Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Some what mystified by the commotion at the abbey, Brother Francis returned to the desert that same day to complete his Lenten vigil in rather wretched solitude. He had expected some excitement about the relics to arise, but the excessive interest which everyone had taken in the old wanderer surprised him. Francis had spoken of the old man, simply because of the part he had played, either by accident or Providence, in the monk’s stumbling upon the crypt and its relics. The pilgrim was only a minor ingredient, as far as Francis was concerned, in a mandala design at whose center rested a relic of a saint. But his fellow novices had seemed more interested in the pilgrim than in the relic, and even the abbot had summoned him, not to ask about the box, but to ask about the old man. They had asked him a hundred questions about the pilgrim to which he could reply only: “I didn’t notice,” or “I wasn’t looking right then,” or “If he said, I don’t remember,” and some of the questions were a little weird. And so he questioned himself: Should I have noticed? Was I stupid not to watch what he did? Wasn’t I paying enough attention to what he said? Did I miss something important because I was dazed?

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz (54)

For obvious reasons, I never told you about my notebook, with a cover as green as mansions long gone, which I use as a commonplace book, a phrase which here means “place where I have collected passages from some of the most important books I have read.” The passages hold some of the most crucial secrets in this sad and flammable world. As much as it breaks my heart to tear them from my dark green notebook, it is simply not safe to keep them any longer.

Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography (159)

Monday, December 30, 2002

“I don’t see how,” Klaus said, his eyes looking worried behind his glasses. “There’s only one copy of the catalog, and it’s pretty complicated. Each of the items for the auction is called a lot, and the catalog lists each lot with a description and a guess at what the highest bid will be. I’ve read up to Lot #49, which is a valuable postage stamp.”

Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator (173)

If you are ever forced to take a chemistry class, you will probably see, at the front of the classroom, a large chart divided into squares, with different numbers and letters in each of them. This chart is called the table of elements, and scientists like to say that it contains all the substances that make up our world. Like everyone else, scientists are wrong from time to time, and it is easy to see that they are wrong about the table of elements. Because although this table contains a great many elements, from the element oxygen, which is found in the air, to the element aluminum, which is found in cans of soda, the table of elements does not contain one of the most powerful elements that makes up our world, and that is the element of surprise. The element of surprise is not a gas, like oxygen, or a solid, like aluminum. The element of surprise is an unfair advantage, and it can be found in situations in which one person has sneaked up on another. The surprised person – or, in this case, the surprised persons – are too stunned to defend themselves, and the sneaky person has the advantage of the element of surprise.

Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator (59-60)

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Lewis’s suicide has hurt his reputation. Had Cruzatte’s bullet killed him, he would be honored today far more than he is; perhaps there would be a river named after him. But through most of the nineteenth century, he was relatively ignored and in some danger of being forgotten. In 1889-91, Henry Adams could write a multivolume history of the Jefferson administration and scarcely mention Meriwether Lewis or William Clark (whose reputation at the time rested far more on his accomplishments in St. Louis as superintendent of Indian affairs than on the expedition).

Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage (474)

Freethinking Judge Thomas Hertell of the New York legislature was the first to introduce legislation to protect the property rights of women. Ardent atheist Ernestine L. Rose, a Polish immigrant, became the first to lobby for passage of the Married Woman’s Property Act, as well as becoming the first canvasser for women’s rights. Like Wollstonecraft and Wright, Rose was an object of vituperation, libeled by clergy as “a thousand times lower than a prostitute.” Fledgling freethinker Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had been the first to call for women’s suffrage, took the lead in calling for marriage and divorce reform, becoming the Bible’s sharpest critic by the time she penned the Woman’s Bible nearly 50 years later. “My heart’s desire is to lift women out of all these dangerous, degrading superstitions, and to this end will labor my remaining days on earth,” she wrote in 1896. Stanton’s “coadjutant,” Susan B. Anthony, was an agnostic, and their feminist partner, Matilda Joslyn Gage, author of the influential Women, Church and State (1893), was a freethinker who in 1890 formed the first national feminist organization to work for the separation of church and state.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, “Why Women Need Freedom From Religion,” in Everything You Know Is Wrong, edited by Russ Kick (170)

That’s not fair!” the vice principal squealed back at her. “The stone building over there contains the cafeteria. Meals are served promptly at breakfast time, lunchtime, and dinnertime. If you’re late we take away your cups and glasses, and your beverages will be served to you in large puddles. That rectangular building over there, with the rounded top, is the auditorium. Every night I give a violin recital for six hours, and attendance is mandatory. The word ‘mandatory’ means that if you don’t show up, you have to buy me a large bag of candy and watch me eat it. The lawn serves as out sports facility. Our regular gym teacher, Miss Tench, accidentally fell out of a third-story window a few days ago, but we have a replacement, who should arrive shortly. In the meantime I’ve instructed the children to run around as fast as they can during gym time. I think that just about covers everything. Are there any questions?”

Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy (24-25)

For most people, honesty is such an unusual departure from their standard modus operandi – such an aberration in their workaday mendacity – that they feel obligated to alert you when a moment of sincerity is coming on. ‘To be completely honest,’ they say, or, ‘To tell you the truth,’ or, ‘Can I be straight?’ Often they want to extract vows of discretion from you before going any further. ‘This strictly between us, right?... You must promise not to tell anyone.’ Sheba does none of that. She tosses out intimate and unflattering truths about herself all the time, without a second thought. ‘I was the most fearsomely obsessive little masturbator when I was a girl,’ she told me once when we were first getting to know each other. ‘My mother practically had to Sellotape my knickers to me, to stop me having at myself in public places.’

