30MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

I have a story for this quote source.  In the summer of 1972 I was attending summer session at my high school.  Being a hopeless nerd, I wanted to skip a grade in math so I was taking Geometry in the summer to allow me to go on to Trigonometry and Analysis in September.  This was an all-boys Catholic High School and it was even worse than it sounds.  But in summer school they had some girls from the local “sister schools” and so things were actually a little better than during the regular year.  There was a girl in the class who liked theater and she proposed a trip to Manhattan to see Shakespeare in the Park (Central Park).  Now she probably had no romantic intentions but I was a high school boy so I was willing to take the chance.  Anyway, Shakespeare in the Park involved waiting in line on the Great Lawn (which was a shambles back then and hardly a lawn in anything but a geographic sense) for hours while eating a picnic lunch and talking to a rather pretty girl.  What’s not to like?  The park was overrun with aging dirty hippies selling incense and drug paraphernalia which even to my younger, less-conservative self felt creepy.  But it seemed like a fun day at the time.  When the show began after sunset I learned that the play was King Lear and the name of the actor playing the title role was James Earl Jones.  The name was vaguely familiar (possibly from Dr. Strangelove) and I was interested to see how this spectacle would turn out.  Jones did not disappoint.  He threw everything but the kitchen sink into his Lear.  He stuttered, roared and hissed at his tormentors and cried and moaned through his torment.  And during the storm scene the weather proved cooperative.  There were several very real cracks of thunder and even a few lightning flashes.  Very cool indeed.  And after the show we enjoyed the extra thrill of leaving Central Park late at night while somehow avoiding the very real threat of being robbed or worse.  Of course, nothing ever panned out with the girl but nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say.  And that’s the only time I’ve ever seen or read the play King Lear.  But it did leave an impression.      

 

Shakespeare, King Lear Act 5 Scene 3

Re-enter KING LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his arms; EDGAR, Captain, and others following

KING LEAR

Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’ld use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.

 

 

KING LEAR

A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
I might have saved her; now she’s gone for ever!
Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha!
What is’t thou say’st? Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.
I kill’d the slave that was a-hanging thee.

Captain

‘Tis true, my lords, he did.

KING LEAR

Did I not, fellow?
I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
I would have made them skip: I am old now,
And these same crosses spoil me. Who are you?
Mine eyes are not o’ the best: I’ll tell you straight.

 

 

 

KING LEAR

And my poor fool is hang’d! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there!

Dies

EDGAR

He faints! My lord, my lord!

KENT

Break, heart; I prithee, break!

EDGAR

Look up, my lord.

KENT

Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass! he hates him much
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.

EDGAR

He is gone, indeed.

KENT

The wonder is, he hath endured so long:
He but usurp’d his life.

ALBANY

Bear them from hence. Our present business
Is general woe.

To KENT and EDGAR

Friends of my soul, you twain
Rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain.

KENT

I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls me, I must not say no.

ALBANY

The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

Exeunt, with a dead march

29MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

Of late I’ve been looking forward to watching Mel Gibson’s Hamlet.  I remember watching Branagh’s version in the theater and thinking it sterile.  My plan is to watch them both on the same weekend and compare them.  Maybe I’ll even throw in Olivier’s version for good measure.

 

Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2

HAMLET

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust?

Back to the Future (Make That Back to Heinlein’s Future History)

Back in the nineteen-forties and –fifties Robert A Heinlein was writing his “Future History” stories about the time period that currently is the recent past. And on his very impressive chart somewhere between the beginning of space flight and the beginning of a theocratic dictatorship in the United States was a period around the nineteen sixties that he called the “Crazy Years.”  You get a flavor for what he meant in a story called “The Year of the Jackpot.”  In this story social mores were unravelling.  Women would spontaneously strip naked in public without knowing why they were doing it and transvestite men and women would challenge the authorities with prosecution for daring to notice that they were queer.  Whether Heinlein was truly prescient or whether he just detected the beginnings of the curve and extrapolated it to its outlandish extreme is unknown to me.  But obviously he was being cautious.  No kidding, the current events that greet each of us as we survey the contents of our daily purveyor of fake news is well beyond what would have passed for science fiction or parody a few decades ago.  States are suing the federal government to prevent it from ascertaining if a census form is being filled out by an illegal alien.  A “woman” who used to be a man is marrying “man” who used to be a woman and we are supposed to believe that somehow now a man will be giving birth to the child.  A porn actor is suing the President’s lawyer for defamation of character.  Does a porn actor even have a character that can be defamed?  We’ve been laughing at these insanities for decades but none of it has gone away or even slowed the march to the brink of insanity.  Heinlein’s theocratic dictatorship is looking less and less like a nightmare scenario and more and more like a really good idea.  I’m really starting to wonder how much worse Sharia Law would be than the current politically correct straight jacket we currently endure.  At least under it there are easily recognizable roles for the traditional individuals most of us remember as normal.

