Friday, August 31, 2018

Rotund, but Franklinesqe?

Deflated Basketball
A Provoking Object

The following isn't doggerel - it's even worse! It's in the pre-doggerel, feline-fine category:
Going to Fat

Burly to bed
burly to rise
makes a big belly
that can shimmy
And whoever wrote this inglorious, if diffuse, even nebulous screed against adipose tissue is a skinny little anorexic fatophobe!

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

NYT Error? - Neil Simon, 1927-1918

NYT Error?

My wife took this photo of the NYT's lower left-hand quarter section, which gives Neil Simon's birth and death dates as 1927 and 1918, respectively, of which the latter figure would appear to be possibly wrong, but who am I to argue with the NYT?

To argue or not to argue. That is the question . . .

Shouldn't one express some skepticism at a report that a man passed away about nine years before he was born, especially if that same man is shown in fine fettle in an accompanying photo dating to the year 2000, when he would already have been dead for about eighty-two years?

There must be some error here, but I can't quite figure out what it is . . .


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Astrology in Gnosticism


The friend whom I referred to as a thought-thief also displayed a lack of integrity on the issue of astrology in Gnosticism. She gave a presentation on Gnosticism and was asked if astrology was found in the gnostic system. She said she hadn't noticed it.

I spoke up and said, "I can answer this question. Astrology is pervasive in Gnosticism."

My friend didn't like to hear that, and she said to me later that when one visits another person's seminar for the first time, one should remain courteously silent.

I knew that  was bullsh*t, and that the real reason was that she was embarrassed at being so totally wrong on such a basic point in a field within which she was supposedly an expert.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Those upon whom Allah's wrath rests and those who have gone astray

Last Friday, I noted that a manifesto had been published in France as a call to the Muslim world to 'freeze' verses in the Qur'an that call for violence against Jews, Christians, and unbelievers.

Muslim leaders angrily complained of racism, Islamophobia, ignorance, and other epithetical expletives, and they said that there are no such verses in the Qur'an.

I noted that there are a number of verses that urge violence against those upon whom Allah's wrath rests and upon those who have gone astray, and these unfortunate fellows have often been identified as Jews and Christians, respectively.

I therefore suggest that we search the various writings of those Muslim leaders who have denied any hostility toward Jews and Christians in the Qur'an and see how they interpret such verses.

I'd suspect that we'd find many such readings by these  Muslim leaders.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Already Educated a Bit


Once upon a time, nearly two decades ago, I proofread and helped edit a book on "women and religion" for a friend who was working hard to make her mark in religious studies. There were a number of minor corrections that I made, as well as some matters of style that I adjusted, all of which she accepted. She had long realized that I was a better writer, and she didn't try to argue against my alterations.

But I then startled her by pointing to an important passage in her book and saying that she could strengthen her argument considerably by reworking the passage in a certain way.

She looked at me in surprise, dumbfounded for a moment, then said, "Well . . . I guess you learned something from my book."

My turn for surprise. I looked at her in silence, though I could have said, and maybe should have said, "Well, if I learned something from your book, then why did your book have to learn it from me?"

But we were still friends at that time, and I didn't want to embarrass her, though I now realize that I shouldn't have let her get away with that thought-theft.

She needed to know that I was already a fairly well-educated fellow before I met her, for she seemed remarkably oblivious to that fact.

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Sunday, August 26, 2018

More Franklinish Wisdom?

Surly to bed
surly to rise
makes a man
hellish and selfish
who lies!


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Horrific Crimes . . . or Not

I re-read this great novel during my recent vacation with my family, and I liked it just as much this time as I did the first time I read it.

I must confess, however, that the book has a few (very few) flaws, for example:
- page 127:

"Well, then, Mr. Bousted, good night, until we meet again, and thank you for your kindness to your [my] brother."
This sort of error above is more common than one might think, as is the following kind of error:
- page 253:

me -- a man who had not touched a drop of spirits since that evening when I met Snyder in the saloon on Ohio-street. [Has not drunk alcohol more than once.]
- page 219:

By this time, but for the roaring pain in my head (which a bit of Colonel Goode's excellent brandy had blunted somewhat). [Has drunk alcohol more than once, one time in the saloon, a second time at the Goode mansion, this second time being prior to the reference to alcohol on page 253.]

- page 121:

I pressed the glass to my lips and took a tentative sip. At once my mouth was filled with burning bitterness. [Has drunk alcohol for the first time and wants no more of it due to its taste and the drunken condition in which he finds Snyder.]
Despite the words of the protagonist on page 253 that he had not touched a drop of spirits since the tentative sip on page 121, he tells us on page 219 that he had drunk some excellent brandy (since that tentative sip on page 121).

