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The Bloody Rites Of A Winter Solstice

A Variation On A Mithraic Theme

A Variation On An Archaic, Mithraic Theme

What can I say? Even stonehearted old curmudgeons like myself soften, shed a tear, and get all icky sentimental when the birthday of my favorite celestial orb approaches. After all, it’s not every day you get to brain a bull with a hammer and cut his throat from ear to ear, and with a dog and a snake to help you do it too. Ask our friend above (later, after he’s finished his chore). I just love this canary yellow color. Do you think girls think less of boys if they kiss on the first date? The ladybug is the policeman of the insect world. All roads lead to Romance.

Don’t bother to thank me for helping you to get in the holiday spirit. Don’t bother to curse or damn me for my heathen, pagan maundering (I’m already in horrible trouble). Go buy your sacrificial cow today and beat the Mithras rush. A little extra fodder now saves a lot of future fuss later. And in conclusion, I’d like to wish all of you a Hairy Mithras and an Ahura-Mazda.

Disciple of Mithras

Enemy of Ahriman

Beloved of Ormuzd

– Marduk the O’Mellon

P.S.:  The Latin slogan above translates as “Post No Bills.” Please try to observe this.

 

 

 

An Aristocratic Jerk – “The Homicidal Earl” by Saul David

A last chance to redeem a misspent life, which, of course, he wasted.

A last chance to redeem a misspent life, which, of course, he blew.

I must confess, spoiled, wastrel, British aristocrats have long held  interest for me, possibly from reading Flashman novels during my youth. A good example is George IV, Prinny to friends, a grotesquely obese, self indulgent sloth driven largely by gluttony, lust, and ego (he often fantasized aloud he’d been with Wellington at Waterloo. When he reminisced with the Iron Duke about the battle, his tactful reply was “So Your Majesty has often said.”).

That’s why I read Saul David’s biography of James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, with no little fascination. Cardigan is best known for having led the catastrophic Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War, but already had a notorious reputation beforehand for innumerable quarrels, peccadilloes, and assorted scandals. Spoiled rotten from childhood (the only boy among six sisters), possessed of almost limitless wealth, prone to indulge every impulse, Cardigan was embroiled from youth in one wretched, damned piece of business after another, duels, divorces, serial adultery, and a suit for criminal connection (sex with another man’s wife). He figures prominently in Fraser’s Flashman At The Charge and other fictional depictions as the very picture of a domineering, self-indulgent, rude aristocrat. Trevor Howard gives perhaps the most vivid portrayal of this in Tony Richardson’s fact based 1968 film, The Charge of the Light Brigade.

A keen horseman and determined upon glory, Cardigan fixed on a career as a cavalryman and, in accordance with the prevailing system for acquiring rank in the British Army, purchased his commissions, often at a very high illegal premium above the stipulated price. He soon commanded one of the most distinguished cavalry regiments in the Army, the 11th Hussars (cavalry in the 19th Century had far more status and panache than lowly infantry). While he trained his troops hard and lavished money on equipment and uniforms from his own funds, his chief feature as a commander was his almost complete inability to get along with subordinate officers. One incident after another is described in which Cardigan embroiled himself in a bitter, personal quarrel with a junior officer, the most well known being the Black Bottle Affair, where Cardigan went ape because a subordinate ordered a bottle of Moselle at a formal regimental banquet. All these matters had to be kicked upstairs for resolution by the Army’s most senior officers. I know from my own limited military experience that COs absolutely hate trouble like this and it doesn’t take too many such incidents for them to form a distinctly adverse opinion of the officer causing all the ruckus. It must have taken all the Iron Duke’s legendary sang-froid to keep from tearing his hair out over Cardigan.

His one real chance to capture military glory, that elusive sprite, his ultimate goal, came with the Crimean War. I won’t extend this review to epic length by going into the complicated and confusing details of the Charge, but will simply note that the author gives a relatively straightforward, understandable account of the encounter, aided by maps and diagrams. His verdict on Cardigan’s behavior seems largely warranted to me as well:  while he rode bravely with his men into the Valley of Death, he showed complete disinterest once he crossed the line of Russian guns, in fact, turned his horse and returned to the British lines with complete disregard for his men, a singularly gross act of dereliction of duty. Other unsavory details are provided, like his resting in luxury aboard his private steam yacht while his men slept in the open  and their horses died of exposure and malnutrition.

Cardigan had the good fortune to return to England before all the Charge’s unappealing details had emerged. He had a brief moment in the sun, lionized and even received by Queen Victoria and her family, but the taint of his spoiled character surely intervened as it always would. Rivals and enemies, to include his own superior and brother-in-law, Lord Lucan, vigorously disputed in public his conduct during the Charge. The black cloud of suspicion and disrepute that had followed him all his adult life gathered again. Heedless, like the extremely self-centered man he was, Cardigan continued to go his own way, with enough energy in old age to create yet another scandal by marrying a woman half his age, who’d openly lived with Cardigan as his mistress previously. With Cardigan’s death, the last of the Brudenells, the title transferred to a collateral branch of the family.

