Thursday 24 October 2019

The Poetry of Things Themselves

This 'week' has actually been a very efficient one for reading. I've probably read more in the month or so since the last post than I did in the rest of the year up to that point. Unfortunately, most of the books that I read were extra-curricular. I've been thinking about maybe doing a review of some of them for the blog at some point, but for now I thought it would be best to get this post out there in the world and set off into Week XXVI rather than putting it off any longer.

The Week That Was:

The History of Herodotus

Book VII
The poor Spartans wish they looked this cool, but their helmets couldn't hold up their glasses.

I greatly enjoyed the way that the slow build and the pages and pages of descriptions of all of the different soldiers in Xerxes' army emphasised just how mindbogglingly huge his force is, whereas the Greek forces are barely mentioned in passing. I expected to feel cheated that all this had built up to a climax that arrived and was over so quickly, but on thinking back on it, it just somehow feels right, that the Persians had spent so many years building up this force and yet the battle was over in a moment.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Chapter XVII

Convenient, isn't it, that when Crusoe leaps mindlessly to save someone in a position of peril he turns out to have saved the captain from mutineers rather than the more likely option of having just laid the captain out. I guess even 26 years alone on an island just can't stop him from being on the side of the establishment. Probably a pretty good metaphor for the whole book, really.

Lucretius by George Santayana

I was not disappointed by picking up this one. Santayana's wit drips off the page, and while he doesn't pull any punches, one can feel his affection shining through. After reading this I am stoked to actually read Lucretius himself, although we're not due to get to him for another three 'months' if we keep to the plan.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 

Volume III - Books II-III

I like Hugo's constant diversions at least as much as the next guy, but having some indication that this little diversion is actually important information that the reader needs to care about is useful, and these chapters do it well. The musical tells us that you don't actually need any backstory about Marius at all to make the story work, but these chapters make a significant difference in helping us understand him and care about him as more than just a pretty face.

Some Numbers: 

The most significant number that we passed this 'week' was that we've now been having this little conversation for five years. At this point, 25 'weeks' into the project, I think it's time to find another name for each group of readings. I haven't come up with a better idea, but if you do, please suggest it in the comments. Though the whole 'seven year reading project' idea has obviously been blown well and truly out of the water by this point, I'm still enjoying myself, so let's keep going.

Pages last week: 112
Pages so far: 2915

Readings for Week XXVI

This week we are in for a lot of Greek even if our dose of Herodotus is a little more managable, since his good buddies Plato and Archimedes are along for the ride. I am particularly looking forward to both of them, because Republic seems to be the Platonic work that causes the most rolled eyes around here, and because, well, Archimedes! I imagine that both will probably be pretty hard work, but all in all it's a relatively quiet week, so I hope that we'll be able to manage, even if my history of managing the mathsy stuff shouldn't fill us with a lot of confidence. Then we're going to finish off Crusoe as a bit of a bit of a palate cleanser, and squeeze in a little Les Mis as well, just for fun. Dr J also had a little more Santayana this week, but while I've enjoyed the diversion, I don't feel like I need to go there.

The History of Herodotus

Book VIII (34 pages)
#gbbw #mands #history #greek

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Chapters XVIII-XX (26 pages)
#ggb #imaginativeliterature #novel #english

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 

Volume III - Book IV (18 pages)
#non_gbww #imaginativeliterature #novel #french

Republic of Plato

Book I (26 pages)
#gbbw #pandt #philosophy #greek #new

The Sand Reckoner by Archimedes

(10 pages)
#gbbw #mathmatics #greek #oneshot

Monday 14 October 2019


This particular prompt is from a couple of days ago, but the image popped into my head and I just had to do it. Maybe I've just been thinking about saints a bunch since Cardinal Newman was canonised this weekend, but with the prompt snow I couldn't help but draw the connection between snow angels and snow saints.

I'm not going to get into the theology of either angels or saints, not only because I am utterly unequipped, but also because both can get pretty nutty pretty quickly. If you're in to that sort of thing, allow me to point you in the direction of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. Suffice it to say that in iconography and in the history of Christian art, most saints, and angels, and those confusing angels that are also saints, are usually depicted with the halo, so it's pretty easy to get them mixed up, at least if the flying and the wings and that sort of thing aren't obvious hints.

Today's drawing depicts John Paul II and John XXIII, who were canonised together back in 2013 playing in the snow making snow saints while poor old Paul VI looks on jealously. Paul would get his fancy hat five years later, once his second attested miracle was confirmed, so perhaps I should have made the figure looking on be John Paul I, whose cause is currently stalled as merely being venerable, after it was determined that his attested miracles don't count, but he just doesn't seem like the jealous type.

