Widgets One Shirt to Rule the Byzantine Empire - A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care

One Shirt to Rule the Byzantine Empire

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An important lesson about international travel: bring extra socks. The little b**%#@#s are Madame Bovaries of fidelity. Like carbon dating, I suspect you can tell how long someone has been on the road by the percentage of original socks that they retain at any given point. Socks will betray you, they will leave you, they will get lost, whether you do your own laundry or give them to a service.

Thus on a rainy September day in Cuzco we stepped into a Tipitop, a Gap-like chain of inexpensive clothing offering "MEGA-sales!" And while I didn't manage to find any socks in my size, a couple of interesting shirts caught my eye.

It wasn't that they were stylish: on the contrary, they were in garish colors that would not match any of my other clothes. But the designer indulged in an odd form of collage: he would take bits of old maps, combine them together, and stick them on a shirt as if they actually represented something. For instance, a shirt that declared itself to be a "Map of the Province of Nottingham" [1] turned out to be, on closer inspection, the borders of the Austro-Hungarian empire from about 1890. And then there was this:

The shirt, which bears the title EAST-WEST SCHISM, mostly consists of a map from The Atlas of Middle-Earth. It's all there: the Shire, Gondor, Mordor, each in glorious, copyright-violating purple-and-black. [2] The text below the map, on the other hand, reads:

The origins of the Crusades lie in developments in Western Europe (or earlier in the Middle East Ages, as well as the deteriorating situation of the Byzantine Empire in the east caused by a new wave of Turkish Muslim attacks. The breakdown of the Carolingian Empire in the late 9th century.

What does all this mean? Your guess is as good as mine. It was odd enough (and cheap enough), however, that I had to buy it. I figure it would make a great prize for a Devil May Care contest.

If you have thoughts on what the nature of the contest should be, please leave them in the comments.

[1] Is Nottingham even a province? Was it ever?

[2] For some reason it comes out as red when shot with an iPhone. I don't know why. Perhaps representations of the Eye of Sauron don't like Steven Jobs. Or perhaps Steve Jobs is Sauron, and iPhones are his version of the rings given to mortal man. The latter possibility is made much more likely if they ever launch an iCanHasInvizibility app.

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It means their history is only marginally more accurate than their geography. I mean what I think they're on about kind of all bears on the issue, the Byzantine Empire was rocking in the face of a Turkish invasion - but the Carolingian bit is somewhat left-field.

Charles Martel's big win over the Muslims was in 732 - it's a bit of a stretch to link it to the crusades which didn't really kick off till 1096.

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