Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Edward Dorn's Gunslinger

by G. Jack Urso

 
“I met in Mesilla

The Cautious Gunslinger”

 
So opens Edward Dorn’s classic epic poem, Gunslinger, an opus spanning four “books” that takes the reader through the post-modern cultural landscape of 1960s America. It is a modern version of Homer’s Odyssey, with a little bit of Dante’s Divine Comedy and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, all rolled into one. 
 

The title Gunslinger, as indicated in the introduction by Marjorie Perloff in the 1989 Duke University Press edition, is a take on the mythic Western “lone gunman” who moves through the Wild West, guided only by his own inner sense. Dorn’s Gunslinger does the same, only the Wild West he moves through is the counter-culture of the 1960’s.

 
The term "lone gunman" brings to mind two of the foremost lone gunmen of the 1960s: Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy, and Charles Whitman, the tower shooter at the Texas A&M building. Additionally, reinforcing the Western theme, both are Texans (and ex-marines), which also figures into the Western myth of the lone gunman. Dorn criticizes the culture that breeds this violent creature by satirizing the primary heroic icon of the era.
 

Themes
 

Gunslinger is published at a time when the myth of the Western hero is just at the end of being the classic heroic icon of the era. In 1964, Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name,” star of three Italian spaghetti Westerns, makes his debut in A Fistful of Dollars, and the blending of the Western myth with a capitalist slogan anticipates Dorn’s thesis. Gunslinger, published in 1968, took years for Dorn to compose, so the book’s creative genesis comes at a time when the traditional view of the Western hero was just beginning to be challenged. As such, Gunslinger is symptomatic of a deeper current in the mass consciousness of the 1960s. A skepticism expressing itself spontaneously in various media, and challenging traditional norms by embracing, and redefining, our iconic cultural heroes, such as the rugged individualist, the loner, the cowboy, the thief, the lawman, the lone gunman…the Gunslinger.

 
In the immediate post-World War II era, the “Western” as a genre dominated film and TV. For many reasons, too numerous to count here, the Western myth was very compelling to American audiences of that era. Dorn purposely taps into the same vein that is feeding Hollywood and Western culture and turns it on its head. The inclusion of characters named Horse, Kool, and Tonto reinforces this point.

 
Sorry Horse, Kool said gently

I lost my head.
 

Forget it Everything, you’ve got

A lot on your mind. Here, have a chew

Off my plug.
 

Is that Tennessee roughcut?
 

No, It’s Pakistani Black.

Gunslinger, Book II
 

The wildness of the West is explored through the drug culture. In each of the four books that comprise Gunslinger, drugs, such as marijuana, LSD, or cocaine, are integrated into the story at some level. This combination of an alternate take on a mass media icon, the gunslinger, and the drug counter-culture, creates a sort of baby boomer tall-tale. The tall-tale, of course, being another facet of the Western myth Dorn is satirizing.

 
Style

Dorn occasionally inserts the words “strum” or "twang" and a play of different repetitive combinations of these words at certain critical points in the poem. This is much like watching an old Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western and hearing Ennio Morricone’s memorable theme at certain critical points.

                                                                                                             

Edward Dorn
Dorn also utilizes numerous styles and stanza patterns in Gunslinger. Free form, four-line numbered stanzas, visual poems, etc. This does not distract from the focus of the work, but rather provides different "voices" in which to tell the tale. Very much like a group of friends sitting around a table, each one picking up telling the story from where the other leaves off. In this way, the work echoes Canterbury Tales, which helped established this approach to uniting various tales under one general theme.
 

Gunslinger utilizes a rhizomatic approach where the poem is an organic form without a heavy central structure to tie it down to predictable patterns. Gunslinger is exploring chaotic times, so the structure, or lack thereof, of the work mirrors the society it reflects.
 

There are occasions when Dorn throws in a reference that will be unfamiliar to the reader, but these are few and far in-between each other, and the story is compelling enough that they do not distract.
 

With its roots in popular culture, Gunslinger is a very approachable and fairly accessible book. Due to its length, it’s definitely a challenge; however, if you enjoy the poetry of Allen Ginsberg or Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gunslinger will very much be at home on your bookshelf.   


 
Work Cited

Dorn, Edward. Gunslinger. Durham and London: Duke University
      Press, 1989. Print.




Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ceramic Body and Vehicular Armor Forecast Through 2015

by G. Jack Urso
 

The following article was written for a competitive intelligence industry newsletter –August 2010
 

One measure of an army’s combat survivability can be found in the quality and quantity of its body and vehicular armor. The past decade of conflict for U.S. forces in the Middle East has been marked problems in the supply chain for ceramic armor products, with the military often playing catch-up to its forces’ requirements. As the second decade of the 21st century gets underway, U.S. military’s ceramic body and vehicular armor needs will be constrained by reduced funding levels for the next few years.  

Reports by the Defense Logistics Agency and the U.S. Army Materiel Command suggest a conservative ceramic armor spending posture through 2015. Budget cuts by the Defense Department combined with fewer deployments, among other factors, will reduce procurement of ceramic body and vehicular armor products. 

A contraction in military and law enforcement body armor procurement in 2008 and 2009 was reported by Vector Strategy, a market research company specializing in the armor industry. A conservative procurement rate through 2015 based on FY11 budget documents and U.S. Army reports provided at the Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Conference in Monterey, California, February 2010. Nevertheless, $6 billion dollars in body armor will be procured for the U.S. Army and Marines in the period from 2009 through 2015.  

Programs to be funded include:
             Combat Vehicle crewmen body armor systems

             Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH)

             Improved Modular Tactical Vest (IMTV) for the USMC

             Lighter weight Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts
               (ESAPI) and "X" Small Arms Protective Insert (XSAPI)
               armor that meets current performance requirements.

             Lighter weight plates with lower ballistic protection levels

             Upgrades to the Improved Outer Tactical Vest, (IOTV)

             US Army Plate Carriers

             USMC Plate Carriers
 

According to Marcia Price, President of Vector Strategy, in a 2009 press release, "That $6 billion of body armor will not be procured evenly between 2009 and 2015. There will be surges required for specific theater needs; and the development and procurement of the Next Generation Vest and Plate will cause procurement volume fluctuations between now and 2015. The market will rely substantially on sustainment requirements in certain fiscal years."
Fig. 1: Anticipated 2011 Material Requirements Trends - By Armor Type. Prepared by Vector Strategy.
Procurement of Front/Back (F/B) plate by the U.S. military over the past four fiscal years has generally been falling:

             2007: $414 million

             2008: $363 million

             2009: $248 million

             2010: $286 million

U.S. military acquisition of F/B plates bottoms out in 2012 at $201 million, which translates into approximately 182,000 sets. F/B plate armor procurement in 2012 and 2013 focus primarily on sustainment, spending approximately $200 million each year for 180,000 to 200,000 sets. A rebound in F/B plate acquisition is projected by Vector Strategy to pick up in 2014 and 2015, to approximately $400 million each year.  

The F/B plate market in this timeframe is driven by the assumption that, in 2013, the US Army and USMC will initiate procurement of a Next Generation SAPI (NGSAPI, i.e. post XSAPI) that is driven by technology and design improvements. This procurement initiates in late 2013 for both the US Army and the USMC. A peak monthly procurement rate of 15,000 sets for the Army and 6,500 sets for the Marines is projected, according to Vector Strategy.  

As with F/B plate and NGSAPI, Side Plate procurement in 2011 and 2012 will be driven mainly by sustainment needs with approximately $80 million in sales annually. In 2013, however, sales pick up with Next Generation Side Ballistic Inserts and Side SAPIs (NGSBIs and NGSSAPIs) being acquired along with NGSAPI and the NGVest. Side Plate procurement is projected to grow to $222 million annually by 2015.  

The Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (ESAPI) and X Small Arms Protective Insert (XSAPI) are lighter-weight ceramic armor products that stop higher-velocity projectiles than current SAPI. Despite delays in XSAPI development, on March 31, 2011, Ceradyne reported it was awarded a $36 million contract for XSAPI ceramic body armor plates. Delivery will begin in the second quarter of 2011 be completed in the third quarter of 2011. Ceradyne’s ESAPI and XSAPI designs weigh 10 - to 15-percent less than NGSAPI.  
Fig. 2: Anticipated Material Requirements Trends By Material Type. Prepared by Vector Strategy.
The new Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH) is on track to start being fielded in the fall of 2011, with an initial procurement by the Army of 200,000 helmets. This will also contribute to ceramic armor requirements through 2015.  

