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Posts Tagged ‘Genghis Khan

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity”*…


elephant-abley (1)


For the powerful, the repetition of stock phrases can be a valuable tactic. These phrases serve to fortify rhetorical armour, deflecting all attack. The armour often brings clichés and abstract words together in a metallic professional embrace. Consider this, from an article on the website of the British government: “The Prime Minister emphasised her desire to listen to the views of businesses, to channel their experience and to share with them the government’s vision for a successful Brexit and a country in which growth and opportunity is shared by everyone across the whole of the UK.” Or this, from a speech by the ceo of Exxon Mobil: “Our job is to compete and succeed in any market, regardless of conditions or price. To do this, we must produce and deliver the highest-value products at the lowest possible cost through the most attractive channels in all operating environments.”

To quote neither the Bible nor William Shakespeare: yada yada yada… Listeners can be lulled into smiling submission.

Or they can be roused to a condition of prefabricated outrage…

How prefabricated language helps everybody from politicians to CEOs disguise what they really want to say: “Clichés As a Political Tool.”

* “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.  When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns…to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.” George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language.”


As we search for meaning, we might recall that today is the anniversary of the day, in 1241, that “most changed history” (per Yale’s Timothy Snyder):

The Mongol warrior Batu Khan [grandson of Genghis Khan] was poised to take Vienna and destroy the Holy Roman Empire. No European force could have kept his armies from reaching the Atlantic. But the death of Ögedei Khan, the second Great Khan of the Mongol empire, forced Batu Khan to return to Mongolia to discuss the succession. Had Ögedei Khan died a few years later, European history as we know it would not have happened…

Batu Khan

Batu Khan on the throne of the Golden Horde  (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 11, 2018 at 1:01 am

“God has no religion”*…


Your correspondent is off for his annual sojourn in the land of dunes and deep-fried food (this year, with a glimpse of the eclipse); regular service should resume on or around August 28.  Meantime…

Not since the angel Gabriel visited Muhammad in a cave around 610 AD, informing him that he is God’s prophet, has there been a new globally influential religion with hundreds of millions of followers. Though the world’s religions are very dynamic, and major faiths continue to shift and evolve in ritual and doctrine, the world today is dominated by the same four faiths that dominated the globe a millennium ago: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. According to a 2012 Pew study, 92 percent of religiously affiliated people around the globe belong to one of these four faiths.

While some relatively recent faiths have succeeded in recruiting millions of followers—such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism), Scientology, and Baha’i—their numbers of adherents are dwarfed in scale by these earlier four. The Baha’i, for example, are a relatively numerous recent faith with an estimated 7 million adherents. That sounds impressive, but it still means that just 0.1 percent of humanity has joined Baha’ism—and the faith has been around for 150 years (since 1863).

Faiths, of course, don’t have to be numerous to deliver spiritual sustenance to their followers, or even to be influential, as Judaism (a religion of 14 million) shows. Still, the small scale of new faiths over the past 1,500 years since Islam raises a question: Why, if creating new faiths is an inextinguishable feature of the human condition, have new religions had such limited recent success?…

The story of one imprisoned prophet illustrates the difficulties of getting a “baby religion” off the ground: “Why Are There No New Major Religions?

C.F. also: Britannica‘s piece on New Religious Movements.

* Mahatma Gandhi


As we direct our prayers, we might spare a thought for Genghis Khan, nee Temüjin; he died on this date in 1227.  The founder of founder of the Mongol Empire (which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death), he launched the Mongol invasions that conquered most of Eurasia, bringing the Silk Road under cohesive political control.  Though renown for the brutality of his campaigns, he practiced meritocracy– and religious freedom.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 18, 2017 at 1:01 am

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?…

 from the ever-estimable xkcd

As we sublimate our similes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1254 that William of Rubruck, a Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer, broke camp to begin the final leg of his journey to the court of the Great Khan at Karakorum.  William’s account of the trek, The journey of William of Rubruck to the eastern parts of the world, 1253-55: as narrated by himself with two accounts of the earlier journey of John of Pian de Carpine, is a masterpiece of medieval geographical literature comparable to the account of Marco Polo.

