Thursday, February 04, 2010

O brave new world!


From Crooked Timber:

BBC Radio 4 had a fascinating programme the other day about the use of drones in warfare by the US, British and Dutch military. It is still available at iplayer here . A guy gets in his car and drives to work in an office in Nevada. From his office he controls drones in Afghanistan. Occasionally he kills people (who can’t shoot back at him, since he’s 8000 miles away). When he’s done, he gets in his car and drives home to his wife and kids. ... Some of the people controlling drones are in the military. Some of them are civilian contractors, perhaps based in a different country to the army they’re fighting for (such as British commercial operators based in Surrey, flying surveillance drones for the Dutch in Afghanistan.)... if the Taliban contrived a way to blow up one of these operators on their daily commute in Nevada or Surrey, would it be a terrorist murder of a non-combatant or a legitimate act of war?


Image: a drone aircraft.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Robot in Helmand Province, Afghanistan

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What does this have to do with the 14th century and robots?

Will McLean explains.

Image: the crater Machaut on Mercury, from a NASA site.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

October Fool's Day


Short and sweet from Will McLean's A Commonplace Book. Life in the future/the present/Will's parallel universe is far more entertaining than the usual lies that make up the news. Unlike the regular news, this is all true.

Image: Pope Gregory VII and his own aerial protector.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Musical robots, 1967 and 1999: Along Comes Mary

Last night I was listening to Randy Bachmann's music show on CBC2. Bachmann, who comes across as a marvelously intelligent and informed person, plays a selection of popular music organized around various themes. This is not exactly an original idea, but he does it well.

Last night his theme was songs named after women. He happened to mention a song by the Association called Along Comes Mary. I was around in 1966 and 1967 when the song was popular and I remember it well, so I looked it up on the YouTube time machine. (That's how I think of it.) It was there all right, and I had a few minutes of appreciating how odd and how unfamiliar something I actually lived through could seem:



Then, just because it was there, a video of the 1999 Bloodhound Gang cover of the same song (does not embed but you can watch it here), with a curiously similar theme. Could it be that the Bloodhound Gang had access to this old film back in the 90s?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 03, 2008

14th century economy and society

Over at A Commonplace Book, Will McLean has a couple of short articles on the English social hierarchy at the time of the Canterbury Tales, and the value of money at the same time.

Image:
A Richard II London groat (4d or pence) from a site by Ivan Buck. Alas, no depiction of the golden angel.

Update: Hoisted from comments:
OpenID tenthmedieval said...

Got no golden angel, but can do you a golden leopard... a relevant one too :-)

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 27, 2008

More on Richard II's golden angel

In an earlier post on Richard II's Golden Angel, perhaps an automaton or even a robot, in any case a showy part of his coronation procession through London in 1377, I included two source excerpts that describe the angel giving Richard a crown. I have now found a third one and have inserted it in the earlier post.

Image:
One of a number of London pubs called the Angel and Crown.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What the sources say about the golden angel

With help from Will McLean and Google I am able to post what contemporary writers said about the golden angel which took part in Richard II's coronation.

First, the chronicler Thomas Walsingham, with what is supposed to be straight reportage:

The city was in every way most richly adorned, and the conduits ran with wine for three hours. In the upper end of the Cheap was erected a castle with four towers ; on two sides of which ran forth wine abundantly. In the towers were placed four beautiful virgins, of stature and age like to the King, apparelled in white vestures; these damsels, on the King's approach, blew in his face leaves of gold, and threw on him and his horse counterfeit golden florins. When he was come before the castle, they took cups of gold, and filling them with wine at the spouts of the castle, presented the same to the King and his nobles. On the top of the castle, betwixt the towers, stood a golden angel, holding a crown in his hands ; and so contrived, that, when the King came, he bowed down and offered him the crown.

