I got a dog. Her name is Susan. She likes sticks, and doing poos.
Patience, heroine of John Coates' novel Patience, is almost impossibly open and trusting and naive. She loves her three children and her sister, and feels towards her husband what she believes she ought.
But then ... Patience finds extramarital sex (and her backbone). More specifically, she discovers love and marvellous sex and has a revelation. She then decides to do what she wants, rather than what she has thought was the right thing to do. Tricky for Patience, because she has strong religious beliefs, and what she wants to do is not what the Church says to do.
What happens after that is pretty funny, and also involves one of the most delightful descriptions of assertiveness I've read in a long time:
And this delicious sense of bitchiness inside, like a gloriously soft, silken, Persian cat purring in the middle of her stomach, was obviously only brought into being by people she didn't like. Or by the person she didn't like, because so far her human dislikes were very, very limited.
p183, Patience by John Coates, Persephone Books, ISBN 9781903155899
Patience fosters her inner Persian cat, sticks to her guns and has no regrets. Aw.
(and why the peacock feathers? the book's endpapers have a design which looks like a repeated stylised ... shell, or eye ... and the eye of the peacock seemed a reasonable compromise to echo this pattern).
This is Demetrius I, Greco-Bactrian King, wearing an elephant's scalp as a hat. Because he is so badass. Although it is extremely gross, I bet it made him stand out in a crowd. I mean, not just any old person can wear an elephant as a hat.
A note on practicalities
Elephant's heads are enormous. So either Demetrius's head was super big, meaning that any old elephant's head was a pretty good fit for him, or he had a normal size head, and was wearing a baby elephant's scalp as a hat. For some reason, wearing a baby elephant as a hat seems way grosser than wearing an adult elephant as a hat.
'Seimenju Yoshi' from Kuniyoshi's 'One of the 108 Heroes of the Popular Water Margin' (otherwise known as Yang Zhi)
Remember I was watching All Men Are Brothers earlier in the year?
Luckily for my memory, we move neatly from Lin Chong's story (which I can't remember very well now) to another ill-fated army officer, Yang Zhi. Lin Chong will be back later, but we've left him in a very precarious position in a bandit stronghold. I'm sure he'll manage.
Meanwhile: poor old Yang Zhi can't catch a break. His nickname - 'The Blue Faced Beast' - is primarily based on his blue birthmark, but also his legendary fighting prowess. He also doesn't have many social skills (possibly due to past disappointments and being consantly thwarted by high officials) but it certainly doesn't help him get what he wants.
What he does want is to get himself into the good books by protecting a delivery of expensive Birthday Gifts for 'The Minister'. These Birthday Gifts figured heavily in the first few episodes, and great to see them explained a little more. Well, Yang Zhi has promised to protect them even though he knows it's a bad idea. And it really is a bad idea, because of Yang Zhi's terrible people management skills and because our seven guys from the beginning are still very focused on stealing the gifts. And my favourite strategist and my favourite 'terrible Daoist priest' are back! Hurrah!
Poor old Yang Zhi! Whatever will happen to him? I will watch Episode 16 later, and find out.
The Bimaran Reliquary is from around the first (or second) century, and dug up in Afghanistan in the nineteenth century. It's a very fabulous example of Greco-Buddhist art and supposedly contained relics of Buddha, though when found it contained coins and jewels.
The casket also depicts hamsa - birds symbolising the escape from samsara (most important in light of yesterday's absent Eagle Sunday).
Run, jump, solvin' the case: Judge Dee
Judge Dee, magistrate and super sleuth, is the star of the 18th century Chinese detective novel Di Goong An (titled Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee in English translation) which is based on the real life figure Di Renjie, a magistrate in Tang era China.
The Chinese Maze Murders by Robert van Gulik is based on the historical figure Di Renjie, and also the character of Judge Dee from Di Goong An. Van Gulik's Judge Dee is the new magistrate of Lan-Fang, but as soon as he arrives he has to solve three puzzling crimes at once - a locked room mystery, a disappearance and a coded will. His life is threatened and there's a conspiracy to aid a barbarian invasion as well, but Dee's not so worried about that. He considers them mild annoyances and sorts them out on the side. No probs.
Dee is wise and logical - his sidekicks Sergeant Hoong, Ma Joong, Chiao Tai and Tao Gan provide the muscle and street smarts. Parts of the mystery are fairly obvious to someone who's read the odd who-dunnit - some of the mystery would perhaps be more obvious to someone familiar with the tropes of Chinese literature, as well as the religious and cultural references. But most of it was a complete surprise, how fun!
It wasn't until I reached the end that I realised I've read this book before, a long time ago. As Van Gulik explains in his very informative afterword, he includes the punishment of the miscreants in his story as this is a common part of crime novels of the era. One of the wrongdoers is punished in a gory and memorable way. I instantly recalled reading it, and avoiding all Judge Dee books thereafter. It would be terrible to miss out on the fun of Judge Dee based on a small and easily skipped part of the text. AND - it's also a tv series! Take note!