Zoë Heller, “What Sheba Did Wrong,” in Granta 79 (131)

Wherever the drug rep goes, whether pharmacy, hospital, doctors’ offices, anywhere, he leaves a trail of little gifts prominently displaying the name of the particular pill he’s pushing. For quite some time, the coffee cup with the drug name enameled on the side was a favorite (and it’s still a perennial giveaway). Other staples are the notepads, pens, diaries, rulers, calendars clocks and even umbrellas – all bearing the name and slogan of a particular pill. In some cases more expensive items are handed out to doctors – for instance detailed ceramic heart models, or a life-sized take-apart model of a human brain may be left with a doctor as a visual aid when he or she (hopefully) prescribes the pills to patients.

Jim Hogshire, Pills-A-Go-Go (26)

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

There are two kinds of fears: rational and irrational – or, in simpler terms, fears that make sense and fears that don’t. For instance, the Baudelaire orphans have a fear of Count Olaf, which makes perfect sense, because he is an evil man who wants to destroy them. But if they were afraid of lemon meringue pie, this would be an irrational fear, because lemon meringue pie is delicious and has never hurt a soul. Being afraid of a monster under the bed is perfectly rational, because there may in fact be a monster under your bed at any time, ready to eat you all up, but a fear of realtors is an irrational fear. Realtors, as I’m sure you know, are people who assist in the buying and selling of houses. Besides occasionally wearing an ugly yellow coat, the worst a realtor can do to you is show you a house that you find ugly, and is it is completely irrational to fear them.

Lemony Snicket, The Wide Window (34-35)

Monday, December 09, 2002

There is another story concerning wolves that somebody has probably read to you, which is just as absurd. I am talking about Little Red Riding Hood, an extremely unpleasant little girl who, like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, insisted in intruding on the territory of dangerous animals. You will recall that the wolf, after being treated very rudely by Little Red Riding Hood, ate the little girl’s grandmother and put on her clothing as a disguise. It is this aspect of the story that is the most ridiculous, because one would think than even a girl as dim-witted as Little Red Riding Hood could tell in an instant the difference between her grandmother and a wolf dressed in a nightgown and fuzzy slippers. If you know somebody very well, like your grandmother or your baby sister, you will know when they are real and when they are fake. This is why, as Sunny began to scream, Violet and Klaus could tell immediately that her scream was absolutely fake.

Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room (142-143)

The captains had assumed that when they got out of the mountains they would be in a country with an ample supply of deer and elk. They were wrong. The hunters – those still on their feet – were unsuccessful. Fish and roots purchased from the Nez Perce remained the diet. On October 4, Lewis was still sick. The next day, Clark reported, “Capt Lewis & my Self eate a Supper of roots boiled, which filled us So full of wind, that we were Scercely able to Breathe all night felt the effects of it.”

Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage (296)

Sunday, December 08, 2002

But studies and experts disagree as to whether there is a relationship of any kind between pornography and violence. Or, more broadly stated, between images and behavior. Some studies, such as the one prepared by feminist Thelma McCormick (1983) for the Metropolitan Toronto Task Force on Violence Against Women, found no pattern to indicate a connection between pornography and sex crimes. Incredibly, the Task Force suppressed the study and reassigned the project to a pro-censorship male, who returned the “correct” results. His study was published.

Wendy McElroy, “Pornography,” in Everything You Know is Wrong, edited by Russ Kick (153)

Their findings were confirmed in a 2001 paper by Swarthmore and University of Maryland economists Thomas Dee and William Evans. “The nationwide increases in MLDA (minimum legal drinking age) may have merely shifted some of the fatality risks from teens to young adults,” they conclude after examining multiple factors. Raising drinking ages from 19 to 21 to cut 18- and 19-year olds’ traffic deaths by 5 percent but increased fatalities among 22- and 23-year olds by 8 percent. “The magnitude of mortality redistribution,” Dee/Evans report, “is quite large.”

Mike Males, “Myths About Youth,” in Everything You Know is Wrong, edited by Russ Rick (123)

The media continue to perpetuate the myth that Manson’s only motivation was to start a race war. Actually, his brainwashed so-called family unknowingly served as a hit squad for organized crime figures that he had met in prison. Three decades later, Manson continues to be a symbol for the end of the 1960s. One thing is certain, though. Charlie was never a hippie. Recently, Variety, the bible of Show Biz, reported that prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s 1975 book about the Manson family, Helter Skelter, has been bought by, appropriately enough, Propaganda Films.

Paul Krassner, “Charlie Manson’s Image,” in Everything You Know is Wrong, edited by Russ Kick (86)

Saturday, December 07, 2002

As you and I listen to Uncle Monty tell the three Baudelaire orphans that no harm will ever come to them in the Reptile Room, we should be experiencing the strange feeling that accompanies the arrival of dramatic irony. This feeling is not unlike the sinking in one’s stomach when one is in an elevator that suddenly goes down, of when you are snug in your bed and your closet door suddenly creaks open to reveal the person who has been hiding there. For no matter how safe and happy the three children felt, no matter how comforting Uncle Monty’s words were, you and I know that soon Uncle Monty will be dead and the Baudelaires will be miserable once again.

Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room (32-33)
Lewis did all this with the utmost seriousness. It never occurred to him that his actions might be characterized as patronizing, dictatorial, ridiculous, and highly dangerous. From what we know from old Dorion, these Yanktons were peaceable, at least compared with their neighbors and relatives, the Teton Sioux, farther upriver. But his idea of how to make them allies was to give them worthless medals and wardrobe trappings rather than the guns and powder they needed. And to make one chief the big chief was to meddle in the intertribal politics about which he knew nothing. In general, it would be impossible to say which side was more ignorant of the other.

Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage (163)

Friday, November 29, 2002

Violet though of what the bald man had said, about wrecking her face, and nodded. The two of them looked at the pot of bubbling sauce, which had seemed so cozy while they were making it and now looked like a vat of blood. Then, leaving Sunny behind in the kitchen, they walked into the dining room, Klaus carrying the a bowl of interestingly shaped noodles and Violet carrying the pot of puttanesca sauce and a large ladle with which to serve it. The theater troupe was talking and cackling, drinking again and again from their wine cups and paying no attention to the Baudelaire orphans as they circled the table serving everyone dinner. Violet’s right hand ached from holding the heavy ladle. She thought of switching to her left hand, but because she was right-handed she was afraid she might spill the sauce with her left hand, which would enrage Count Olaf again. She stared miserably at Olaf’s plate of food and found herself wishing she had bought poison at the market and put it in the puttanesca sauce. Finally, they were through serving, and Klaus and Violet slipped back into the kitchen. They listened to the wild, rough laughter of Count Olaf and his theater troupe, and they picked at their own portions of food, too miserable to eat. Before long, Olaf’s friends were pounding on the table in strict rhythm again, and the orphans went out to the dining room to clear the table, and then again to serve the chocolate pudding. By now it was obvious that Count Olaf and his associates had drunk a great deal of wine, and they slouched at the table and spoke much less. Finally, they roused themselves, and trooped back through the kitchen, scarcely glancing at the children on their way out of the house. Count Olaf looked around the room, which was filled with dirty dishes.

Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning (50-52)

But more than this, new resources have to be created to empower people to gain access to better lives. And these resources can only be raised by new forms of taxation, global indirect taxes, raised by a new global tax authority, which are then redistributed. At the same time, these taxes must be used to protect our environment and our resources, so they would be taxes on the use of energy and resources, and on pollution.

Noreena Hertz, “Globalization for the Good of All,” in Everything You Know is Wrong, edited by Russ Kick (36)

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Count Olaf rubbed his hands together as if he had been holding something revolting instead of an infant. “Well, enough talk,” he said. “I suppose we will eat their dinner, even though it is all wrong. Everyone, follow me to the dining room and I will pour us some wine. Perhaps by the time these brats serve us, we will be too drunk to care if it is roast beef or not.”

Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning (49)

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Isn’t it time we stopped ignoring the elephant in the living room and let go of our fair-minded fantasy that all religions are basically the same and that other cultures that suppress human rights aren’t inferior, they’re just different? Excuse me, but primitive is primitive. The Sudan and Ethiopia and many other countries still practice the genital mutilation of women. The Hmong tribe in Laos observe “marriage by capture,” which is really a nice way of saying rape. Remember that Vietnam movie with Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox where American soldiers abduct the pretty teenage girl “for a little R&R?” It’s kind of like that, except there’s no Michael J. Fox around the decry that people know about it and “they don’t care!”

Bill Maher, When You Ride ALONE You Ride with bin Laden (77)

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Surely, if a manufacturer's good name is defamed by trickery of men who call themselves "Modern Discount Merchants," than the housewife cheated may become "poor indeed." A handful of these trade tricksters may soon perfect their punishing Monopoly of America's retail business. Thereby they may soon control most American manufacturers and producers, unless we persuade Congress to enact legislation permitting a manufacturer of an honored trademarked product to stop - by law - and without manpower from, or expense to, any administrative agency of government, an abuse of his trademark.

John W. Anderson, Trade Trickery - Tool of Monopoly! (14)

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Lewis did not plant or harvest with his own hands. No member of the Virginia gentry did. When Jefferson or Lewis or any other slaveowner said he had planted such-and-so, or that he had built this fence or that building, he did not mean to imply that he had done it with his own hands. His slaves did the work. “It is the poor negroes who alone work hard,” one traveler commented, “and I am sorry to say, fare hard. Incredible is the fatigue which the poor wretches undergo, and it is wonderful that nature should be able to support it.”

Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage (32)

“In the sense that a frog is no longer a tadpole, you might be right. And it may never come to pass, or have to. We might just learn enough tolerance, and jettison enough fear and ego, to compensate. The neutral angels could prevail: neutral victory being a particularly intriguing oxymoron. In the meantime, though, Sister – if I may still call you that – can’t you hear them buzzing? Listen to the swarm that Be-lief and Be-longing have Be-got. B-boundaries. B-borderlines. B-blood B-bonds. B-blood B-brothers. B-bloodlust. B-bloodbath. B-bloody B-bloody. B-bang B-bang. B-boom B-boom. B-blast. B-bludgeon. B-batter. B-blow up. B-bomb. B-butcher. B-break. B-blindside. B-bushwack. B-behead. B-blackball. Be-tray. B-bullets. B-blades. B-booby traps. B-bazookas. B-bayonets. B-brute force. B-barbarism. B-babylon. B-babel. Be-elzebub. Be-etlejuice. B-bureaucracy. B-bagpipes. B-beanie B-babies.”

Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates (245)

The death of her child had turned her into a wild animal, not caring anymore for her own life. She had attacked him repeatedly, despite his generous overtures to her. In the end, although Erasmus had been tempted to kill her outright, he had not been able to bring himself to do it. Most interesting. He had finally settled for drugging her into a stupor. Now Serena was in one of his laboratories, sedated to the point of catatonia, since Erasmus had found no other way of suppressing her efforts to fight him each time she rose toward consciousness. Alas, he had to time to salvage her now.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, Dune: The Butlerian Jihad (526)

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

There was a lady Inzilbêth, renowned for her beauty, and her mother was Lindórië, sister of Eärendur, the Lord of Andúnië in the days of Ar-Sakalthôr father of Ar-Gimilzôr. Gimilzôr took her to wife, though this was little to her liking, for she was in heart of the Faithful, being taught by her mother; but the kings and their sons were grown proud and not to be gainsaid in their wishes. No love was there between Ar-Gimilzôr and his queen, or between their sons. Inziladûn, the elder, was like his mother in mind as in body; but Gimilkhân, the younger, went with his father, unless he were yet prouder and more willful. To him Ar-Gimilzôr would have yielded the scepter rather than to the elder son, if the laws had allowed.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion (331-332)

Monday, October 14, 2002

“Both of the frontline Chinese armies in India have been surrounded and the noose is tightening,” said Graff. “I don’t think they have a Stalingrad-style defense in them do you? The Turkic armies have reached the Hwang He and Tibet has just declared its independence and is slaughtering the Chinese troops there. The Indonesians and Arabs are impossible to catch and they’re already making a serious dent in internal communications in China. It’s just a matter of time before they realize it’s pointless to keep killing people when the outcome is inevitable.”

Orson Scott Card, Shadow Puppets (341)

Friday, October 04, 2002

As one whose taste in mental states has always run toward the coma, I have very little patience with the current craze for self-awareness. I am already far too well acquainted with how I feel and frankly, given the choice, I would not. Anyone who is troubled by the inability to feel his or her own feelings is more than welcome to feel mine. It should not be surprising, then, for you to learn that I am something less than enchanted with a concept such as mood jewelry. For those of you fortunate enough to have your lack of awareness extend into the realm of advertising, mood jewelry is jewelry that tells you your feeling via a heat-sensitive stone. And although one would think that stones would have quite enough to do, what with graves and walls and such, it seems that they have now taken on the job of informing people that they are nervous. And although one would think that a person who is nervous would be more than able to ascertain that fact without the aid of a quite unattractive ring, this is apparently not the case.

Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life (118)

This afternoon I pay my first visit to the library. When I say ‘library’, I mean three cells whose connecting walls have been knocked down and approximately two thousand books placed inside. The preponderance of the reading material – detective stories and Westerns. The three cons who run the library are overtly homosexual, and all three are in for drugs. One of them, Jerry, seems to know who I am, and is extremely helpful while I look for books that have not been masturbated into. He tells me that most books are ‘damaged’ through masturbation, although there is nothing in their content to induce such reactions. ‘I guess people in here just hate books,’ is the way Jerry explains the phenomenon. My reaction is to say that it’s better than burning them, but not by much. I take out a long, out-of-print book on the history of the world, and thank Jerry for the tips he gave me. Upon returning to my cell and being locked up, I am informed that tomorrow I’m being moved to C-wing, to a cell of my own as befits the orderly of the gym. I am beside myself with anticipation and happiness, as the Loon’s night-time habits are becoming intolerable.

Taki, Nothing to Declare (52)

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

The more vigilant among you may have observed that est-type programs appear in both categories. The reason for this is twofold: one, because those who participate in such programs are as desirous as they are needful, and two, because such programs are the very essence of groupness and therefore the most spectacularly unattractive. That I am totally devoid of sympathy for, or interest in, the world of groups is directly attributable to the fact that my two greatest needs and desires – smoking cigarettes and plotting revenge – are basically solitary pursuits. Oh, sure, sometimes a friend or two drops by and we light up together and occasionally I bounce a few vengeance ideas around with a willing companion, but actual meetings are really unnecessary.

Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life (58-59)

After the 4.30 p.m. tea, which is what dinner is euphemistically called in Pentonville, the countdown begins. As the hour before midnight approaches, the noise level becomes intolerable. Unlike Christmas Eve, which everyone tried to ignore, New Year’s Eve is an opportunity for every con to scream his lungs out. Most of the yelling is racially motivated, and extremely lewd. But at least it keeps me from thinking about past eves. One thing does cross my mind, however, and makes me smile to myself. Tomorrow will be the first time in exactly twenty-eight years that I shall wake up on New Year’s Day without a terrible hangover.

Taki, Nothing to Declare (87)

Friday, September 20, 2002

The second son, Sir Henry Montagu (c. 1563-1642), was called to Parliament under James I. Perhaps his greatest achievement was to pay £20,000 to the Duke of Buckingham in 1620 for the office of Lord Treasurer of England, and in addition to be raised to the peerage as Baron Montagu of Kimbolton, Huntington, and Viscount Mandeville. It was at Kimbolton Castle that Catherine of Aragon spent her last ten years. Made Earl of Manchester in the country of Lancashire on the accession of Charles I, he was also a theologian and a drunkard.

Arthus Foss, The Dukes of Britain (133)

139. Who is Black Rod?

His full title is Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, and he ranks high among the officials of the Court, coming under the Lord Chamberlain. His name or title comes from the ebony stick he carries as a badge of his office and which is surmounted by a gold lion. His office dates from the foundation of the Order of the Garter in 1348, and he is the usher of that Order. He attends for the most part upon Parliament, and one of his chief duties is to bear messages from the House of Lords to the House of Commons. When he goes ceremonially to the House of Commons, the door is always slammed in his face, and he must then knock and announce his errand. The reason for this is that once King Charles I went down to the House of Commons to arrest five members whom he regarded as obnoxious to him, and from that time no sovereign has entered the Commons.

