Wednesday 30 March 2022

No Shrine Shall Mark His Abode of Final Rest

                                                  What a naughty boy den?

The Great Ghengis Khan (d. 1227) is a fascinating character from history. A man who founded the greatest contiguous empire in history and was responsible for the deaths of about 40,000,000. A 2003 genetic study established that 0.5% of the world's male population are descended from this man. Mayhap he acted with foresight and therefore was keen to replace the folk he murdered. Or it could be a consequence of a surfeit of wives/concubines and between merciless sweeps across Eurasia, he could be found in his bed-chamber. He is revered by the Mongol nation today and statues, of the Khan, riding atop his gallant steed, 'Shagger' can be seen adorning the windswept tundra throughout the Mongolian steppe.

I started one of my famous 'Trilogy in Fours Parts'  regarding the abstruse (nay, unfathomable) Huns and as the 'series' develops I will be specifically writing about 'Atilla the Hun' and his ambivalent relationship with the Roman Empire. I mention this here because, like Atilla and his hordes, Ghengis and his tribesmen were horse archers. As I develop my theme about Atilla in future posts, I will raise the issue of how Western rulers coped with the horse archer's mode of warfare, or to be exact, why they struggled to counter this, for them, an alien approach to war. That'll do for now. My readership will have to wait, no doubt with keen anticipation and bated breath for the continuation of the 'Atilla Saga'- but only if I can be bothered.

Today, I would like to consider the final resting place of the 'Great Khan'. Like many famous men throughout history, Ghengis' burial has accrued legends. And in contradiction to what you may find on YouTube, his final place of eternal repose remains a mystery, wrapped in a conundrum and seeped in a cauldron of enigma juice (lightly seared).

Scholars surmise that the most likely location of the tomb is in the sacred region of Burkhan Khaldun in Mongolia. Fantastic myths became prevalent soon after Ghengis' death. For instance, there is a story that the several thousand slaves who toiled in constructing the tomb were slain by their guards. In turn, the soldiers were killed by a second contingent. To make sure, anyone encountered by the burial party, on the way, was killed leaving a bloody wake. You would think that anyone wishing to locate the tomb just had to follow the trail of corpses or even the smell. This was Ghengis' last wish to maintain the location of the tomb a secret. Of course, the rampant implementation of death could go on forever. Perhaps the final survivors were killed only after returning to their base. Just as in life, his death was steeped in blood. As legends go, this is eminently plausible and in keeping with Ghengis' savage nature. If the Khan was buried according to the custom, of the time, he would have been interred in a wooden structure about 20 feet below the ground. A degree of opulence would be expected to follow the 'Great Khan' in his afterlife, together with sacrificed horses, wives and servants. It is said that after the burial a thousand horses ran rampant across the site erasing all signs of the location. Another tale relates that a river was diverted to submerge the area in keeping and reminiscent of the burial of 'Alaric the Toff/Sloth' (apparently he was a dapper fellow but indolent), he of sacker of Rome fame/renown. In the 'Travels of Marco Polo' (13th century), the peregrineous (not a real word) eyetie, related that the place of burial was unknown to the Mongols of the day.

Modern scientists and engineers have employed an array of expensive technology in an effort to unearth the 'mauselium' and it is thought that the grave belongs to the sacred region, as fortold, about 240 square miles in extent. In keeping with the inhabitant's sensibilities, the researchers/searchers use non-invasive imagery together with roaming drones in order to locate ground anomalies consistent with historic soil disturbance. In 2004 the palace of Ghengis was found in this area strongly suggesting that the tomb is within the vicinity. The government keeps a strict watch on the region and limits, not only access to the area, but also research activity. This policy continues to hamper the search and it is considered likely that Ghengis Khan's final resting place will remain forever a secret, unless it doesn't.

Sunday 20 March 2022

Uplifting Poetry Corner: My Arse

 Poetry, bloody Poetry. To be honest I have tried to write poetry of an uplifting variety. Something that will elevate the chronic condition of life and provide a glimmer of hope. Sadly, every effort results in the same depressing despond. Never mind, say I, tis a clear indication of the human condition and my response. Bugger! 

A psychiatrist writes: Flaxen Saxon has many deep and unresolved issues stemming from a highly dysfunctional childhood and early family life. His psychological tumult finds expression in his brooding, nihilistic prose and poetry. This offers but a temporary respite and can no way lead to a permanent resolution of Saxon’s deep-seated and profound psychological problems.

A Flaxen Saxon replies: Fuck off Dr Fell. You only see the portion of
                                                       my psyche which I deign to reveal.

I do not like you Dr Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell.
But this I know and know full well,
I do not like you, Dr Fell. 

