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Magical Filth

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Faithful as the Dew

I am cogitating on the tenacity of household filth.

Today after I showered, I took a wet sponge and wiped the floor in the general area of the trash can. This floor was mopped with bleach this week. It should be as clean as a clean room at Intel. The sponge came up with a grey line of crud on it.

Where does this stuff come from? How can this happen in four days?

I think the underwear gnomes from South Park are shredding their stolen drawers, turning them into dust, and spreading them on my floors.

1. Spread underwear dust on floors.
2. . . .
3. Steve loses mind.

Is that reference too obscure? I don’t care. When did that ever bother me?

The hairs are even worse. They reappear on the floor within two hours of vacuuming and mopping. I actually find hairs on the floor while I’m putting the vacuum away.

Maybe I have some sort of condition. Maybe I’m the Reverse Bubble Boy. Instead of protecting me from the world with a bubble, I should protect the world from me.

MOOPS! MOOPS!

I can never resist a good obscure reference. Never.

I would ask for suggestions, but I don’t think the problems can be fixed. I should put grey tile on the floor so nothing shows.

I need to do what elderly women all over the world do: have one filthy bathroom for actual use, and one spotless, cordoned-off display bathroom which no one is allowed to approach.

MOOPS!

Homer Don’t Play Dat

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Actually He Does

I have an exciting event to report. I finished Herodotus a couple of days ago. This must be how a woman feels when she passes a 15-pound baby after two days in labor. Now I’m enjoying a thrilling ride through the world of Greek tragedy, courtesy of Aeschylus. The next reading on the Columbia University Lit. Hum. list is The Oresteia.

When the Greeks put “eia” on the end of something, it means they’re talking about something which is deeply involved with whatever comes before the vowels. For example, in The Iliad, Diomedes has a long stretch where he kills all sorts of people and inspires the other Danaans, and this bit of the epic is called the Diomedeia.

I haven’t finished The Oresteia, but I feel confident Orestes will pop up shortly.

The Oresteia is a trilogy, so of course it contains four plays. Yes, that’s right. Four. The first three are real bummers, and the fourth is what’s known as a “satyr play.” I think that means Charlie Sheen will be involved. I don’t know much about satyr plays, and I doubt I read the one from The Oresteia back when I was 19. This week I read that satyr plays are humorous plays, perhaps intended to offset the dreariness of tragedy and wake up the audience.

I found a neat book on Scrib’d, explaining Aeschylus line by line. The author is a guy named Logan (no adamantium). He supplies all the benefits of a college lecture, without the aggravation of dragging yourself to class in three-degree weather with a hangover. Also, it looks like the entire Cliff’s Notes volume on the trilogy is available online, free, at the Cliffsnotes site.

I am very, very glad to be done with Herodotus. The digressions were killing me. I feel like rewriting it with the crap removed and selling the result to college students, but if they won’t read the original, they won’t read my version, either, and besides, their profs probably like the crap.

Now that I’m way into the Lit. Hum. syllabus, I’m starting to see how it makes sense. Sort of.

Homer helps you understand Greek thought and culture, as well as Greek history (or at least what they thought was their history). The Old Testament…okay, I’m not sure how that fits in. Sappho…let’s face it. She was included to make feminists happy. I read the whole thing, and I got virtually nothing out of it. Feminists like to pretend women played a big role in shaping Western thought, but guess what? They didn’t. Sorry about that. Anyway, you can’t understand Herodotus if you don’t know Homer.

I just realized why the Old Testament was included. Two reasons. First, it allows the far-left nuts at Columbia to pretend they respect the Bible and our predominantly Christian culture, although this is not true. Second, it gives them an excuse to call the stories in the Bible “myths” over and over, as if the creation story were just as inane as the story about Atlas convincing Hercules to hold the world for a minute and then running off. It also gives them an excuse to talk about actual myths that are similar to the Bible, as though they prove the Bible is also a myth. Okay. Whatever. I guess all nickels are made of wood.

Herodotus has some importance because it gives you some notion of the history of the Western world, excluding Egypt, up until the third century BC. It also shows how the Greco-Persian Wars may have been important to the development of modern democracies. The Persians wanted to take over Greece, and they sometimes installed tyrants, which were what we would call dictators. Democracy was developing in Greece at the time of the Greco-Persian Wars, so–I am guessing–academics probably think that if the Persians had won, democracy would have been lost, and we would now live in a mean old right-wing world with kings and emperors, a constitutional right to concealed carry, leaded gas, DDT, and no government-funded sex changes.

If that’s what they’re hoping to teach us, I think they are wrong, because my vast studies tell me the Persians were actually pretty cool. They expected their possessions to send troops whenever the Persians wanted to conquer someone, and they imposed fairly low taxes as tribute. They generally let their possessions govern themselves. That is what I have been told. If it’s true, then wouldn’t the Persians have allowed the Athenians to continue voting on internal stuff?

I suspect that resisting the Persians was a big mistake, and I doubt the imperialist, rapist, thieving, lying, slave-owning Greeks were high-minded sponsors of individual liberty. Like most wars, the wars between the Persians and Greeks surely had a lot to do with preserving the status of the people in charge and very little to do with freedom.

I could be wrong.

Herodotus leads into Aeschylus because Aeschylus was a veteran of the Greco-Persian Wars. He fought at Salamis, where the Greeks beat the daylights out of the Persian navy. Okay, maybe that’s not the strongest connection ever, but it’s a connection. If the Greeks had lost, or if they had won but Aeschylus had fared poorly, we would have no Oresteia. Also, the trilogy is about the things Agamemnon went through after Troy, so it’s linked to Homer.

It’s linked to Sappho because women are just as good as men, and testosterone is bad.

I’ll go ahead and say it. Aeschylus is a drag. I can’t believe the Greeks enjoyed watching this stuff.

