Monday, October 31, 2005

Dexter Recommends

I asked my friend Bill to recommend some books to me as he is particularly well read and has made some winning suggestions in the past. A bit about Bill. An erstwhile bon vivant, USA veteran, bibliophile and barfly, he left Connecticut several years ago for the big city and has lived there in Iowa ever since.
Bill and I were stationed at Fort Devens together for a short time although we didn't know each other then. He was doing some sort of spook training for Army linguists and I was a USAF weather man at Moore Army Airfield. After he military in 1990 we met at the Uconn Veteran's Center where he would study and I would play Kings Bounty. Well enough about the past here are Dexter's off the cuff suggestions:
1) Kafka on the Shore (2005) by Haruki Murakami - Everything by him is good. Norwegian Wood is a good starting point coming of age story, but his better books are more surreal (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Wild Sheep Chase and its sequel Dance, Dance, Dance.) I just finished his South of the Border, West of the Sun on Sunday.
2) Paul Christopher series of spy novels by Charles McCarry. The Miernik Dossier (1971), The Tears of Autumn (1974), The Secret Lovers (1977), The Last Supper (1983), Second Sight (1991) Shelly's Heart (1995) Old Boys (2004) The first two have been reprinted spy novels since Eric Ambler and Le Carre Smiley novels. (Although Le Carre has gotten pretty good lately see Absolute Friends).
3) James Crumley from Last Good Kiss through most recent The Right Madness.
4) Robert K. Morgan recent SF noir series starting with Altered Carbon there are 2 more I have not read yet but will...also Joe Haldeman multi Hugo award winning author for Forever War (1976) Forever Peace (1998) as well as the novella The Hemingway Hoax.
5) Last Samurai by Helen Dewitt - not what you think it is. Better.
6) Pat Barker's WWI trilogy- Regeneration, Eye in the Door, Ghost Road.
7) The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett, starting with The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantistick (might have switched them around).
8) Elmore Leonard (everything but he is in top of his game right now so work backwards from The Hot Kid, Mr. Paradise, Pagan Babies) FYI the characters Ordell and Louis from Jackie Brown (Rum Punch) show up in early novel The Switch.
9) John D. Macdonald's Travis McGee series...starting with Deep Blue Goodbye and ending with Lonely Silver Rain, series gets better as it goes along.
10) Tender is the Night- only because I finally read it and think it is a deeper book than Gatsby if not as elegant.
11) Mason & Dixon- Thomas Pynchon- modern day Ulysses.
The ones in bold are the strongest I feel or good starting points. I am sure omissions, corrections, clarifications will occur to me as soon as I hit the send button. This is mostly off the top of my read plus a little googling for reminders of titles. I am already thinking of books that are quickly readable to pass the time like all of Tim Dorsey's series starting with Florida Roadkill, Jasper Fordes Thursday Next series, Frank Miller's Sin City comic books, Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins books, etc etc,,,.
Shit I forgot short stories..... Out of the Woods, Kentucky Straight by Chris Offutt , Pastoralia by George Saunders, Dear Mr. President by Gabe Hudson
As for non-fiction that is whole 'nother ball of wax.... But if you have not read Jarhead by Tony Swofford so before seeing the film. He is graduate of writer's workshop here in town.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I Will Name Him Joey and Her Kim

There's no point in owning fine horses if you don't have fine dogs to trot along side of you. When mounted upon a gorgeous Andalusian you can't very well be seen with a mincing Poodle or a shivering Chihuahua. In fact you would need a ballsy no nonsense animal who would protect you, your horses and your family. Voila - Chien Andalusia! The Andalusian Bullmastiff. Luis Bunuel, Charles, Kim, David and Joey would be proud.

If I Had A Ton of $$$$$$$

What magnificent beasts. I know very little about horses, but these Andalusian horses are as beautiful as they come. If I ever win the lottery the folks over there at the Kilimanjaro Ranch will get tired of seeing me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ah Juicy Fruit!