 

Heinlein later in his career wrote a sort of spy novel with a female replicant heroine called “Friday.” In that universe the United States and Canada had balkanized into a number of smaller states.  Some of the states mentioned are Brit-Can, Quebec, the Alaska Free State, the California Confederacy, the Republic of Texas, the Vegas Free State and the Chicago Imperium.  This later novel is significantly less optimistic than his earlier works.  I definitely don’t claim that Robert Heinlein was particularly more skilled as a prognosticator than any other seers around but I begin to see a rationale for separating from behavior that keeps trending not only farther and farther from normalcy but even begins closing in on suicidal.  I still hope that the path forward is the majority of Americans rejecting the progressivist nightmare that is currently unfolding and at the least restore the conditions needed to allow a functional society.  But I have to admit I’m starting to worry that the Alt-Right may not be just making up their apocalypse.  I better get my passport stamped for the Republic of Texas, or should that be the Vegas Free State?

28MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

I must be in a grim mood.

 

 

Shakespeare

Macbeth.  Act 5, Scene 5

 

SEYTON

The queen, my lord, is dead.

 

MACBETH

She should have died hereafter;

There would have been a time for such a word.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

27MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

A little bitter but recognizable to all ages.

 

William Shakespeare

As You Like It.  Act 2 Scene 7

JAQUES

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

26MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

So, the Odyssey is a sacred text for me.  Here is the story of a courageous (if devious) man and a loyal wife and mother.  Buffeted by fate, world war and surrounded by enemies they strive against all odds and for half their lives to get back together and restore their domestic peace.  What else do you need in a story.  Well, an amorous witch, a Cyclops and a journey to hell and back couldn’t hurt.  I translated several chapters with the help of a good Homeric dictionary about forty years ago.  Now that my brain is mush I look for a good translation.  I prefer the version by Robert Fitzgerald  but this is an older English version by the poet Samuel Butler that is in the public domain.  Here’s the beginning of the poem and the Greek text of the same for atmosphere.

Tell me, O Muse, of that many-sided hero who traveled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the people with whose customs and thinking he was acquainted; many things he suffered at sea while seeking to save his own life and to achieve the safe homecoming of his companions; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer recklessness in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Helios; so the god prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, as you have told those who came before me, about all these things, O daughter of Zeus, starting from whatsoever point you choose.

ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ

πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν:

πολλῶν δ᾽ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω,

πολλὰ δ᾽ ὅ γ᾽ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμόν,

ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων.

ἀλλ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ὣς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ:

αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο,

νήπιοι, οἳ κατὰ βοῦς Ὑπερίονος Ἠελίοιο

ἤσθιον: αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσιν ἀφείλετο νόστιμον ἦμαρ.

τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ καὶ ἡμῖν.

25MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

Robert Heinlein used this poem as the inspiration of a science fiction story and included the poem in the text.

Requiem

Under the wide and starry sky

Dig the grave and let me lie:

Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

 

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:

Here he lies where he long’d to be;

Home is the sailor, home from sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

(written 1880)

Robert Louis Stevenson. 1850–1894

23MAR2018 – OCF Update

Well, I’m back in the saddle at work again and catching up here on the site.  I’m halfway through Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle (hat tip to Tom) and should have the review soon.  And based on the story so far, I think I’ll read the other two books at some point.  I have some movie and tv reviews coming up very soon.  I’ve got over a thousand photos from the Southwest to edit and rate so I should have a few photo posts coming up soon.  The political situation is like some kind of crazy kaleidoscopic nightmare.  It sounds like Ray Bradbury’s formula for his stories, “The trip—exactly one-half exhilaration, exactly one-half terror.”  And now we know just how many women are willing to admit to having sex with Donald Trump.  I guess he was right about them letting him grab them.  But they do seem to have been paid for the experience.  Trump truly believes in capitalism.  Well at least he wasn’t attacking them like Slick Willie.  Either way things seem to be going well.  The Republicans are afraid of losing the House, blah, blah, blah.  Well they are pretty lame so anything is possible.  But they really should embrace populism and try to show some backbone.  It is the smart move.  I still have to read some of the political columns I missed but whether there is something important to share remains to be seen.  From my point of view Trump needs to clean the stables and drain the swamp.  Then he can move onto policy.  And he needs to punish the sanctuary cities and send the illegals home.  And finally, Justice Kennedy, go away, now!

