Wednesday, November 22, 2017

LORD OF THE RINGS | Listen Again to Sam's Speech to Frodo

Sam (L) and Frodo in a Difficult Time
A message for us from J.R.R. Tolkien


It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really matter: full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes, you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was, with so much bad happening? 

But in the end, it is only a passing thing. The shadows – even darkness – must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine all the clearer. 

Those are the stories that stayed with you — that meant something – even if you were too small to understand why. 

But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back. Only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding onto something.


What are we holding onto, Sam?


That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for!

To toast to J.R.R. Tolkien during the holiday season, or especially on his birthday, January 3, the Tolkien Society advises that you be upstanding and hold your glass in your right hand (if you are right-handed) and say two words: "The Professor". An alcoholic beverage is not required; if your beverage is alcoholic, do not drink to excess or in contravention of any law.

Sam's Speech is from the end of The Two Towers, Part Two of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. A clip is here: Sam's Speech re-posted with thanks from a post by Andy Schmookler.

Who was Tolkien, the man?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

HERALDRY | Goethe's Arms

Goethe's Arms in Players Club
Window. Photo by JT Marlin.
At the Players Club in New York City yesterday, I noted a stained-glass window with a coat of arms and the label "Goethe". 

Nearby windows were labeled with other authors such as Molière, so the window clearly honors the great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).

Goethe was a Saxon, ennobled by by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Karl August, in 1782. 

The blazon for Goethe's coat of arms in the authoritative Armorial by the Dutch heraldist and genealogis Jean-Baptiste Rietstap is:
Azure a mullet six points Argent a bordure of the same crowned Helmet. Crest: the mullet. (Barons, 28 August 1859, Extinct house on 17 April 1885.) 
Goethe's Arms (Wikipedia
Rietstap's drawing of Goethe's arms shows the six-pointed mullet. Wikipedia provides a full achievement for the arms, with a six-pointed mullet.

So where does the five-pointed mullet come from? 

Most mullets in German heraldry are six-pointed or eight-pointed. The five-pointed star is more common in France and England.

Did the artist in doing the window for Goethe have a preference for the five-pointed mullet? 

Goethe wrote a poem in 1789 pitying the stars because they could not love:
Nachtgedanken Euch bedaur' ich, unglücksel'ge Sterne, Die ihr schön seid und so herrlich scheinet, Dem bedrängten Schiffer gerne leuchtet, Unbelohnt von Göttern und von Menschen: Denn ihr liebt nicht, kanntet nie die Liebe! Unaufhaltsam führen ew'ge Stunden Eure Reihen durch den weiten Himmel. Welche Reise habt ihr schon vollendet, Seit ich, weilend in dem Arm der Liebsten, Euer und der Mitternacht vergessen. 

In English:
Stars, you are unfortunate, I pity you, Beautiful as you are, shining in your glory, Who guide seafaring men through stress and peril And have no recompense from gods or mortals, Love you do not, nor do you know what love is. Hours that are aeons urgently conducting Your figures in a dance through the vast heaven, What journey have you ended in this moment, Since lingering in the arms of my beloved I lost all memory of you and midnight.

Friday, November 17, 2017

ENGLISH MONARCHY | Nov. 17, Elizabeth Becomes Queen after Mary, 1558

November 17, 2017 – This day in 1558, Queen Elizabeth I became England's monarch. Her late father, Henry VIII, had broken with the Catholic Church to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn.

He wanted a male heir. Elizabeth when born was a disappointment. He declared Elizabeth illegitimate and had Anne Boleyn beheaded.

England almost broke out in civil war after the death of Henry VIII.  First Edward VI ruled from the age of nine. The adults who ruled in his name tried to impose Protestantism on the country, including a common prayer book. He died in 1553 at 15 of tuberculosis.

Edward VI specified in his will that he wanted Lady Jane Grey to succeed him as Queen, probably because she was a staunch Protestant. However, Mary had so much popular support that the directive was overturned within two weeks (she is called the "nine-day queen" but in fact her reign was a few days longer).