 The journey of William of Rubruck (source- and larger version)

 Your correspondent is himself headed back to Mongolia– not to Karakorum, but near enough– so regular service will be suspended until mid-April.

Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.

Genghis Khan

Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 29, 2012 at 1:01 am

Leggo my Lego…

Readers will recall The Antikythera Mechanism (“A Connecticut Yankee in King Agamemnon’s Court?…“), the oldest known scientific computer, which was built in Greece probably around 100 BCE.   It was recovered from a shipwreck in 1900; but its purpose remained a mystery for over a century, until archeologists and scientists realized its ingenious intent: it’s an extraordinarily-accurate astronomical clock that determines the positions of celestial bodies– an analog computer with over 100 gears and 7 differential gearboxes– accurate to a day or two over its range.

Andrew Carol has rebuilt the device…  in Lego:

Read the story and see photos here.   And for extra fun, check out Carol’s Lego homage to Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine.  As he says of his work,

Having always loved complex mechanical devices, and never having fully outgrown LEGO, I decided to explore where computational mechanics and LEGO meet. This is not LEGO as toy, art, or even the MindStorms® fusion of LEGO and digital electronics. This is almost where Steampunk and LEGO meet. Hand cranked devices that perform complex mechanical tasks.

[TotH to Universe Today]

As we revel in the satisfaction of making round pegs fit, we might recall that it was on this date in 1271 that Genghis Khan’s grandson and Coleridge’s celebratee Kublai Khan renamed his empire “Yuan,” officially marking the start of the Yuan Dynasty of Mongolia and China.  By 1279, the Yuan army had defeated the last resistance forces of the Song Dynasty, which it succeeded.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree



Now you don’t…

Camouflage– cryptic coloration– is common in the majority of species that have lived on earth; but military camouflage is a relatively recent development.  Through the early 19th Century, almost all soldiers tended to dress in bright colors chosen precisely to make them more identifiable on the battlefield; it was during World War I that camouflage found common use.

The earliest military camouflage drew on the work of zoologist and artist Abbott Thayer, applying lessons from the animal kingdom to secreting troops and tanks.

But World War I was as importantly a naval war.  Norman Wilkinson, a marine painter [and your correspondent’s relatively distant ancestor] who was in the Royal Navy, is credited with being the first to develop camouflage for ships– “dazzle,” a kind of camouflage that is “disruptive” like zebra’s stripes. The Royal Navy allowed him to test his idea; and when the test went well, Wilkinson was told to proceed… but was given no office space.  So he went to his alma mater, the Royal Academy, and was given a classroom. Wilkinson hired Vorticist Edward Wadsworth to be a port officer in Liverpool, England and to oversee the painting of dazzle ships.  In 1918, Wilkinson came to United States to share his dazzle plans. 1,000 plans were developed through this partnership.

One of Wilkinson’s U.S. collaborators was Maurice L. Freedman, the district camoufleur for the 4th district of the U.S. Shipping Board, Emergency Fleet Corporation (a precursor to today’s Merchant Marine).  Maurice’s job was to take the plans, adjust them if necessary, then hire painters (artists, house painters) to paint the ships accordingly.

Freedman, who attended  the Rhode Island School of Design after the war, donated the plans and photos in his collection to the Fleet Library at RISD.  Now (through the end of March) those plans are on display at the library– and online.

As we dress discretely
, we might recall that it was on this date in 1258 that (a decidedly un-camouflaged) Hulagu Khan (a grandson of Genghis) and his Mongol force sacked Baghdad, and brought the Abbasid Caliphate (source of, among other marvels, algebra) to an end.

Hulagu and his Queen, Dokuz Khatun

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