This is not some dreadful lie, nor any sort of lie on the part of the protagonist; it is merely a moment in which the author has erred in memory, forgetting that the protagonist has in fact had a drink.

If any readers happen to read these words and imagine that 'Dr. Boli' is careless, let me assure all readers that after one has written and rewritten and again rewritten a passage several times -- and I speak from experience -- nearly every author would have difficulty recalling what has been kept and what rejected.

In the spirit of crowd sourcing editorial work, I note these minor errors as assistance to 'Dr. Boli' when he releases his next edition of The Crimes of Galahad.


Friday, August 24, 2018

French Manifesto

In a Memri posting (August 20, 2018, Inquiry and Analysis Series No.1413), we find an important manifesto directed to Muslims. Many French public intellectuals and political leaders recently signed this manifesto against Islam, criticizing the hatred in some Qur'anic verses directed toward Jews, Christians, and unbelievers and urging Muslim authorities to disavow such verses as obsolete:
"Therefore, we urge that the Quranic verses calling to kill and punish Jews, Christians and non-believers be declared obsolete by the theological authorities."
Needless to say, this didn't go over well with those aforementioned "theological authorities":
The signatories to the manifesto, they said, were simply ignorant and harbored racist sentiments towards Muslims . . . . "[The] Quran does not contain a single verse that calls to kill Jews and Christians, nor is there any room for such barbarity and cruelty in that book." . . . Mentioning Quran 2:256, which states that "there is no coercion in religion," [the question is] asked: "Why should the Quran call to kill Jews and Christians? . . . How can any reasonable person make such a claim?" . . . "No to freezing a single letter of the Quran. Whoever demands this can go to hell . . . . [If] they rely on their own faulty understanding, then to hell with them and their demands."
This sort of response goes on and on for page after page, denial after denial. No attempt is made to engage the manifesto's criticisms.

As the Islamic authorities surely know, there are verses in the Qur'an that are understood to refer to Jews and Christians, for instance, in Surah 1:7, which says, "Guide us in the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those against whom Thou art wrathful [the Jews], nor of those who are astray [the Christians]."

Islamic tradition has understood verse 7 to refer to the Jews as those with whom Allah is angry and to the Christians as the people who have gone astray. One sees how Allah's attitude toward Jews and Christians could lead to believers' violence against them.

As for the widely quoted verse about no coercion in religion, it is widely held to be abrogated, namely, that it was espoused when Islam was weak but does not apply when Muslims gain power.

And we see that anyone calling for reform of Islam by suspending verses in the Qur'an can simply go to hell.

One can see why the French signatories are alarmed. More here.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Vacation Nearly Over

Here we are, still at the East Sea, also still stubbornly 'known' by some people as the Sea of Japan:

Hurricane in No Hurry

But the weather looks ominous . . .


Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Here we are at the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan:

I'm using my iPad, so I won't try to compose anything today.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Poems: Composing . . . or Decomposing

A friend of mine saw these two moments in the process of composing poetry and wanted to take photos, so here they are:

Composing 1

Composing 2

Both photos reveal a poet at work amending poems that appear to be in the final stages of composition . . . or decomposition.


Monday, August 20, 2018

The Other Forgotten Poem

The other poem is titled Mistral, and according to NRL Monterey, Marine Meteorology Division, the "mistral is a strong, cold northwesterly wind system that blows from Southern France into the Gulf of Lions  . . . with sustained winds often exceeding 40 kt, and gusts sometimes to 100 kt." Folk belief holds that it drives men insane. Here's the poem:
Wind of evil from the mountains,
Wind from darkness of the hills,
Toss the stars in glowing fountains
Struck like sparks from grinding wheels.

Drive a man to dread the morrow -
Whisper nothing in his ear;
Wrap his soul in shrouds of sorrow -
Hold him in unyielding fear.