GIven the amount of epic poetry, myth and ancient poetry consumed at Kiss My Eagle Headquarters, there is usually no shortage of eagle references from each week's reading. But ... my level of trash reading has reached absolute plague proportions (i.e. no eagle references in trashy tales of mysterious smuggling rings) and my own tv watching has focused with great intensity on the QI back catalogue. Not really fertile ground for eagle references, really. Luckily, Pellos' interests have been rather broader and her enjoyment of the machinations in Three Kingdoms-era China means we have some lovely things to look at!
You'll remember Kuniyoshi's 'Heroes of the Suikoden' (from my own favourite Chinese classic, Outlaws of the Marsh), but here are a few stars from Pellos' favourite Romance of the Three Kingdoms. I find Cao Cao quite frightening, so I think Kuniyoshi has made a marvellous picture.
We're big fans of epic adventure at Kiss My Eagle - one of the best we know is the classic Chinese tale Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It's very easy to get swept up in the trials and tribulations of Liu Bei, his sworn brothers Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, the super-cool super-all-knowing advisor Zhuge Liang, and of course - the iniquitous Cao Cao.
This dish (one of a pair) has a picture from Three Kingdoms:
The narrative scenes on this pair of dishes derive from Chinese history. At the center of one of the dishes, three figures stand before a hut. They are most likely Liu Bei and his two brothers, visiting the learned scholar Zhuge Liang. Liu Bei was the founder of one of the primary polities in China during the Three Kingdoms period (220–65), a tumultuous era that plays a prominent role in Chinese literature. It is likely that the scene was derived from woodblock prints. The scene on the other dish has not yet been identified.
Description of: 'Pair of dishes with scenes from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms' accessed from www.metmuseum.org*
Pellos has been watching the tv series! I find it all a bit grim myself, so can't watch for very long. But now we've found some better English subtitles, maybe I can watch more Three Kingdoms tv in the future?
*Period: Yuan (1271–1368)–Ming (1368–1644) dynasty; Date:late 14th century; Culture: China; Medium: Carved red and black lacquer; Dimensions: Each: Diam. 6 in. (15.2 cm); Classification: Lacquer; Credit Line: Lent by Florence and Herbert Irving; Accession Number: L.1996.47.17a, b.
The real question - is there a mythological something out there that is smarter than a Salmon?
The final time I cried during the Iliad is when Priam begs Achilles in the final book, as seen above.
I've tried to read the Iliad three or four times, going not much further than Book 2 and almost always getting bogged down in that damn list of ships. I probably wouldn't have tried to read it again, if not for Christopher Logue's War Music and Alice Oswald's poem Memorial - both based on the Iliad and both wonderful. This time I've listened to Stanley Lombardo reading his version, while driving to and from work. And if you could categorise devastating depictions of war and death as enjoyable, then I enjoyed it very much: sniffling and weeping my way down St Georges Road; unable to get out of my car in the Woolworth's car park before Andromache finds out the terrible news; attempting to argue with Zeus at traffic lights. I'm not sure I want to read it or listen to it again, but I'm very glad I did.
Thanks to Mary Stewart,the Spanish Riding School in Vienna has been in my mind this week. The plot of her novel Airs Above the Ground has to be read to be believed, but I love a large dollop of enjoyable wagon wheel escapism, as well we know.
The Egyptian god Horus (god of sun, war and protection) in his Roman military glory - Roman and Egyptian mythology, art and materials all in a big smoosh together. Just Kiss My Eagle's cup of tea.
Elisabeth R. O'Connell of the British Museum talks about it here. You can click here to see a computer generated version of the statue as it might have been, based on the pigments found during scientific examination. Golly.
a few of Zeus' favourite pals: 'Statue of Ganymedes with Eagle resting on a stone Roman early 3rd century CE', Photo by Mary Harrsch (mharrsch/Flickr), accessed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Thanks to Christopher Logue and Stanley Lombardo, the Iliad seems far more interesting these days. As I drive to work, I've been listening to Lombardo reading his version - he's reading Book 8 at the moment - and thank god his Iliad sounds nothing like this:
So spake he, and the Father had pity on him as he wept, and vouchsafed him that his folk should be saved and not perish. Forthwith he sent an eagle, surest of omens among winged birds, holding in his talons a fawn, the young of a swift hind. Beside the fair altar of Zeus he let fall the fawn, even where the Achaeans were wont to offer sacrifice to Zeus from whom all omens come. So they, when they saw that it was from Zeus that the bird was come, leapt the more upon the Trojans and bethought them of battle.
(Iliad, Book 8 lines 245 - 253; translation by A.T. Murray accessed at theoi.com).
I have started going to Buddhist School. At Buddhist school there are a LOT of lists. For a fun information design project, I wanted to see how they relate to each other, and what each list is for. Here is the result of the first one. It mostly shows how the Four Noble Truths relate to the Eightfold Noble Path, with some extra stuff thrown in. Please let me know if you can see ways to improve it!