Now for more pretentious, self-indulgent and cathartic poetry. If you ain't slashing your wrists after this one, then you are already dead.
Night and day become as one,
Unrestrained grey endlessly trudges on.
Scant sense, no pleasure, no pain,
Humdrum certainty in a coarse domain.
 Murky shallows, indifferent response,
Ill-defined colours of no consequence.
Toneless flows of clammy pallor,
Clumsy devices of scant veneer.
Boundless detachment and callous regard,
Pitiful retort and emotional retard.
Wilted riposte to arguments feeble,
All are damned, all is ignoble.
This day was like the last,
Stretching tedium into infinite past.
The future is but the same,
Quietly driven calmly insane.
Lengthening shadows on a windswept shore,
No sense of time in a place that is amoral.
Pity the life that remains restrained,
Pity the life that is all but drained.
Dragged slowly into eternal sloth,
On a lamed charger decked in a ragged cloth.
Limpid stance in an entropic domain,
A fool to the end and fools remain.

Friday 18 March 2022

White Dog

                         The New Additions to the Family: 'Little Man' and 'Alfie'

My readers are well aware of the dusky canine that occasionally stalks the author. Most of the time he skulks in an eldritch realm far from my ken. But there are times when he deigns to enter my realm. He is a cunning shadow that lurks in the dark of the room or is wont to whisper in my dreams. And yet it is within his power to lope and caper by my side, if he so desires. O dark beast you test me! Note to self: Need more dog food.

This post is not about the flaxen-haired one, but this interesting tale/tail concerns my long-suffering wife, aptly named, Mrs Flaxen Saxon.

For the past 20 years, we have harboured fluffy white dogs of the Maltese variety. We started off with 'Chloe' whom we bought at the local pet shop when she was 4 months old. Twas mutual love at first sight and beloved Chloe became my wife's constant companion even unto the shitter. Not long after we acquired a Maltese pup whom we named Loki. A while later we gathered unto our breast a third dog, the result of the lawful union of our Chloe and Loki. Mandy is the hound that appears on the front page of the blog. Nature eventually took its course and poor Chloe died of old age about 6 years ago. Soon after my wife began seeing fleeting images of a small white dog around the house. If she looked directly at the image, it would disappear. We ascribed the 'sightings' to the underlying psychological trauma associated with the loss of Chloe- my wife and Chloe were incredibly close and Mrs Saxon found it very difficult to adjust to our dog's death. Over the following years, the phantasm become less, and eventually became no more.

In February of last year, Loki was euthanised due to kidney failure and four months later, Mandy died. Of course, we were both upset but it is just another part of life's rich tapestry. And as life continues on and revolves on the carousel of existence we obtained two further Maltese dogs a year ago. A father and son (puppy) team. Well, that would be the end of the story except recently my good wife is experiencing a reinstatement of her ghostly companion. Very similar to the previous manifestation; a fleeting white flash or soulful eyes peering down our long hallway.

I'm not well versed in human psychology although I did write a dissertation on the notion of Freud's concept of 'Reppresion' as an undergraduate. Clearly, my wife is experiencing a 'psychological trauma' that is being resolved by the apparition. I'm a rationalist and always seek to find a natural and logical explanation of so-called psychic phenomena. This series of events is no exception. I suspect as my wife heals the externalisation and projection of a figment of the mind will become less and thus finally peter out.......

Thursday 17 March 2022


I thought I would have a 'change of pace' for this post and leave theology and science for another day. I haven't been particularly productive of late as my health has been indifferent. There is a bright spot, however. Two weeks ago I had an appointment with my doctor concerning the seizure I suffered in late November of last year. At the time my driving licence was revoked and as I live in a rural area devoid of public transport this has proved to be a major pain. Anyway, the doc reckons, after reviewing the variety of results from a battery of tests, that my subsequent risk of having a further seizure is low and therefore my licence will be reinstated in late May. Good news indeed.

So today I'm dealing with an element of ancient military equipment that has seen scant regard from modern historical pundits. Several years ago I produced a post about the famous/infamous Roman sword, the gladius. Together with the scutum and the pilum, the gladius completed the triad of military equipment that became synonymous with the military power and fighting prowess of the Roman legion. In addition to these weapons, the Roman legionnaire sported a secondary sidearm, the pugio, or Roman dagger.

Like the gladius, the pugio is thought to have originated from the Iberian peninsular and adapted for Roman military use during the Spanish campaign in the Second Punic War. Also, like the early gladius, the pugio excelled as a stabbing weapon and possibly reflected the fighting characteristics of Rome's enemies of the later era of the Republic. The main enemies from this period were the Greeks and Carthaginians. These 'civilised' opponents relied heavily on armour for defence and an effective stabbing weapon was required to pierce metal and leather breastplates. Interestingly, the gladius changed its geometry in later years when the Romans were confronted by Celtic and Germanic folks who were mostly devoid of armour. The modified gladius become a more effective slashing weapon.

Like most dedicated fighting knives, the pugio came with a double edge making it ideal for close fighting. The pugio came in various forms and sizes and varied from about 7 to 11 inches in length and 2 inches in width. Most would be considered as 'leaf shaped' in form, although this is not uniformly the case. The sheath came available in various patterns. Usually, they were comprised of iron with an internal lining of wood, to protect the edge whilst sheathed.