Instead of Jane, Elizabeth’s half-sister, Mary Tudor, came to power, for a reign nearly as short  as Edward VI. Although she was called "Bloody" Mary, she was not as reckless as her father when it came to making use of the executioner in the Tower of London. Mary tried to restore England to allegiance to the Pope, and she met with resistance. She died five years after becoming queen, leaving behind continued divisions in the country.

Because Elizabeth was a potential heir to the king, her life was in danger from birth. Mary had her in prison for a while. When Elizabeth took the throne, she was 25. She restored England to Protestantism, yes, but she had the good sense not to hunt down Catholics. She required attendance at the Church of England on Sunday, and the same prayer book, but people could believe what they wished.

Easing restrictions on theaters, she opened the way for Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare. It was a time of peace. With the invention of the Gutenberg press, people could afford books. Elizabeth helped the English to have pride in their history and language. Her 45-year reign was one of the great English eras. She said to her subjects late in life:
Though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my crown: that I have reigned with your loves. And though you have had, and may have, many mightier and wiser princes sitting in this seat; yet you never had, nor shall have any that will love you better.
She also said:
I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too. 
England was less divided at the end of her reign. She was the last of the Tudors. How much the country owed to her would become crystal clear after her death, as internal strife intensified under James I, Charles I and the Parliamentary rule of Oliver Cromwell. This was a time when many English people left for the American colonies to escape the religious wars in the Mother Country.

SHORT FATWA | Male Hygiene

Wudu, purification by water. A
ritual in many religions.
As someone raised with religious ritual in Catholic schools and monasteries, I am endlessly curious about religious practices.  

When Kim Jong-un reacted negatively to an insult by President Trump, I wondered whether his hex should be considered a short fatwa in the Islamic religion.

On Google, the words "Short Fatwa" take you to an Islamic Forum. A short fatwa is a brief piece of guidance online, a teaching tweet, helpful but not a substitute for a longer fatwa from an Imam. A perennial issue in the Islamic Forum is cleanliness, or what based on the ancient Greeks would be called hygiene, after Hygieia (Ὑγιεία), the goddess of health and cleanliness, and daughter [sometimes wife] of Asklepios or the Romanized Asclepius, the god of medicine. (Her symbol was a large tamed snake, sometimes with a basin of water. The symbol of Asclepius is a single snake spiraling a rod; a rod with two snakes is the caduceus, symbol for the god Hermes or the Roman Mercury.)

One religious young man wrote an inquiry to the Islamic Forum that caught my eye. It addressed post-urination dribble. Does a single stray drop make one unclean and therefore unready for prayer? This is a strict standard, showing the young man's great devotion. Here is the Forum writer's short-fatwa response:
"I remember someone once asking our Imam in the Masjid [mosque] about it. This is not a fatwa [ruling on Islamic law from an authority], just some practical advice. The Imam said that if you always have this problem, which according to him is quite common these days, then what you can do is, after you have finished urinating:
  • Stay seated for a few moments. 
  • Then cough a few times which should help get rid of last few drops. 
  • Then he said to take some tissue roll and place it in your boxer shorts and walk about doing your normal stuff. While you walk about and are doing your own stuff any last drops will be rid of. 
  • Then go back and perform wudu [purification] after washing the private parts. This is a safe way in making sure that none of the drops, if any, would fall on your clothes, and [thereby] keeping your tahara [ritual purification].
"There was an Imam who actually used to spend like up to half an hour when he would go to relieve himself and the only reason was to be careful of this issue. It was his taqwa [fear of God, spirituality, faithfulness to the law] that caused him to be absolutely certain that he was in a pure state. So he would wait around after relieving himself in the masjid bathroom and then do wudu quite a while later."

Thursday, November 9, 2017

CONNECTICUT | How Theocratic Brits Created Two Colonies and a State

Rev. John Davenport, First Minister
of New Haven, 1638-1668. Portrait by
Amos Doolittle, c. 1797, Connecticut
Historical Society.
John Winthrop and the story of the creation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony is better known than the stories of Hartford and New Haven, and the State that grew out of these towns is less well understood.

Thomas Hooker was a great preacher, an erudite writer on Christian subjects, the first minister of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and one of the founders of both the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut. He is also the inspiration for the "Fundamental Orders" of Connecticut, the world's first written democratic constitution.