I just replaced the keyboard on my old laptop. Wow what a difference! I feel like a kid in a new pair of PF Flyers. I called around the local computer places to see how much it would cost to have them do it, but everyone one of them wanted to charge at least $100 for the part. Then they estimated that it would take them 45 minutes to install it, bottom line they wanted $195 or so. Screw that. I was able to get a new oem keyboard for $36 and installed myself in about 15 minutes. Cha ching.
All the letters are backwards, the shift is the space bar and the control is the tab, but other than that it works fine.

Albums You Like That You're Kinda Ashamed Of

Released in 1983 and sounding everyday of 22 years old, Ministry's 'With Sympathy' is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, especialy the second cut 'Revenge'.

Hitchens on Galloway

"A member of the British Parliament was in receipt of serious money originating from a homicidal dictatorship. That money was supposed to have been used to ameliorate the suffering of Iraqis living under sanctions. It was instead diverted to the purposes of enriching Saddam's toadies and of helping them propagandize in favor of the regime whose crimes and aggressions had necessitated the sanctions and created the suffering in the first place. This is something more than mere "corruption." It is the cynical theft of food and medicine from the desperate to pay for the palaces of a psychopath."

As they say, read the whole thing:

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Culture and Cruelty

"In the Spaniard's heart is a deep conviction that nothing can be proven except that it be made to bleed. Virgins, bulls, men. Ultimately God himself.”

The DueƱa, in All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

"Almost everything we call ‘higher culture’ is based on the spiritualisation and intensification of cruelty – this is my proposition; the ‘wild beast’ has not been laid to rest at all, it lives, it flourishes, it has become – defined. That what constitutes the painful voluptuousness of tragedy is cruelty"

Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

I've often heard this quote and just as often wondered if it was true. Nietzche uses the qualifiers 'almost" and 'higher', so the casual faultfinder can't assert with any credibility that the sport of curling is cruelty free as proof of refutation.
When speaking of tragic theater there can hardly be shock, awe and ultimately catharsis without blood being spilt. Having attended ballet I would suggest that the entire concept is cruel both to the practitioners and the audience. And in painting one of my previous posts about Peter Paul Rubens demonstrates the sadism inherent in his art.
So perhaps Nietzche was onto something. But what was he trying to do to begin with? I am far from a Nietzche fan and even further from an authority on him. But from what I can tell he was interested in separating the nonsense from the useful. A younger man might call it the search for truth, but for our purposes here we will be content with the merely workable.
The bottom line is we appreciate suffering. Think of a medieval cathedral- high art no doubt, but what fascinates us is all the hard work and sacrifice that went into it. Of course it's pretty but if one were told it took three weeks to build by part time laborers who ate well and slept on feather beds at break time it would lose some of it's appeal.
In 2004 the Red Sox won the world series. Emblematic of that victory is the bloody sock of Curt Schilling who perhaps ended his career with that dramatic performance. Blood, sacrifice, pain, struggle, ultimate victory - it was all there. Had Superman pitched 4 perfect games with the infielders and outfielders sitting on their gloves in the grass watching it, who would have cared?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Speaking of Sharp Things, A Boker Smatchet Makes and Excellent Christmas Gift

Designed by Col. Rex Applegate this massive, German crafted knife is made from one solid (nearly 1/4" thick) piece of 440C Stainless Steel. Measuring in at 15 3/4" overall and nearly two pounds in weight. Double bevel, the blade is sharp on both sides! Intended to be taken into the field, there is very little that would get in the way of this Smatchet. These knives are serial numbered, and included is a custom Cordura sheath which is packed in an rugged Army green cotton sack with draw string.

and how many notable detractors have thrown sharp things at his coconut

Interesting article on Peter Paul Rubens:

"It doesn't fall to many people to donate a useful new adjective to the English language. But because of Rubens we are able to describe the larger lady - the lady who lunches too much- as "Rubensian" without trampling on her feelings. "Rubensian" is such a friendly adjective. It makes the size - 16 girl feel like nothing more unsightly than a roomy size 14."