Although, its form is obviously suited for its role as a fighting knife it has been suggested that it was used as a general use knife for everyday mundane activities, such as scratching an itch or paring a particularly succulent piece of fruit. However, anyone familiar with knives, various, will note that the overall geometry of the knife and its relatively large size makes it unsuitable as a utility utensil. The possession of the Pugio also conveyed/conferred an air of elevated status and marked the wearer as a military man. And to support this view the hilt was often decorated and personalised with, copper, tin and even silver adornments.

Enough of this. On an unrelated note: I purchased an electric scooter, or as my lovely family refer to it- 'Pop's spakka mobile'. How very quaint. I managed to buy this item second hand, although it is only a few months old. As I'm unable to drive it gives me the option of travelling into town on my own steam. It whips along at a reasonable speed and goes for 15 km before requiring a recharge. And it's quite fun to ride. That will do for the short commute to town and make me less reliant on my family for car rides.

I need to force myself to compose, at the moment, as I'm experiencing one of my periodic, desponds or 'Black Dog'. Never mind. I have a very supportive family and with their help, I will 'come right'. So bear with me if my content for the next week or so becomes sparse and erratic in content. Whoop, whoop.    

Wednesday 9 March 2022

Ring Species

I thought I'd return to an old favourite of mine- evolution. What I find particularly annoying is the attitude of the religious fundamental brigade and their insistence that there is no concrete evidence for evolution, whatsoever. Frankly, it makes me wanna burn stuff. Why are they so insistent that there can be no evolutionary change from one species to another? They will not acknowledge that populations change, over time, in the thrall of evolutionary pressures, eventually giving rise to genetically separate species. The answer is quite simple and quite sad: adherents dismiss evolution as a mechanism of speciation because it appears contrary to scripture, or God's majesty, or not in keeping with the contradictory accounts in Genesis. Never mind that the evidence is multifarious, deep and gathered from diverse subjects, various. Never mind that the basic tenets of evolution, through natural selection, have stood the test of time since first proposed by Charles Darwin in 1859. 

 I would like to introduce a further skein of evidence. The 'fundies' are wont to insist that micro-evolution exists, but macro-evolution does not. And they understand macro-evolution as the formation of a new species from an existing one. In this regard, I will define a distinct species at its most basic: a discrete reproducing population able to produce reproductively viable offspring. There are other ways of defining a species, but this basic definition will suffice for the purpose of this post.

Today's post will take an askew glance (steady Flaxen, you are starting to wax lyrical) at 'Ring Species' as evidence for macro-evolution. This is useful for illustrating an oft-neglected part of evolution. Whilst the accepted definitions deal with discrete entities, it should be acknowledged that the path of evolution involves a continuum, of individuals, with varying degrees of 'change' from the population they are evolving from. Ultimately, at its most fundamental, evolution concerns the individual. The human mind desires discrete concepts that can be neatly placed within conceptual boxes. We abhor gradation and messy transitions expressed as a spectrum of traits. Tis tough because real biology is particularly squelchy.

For my prime example, I would like to proffer the majestic Larus gull, and its ilk, emerging, stage left...

These gulls are cited as the textbook example of a ring species. The arctic is circumscribed by land, continental and island chains. The adaptable gull has colonised these lands to the full. Individuals are able to freely reproduce with the adjacent gull populations, as to be expected. What might surprise some are that discrete populations on opposite sides of the arctic are unable to reproduce with each other and therefore fulfil our definition of distinct and separate species. However, if we track reproductive viability between adjacent populations of gulls anywhere upon the 'ring', we observe full reproductive viability. This is an oversimplification of the real situation, of course. Biology is never as succinct and 'sanitised' as depicted in the textbooks and in reality, is generally a lot messier, and dare I say- squelchy. Those of a sensitive nature may have realised that I have not been taking my prescribed medication, of late. Arse

There are other examples of ring species in the biological world but the aforementioned gull is a prime, but not uncontroversial, example of the concept under consideration. How many separate and reproductively discrete gull species are present in our sample/example? Tis difficult to say, precisely, and is dependent on a particular geographic perspective. The gulls on 'opposite sides', because of their inability to interact and exchange genetic information will continue to diverge genetically as natural selection fixates advantageous genetic traits, within the given environment. There is also the mechanism of 'genetic drift' to contend with. This refers to the fluctuation and fixation of genetic traits based upon chance genetic change. This is particularly pertinent to small breeding populations. Mayhap sparse gull populations on the smaller arctic islands could be prone to this genetic phenomenon. However, this is pure speculation on my behalf. We should never rule out the possibility that my musings are just the reverie, or fevered phantasm, of a disordered mind devoid of pharmacological induced stability.   

In this brief and simple post, I hope I have cited a concrete and ongoing example of evolution in action ultimately depicting speciation. Fundamental Christians should take note. Their sensible 'progressive' and liberal brethren have taken on board evolution as a legitimate mechanism for biological change, even though they wrongly ascribe said mechanism to their mythical, non-evidential deity. However, their scientifically unenlightened, fellow Christians, are unlikely to change as they are irrevocably wedded to a pre-enlightenment system of religious doctrine and dogma. But what more can we expect from a group who collectively consider the Earth to be no more than 6,000 years old and consider fossils, of obvious ancient origins, to have been spuriously planted at the behest of a mischievous and very naughty god.