The Greeks always used the same set: a big shed. There was space in front of it where the actors stood. Pretty exciting. Sometimes they stood on top of the shed, and sometimes they swung down on blocks and tackles, pretending to be deuses ex machinae. I made that phrase up. They would pretend to be gods who were lowered in, in a creaky and highly convincing imitation of flight, to save Thebes or whatever.

Right away, it sounds bad.

The plays had only three actors, not counting chorus members. And the actors were all male. So let’s say you have a play with eight characters, including three babes. The babes would be played by the same fat, hairy guys who played the men. Hubba hubba. Move over, Sofia Vergara.

Instead of doing the intelligent thing and using more actors, they had the actors use masks. So in one scene, the actor wears his Tevye mask, and in the next, he wears a different mask and pretends to be Tzeitel. His daughter. Totally convincing. No problems suspending disbelief there.

Sounds like something Rupaul probably did when he was a kid.

The chorus is a bunch of people who sing and play instruments. The tragedies of Aeschylus were musicals, and we don’t know the score. I don’t even know what to say about that. Imagine trying to understand “Springtime for Hitler” if you don’t know the tune.

I’m not far into the first play, Agamemnon. So far, it’s a whole lot of whining. Everyone is moaning about how hard life has been since Agamemnon left. Here’s a thought: how about not sacrificing your daughter and sailing off to spend ten years trying to win back your brother’s slutty wife?

Don’t get mad at me for calling Helen a slut. She said the same thing about herself.

Everyone in the beginning of the play talks about how they miss Agamemnon, the guy who murdered Iphigeneia, abandoned Argos (Aeschylus changed it from Mycenae for political reasons), caused all sorts of poverty and disruption, and got a whole bunch of people killed.

Why would you miss this person? He was an idiot and a psychopath. Greek law doesn’t actually require you to wreck your life trying to drag a skeeze back from Troy. He could have stayed home and prospered.

In addition to the chorus and characters, these plays need another component: Homey the Clown. He could confront these people while they’re whining and use his loaded sock to beat some manliness into them.

Doesn’t the word “stoic” come from Greece? I guess the Argives weren’t familiar with it.

The Greeks are really disappointing. They’re brave…when they’re sure their enemies can’t fight back. They’re honest…until you turn your backs on them. They’re merciful…except when they’re raping, murdering, mutilating, torturing, and pillaging. And they’re incorruptible…except when they’re taking every bribe in sight.

Reminds me of the politicians and judges here in Miami.

I’m looking forward to moving on to books that are thinner and which are written in a manner that doesn’t require a decoder ring and a Ouija board. So far, reading the Greeks has been like wading through chest-deep snow. Except for Sappho, which was like playing Wheel of Fortune with two letters and then not getting a prize.

I am hoping to put Aeschylus behind me by the weekend. I am feeling better and better about skipping the reading when I was in college. Some of these books are impacting my life positively; the rest suffer by comparison to Cliff’s Notes. God bless the people who see fit to devote their lives to studying this petrifying material. I hope it was worth it to get out of serving in Vietnam. I am content to hear about the more boring parts of it second hand. Actually, an English translation is second hand by definition, so…

I better shut up before Homey hears me.

Greece is the Word

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Learning Makes Your Head Hurt

One of many great things of getting off Facebook is that it gave me more time to read. Lately, I have been reading a lot. This may sound like nothing new, since I was already reading tons of stuff on the Internet. The difference is that now I’m reading actual books. Some of them are even made of paper!

The Internet is a phenomenal resource, the likes of which the world has never seen. But somehow books are better. When you read a book from beginning to end, you get one coherent viewpoint (if you’re lucky), without a lot of jumping around. Reading things on the Internet is like watching movies on cable. You pick up a little here and a little there, and the big picture suffers. Between the time cable became popular and the introduction of pay per view and the DVR, it’s completely possible that I never saw the beginning of a single TV movie.

At least it feels that way.

I am still working on Herodotus. I got into this book as part of my guilt-motivated program of trying to read the books I pretended to read for Columbia University’s Literature Humanities course, and once I was in, I was disturbed to see how long it took. I read very quickly, and it seemed like I was getting nowhere. Suddenly I had new sympathy for little twerps students who are currently struggling with heavy doses of assigned reading.

Last week I discovered the problem. I had misread the syllabus. Somehow this seems like a fitting punishment for a person who got B’s for doing as close to nothing as possible. I thought I had to start off with pages 1 through 140. Looking at the syllabus through bleary eyes after cracking the 140 mark, I discovered I was supposed to read paragraphs 1 through 140. Or something like that. Herodotus is divided up into little sections which look like paragraphs to me. I would speculate that they are the original Greek page divisions, but it’s my understanding that his work was first written on scrolls.

Whatever.

I was reading well over twice as much as I had to.

The nice thing about this is that my contempt for college students was restored. Little sex-crazed goofs, whining about safe spaces and roofying each other.

When I discovered my error, I decided to keep going, because I knew I would eventually want to finish the entire book, and it would be a bummer to have to go back and read the stuff between the parts I had already read.

So now I’m stuck in the 300’s, plowing through a lot of small talk. It’s really difficult, because he talks about 5,000 ancient countries and cities, and each one has 15 names which he uses interchangeably. I read The Iliad and The Odyssey last month, and even after that, I didn’t know until last week that Lacedaemon was Sparta.

Also, the book must have 3,000 characters, and he brings them in the way pigeons poop on expensive suits. No warning. BANG…there’s Adrastus. Is that the same Adrastus he talked about fifty pages ago? Danged if I know. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip…

I’m actually looking for a book on the Ionian Revolt, because I have realized that there is no way on earth a human being can understand Herodotus’s summary without help. The weird thing is that any book I read will be based on Herodotus, but at least the author will, hopefully, have unraveled the digressions and put it in order.