The biographer does his best to be fair to his subject. Against charges of Cardigan being an upper class twit, he notes his good academic record during his brief school days and points out how he matured as a politician in the House of Lords. David also observes his frequent kindnesses to enlisted men and tenants, but also recognizes that this was considered noblesse oblige, the sort of obligation aristocrats were supposed to fulfill in Cardigan’s day. Despite these efforts at balance, I must say  Cardigan still comes across as a thoroughly disagreeable sort of person, even making allowances for the different era and stratum he occupied from my own. And when it comes to the most important aspect of his life (by his own estimate), his military career, he was sadly lacking, the sort of superficial officer who worried more about sword knots and general turnout than unit cohesion and real combat effectiveness.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the late Regency, early Victorian era in Great Britain and the Crimean War.

https://www.amazon.com/Homicidal-Earl-Life-Lord-Cardigan-ebook/dp/B00EZ6X6O2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1510186063&sr=8-1&keywords=the+homicidal+earl&dpID=51KnnH51NjL&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062790/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

And A Universe Reordered By An Act Of Mind Alone

Speaking as a hopelessly clumsy fellow, that's a nice catch.

Speaking as a hopelessly clumsy fellow, that’s a nice catch.

 

Stanislaw Szukalski, the insane Polish artist, has been a long standing interest of mine since I first read about him and saw his work in Robert Crumb’s Weirdo Magazine back  in the mid-80’s. His racial theories of history and human development were, of course, complete lunatic nonsense, but that doesn’t detract from his amazing skills as a draftsman, painter, and sculptor.  Before WWII, he was considered one of Poland’s greatest artists. A great deal of his work was destroyed in Poland during the war. I had the good fortune to recently acquire a poster of one of the Maestro‘s later works, a tribute to his fellow Pole, Copernicus or Kopernik in his native tongue, theorist of the heliocentric system, a massive advance in cosmology and human understanding.

I can’t help but admire the thrusting dynamism of the work. It reminds me of Futurist works to some extent, Boccioni’s Striding Man particularly. Szukalski was fascinated with architecture and the human form and those interests are evident here. I seriously think that this structure would be feasible to construct from an engineering and architectural standpoint, but it would probably go down in history as the scariest monument ever made. The picture above isn’t a true rendition of the poster (some nitwit added some stars at the top), but it gives you a good idea what it’s like. To learn more, please click the link below for the official Szukalski website:

http://szukalski.com/

 

 

!!Styling It With Saint Simeon In Syria!!

Another sunny day in Paradise.

Another sunny day in Paradise.

 

It looks like he’s trying to hail a cab to me. Can you blame him for wanting to get out of there? The chain around his waist is a nice BDSM touch, but it’s really for safety in case he rolls off the pillar in his sleep. Nobody said it was easy being a stylite. That may be one reason why it’s not much in fashion anymore.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simeon_Stylites

Stemma Di Visconti – Duchi de Milan

In plain English, "I won't break the way of a snake!"

In plain English, “I won’t break the code of a snake!”

 

The proud and illustrious crest of an insanely depraved and murderous Renaissance noble family, even by the godawful standards of their day. Also and of course, in a neat Shavian paradox, great patrons of the arts, pittori e scultori.

Amid A Swarm Of Flies

And no flyswatter big enough in the world to deal with it.

And no flyswatter big enough in the world to deal with it.

Le Coq Gualois Encore

Gallus Gallicus In Arma Concitante

Gallus Gallicus In Arma Concitante 

This owes a very loose, tangential debt to the brilliant, albeit completely mad Polish sculptor and painter, Stanislaw Szukalski, who among other projects had a totally impractical and impossible scheme to build a giant, grotesque statue of a rooster in the countryside in dedication to the spirit of France. The picture below hints at the project’s megalomaniacal scale:

 

Note supporting column beneath said cock.

Note supporting column beneath said cock. What an amazing sense of line Szukalski had.

http://szukalski.com/

Imaginary Coat of Arms

Under the moon and the mountain, I hold this land

Under moon and mountain, I hold this land

 

I’ve resumed writing a fantasy novel entitled City Of Witches. It’s set in Renaissance Italy and concerns a walled, ancient town, Pietradelmaga, high in the Abruzzi by a towering, forested mountain, Montestregae. In this remote, isolated region, black clad, virago women are armed with daggers and infamously reputed to be witches throughout the Italian peninsula.

Now comes Manual of Poictesme, captain of a mercenary company, sent with his men by corrupt Cardinal Dordateci to bring Montestregae’s heretical inhabitants to heel so lucrative veins of alum can be mined  for the Cardinal’s benefit.

But what if Manual has another opinion ? What if the ambitious young man sees unrivaled potential in this mountain fastness, a chance to become Signore, Lord of Montestregae and its vast, untapped mineral riches? The key to lordship lies in the janare, Montestregae’s purported witches, actually servants of the Moon Goddess Diana for countless millennia, zealous defenders of Her traditions and secrets.

There’s too much plot to go into further here, but I’ve given Dom Manual (for so this Signore shall be known) a coat of arms. The name and title are a direct cop from James Branch Cabell’s novel, Figures Of Earth. I’m really fond of obscure references like that, which no one ever gets. And not to be snooty, I’ve given a translation for the Latin motto.

