Those Genealogy Commercials Didn’t Pan Out for Me


A couple of years ago I started a couple of genealogy projects.  Ya keep
seeing these heartworming, uh, I mean heartwarming, commercials about
delighted people discovering the secrets of the DNA donors who were
their ancestors.  There seem to be a lot of awwwws and ooooohhhs, and
nothing but happy discoveries depicted in those commercials.

However, if you happen to come from a handful of relatively recent
“gateway” ancestors, you may be able to follow the trail back through many
centuries if the ancestors had money, estates or titles, whether noble or
royal.  That’s because, for that group, records had to be kept for reasons of
inheritance, possible consanguinity issues, political considerations, strategic
and tactical alliances and so forth.

So then, after I finished compiling a bunch of pedigree sheets I put the ancestors all into a spreadsheet which became the basis for a searchable database of my
numerous ancestors.

Then I started looking up some of the names on the spreadsheet, picking them at random because I recognized the names, or they came from somewhere I knew nothing about, or even because I liked the sound of their names.

Unfortunately many of my ancestors turned out not be the easiest folks to
love.  For example, because some friends were going to Prague I looked up
my Prague ancestors.  For starters, some of them were allegedly born in
Prague before Prague had even been founded, allegedly by a lady named
Libuse–a many greats grandmother, who was a prophetess and rode a white
horse. (She sounds nice.)  She and her husband Premysl, a humble
ploughman, founded the Premyslid dynasty.

I followed that family line and came to an interesting name, Vratislav/Vratislaus I, Duke of Bohemia. A quick internet search revealed that he was Good King Wenceslaus’ dad.  “Wow,” I was thinking, “I’m descended from Santa Claus.” Yeah, yeah, I know, Santa Claus was supposedly St. Nicholas but Wenceslaus’ name is widely associated with Christmas too, I guess because he used to give gifts to the poor.

Except, it turned out not to be Wenceslaus who was my ancestor.  It was his
brother, Boleslav, who was my many greats grandfather.  That would be
Boleslav “the Cruel”.  He actually had Wenceslaus assassinated, and even
participated in the deed, stabbing his brother with his own lance.

Yikes, that’s not the warm and fuzzy I was expecting.  Of course expecting
warm and fuzzy feelings from the Middle Ages is a fool’s errand.  There
was no warm and fuzzy in the Middle Ages.  It was an unrelentingly violent,
vicious, cruel and unspeakably monstrous time when life didn’t cut anyone
in Europe any slack.

A relative of Boleslav’s, Lidmila ze Psova was murdered at the command of
her daughter-in-law Drohimira.  The grandmother of Boleslav “the Cruel,”
she was strangled with her veil.

Okay, that one didn’t turn out so well, so I searched for more biographical
info about my family antecedents.

Cynan “Garwen” ap Brochwell/Brochfail caught my eye. The Welsh were
great warriors and I’d read about his horse, one of the three principal steeds
of Britain, in the Welsh Triads of the Horses.  (The English translation of his
horse’s name is “tall black-tinted one”.)

Cynan turned out to be a Welsh war chieftain whose personal bard was the
famed Taliesin, some of whose works are still extant.  Taliesin’s poem about
Cynan is one of those surviving tales.  Supposedly the heraldry on Cynan’s
shield depicted three white horse heads on a sable field.  Ooooh, I love
horses.  So I looked him up.

Jeez, man. The Saxons of Britain at the time worshiped a special breed of
white horses, which were never ridden or used for work. They were solely
for prophecy and had their own priests who were the only ones who could
interpret the neighings and prancings of the horses to glean their prophetic
meaning.

Cynan, presumably to terrorize the Saxons, killed the white horses and
lopped off their heads.  Grandpa!  How could you?  This wasn’t turning out
at all the way the genealogy commercials do.

Then there was “Black William” DeBraose who was hung publicly by
Llywelyn “the Great” ap Iorwerth, Prince of Wales, after Llywelyn caught
him in the bedchamber of Llywelyn’s wife, the illegitimate daughter of King
John.

