Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A Meta-Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, October 1949: The End of the Great Siege, I: Politics and Productivity

Sir Stafford and the Egyptian sterling balance

I have a formal portrait of Grand Admiral D├Ânitz kicking around somewhere just for this post, but now that the time has come, I much prefer General Gordon. Egypt's £402 million in sterling holdings (as of 1945.) 

Okay, that was facetious. Sir Stafford didn't throw himself on a spear. He went off to a spa in Switzerland for treatment of his colitis, and stayed there until he died of cancer in 1952. Severe colitis seems to have had a disproportionate effect on mid-century policy makers, and a search of the literature turned it up as one symptom of cocaine abuse. I wouldn't have been looking if I didn't have a nasty, suspicious mind, but what can I say? In any case, the deeper irony might be that Cripps should have adopted Gordon's solution. It's hard to see how staying in Egypt over the protests of the Egyptians and at great cost to the sterling balance benefitted anyone, and it certainly didn't benefit the Egyptians, who saw their trapped and alienated balance eroded by inflation and, of course, devaluation.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Postblogging Technology, October 1949, II: Revolt of the Admirals

This where I remind everyone that Admiral Air Power here lost two carrier battles before Leyte Gulf.

Ngar Monastery,

Dear Father:

This letter finds you with a package of more important material, but will come . You'll find a briefing about the Koumintang position in northern Burma, and the current state of play in Formosa. It is too late for me to be the bearer of news of the fall of Canton and the government there. The key question is whether the weight of American support goes west or east. I can't comment, but I do forward the results of our conversation with Chan Sheng Mei. My sense is that west-side boosters are nursing something of a serpent in the bosom, as Chennault is likely to go with Chiang, and thus Formosa, in the end. The remaining question is whether there is money to be made in the interim, and there I can only tell you that as far as we can tell from here, the lamas have some pull in Washington. So far so good, if  you can win the Panchen Lama over. 

As for us, a distinct slack in the British business as devaluation goes through. I think the smart money sees it as the last for a generation, so that's definitely a blow for the silver trade. Perhaps our British partners can try making some movies for a change! 

Yours Sincerely,

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Postblogging Technology, October 1949, I: The Missing Jetliners of 1951

The street outside my place at 8am on Wednesday morning isn't dark because Vancouver is so dark in the winter. It's dark because it's still snowing. In fairness to all of the scapegoats I am blaming for not finishing the second installment of October techblogging this week, it is on me for not managing my time better as much as it is on the weather for shutting down UBC campus on Wednesday. I most specifically do not want to blame Flightglobal International, which supported its online archives for a very long and, I am sure, unprofitable period, or my schedule writer at work, who faced, and faces extraordinary and ongoing challenges. 

Also at fault, my own decision to succumb to snow week and write something interesting but unchallenging. 

First, let's meet the winner of the postwar race to replace the DC-3.

By Towpilot - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Postblogging Technology, October 1949, I: Land of the Pale Earth

R_. C_.,

Sangaylay Palace,

Dear Father:

I hope that this reaches you before you leave for the high country, since otherwise . . . 

Well, I suppose that it would just be waiting for you when you return, and that wouldn't be that bad! I need to work on my earnest sentiments here!

Speaking of, Mrs. C.'s little ones miss her terribly, but only say that if you think it will cheer her up, as it beaks her heart to be away from them. I hope that you will be able to finish your business with the Incarnate Deity, or whatever (the nuns were strangely reticent about the details of Buddhist theology!). Ask him what it's like to be reincarnated after you've negotiated our share. And why it is that it's never a woman that's reincarnated? I'd seriously like to know. 

Reggie is looking at tables of airfields in Formosa, because he is not dumb. I'm working away at my schooling, because I'm dumber than I thought! It's not going to beat me, though. Contracts. Grr. Good thing all the fog will be gone in twenty years. (See below!)

Yours Sincerely,

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Bishops' Sea: St. Sunniva, Pray for Us

Sunniva was the sister of St. Alban, the British protomarty, executed sometime between 209AD and 305AD for being a Christian pain in the ass. The Romans made sure that he would be the best "protomartyr" he could possibly be, by beheading him at the site of one of the sacred wells on a main road out of London, which I will never now be able to think about without connecting them with Harrison Hot Springs.  That local colour being dispensed with, I have to notice that it seems like we don't believe in a Celtic "headhunting cult" any more, so we should place less emphasis on the beheading thing.

Sunniva, traumatised by her brother's death, migrated to Ireland, where she happened to be the heir of a kingdom. As happened in those days, a heathen king invaded the kingdom, looking to marry Sunniva and inherit the throne. Sunniva would have none of that, which, actually, I blame on the heathen king, since this kind of thing happened all the time. Anyway, Sunniva did the obvious thing, which was to take two companions and her brother (who was alive again) and migrated to the unoccupied islands of Selja and Kinn, off the coast of Norway.