Writing the previous paragraph reminds me of another annoying issue that has come up: the proper way to use apostrophes when turning names that end in “s” into possessives. My Lit. Hum. professor taught my class that we should avoid the common practice of simply adding an apostrophe to the end of the word, and I figured he must be right, since he swam in a sea of terminal-“s” names all day, every day, with a Ph.D. to back him up. I stuck with that for decades, but then a few years ago, I read that it’s only okay to add an apostrophe and a new “s” when the result is easy to pronounce. So it’s okay to write “Jesus’s,” but you should never write, “Cambyses’s.”

It’s bothering me right now, so I think I’ll check The Gregg Manual, which is a neat reference book. I probably have Strunk & White somewhere, but I don’t know if they cover this problem.

Well, Mr. Gregg and The Macmillan Handbook of English (saved from my college days) agree: you use an added “s” except when the result is hard to pronounce. But Mr. Gregg says “Jesus’s” is hard to pronounce. Geez. Doesn’t seem hard to me.

One of the aggravating things about grammar is that authorities disagree. People who have different authorities run around correcting each other (especially in Internet comments) when neither side can really claim the high ground.

I may not be able to find a book on the Ionian Revolt. Given that they all pretty much have to restate Herodotus, maybe the people who have considered writing such books have changed their minds. This is a good example of a gap the Internet can fill. Somewhere out there, I promise you, there is a web page that sums it up in an organized manner. There are probably a bunch of websites that will do. Even Wikipedia is better than fighting with an old Greek who loved to gossip.

In addition to ancient history, I’ve been reading up on the Holocaust and submarines. I’ve always wondered how submarines work, and it occurred to me that it’s possible to find out, so I downloaded a free book, and I bought a couple of videos. I also watched some stuff on Youtube.

Torpedoes always mystified me. How can you make an engine burn alcohol under water in a sealed tube? Turns out they had compressed air tanks inside them, to feed the engines! That’s why they left bubble trails. Submariners liked electric torpedoes because they didn’t leave trails. The problem with the trails is that they were like arrows guiding destroyers’ guns directly to the submarines.

If you combine things like books, video, and the web, you can learn a lot in a hurry, in much greater depth than any student could have only 25 years ago. And yet somehow Americans are more stupid than ever! How did we pull that off? It must be the damn cat memes. They take up all the bandwidth and keep us distracted.

I’m making good use of Google Books, Google Play Books, Amazon’s Kindle Store, and Scrib’d, along with various public domain downloads I’ve found, but paper books are still hard to beat. You can make notes in them. You can draw diagrams. You can make corrections. Try that with a tablet. Maybe in ten years. Also, I don’t have to worry that Big Brother Bezobama is going to get mad some day and suck all my books out of my electronic devices. He’ll have to send the jackbooted thugs. And I have all sorts of bullets. He can get at a few things, but the rest are here moldering safely on shelves, coffee tables, and exercise equipment seats.

I feel so smart these days. And I didn’t even have to stay at a Holiday Inn Express and catch a disease from the bedspread.

Before I sign off, I may as well admit that I have a new Facebook account. Because I’m a hypocrite. No, it’s because I wanted to put up a message to the people who wonder where I went. People thought I blocked them and unfriended them. Facebook doesn’t put up an announcement when you leave. So I put up an account with a brief explanation, but I refuse to add friends or spend time on the site. I may use it when necessary; some companies use Facebook to communicate with people, so if I deal with such outfits, I will have access.

I will be the only person on Facebook with NO friends. A new low. At least on Myspace I would have Tom.

I never hear from Tom. I quit looking at Myspace, and he cut me off dead. Some friend.

That’s all I have now. Wish me luck with the Ionian Revolt thing. Agent Mulder has to be right; the truth must be out there somewhere.

Lesbos: the Coachella of 600 B.C.

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Songs Without Music Without Words

My progress through the Columbia College Lit. Hum. syllabus continues.

This weekend I knocked off Sappho’s Lyrics. This is about 340 pages of song fragments. The original Greek is included. The book is arranged so you see Greek on one page and the English translation on the other.

Here is my verdict: I don’t get it.

Take 340 pages and divide it by two. That gives you 170. Then jack up the margins so they take up half the page. Then lose maybe two thirds of the original material. You end up with a very short work. On top of that, many of the fragments are completely incomprehensible. Some lines contain only one word.

There isn’t a lot of meat here. There are some full paragraphs and pages, but they are separated by big gulfs of emptiness. You pretty much have to take it one line at a time.

Here is how page 15 reads, if you string the words together: “. . . so . . . Go . . . so we may see . . . lady . . . of golden arms . . . doom . . .”

This is not just literature; it’s archaeology. It’s like trying to guess what a pharaoh’s tomb looked like after 75% of the contents were removed.

There are some pleasant bits of poetry, and there is information that tells us a little bit about Greek culture. All in all, I would say it’s a lot like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You visit just so you can say you saw it, not so you can praise it as a coherent, useful work. Have I used that analogy before? I like it.

I think Mr. Cliff agrees with me. He never wrote notes for Lyrics. If Cliff don’t care, I don’t care.

I looked around for information, and I learned a few things about Sappho. It looks like she was the Madonna of her time, except without the tastelessness and lack of talent. She was a sort of rock star. She wrote songs that were so popular, they were disseminated around the Mediterranean during her lifetime.

In the ancient world, Sappho was a big deal. She was mentioned by many ancient authors. They thought she was swell.

That’s great, but her melodies are long gone, and most of her words have also disappeared. It’s as if we were trying to reconstruct the Beatles using LP’s with big wedges cut out of them. Actually, it’s worse. It’s like trying to reconstruct them by looking at old captures of Leo’s Lyrics (a webpage that contains popular song lyrics) with half of the words corrupted: “Rocky Raccoon . . . checked into . . . Gideon’s . . . legs.” To say that finding meaning in this stuff requires value added is a gross understatement. If a scholar isn’t careful, he will end up publishing his own thoughts and feelings instead of Sappho’s.