Read the whole thing:,,1-531-1824218-531,00.html

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I Thought So

Movies That Time and Good Taste Forgot

In honor of Halloween, I present to you Movies That Time and Good Taste Forgot. Today's entry is the 1972 horror/camp classic Gargoyles. When we were kids this movie was on TV every other month or so and it always scared the hell out us. Back then I had no concept of camp or kitsch, nor did I notice that the Jennifer Salt character who ran around the whole movie in a white halter top was a major league knobosaurus. The things you miss as a kid.

Beans, Beans The Magic Fruit.....

THE BEST INVENTION: Umberto Eco shows how after 1000 AD the cultivation of beans, peas and lentils had a profound effect on European civilisation

A thousand years ago we were squarely in the middle ages. Of course, "Middle Ages" is a scholastic convention. For example, in certain countries -- including Italy -- the term "Middle Ages" is employed even when the writer is referring to the time of Dante and Petrarch; in other countries, scholars already speak of these years as the Renaissance. To make things a bit clearer, let us say that there are at least two "Middle Ages": one lasting from the fall of the Roman Empire (fifth century A.D.) to the year 999, and the other, beginning in the year 1000 and continuing at least until the 15th century.
Now the Middle Ages before the year 1000 can deservedly be called the Dark Ages, a term carelessly used to cover all the centuries between the 5th and the 14th. I say "deservedly" not because those Ages were full of burnings at the stake, for there were flames and pyres also in the highly civil 17th and 18th centuries, or because superstitious beliefs were widespread, for when it comes to superstitions -- though for different reasons -- our own New Age is second to none.
No, they can deservedly be called the Dark Ages because the barbarian invasions that took place during this time beset Europe for centuries and gradually destroyed Roman civilization. Cities were deserted, in ruins; the great highways, neglected, disappeared under a tangle of weeds; and fundamental techniques were forgotten, including the processes of mining and quarrying. The land was no longer cultivated and, at least until the feudal reform of Charlemagne, entire agricultural areas reverted to forest.
In this sense, the Middle Ages before 1000 AD were a period of indigence, hunger, insecurity. In his splendid La civilisation de l'Occident mediaevale, rich in observations of everyday life in the Middle Ages, Jacques Le Goff illustrated how impoverished this time was by recounting popular tales. In one such story, a saint appears magically to retrieve a sickle that a peasant had accidentally dropped down a well. In an era when iron had become rare, the loss of a sickle would have been a terrible thing, making it impossible for the peasant to continue harvesting: the sickle's blade was irreplaceable.
As the population became smaller and less strong physically, people were mowed down by endemic diseases (tuberculosis, leprosy, ulcers, eczema, tumours) and by dread epidemics like the plague. It is always risky to venture demographic calculations for past millennia, but according to some scholars, Europe in the seventh century had shrunk to roughly 14 million inhabitants; others posit 17 million for the eighth century. Underpopulation combined with undercultivated land left nearly everyone undernourished.
As the second millennium approached, however, the figures changed -- the population grew. Some experts calculate a total of 22 million Europeans in 950; others speak of 42 million in 1000. In the 14th century, Europe's population hovered between 60 million and 70 million. Though the figures differ, on one point there is agreement: in the five centuries after the year 1000, Europe's population doubled, maybe even tripled.
The reasons for Europe's boom are hard to pinpoint; between the 11th and 13th centuries, radical transformations occurred in political life, in art, in the economy and, as we shall see, in technology. This new surge of physical energy and of ideas was evident to those living at the time. The monk Radulphus Glaber, born in the very last years of the first millennium, began writing his famous Historiarum (known in English as "Five Books of the Histories") about 30 years later. The monk did not have a particularly merry view of life, and he tells of a famine in 1033, describing atrocious instances of cannibalism among the poorest peasants. But somehow he sensed that, with the year 1000, a new spirit was stirring in the world, and things -- which until then had gone very badly -- were taking a positive turn.
