Archive for September, 2013

Some Plain Fun, a 1921 Bentley…

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

File:Bentley 3-Litre Drophead Coupe 1921.jpg


…painted banana yellow, no less…   RT


RT’s Related Posts: 1) Birds of Paradise; 2) Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii


PhotoBentley 3-Litre Drophead Coupé 1921. Author: Lars-Göran Lindgren Sweden. WikiCmns; CC 1.0 Generic.


Joze Gorjup, Slovenian Painter

September 30, 2013 3 comments

File:Jože Gorjup - Kopalke.jpg

RT will tell it straight: this translation was a tough one (partly because of all the place names and history). But persevere he did, and RT offers below his best shot at a translation of the information on Slovenian Wikipedia’s JG page.


Jože Gorjup (1907-1932) was a Slovenian painter, sculptor, and print-maker. He was born in the ancient abbey town, Kostanjevica na Krki, which today is protected as a cultural and historical site. When he was 18, Gorjup moved to Zagreb, where between 1925 and 1927, he studied sculpture with the renowned Ivan Mestrovic. Mastrovic was a mentor to Gorjup and deeply influenced his work. From 1927 to 1930, Gorjup studied painting in Florence. After graduating in 1930, he returned to Kostanjevica, where he worked on the renovation of St. Nicholas Church; his efforts there represent a mature synthesis of his work, which is clearly reflected in the church’s Slovenian paintings.

Gorjup’s art shows the influence of Italian Renaissance art and modern trends, especially static Arcadian figural art (i.e., art devoted to portraying a pastoral utopia).

A permanent collection of his work is housed at the Bozidar Jakac Gallery in Kostanjevica.


RT’s Related Posts: 1) A Strange and Beautiful Gift

Painting: Kopalke (Swimwear); before 1932, Joze Gorjup. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


RT’s Post # 1002 & Thank You!

September 29, 2013 5 comments

File:Bouquet of flowers (1).jpg


RT has double-checked: his post After Sappho is the Rag Tree’s official post #1000, according to WordPress.

RT is amazed he’s gotten this far with the blog; he remembers his first few tentative postings, all without images, and the many wonderful things and superb people he has encountered since those days. He is developing further thoughts on what to do with this blog, most prominently, moving onto WordPress.Org. Money is still tight, however, and he is biding his time.

By way of thank you to his loyal readers, RT lists some of them below. These folks have stuck with him through the blogging ups and downs he has negotiated over the past three years:

1) Margo Roby, Wordgathering. The one and only (so far) Queen of the Dragons of Grammar.

2) Aubrey. A gifted writer enamored of all things Victorian (& then some).

3) X-ties. More is going on in New Zealand than you think…

4) Leanne Cole Photography. …and the graphics from Down Under are impressive, too.

5) N. Filbert (a.k.a. “The Whole Hurley Burley.”) Notebooks, videos, thoughts worth finding, and more.

6) SIMONHLILLY. Poetry, The World Tree, and beauty, generally.

7) Calmgrove. Books: serious fun!

8) Jeffrey Harbin. Great photos from Texas!!

9) The Glyptodon. Tiny porpoises and other miracles.

9) Esther. poems, images, lovely ladies from France…

10) Cindy Knoke. Book reviews!!!

11) thehumansarah. Photos, some of them even funny!!!

12) Elephant. Old-fashioned picture book pictures, just like we used to read!


Thank you all for your loyal interest!!!


Photo: Bouquet of flowers; Author: Paolo Neo. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


Almond Chocolate Freezer Fudge: Love Calories

September 29, 2013 2 comments




whoa, RT is channeling energy on this one…maybe a panful will greet him when he returns home!  RT

(reposted from The Crunchy Sunflower)


Almond Chocolate Freezer Fudge: Love Calories.

After Sappho, Fragment 16

September 28, 2013 5 comments

File:1877 Charles Mengin - Sappho (cropped).jpg

The surviving words of Sappho (c. 620-550 BC) are so few that scholars eagerly search out more among the ruins of ancient life. Fragment 16 is certainly one of the poet’s most celebrated surviving works, and in particular, its opening stanza:

A troop of horse, the serried ranks of marchers,
A noble fleet, some think these on black earth
most beautiful. For me naught else but
my beloved.

(adapted from Edwin Marion Cox, 1924)

And RT was also struck by a description of the sack of Nineveh contained in the Babylonian Chronicle, which includes the royal wives and concubines being led from the palaces, clawing and tearing their breasts, thus ensuring a short life of drudgery. Nineveh was sacked while she was a child; the story of its destruction and burning must have remained current during her life.

Here is RT’s brief poem, inspired by these two passages:



in the rich, black earth

the banks of assyrian rose play

no longer;


their bright petals fly like foam.

face swollen with grief,

ripped and ragged their breasts.


how come you here, untouched,

your beauty so great,

strongest of shields?