2013 is a pivotal year, with the anticipation of the Next Generation SAPI (NGSAPI) for both the U.S. Army and Marine Corp and possibly the NGVest as well. Approximately 6.500 sets per month of NGSAPI is projected to be acquired for the Marines, and approximately 15,000 sets of NGVests per month for the Army, and 5,000 sets per month for the Marines through 2015. As a result, sustainment of the U.S. military’s body and vehicular armor inventory will be key until new product enters the market in 2013.  

The US military ground vehicle (MGV) armor material requirements is also projected to drop over the next several years. In 2008, the total material requirements for MGV armor totaled 248 million pounds. That number is slated to fall to 84 million pounds per year by 2013.  

The 2008 MGV armor material procurement was driven by the acquisition of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, driven by the demands of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Procurement falls through 2013 due to funding cuts and the transition to lighter weight and lower areal density armor.  
Fig. 3: Anticipated 2011 Material Requirements Trends - By Vehicle Category.
Prepared by Vector Strategy.
Vector Strategy projects a conservative acquisition rate of vehicular armor by the U.S. military through 2015. Contributing factors, in addition to budget cuts, include excess inventory of tactical wheeled vehicles, a draw-down of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the halt in armor B-kit procurement for tactical vehicles, and the wait for several new vehicles to enter production. 
 
One effect of the overall decline in ceramic armor procurement by the United States may be to push smaller U.S. body armor integrators and manufacturers to seek partnerships with, or be acquired by, larger corporations, including those owned by non-U.S. companies. This will provide an opportunity for manufacturers to position themselves for the anticipated growth in the ceramic armor market by mid-decade.  

While current ceramic armor procurement by U.S. military and law enforcement agencies has contracted in recent years, the next few years will be marked by a general stabilization in some areas of the industry, though vehicle armor procurement will continue to fall. Based on available projections, a slow rebound is anticipated between 2013 and 2015.
 
 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Poetics in the Post-Modern Age

by G. Jack Urso


Michelangelo once said regarding his artistry as a sculpture that the statue was already encased in the marble, he just chipped away anything that was not the statue. I find the most important part of the creative process, as a poet, is the process of re-writing. Like Michelangelo, I sometimes feel that the poem already exists and that the process of drafting and redrafting is akin to a sculptor “chipping away everything that is not the statue,” or, in my case, the poem.

In the process of re-writing the poem we do so, of course, with some vision of the poem’s final incarnation. There are also considerations to be given to the physical structure of the poem itself as it appears on the page. In the post-modern age artists veer towards the creation of works that are dramatically different than the styles the dominated in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries.

When public access to visual imagery was limited, so was the level of literacy. Rhyming was a necessary component to song and poetry writing. The reason is simple, how else to remember a thousand lines of poetry when you can’t read if the damn thing doesn’t rhyme? Now, at the dawn of the Twenty-First century we find ourselves constantly surrounded and bombarded by a cascading flow of visual imagery. Indeed, the average person today can see as much visual imagery in a day as a serf from the European Dark Ages was likely to see in a lifetime. As a result, our attention span has shortened and our need for the rhyme as a method of memory retention has faded. Rhizomatic poetry reflects a parallel evolution in our literary tradition.

The rhizome is defined as a type of plant-life that grows without any central root and in no particular pattern. Rhizomatic poetry defines a type of poem that typically lacks central organization structural patterns. It may also depend on a literate audience that can project an understanding of issues the poet may only allude to in the poem. Poetry prepared in a heavily structured style, such as a Shakespearean sonnet, is no longer the vernacular of the everyday reader. Consequently, writing in such a format is likely to isolate the writer from the reader.

Given the above, we explore the older poetic styles of a metered rhyming scheme more as an intellectual exercise rather than an active expression of literary creativity. This is not to imply that rhizomatic poetry is not an intellectual exercise, but, as the cutting-edge expression of 21st century poetics, it is free from the baggage that bogs down older, more traditional, poetic structures. Just ask any 9th grader who has had to slog through Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

This is not to suggest that there is no place for rhyming in modern poetry, for certainly it still serves a purpose. From rap-style poetry slams, to more subtle uses where a couplet might be used to emphasize a point, the rhyming structures are far simpler than the older sonnets and villanelles.

