Monday, September 22, 2014


Sir William Wallace (Medieval Gaelic: Uilliam Uallas; modern Scottish Gaelic: Uilleam Uallas; Norman French: William le Waleys; died 23 August 1305) was a Scottish landowner who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, and was Guardian of Scotland, serving until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298. In 1305, Wallace was captured in Robroyston near Glasgow and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him summarily hanged, drawn, and quartered for high treason and crimes against English civilians.

Since his death, Wallace has obtained an iconic status far beyond his homeland. He is the protagonist of the 15th-century epic poem The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Noble of Elderslie, by Blind Harry. Wallace is also the subject of literary works by Sir Walter Scott and Jane Porter and of the 1995 Academy Award-winning epic film Braveheart.

William Wallace was a member of the nobility but little is known of his family history. Records show early members of the family as holding estates at Riccarton, Tarbolton, and Auchincruive in Kyle, and Stenton in Haddingtonshire. The recent discovery of the Wallace's seals in Glasgow's Mitchell Library provides further evidence that he was, indeed, from Ellerslie in Ayrshire, not the similarly named Elderslie in Renfrewshire. They were vassals of James Stewart, 5th High Steward of Scotland as their lands fell within his territory. Some sources give the name of William Wallace's father as Malcolm Wallace, however the seal attached to a letter sent to the Hanse city of Lübeck in 1297 appears to give his father's name as Alan. His brothers Malcolm and John are known from other sources. An Alan Wallace appears in the Ragman Rolls as a crown tenant in Ayrshire, but there is no additional confirmation. The traditional view regards William's birthplace as Elderslie in Renfrewshire, and this is still the view of most historians, but there have been recent claims that he came from Ellerslie in Ayrshire. There is no contemporary evidence linking him with either location, although both areas had connections with the wider Wallace family.

Some historians such as Andrew Fisher believe Wallace must have had some earlier military experience. Campaigns like Edward I of England's wars in Wales provided a good opportunity for a younger son of a landholder with no prospects in life other than becoming a monk or priest to become a mercenary soldier.

This theory suggests that it would have taken military knowledge to defeat the English at Stirling Bridge. Wallace's personal seal attached to a letter sent to the Hanse city of Lübeck in 1297 may not only reveal the name of his father but also bears the archers' insignia. If Wallace was indeed an archer he must have been a professional, worth paying a reasonable sum of money for military services. The first class long bow (as probably used by Wallace) had a draw weight of up to 170 lbs.

This is in accordance with Bower who states that Wallace was "a tall man with the body of a giant ...with lengthy flanks ...broad in the hips, with strong arms and legs ...with all his limbs very strong and firm". Blind Harry's Wallace stood seven feet.

The first act definitely known to have been carried out by Wallace was his assassination of William de Heselrig, the English High Sheriff of Lanark, in May 1297. He then joined with William the Hardy, Lord of Douglas, and they carried out the raid of Scone. This was one of several rebellions taking place across Scotland, including those of several Scottish nobles and Andrew Moray in the north.

The uprising suffered a blow when the nobles submitted to the English at Irvine in July. Wallace and Moray were not involved, and continued their rebellions. Wallace used the Ettrick Forest as a base for raiding, and attacked Wishart's palace at Ancrum. Wallace and Moray met and joined their forces, possibly at the siege of Dundee in early September.

Stirling Bridge
On 11 September 1297, an army jointly led by Wallace and Andrew Moray won the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Although vastly outnumbered, the Scottish army routed the English army. John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey's professional army of 3,000 cavalry and 8,000 to 10,000 infantry met disaster as they crossed over to the north side of the river. The narrowness of the bridge prevented many soldiers from crossing together (possibly as few as three men abreast), so while the English soldiers crossed, the Scots held back until half of them had passed and then killed the English as quickly as they could cross. The infantry were sent on first, followed by heavy cavalry. But the Scots' schiltron formations forced the infantry back into the advancing cavalry. A pivotal charge, led by one of Wallace's captains, caused some of the English soldiers to retreat as others pushed forward, and under the overwhelming weight, the bridge collapsed and many English soldiers drowned. Thus the Scots won a significant victory which boosted the confidence of their army. Hugh Cressingham, Edward's treasurer in Scotland, died in the fighting and it is reputed that his body was subsequently flayed and the skin cut into small pieces as tokens of the victory. The Lanercost Chronicle records that Wallace had "a broad strip [of Cressingham’s skin] ... taken from the head to the heel, to make therewith a baldrick for his sword".

The type of engagement conducted by Wallace was characterized by opportunistic tactics and the strategic use of terrain. This was in stark contrast to the contemporary views on chivalric warfare which were characterized by strength of arms and knightly combat. The battle therefore embittered relations between the two antagonistic nations, whilst also perhaps providing a new departure in the type of warfare which England had hitherto employed. The numerical and material inferiority of the Scottish forces would be mirrored by that of the English in the Hundred Years' War, who, in turn, abandoned chivalric warfare to achieve decisive victory in similar engagements such as Crécy and Poitiers.

Wallace evaded capture by the English until 5 August 1305 when John de Menteith, a Scottish knight loyal to Edward, turned Wallace over to English soldiers at Robroyston near Glasgow. Letters of safe conduct from Haakon V of Norway, Philip IV of France, and John Balliol, along with other documents, were found on Wallace and delivered to Edward by John de Segrave.

Wallace was transported to London, lodged in the house of William de Leyrer, then taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried for treason and for atrocities against civilians in war, "sparing neither age nor sex, monk nor nun." He was crowned with a garland of oak to suggest he was the king of outlaws. He responded to the treason charge, "I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject." With this, Wallace asserted that the absent John Balliol was officially his king.