And Black William’s grandfather, William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber
and Lord of Abergavenny, another ancestor, was even worse, having come
down to us in history as “the Ogre of Abergavenny”.  He achieved that
sobriquet as a result of having invited a number of Welsh princes and their
retainers to Christmas dinner in 1175.  De Braose and his men murdered
every last Welsh guest on that day which was traditionally a time for settling
differences in Wales.

De Braose had been a big favorite of King John but they had a falling out.
When he fell out of favor he bolted for France, leaving behind his wife,
Maud de Braose and his eldest son, William, to take the rap for him.  King
John had them walled up inside one of his castles where they presumably
starved to death.  This event was one of the more flagrant of John’s many
abuses of his barons which ultimately resulted in him having to sign the
Magna Carta.  So I guess that’s an upside.  Sort of.

After that I took a break from genealogy. I’m not sure I want to know what
my ancestors were up to. They seem absolutely terrifying!

How come the genealogy commercials don’t mention the possibility that you might not be all that thrilled to find out from whence you came?

Conquest — What’s in It for the Conqueror?


Since we seem to be heading back into the Middle Ages, I’ve been reading up on the history of those grim centuries.  William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, King of England, invaded Britain in October of 1066 and won the Battle of Hastings, and the country of England.  (The Welsh took a lot longer to be subdued.)  By Easter of 1067, William, having been crowned William I, King of England on Christmas Day 1066 at nearly new Westminster Abbey, returned to the family home at Fecamp, Normandy and had a huge party.  (Earl Harold Godwinsson had also been crowned in that abbey, on January 6, 1066, succeeding Edward the C0nfessor and totally pissing off William, Duke of Normandy who was pretty sure that damn crown was supposed to be his.)

Various historical sources provide details.  This one below, from Orderic Vitalis’ “The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy, Vol. 2” (Forester translation) speaks volumes about the luxury to which William was quickly becoming accustomed.  Supposedly he brought everything he’d captured in England with him when he returned for the Easter festivities at the small Northwest French harbor town–even people whose number included many nobles who were not specifically called hostages, but were.

…The feast of Easter was kept at the abbey of the Holy
Trinity at Fecamp, where a great number of bishops, abbots,
and nobles assembled. Earl Radulph, father-in-law of
Phillip king of France- with many of the French nobility,
were also there beholding with curiosity the long-haired
natives of English-Britain, and admiring the garments of
gold tissue, enriched with bullion, worn by the king and his
courtiers. They also were greatly struck with the beauty of
the gold and silver plate, and the horns tipped with gold at
both extremities. …

So that’s what it’s all about?  Snazzy duds, including “garments of gold tissue” and  “horns tipped with gold at both extremities”?  Is that like, the emperor has no clothes?   One has to wonder–was gold tissue to be worn over more substantially woven clothing?  It sounds, well, itchy.

The Hastings invasion sounds pretty much like the Vikings’ original 793 invasion of England at Lindisfarne.  By the time of William II, Duke of Normandy that country was wealthy, fat and soft, ripe for another round of plundering.  William II, Duke of Normandy was only five generations removed from his gr gr gr grandfather, Rollo the Viking.  (The succession was; from Rollo’s son, William le “Longue Epee” styled Duke of Normandy,  to his son Richard I, Duke of Normandy, “Sans Peur” (“the Fearless”) to his son, Richard II, Duke of Normandy (“the Good”) to his son Richard III Duke of Normandy who was succeeded by his brother Robert I, Duke of Normandy (either “the Devil” or “the Magnificent” depending on who’s doing the talking,) who was the father of William (“the Bastard” or “the Conqueror” depending on who’s doing the talking).  William’s conquest was just another Viking invasion.  You might say it was sort of an “apple not falling far from the tree” kind of thing.  It was often speculated that Robert (“the Devil”so called because of suspected fratricide, or “the Magnificent” because, well, I don’t know why) had his brother bumped off so he could have the Duke of Normandy title, but this was never proven.  William,the Conqueror, gr gr gr grandson of Rollo the Viking, conquered England just 273 years after the Vikings first came a-raiding at Lindisfarne.