23MAR2018 – Quote of the Day

Thucydides: The Civil War at Corcyra

Ancient Greek History contains many parallels to the upheavals of our own time. The revolutions that swept through all of Greece during the Peloponnesian War (the war between the Athenian Empire and Sparta and her allies) were not unlike the French Revolution and the proxy wars fought between American and Russian allies during the Cold War.  In these civil wars neighbors and even brothers would clash and commit unbelievable atrocities in the name of either the democratic or the aristocratic cause.  The ferocity of the fighting reflected the knowledge that if the tide turned, retribution would be equally horrific.  In this episode of the war the people of the island of Corcyra have divided themselves into an aristocratic faction supporting the Peloponnesians (Sparta) and a democratic faction supporting Athens.  The fleets of the two super powers are sparring off the coast of the island and the factions have been battling on land in increasing barbarity.  The Spartans are at first victorious at sea and the democratic faction is panicked into negotiating a truce with the aristocratic faction.  But when the Athenians chase the Spartan fleet away the democrats see their chance and butcher their less numerous aristocratic countrymen in Robespierrean fashion.  The summation by Thucydides at the end of this story is very well known and seems to have a timeless quality.  If you are interested in reading the whole story of The Civil War at Corcyra read Thucydides Book 3, Chapters 69 to 85.

Meanwhile the people of Corcyra, dreading that the fleet of the Peloponnesians would attack them, held a parley with the other faction, especially with the suppliants, in the hope of saving the city; they even persuaded some of them to go on board the fleet; for the Corcyraeans still contrived to man thirty ships. But the Peloponnesians, after devastating the land till about midday, retired. And at nightfall the approach of sixty Athenian vessels was signalled to them from Leucas. These had been sent by the Athenians under the command of Eurymedon the son of Thucles, when they heard of the revolution and of the intended expedition of Alcidas to Corcyra.

The Peloponnesians set out that very night on their way home, keeping close to the land, and transporting the ships over the Leucadian isthmus, that they might not be seen sailing round. When the Corcyraeans perceived that the Athenian fleet was approaching, while that of the enemy had disappeared, they took the Messenian troops, who had hitherto been outside the walls, into the city, and ordered the ships which they had manned to sail round into the Hyllaic harbour. These proceeded on their way. Meanwhile they killed any of their enemies whom they caught in the city. On the arrival of the ships they disembarked those whom they had induced to go on board, and despatched them; they also went to the temple of Herè, and persuading about fifty of the suppliants to stand their trial condemned them all to death. The majority would not come out, and, when they saw what was going on, destroyed one another in the enclosure of the temple where they were, except a few who hung themselves on trees, or put an end to their own lives in any other way which they could. And, during the seven days which Eurymedon after his arrival remained with his sixty ships, the Corcyraeans continued slaughtering those of their fellow-citizens whom they deemed their enemies; they professed to punish them for their designs against the democracy, but in fact some were killed from motives of personal enmity, and some because money was owing to them, by the hands of their debtors. Every form of death was to be seen; and everything, and more than everything, that commonly happens in revolutions, happened then. The father slew the son, and the suppliants were torn from the temples and slain near them; some of them were even walled up in the temple of Dionysus, and there perished. To such extremes of cruelty did revolution go; and this seemed to be the worst of revolutions, because it was the first.

For not long afterwards nearly the whole Hellenic world was in commotion; in every city the chiefs of the democracy and of the oligarchy were struggling, the one to bring in the Athenians, the other the Lacedaemonians. Now in time of peace, men would have had no excuse for introducing either, and no desire to do so; but, when they were at war, the introduction of a foreign alliance on one side or the other to the hurt of their enemies and the advantage of themselves was easily effected by the dissatisfied party. And revolution brought upon the cities of Hellas many terrible calamities, such as have been and always will be while human nature remains the same, but which are more or less aggravated and differ in character with every new combination of circumstances. In peace and prosperity both states and individuals are actuated by higher motives, because they do not fall under the dominion of imperious necessities; but war, which takes away the comfortable provision of daily life, is a hard master and tends to assimilate men’s characters to their conditions.