Most likely he was born in Leicestershire, the county east of Warwickshire. The Hooker branch in Devon produced the great theologian, Rev. Richard Hooker who, with Sir Walter Raleigh, was one of the two most influential people to come from Exeter, Devon's the county town.

As a speaker, Hooker attracted crowds as well as spies from the Church of England. The Puritans wanted to "purify" the church, but the Anglican Church was a step ahead, purifying itself of heretics including Puritans, to protect the unpopular Charles I.

Hooker was ordered to appear before the High Commission, the Star Chamber. It was originally established to ensure fair enforcement of laws, but  became a vehicle for political oppression through its arbitrary use of power. Hooker decided to flee to Holland. From there, he and some parishioners made their way to Gov. Winthrop’s Massachusetts Bay Colony.

They settled in Newtown, later called Cambridge. But they came to oppose the undemocratic ways of Winthrop’s theocracy and moved in May 1636, the year Harvard was founded, en masse to the Connecticut River Valley. Two years after they moved, Hooker delivered a sermon on how Hartford should govern itself. He said:
The foundation of authority is laid, firstly, in the free consent of the people. … [The] choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God's own allowance. … [T]hey who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates [should] also … set the bounds and limitations of the power and the place unto which they call them. 
A historian (Ellsworth Grant) calls this statement “the first practical assertion ... of the right of the governed not only to choose their rulers but to limit their powers.” The Fundamental Orders of the colony of Connecticut, consisting of the towns of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor, were based on Hooker’s sermon. They are the world's first written constitution. It is why Connecticut is known as the Constitution State. (

John Davenport also left Winthrop not long after Hooker did. He was from the north end of Warwickshire, east of Birmingham, in the city of Coventry. Davenport is remembered as the man after whom Davenport College at Yale is named. He was born to a wealthy family, son and grandson of two generations of civic leaders in Coventry. He was educated at Oxford, matriculating at Merton College in 1613, switching to Magdalen College in 1615 and leaving Oxford before completing his degree. (He returned in 1625 when Charles I came to the throne to earn his B.D. and M.A. degrees.) 

In 1624 he was made vicar of the parish of St Stephen’s Church in London. At St. Stephen’s, his boyhood friend from Coventry, Theophilus Eaton, became a member of his parish. Eaton was the son of a minister with a B.D. degree from Oxford (Lincoln College). Davenport’s efforts to support rural clergy and relieve reformed clergy displaced by war were frustrated by Bishop William Laud, an alumnus of St John’s College, Oxford and a junkyard dog of a heretic-hunter. When Charles I appointed Laud to be Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, Davenport resigned in disgust from the Church of England and moved to Holland. 

Davenport and Eaton left England on a ship to join the Massachusetts Bay Colony and fellow Puritans in Boston. Davenport brought with him much of the St Stephen’s parish on the Hector in 1637. William Woodin, ancestor of the first Treasury Secretary under FDR, might well have been on this ship even though he was only 12, since the Puritans tended to bring their families. There is no record of an older Woodin having come on the Boston voyage or on the later trip to New Haven, but young Woodin might have been put in the care of a friendly family. 

When they reached Boston, Davenport and Eaton were disappointed. Winthrop demanded his own version of Puritan orthodoxy. The last straw was the church trial in 1638  in the midst of the Antinomian disputes, i.e., the debate over whether people were saved by good works or by grace. Davenport was ordinarily on the side of battling heresy, but when he attended the trial of a fellow dissenter, he did not like conduct of the trial.

Anne Marbury Hutchinson (1591-1643) argued for a Covenant of Grace. The trial ended with her excommunication from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and she fled to Providence, where Roger Williams (1603-1683) had created the first Baptist Church and preached the ideas that Anne Hutchinson promoted. Williams was the first to argue for separation of church and state. Hutchinson moved to Portsmouth, R.I. and years later she and her children were killed by Indians.

Davenport and Eaton decided to leave Boston but not to join Hooker. Eaton, who had become a wealthy merchant in London, became New Haven’s first governor.

Davenport sought a "new haven", since he wanted a more orthodox theocracy than Hooker was offering. Eaton and his fellow merchants had a practical interest in being in a harbor like Boston. Men who returned from hunting the Pequots told them of a spot at Quinnipiack on the Long Island Sound shoreline. That was perfect. Here they chose to put into practice a theocracy even more rigid than in Massachusetts. They arranged their civil and church affairs in accordance with details in the Bible. 