It’s common knowledge that when William I of England died, his servants stole everything they could carry and left him, basically, lying in his underwear.   Then his corpse wasn’t attended to in a timely manner and it swelled up, then burst during the attempt to inter William.

What isn’t such common knowledge (I think) is that at William’s funeral, before he popped, someone spoke up with a claim to the patch of ground he was to be buried in.  Turns out William had ripped off the land from this guy’s father years before.  So the knights and family retainers had to take up a collection to pay off the gravesite claimant in order for the ill-fated funeral to proceed.  (Can’t ya just see them looking at each other, rolling their eyes and waiting for someone else to cough up some cash.)

Apparently, after the Conqueror’s corpse popped open there was an unbearable stench and the services were hastily concluded.  That would be by the clerics whose livelihoods had been provided for generously by William for decades but who wouldn’t even endure his stinking corpse long enough to provide a moment or two of dignity for the much abused dead king.

Yeah, generally there are plenty of assets in it for conquerors.  But in the long run, the second he (or she) is vulnerable, supporters and sycophants will take all their stuff and leave them lyin’ dead on the floor in their underwear.  They can’t even count on a decent burial.

Humans are such a mystery!  They seem smart but keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

 

 

 

Throwing Shade in Rouen in the Middle Ages


Well, actually it wasn’t just insults,–for poor ol’ John I, Archbishop of
Rouen, it was insults and rocks.  Now, when reading about the Middle
Ages, there’s no avoiding the pervasive role piety and religion allegedly
played in life at all levels of society.  Then, accounts of real life events make
for a clearer understanding of how that actually worked out in real time.

John I Archbishop of Rouen (1067 – 1078, previously Bishop of Avranches)
was “animated with a lively zeal for virtue”.

Not everyone was appreciative.  Volume II of Orderic Vitalis’ “Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy,” mentions John “taking severe measures to separate incontinent priests from their concubines; and when in a synod he
prohibited their intercourse under pain of excommunication,” (he) …”was assailed with stones, and forced to make his escape, on which occasion when flying from the church he intoned with a loud voice the verse:

” God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance.”

What would Jesus say?  “Be fruitful and multiply.” ?  Nope.  “Hey.  Cut it out!  No throwing rocks in the house!”

Just Say It–Trump Appears to Have Dementia


For heaven’s sake–and our own–just face it. Trump appears to have
dementia.

It’s not going to get better. He needs to be evaluated and given medication
which can slow down the process.  And he needs to be removed from office
because he is just not mentally competent.

He may be competent for discrete periods of time, and in disconnected
specific incidences. But his failure of logic, his erratic behavior, furious
temper tantrums, paranoia, linguistic incomprehensibility and inability to just sit down and get to work are indicators of profound dysfunction. Not exactly what you want in a guy with the nuclear button at his disposal.

The executive branch of a country of nearly 350 million people or so isn’t
going to run itself.  We need a fully competent chief executive who is willing and able to work capably and diligently at being the head of a massive bureaucracy with complex functions and responsibilities throughout the world.

That’s not Donald Trump.

Republicans need to face harsh reality and forget about political advantage
for the moment.  Insist that his family have him evaluated by a competent,
independent medical professional who specializes in age-related mental
disorders.  If, as it appears, he has dementia, then he’s got to go.  Period.

Do it before he does something awful and irrevocable.

Trump, Hillary, Time Warps and the Apocalypse


Since I’ve set my security settings all over the place to pretty much block
the world, I can’t answer comments about my blog posts. So I’ll respond to
one here.

Re: the blog about Shakespeare stealing a march on Nostradamus and the
Donald; that post should not be interpreted as supportive of Hillary. WRT
Hillary and the Donald, to continue with my shallow Shakespeare-themed
analysis–a pox on both their houses.

