


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A new coat of paint

Regular visitors to Archipelagoes may be surprised to find it with a whole new look. I figured that after a year and a half the place needed a bit of a repainting, and this WordPress theme offers some features that I thought you’d appreciate: the body text is darker and thus easier to read in contrast with the white background, long quotations are more vividly presented, and links are easier to spot. However, I’ve got to live with this thing a little while before I’ll be sure I want to keep it, so don’t be surprised if it changes again in the next week or two.

In case you’re wondering, the banner image above is a detail from the German Expressionist Franz Marc’s Tierschicksale (or “Animal Destinies”), painted in 1913. Having received a postcard reproduction of his painting in 1915, the artist wrote to his wife: “It is like a premonition of this war, horrible and gripping; I can hardly believe I painted it!”. Franz Marc was killed on the front in March 1916, struck in the head by a shell splinter.

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Two rather interesting blogs to let you all know about — both, happily, by fellow Canadians. First, Lee Hamilton’s Platonic Shift is a fun and often thought-provoking blend of commentary on pop culture, science and technology, and Catholicism. And second, Classical Bookworm (discovered via Platonic Shift), a blog written by a British Columbian (and, interestingly, another Catholic) who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and yet has managed to put together a fascinating site that offers a trove of information and links to such things as online compendiums of Great Books, illuminated manuscripts, and courses in Latin. Oh, and daily blog postings too.

Visit and enjoy.

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The warrior ethic: a response

“The Flight of Aeneas” (1595), by Peter Brueghel

I can’t remember if it was the late Col. David Hackworth or the late Col. Harry G. Summers Jr. (author of the influential retrospective on the Vietnam War, On Strategy) who made the telling point that any American general in World War II worth his stars would make it his business to know the names and backgrounds of all of the German generals opposing his forces, and that, by contrast, very few American generals in Vietnam knew even the names of the North Vietnamese Army generals opposing them, much less their backgrounds.

So I agree wholeheartedly with Jeet Heer’s contention over on sans everything that as a matter of military strategy, demonizing the enemy is dumb. In that regard, the Greek warrior ethic is indeed of significant utility, as was the chivalric code of medieval Europe which assumed that one’s opponents were fellow Christian combatants who should therefore be taken seriously on the field of battle (and of course whose personal identities and histories would be well known to both sides).

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Points on the tesseract

First, in rampant defiance of Dennis Perrin’s kind welcome to the blogosphere [why a sphere? why not a tesseract? – ed.], in which he identified me as a key source for “your high-end cultural needs” — and thus, by the way, putting me under instant and enormous pressure to actually become capable of serving needs of that kind (Ah well. Better go find my copy of Brewer’s, I guess) — I offer you a glimpse of something which is clearly not high culture at all. But on the other hand, it’s clearly not low; it’s, well, it’s a cartoon. But a damn good one — that is, if you think that the style and mindspace of Jules Feiffer mixed with a computer science convention sounds like fun. ‘Nuff said: via Blue Girl in a Red State, it’s xkcd (“a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language”).


Second, for those not yet exposed to his blog, Bob Harris’s site is well worth visiting regularly. Go there for his funny and highly intelligent commentary, but stay for his pudus (you’ll find out). He wins extra points because of his unconcealed soft spot for Canada — “a country where wars aren’t rushed into, health care and education are truly considered public issues of real import, and the environment is more than just a place to get and put junk”.

Bless his American soul, he has seen the light.

Lastly, in this happy season of Nobel Prizes, I want to link to a beautiful poem written by the winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature (awarded “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”), Wislawa Szymborska. Jon Schwarz drew his readers’ (and my) attention to it today as his favorite poem (excellent taste, that man), and the poem itself, “Reality Demands”, can be seen on Mike Gerber’s site here. And to encourage you to go read that poem, here’s another by Szymborska, on an all too timely (and all too timeless) subject:


Nothing has changed.
The body is susceptible to pain,
it must eat and breathe air and sleep,
it has thin skin and blood right underneath,
an adequate stock of teeth and nails,
its bones are breakable, its joints are stretchable.
In tortures all this is taken into account.

Nothing has changed.
The body shudders as it shuddered
before the founding of Rome and after,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Tortures are as they were, it’s just the earth that’s grown smaller,
and whatever happens seems right on the other side of the wall.

Nothing has changed. It’s just that there are more people,
besides the old offenses new ones have appeared,
real, imaginary, temporary, and none,
but the howl with which the body responds to them,
was, is and ever will be a howl of innocence
according to the time-honored scale and tonality.

Nothing has changed. Maybe just the manners, ceremonies, dances.
Yet the movement of the hands in protecting the head is the same.
The body writhes, jerks and tries to pull away,
its legs give out, it falls, the knees fly up,
it turns blue, swells, salivates and bleeds.

Nothing has changed. Except for the course of boundaries,
the line of forests, coasts, deserts and glaciers.
Amid these landscapes traipses the soul,
disappears, comes back, draws nearer, moves away,
alien to itself, elusive, at times certain, at others uncertain of its own existence,
while the body is and is and is
and has no place of its own.

– Wislawa Szymborska

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Blogging and memory

Jon Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution makes some interesting observations on the under-exploited ability of blogs to provide long range historical context for current events: “extending the memory of political discussions”, as he nicely puts it. I’m not sure if this is a capability unique to blogs — after all, a newspaper or a magazine is perfectly capable of providing the same sort of deep context — but it may be effectively unique, in the sense that bloggers don’t work for professional editors who say things like, “Love the historical analysis you’ve provided, Ian, but I’m not sure our readers will really need this level of detail. We’ve made one or two changes here; tell me what you think…”

Of course, when I was an editor, I never said things like that. Then again, our magazine made no money. Poverty is freedom.

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Well, here I am. The old house ( was a good one, but it required a lot of upkeep. Tweaking HTML can really put a damper on a guy’s urge to post. Anyway, this new place is classy-looking and has all the mod-cons: comments, search fields, categories, you name it. And all for free. Not bad.

WordPress: You can send me that cheque now.

Now, where to put my stuff?

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