Kinugasa Castle Ruins

I decided to go on a mini hike in my backyard and finally found the ruins of Kinugasa castle. All that is left is the foundation stones. It was build in 1063 Heian period and fell during the battle of Kinugasa in 1187. I can’t find much info on it.

According to Wikipedia “During the Heian period, local warlord Muraoka Tamemichi established Kinugasa Castle in 1063. He became the ancestor of the Miura clan, which subsequently dominated eastern Sagami Province for the next several hundred years. The Miura clan supported Minamoto no Yoritomo in the foundation of the Kamakura shogunate, but were later annihilated by Hōjō Tokiyori in 1247.”

Also came across a small Inari Fox Shrine.

Barbarian Book Club: The River of Doubt Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard

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“Tell Osborn I have already lived and enjoyed as much of life as any nine other men I know; I have had my full share, and if it is necessary for me to leave my bones in South America, I am quite ready to do so.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

Last week my coworker handed me Candice Millard’s River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey. The promise of a historical account of my favorite president exploring the uncharted rivers in the Amazon was too tempting for me, so I started reading right away. I couldn’t put it down, and when I did I couldn’t wait to get back so I could find out what befell the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition on their perilous journey down the River of Doubt.

“Far from its outward appearance, the rainforest was not a garden of easy abundance, but precisely the opposite. Its quiet, shaded halls of leafy opulence were not a sanctuary but, rather, the greatest natural battlefield anywhere on the planet, hosting an unremitting and remorseless fight for survival that occupied every single one of its inhabitants, every minute of every day.” 

Depressed from the blow of losing the 1912 Presidential election and dejected from the social ostracism due to his independent “Bull Moose” party bid, Roosevelt decided to raise his spirits in the only way that he knew. Adventure. Answering an invitation to visit Argentina, Brazil, and the Amazon the former 25th President now 55 years old, made his way to South America for what was initially going to be a leisurely speaking tour followed by a  safe trip through known parts of the Amazon rainforest. cheririver

Once he reached South America, the true adventurer changed plans. Upon meeting the famous Brazilian explorer Colonel Candido Rondon, Roosevelt decided to take the expedition down the recently discovered Rio da Duvida (River of Doubt). An uncharted, unknown tributary of the massive Amazon, a river so massive that if superimposed on a map of the United States it would stretch from Bangor, Maine to San Francisco, California.

The newly christened Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition included the American Naturalist George Cherrie, a figure whose life exploits put the adventures of Indiana Jones to shame, and Roosevelt’s 24-year-old son Kermit, along with several soldiers and laborers from Rondon’s Telegraph corps. All tough men, seasoned explorers, and accomplished hunters.

The expedition would take them into the unknown. They would map and chart a river unknown to civilization and be the first Old World explorers to set foot in the unknown deepest darkness of the untamed Amazon rainforest. This kind of adventure was exactly what Roosevelt dreamed of all his life, the ability to test himself against the harshest of nature and put himself on equal footing with the worlds greatest explorers.

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On February 27, 1914, the expedition launched their heavy loaded canoes into the unknown Amazon. Immediately the expedition faced hardship due to the poor planning and provisioning their gear was unsuitable, the canoes barely floated, and their food stores tragically insufficient.

The 19 men of the expedition endured the green hell of the rainforest, rowing down the snaking river in unsuitable boats that had to be taken out and portaged around impassable rapids. Work that was excruciating and deadly. The torrential rain poured non stop, soaking all, covering everything with mold and rusting all equipment. Sickened with Malaria and finished by their lack of rations the men withstood constant attack from the jungles millions of predatory insects. Sweat bees that drank the fluid from their eyes, flesh-eating ants, and termites that devoured their clothing off their backs, carnivorous piranas, caimans, and poisonous snakes whose venom kills in minutes. Most of all the River of Doubt was the territory of yet uncontacted tribes of Indians. Warlike cannibals that were experts of stealth and deadly with their poisoned arrows known as the Cinta Larga, Portuguese for wide belt, due to the armor made of bark the warriors wore around their abdomen.

RiverofdoubtRiver of Doubt is a fantastic read about a group of hard men in a world where the unknown and the unexplored still existed. It’s a riveting account that rivals any fantastic adventure fiction I have ever read. Rosevelt himself, a famed cowboy in the Dakotas, famous leader of the Rough Riders, Secretary of the Navy, Commissioner of the New York Police, and two time President of the United States, is almost an unbelievable character and a giant of a man. A man so tough that after enough life achievements to satisfy 100 men he decides to risk his life in the Amazon. At the age of 55, he battles nature itself, suffering from Malaria, blood poisoning, and enough physical hardship to kill men half his age. The other members or the expedition are almost as equally interesting, Rondon who goes on to become one of Brazil’s national heroes is a first-class explorer and humanist who spent his life fighting for the rights of the Amazons Indian population.

The account shines when it comes to the detailed description of the relationships the men developed. The mutual respect and admiration between Roosevelt and Rondon. The brotherly love Cherrie felt for Roosevelt. Most of all the father-son relationship between Theodore and the fascinating dark and brooding Kermit.

Candice Millard wrote a riveting account of great men on a deadly adventure and I am glad that I got the chance to ride along with Roosevelt and Rondon, imagining myself in an era where the world remained unexplored and wilderness still ruled.

 

 History Channel video on the expedition.