Following the trial, on 23 August 1305, Wallace was taken from the hall to the Tower of London, then stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He was hanged, drawn and quartered — strangled by hanging but released while he was still alive, emasculated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts. His preserved head (dipped in tar) was placed on a pike atop London Bridge. It was later joined by the heads of the brothers, John and Simon Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle upon Tyne, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stirling, and Perth. A plaque stands in a wall of St. Bartholomew's Hospital near the site of Wallace's execution at Smithfield.

In 1869 the Wallace Monument was erected, very close to the site of his victory at Stirling Bridge. The Wallace Sword, which supposedly belonged to Wallace, although some parts were made at least 160 years later, was held for many years in Dumbarton Castle and is now in the Wallace Monument.

Banned/Censored Books

A variety of books are banned in schools and libraries across the US for being too political, too racially-charged, having too much sex or being irreligious, and/or socially offensive. Many of the books are literary classics. That is, legitimate works of art. Somewhere along the line, someone found the content offensive and managed to have the books removed from the shelves.

Among those deemed too political (or racial):

Uncle Tom’s Cabin -- ironically, an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in 1852 now considered to be too deprecating in its portrayal of blacks.
All Quiet on the Western Front -- a war novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. The book describes the German soldiers' extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the front.
A Farewell to Arms -- a novel written by Ernest Hemingway about a love affair between the expatriate American Henry and Catherine Barkley against the backdrop of the First World War, cynical soldiers, fighting and the displacement of populations.
For Whom the Bell Tolls -- Another Hemingway novel about the Spanish Civil war.
Animal Farm -- George Orwell's barnyard social commentary.
1984 -- Another Orwell book describing a tyrannical, hive mentality future.
Doctor Zhivago -- Boris Pasternak's tragic tale of love amidst the chaos of the Russian Revolution.
Slaughterhouse-Five -- yet another war tale by Kurt Vonnegut about a man who survived being an American POW in Germany.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse -- a book by Peter Matthiessen which chronicles "The story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's war on the American Indian Movement".

And don't forget The Adventures of Huck Finn -- still considered to be too deprecating to blacks in some places.

The following books have been banned for having too much sex, or overt sex, or any at all:

Madame Bovary -- Gustave Flaubert's classic (1856) debut novel. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the emptiness of provincial life.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles -- An English classic by Thomas Hardy published in 1891. Tess attempts to use a family connection to royalty to improve her station in life. Hardy is a master of the sublime and the tragic.
Ulysses, by James Joyce. Considered to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature, the story follows Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day, 16 June 1904. Ulysses' stream-of-consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose—full of puns, parodies, and allusions, as well as its rich characterizations and broad humor, made the book a highly regarded novel in the Modernist pantheon.
The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway already mentioned above. A two-category winner.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover -- a novel by D. H. Lawrence, first published in 1928. The first edition was printed privately in Florence, Italy, with assistance from Pino Orioli; an unexpurgated edition could not be published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960. (A private edition was issued by Inky Stephensen's Mandrake Press in 1929.) The book soon became notorious for its story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then-unprintable words.

By the way, the phrase four-letter word refers to a set of English-language words written with four letters which are considered profane, including common popular or slang terms for sexual activity and genitalia, and (depending on the listener/reader) sometimes also certain terms relating to Hell and/or damnation when used outside their original religious context(s), and/or slurs. The "four-letter" claim refers to the fact that a large number of English "swear words" are incidentally four-character monosyllables. This description came into use during the first half of the twentieth century.

Continuing with the titillating books, we have:

Tropic of Cancer -- a novel by Henry Miller that has been described as "notorious for its candid sexuality" and as responsible for the "free speech that we now take for granted in literature".
Lolita -- a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, written in English and published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New York. It was later translated by its Russian-native author into Russian. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, a 37-38 year old literature professor Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze, with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather. "Lolita" is his private nickname for Dolores. Both the name and the nickname are in Spanish.
Peyton Place -- a 1956 novel by Grace Metalious. It sold 60,000 copies within the first ten days of its release and remained on the New York Times best seller list for 59 weeks. It was adapted as both a 1957 film and a 1964–69 television series. The main plot follows the lives of three women—lonely and repressed Constance MacKenzie; her illegitimate daughter Allison; and her employee Selena Cross, a girl from across the tracks, or "from the shacks." The novel describes how they come to terms with their identity as women and sexual beings in a small New England town. Hypocrisy, social inequities and class privilege are recurring themes in a tale that includes incest, abortion, adultery, lust and murder. The term "Peyton Place" became a generic label for any community whose inhabitants have sordid secrets.

And more too sexy books:

Rabbit, Run, John Updike. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou. Jaws, Peter Benchley. Forever, Judy Blume. The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy. Beloved, Toni Morrison. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez.

The following are deemed irreligious:

On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. A scientific treatise offering the theory of evolution to its readers. The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkein's tale of magic and power among middle-earth characters. The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis. Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya. Harry Potter Series, J. K. Rowling.

The following are termed as just being generally socially offensive:

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin.
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl. Catch-22, Joseph Heller. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote. Cujo, Stephen King. The Color Purple, Alice Walker. Ordinary People, Judith Guest. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley.

In most cases, it is truly hard to understand how people in positions of leadership in our communities can be so short-sighted as to try to prevent the circulation of ideas in a free society. But, it happens, and sadly, more often than you would think.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What you say is what you are. Words are powerful. They bring the unseen world into the seen world. We program ourselves by what we say. It is one thing to think a thought but quite another to voice that same thought. On yet another level altogether, talk is cheap and actions speak even louder. -- Harry Irons

What Happened?

What happened? I'll tell you what happened: the war on drugs (especially marijuana) and the ever-growing tyranny of government (state, local, and federal). The war on drugs is a miserable failure and has done more harm than good.