Thus he burst forth in an almost lyrical passage, which still stands out in the annals of the Middle Ages. In it, he told how, at the end of the millennium, the earth suddenly blossomed, like a meadow in spring: "It was already the third year after 1000, when, in the whole world, but especially in Italy and the regions of Gaul, there was a renewal of the basilical churches . . . each Christian nation strove to achieve the most beautiful. It seemed that the very earth, stirring itself and shaking off old age, was newly clad with a white mantle of churches." Now the flowering of Romanesque art (for that is what Radulphus was talking about) did not suddenly take place in 1003; Radulphus was writing more as a poet than as an historian. But he was talking about a rivalry of power and prestige among various city-states; he was talking about new architectural techniques and of an economic resurgence, for you cannot build such churches without wealth behind you; he was talking about churches conceived in dimensions larger than their predecessors -- churches capable of accommodating a growing population.
Naturally it can be said that, with the reforms of Charlemagne, with the construction of the Germanic empire, with the rejuvenation of cities and the birth of the communes, the economic situation also improved. But would it not also be possible to say the opposite, namely that the political situation evolved, the cities flourished anew, because daily life and working conditions were improved by something? In the centuries before 1000, a new triennial system of crop rotation was slowly adopted, allowing the land to be more fruitful.
But cultivation requires tools and working animals, and on this front there were breakthroughs too. Just before the year 1000, horses began to be fitted with iron horseshoes (up until then, the hooves were bound with cloth) and with stirrups. The latter, of course, were more for the benefit of knights than for peasants. For the peasants, it was the invention of a new kind of collar for horses, oxen and other beasts of burden that proved revolutionary. The old collars put all the strain on the animal's neck muscles, compromising its windpipe.
The new collar involved the chest muscles, increasing the animal's efficiency by at least two-thirds, and permitting, for certain tasks, horses to replace oxen (oxen were better suited to the old type of collars, but they also worked at a slower pace than horses). Moreover, whereas in the past horses had been yoked in a horizontal line, now they could be yoked in single file, significantly increasing their capacity for pulling.
Around this time, ploughing methods changed. Now the plough had two wheels and two blades, one for cutting the earth and the other -- the ploughshare -- for turning it over. Though this "machine" was already known to Nordic people as early as the second century BC, it was not until the 12th century that it spread throughout Europe.
But what I really want to talk about is beans, and not just beans but also peas and lentils. All these fruits of the earth are rich in vegetable proteins, as anyone who goes on a low-meat diet knows, for the nutritionist will be sure to insist that a nice dish of lentils or split peas has the nutritional value of a thick, juicy steak. Now the poor, in those remote Middle Ages, did not eat meat, unless they managed to raise a few chickens or engaged in poaching (the game of the forest was the property of the lords). And as I mentioned earlier, this poor diet begat a population that was ill nourished, thin, sickly, short and incapable of tending the fields.
So when, in the 10th century, the cultivation of legumes began to spread, it had a profound effect on Europe. Working people were able to eat more protein; as a result, they became more robust, lived longer, created more children and repopulated a continent. We believe that the inventions and the discoveries that have changed our lives depend on complex machines. But the fact is, we are still here -- I mean we Europeans, but also those descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers and the Spanish conquistadors -- because of beans. Without beans, the European population would not have doubled within a few centuries, today we would not number in the hundreds of millions and some of us, including even readers of this article, would not exist. Some philosophers say that this would be better, but I am not sure everyone agrees.
And what about the non-Europeans? I am unfamiliar with the history of beans on other continents, but surely even without European beans, the history of those continents would have been different, just as the commercial history of Europe would have been different without Chinese silk and Indian spices.
Above all, it seems to me that this story of beans is of some significance for us today. In the first place, it tells us that ecological problems must be taken seriously. Secondly, we have all known for a long time that if the West ate unmilled brown rice, husks and all (delicious, by the way), we would consume less food, and better food. But who thinks of such things? Everyone will say that the greatest invention of the millennium is television or the microchip. But it would be a good thing if we learned to learn something from the Dark Ages too.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Commuting Options

My office is almost a mile from my house - too far to walk for a fat ass like me but too close to drive with the price of gas close to $3.00. So what to do?

Maybe I can ride a scooter and hope the cell phone talking, behemoth driving, self obsessed denizens of the center don't run me over. Fat chance.

