24 December 2007

Books, A Fireplace and Christmas

I've just finished "Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling" by Barbara Holland. I started it while on a long weekend getaway to Middle Bass Island in Lake Erie. A very well written look at how disagreements about people, money, politics, women, land, etc. were settled "with honor" in North America and across Europe. If you think today's mood in Congress is foul, and that there is too much bickering . . . imagine the days when disagreements between politicians were settled in a glade outside of D.C.

Here are some snippets: The Europeans thought Americans were barbarians for using firearms in duels. They would rather run opponent through with a sword -- more civilized that way. The French would find a way to settle honor without hurting each other (sometimes shooting wide of the mark; just standing there showed you had courage and honor), while the Germans believed that the "mark" of a gentleman was a deep scar across the side of one's face. And in many cases, both in America and in Europe, intentionally avoiding a duel (if called out) could result in losing your land, your officer's post in the military, your ability to get a loan, and your status among your peers. A fascinating read and I highly recommend it.

The reading table remains stacked high. I am still working on "State of Emergency" by Patrick Buchanan and just cracked open "The Vision of the Anointed" by Thomas Sowell. The fireplace is going nicely (with wood, not that wussy gas log stuff or simulated electric flames) and I've got a glass of wine within reach. The tree's white lights are twinkling and gifts are wrapped. Perfect. Now if it were only snowing like hell outside.

It is time to reflect. It is time to relax. It is time to look ahead. I wish you good tidings at this most special time of year. Merry Christmas.

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