When troubles had once begun in the cities, those who followed carried the revolutionary spirit further and further, and determined to outdo the report of all who had preceded them by the ingenuity of their enterprises and the atrocity of their revenges. The meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things, but was changed by them as they thought proper. Reckless daring was held to be loyal courage; prudent delay was the excuse of a coward; moderation was the disguise of unmanly weakness; to know everything was to do nothing. Frantic energy was the true quality of a man. A conspirator who wanted to be safe was a recreant in disguise. The lover of violence was always trusted, and his opponent suspected. He who succeeded in a plot was deemed knowing, but a still greater master in craft was he who detected one. On the other hand, he who plotted from the first to have nothing to do with plots was a breaker up of parties and a poltroon who was afraid of the enemy. In a word, he who could outstrip another in a bad action was applauded, and so was he who encouraged to evil one who had no idea of it. The tie of party was stronger than the tie of blood, because a partisan was more ready to dare without asking why. (For party associations are not based upon any established law, nor do they seek the public good; they are formed in defiance of the laws and from self-interest.) The seal of good faith was not divine law, but fellowship in crime. If an enemy when he was in the ascendant offered fair words, the opposite party received them not in a generous spirit, but by a jealous watchfulness of his actions. Revenge was dearer than self-preservation. Any agreements sworn to by either party, when they could do nothing else, were binding as long as both were powerless. But he who on a favourable opportunity first took courage, and struck at his enemy when he saw him off his guard, had greater pleasure in a perfidious than he would have had in an open act of revenge; he congratulated himself that he had taken the safer course, and also that he had overreached his enemy and gained the prize of superior ability. In general the dishonest more easily gain credit for cleverness than the simple for goodness; men take a pride in the one, but are ashamed of the other.

The cause of all these evils was the love of power, originating in avarice and ambition, and the party-spirit which is engendered by them when men are fairly embarked in a contest. For the leaders on either side used specious names, the one party professing to uphold the constitutional equality of the many, the other the wisdom of an aristocracy, while they made the public interests, to which in name they were devoted, in reality their prize. Striving in every way to overcome each other, they committed the most monstrous crimes; yet even these were surpassed by the magnitude of their revenges which they pursued to the very utmost, neither party observing any definite limits either of justice or public expediency, but both alike making the caprice of the moment their law. Either by the help of an unrighteous sentence, or grasping power with the strong hand, they were eager to satiate the impatience of party-spirit. Neither faction cared for religion; but any fair pretense which succeeded in effecting some odious purpose was greatly lauded. And the citizens who were of neither party fell a prey to both; either they were disliked because they held aloof, or men were jealous of their surviving.

Thus revolution gave birth to every form of wickedness in Hellas. The simplicity which is so large an element in a noble nature was laughed to scorn and disappeared. An attitude of perfidious antagonism everywhere prevailed; for there was no word binding enough, nor oath terrible enough to reconcile enemies. Each man was strong only in the conviction that nothing was secure; he must look to his own safety, and could not afford to trust others. Inferior intellects generally succeeded best. For, aware of their own deficiencies, and fearing the capacity of their opponents, for whom they were no match in powers of speech, and whose subtle wits were likely to anticipate them in contriving evil, they struck boldly and at once. But the cleverer sort, presuming in their arrogance that they would be aware in time, and disdaining to act when they could think, were taken off their guard and easily destroyed.

Now in Corcyra most of these deeds were perpetrated, and for the first time. There was every crime which men could commit in revenge who had been governed not wisely, but tyrannically, and now had the oppressor at their mercy. There were the dishonest designs of others who were longing to be relieved from their habitual poverty, and were naturally animated by a passionate desire for their neighbour’s goods; and there were crimes of another class which men commit, not from covetousness, but from the enmity which equals foster towards one another until they are carried away by their blind rage into the extremes of pitiless cruelty. At such a time the life of the city was all in disorder, and human nature, which is always ready to transgress the laws, having now trampled them under foot, delighted to show that her passions were ungovernable, that she was stronger than justice, and the enemy of everything above her. If malignity had not exercised a fatal power, how could anyone have preferred revenge to piety, and gain to innocence? But, when men are retaliating upon others, they are reckless of the future, and do not hesitate to annul those common laws of humanity to which every individual trusts for his own hope of deliverance should he ever be overtaken by calamity; they forget that in their own hour of need they will look for them in vain.

The Raven is a Wicked Bird

“Well the raven is a wicked bird

His wings are black as sin

And he floats outside my prison window

Mocking those within

And he sings to me real low

It’s hell to where you go

For you did murder Kate McCannon”

(Kate McCannon, Colter Wall,  2017)

The Raven is a Wicked Bird

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

When we got to the Visitor’s Center at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon this fellow was giving me the evil eye from a low hanging perch on a nearby tree.  He was croaking some kind of a challenge at me.  He probably wanted me to acknowledge his suzerainty over the whole South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  These ravens are enormous and don’t caw like crows.  They croak and bellow.  And anything you leave loose in your campsite is fair game.  They’ll steal anything smaller than a duffel bag that’s interesting looking, especially anything shiny or edible.  And just about anything is one or the other from their point of view.  One sat in a tree above our campsite and serenaded us with abuse at sunset and again at sunrise.  All in all, a very impressive creature.  Almost thirty years ago I read a book called “Ravens in Winter” by a guy named Bernd Heinrich.  He was studying ravens in Maine.  He described how intelligent and social the birds were.  I’ve always wanted to see them up close.  Now I’m jealous of those living in the west where they are very common.