Or maybe I can get around on this:

Hartford Accident and Indemnity

Wallace Stevens' place of employment.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Wallace Stevens' Blackbirds

Wallace Stevens moved to Hartford in 1916 at one point living in an apartment building at the corner of Prospect and Farmington Avenues. He would walk to work down Farmington Avenue, past Little Hollywood, past the Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe Houses to the Hartford Accident and Indemnity which was at the nexus of Asylum and Farmington Avenues. If you were to make that walk today you would see in front of Saint Joseph's Cathedral the largest murder of crows you have ever seen unless you're an Iowan corn farmer. I wonder if these are the descendants of Wallace's blackbirds? Back then in the 1930's there had been a trolley that ran all the way to Farmington down Farmington Avenue. I wonder if he would ride sometimes and look at all the pretty young women in Little Hollywood and then the homes of literary giants and then the blackbirds, and have time to think?

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird


Among twenty snowy mountains
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.


I was of three minds
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.


The blackbird whirled in the autumn wind
It was a small part of the pantomime.


A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.


I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflexions
Or the beauty of innuendos,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.


Icicles filled the window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The Mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.


O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?


I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.


When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.


At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.


He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
for blackbirds.


The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.


It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar limbs.

Wallace Stevens

Convergence by Jackson Pollock

"Here I saw a man who had both broken all the traditions of the past and unified them, who had gone beyond cubism, beyond Picasso and surrealism, beyond everything that had happened in art....his work expressed both action and contemplation." Alfonso Ossorio

Derided as "Jack the Dripper" it's easy upon cursory examination to be dismissive of Jackson Pollock and his work. But there is a hell of a lot more going on than some East Coast FauxBo slinging paint around, what it is I'm not exactly sure, but I dig it.

Greg Delanty Referenced This

This Is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pericles' Speech in Defense of Athens

Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. Our government does not copy our neighbors', but is an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while there exists equal justice to all and alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty an obstacle, but a man may benefit his country whatever the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private business, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having a particular regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment.
And we have not forgotten to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil; we have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year; our homes are beautiful and elegant; and the delight which we daily feel in all these things helps to banish sorrow. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as our own.
Then, again, our military training is in many respects superior to that of our adversaries. Our city is thrown open to the world, though and we never expel a foreigner and prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And in the matter of education, whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils which they face. And here is the proof: The Lacedaemonians come into Athenian territory not by themselves, but with their whole confederacy following; we go alone into a neighbor's country; and although our opponents are fighting for their homes and we on a foreign soil, we have seldom any difficulty in overcoming them. Our enemies have never yet felt our united strength, the care of a navy divides our attention, and on land we are obliged to send our own citizens everywhere. But they, if they meet and defeat a part of our army, are as proud as if they had routed us all, and when defeated they pretend to have been vanquished by us all.
If then we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the better for it? Since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as brave as those who never allow themselves to rest; thus our city is equally admirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful in our tastes and our strength lies, in our opinion, not in deliberation and discussion, but that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act, and of acting, too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection. And they are surely to be esteemed the bravest spirits who, having the clearest sense both of the pains and pleasures of life, do not on that account shrink from danger. In doing good, again, we are unlike others; we make our friends by conferring, not by receiving favors. Now he who confers a favor is the firmer friend, because he would rather by kindness keep alive the memory of an obligation; but the recipient is colder in his feelings, because he knows that in requiting another's generosity he will not be winning gratitude but only paying a debt. We alone do good to our neighbors not upon a calculation of interest, but in the confidence of freedom and in a frank and fearless spirit. To sum up: I say that Athens is the school of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian in his own person seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most varied forms of action with the utmost versatility and grace. This is no passing and idle word, but truth and fact; and the assertion is verified by the position to which these qualities have raised the state. For in the hour of trial Athens alone among her contemporaries is superior to the report of her. No enemy who comes against her is indignant at the reverses which he sustains at the hands of such a city; no subject complains that his masters are unworthy of him. And we shall assuredly not be without witnesses; there are mighty monuments of our power which will make us the wonder of this and of succeeding ages; we shall not need the praises of Homer or of any other panegyrist whose poetry may please for the moment, although his representation of the facts will not bear the light of day. For we have compelled every land and every sea to open a path for our valor, and have everywhere planted eternal memorials of our friendship and of our enmity. Such is the city for whose sake these men nobly fought and died; they could not bear the thought that she might be taken from them; and every one of us who survive should gladly toil on her behalf.
I have dwelt upon the greatness of Athens because I want to show you that we are contending for a higher prize than those who enjoy none of these privileges, and to establish by manifest proof the merit of these men whom I am now commemorating. Their loftiest praise has been already spoken. For in magnifying the city I have magnified them, and men like them whose virtues made her glorious. And of how few Hellenes can it be said as of them, that their deeds when weighed in the balance have been found equal to their fame! I believe that a death such as theirs has been the true measure of a man's worth; it may be the first revelation of his virtues, but is at any rate their final seal. For even those who come short in other ways may justly plead the valor with which they have fought for their country; they have blotted out the evil with the good, and have benefited the state more by their public services than they have injured her by their private actions. None of these men were enervated by wealth or hesitated to resign the pleasures of life; none of them put off the evil day in the hope, natural to poverty, that a man, though poor, may one day become rich. But, deeming that the punishment of their enemies was sweeter than any of these things, and that they could fall in no nobler cause, they determined at the hazard of their lives to be honorably avenged, and to leave the rest. They resigned to hope their unknown chance of happiness; but in the face of death they resolved to rely upon themselves alone. And when the moment came they were minded to resist and suffer, rather than to fly and save their lives; they ran away from the word of dishonor, but on the battlefield their feet stood fast, and in an instant, at the height of their fortune, they passed away from the scene, not of their fear, but of their glory.
Such was the end of these men; they were worthy of Athens, and the living need not desire to have a more heroic spirit, although they may pray for a less fatal issue. The value of such a spirit is not to be expressed in words. Any one can discourse to you for ever about the advantages of a brave defense, which you know already. But instead of listening to him I would have you day by day fix your eyes upon the greatness of Athens, until you become filled with the love of her; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of her glory, reflect that this empire has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it, who in the hour of conflict had the fear of dishonor always present to them, and who, if ever they failed in an enterprise, would not allow their virtues to be lost to their country, but freely gave their lives to her as the fairest offering which they could present at her feast. The sacrifice which they collectively made was individually repaid to them; for they received again each one for himself a praise which grows not old, and the noblest of all tombs, I speak not of that in which their remains are laid, but of that in which their glory survives, and is proclaimed always and on every fitting occasion both in word and deed. For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do not weigh too nicely the perils of war. The unfortunate who has no hope of a change for the better has less reason to throw away his life than the prosperous who, if he survive, is always liable to a change for the worse, and to whom any accidental fall makes the most serious difference. To a man of spirit, cowardice and disaster coming together are far more bitter than death striking him unperceived at a time when he is full of courage and animated by the general hope.
Wherefore I do not now pity the parents of the dead who stand here; I would rather comfort them. You know that your dead have passed away amid manifold vicissitudes; and that they may be deemed fortunate who have gained their utmost honor, whether an honorable death like theirs, or an honorable sorrow like yours, and whose share of happiness has been so ordered that the term of their happiness is likewise the term of their life. I know how hard it is to make you feel this, when the good fortune of others will too often remind you of the gladness which once lightened your hearts. And sorrow is felt at the want of those blessings, not which a man never knew, but which were a part of his life before they were taken from him. Some of you are of an age at which they may hope to have other children, and they ought to bear their sorrow better; not only will the children who may hereafter be born make them forget their own lost ones, but the city will be doubly a gainer. She will not be left desolate, and she will be safer. For a man's counsel cannot have equal weight or worth, when he alone has no children to risk in the general danger. To those of you who have passed their prime, I say: "Congratulate yourselves that you have been happy during the greater part of your days; remember that your life of sorrow will not last long, and be comforted by the glory of those who are gone. For the love of honor alone is ever young, and not riches, as some say, but honor is the delight of men when they are old and useless.
To you who are the sons and brothers of the departed, I see that the struggle to emulate them will be an arduous one. For all men praise the dead, and, however preeminent your virtue may be, I do not say even to approach them, and avoid living their rivals and detractors, but when a man is out of the way, the honor and goodwill which he receives is unalloyed. And, if I am to speak of womanly virtues to those of you who will henceforth be widows, let me sum them up in one short admonition: To a woman not to show more weakness than is natural to her sex is a great glory, and not to be talked about for good or for evil among men.
I have paid the required tribute, in obedience to the law, making use of such fitting words as I had. The tribute of deeds has been paid in part; for the dead have them in deeds, and it remains only that their children should be maintained at the public charge until they are grown up: this is the solid prize with which, as with a garland, Athens crowns her sons living and dead, after a struggle like theirs. For where the rewards of virtue are greatest, there the noblest citizens are enlisted in the service of the state. And now, when you have duly lamented, every one his own dead, you may depart.