L. G. Pine, Heraldry, Ancestry and Titles: Questions and Answers (108)

Thus all seemed well with the fortress of Maeglin, who had risen to be mighty among the princes of the Noldor, and greatest save one in the most renowned of their realms. Yet he did not reveal his heart; and though not all things went as he would he endured it in silence, hiding his mind so that few could read it, unless it were Idril Celebrindal. For from his first days in Gondolin he had borne a grief, ever worsening, that robbed him of all joy; he loved the beauty of Idril and desired her, without hope. The Eldar wedded not with kin so near, nor ever before had any desire to do so. And however that might be, Idril loved Maeglin not at all; and knowing his thought of her she loved him the less. For it seemed to her a thing strange and crooked in him, as indeed the Eldar ever since have deemed it: an evil fruit of the Kinslaying, whereby the shadow of the curse of Mandos fell upon the last hope of the Noldor. But as the years passed still Maeglin watched Idril, and waited, and his loved turned to darkness in his heart. And he sought the more to have his will in other matters, shirking no toil or burden, if he might thereby have power.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion (166)

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Wriothesly (1708-32), who succeeded his father as 3rd Duke when three years old, revealed a weak, unstable character. His marriage when seventeen to Anne Egerton, a granddaughter of Sarah, 1st Duchess of Marlborough, was a disaster. Frustrated and bored, he took to drink and gambling, which not only caused his death when twenty-four, but also seriously encumbered his estate. He was succeeded as 4th Duke by his brother John (1710-71), who had married Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of Anne Churchill and the Earl of Sunderland, another granddaughter of the formidable Duchess of Marlborough, who thought him ‘much the greatest match in England’. Lady Diana died in 1735. Two years later John married Gertrude Leveson-Gower, generally regarded as proud and insolent, and the union was a great success.

Arthus Foss, The Dukes of Britain (56)
Now as has been told the power of Elwë and Melian increased in Middle-earth, and all the Elves of Beleriand, from the mariners of Círdan to the wandering hunters of the Blue Mountains beyond the River Gelion, owned Elwë as their lord; Elu Thingol he was called, King Greymantle, in the tongue of his people. They are called the Sindar, the Grey-elves of starlit Beleriand; and although they were Moriquendi, under the lordship of Thingol and the teachings of Melian they became the fairest and the most wise and skilful of all the elves of Middle-earth. And at the end of the first age of the Chaining of Melkor, when all the earth had peace and the glory of Valinor was at its noon, there came into the world Lúthien, the only child of Thingol and Melian. Though Middle-earth lay for the most part in the Sleep of Yavanna, in Beleriand under the power of Melian there was life and joy, and the bright stars shone as silver fires; and there in the forest of Neldoreth Lúthien was born, and the white flowers of niphredil came forth to greet her as stars from the earth.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion (103)

Monday, September 16, 2002

Grafton made a reliable officer and was popular with his crews, with whom he was capable of unbending. He showed courage under fire and in 1682, through parental influence, was appointed Vice-Admiral of England in succession to Prince Rupert. He gained his father’s warm affection and, on Charles’s death, the goodwill of his uncle James II, who regarded him as the most dependable of his nephews. He helped crush the Monmouth Rebellion and obtained the release of English prisoners from the Dey of Algiers. He then became colonel of the first regiment of Foot Guards. However, he increasingly mistrusted James’s determination to restore Roman Catholicism and, when William of Orange landed, followed the Duke of Marlborough into the latter’s camp. Although his relationship with the new king was at first cool, he soon won William’s respect through his bravery. He dies of wounds received when leading the English regiments against James II’s Irish supporters at the siege of Cork in 1690.

Arthus Foss, The Dukes of Britain (36)

Saturday, September 14, 2002

76. What is the oldest pedigree in England?

The longest documented pedigree now known in England is that of the Arden family. This is a pedigree blessed by the great scholar J. H. Round – himself always accounted a great iconoclast – and who says of the Arden family tree: ‘It had not only a clear descent from Aelfwine, Sheriff of Warwickshire in days before the Conquest, but even held, of the great possessions of which Domesday shows us its ancestor as lord, some manors which had been his before the Normans landed, at least as late as the days of Queen Elizabeth.’ This is high praise from so great a genealogist, and it enables the Arden family to rank as the only English pedigree with a certainty of going back before the Conquest. There are others which are almost equally certain but where no absolute documentary proof can be found. These include the Berkeleys, (in Scotland Barclays) whose descent from Eadnoth the Staller is almost beyond cavil. Eadnoth was killed in some fighting near Bristol in 1068. He was called the Staller as being a chamberlain to Edward the Confessor and evidently he transferred his allegiance to the Conqueror. Then there is the great Scottish family of Swinton whose ancestor is considered to have been the Edulfing or ruler of the district between the Tyne and the Forth in the days of Alfred the Great. Like many English families who did not care for the rule of William the Conqueror they migrated northward and were welcomed by the Scottish kings. In addition to these we can add the name of Wilberforce, famous in connection with one of its members, William Wilberforce who led the anti-slavery movement in Great Britain. This family claims a descent from a hardy soldier who had the distinction of fighting both at Stamford Bridge and Hastings. When we have gone over this short list of four we have run over the families of England whose ancestry is pre-Conquest. The Ardens have a distinction even greater fame. They produced Mary Arden, the mother of William Shakspeare. It seems peculiarly appropriate that the greatest of English poets should have been born of a family of undoubted English pre-Conquest stock.