William Langland, a poet, seems to include this scene (argues Scott Lightsey's Manmade Marvels) in an allegorical/fantastic view of the kingdom in Piers Ploughman,:

Then looked up a lunatic · a lean thing withal,
And kneeling before the king well speaking said:
`Christ keep thee sir King · and thy kingdom,
And grant thee to rule the realm · so Loyalty may love thee,
And for thy rightful ruling · be rewarded in heaven.'
Then in the air on high · an angel of heaven
Stooped and spoke in Latin · for simple men could not
Discuss nor judge · that which should justify them,
But should suffer and serve · therefore said the angel:

`Sum Rex, sum Princeps: neutram fortasse deinceps;
O qui jura regis Christi specialia regis, hoc quod agas melius Justus es,
esto pius!
Nudum jus a te vestiri vult pietate; qualia vis metere talia grand sere.
Si jus nudatur nudo de jure metatur; si seritur pietas de pietate
metas.'
Then an angry buffoon · a glutton of words,
To the angel on high · answered after:
`Dum rex a regere dicatur nomen habere,
Nomen habet sine re nisi studet jura tenere.'
Then began all the commons · to cry out in Latin,
For counsel of the king · construe how-so he would:
`Praecepta regis sunt nobis vincula legis.

I am not feeling confident enough in my Latin at the moment to translate those passages in their entirety, but it seems that this passage pits the angel and the rich commons of the kingdom (or the parliamentary Commons), who are anxious to give a pious king divine power, against buffoons and lunatics who say "Since the king (rex) gets his name from guiding (regere), he has that name to no purpose unless he strives to keep the law."

Hardly relevant to today's concerns, eh?

Update: Thanks to Scott Lightsey's book (p. 46), I can now include what the Anonimalle Chronicle says:

Set up in the middle of the Cheap stood tower of painted canvas, curiously constructed, over timber support-beams; about the tower were four turrets, in which stood four damsels, exceedingly lovely and beautifully arrayed, and these said damsels threw gold coins in the direction of the prince's coming. Within the said tower had also been built a small belfry, and on the belfry stood an angel bearing a golden crown holding it out towards the said prince, to do him comfort.

Labels: , , ,

The golden angel and 14th-century robots


Given his other interests, it was perhaps predictable that Will McLean would reply to my previous post on 14th-century robots. And I'm glad he did.

First, I promote his reply to my post:

The mechanical angel at the coronation is described in Thomas Walsingham's history. I think Lightsey is assuming that Langland's angel is a reference to that, and Langland would expect his audience to make the connection.

Then he opined in a post at his own blog, A Commonplace Book:

Much as I’d like to imagine the Tik-Tok Angel of London, clockwork seems unlikely in the context. The contrivance had to perform on cue and the moment of Richard’s arrival was unpredictable, so a puppet seems more likely a clockwork automaton.

Then he tries to avoid speculating further on the blockbuster SF hit that will never be:

Evangelion Genesis Ricardus, in which a team of moody dysfunctional anime adolescents, led by young Richard II, pilot giant clockwork automata...

even though one of his commenters rightly says:

Evangelion Genesis Ricardus would be the BEST THING EVER.

But then he does something less geeky and perhaps infinitely cooler, lead us to real manifestations of 14th century SF and SF fandom:

Instead I will cherish Froissart’s Horloge Amoureuse, in which a ticking clock becomes an extended metaphor for measured and enduring love. There’s something tremendously sweet about how Froissart handled this: first the wide-eyed curiosity at the wheels and foliot and whole complex mechanism, then the immediate impulse to turn it into a love-allegory.

And he includes a translation.

Last, so far, he brings us back to the potential 14th-century audience for Evangelion Genesis Richardus, alas for their loss of what never will be, at least for them.

If you like 14th c. robots (and who doesn’t?) Chaucer’s Squire’s Tale gives us not only a brass robot horse controlled by turning a pin in its ear, but both a satire of the kind of SF where the cool technology and sense-of-wonder marvels completely overwhelm the thin plot and weak characters and of the kind of fanboy who thinks it’s like the coolest story ever, dude.

It's enough to make you intellectually drunk, really, this subject and the spin-off around it. Good as Will's contributions are, the key fact is this:

If you saw a movie in which a robot/puppet/automaton offered a crown to the boy Richard II during his coronation procession, you'd think it was some kind of ironic commentary by a hip (in his own estimation) film-maker. But no, it actually happened, and I at least must work very hard, even though (because?) I know the 14th century tolerably well, to integrate it into my picture of the actual past.

Image: a conservative choice from Google Images and Flickr. Plenty of anime/new age possibilities: search "golden angel."

Labels: , , ,