Aside from being an inveterate whiner (she’s always got an excuse) Hillary
seems to me to be demonstrably dishonest.  As far back as Whitewater her
public conduct was dishonest.  Remember how, during the Whitewater
investigation, her billing records from the Rose law firm were being sought?
I think there may even have been a subpoena issued for the records. But no,
she just couldn’t find them. Que lastima!

Until, that is, they were later found in plain sight in her Book Room in the White
House. Yeah, they magically reappeared. So amazing.  Obviously they
entered a time warp/vortex and were spun out again into the Book Room
after the danger to her was past.

She also has an indefensible record of taking credit for others’ work and/or
achievements. To my thinking the most heinous of these incidents was the
way she and her tawdry supporters took credit for passing what is now
known as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, originally
SCHIP).  She had no official position with the government at the time.  It
was Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy who sponsored the bill and their staff members who wrote it.

But take a look at the Wikipedia entry for CHIP or any other article about
the origination of the program and you’ll find Hillary Clinton’s name.
Most, if not all, specifically mention Hillary Clinton supporting the bill,
some claim she got it passed.  Yeah, along with a gazillion other
supporters–none of whom claimed credit for the creation of the program. It’s
despicable!

And she ran a pathetically inadequate campaign for president in 2016. Her
grand vision was “it’s my turn” and “I don’t have a penis” (or more politely
put, a “Y” chromosome).

Trump has all these characteristics in spades, so there was no advantage to
either Hillary or the Donald there.  Well, except that he does have a penis–but given his massive insecurity about his masculinity (and tiny hands) ya gotta wonder just how big the presidential member actually is.

I remember when Trump refused to pay an elderly man who sold him chandeliers for Mar-a-Lago.  Other stories of his chiseling on debts abound. He calls it deal making, normal people call it many other things, none of which are laudatory.

But he supposedly had two things going for him in the election. He was
allegedly high energy, and a good businessman.

But if one looks at his lack of productivity, and what he actually does, both these
putative attributes remain unproven as far as I can tell.  He seems to spend a
huge part of what should be his White House workday watching TV and tweeting.  His travel all seems to be related to golfing, which promotes his own properties and enriches him.  This doesn’t seem much different in spirit, if not strict definitions, from some slacker teenager who spends all his/her time playing video games on the internet while sponging off mom and dad and living
in their basement.

Trump hasn’t accomplished a thing, unless you count getting a funding bill
passed, which would keep the federal government running until the end of
the fiscal year.  And even that was done by congress–and only to keep its own
salaries funded and their constituents off their sorry asses.

But now we are finding out that Trump seems more like a wholly owned
subsidiary of Vladimir Putin. That’s not funny or even dismissable as “oh
that’s just Trump”.  We used to joke about the right wing’s silly conspiracy
theories about the “commies” or “Ruskies”.   Now, with thugs like Russian
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak
yukking it up and laughing at Trump’s buffoonery right in the Oval Office,
it doesn’t seem so funny, or implausible.

And Trump’s man-crush on Vladimir Putin is widely reported and his own
words typically praise the murderous former KGB head and vicious dictator.

Meanwhile, Trump thinks North Korean leader Kim Jung Un is a great guy,
a “smart cookie” and praises him while that fat asshole is busy trying to put together a nuclear bomb and an intercontinental missile capable of dropping it on our country.   That’s not so funny either.  Especially given Trump’s fragmented thinking and total lack of impulse control.  But, for the moment, Trump’s too busy tweeting and watching TV to attend to such trivialities.

Can you just see him getting pissed off that Kim’s getting more attention
than he is and then dropping a nuclear bomb on North Korea in a mega
version of “mine’s bigger than yours”?

Even worse, Trump appears to have dementia. His fragmented thinking,
inability to remember what he said only minutes, hours or days earlier, his
wild mood swings, his garbled linguistic output…all seem part of an array of
symptoms and behaviors indicative of dementia.  But no one dares to say so,
certainly not the tame pussies in the media.