Tagging The Stealer

to David Cavanagh

So much of it I hadn't a bull's notion of
and like the usual ignoramus who casts his eyes
at, say, a Jackson Pollock or "This Is Just to Say,"
I scoffed at it. I didn't twig how it was as close
to art as art itself with its pregame ballyhoo,
antics, rhubarbs, scheming, luck; its look
as if little or nothing is going on.
How often have we waited for the magic
in the hands of some flipper throwing a slider,
sinker, knuckler, jug-handle, submarine or screwball?
If we're lucky, the slugger hits a daisy cutter
with a choke-up or connects with a Baltimore chop
and a ball hawk catches a can of corn
with a basket catch and the ball rounds the horn--
Oh, look, Davo, how I'm sent sailing
right out of the ball park just by its lingo.
But I swear the most memorable play I witnessed
was with you on our highstools in the Daily Planet
as we slugged our Saturday night elixirs.
The Yankees were playing your Toronto Blue Jays.
They were tied at the top of the 9th.
I can't now for the life of me remember
who won, nor the name of the catcher, except
he was an unknown, yet no rookie.
Suddenly behind the pinch hitter's back he signaled
the pitcher, though no one copped until seconds later
as the catcher fireballed the potato to the first baseman,
tagging the stealer. It doesn't sound like much,
but everyone stood up round the house Ruth built
like hairs on the back of the neck, because the magic
was scary too. Jesus, give each of us just once
a poem the equal of that unknown man's talking hand.

Greg Delanty
The Blind Stitch
Louisiana State University Press

Expedition to Fenway Park

Aidan's first Red Sox game.
$120 later and I am convinced he would have been just as happy watching a caterpillar romance a French fry so long as there was popcorn, peanuts, hot-dogs, ice cream and frozen lemonade involved. This was the June 2nd game where David Ortiz crushed a 3-2 fastball from the Orioles' B.J. Ryan over the center field wall to win the game in 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth. Great game, I hope he'll remember it as long as I will.

The Devils Tower

Oddly enough when you get really close to it you crave mashed potatoes.

Desmond Digs Volcanic Ash

Ever wonder where the Urek Hai come from?

The Trial

What can you say about Saddam Hussein that hasn't been said a million times before and usually more eloquently and succinctly. The trial seems to me to be an opportunity to showcase in the middle east what I view as the cornerstone of our western democracy; equal protection under the law.
We all know Saddam would be well served by a quick bullet to the back of the head and few could argue successfully that he didn't have it coming. By granting this s.o.b. an actual trial, the nascent Iraqi government demonstrates a few important lessons to it's people, the region and the world. The most obvious is that no one is above the law and in this example the darker flip side of that coin, no man no matter how monstrous is denied due process. If every person is treated the same before the law, can justice be that far away?