In the spring of 1638, the town of New Haven was founded. More people came in subsequent years and some groups fanned out to form Milford, Guilford and Stamford towns. These four towns were united into the republic of New Haven and they added Southold, on Long Island, and Branford. As a confederation of six independent towns, New Haven resembled Connecticut. 

From their origins during the colonial era, a sense of rivalry existed between the settlement at Hartford, formed in 1636 by followers of the Rev. Thomas Hooker and the settlement of New Haven, formed in 1638 by the followers of Puritan minister, Rev. John Davenport and his merchant-organizer friend, Theophilus Eaton.

So William Woodin put his head down and settled into being a New Haven resident. He would have felt the rivalry strongly. His name appears in the New Haven Congregational Church records in 1642. He married Sarah Clark in 1650 when he was 25 and she was 21. The church records show that he lived a quiet life with just a few embarrassing incidents caused by excessive alcohol consumption. 

But the Mother Country’s long arm was felt in New Haven. When Cromwell died, the opposition easily defeated his government. The monarchists swooped in and restored Charles II. Leaders in Boston and Hartford quickly recognized the new regime, but New Haven acted more slowly and in fact harbored two judges who had signed the death warrant for Charles I. While Charles II extended a general pardon to Cromwell’s leaders, he excepted the regicides.

Charles II punished New Haven for giving two of his father's killers, the regicides, a home. He granted a new charter to the Colony of Connecticut in 1662, ending the independence of New Haven and joining it to  Connecticut as of 1665. He was correct that the New Haven colony was more willing to oppose him, but was wrong about which of the two governing philosophies would be more dangerous for continued rule by the Mother Country. 

Hooker's colony was more radically democratic than Winthrop, while Davenport was more conservative about holding the power in the hands of fewer people. In the New Haven colony only church-members could vote, disfranchising half the settlers in New Haven town and Guilford, and one-fifth in Milford. Each of the six New Haven towns was also governed by seven church officers known as "11 pillars of the church" who served as judges. They ended the English system of trial by jury, because there was no authority for it in the laws of Moses. (Based on John Fisk, 1896 

Davenport was still venerated by his congregation in New Haven. Near the end of his life he was offered a position at the First Church in Boston, the most prestigious Puritan church in the colonies. Davenport accepted it, and thereby agitated his own New Haven parish. In the brouhaha that followed, Davenport died in 1670. He is remembered as a visionary who developed a plan for new college, 30 years before it was established and was given the name Yale. The University has recognized Davenport's role by naming a college after him.

In 1701 the Connecticut legislature made New Haven and Hartford co-capitals, with meetings every May in Hartford, and every October in New Haven. But maintaining capitol buildings in both places was expensive. Officials proposed eliminating one of the capitols and put it to a referendum. New Haven was larger, but Hartford was more central and offered land and $500,000 toward construction. In the fall of 1873, Hartford won the referendum, becoming Connecticut’s sole capital city, effective 1875. (Source: Patrick J. Mahoney, "A Tale of Two Capitals",

Monday, November 6, 2017

LAND | Why Crematoria Are Like Pickleball

Plan of a Crematorium in England
I have posted something before about pickleball. It's a version of tennis that can be played on a court that is smaller. In fact four pickleball courts can just fit onto one tennis court (in practice, a few feet are allowed allowed between pickleball courts).

So a community that has space for four tennis courts that would accommodate 16 players when all courts are in use could put four pickleball courts in the space for a fourth tennis court and serve 28 players – 12 playing tennis and 16 playing pickleball.

The land economics of this make pickleball compelling. It has been called the fastest-growing sport in the United States.

Markers in a Flower Bed
Well, the trend toward crematoria  is another version of the same phenomenon. The photo at top is of a crematorium in England that has all the main facilities associated with modern graveyards – a place for religious services, trees, places to sit, memorials, and lots of parking for visitors.

What impressed me most was how economical the use of land was. Instead of grave sites that approximate the size of a coffin, the family arranges for a small metal marker that is a fraction of the size of a tombstone. See photo.