However, as the rhizome has evolved in response to the formal structure from earlier periods, it has developed among academics into a language almost unto itself, requiring a formal and sophisticated higher education to fully appreciate the literary allusions and poetic mechanics.

Gilles Deleuze and Feliz Guattari in their book, A Thousand Plateaus Capitalism and Schizophenia, states “A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” (Deleuze and Guattari 7). The poetics behind the rhizome, seeks to connect ideas to larger academic disciplines and social constructs.

The human mind naturally seeks patterns, so the rhizome challenges that basic inclination. By forcing a conflict with the reader, the writer engages the reader and forces a reaction. The potential flaw in rhizomatic poetry is that the topics often explored are so esoteric that it appeals to a relatively small part of the population, even among those inclined to read poetry. When that has occurred, I feel the poem has failed in its most basic mission - to communicate ideas simply and effectively.

The Electronic Disturbance, by the Creative Art Ensemble, uses the rhizome to explore the effect of mass media/communications on the individual. The work below, while taken out of context from the text, nonetheless ably demonstrates the rhizome as an approach to poetry. This particular piece is meant to reflect the contribution of the classical Italian poet Dante to what the authors call “The Virtual Condition,” which they define as the effect of technology in removing the boundaries between such bodies of knowledge as history and philosophy, to produce a new body of knowledge, and a new language to express it.

VI

1321

So here on earth, across a slant of light
that parts the air within the sheltering shade
man’s arts and crafts contrive, our mortal sight 

observes bright particles of matter ranging
up, down, aslant, darting, or eddying;
longer and shorter; but forever changing
 

So here on screen, across a slant of light
That parts the air within the sheltering shade
man’s arts and crafts contrive, our mortal sight 

observes bright particles of matter ranging
up, down, aslant, darting, or eddying;
longer and shorter; but forever changing
(Critical Art Ensemble 9)


 
In the above example, the poem is repeated nearly word for word, exchanging only “earth” for “screen.” The different fonts used suggest different voices, sort of a religious antiphonic response. This is a technique used throughout The Electronic Disturbance. Yet, in reading the above piece, one cannot help but feel a sense of ambiguity on behalf of the author. This poem, this rhizome, is more of an intellectual exercise rather than a visceral emotional release. I certainly enjoy poetry as a cerebral exercise; however, the high-brow academic intellectualism of the rhizome often leaves me with a sense of detachment, rather than engagement.


Any relationship between Dante and the overall theme of the text in the above piece seems a bit buried in an monologue completely shared with the reader, unless you already speak the language of the rhizome and happen to know that Dante died in 1321 (ergo the numbers in the title).

Taking a step back from the more heady intellectual approach, I used the rhizome as the model of composition to express a more common existential meditation:


Version 1.0


before i was
wherefore i
before i’m born
borne
and died
before i dreamt
dreams i’ve seen
before i go
wherefore i’ve been
 

i always was
as now am i
middle of the being
who, what and why
i’m always leaving
before i’m left
as i’ll grieve
before i’m bereft
sometimes often
i am me
which i’ve been told
i seldom see


The above poem was composed in a workshop led by Professor Pierre Joris at the University at Albany. Joris is an author and a leading proponent of the rhizome as a poetic model of composition. This poem was composed using a "restricted vocabulary;" avoiding longer words layered with meaning and instead utilizing one or two syllable words that are essentially at a grade school level of comprehension. The rhyme is still present, leading the reader from one line to the next, but it follows no particular pattern.

Joris defines the rhizome in Action Yes Online Quarterly, Winter 2011, in a manner that exemplifies the academic obscurity of the rhetorical tools used to develop this particular genre of poetry.

Joris: What is needed now is a nomadic poetics. Its method will be rhizomic: which is different from collage i.e., a rhizomatics is not an aesthetics of the fragment, which has dominated poetics since the romantics even as transmogrified by modernism, high and low, and more recently retooled in the neoclassical form of the citation—ironic and/or decorative—throughout which is called “postmodernism.” Strawberry Fields Forever. A nomadic poetics will cross languages, not just translate, but write in all or any of them. If Pound, Joyce, Stein, Olson, & others have shown the way, it is essential now to push the matter further, again, not so much as “collage” (though we will keep those gains) but as a material flux of language matter. To try & think, then, of this matter as even pre-language, proto-semantic, as starting from what Julia Kristeva calls the chora, which she defines as “a temporary articulation, essentially mobile, constituted of movements and their ephemeral stases.” And then to follow this flux of ruptures and articulations, of rhythm, moving in & out of semantic & non-semantic spaces, moving around & through the features accreting as poem, a lingo-cubism, no, a lingo-barocco that is no longer an “explosante fixe” (Breton) but an “explosante mouvante.” (Eshleman)