Not that a scholar would ever do a thing like that. Oh, no.

I have to wonder: are the scholars who seem excited about Sappho just overheated? Are they letting their emotions drive them to make more of the ruins than they should? Probably.

If someone found the feet of the Colossus of Rhodes and started giving tours in a glass-bottomed boat, I wouldn’t sit in the boat shrieking that it was the most beautiful statue I had ever seen. I would probably say, “Wow, it must have been neat before it was destroyed.” That seems like a realistic reaction to reading Sappho.

I can’t find the fierce lesbianism modern scholars impute to her. She was apparently married, and she makes references to children. It sure looks like she was a mom. There are lesbian moms, but they’re generally not homosexual icons.

Human beings used to have a thing called “platonic love,” which seems a little creepy by modern standards. It was okay for two men to hold hands and tell each other how beautiful they were; it didn’t mean they were sneaking around. The Iliad is full of this stuff. The men get excited and talk effusively about their love and admiration for each other, but there are no gay relationships.

The men of The Iliad are heterosexual to a fault. At worst, they’re on the down-low. They are enthusiastic about taking female sex slaves, and they seem to view rape as a healthy, liberating hobby. They are like goats on Viagra and bath salts. Their emotional behavior toward other men seems to stop at the bedroom door. Maybe it was the same with Sappho.

Platonic love is pretty much dead (whew) among modern American men, but it’s very much alive among women. Young women get together for sleepovers, do each other’s hair, lie in the same beds, and dance together in their underwear. Doesn’t make them lesbians.

So they claim.

Anyway, platonic love more than suffices to explain the things Sappho wrote.

Sappho says a number of clever things about human nature, but I don’t think that, by itself, makes her a genius. Human beings had been around for a very long time before she was born, and it doesn’t take a million years for us to size each other up. Being the first recorded person to say this or that doesn’t make you the first person to say it.

I will read up on her a little more, but I don’t think there’s that much to learn.

Currently, I’m reading The Odyssey, which is the story of Odysseus’ return from Troy. It was translated by Richmond Lattimore, the same guy who wrote the translation of The Iliad Columbia uses.

The Odyssey has two important virtues The Iliad lacks: 1) there is an actual story, and 2) it’s shorter.

The Iliad runs around 900 pages, and almost nothing happens. There is no structure whatsoever. Scholars pretend there is, but there isn’t. The Achaians do well against the Trojans. The Trojans get discouraged. The god start helping the Trojans. The Trojans do well against the Achaians. The Achaians get discouraged. The gods start helping the Achaians. Repeat this about fifty times, and you have The Iliad.

Spoiler: the Trojans lose. But the action stops abruptly before Brad Pitt gets shot in the foot.

The Odyssey is different in that things occasionally happen. It’s not an endless cycle of alternating favor. Odysseus gets captured by a nymph. He gets freed. He has adventures on the way home. When you read The Odyssey, you feel like you’re making progress.

In the end (SPOILER), Odysseus wins. You have closure. Real closure, not the crappy kind you get in The Iliad, which ends with Hektor’s pincushiony, not-so-godlike body going home in a wagon. Even the coke-sniffers in Hollywood knew The Iliad needed punching up. That’s why they added the stuff about sacking Troy. If they had pulled the plug when Peter O’Toole got on the wagon, there would have been riots.

Here’s a theory which I would like to contribute to Iliad scholarship: The Iliad ends abruptly because the people who were subjected to Homer’s seemingly endless droning chose Hektor’s return as a good excuse to get up and leave. Or maybe they hit Homer in the head with a club at that point, to shut him up.

If anyone wants to offer me a university chair, I am open to negotiation. A chair may not be enough. I may hold out for an ottoman.

It will be hard to choose among the offers. Universities are clamoring to get conservative Christian professors who carry loaded pistols.

The next book in the syllabus is Genesis. I plan to skip that. I feel like I have that one under control. I’ve even read supplementary materials, such as Jubilees, Enoch, and The Modern Fundamentalist Fascist’s Guide to Homophobia, which I co-authored.

After that comes The Histories, by Herodotus. This book bears the distinction of having been not read by me in two different courses. I took an ancient history course in high school, and I’m pretty sure I avoided reading Herodotus, and then I almost certainly skipped it at Columbia.

Herodotus contains the story of the battle of Thermopylae, better known to Beyonce fans as 300. I watched 300 the other day, and I was highly annoyed to see bare breasts pop out for no good reason. You never know when nudity will reach out and grab you. I watched a movie about Beethoven the other day, and Ed Harris mooned the camera.

I think that was harmless. My feelings for Ed Harris aren’t even platonic.

As I so often do, I will go out on a limb and speculate. Because it’s easier than finding out the truth. I speculate that Xerxes was not an eight-foot-tall circus morphodite whose palace was actually a body modification parlor, and I further speculate that he wore actual pants. I doubt he had a ten-foot-tall giant that could fight even after you shoved a spearhead six inches into his skull (via the eyeball). I doubt the Spartan army dressed like a dance team from La Bare, and that they went on long journeys equipped only with spears, velvet cloaks, and dark red Speedos.

I don’t think the Spartans built a mountaintop temple on a crag so steep a fit man could barely climb it. How would you get the construction materials up there? How about food and water? What about wifi?

Anyway, that’s next.

I’ve learned one nice thing about the ancient Greeks. They treated their gods better than we do. They didn’t just hop in boats and sail off to kill people. They prayed and sacrificed beforehand. They were constantly asking the gods what they were doing wrong, so they could fix it. Imagine how much easier our lives would be if we treated the actual, real-life God that way.

I also noticed a major problem with the Greek religion. Well, two problems. First, the official name of the religion appears to be “mythology.” When you’re a Greek, that has to be bad for your faith. But also, the Greek gods do not get along.

