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)