If you managed to survive reading the above you will now understand why I stopped writing poetry for about a decade after taking Joris’ class. The use of literary technical jargon by devotees of the rhizome puts a distance between the poet and the reader, rather than creating an emotional connection. However, to his credit, Joris is a generous instructor who gave me the freedom to explore my own voice, which is what all writers need to find and develop.

Both of the above poems show the flexibility of the rhizome as an approach to modern poetics; however, the academic basis of the rhizome does limit the audience. In contrast, the poetry read at modern-day “slams” is much more visceral in its emotional content and arguably enjoys wider popular appeal. Indeed, poetry of the rhizome is often better appreciated when read alone or in small groups than before a larger audience.

Whether any poem succeeds, however, is wholly dependent on a relationship between the writer and the reader. Certainly, poets should write for themselves first; however, if the poet is the only one who “gets” the poem, so to speak, the poem has failed. Great poetry, in addition to the mastery of a certain style, should be visceral, the kind that leaps off the page, kicks you in the gut, and sticks with you.

Or, as Robert Penn Warren wrote, "You can feel a good poem in your toes."



Works Cited

Creative Arts Ensemble. The Electronic Disturbance. Autonomedia:
              Brooklyn. 1994. Print.

Deleuze, Gilles and Feliz Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism
              and Schizophenia. University of  Minnesota Press:
              Minneapolis. 1987. Print.

Eshleman, Clayton. “Organized Nomadistorms of Broken Oases.” 
              Action Yes Online Quarterly. actionyes.org, Winter 2011. 
              Web. 7. July 2012. < http://actionyes.org/issue15/eshleman/
              eshleman2.html>.

 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Antikythera Mechanism: A Relic of Ancient Greek Science

by G. Jack Urso


Fig 1: The Antikythera Mechanism.
In 1901, corroded bronze relics were found in a shipwreck discovered off the island of Antikythera near Greece. For years the significance of the find went unnoticed until 1959 when Dr. Derek De Solla Price of Yale University published a paper in Scientific American. At first the three pieces of corroded bronze seem unremarkable, except for a similarity to modern clockwork. As for its purpose, archaeologists were as mystified as the sponge divers who first discovered it in the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Through the corrosion, Price could identify gears around a large main plate. At first sight it was thought to be some sort of astrolabe. Years of research, however, would reveal a far more complicated device.

The Technology

Fig.2: X-ray of part of the original artifact.
 
Fig. 3: Popular Science,
May 1966 (50).
X-ray photographs revealed sliding circular plates marked with scales of measurement (fig. 2). Scientists have dated the construction of the mechanism to around 87 BCE and the shipwreck circa 76 BCE. Closer examination by Price revealed it to be a complicated mechanical device comprised of more than 20 gears, including a differential gear –  technology thought not to have existed before 13th Century Europe (Price 60). Later research suggests at least 30 gears (Freeth 83). One of the earliest European mechanical clocks capable of reproducing the functions of the Antikythera Mechanism, including planetary movements, was not made until the mid-14th Century (fig. 3) ("Mechanical Clock" 50).

The mechanism, as it originally appeared, was set in a wooden rectangular box slightly larger than an 8½ by 11-inch sheet of paper. A hinged cover protected the front and back of the device and a handle on the side turned the gear works of the mechanism. Directions in Greek, now barely visible, were inscribed on every available surface (Price 64-65).

Inside the front cover, fixed on top the main driving gear wheel, is a single large, circular dial with two scales. A fixed scale names the signs of the Zodiac and a second movable slip ring shows the months of the year. The gearing system’s handle manually turned the gears with the large main gear turning in a clockwise direction (Price 64).                                  
Fig.4 : Artist's reconstruction of the front (left) and back (right) dials.

