Thursday, November 28, 2013

As under cover of departing Day
Slunk hunger-stricken Ramazan away,
Once more within the Potter's house alone
I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.

Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, great and small,
That stood along the floor and by the wall;
And some loquacious Vessels were; and some
Listen'd perhaps, but never talk'd at all.

Said one among them--"Surely not in vain
My substance of the common Earth was ta'en
And to this Figure moulded, to be broke,
Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again."

Then said a Second--"Ne'er a peevish Boy
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy,
And He that with his hand the Vessel made
Will surely not in after Wrath destroy."

After a momentary silence spake
Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make;
"They sneer at me for leaning all awry:
What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?"

Whereat some one of the loquacious Lot--
I think a Sufi pipkin-waxing hot--
"All this of Pot and Potter--Tell me then,
Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?"

"Why," said another, "Some there are who tell
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
The luckless Pots he marr'd in making--Pish!
He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."

"Well," Murmur'd one, "Let whoso make or buy,
My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry:
But fill me with the old familiar juice,
Methinks I might recover by and by."

So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
The little Moon look'd in that all were seeking:
And then they jogg'd each other, "Brother! Brother!
Now for the Porter's shoulder-knot a-creaking!"

 - stanzas 82 through 90 of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated(?) by Edward Fitzgerald, Third Edition

Friday, October 18, 2013

Say not the struggle naught availeth, 
  The labour and the wounds are vain, 
The enemy faints not, nor faileth, 
  And as things have been they remain. 
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars; 
  It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd, 
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers, 
  And, but for you, possess the field. 
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking, 
  Seem here no painful inch to gain, 
Far back, through creeks and inlets making, 
  Comes silent, flooding in, the main. 
And not by eastern windows only, 
  When daylight comes, comes in the light; 
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly! 
  But westward, look, the land is bright! 

"Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth", Arthur Hugh Clough
Oh yesterday the cutting edge drank thirstily and deep,
The upland outlaws ringed us in and herded us as sheep,
They drove us from the stricken field and bayed us into keep;
But tomorrow
By the living God, we'll try the game again!

Oh yesterday our little troop was ridden through and through,
Our swaying, tattered pennons fled a broken, beaten few,
And all a summer afternoon, they hunted us and slew;
But tomorrow
By the living God, we'll try the game again!

And here upon the turret-top the bale-fires glower red,
The wake-lights burn and drip about our hacked, disfigured dead,
And many a broken heart is here and many a broken head;
But tomorrow
By the living God, we'll try the game again!

 "To-Morrow" by John Masefield

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Things you thought you knew, that just weren't so: British use of mustard gas in the Iraq Revolt of 1920.  I had read about this ten-fifteen years ago, and just assumed it was substantiated.  After all, mustard gas was part of all major armies' inventory right through World War II - an Allied supply stock of the stuff in Bari during the Italian campaign was smashed open in a German air strike and the cloud killed hundreds.  And the British were pretty open about their legal opinion that the Geneva Accords only applied to "civilized" opponents, and had just spent four years gassing and being gassed by the nominally civilized Germans.  They had even used chemical weapons in Palestine a few years previously.  And both the Spanish and the Italians used chemical weapons against North Africans and Ethiopians between the wars, so it's not as if this was unthinkable at the time... just maybe not actually true.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Well, the live trap caught an adult cat overnight.  Unfortunately, it isn't the mother, who is much smaller and still has a red collar from whatever irresponsible jackass didn't bother to spay their pet & then abandoned her to the wild.  My co-worker Brian H is overwhelmed, he doesn't know *what* to do with this cat.  It's too burly to be somebody's indoors cat, doesn't have a collar, and is surprisingly well-fed for a wildling.  Based on the coloring and so forth, it has to be related to the kittens and momma cat - it may be the father.  Hard to tell without propping the live trap up on a shelf and checking its junk, I guess.  It does *not* like being in a trap, it was frothing slightly, and had torn its claws fighting with the trap, enough to be bleeding at the paws.

We may have to go to the animal rescue people at this point.  We've also ran out of adoption slots for the kittens, everyone who can take one right now is full up.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

So my cat, Otonashi's mother is still in the wild, and still having litters.  We've started trying to capture the current litter, and Brian H, a co-worker, bought a live trap.  He caught one of the 4-to-5 kittens last night with his brother, although I'm told they had to turn the trap upside down and shake it out, because it was clinging to the wire mesh like Spiderman.  They re-set the trap, and in the morning, there was a second kitten. 

Brian went to transfer the second kitten into a carrier, when he noticed the mother hovering in the bushes, hissing violently.  Then she started charging at him.  He shied a pine-cone at the enraged mother, but it didn't stop her, and she chased him into the building, the second kitten escaping in the chaos.  Reportedly the mother was pacing outside the office door for a bit.  Mind you, we're not talking about a big cat here, your average black housecat, a little on the small side.  But she apparently was doing the full-fang ready-to-kill charge.

Anyways, here's the captured kitten, who probably will go to another co-worker who just had her elderly cat die...  as you can see, it's pitch-black, and spot-welded to the back corner of the carrier.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Full Disclosure: within the past several months, I been hired by several hedge funds to advise them privately on the legal issues surrounding these events.