L. G. Pine, Heraldry, Ancestry and Titles: Questions and Answers (65-66)

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Now in his heart Melkor most hated the Eldar, both because they were fair and joyful and because in them he saw the reason for the arising of the Valar and his own downfall. Therefore all the more did he feign love for them and seek their friendship, and he offered them the service of his lore and labour in any great deed that they would do. The Vanyar indeed held him in suspicion, for they dwelt in the light of the Trees and were content; and to the Teleri he gave small heed, thinking them of little worth, tools too weak for his designs. But the Noldor took delight in the hidden knowledge that he could reveal to them; and some harkened to words that would have been better for them never to have heard. Melkor indeed declared afterward that Fëanor had learned much art from him in secret and had been instructed by him in the greatest of all his works; but he lied in his lust and his envy, for none of the Eldalië ever hated Melkor more than Fëanor, son of Finwë, who first named him Morgoth; and snared though he was in webs of Melkor’s malice against the Valar he held no converse with him and took no counsel from him. For Fëanor was driven by the fire of his own heart only; working ever swiftly and alone; and he asked the aid and sought the counsel of none that dwelt in Aman, great or small, save only for a little while of Nerdanel the wise, his wife.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion (71)

Saturday, September 07, 2002

However, Gandhi’s pacifism can be separated to some extent from his other teachings. Its motive was religious, but he claimed also for it that it was a definite technique, a method, capable of producing desired political results. Gandhi’s attitude was not that of most Western pacifists. Satyagraha, first evolved in South Africa, was a sort of non-violent warfare, a way of defeating the enemy without hurting him and without feeling or arousing hatred. It entailed such things as civil disobedience, strikes, lying down in front of railway trains, enduring police charges without running away and without hitting back, and the like. Gandhi objected to “passive resistance” as a translation of Satyagraha: in Gujarati, it seems, the words means “firmness in the truth.” In his early days Gandhi served as a stretcher-bearer on the British side in the Boer War, and he was prepared to do the same again in the war of 1914-1918. Even after he had completely abjured violence he was honest enough to see that in war it is usually necessary to take sides. He did not – indeed, since his whole political life centered round a struggle for national independence, he could not – take the sterile and dishonest line of pretending that in every war both sides are exactly the same and it makes no difference who wins. Nor did he, like most Western pacifists, specialize in avoiding awkward questions. In relation to the late war, one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: “What about the Jews?” Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?” I must say I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to that question, though I have heard plenty of evasions, usually of the “you’re another” type. But it so happens that Gandhi was asked a similar question in 1938 and that his answer is on record in Mr. Louis Fischer’s Gandhi and Stalin. According to Mr. Fischer, Gandhi’s view was that the German Jews ought to commit collective suicide, which “would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.” After the war he justified himself: the Jews had been killed anyway, and might as well have died significantly. One has the impression that this attitude staggered even so warm an admirer as Mr. Fischer, but Gandhi was merely being honest. If you are not prepared to take life, you must often be prepared for lives to be lost in some other way. When, in 1942, he urged non-violent resistance against a Japanese invasion, he was ready to admit that it might cost several million deaths.

George Orwell, “Reflections on Gandhi,” in A Collection of Essays (183-84)
It seems at first glance that authority could not exist at all if all men were cowards or if no men were cowards, but flourishes as it does only because some men are cowards and some men are thieves. Actually, the inner dynamics of cowardice and submission on the one hand and of heroism and rebellion on the other are seldom consciously realized by either by the ruling class or the servile class. Submission is identified not with cowardice but with virtue, rebellion not with heroism but with evil. To the Roman slave-owners, Spartacus was not a hero and the obedient slaves were not cowards; Spartacus was a villain and the obedient slaves were virtuous. The obedient slaves believed this also. The obedient always think of themselves as virtuous rather than cowardly.

Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminatus! Trilogy (794)

As I watched – choked by a sudden rise in the fishy odour after a short abatement – I saw a band of uncouth, crouching shapes loping and shambling in the same direction; and knew this must be the party guarding the Ipswich road, since that highway forms an extension of Eliot Street. Two of the figures I glimpsed were in voluminous robes, and one wore a peaked diadem which glistened whitely in the moonlight. The gait of this figure was so odd that it sent a chill through me – for it seemed to me the creature was almost hopping.

H. P. Lovecraft, “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” in The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (322)

Friday, September 06, 2002

FIVE: The various codes which were presented to you at Crossgates – religious, social, moral and intellectual – contradicted one another if you worked out their implications. The central contradiction was between the tradition of nineteenth-century asceticism and the actually existing luxury and snobbery of pre-1914 age. On the one side were low-church Bible Christianity, sex puritanism, insistence on hard work, respect for academic distinction, disapproval of self-indulgence: on the other, contempt for “braininess” and worship of games, an almost neurotic dread of poverty, and, above all, the assumption not only that money and privilege are the things that matter, but that it is better to inherit them than to have to work for them. Broadly, you were bidden to be at once a Christian and a social success, which is impossible. At the time I did not perceive that the various ideals which were set before us cancelled out. I merely saw that they were all, or nearly all, unattainable, so far as I was concerned, since they all depended not only on what you did but on what you were.

George Orwell, "Such, Such Were the Joys…,” in A Collection of Essays (39)

Thursday, August 29, 2002

But a man with a gun is told only that which people assume will not provoke him to pull the trigger. Since all authority and government are based on force, the master class, with its burden of omniscience, faces the servile class, with its burden of nescience, precisely as a highwayman faces his victim. Communication is possible only between equals. The master class never abstracts enough information from the servile class to know what is actually going on in the world where the actual productivity of society occurs. Futhermore, the logogram of any authoritarian society remains fairly inflexible as time passes, but everything else in the universe constantly changes. The result can only be progressive disorientation among the rulers. The end is debacle.

Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminatus! Trilogy (499)

Saturday, August 24, 2002

In fact, several kind of sex orgies had been going on in Las Vegas ever since the Veterans of the Sexual Revolution had arrived two days earlier. The Hugh M. Hefner Brigade had taken two stories of the Sands, hired a herd of professional women, and hadn’t yet come out to join the Alfred Kinsey Brigade, the Norman Mailer Guerrillas and the others in marching up and down the Strip, squirting young girls in the crotch with water pistols, passing bottles of hooch back and forth and generally blocking traffic and annoying pedestrians. Dr. Naismith himself, after a few token appearances, had avoided most of the merriment and retired to a private suite to work on his latest fund-raising letter for the Colossus of Yorba Linda Foundation. Actually, VSR, like White Heroes Opposing Red Extremism, was only one of Naismith’s lesser projects and brought in only peanuts. Most of the real veterans of the sexual revolution had succumbed to syphilis, marriage, children, alimony or some such ailment, and few white heroes were prepared to oppose red extremism in the bizarre manner suggested by Naismith’s pamphlets; in both of those cases, he had recognized two nut markets that nobody else was exploiting and had quickly moved in. Even the John Dillinger Died for You Society, of which he was inordinately proud since it was probably the most implausible religion in the long history of humanity’s infatuation with metaphysics, didn’t earn much less per annum than these fancies. The real bread was in the Colossus of Yorba Linda Foundation, which had been successfully raising money for several years to erect a heroic monument, in solid gold and ten feet taller than the statue of Liberty, honoring the martyred former president Richard Milhous Nixon. This monument, paid for entirely by the twenty million Americans who still loved and revered Nixon despite the damnable lies of the Congress, the Justice Department, the press, the TV, the law courts, et al., would stand outside Yorba Linda, Tricky Dicky’s boyhood home, and scowl menacingly toward Asia, warning those gooks not to try to get the jump on Uncle Sammie. Beside the gigantic idol’s right foot, Checkers looked adoringly upward; beneath the left foot was a crushed allegorical figure representing Cesar Chavez. The Great Man held a bunch of lettuce in his right hand and a tape recording in the left. It was all most tasteful, and so appealed to Fundamentalist Americans that hundreds of thousands of dollars had already been collected by the Colossus fund, and Naismith planned to hop to Nepal with the loot at the first sign that contributors or postal inspectors were beginning to wonder when the statue would actually start rising on the plot he had purchased, amid much publicity, after the first few thousand arrived.

Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminatus! Trilogy (418-19)

Saturday, August 17, 2002

These accounts are in no way unique. Most of the COs holding the keys at the nation’s 170 state prisons for women are still men (since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 it has been deemed discriminatory to female guards for prison administrators to segregate their staff by gender: thus the cross-gender guarding). By profession COs are trained to physically and psychologically dominate prisoners. In a world where sex is often fused with motifs of domination, it is no wonder that the combination of male keepers and female charges translates into rape on a mass scale. And while intercourse behind bars is usually a forced, ugly affair, it can often appear “consensual” because of the tremendous power imbalance between women prisoners and their armed male keepers. The lack of overt violence in many such jailhouse liaisons merely reveals the extent of institutionalized violence that inscribes the details of everyday life in women’s prisons. In the ladies’ lockdown bare necessities such as cigarettes, library access, or adequate supplies of soap, become “perks” to be doled out by lecherous predators in uniform. Women who refuse guards’ advances, or dare to complain, face not only poverty and discomfort during confinement, but beatings and solitary confinement.

Christian Parenti, Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis (192)

Cut to the jail in Washington, DC, on a June evening. The air is thick, humid, and hot; in contravention of the institution’s rules, all cells are open, soul music bounces off the sticky concrete walls and steel bars. At one end of the tier the officer in charge, Yvonne Walker, is dancing with inmates. Before long one prisoner is half-naked undulating on a table. Soon, Walker is disrobing, while another inmate performs a Bangkok sex trick with a lit cigarette. Guards and prisoners alike cheer wildly.

Christian Parenti, Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis (190)

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

It has been said young men are full of themselves, and Jefferson proved no exception. The shock of a rejection turned him more inward than ever. He began to keep a Literary Bible, as he called it, filling it with excerpts from his voluminous reading. Naturally he favored derogatory comments about women. From Euripides he culled a lamentation that described their sex as “a curse deceiving men” and the suggestion that “Mortals should beget children from some other source and there should be no womankind; thus there would be no ill for men.” A couplet copied from Pope’s Iliad - “To labour is the lot of man below / And when Jove gave us life, he gave us woe” – verified the fact life was a depressing affair. Evil, too, abounded, and Jefferson noted Cicero’s comment that “as soon as we are born and received into the world we are instantly familiarized with all kinds of depravity and perversity of opinions; so that we may be said almost to suck in error with our nurse’s milk.”

David Freeman Hawke, A Transaction of Free Men: The Birth and Course of the Declaration of Independence (38)

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

In all major socializing forces you will find an underlying movement to gain and maintain power through the use of words. From witch doctor to priest to bureaucrat it is all the same. A governed populace must be conditioned to accept power-words as actual things, to confuse the symbolized system with the tangible universe. In the maintenance of such a power structure, certain symbols are kept out of reach of common understanding – symbols such as those dealing with economic manipulation or those which define the local interpretation of sanity. Symbol-secrecy of this form leads to the development of fragmented sub-languages, each being a signal that its users are accumulating some form of power. With this insight into the power process, our Imperial Security Force must be ever alert to the formation of sub-languages.

-Lecture to the Arrakeen War College by the Princess Irulan

Brian Herbert (Editor), The Notebooks of Frank Herbert’s Dune

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Around the walls of this repellent chamber were cases of antique mummies alternating with comely, life-like bodies perfectly stuffed and cured by the taxidermist’s art, and with headstones snatched from the oldest churchyards of the world. Niches here and there contained skulls of all shapes, and heads preserved in various stages of dissolution. There one might find the rotting, bald pates of famous noblemen, and the fresh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children. Statues and paintings there were, all of fiendish subjects and some executed by St. John and myself. A locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin, held certain unnamable drawings which it was rumored Goya had perpetrated but dared not acknowledge.