On the back are two dials. The top dial has four slip rings and is thought to have indicated the positions, and times, of the rising and setting of the five planets known to the Greeks (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). The lower dial has three slip rings and seems to indicate lunar phases as well as when the moon rises and sets. There is also a smaller subsidiary dial, comparable to the seconds’ dial of an analog stopwatch. When the handle was turned all the gears, including a differential gear, turned. Arms, like those of a modern clock, would turn as well as the eight slip rings (Price 64).

Once the operator set the position of the Sun or Moon on the front plate, the Antikythera Mechanism automatically adjusted all the dials providing solar, lunar and planetary data for the corresponding time indicated by the user. The mechanism is thought to have been accurate to one part in 40,000 (Zeman).

How reliable was the mechanism? The teeth of the gears were triangular rather than square, which would have affected the accuracy and durability of the mechanism. Close examination reveals that the device, constructed of a low-grade tin bronze, was repaired twice, suggesting the device saw frequent use (Price 64).

Secret Origins

Fig 5: Replica with
transparent covers.
Ancient Greek science was generally more advanced than is usually acknowledged. Over 200 years BCE the Greek scholar Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth to be 25,000 miles, just 99 miles more than the actual figure, 24,901. Several decades later, another Greek scientist, Posidonius, believing Eratosthenes to be wrong, calculated the circumference to be 18,000 miles (this was the figure Columbus would use when planning his first voyages in 1492). Posidonius was from island of Rhodes, where the Antikythera Mechanism is thought to originate (Price 61).

Later research suggests the Corinthian colonies in northwestern Greece or Sicily as possible places of origin. Sicily, of course, is where the city of Syracuse is located, also home to the scientist Archimedes, though the device dates to a period after his death (Freeth 83).

The technology behind the Antikythera Mechanism stems from geometrical models of the solar system used by ancient Greek philosophers and scientists such as Plato and Archimedes. This type of model, called an orrey, is a clockwork device that utilized a gearing system to replicate the motions of the planets. The Antikythera Mechanism, however, is a far more sophisticated machine that processed a multitude of calculations.

The technical challenges of making by hand a complicated device such as the Antikythera Mechanism during the ancient era suggests that only a handful of individuals possessed the skills to manufacture it, relatively few may have been produced and those that were became highly valued items.

Lost to History

What is the impact of this lost piece of Greek technology? The Antikythera Mechanism represents the first use of the differential gear, the technology we need to build clocks and make cars move. Consider the ancient Greek engineer Heron (also known as Hero) of Alexandria during the First Century CE who invented the aeolipile. The aeolipile is a metal ball with two spigots mounted on either side of the device and pointed in opposite directions. Filled with water and heated to the boiling point, the steam produced would turn the aeolipile around. Essentially, this is a primitive steam engine.

Combining the aeolipile with the differential gearing of the Antikythera Mechanism could have produced any number of labor-saving devices. Nevertheless, while the aeolipile is another tantalizing peak into the potential of Greek science, the device itself was not considered to be anything more than a clever children’s toy. With slavery so widespread a practice and integral to the economies of the ancient world, there was little incentive or need to create labor-saving devices.


Furthermore, Greek city-states jealously guarded their secrets, so  it is doubtful that the rulers of Rhodes, or whoever "owned" the technology, would have permitted their commercial rivals in Alexandria, or elsewhere, to have access to the Antikythera Mechanism. As a result, while the Antikythera Mechanism was found on a Greek vessel it is unlikely that the technology was widely available, or could have been easily replicated, in other city-states. In light of these factors, it is not surprising that the Antikythera Mechanism and its ingenious technology were lost to history.

The existence of the Antikythera Mechanism leads us to reevaluate our presumptions about the level of the technical sophistication of ancient Mediterranean cultures, as well as to consider how different our civilization would be if this technology had not been lost to the Dark Ages. Such a device, had it been applied to other technological areas during the ancient Greek and Roman eras, could have accelerated the pace of human invention more than 1,000 years ahead of where we are today.

Fig. 6: Fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism.


  
Related Content
The following item is a short documentary about the Antikythera Mechanism that I produced in conjunction with my research:




Works Cited

Freeth, Tony. ”Decoding an Ancient Computer.” Scientific
              American Dec. 2009. 76-83. Print. 

"Mechanical Clock is 600 Years Old." Popular Science May
              1966: 50. Print.

Price, Derek J. de Solla. “An Ancient Greek Computer." Scientific
              American June 1959. 60-67. Print. 