Unfortunately, they scared the sheep, and by this time it was 962--995, and an evil, pagan Earl of Lade was in charge of Norway. Consequently, when a posse of Norwegians landed on the island, the four saints cast Destruction on the cave they were sheltering in, causing them to all die in the cave in. I'm not sure that I'd handle things this way if  I could cast seventh-level clerical spells, but then, I'm not a saint. Some time later, the bodies were recovered. Being incorrupt, everyone was reminded that they were saints, and the bodies were placed in a timber shrine, which was replaced sometime around 1100 by a Benedictine Abbey dedicated to St. Alban, and also about 1070 by a bishopric and cathedral devoted to St. Michael. By 1405, the Abbey was in ruins, except for the shrine to St. Sunniva, which remains an important Norwegian pilgrimage site, and the Bishop of Bergen took over its benefices. 

As the story of St. Sunniva has some slightly implausible elements, such as her age of approximately 800 at time of death, it is worth at least briefly exploring the details. According to the official history of the Diocese of Bergen, King Olaf Tryggvason (995--1000), was inspired to found a church at Selje by the discovery of Sunniva's relics. This runs into the problem that the church seems to have been dedicated to St. Alban at first, with Sunniva's cult later and secondary, and also Olaf Tryggvason is only slightly less legendary than his supposed grandfather, Harald Fairhair. 

(The entirety of our contemporary record of Olaf Tryggvason: A.D. 994. This year died Archbishop Siric: and Elfric, Bishop of Wiltshire, was chosen on Easter-day, at Amesbury, by King Ethelred and all his council. This year came Anlaf and Sweyne to London, on the Nativity of St. Mary, with four and ninety-ships. And they closely besieged the city, and would fain have set it on fire; but they sustained more harm and evil than they ever supposed that any citizens could inflict on them. The holy mother of God on that day in her mercy considered the citizens, and ridded them of their enemies. Thence they advanced, and wrought the greatest evil that ever any army could do, in burning and plundering and manslaughter, not only on the sea-coast in Essex, but in Kent and in Sussex and in Hampshire. Next they took horse, and rode as wide as they would, and committed unspeakable evil. Then resolved the king and his council to send to them, and offer them tribute and provision, on condition that they desisted from plunder. The terms they accepted; and the whole army came to Southampton, and there fixed their winter- quarters; where they were fed by all the subjects of the West- Saxon kingdom. And they gave them 16,000 pounds in money. Then sent the king; after King Anlaf Bishop Elfeah and Alderman Ethelwerd; (48) and, hostages being left with the ships, they led Anlaf with great pomp to the king at Andover. And King Ethelred received him at episcopal hands, and honoured him with royal presents. In return Anlaf promised, as he also performed, that he never again would come in a hostile manner to England.  

Olaf Kyrre (1050--1093), who is an actual, historic figure, raised Selje to a bishopric in 1068. The associated monastery was evidently not Benedictine yet, and the diocese covered the territory of the later Bergen and Stavanger. It will be noted that at this point there is an ongoing rivalry between Norway's kings, based in the far southwest around, yes, Bergen and Stavanger, and the Earls of Lade (Trondheim), who are associated with the Archbishops of Nidaros (Trondheim.) A man of his age, Olaf Kyrre may have promoted the cult of St. Olaf by planting his shrine at Trondheim. Or it might have been the otherwise mysterious English missionary bishop, Grimkell, who assisted Olaf's conversion efforts. Or the cult of St. Olaf only emerged a century later.

What we know, more-or-less-securely, is that point, Selje was a bishopric in the King of Norway's domains at a time when the Earls of Lade were often in the ascendant, and patronised by Canute the Great.Once the kings finally and definitely defeated the Earls of Lade, Nidaros (Trondheim) became the Norwegian archbishop's seat, and the cult of St. Olaf eclipsed other Norwegian cults. It will also be noted that the cathedral erected to house the remains of St. Sunniva was dedicated to St. Michael, and that the (claimed) first bishop of Selje-as-St. Michael's was St. Bernard the Saxon, was a suffragen of Hamburg-Bremen. This brings him to the attention of Adam of Bremen. As always, we have the problem that Adam's agenda means that he might not accurately report earlier bishops at Selje. 

Adam, who wants to take all the credit for the conversion of the north for the Diocese of Hamburg-Bremen, is certainly early evidence that Olaf Tryggvason existed, and of his cult, but because he needs to take Olaf down a notch, he presents him as a pagan magician, bandalso by portraying him as working with English bishops active in Scandinavia. All this kill-stealing by English bishops is a pretty important issue for Adam, which is why he tells us about it, which, Thank God, because otherwise we wouldn't know about it at all. And, as far as the early history of the plantation of the Atlantic goes, that's actually kind of important.