Wind of evil from the mountains,
Wind of darkness from the hills,
Toss the stars in glowing fountains
Struck like sparks from grinding wheels.
Nothing special, this poem, but I want to put it with my next collection of poems, which will appear in 2050.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Forgotten Poems


In perusing the first Emanations anthology to see how far Carter Kaplan's project has come over the years, I discovered that I had somehow left out two poems from my Radiant Snow collection. Here's one of them:
Dante's Odyssey
Those nights I often dreamt
of broken labyrinths
where black, black flames rise up
in resurrected death
to prophesy with no one's tongue
on what shall come, is passing, or has passed.
I like this one, so I don't know how I neglected to include it.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Report from Genoa: Morandi Bridge Collapse

Before the Collapse


An Italian friend of mine reports on the Morandi Bridge collapse in Genoa:
Yes, here we are ok, but what a dramatic situation. That bridge was essential to the life of Genoa, as well as the streets close to the bridge that now are closed to the traffic. I've been driving on that bridge, or under, every day for 13 years, and my husband more. Right now - can you imagine? - the traffic from the part of Genoa situated in the valley of Polcevera can use only one street as large as Channing Way in Berkeley! It's the result of incompetence, corruption and ... the usual Italian problem.
I'm glad to hear that my old friend and her family are unharmed.

Condolences to those who are not so fortunate.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Earth Lines?


Latitudinarian: expressing broad views.

Longitudinarian: expressing long-winded, narrow-minded views, especially as one approaches the poles.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Just the facts . . .

Druze Fighter

After a battle between ISIS and Druze fighters, MEMRI TV Clip No. 6707 reports the following:
Reporter: "You were wounded, but not killed."

Local Druze Fighter: "Right."
Ah, the mark of a good reporter, leaving no tombstone unturned!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pierre Manent: Beyond Radical Secularism

Pierre Manent

Over at GoV, the cultural critic Thomas F. Bertonneau reviews the English edition of Pierre Manent's book, Beyond Radical Secularism -- How France and the Christian West Should Respond to the Islamic Challenge. Here is the opening paragraph of Bertonneau's review:
Pierre Manent (born 1949), a former student of Raymond Aron's who currently holds a professorship in political philosophy at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, has over the years written a dozen books devoted to the discussion of the liberal-modern dispensation — its origins, its basic assumptions, and its limitations. Unsurprising in a student of Aron's, Manent is moderately right-leaning, at least in a contemporary French context, in that he defends classical liberalism, disparages the authoritarian liberalism that has replaced it, advocates for the legitimacy of the nation-state, and turns his considerable skepticism on the European Union. Like a number of his contemporaries on the French Nouveau Droit, Manent insists that by the compelling force of their history and culture, France and its European sister nations are Christian nations and that they derive the fundamental decency of their political arrangements at least in part from a specifically Christian view of man and the world. In his expository style, Manent qualifies as quintessentially French: He argues his theses with thoroughness and subtlety and eschews any rhetoric of provocation. His prose gives an impression of coolness, calmness, and steadiness, qualities that incline a reader to concede the argument, if only while he is reading it.
The review is long, but worth reading, and Manent looks to be one for the reading list.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Milton and Middle Knowledge?

John Milton

The following brief passage is taken from Milton's essay Areopagitica, and note especially his references to Jesuits and to Arminius:
But of our Priests and Doctors how many have bin corrupted by studying the comments of Jesuits and Sorbonists, and how fast they could transfuse that corruption into the people, our experience is both late and sad. It is not forgot, since the acute and distinct Arminius was perverted meerly by the perusing of a namelesse discourse writt'n at Delf, which at first he took in hand to confute. (Areopagitica, Dartmouth, Milton Reading Room)
I call attention to the Jesuits and Arminius here because they developed a theology that is called Middle Knowledge, which refers to God's Middle Knowledge and which is of interest to me because it attempts to maintain human freedom and divine foreknowledge, a theology not so far from the one Milton himself eventually adopted.

Learn more about Middle Knowledge here.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Writer's Block 5: Truth Triumphant?

I'm still suffering writer's block, which has inspired another poem, this one drawing upon Milton's Areopagitica and his Sonnet 12, the two of which seem together to conjoin a view of truth as always discernable with a view of truth as not always discernable, a consequence of our rebellious nature:
Writer's Block 5: Truth Triumphant?
If every sort of doctrine were loosed
upon the world, as seems to be the case,
could truth fend truly in that steeplechase
and run unimpaired, even without a boost?

Do not we all misdoubt her doubtful strength,
not having seen her with all falsehood grapple,
for we've seen how, with that one false apple,
sure put to worse was truth, and at great length?

Now good and evil grow inseparably,
and Adam's judgement is this one great doom,
to judge, as twixt twins leapt forth from the womb,

the taste of good and evil from the tree
that brought in death and made the world a tomb.
But still revolts the man whom truth set free.
This is where Milton leaves us -- in a moral quandary, our doom! We judge good and evil by means of the good and evil we experience within ourselves, in what we attain as good or commit as evil. Or so thinks Milton . . .