Zeman, Christopher E. "Gears from the Greeks." Lectures. The
              University of Texas at San Antonio, 20 Feb. 1998. Web. 12
              Dec. 1999. <http://www.math.utsa.edu/ecz/ak000.html>.
 


Early Czech History

by G. Jack Urso


Early History 

Bohemia is derived from the Latin name for the land, Boiohaemum. The Latin word was itself derived from the name of the Celtic Boii tribe who inhabited the area during the Fourth Century BC Slavs first entered the region in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries AD by settling in areas of what is now Slovakia and Moravia. Christianity first arrived in the latter half of the Ninth Century (“History”). It is from Bohemia that the legend of “Good King Winceslas” (Prince Václav, death 935 AD), the patron saint of Bohemia, comes to us (Thomson 18).  

The Czech language is a Slavic tongue and has a rich tradition among the Czech, as the right to use their own language had not always been guaranteed by their rulers, was sometimes repressed, and therefore its existence that much more valued. The Czech today continue to study and preserve their language as evident by numerous university programs and the rich history of film and literature be produced by Czech artists and authors in the Twentieth Century.  

Bohemian princes that sought independence were constrained by the German Ostmark (Eastern March), which was defined as the area between the Enns to Litava using the Danube as a natural boundary. Kamil Krofta, the Czech historian, politician and diplomat, observed that the Czech formulated a pragmatic response to promote their political existence. Krofta wrote, “Their power they extended not by fighting but by valuable services rendered to the German sovereigns. Beginning in the Twelfth Century, Bohemian Princes joined the ranks of the Electors of the German Emperor and thereafter was able to have some effect on the politics of the Holy Roman Empire (Moravec 20). 

In 1085, in return for supporting the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV, Vratislav becomes the First Czech king. In 1158 Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa gave the royal title to be held by the Czech rulers and their descendants. Barbarossa though had the overall agenda of trying to assimilate Czech lands into the Imperial feudal holdings and attempted to break Bohemia up as part of this plan. In 1182 he put Moravia under his feudal vassalage as a margravate, an agreement made under duress as Barbarossa had executioners axes prominently displayed during the “negotiations” with the Czech legates (Thomson 22).  

In 1186 the Margrave of Moravia declared their vassalage to the Duke of Bohemia thus nullifying Barbarossa’s attempt to break up the land. Barbarossa made a second attempt in 1187 to break up Bohemia by promoting the Bishop of Prague to a prince of the Empire. This period lasted for ten years until the next bishop came to office and declared his vassalage to the Duke of Bohemia, which frustrated yet another plan to break up the Czech homeland. In 1212, Premysl Otakar I (crowned king in 1204) received the Golden Bull of Sicily from Pope Innocent III. This assured the integrity of the Bohemian lands and gave it legal recognition from the Vatican (Thomson 23, 25). 

The aforementioned incidents establish something of a pattern in Czech history: A Czech is crowned king (1085), or the nation-state is created (1918), but either way due to foreign intervention. Germany (in the guise of Fredrick Barbarossa, Prussia, or Adolf Hitler) threatens and tries to break up or absorb the Czech lands. In any event, the Bohemian rulers were recognized as kings and the Czech remained unified because of their strong cultural identity.  

1415-1815

The Hussite period marks a vigorous chapter in the development of the Czech identity. During this period the Bohemian nobility grew in wealth, political power and influence. The bourgeoisie also grew stronger and took the place that the Germans occupied in urban life. While language and nationalism grew during this period art and education did not. As the first land to experience and embrace the Reformation, Bohemia also experienced great isolation from the other European countries. As a result the ideas of the Renaissance would be sorely missed among the Czech and contributed to the fall the quality of Czech art and education (Thomson 89). 

The reign of George of Podebrady (1458-1471) is a brief interlude of intelligent rule by an elected native Bohemian ruler. It was during his rule that Czech humanism, language and religious beliefs were preserved and prospered. George’s death though meant that the chance for a dynasty of strong rulers native to Bohemia had passed (Sugar 173)]. The next two rulers comprise the Jagellon dynasty (Vladislav, a son of King Casimir of Poland, and his son Louis) under which the strength of the Bohemian monarchy fell. The Czech-Bohemian Estates gained political power and the Catholic obtained an agreement for “mutual toleration” with the Hussites (Thomson 90).