Friday 11 October 2019


Oh dear, we've gone from the 2nd to the 10th just like that. I have been struggling with motivation for creative tasks a lot in the last few weeks. I have some fun ideas for bits and pieces that I'd like to have committed to over the course of Inktober so far, but rather than desperately try to catch up I'm just going to jump back in for today and maybe doodle a little some other time.

When prompted by the word pattern, the papal imagination cannot escape from that wonderful adage: After a fat pope, a thin pope. The phrase refers to the way that conclaves tend to look to appoint someone with a different outlook to their predecessor. It isn't meant to refer to the physical characteristics of actual popes, but whenever I think of the phrase I am always reminded of the contrast between the large jovial John XXIII and the thin, severe-looking Paul VI. Then this happened:

The John XXIII that lives inside my head was exactly the sort of fellow that would go to a party and start a conga line. I can just imagine him shouting out the lyrics as he capers around the papal apartments, even if this is a particularly disappointing rendition of him. Paul VI is inevitably drawn in to finish what John starts, as always, and manages to bring a sort of dignified stoicism to the whole farce. Then John Paul I joins in, and when he's left a I just hanging at the end of his name like that, John Paul II has to jump on as well just so that the whole thing doesn't look silly. For some reason I've drawn him here as some kind of tiny wizened yoda figure clinging to JPI's back, which was entirely unintentional, but I love it. Benedict XVI, ever the traditionalist, jumps in just because his predecessors apparently thought that the conga was a good idea, but he wants everyone to know that he's not enjoying this at all. In fairness, Benedict XVI should really be the yoda, he looked undersized next to JPII even at the end of his life, but once I'd unintentionally shrunk JPII it would have silly to keep going. And of course, Francis brings up the rear, he likes a party, although the poor man is particularly struggling with a few physical deformities that he doesn't deserve, due to being on the far-right of the piece of paper when I was drawing him. What did I do to his ears?

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Mindless: Inktober Day 2

I have been enjoying the efforts of some of my artistically inclined friends the last few days with the annual coming of the phenomenon that is Inktober. While I'm generally partial to a festival, and the sillier the better, Inktober has never been one that has interested me, because despite my long-standing desire to make a comic about time-travelling popes one day, I cannot draw to save my life.

That said, if I were to attempt to participate, I would no doubt try to do something Papish. Back when I began this blog, I used to spend a lot of my time thinking of strange situations to put various popes in, but I have a memory like a sieve and over the years I've forgotten almost all of the useless information that I've crammed into my head, so if I am going to do this, I'm going to have to do a lot of googling.

I've already missed day one, but the prompt for today is mindless. While it would seem like there's got to be some low-hanging fruit there making fun of some ridiculous theological stance, it was never really the vibe for Habemus Papas to make fun of religion. Instead, I want to have fun with religion, using these fascinating historical figures as the backdrop. So if theology is out, so where does mindlessness take us?

Then the obvious answer hit me. What I was looking for was a pope who had quite literally lost their mind. Which popes had been decapitated? Sadly for the purposes of this aspiring cartoonist, the list is shorter and less interesting than I would have expected. Lots of the early popes are have been traditionally described as martyrs, and often as beheaded, but actually sourcing the stories of their deaths is difficult, largely because we know very little about most of them. There's Sixtus II, who was almost certainly beheaded in 258 AD under Valerian, but what would I draw, 5 blokes in a cemetery blessing? Oh, for a papal Cephalophore!

In the end, I decided just to go right ahead and pick a scene from the life of my favourite possibly decapitated pope, St Fabian. He was martyred by Emperor Decius, traditionally understood to have been by the sword, so he counts as mindless, but perhaps his closest association with beheading is that he sent St. Denys, (Guess we're going to talk about Cephalophores after all!) to Gaul.

For most of papal history, Popes could be appointed in three main ways. Either the electors voted and picked someone, or they appointed a subcommittee to pick someone for them, or most rarely, by acclamation, where everyone unanimously just picks someone. Fabian, who wasn't even a priest at the time, became the first Pope appointed by acclamation when a dove landed on his head while he was standing in the crowd watching the voting, and the similarity to Pentecost was so overwhelming that everyone agreed that it was a miraculous sign and instantly declared him Pope.

He turned out to be a pretty good Pope, too. I can't see him being a notable character in a time travelling pope comic given how little we really know about him, but he's undoubtedly going to turn up in the background somewhere when I get around to it, which is definitely absolutely about to happen, because, hey, he has a birb on his head.