Imagine that. Imagine you pray to Jehovah, and he gives you the okay, and then Jesus says, “Yeah, right, we’ll see about that,” and then he sneaks around behind the scenes, shipwrecking you on islands populated by one-eyed giant cannibals. That’s not how Christianity works. Christianity says, “God is one,” meaning, “God is unified.” The Spirit-led are unified. If we disagree about anything, it means someone is doing it wrong.

In mythology, you can’t make all the gods happy. Please one, and another one is on your case. That’s no way to run a godhead.

Another major problem: the Greek gods are a bit thick. None of them ever says anything intelligent or mature. Dealing with them is like placating huge, armed children. It’s like the segment of the old Twilight Zone movie, where adults had to kiss the rear end of an omnipotent little kid in order to keep him from projecting them into the violent horror of “Cartoon World.”

If stupid, immature gods are your thing, mythology is for you. And don’t believe the lies. It’s not the national religion of Mexico, no matter how many times you think you hear them say, “Yay, Zeus.”

That’s all I have for now. I am officially in charge of doing my elderly father’s taxes now, so I have to go and immerse myself in the new level of Tartarus known as Quickbooks. Odd name for the program, since “quick” means “alive,” which is the opposite how how I expect it to make me feel.

They say only death and taxes are inevitable. If only death came first.

Quick! Drinkin’ Buddy! To the Minivan!

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Fool me Once, Shame on You. Fool me 30,000 Times, Shame on Me

Old people know stuff. Old people can connect the dots. I’m going to apply my old person skills right now and see if it pays off.

A man in Ann Arbor, Michigan, just confessed to poisoning produce at Whole Foods. Let’s add up the facts and see what we can guess.

1. Ann Arbor. This is a suburb of Detroit, which is a Muslim stronghold. That area of Michigan is almost a caliphate.

2. The criminal is male, and most Islamist terrorists are male.

3. In the store surveillance video, he appears to be pretty hairy, which is not exactly rare among people from the Middle East and nearby regions which are dominated by Islam. The Boston bombers were dark, hairy individuals. So was the nut in San Bernardino. For that matter, so was bin Laden, and so were all of the 911 killers. Is it racist to say people from that area are hairy? Yeah, okay. And there are probably lots of tall blonds in Japan.

4. The police have the man in custody, and they refuse to reveal his name.

My bet: low-budget Muslim terrorist. I would say “lone wolf,” but wolves are intelligent. Mouse poison on organic figs is not the way to kill people.

I could be wrong. Maybe he’s a Baptist whose ex-girlfriend runs the produce section at Whole Foods. Maybe she dumped him, and now he’s out to punish the world and get her fired.

Maybe he finally realized he was paying way too much for tabouleh.

Cops and journalists now have a well-established history of holding onto the names of Muslim terror suspects. If a random individual who is not a Muslim commits a crime, they release the name in a hurry. Journalists, especially, like to get the information out there fast. They don’t do that with Muslims or people who seem like they may be Muslims. They wait, as though hoping the suspects will magically turn into Norwegians. They keep trying to perpetuate the myth that there isn’t a problem among American Muslims.

For some reason, they love pretending Christians and white supremacists (same thing, in the mind of the press) are the real danger. The truth is that Christians have little interest in terrorism, and white supremacists can’t get it together well enough to do much. Most of them are too busy doing roofing, watching game shows and pirated porn in their girlfriends’ moms’ trailers, or working on chain gangs.

Place your bets.

Update

Sometimes it’s sort of nice to be wrong. It restores your faith in mankind’s ability to not be completely predictable.

The Whole Foods guy is a blond man named Kyle Bessemer. Assuming he’s not convert, he is a plain old non-Muslim American.

I was right about the San Bernardino dude, though, so it all evens out.

Ilium, my Ileum

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Make it Stop

It’s not even noon, and I want to sit down and read The Iliad, just so I can be closer to never having to look at it again.

That book is like Hillary’s cough. It won’t go away.

When I was in college (the math and science phase), I kept a lot of my textbooks after the classes ended. I even bought extra books. I bought a pile of quantum mechanics texts. I have tons of Dover Press math and science texts, including one written by my undergrad student advisor.

I kept my copy of The Riverside Shakespeare. It’s very nice. And it’s Shakespeare, so I might actually want to look at it occasionally. I kept a French poetry text by Morris Bishop.

I love Schaum outlines. I must have ten or twelve. I also kept one book and a number of study aids from law school.

The Iliad reminds me why I sold or threw almost all of my college texts out. The notion of looking at it after I complete it is inconceivable. Merely seeing it on a shelf would put a knot in my stomach.

As, when the flowing-haired Thetis, whilst browsing in the orchard of fabled Hemeroskopeion, reaches for a fallen plum ripened by the blessed rays of Apollo’s orb, and on bringing it to her fig-like lips, discovers it to be a ball of horse manure and feels her entrails tighten within her, so would my gizzard toss in my belly as I gazed upon the blind bard’s tome.

How can people dedicate their lives to studying this stuff? It takes all kinds. Some kids dream of becoming morticians.

My dad has a copy of The Great Books of the Western World, which, since he wants to throw it out, is technically mine. It’s a neat resource. It contains Homer, Plutarch, Shakespeare…just about everything you need to read in order to look down on people. I don’t know how great the crusty translations of the foreign stuff are, but then I don’t know what translations P.G. Wodehouse and the guy in Quiz Show used, either, and they managed to come off as erudite.

I feel like the smart move is to Scrib’d the best translations I can find, for nine bucks a month, and then be content with the Great Books after that.

Cliff is a genius. I’ll bet he came up with his notes idea while he was reading The Iliad. He was a junior in college, and he was sitting at his desk with The Iliad to his left and a loaded revolver on his right, and he was about to toss a coin, when suddenly, like Phoibos’s arrow, inspiration struck. And now he’s rich, and kids have time to Tweet, smoke dope, and weep about their need for safe spaces.