The push for greater Catholic influence would continue under the Habsburgs, who would begin to rule in 1526. The ensuing conflict between the Estates and the Habsburg rulers would end in a major turning point in Czech nationalist history, the Battle of White Mountain in 1620.
  Fig 1: Map of Europe in 1526 (Greer and Lewis 315).

In the events leading up to White Mountain we find a stronger assertion of Catholic influence. Rudolf II became the Holy Roman Emperor (1576-1611) and brought with him a nearly all-Catholic court and Jesuit priests to deal with the Hussite influence. Efforts by the Estates to organize themselves and press for some religious freedom where thwarted by the slowly growing Catholic influence. There were a few higher appointed protestant leaders in the government even though it was clear by 1600 that the Catholic Habsburgs wanted to eliminated protestant influence in Bohemia. 

The possibility of war between Rudolf and his brother Mathias, Governor of Moravia, led Rudolf to seek support from the Protestant Czech-Bohemian Estates. In return for their support Rudolf granted them the Letter of Majesty, “Maiestatus,” which permitted the modest freedom of religious confession despite efforts by the Spanish Ambassador and the Papal Nuncio to persuade him otherwise (Greer 102, 105). 
 
 
Rudolf’s grant of religious tolerance earns him the wrath of the Catholic community in Europe who then support Mathias in his effort to dispose his brother. When Mathias is crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1612 the Protestant Bohemian Estates refuse to recognize the new Emperor’s heir and form their own provisional government and army. In 1619 Mathias dies leaving both the Holy Roman and Bohemian crowns without a head to sit on. With support from Moravia, Silesia and Lusatia the Bohemian Estates elected Fredrick Elector Palatine as King of Bohemia the same year.  

When Emperor Ferdinand II ascended to the imperial throne the Catholic forces under his command moved against Fredrick who prepared for battle in a highly defensible position near Prague on the White Mountain. Once Fredrick, the “Winter King,” is defeated Prague is sacked (Dupuy and Dupuy). 

The aftermath of White Mountain strips Bohemia of many of its best and brightest. Religious freedom is eliminated, Protestant pastors are exiled and replaced with Catholic priests. The nobility suffers the loss of their lands and the Jesuits reassert control of the university. Leaders of the Estates fled the country along with the Protestants. It is believed that five-sixths of the Czech nobility fled, including a total of 150,000 Protestants, all within the first six years after the loss at White Mountain (Thomson 108-109).  

This Bohemian exodus would give rise to the second definition for Bohemian we may find in the dictionary. A bohemian is also a common term referring to “a person with artistic or literary interests who disregards conventional standards of behavior” (“Bohemian”). A transient life is also a component of this “Bohemian” lifestyle. In this definition we can see elements of the truth - the Czech high cultural traditions present in the artistic and literary interests of the “bohemian” artist. 
 
The main impact of this exodus, other than the introduction of a new word to our vocabulary, was the loss of the Czech ruling elite. This loss of leadership would plague the Czech throughout the next 300 years. František Palacký’s attempts at fulfilling Czech nationalist aspirations can be said to have been thwarted by this absence. The rebellion in Prague and the events at White Mountain would also trigger the Thirty Years War. 

The Peace of Westphalia brought to an end the Thirty Years War. German princes were given independent sovereignty, which stripped the Holy Roman Empire of much of its power. Switzerland and the Netherlands gained their independence and Calvinists, Lutherans, as well as Catholics were granted religious freedom (Thomason 400). Territorial changes are noted on the following map:
Fig. 2: Europe after Westphalia, 1648 (Greer and Lewis 401).

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Works Cited

“Bohemian.” The American Heritage Dictionary Second College
              Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1982. Print.

Dupuy, Ernest R., and Trevor N. Dupuy. The Harper Encyclopedia of
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              Publishers, 1993. Print.

Greer, Thomas H., and Gavin Lewis. A Brief History of the Western
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              College Publishers, 1992. Print.

History. Czech Republic, n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 1999.
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Moravec, Col. Emanuel. The Strategic Importance of
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              and Publishing Co., 1936. Print.

Sugar, Peter F., and Ivo John Lederer, eds. Nationalism in Eastern
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              1994. Print.

Thomson, Harrison S. Thomson, Czechoslovakia in European
              History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953. Print.