Europe Vs. The USA

Unlike most Americans I like Europe. In fact I’ve been to several different European countries and to help my fellow Americans understand our friends across the pond let’s dispel some myths and set some stories straight.
  • Europeans don’t bathe. True in some places, i.e. most of Europe, but not always true. The smell could just be the goat’s ass they ate for lunch. Scandinavians bathe all the time, what else are they going to do? The English for some reason are nuts about bathing their feet. Why I don’t know.
  • Europeans have a different word for everything. False. If it was invented in the last 120 years or is useful to any hominid that walks on two legs, the word will usually be the same as ours. They may say it all funny – but they just do that to be difficult. Think of Inspector Clouseau asking to use a “phoenne”.
  • They have a proud heritage and ancient traditions. True and false, depends. In Greece they are very proud of Periclean Athens but are ashamed to have been ruled by the Turk for almost 400 years, which represents the last time they had an effective government. In truth by now most Greek culture is Turkish, but don’t point that out to them it pisses them of like you wouldn’t believe. In France everyone you talk to had parents or grandparents who were in the “resistance”. I think the only thing the French ever resisted was hygiene and political restraint. Most collaborated with the Nazis so feverently their lips still conform to Nazi rectums. Vichy bastards. Make no mistake the only Europeans who were on the right side during WWII were the Brits, Poles and sometime the Italians when they tried to “help” the Germans. Having the Italian Army on your side during a shooting war is like seeing Hillary Clinton naked – it’s not often done and for good reason.
  • British food is horrible. Not true. You can find good East Indian food almost everywhere in Britain. Actual British food for the most part can not be eaten unless there is a money wager involved. Yorkshire Pudding is NOT pudding but Blood Sausage is exactly that – you have been warned. With that said there are more Five Star restaurants in London than Paris if eating pancreas and God knows what else is your thing. The Brits are among the best foreigners you will meet mostly because they speak English and because they are polite, maybe too polite judging by recent events. British Policeman, aka Bobbies look harmless enough because they don’t carry guns but don’t screw with them. I think there is a lot of paperwork here in the U.S. if a cop shoots somebody but the Bobbies don’t have to fill out shit if they pound the crap out of you with their billy clubs. Ask yourself this question; who were we limiting with our Bill of Rights? If you see Tinkers in Britain or Ireland stay away from them, they’re no damn good. The same is true of Albanians in Greece, Gypsies in Eastern Europe, and Arabs in France.
  • The British have bad teeth. True. But so do the Irish and everyone in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Germans have nice teeth but they rarely smile and when they do you should be very concerned particularly if you are Jewish, Catholic, Roma, a trade unionist or gay. I’ve come to believe that tea-drinking cultures have really bad teeth.
  • The women in Spain are the best looking in Europe. True. Look at them while you can because their Salafi – Wahhabi masters will have them all wearing burkas before too long. There was a time when less then a hundred Spanish soldiers conquered one of the largest and most blood thirsty and repressive empires in human history.
  • The only thing on time in Spain are the BullFights. True. Be sure to drag that annoying PETA friend with you to the Corrida. Tell him/her that you saw the bull before in the countryside, sitting peacefully under a tree and he was crying. Give the bull a name too, something endearing. You might mention that the Matador beats his wife and kids too, just to see if you can goad the PETArd into intervening on behalf of the bull. I can tell you there are few things as amusing as watching 3000 drunken Spaniards beating the dog shit out of some English speaking PETArd. Oddly enough there is profound religious and cultural symbolism and prehistoric precedent in bullfighting, so the Spanish have little tolerance for the “Morrisey Meat is Murder” crowd.

Is this the best we can do

Most people probably couldn't care less about who replaces Sandra Day O'Connor, but I think GW Bush has really dropped the ball with Harriet Miers. Normally I tend to be supportive of the president but there is something, two things actually, that rub me the wrong way about this nomination. The first is that Miers can hardly be considered to be "the Best" candidate. In fact I never heard any of her supporters say anything of the sort. Usually they damn her with faint praise such as she's a good bowler or she never forgets to water her plants. And secondly nepotism is a fine tradition which I fully support when one needs to staff a Motor Vehicle Department or a hardware store, but this is the SCOTUS an institution of lifelong appointment and inestimable importance. It will be interesting to see what shakes out.

Forsooth A Medieval Festival!

I find plywood very slimming Posted by Picasa