We haven’t done right by Cliff. He’s a hero. A humanitarian. Right up there with Salk and Pasteur. God bless him. Someone should build a statue.

Or maybe they should just write a short summary describing a statue.

My brain is dry. I can’t think of anything else to say. I guess it’s time to go face the music.

Achaianz n the Hood

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

They Didn’t Choose the Hero Life

I finished my daily dose of The Iliad a few minutes ago, and I feel I have to come here and vent until the pain in my wounded soul subsides.

I am very disappointed in the Greek concept of heroism. These guys stab other guys while they’re running away. They run like hell when they think the other guy has a god’s favor. When a god saves and heals them after they’ve been beaten, they come back and talk smack. Like having mommy pull you out of a fight makes you a tough guy.

The whole premise of the book is ridiculous. One idiot steals another idiot’s wife. A bunch of other idiots go to war to get her back, offering their lives in exchange for the return of what is essentially a common strumpet. The gods take sides, helping them kill each other, but they’re not consistent. Zeus’s brilliant plan is to help the Trojans mess up the Achaians until they burn one ship, and after that, to let them sack Troy, burn it, and force themselves sexually on everyone they can catch.

What is the point? Why would you help the Trojans if you plan to wipe them out a week later?

How about this idea: stay home and grow old while making money. Live to see your children marry. Don’t go to war unless someone bothers you. Am I crazy? Am I the only one who sees this as the obvious course of action?

You know what the Iliad characters are? Gangsters. Punks. They’re just like the simpletons in New York and L.A. who run around killing each other out of boredom. Your life is dull and pointless, so instead of finding an actual purpose an adult can be proud of, you stir up crap and get off on the stress.

They talk constantly about glory. It’s okay if some Trojan with Zeus on his side spreads your intestines out on the beach in an unfair fight, because you get glory.

You can’t spend glory. You can’t put it on toast and eat it. If you believe in the nutty Greek religion, after you get speared, you expect to be in hell, where you can’t even enjoy your glory. How stupid do you have to be to fall for a deal like that?

The characters are imbeciles. The gods are sociopaths. I don’t care what happens to any of them. They’re all jerks.

I’m still only on page 593. You want to hear about a mythical Greek figure I can relate to? Here it is: Sisyphus.

Reading The Iliad is like going to see the Mona Lisa. You don’t go to be impressed or to see something which is done well. You go so you can have the experience of seeing it.

The Mona Lisa is fat and ugly. The landscape behind her is amateurish. The colors are basically shades of cockroach-wing brown. The composition is right up there with the photos on baseball cards. But it’s an important painting, so you pay money to go to the Louvre and look at it.

I am looking at The Iliad. It’s like a Mona Lisa that takes two weeks to take in.

I’m starting to feel better now.

Every day, I’m eager to sit down and read this book, simply because I know it will make it be over that much faster.

I’m open-minded. People have different tastes. If you like Homer, you have something wrong with you. But I respect you.

Just to show that I’m a classics fan at heart, I’ll post a video that shows how a true artist presents a great work of literature. It’s Kirk Douglas in the Mexican version of 1954’s Ulysses. I don’t know why Homer couldn’t have presented it this well.

I was Fated to Hate This Book

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Where is Ray Harryhausen When You Need Him?

Where did I get the idea that I should compensate for my college-era sins by reading The Iliad? What was I thinking? I’m actually starting to sympathize with my sophomore self. I completely understand why I spent every weekend blind drunk.

I’m still not out of the five hundreds yet. Pagewise. If you put a gun to my head right now, I could not tell you what happened in the last passage I read, and it was about forty minutes ago.

Hera seduced Zeus, which is about as hard as getting Bernie Sanders to let you pick up a check. Then a god named “Sleep” ran through the Danaan camp telling everyone to get up and fight. After that, search me.

Sleep is immortal. It’s no surprise he’s enthusiastic about bloody combat. If he gets poked with a spear, it only hurts until he grows a new liver or whatever. Leftists like to call every conservative who hasn’t been to war a “chickenhawk.” It’s a horrible bit of sophistry, but that wingless shoe would definitely fit the Greek gods.

It’s awful, if you think about it. The Greek gods are like rabid Little League parents, except when Little Leaguers strike out, they go to the dugout for a participation trophy, whereas the Greek heroes go to Tartarus where they maintain their maimed forms for eternity.

I believe that’s how it works. I think I understood Brad Pitt correctly.

The Iliad is like the World Series of Little League, except the parents are allowed to charge the field and punch kids in the mouth.

I had no idea The Iliad was a thousand pages long. Because, hello, I didn’t actually read it the first time. I just assumed it was a two-day ordeal, probably because the Cliff’s Notes I actually read were about that long.

It could be worse. I tried to read Ulysses once. I got like 300 pages in before I realized it was never going to get any better. I figured it would be worth it once I got to the good part, and then I realized I was already looking at the good part. Or maybe the good part was the foreword.

James Joyce was a genius. I guess. I would rather just concede that than spend a spell in hell becoming sufficiently familiar with his work to argue the opposite.

Hemingway was a huge poser, but he was entertaining. Give him that. James Joyce went 300 pages without permitting the occurrence of a single event of interest. I can’t imagine what the remaining 32 pounds of the book were like. Maybe there was a page at the end explaining that it was all a joke, and that the publisher would send you fifty bucks for being a great sport.

I’ll never know. Unfortunately, I lost my copy in a fire. That I threw it in.

Yesterday I compared The Iliad to reality TV. That was pretty accurate. I see no reason to backpedal. But today I had another epiphany: it’s also a lot like a soap opera. It goes on forever, and nothing much happens, and there are too many characters to keep up with. One of the best things about getting way into the book is that a lot of the people you had to keep track of earlier are dead.