RT’s Related Posts: 1) Sappho; 2) Stephane Mallarme, Apparition


Painting: Sappho (1877); Charles Mengin. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


Charles Baudelaire–1862

September 27, 2013 2 comments

File:Étienne Carjat, Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, circa 1862.jpg


Wow! It just doesn’t get more romantic (or gothic) than this…Charles Baudelaire, Mr. Fleurs du Mal, himself! The genius who did more to influence modern poetry than anyone else…    RT


RT’s Related Posts: 1) Tennyson, The Great Poet


Photo: Charles Baudelaire (c. 1862); Etienne Carjat. WikiCmns; Public Domain.



Two Simplified Spelling Resources–Unifon and Cut Spelling

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment



The Dragons of Grammar are as amenable as anyone to RT’s history essays, but of late they feel a bit slighted in RT’s writing schedule (RT reminds them that, not so long ago, they were sunning themselves lazily on the rocks outside their caves). Still, RT feels obliged to add a post on spelling and alphabet reform, a thread he will admit he has neglected of late. So here are two systems that RT thinks could help us develop a simpler, kinder spelling.

1) Unifon. Designed by Dr. John R. Malone in the 1950s, the original market that the script was designed for disappeared, and gradually the modified alphabet has drifted off the public’s radar.

Here are the pro considerations for Unifon

a) it’s clearly based on the current English alphabet.

b) it visually relates each new letter to the traditional English letter that represents its sound.

c) it’s easy to learn; in 1960, Dr. Margaret S. Ratz used Unifon to teach three children how to read “in 17 hours with cookies and milk.”

Here’s the con:

a) Unifon would require the modification of keyboards and public signage


Here is the Unifon Alphabet, weighing in at 40 letters:








2. Cut Spelling. Designed by Christopher Upwood, this spelling simplification was advocated for a time by the Simplified Spelling Society.  Here are CS’s main substitution rules:

  1. Letters irrelevant to pronunciation. This rule deletes most silent letters, except when these letters (such as “magic e“) help indicate pronunciation. Omitting or including the wrong silent letters are common errors. Examples: peace → peceexcept → exeptplaque → plaqblood → blodpitch → pich.
  2. Cutting unstressed vowels. English unstressed syllables are usually pronounced with the vowel schwa /ə/, which has no standard spelling, but can be represented by any vowel letter. Writing the wrong letter in these syllables is a common error, for example, seperate for separate. Cut Spelling eliminates these vowel letters completely before approximants (/l/ and /r/) and nasals (/m/, /n/, and /ŋ/). In addition, some vowel letters are dropped in suffixes, reducing the confusion between -able and -ible. Examples: symbol → symblvictim → victmlemon → lemnglamour/glamor → glamrpermanent → permnntwaited → waitdchurches → churchswarmest → warmst,edible → edbl.
  3. Simplifying doubled consonants. This rule helps with another of the most common spelling errors: failing to double letters (accommodate and committee are often misspelled) or introducing erroneously doubled letters. Cut Spelling does not eliminate all doubled letters: in some words (especially two-syllable words) the doubled consonant letter is needed to differentiate from another differently pronounced word (e.g., holly and holy). Examples: innate → inatespell → spel.


Here is a sample sentence written with Cut Spelling:

Th Space Race was th competition between th United States and th Soviet Union, rufly from 1957 to 1975. It involvd th efrts by each of these nations to explor outr space with satlites, to be th 1st to send there a human being and to send mand and unmand missions on th Moon with a safe return of th humans to Erth.


CS Pros:

1) Introduces no new letters into the alphabet

2) Requires no modification of current keyboards or pubic signage

3) Reduces the length of words by 8-15%.

CS Cons:

1) Doesn’t follow the one-letter, one-sound principle.


If RT had to hazard a guess as to which of these two reforms is likelier to be implemented, he would vote for Cut Spelling. On the other hand, he’s sure that the better long-term reform would be Unifon. The simplest reform might be to gradually introduce Unifon.     RT

(and incidentally, the Dragons of Grammar have let RT know they like this post)


RT’s Related Posts: 1) Learning Alphabets; 2) Mighty Mice Redux–The IPA for English Speakers


Sample Script: Lord’s Prayer in Unifon. Author: William Skaggs. WikiCmns; Public Domain. Sample Alphabet: Unifon Script. WikiCmns; CC 1.0 Generic.

Marbled Swimming Crab

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment

File:Liocarcinus marmoreus 2.jpg


this was just too beautiful to pass up…   RT

RT’s Related Posts: 1) Pinch Bug? 2) Beetles, Botany, and a man for all seasons

PhotoMarbled swimming crab from Belgian coastal waters; Author: Hans Hillewaert. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 Unported.

The Crisis of the Third Century, Part 2: The Gallic Empire

September 27, 2013 2 comments



Perhaps the oddest piece of the puzzle known as The Crisis of the Third Century is the Gallic Empire, which lasted from AD 260 to 274. This empire’s political legacy is negligible: a single emperor of any note, Postumus, who founded the empire and made Cologne its capital. He set up a political structure based on the Roman Republic’s: a dual consulship and senate and ruled for ten years before being murdered by his own troops. His several successors were ineffectual, and the empire was reconquered by Aurelian in 274.