H. P. Lovecraft, "The Hound," in The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (82)

Sunday, June 23, 2002

What about hating John Walker Lindh? Hating traitors has a long and honorable history, but whenever a member of a traditionally hateable category comes along we stick an "alleged" in front of him; it covers him from head to foot like those ancient Greek shields used in phalanx formations, so that anyone who hates him before he is proven guilty is accused of hating Our Way of Life. If you think you can hate him after he's been proven guilty, guess again: Hating after "closure" makes you a hate-aholic.

Florence King, "Misanthrope's Corner," National Review, July 1, 2002 (56)

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Ulrich von Lichtenstein (1200-1276) - a well-respected Austrian knight whose family founded the European principality bearing his name - swore his love to a high-born married princess. Standard practice for a chivalrous Christian knight. In his autobiography in verse, Frauendienst (or The Service of Women), he describes some of the acts he preformed over fifteen years to show his devotion: he stole and drank her bathwater; he sent her his pinkie, which he said he lost jousting in her honor (actually he had a friend cut it off); he mixed with lepers to beg alms from her.

Richard Zacks, An Underground Education (334)

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

As I surveyed this quaint apartment, I felt an increase in that aversion first excited by the bleak exterior of the house. Just what it was I feared or loathed, I could by no means define; but something in the whole atmosphere seemed redolent of unhallowed age, of unpleasant crudeness, and of secrets which should be forgotten. I felt disinclined to sit down, and wandered about examining the various articles which I had noticed. The first object of my curiosity was a book of medium size lying upon the table and presenting such an antediluvian aspect that I marveled at beholding it outside a museum or library. It was bound in leather with metal fittings, and was in an excellent state of preservation; being altogether an unusual sort of volume to encounter in an abode so lowly. When I opened it to the title page my wonder grew even greater, for it proved to be nothing less rare than Pigafetta's account of the Congo region, written in Latin from the notes of the sailor Lopez and printed at Frankfort in 1598. I had often heard of this work and its curious illustrations by the brothers De Bry, hence for a moment forgot my uneasiness in my desire to turn the pages before me.

H. P. Lovecraft, "The Picture in the House," in The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (36-37)

Monday, June 17, 2002

Kyle had gone to the fair with a few friends. This was his first time going to one of these medieval circuses. So he'd primped, dressing in black boots and black leggings, a black leather vest, a black cloak, black velvet gloves, a black tail, and a black latex cat mask. He borrowed the mask from a friend; he already had the other components. He went as his own not-quite-period-correct creation, a panther assassin under the name Dementius Harbringer - "Bringer of Insanity."

Washington CityPaper, "The Others," June 14-20, 2002 (20-21)

The poet would have gone on to tell of how Cormac was inaugurated as king of Tara, in a ceremony that symbolized the marriage of the king to the goddess of the land. Such unions were believed to ensure the fertility of the kingdom and its people. According to a later chronicler, there were some kings who took the consummation of these unions all too literally, by mating with a white mare in full view of their subjects. “The mare is then killed immediately,” wrote Gerald of Wales in the late 12th century, “cut up into pieces, and boiled in water.” The new king bathed in this broth, again in front of a crowd, while dining on the horse’s boiled flesh and lapping up the same broth in which he bobbed. “When this unrighteous rite has been carried out,” concluded Gerald, “his kingship and dominion have been conferred.”

Time-Life Books, What Life Was Like Among Druids and High Kings: Celtic Ireland AD 400-1200 (105-106)

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Vladimir Harkonnen was the scion of a family with a history of ruthless self-aggrandizement. Ethical complacency may condemn its practices, but only with the caveat that the entire Imperium be condemned. The Padishah feudal structure was stable only insofar as there existed a balance of power among ambitiously antagonistic forces. Constant distrust and the willingness to resort to any means remained the price of security. House Harkonnen is best viewed as displaying the excesses of a political morality which did, after all, originate on Salusa Secundus.

Dr. Willis E. McNelly, The Dune Encyclopedia (295)

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Screen printing as an art form sustained only a temporary setback, and rose to new and unprecedented heights with the ushering in of pop art. It's been said that Andy Warhol's exhibition of screen printed Campbell Soup boxes in 1962 did more to popularize screen printing than any other event since Velonis and his group first introduced serigraphy to the art world more than twenty-five years before.

J. I. Biegeleisen, Screen Printing (13-14)

Saturday, June 08, 2002

"Lord love a duck," summarized a boy holding a passkey, and Oedipa decided this was Miles. Deferent, he began to narrate for their entertainment a surfer orgy he had been to the week before, involving a five-gallon can of kidney suet, a small automobile with a sun roof, and a trained seal.

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (38)
The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from ourselves the violence we intend toward each other. Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. You have done violence to him, consumed his energy. Elaborate euphemisms may conceal your intent to kill, but behind any use of power over another the ultimate assumption remains: 'I feed on your energy.'

Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah (237)
True moderation in the defence of political liberties is indeed a difficult thing: pretending to want fair shares for all, every man raises himself by depressing his neighbor; our anxiety to avoid oppression leads us to practice it ourselves; the injustice we repel, we visit in turn on others, as if there were no choice except either to do it or to suffer it.

Livy, The Early History of Rome (3.66)
The consuls of the following year, Volumnius and Sulpicious, had no sooner entered upon office than they were faced with the necessity of dealing all over again with Terentillus's proposed measure, which this time was brought forward with the backing of the whole college of tribunes. The year was marked by ominous signs: fires blazed in the sky, there was a violent earthquake, and a cow talked - there was a rumour that a cow had talked the previous year, but nobody believed it: this year they did. Nor was this all: it rained lumps of meat.

Livy, The Early History of Rome (3.10)