When I was in college, I briefly–and I do mean briefly–got into General Hospital. My freshman floor counselor had a blonde who lived with him, and she watched the show religiously. Since I inhabited the TV lounge and avoided classes, I was right there with her for a few weeks. Then I happened to see the show a few years later for some reason I no longer recall (perhaps I was being tortured so I would divulge the number of a Swiss bank account), and I was amazed to see that I could still keep up with it. So little had happened, it was as if I had gone to sleep in Port Charles on a Monday and awakened on a Wednesday.

That’s exactly how The Iliad is.

Is Port Charles right, or was that a different soap? I remember an annoying old geezer who was married to a harridan named Phoebe…or did I dream that?

The Trojan War took about a decade, and from time to time, everyone sailed home and took time off. That proves how much like a soap opera it is. Even the characters were able to skip years.

Langley Wallingford! I can’t believe I remember that! What did he see in Phoebe? Not that he was a day at the beach. But she was abominable. A beast.

Here’s something I recall. Demi Moore came on the screen, and I thought, “That poor homely little thing. She has a voice like thimbles on a washboard. She can’t even act. She will never make it.”

I don’t think the other books I declined to read (see “Lepellier Refusal,” A Separate Peace, Charles Scribner’s Sons, Knowles, J., 1959, at 30) were this long. I guess I can check.

Okay, Columbia College has The Odyssey on the list. It’s Lattimore again. More bizarre usage and bloated verbiage, I guess. Checking Amazon…YES! It’s only 374 pages! I can do that in my sleep! And unlike The Iliad, it’s actually a pretty good story. I loved it when Kirk Douglas poked the cyclops’s eye out with a burning tree trunk.

If the book is 374 pages, the Cliff’s Notes must be a pamphlet. Should go around 60 pages. I can deal with that.

I keep thinking you have to read the classics in order not to be ignorant, but I’m really wavering. The Cliff’s Notes really aren’t that bad.

I learned tons of calculus, but they didn’t make me read Isaac Newton’s notes. I probably wouldn’t have understood them. The sole piece of his notation that survives today is the dot on top of a time derivative. If I can do integration by parts without reading the actual work of Newton or Leibniz or Cauchy or whomever, it stands to reason that I should not have to read Homer in order to understand The Iliad.

Actually, it doesn’t stand to reason, but it sounds good. Close enough for jazz. It’s like an opinion by Justice Brennan: wrong and tendentious, but smart enough to get past you anyway.

There are probably four people in North America who have read the real Iliad, in the original original Greek, not cleaned up and clarified by monks and grad students. Just saying.

With any luck, I will be done in a week, and life, such as it is, will resume. Until then, expect more diatribes, because my system cannot sustain the stress of bottling this up.

Real Aryans Wear Jorts

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Lame Protesters Give Bigotry a Bad Name

This is kind of interesting. Apparently a few kooks held a white power rally near Stone Mountain, and they were wildly outnumbered by the people who came out to protest.

I have a lot of black friends and acquaintances, and they seem to be very concerned about white supremacists. I try to reassure them, but they don’t seem to take much comfort, because, to be honest, conspiracy theories do really well among black people. If some bonehead on MSNBC makes a crazy claim about the Klan owning Oscar Mayer and putting Satanic symbols in the olives in the olive loaf, it’s pretty likely to become intractable dogma among black people.

In fairness, white people are not exactly immune to rumor. Richard Gere could tell you about that.

Anyway, several DOZEN (not thousand) welfare recipients and part-time roofers (I’m guessing) got together between court dates to celebrate the amazing accomplishment of being white, and there were protesters, and it was the protesters, not the professional Caucasians, who attacked the police and caused problems. One of them maced a cop.

I guess I would make two points here.

First of all, no one gives a crap about white supremacy. It’s not going anywhere, so relax. I am white, and someone would have alerted me if I were supposed to be at meetings. I haven’t heard a peep. White supremacy is extremely unpopular, and it makes you look bad on Facebook and Twitter. Donald Trump is not trying to bring it back, and even if he did, he would get nowhere.

The fact that people took this rally seriously enough to come out and complain is disturbing, because it suggests that they’re severely detached from reality. It’s like getting worked up about the thirty-member Westboro Baptist Church, better known as…the Phelps family and its three minivans. A few illiterate idiots with belly shirts, holding cans of generic beer, do not constitute a movement.

Second, it is pointless to assemble and protest evil by BEING conspicuously evil.

If you protest in order to complain about white supremacy, and you mace the police, you are sort of helping the people you came to oppose. If you’re not white, it looks really bad, because in essence, you have made yourself into a visual aid for your opponents. “Look what black people do, Aryan friends.”

If you want to fight white supremacy, and you’re not white, do this: get a college degree. Then live a happy and prosperous life which doesn’t involve screaming at toothless landscaping engineers with Krylon Confederate flags with the wrong number of stars on their soon-to-be-repossessed trucks. Get a job where a number of white people answer to you. You know; like a Democrat President assembling his cabinet.

You will feel a lot better, and you won’t be charged with assaulting an LEO.

We have a real problem with deluded protesters causing problems instead of solving them. BLM is one of the best (“worst”?) examples of a reform movement which is much worse than what it’s protesting. Darren Wilson shot ONE enraged criminal in self-defense, and in response, BLM has killed or injured a whole slew of innocent people, as well as burning down an impressive number of homes and businesses. If I were a white supremacist, I would be collecting videos of BLM violence for recruiting purposes, and it would work.

Personally, I call BLM “Black Lies Matter” or “Only Black Lives Matter.” They defend people who are obviously criminals who caused their own problems, and they don’t seem too upset by deliberate collateral damage to non-blacks.

This is a useless blog post. The people who need to read it won’t, and if they did, they would never admit the obvious truth, which is that I’m correct. They would accuse me of various things, feel like they had put me in my place, and then go on believing nonsense.