Here’s what makes the Gallic Empire significant: its cultural context. After Postumus declared himself emperor, he was swiftly recognized throughout western Europe: Gaul, including its Germanic borders, Britain, and Spain all accepted the new emperor’s authority. It seems clear enough that they were disenchanted with Roman rule and, after a couple of centuries of incorporation into the Roman Empire, still formed a cultural unit. No surprise, here: the Gallic lands had been allowed to keep their indigenous beliefs (minus human sacrifice). They clearly admired Rome’s political structure, but life as second-class provincials had grown burdensome–and this in spite of Caracalla’s decree (AD 212) declaring all free men in the Empire Roman citizens. Caracalla, one of the most brutal emperors, apparently extended citizenship only in order to raise tax revenues.


And still the question remains unanswered: how did Aurelian manage to reunite the Roman Empire amid such disaffection? Stay tuned, folks: Part 3, featuring exotic Palmyra, is on its way…  RT


RT’s Related Posts: 1) What if? Palmyra and The Crisis of the Third Century 2) The Crisis of the Third Century–Part 1, Rome


Photo“Köln (Cologne), Germany. The old city street patterns fanning from the Rhine, visible from space.”


The Crisis of the Third Century–Part 1, Rome

September 26, 2013 4 comments

File:Map of Ancient Rome 271 AD.svg


For a few years in the middle of the third century A.D., this is what the Mediterranean seaboard looked like. By 271 A.D., the Roman Empire had broken apart, but within a few years, it reconquered the two renegade empires. How could this have happened? What does the Crisis of the Third Century  (AD 235-284) mean?


RT has not gone exploring in so bold a fashion for some time; above all, the Crisis marks the end of the classical world that Alexander the Great (365-323 BC) had established with his conquests and the earliest beginnings of the Medieval Era. Though the Roman Empire eventually reconquered the break-away kingdoms, it never fully recovered its former strength and unity, Readers will encounter a good deal of old-fashioned history, with dates and whatnot, Team Leader RT (and he hasn’t worn this hat in a long time) will do his best to guide folks through the maze of information. The prize we’re seeking? Cultural transformation, one of the purest forms of magic.


The first question is perhaps easier to answer. The Principate, the form of government that Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, had established, reached its apogee under the Nerva-Antonine Dynasty, which produced the Five Good Emperors and a period of peace and prosperity that lasted a century (AD 96-192). The emphasis of the dynasty was good government and adherence to Roman tradition, and each new emperor was chosen by his predecessor and adopted as heir to the Empire. The Roman Senate was respected and shared power with the emperor.

1) Slavery. The problem with this system was not the quality of the government, but the deterioration of the society that the government supported. Slavery was common, and though Roman law did not deny the basic humanity of a slave (a slave could buy his or her freedom and after manumission become a citizen with voting rights), the lower class of slaves performing hard manual labor on farms, in mines, and at mills, were treated brutally and often died at an early age. At the other end of the spectrum, some educated slaves rose to high positions of responsibility in society and government. And slave could be freed by his or her master.

But the law made clear that a slave was a person without rights, who could be treated as the owner wished, including the inflicting of sexual abuse and summary execution. Large slave rebellions occurred during both the Republic and the Empire. The Roman economy was heavily dependent on slave labor.

2) Roman Civilization. The ancient quest of Rome to impose its civilization on foreign countries failed in many places with cultures that were more ancient than Rome’s. The quest had made sense during the Punic Wars, when Romans could argue that they were stamping out the child sacrifice practiced by Carthage. But later, under the Empire, there was nothing inherently superior about Roman pagan society, which often resembled the cultures that it conquered. The existence of a large slave class at one end of the social spectrum and a small political and financial elite at the other created tensions that left large segments of the population disaffected with the Empire.

File:Ostia Antica Mithraeum.jpg

3) The Appearance of Alternative Religions. New alternative religions appeared and spread rapidly throughout the Empire: a) Christianity; b) Gnosticism (and in particular, Manicheism); and c) Mithraism, all claimed large numbers of adherents. These religions were not variations on old themes; each represented a distinct break with the culture that produced it. Notably, these religions shared some elements, most importantly, the exaltation and transformation of the worshiper. The notion of a transcendent God or Cosmos was also critical: these religions aimed to replace the old cosmological understanding with a more comprehensive and accurate view of the world. The old Roman religious reliance on nature and community were hard to defend against a rising sense of egalitarianism and the transitory human condition.


The result, in hindsight, seems inevitable: With the assassination of Commodus (AD 192), the last Nervan emperor, the Empire plunged into an extended period of instability under the Severan Dynasty (AD 192-235) , Only two Severan Emperor, the first and last of the dynasty, ruled longer than ten years. With the assassination of Alexander Severus, the great crisis at last broke out.

It should be pointed out that by any standard, Alexander Severus was a just and capable ruler, murdered by his own troops when he agreed to paid tribute to Germanic tribes to gain time in dealing with the Parthians. What ailed the Romans was not their government so much as the transformation of their culture.

It’s time for a breather. RT will be back soon with Part 2...   RT


Map: The Roman Empire, 271 A.D. WikiCmns; Public Domain. PhotoMithraeum of the Baths of Mithras; Author: Michelle Touton (Ailurophyle). WikiCmns; Public Domain.