I Pan Books

Sometimes It Can Be Hard To Spot A Crank So Always Keep An Eye Out

Sometimes It Can Be Hard To Spot A Crank So Always Keep An Eye Out

Rome:  Day One, Andrea Carandini, translated by Stephen Sartarelli, Princeton Press, 172 pp., 2011.

This is basically the work of a crank with an ax to grind, but one who’s also a trained archaeologist with a deep knowledge of Roman history and his tradecraft. This allows him to obscure his crackpottery to a large extent with a facade of analysis, apparently plausible at first glance.  The gist of Prof. Carandini’s argument is that, rather than simply myths made from whole cloth, the ancient, foundational tales of Romulus and Remus and their fatal clash are indeed based in fact and that substantial support for this thesis can be found in Rome’s oldest archaeological remains. Through extensive diagrams, the author sets forth various remains (post holes, spaces that functioned as hearths) that he contends were originally part of such structures as the original Sanctuary of Vesta and the Domus Regia (House Of The King), home of the legendary first kings of Rome.

Carandini has the advantage of being an authority in his field plus the added cachet of a prestigious publisher. In the balance against his argument is the fact that most authorities on early Roman history find little merit to his argument. Despite continued, extensive excavation in Rome for several centuries, physical evidence for events described in early Roman history prior to the 5th Century BCE is basically lacking. Carandini does what he can with what he has, but the fact is that the scant remains he points to as Romulus’s house and other legendary structures can be interpreted in a number of ways. The author has no written evidence found on site to support his theory, admittedly a difficult test to meet when discussing such a distant period (approx. 750 BCE, over 2,700 years ago).

Ultimately, however, I think Prof. Carandini undermines his own credibility and thus his argument. I refer to the absurd comparison he makes between the footprint of the UK Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street and that of the Forbidden Palace in Peking (with supporting diagrams), which he uses in all seriousness to support the contention that this neatly illustrates the dichotomy between the Western love for democracy and, on the other hand, Eastern despotism. This is a ridiculous, Orientalist argument that resorts to such broad stereotypes, it should simply be dismissed out of hand. Anyone who makes such reactionary arguments in the 21st Century shouldn’t be taken seriously. This is not a worthwhile work of scholarship, popular or otherwise.

The only way that this book might be of  interest is as a brief, readable account of Rome’s mythical foundation, that is, the miraculous birth of Romulus and Remus, their suckling by a she wolf, etc. If you do read this book, please do so cum grano salis, as the Romans used to say.

https://www.amazon.com/Rome-Day-One-Andrea-Carandini/dp/0691139229/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505616680&sr=8-1&keywords=rome+day+one

 

This Title Is An Excellent Example Of Truth In Advertising

The Title Is An Excellent Example Of Truth In Advertising

The Wastage, Dean Halliday Smith, Rowe Publishing, 582 pp., 2016.

This is pretty much a textbook example of how NOT to write a historical novel. I actually regret writing this, because it’s plain Mr. Smith is an earnest student of the Civil War who’s made an ambitious attempt to embody the colossal suffering, sacrifice, and slaughter of our nation’s worst war in the form of literary fiction. He’s plainly done a massive amount of research until he’s mastered the minutiae of the life histories of even minor historical characters. The problem is the author gives way to the (extremely powerful, I admit) impulse to dump all of this information in the reader’s lap. This makes for a hard slog, about as bad as a walk in 1860’s DC’s unpaved, muddy streets.

The novel also suffers from the fact that Mr. Smith doesn’t do very well in the development of fully rounded characters. His chief device for portrayal is to rely again on personal detail rather than demonstrate character through actions and speech. Moreover, The Wastage‘s pace can best be described as funereal, leaden. I understand the novel deals with grim events, but what better way to convey that than through a taut, fast narrative, full of gory incidents and horrible, unexpected turns of fate? I also state in all honesty that I gave up on this novel after the first fifty pages. Some might object that this means I can’t give a good, objective review, but it simply isn’t worth the long haul. I say this after patiently reading Ulysses and much of Faulkner’s work.

Once again, I give The Wastage high marks for sincerity and good intentions, but that’s as far as it goes. If the author sees this, I hope he understands that I’m not trying to be mean, just honest in the hope it helps him to improve as a novelist.

https://www.amazon.com/Wastage-Dean-Halliday-Smith/dp/1939054583/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505620772&sr=8-1&keywords=the+wastage

 

 

 

Hinnom Magazine Interview Now Up

Nobody's sneaking up on me!

               Nobody’s sneaking up on me!

In connection with the release of Hinnom 002, C. P. Dunphey, publisher/editor-in-chief of Hinnom Magazine and Gehenna & Hinnom Publishers, has just posted an author interview with yours truly, Johnny Guitar! (Just kidding.) Among other topics, why I write, what inspired me to write Last Of The Aztec Riders, the story appearing in issue 002, writers I admire, and how I basically view life itself as a horror story. Please click the link below to learn more:

https://gehennaandhinnom.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/author-spotlight-mark-mellon/