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Wisacre versus Wisecracker

Wise Old Goats?

Which is worse, a wiseacre or a wisecracker?


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Turning Milton's Prose into Poetry

A few days back, I quoted from Milton's Areopagitica, breaking Milton's prose and making it look like poetry:
And though all the windes of doctrin were let loose
to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field,
we do injuriously, by licencing and prohibiting
to misdoubt her strength.
Let her and Falshood grapple;
who ever knew Truth put to the wors,
in a free and open encounter.
Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing.
I borrowed my Milton quote from Dartmouth's Milton Reading Room site, but I broke the prose into the free verse that you see just above. I received this prose-broken-into-poetry response from John Savoie on the Milton List:
Of late I too have grown fond of linebreaking prose;
Milton's prose especially rewards the segmentation.
Note that John Savoie is also a poet and a Milton scholar, so he's a voice to listen to . . .

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Milton on Truth

Milton speaks out for free speech and argues that truth can fend for itself against falsehood:
Let her and Falshood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the wors, in a free and open encounter. (Milton Reading Room: Darthmouth)
My question: Is Milton correct? Can truth fend for itself? Or can falsehood sometimes defeat truth?


Thursday, August 09, 2018

Grace Shulman Speaks on Jefferson and Milton

There's some squabble going on about some poet or other who, though not African American, used African American lingo in a prize-winning poem published in the Nation. Both the poet and the Nation have apologized. I haven't seen the poem. I address a different issue here, namely, individual influence.

Here are some words of note by Grace Shulman in her comment
on the Nation's apology for publishing a poem many found offensive.
Shulman was critical of the apology, but she misattributed
some words to Milton and was apologetic about that:
Correction: August 5, 2018
An earlier version of this article misattributed a quotation;
it was Thomas Jefferson, not John Milton,
who said that "error of opinion may be tolerated
where reason is left free to combat it."
But one can see how Jefferson's view derives from Milton's view in Areopagitica:
And though all the windes of doctrin were let loose
to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field,
we do injuriously, by licencing and prohibiting
to misdoubt her strength.
Let her and Falshood grapple;
who ever knew Truth put to the wors,
in a free and open encounter.
Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing.
Jefferson knew his sources well, no doubt (and I borrowed my Milton sources from the Dartmouth site), so there is more than lingo at stake here when one speaks of influence.

Something to think about . . .

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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Writer's Block 4: Windfall

Satan Arousing
Rebel Angels
William Blake

I'm still suffering writer's block, so I've commiserated with myself by drawing lines from John Milton to write today's poem:
Writer's Block 4: Windfall
When I consider how my life is spent,
Which far as angel's ken once held purview,
Above Most High insatiate to pursue,
Too well I see and rue the dire event.

Oh how unlike the place from whence we fell,
But here at least, we shall be fondest free,
And what I should be, all but less than He,
To rule th'infernal world, this deepest Hell.

We glory to've escaped the heavenly host,
As gods, thus through our own recovered strength,
Not by the grace of some supernal Power.

Here may we reign secure, and might I boast,
To reign is worth ambition, whate'er the length.
In Hell thus reign; serve not in Heaven's bower.

*With apologies to John Milton.
Milton's not around to receive my apology, but I think that he would have understood, and even approved.

Homework: Who is the speaker in this poem? Obviously, it's . . .

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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Islamic Voice on Jihad

On July 26, 2018, Memri reported that on Telegram, "Jihadis Release[d An] English Book Sanctioning ‎Attacks In [The] West, Calling Muslims There To Focus On ‎Military, Law Enforcement, Political, [And] Economic Targets," arguing that aggressive jihad is not a distortion of Islam but one of its highest endeavors:
Much has been said about 'Islamic terrorism' in light of recent attacks in the West, targeting the US, Britain, France, and a number of other European countries. Western politicians and commentators appear to have reached a consensus that such 'barbaric' attacks have nothing to do with Islam and are the sole actions of a small group of extremists, bent on distorting the religion of Islam to justify their actions. Indeed, many Muslims also echo these sentiments, stating unequivocally that these 'actions, and individuals have nothing to do with Islam,' effectively reinforcing the Western narrative. However, this discourse seems to ignore one important voice – Islam's. Western governments and media has [sic have] for a number of years attempted to dictate to Muslims what Islam is, or should be – A version of Islam compatible with western [sic Western] ideals, principles, and (global) interests. Unfortunately, many Muslims, especially in the West, have become confused with these conflicting narratives – that of the West's, and that of Islam's. Consequently, many are now in doubt as to what the 'Islamic perspective' is on a range of contemporary (and some old) issues faced by Muslims in the twenty-first century, with one such issue being that of Jihad.
The voice of Islam that expresses itself here goes deep into the Islamic sources to justify an aggressive jihad against the West. This fits my argument that Islamism is not extremism, but is, rather, radicalism at the root of Islam.