"I been hired by"? How can you expect to be taken seriously when you can't be bothered to have someone check your op-ed pieces for basic grammar?   Especially when you're shilling for a klatch of corporatist profiteers who managed to get caught without a chair when the music stopped.  The moral hazard of making fat income off of pseudo-governmental entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is that there's always the chance that those implied guarantees are actually poison-pills when the deluge comes and the government guarantors do their goddamn jobs for once and protect the taxpayer instead of crony big money.  Or, for that matter, they do the usual thing and favor some crony class *other* than your speculating ass.  Look up "risk", and always remember - politics is a risk.  You should *avoid* political influence unless you're the one swinging influence your own way, in which case - shame on you, you corrupt tool.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Professor is talking up that Rowling pseudonymously written book, of which I don't quite understand the purpose.  The adoption of new nom de plumes is, I understand, now common practice for mid-list authors who have found themselves frozen out by underwhelming sale numbers.  Or,  I should say, it *was* common practice back in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the midlist. (I really should read through the whole of that Rusch writing-business series when I have a moment.)

Anyways, it makes sense to take a pen name when you're struggling or have been given the editorial kiss of death, but why would a massively successful best-selling author cut her own knees out from under herself like that?  Ego, I guess?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

And really, building new snob-appeal menus based on per-Conquistidore Aztec diets?   How many times do I have to remind y'all that ritual and (possibly) dietary cannibalism was a common element of most Nahuatl cultures of the time, but *especially* the Mexica or Aztec

There's a Mexican restaurant in the county named "Rey Azteca".  I refuse to go every time someone brings it up... I don't want to set foot in an eatery that might as well be named "King Cannibal".
To continue this antechamber exercise, the Professor, who watches TV so I don't have to, saith they've found Zimmerman not guilty and lo! Fox News so reports.  If I'm lucky, I spend my weekends gaming with various friends, and if I'm not, drinking and watching Japanese cartoons. I've been doing both this weekend, as events and friends' travel plans dictate.  Neither has much scope for the close following of news on the weekend.

Anyways, the Professor sniffs that the much-feared race riots have failed to materialize. From that Fox report I see that this is not absolutely true - there's some minor vandalism in Oakland, and much gathering of crowds, well-culled by police departments experienced at dealing with Occupy vermin outbreaks.  But she's right in that the feral outbeaks anticipated by commenters like Icepick have failed to materialize so far. Although in fairness to Icepick, I see I was conflating his mild worries with some more... overwrought comments from folk I didn't recognize in retrospect.

We were talking Friday night at a friend's place about how video games had apparently lessened violence, and internet porn lessened rape.  How likely is it that blowing off steam on Twitter lowers the likelihood of real-world riot-incitement?  The producers of SyFy discovered earlier this week that just because ten thousand twitterers ironically love the idea of  your sharks-falling-from-the-skies B-movie wreck, doesn't mean that the general TV audience will watch it in droves, or even in the usual SyFy B-movie trickles.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Professor notes a car-nivorous squirrel story.  Maybe there's just something about Sequoias that attract wild animals.   Is there something sweet or tasty in Toyota's paint composition?
Oh, you sci-fi boys, you think you are about technology and manly dreams of complicated machinery. But you want love. Dreamy, creamy love.

But, Professor, all advances and development of note are merely the carefully laundered sublimation of frustrated ardor, are they not?  Mock not the careful trappings of ferociously sublimated geekery, lest our entire swaying tower of technological prowess tumble and fall!
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
 For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!

So there's an angel with a burning sword standing before my door into Althouse's comments section.  She wants to out-source to our own little bloglet comments sections, and since I have let my blogspot account fall into decrepitude, I thought "why not?"

Last night, she asked the difference between a traveller and a tourist - and my first thought was that "traveller" is a synonym for "gypsy", and no-one wants a caravan full of those parked on their street.  But I suppose in the context asked, "traveller" is for that arrogant sort that hates to think of himself as an ugly American, a fat tourist wandering around landmarks in oversize sunglasses and baggy shorts.  (Some rogue spell-checker objects to the extra ell in "traveller", but nuts to that, two ells has more of a song to it.)

The other quote is from one of my favorite books, "Walden," by Henry David Thoreau: "I have travelled a good deal in Concord..." Concord! Not even Massachusetts. Concord. Of course, he didn't have a car.

 Walden again... damn, I'm a lot like Thoreau, at least in temperament, habits and prejudices, but every time I slam up against his Walden rubbish, I find myself hating those parts of me that I see in him.  Insular, pompous, incurious, misanthropic, narrow, indolent... I can't help but think that he might have been worth a pinch of owlshit if he had been kidnapped by gypsies as a child and had his outlook forcibly expanded by encounters outside of his own small sphere.