Events subsequent to the election, including the outrageous firing of James
Comey to stymie a criminal investigation into Trump’s possible collusion
with the Russians, seems to bode ill for our country.  It won’t be Trump or
his family who’ll suffer, it’ll be our military, our citizens and our country.

Given Trump’s demonstrable history of trying to distract people, especially
the media, from his misdeeds, he doesn’t auger well for the benefit of “we the rabble”.  To what lengths might he go to distract everyone if that investigation closes in on him?  Well, does anyone think he’d balk at pushing the nuclear button to distract from his own misdeeds?

Where is that “button” he might push anyway?  One can only hope that Gen. Mattis has it stashed somewhere in his mobile library of thousands of books. (General, please don’t leave a trail of bread crumbs–we don’t want the Donald to find that button.)

No matter what happens, that slacker Trump will skate.  I think he’s passed
the stage of being a laughable buffoon.  Now he’s dangerous to every one of us.

My current choice for 2020? Angus King.

Shakespeare, not Nostradamus Predicted Trump


How did the History Channel staffers miss this one? They’ve zeroed in on
extraterrestrials, and uncovered Nostradamus’ hidden codes and the bible’s.
(I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they realize that it was
extraterrestrials who gave the Vikings the stuff & info they needed to
conquer most of the known world.)

But they totally failed us re: Shakespeare’s hidden prediction about Trump
in, of all places, Macbeth. I weeded out the chaff and came up with ol’
Will’s hidden message to us from the late 16th century (or possibly the early
17th).

…but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more….an idiot, full of sound and fury
signifying nothing.

C’mon, ya know that’s Trump to a “T”. You’re welcome Mr. Shakespeare.
Glad to give credit where credit’s due. You were spot on buddy.
Unfotunately.

 

Carpe Diem Young Journalists–Now Is Your Chance for Glory


I’ve been fretting for some time about how few opportunities there are for young journalists and journalism students to sink their chops into something really meaty and write about something meaningful.  In the first place they exist in a journalistic environment which is more froth than beer.   And, of course, if they are active journalists with a media outlet, they only get to work on what they are assigned rather than what they may want to pursue.  Puff pieces are the name of the game in the establishment media.

But recent events and the corrosive corruption which are exploding in our society’s public life present a rare opportunity for young millenial investigative journalists.  I’m hoping they’ll smell blood and pounce on the stories with the ferocity and energy which only the young have in abundance.  Their complacent elders are tiptoeing around and walking on eggs like fearful weenies, hamstrung by their bunker mentality.  Those old media whores are too chicken to do this.

Come on brave millenial journalists!  Young people are always supposed to long for glory and a chance to show what they’re made of.  Here’s your big chance.  I know you can sniff out the green, rotting meat of dangerous conditions and unworthy politicians undermining our democracy.  You know how to dig into real in-depth research.  You have the internet, where Woodward and Bernstein were limited to actual on-the-ground sleuthing.

This is some really ugly s— coming down in our governance.  Expose it.  Please. There are a ton of us out here who will be pulling for you, and cheering you on.

Go to it.  Because your flaccid, sedentary,  scaredy cat elders aren’t likely to do it.  They have kids and mortgages.  They play it safe.   You don’t have to.  Bare your fangs.  Un- sheath your claws.  Lay back your ears and raise your hackles. Dig, dig, dig until your paws are bleeding and your claws are broken and worn.

Here’s you chance for lasting journalistic glory.  You can do it!  I have the greatest confidence in your ability to rise to the occasion. (And the greatest scorn for your sissy journalist elders.)   Hup, hup get off your asses and jump into the fray for the truth.

We’re starving out here–for courage,  honesty, substance and real facts, instead of opinions.  Sink your fangs in, grab the truth by the throat and shake it until it stops shape-shifting.  Then drag it back to the cave, carve it up and serve it to a grateful nation.