Read more at the online site.


Monday, August 06, 2018

Bernard Lewis and John Milton

Bernard Lewis liked to quote Milton's Sonnet 19:
"that one talent which is death to hide . . . lodged with me useless."
Milton is probably alluding to his poetic talent, but I've not looked into this. Lewis seems to have quoted Milton to motivate students who lacked confidence in their talents. According to Katherine Nouri Hughes:
Bernard did me the favor and honor of taking . . . seriously [my amateur interest in the Orient]. "Being an amateur -- even a dilettante," he said, "was respectable. What possible fault is there in loving and delighting in what you engage in? There is something, however, that you must beware of." He specified by citing Milton: "that one talent which is death to hide . . . lodged with me useless." It was something he repeated many times in the seasons that followed.
Lewis to Milton -- the greats are drawn to the greats . . .

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Sunday, August 05, 2018

Poetry Break: Writer's Block 3

I'm still encountering Writer's Block, so I composed the 'poem' below to record it:
Writer's Block 3
I cannot call this poetry,
for writer's block has hold on me.
I scribble-scrabble nonsense verse,
but that just makes the problem worse.

Perhaps I ought to go to bed
and lay to rest my weary head.
Oh, I don't mean eternally;
I still have things I'd like to see.

Call this a poem if you dare,
but that won't get you anywhere.
The critics know it's doggerel,
and they will say: "Go straight to Hell."
If this case of Writer's Block goes on, I'll have a goodly number of poems to blame it for.

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Saturday, August 04, 2018

Writer's Block 2

Here's another poem I can't write because of writer's block:
Writer's Block 2
I cannot write this poem,
this hum-drum decorum,
kinetic beat-up plug
unstopped bug-in-a-rug

business because I
am a regular guy
and not a chaotic,
revived, old school beatnik

who cannot stop himself
dropping the odd word "pelf"
into mid-third-stanza
to show he can stand-ja.
And that's how things stand for now.


Friday, August 03, 2018


Rip Van Winkle
Sleepy Hollow

If one of Franklin's proverbs is true, then shouldn't its opposite be untrue? For instance:
"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
Here's the opposite
Later to bed and later to rise, makes one unhealthy, unwealthy, unwise.
Is that true or false? Also, does its truth or falsity depend on the truth or falsity of Franklin's proverb?


Thursday, August 02, 2018

Poetry Break: Writer's Block Re-View

Writer's Sphere:
When Ideas Just Won't

Here's a little poem that might not work because I had to invent one or two words to complete it:
Writer's Block Re-View
I can neither rhyme nor reason
my way through more than one season
of the many that passed my way
to bring me to review this day

your book. That work was over-long
in reaching me. It was too strong-
ly bound to fall apart, so it,
physi-scellanic, did not split.

I should be writing pertnear all
of what I owe you for your call-
ing out to me to answer you,
but writer's block stops my review.
Does that work for all you'uns out there in Internet-of-Things Land? Is "pertnear" allowed, or is my dialect unbefitting here? Consider this a poem in process . . .


Wednesday, August 01, 2018

But what's an apple?

In a recent opinion piece ("Why Mistranslation Matters," July 28, 2018) for the NYT, Mark Polizzotti refers to Jerome's translation of the Bible and to Milton's Paradise Lost as two sources of our modern concept of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil:
When Jerome, the patron saint of translators, rendered the Bible into Latin, he introduced a pun that created one of the most potent symbols of Christian iconography, turning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil ("malus") into the tree of apples ("malum"). It's true that "malum," in Jerome's day, could mean any number of fruits: the serpentine creature on Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling, for instance, is coiled around a fig tree. But in the 16th century, both Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder, following Jerome's lead, famously depicted Adam and Eve beside unambiguous apples. And when, the following century, John Milton wrote of Eve's "sharp desire . . . / Of tasting those fair Apples," he helped concretize the image of the bright rubine Malus pumila that we know today.
Okay, so Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder also each played a role in winning for the apple its highest place of honor as a symbol of evil. But supporting roles only!