ADDED: A reader quotes my "Those who get paid for a particular type of work may find it hard to explain the value of the activity to someone who isn't getting paid but must in fact pay"

One quote deserves another, from Bujold's A Civil Campaign, which I once had taped up in my  cubicle back when I was the company bookkeeper:

Never... ever suggest they don't have to pay you. What they pay for, they'll value. What they get for free, they'll take for granted, and then demand as a right. Hold them up for all the market will bear.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Insomnia takes you to strange places, looking on a whim for a painting to match the spirit of "Silent, upon a peak in Darien".

What makes Homer, Homer for those previous generations?  That classical education which is two generations past now?  I've never quite felt that reverence or connection for the shadowy Ionian that that vet and his predecessors held for him.  A Homeric literary foundation is kind of unusual in Americans, even in the old days.  Allan Bloom claimed that Americans made the Bible their cultural touchstone, in the way that the British made Homer and the Greeks, and the French Pascal and Proust and Descartes, and the Germans Kant and Goethe and Hegel.

BTW, this is the painting I had in mind, Friedrich's "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog", it has nothing to do with the Keats sonnet, but then, a lot of the literature on that poem has to do with the inaccuracy of his factual constructs, and the importance of a pre-rational, emotional connection with literary culture.

"Darien" was drifting in my mind's eye from tonight's reading of a crummy Penguin Books collection of extracts from Lord Macaulay's History of England, specifically about the doomed Scottish venture in Darien.  Paterson, the visionary who also gave the Bank of England to the southrons, had this bright idea about inserting a Scottish commercial colony in the debatable lands between the viceroyalties of New Grenada and New Spain.  Sadly, his Darien was as phantasmic as Keats' Panamanian Cortez, and all such transoceanic trade plans for the Panamanian isthmus were scotched by ferocious disease gradients until the early twentieth century's advances in pest control conquered those difficulties, if only to a degree.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

So, depending on how you define your terms, either I rescued a wild cat, or I've kidnapped a free feline-American and am holding her captive in a second-floor dungeon.  She had her first vet's visit and has figured out how the kitty litter box works, and has only bitten me once so far.  (Necessitating a separate trip to the doctor for a tetanus shot & antibiotics prescription.  No sign of rabies in either of us so far.)

She's been named Otonashi, for her generally withdrawn and quiet disposition.  I've yet to see her out in the open while there's someone around to spot her; when I'm in the room, she carefully lurks under the bed.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A rushing wind howls without rhythm and wild
Driving over the sere sleeping slopes
Rising and falling without pattern or meaning
Bringing up such a racket, percussive rattling of
The half-dead limbs and spidery half-broken
Twigs of winter-stunned wooded life waiting
Cacophony piled upon cacophony, yet the rattling
Brings rhythm into the previously-empty world
Emergent harmonies of limbs all more or less alike
Of a common length and flex and yet
Enough variance to bring high and low tones,
Fast and slow syncopations
Until the empty wood like an orchestra tuning
At the sound of three sharp cracks
A bough falls alone
Like a wand without conductor's guiding hand
And the wind and the wood sing forth in concert
For the sleeping squirrels and crows amazed awake.
Red skies at morning
Yellow and blackened
Blue in the west
The sun winks over the
Limb of the world
And is closed by
Pinked eyelid skies
The roaring is muffled
In swift cotton-swabbing
Rushing cloud-banks and
The kindled bronze
Slopes in the west
Flare and burn out
Storm rushing over
The troubled face of the deep
Sailors take warning.
In this predawn darkness
In flight before the morning light
It roars overhead
Freight-train Fate
Crushing the air between
Steel wheels and steel rail
Howling affronted by
The dying possibility of
The night that was past
Cries judgment of the day
In the moment of its birth
Predestinate by that vast

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Let us look at her now, let us see her plain,
She will never be quite like this again.
Her house is rocking under the blast
And she hears it tremble, and still stands fast,
But this is the last, this is the last.
The last of the wine and the white corn meal,
The last high fiddle singing the reel,
The last of the silk with the Paris label,
The last blood-thoroughbred safe in the stable
- Yellow corn meal and a jackass colt,
A door that swings on a broken bolt,
Brittle old letters spotted with tears
And a wound that rankles for fifty years -
This is the last of  Wingate Hall,
The last bright August before the Fall,
Death  has been near, and Death has passed,
But this is the last, this is the last.
There will be hope, and a scratching pen,
There will be cooking for tired men,
The waiting for news with shut, hard fists,
And the blurred, strange names in the battle-lists,
The April sun and the April rain,
But never this day come back again.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown's Body, excerpt from Book IV

There are no apocalypses, no universal objective ends, not that we know of.  But for every life, there is a last bright August before the Fall, and some feel it, that cold whisper of winter in the pre-harvest heat of rank summer, the first leaf falling far in advance of the turning of the color, the weather turning for him and him alone.  Our endings are individual, no matter how we project them onto the screen of our times.  The best we can do is not let our times project themselves upon us, prematurely.  I would like to think that the Mayan and the Camping raptures were a passing thing, but such projections of individual ends of the world will no doubt continue, as failures mount, and the brightness fades from more family fires.

The hills are echoing with Feu de joie, and fireworks, but this year, they sing to me:
There is no future, there is no past,
There is only this hour and it goes fast,
Hurry, hurry, this is the last,
This is the last,
This is the last.