Barbarian Book Club: 25 July 2017

July turned out to be a month of minimal reading and writing. I only read one book worth mentioning here and my fiction writing was almost non-existent. Reading time was spent on physical fitness books and philosophy centered on masculinity, finance, and lifestyle. In the near future, I’m going to write about my workout regimen and recommend some great books on fitness, but that topic deserves its own post and dedicated discussion.

Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose, was the one book I managed to read for pleasure. A fascinating and detailed look at Benjamin Tallmadge’s Culper Ring, a Patriot spy network working out of British occupied New York during the American Revolution. The young officer Tallmadge became the spymaster and handler for a group of   The young officer Tallmadge became the spymaster and handler for a group of fascinating individuals and the book takes an in depth look at their communications, mostly done through letters using invisible ink, and the trial and error methods they used to set up an effective chain of communication between themselves and General Washington. washingtonsspies

The early modern era from about the Reformation up tends to be my favorite when it comes to history and I especially love the Revolutionary War. I also enjoy history focused on day to day life away from the military and battles, so this book was perfect. Reading through letters between the Culpers gave me a better understanding of life during the Revolution. For example, there was a good amount of discussion about raids between non-regular Royalists and Patriots, who often attacked civilians indiscriminately and were more concerned with loot than with the principles of war. Not to mention the fascinating look into life in occupied New York and the massive black market, red light districts, and illegal activity that sprung up out of vice and necessity.

Revolutions: A Weekly Podcast. On the topic of history, I wanted to mention this podcast, which has been part of my daily life for the last few months. I listen to it every morning on the way to work and every afternoon on the way home. I catch myself looking forward to driving just so I can do some listening. Right now the I’m getting towards the end of the French Revolution. Robespierre is no more, the Thermadorians are in charge, and well-dressed Dandies are roaming the streets beating their opponents with large sticks. The French Revolution is terrifying, a well-intentioned start that spiraled into terror and mass murder. Contrasting the philosophy and personalities of this revolution with the American one is interesting. What kept the American Patriots from slipping into the same insanity that engulfed the Jacobins? What kept strong personalities like Adams, Washington, and Hamilton from becoming tyrants and murderers like Robespierre and Saint-Just? frenchrevolution

Reading a book about spies put me in the mood for some modern day espionage so I bought some Le Carre to scratch that itch. I also need to find a few good books about the French Revolution and maybe do a bit of reading about that famous Corsican, a personality I don’t know much about outside of popular culture. So any recommendations are welcome.

Barbarian Book Club: 11 June 2017

Another month of reading has come and gone. The beautiful Japanese spring is ending and the rainy season is about to begin. I managed to finish two novels, one history book, and several short stories this month. Both of my fiction reads made up the closing chapters of their respective trilogies. The upcoming June rains will keep me indoors a lot so I expect to get in a bit more this month. Madouc

Madouc by Jack Vance. The closing chapter in Vance’s wonderful Lyonesse Trilogy. A fantastic ending to a great fantasy series. Madouc ties all the threads of the previous two novels and completes the trilogy elegantly. The novel focuses on the titular character, a scraggly red- headed child who is the fairy swapped changeling mistaken for the daughter of Princess Suldrun. Madouc is such a great character that following her adventures through the forest, through Fairy steadings, and through daily life at court was a blast. The Lyonesse trilogy was amazing, a painfully overlooked and under appreciated masterpiece that really deserves to be read more. I’m going to put together a thorough review of the series in the very near future.Nanoflower

The Nano Flower by Peter Hamilton. The third and final novel in Hamiltons post-cyberpunk, near future, corporate detective series, featuring the psychic veteran Greg Mandel. First, Hamilton is my favorite Science-Fiction writer. He writes massive, mind-blowing space operas intertwined with post-cyberpunk police procedurals that I can’t get enough of. If you haven’t read the Commonwealth novels, Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, you need to correct yourself and start them right now. The Greg Mendel files are Hamiltons first books, not nearly as polished, but full of the proto-ideas that will come to the forefront of his more ambitious novels. The Nano Flower centers around a missing husband who sends a message to his powerful corporate boss wife in the form of a flower. A flower that once analyzed is revealed to be unknown alien DNA, setting off a massive race to achieve First Contact between worldwide corporate interests. We have power suited mercenaries, massive airships, orbiting asteroid stations, artificial intelligence, and all sorts of awesome sci-fi action. SPQR.jpg

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. If you love in-depth, exciting history, that makes you picture the events of the past. If you love reading about Ancient Rome, Republican Rome, and the Roman Empire in an eye-opening exciting way, this book is NOT for you. SPQR is a muddled, bore fest of a book, poorly written and injected with the author’s personal political views. At one point she rambles on, comparing the Pirates of the Republican era to today’s Islamic terrorism, implying that they are nothing but political boogeymen used by our leaders to justify self-serving military action. Her idiotic rant did not age well because the very same day I read that chapter the London Bridge terrorist attack occurred. Even ignoring modern day political opinion interjected without purpose, the book lacks any sort of an engaging narrative. It jumps around without rhyme or reason, focuses on trivial matters while ignoring critical events. For example, Trajan’s war with the Dacians gets about one line of text. More space is dedicated to an irrelevant discussion on the spelling of Boudica. Do yourself a favor and skip this historical turd. Download Dan Savage’s podcast The Death Throes of the Republic. The first 15 minutes of his podcast is more vivid and enlightening than all 600 pages of SPQR.