Who cares? Black people get mad at me when I side with the police. White people get mad at me when I’m truthful about blatant crimes committed by cops. I make both sides mad. I’m used to it. I embrace it. You can’t live your life distraught about your inability to please fools.

If you’re a white supremacist, stop wearing Confederate flag T-shirts with the belly cut off, especially if you also have a Confederate flag tattooed on your belly. Find a job. Try to live right. See if you can get your meth-related felonies expunged. Have your remaining teeth or tooth cleaned.

If you’re a BLM nut, go home and study. Get a high GPA at whatever college will take you, and then start sending out resumes. Stop burning down convenience stores and rendering yourself permanently unpalatable to employers.

I should stop writing this stuff and start yelling it into a canyon or even an empty shipping container. It would do about as much good.

I guess I’ll come back in a day or two to see how the world has changed since receiving my helpful advice.

Die, Scum

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Shower Spray Progress

You may say your life is more exciting than mine, but then you would be a fool. I am still making progress on my daily shower spray.

I decided to check the ingredients and see what real chemists put in these products. The most useful combination I found (easiest to duplicate) was “nonionic surfactant” and lactic acid.

I am not a housekeeping chemist, but I was not raised in a cave, either. I have seen the phrase “nonionic surfactant” before. It’s on the labels of dishwashing liquids. Dawn is full of a nonionic surfactant. I guess it’s synonymous with “detergent.”

Does this mean Dawn is just as good as the surfactant in the store spray? Danged if I know. Maybe there is a huge variety of surfactants out there, with different qualities. But I have a jug of Dawn sitting around, so experimentation is cheap. Dawn is what I used in my last batch, and it seems to do the job.

I believe the lactic acid is to keep minerals from depositing on shower surfaces. This must be why people use vinegar in homemade products. It’s an acid that cuts calcium deposits. Vinegar smells, so my guess is that lactic acid is in commercial products because it does the same job without the stink.

Sadly, lactic acid is not available nearby in large cheap containers. Also, I don’t know how much I would need. Liquid acids are solutions, and the solvent is water. There’s a big difference between an acid with a lot of water and an acid with very little.

Muriatic acid (weak hydrochloric acid) is available at hardware stores, but it would probably be rough on grout. It eats ceramics in a hurry. Maybe lactic acid does the same thing.

I considered adding CLR to the spray. It’s a commercial product that eats mineral deposits. It’s supposed to eat rust, too, but I have never seen any evidence that it works. Electrolysis is the best way to get rust off of stuff, and if you can’t use that, I would go with phosphoric acid.

I don’t know what’s in CLR, but it will damage aluminum and a bunch of other stuff, so it’s out.

I wonder if citric acid would work. I’ll bet it would, and it wouldn’t smell like vinegar. I would need some cheap lemon juice. Looking around online, I see that citric acid is commonly used to remove scale from things.

The stuff I’m using now seems to be doing the trick, though.

You can buy citric acid on the web for eight bucks a pound. It’s a solid, which is something that has always confused me. I’m familiar with citric acid as a cooking ingredient. It’s also called “sour salt.” It makes foods sour. I’m used to seeing acids in liquid form, so the idea of acid powder is strange.

Maybe someone who took organic chemistry can explain.

Or someone can Google it, find the answer, provide it in a comment, and pretend they already knew it. Not that people ever do that.

I think a quarter of a cup of cheap lemon juice would be a good addition.

I don’t know if the various ingredients would react with each other.

Dealing with soap scum is a drag, so any semi-automated solution is a blessing.

I have a steam machine for removing crud from surfaces. I suppose it would work for soap scum. It works on baked-on oven grease. But it would be more work than scrubbing, and it would not be great for paint.

It is imperative that I succeed at this. The thought of spending three bucks a bottle for shower spray is just too painful for me.

The Oracle of Skynet

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Who Needs a Gypsy?

I’ll tell you something interesting about the future. If you use the Internet, one day it’s going to start telling you things about yourself that you didn’t know. And it will tell other people things you don’t want them to know.

I realized this as I was looking at annoying browser ads that popped up in response to Google searches. In the old days, web ads were fairly random, but now your computer and the computers of various organizations store and analyze material you provide incidentally, and they send you ads that seem likely to be appropriate for your needs or desires.

The ads aren’t always related to things in which you’ve shown an explicit interest. Sometimes the machines think, “This person’s activity and data are a lot like those of people who bought this product or service, so let’s send them an ad.”

Even if human beings don’t plan it, eventually you will start receiving information that will tell you surprising things. It will diagnose disease. It diagnose mental illness and personality problems. It may even tell you you’re going to be fired soon, that your wife is cheating on you, or that your area is about to have an earthquake. The computers won’t “know” these things, but the correlations will cause them to reveal them. At first the information will come through advertising, but at some point, that will change. Someone will decide the sleuthing ability of computers is too important not to harness, and they’ll start arranging for us to receive messages not related to commerce.

Various facts correlate with various other facts. We don’t necessarily know the relationships. But they exist, and over time, computers will expose them.

What if people who have a certain hidden disease like a certain food, or they look for a certain type of OTC medication which treats a seemingly unrelated condition? What if they find certain socks helpful, because of skin problems or circulation problems, the causes of which they don’t know? Computers will figure it out.

One day, the Internet will start telling people they have cancer or diabetes or other problems, based on their online activity. It will be shocking.

The Internet may tell the feds things that get us in trouble. To an extent, this already happens. Michele Catalano got a visit because someone in her house searched for pressure cookers, after pressure cookers were used in the Boston Marathon bombing. Eventually, the feds will get better at analyzing data, and visits will be more frequent. In essence, we will be searched and detained based on what the movie Minority Report called “pre-crime.”

Sooner or later, the predictive power will become so great, courts will not be able to protect us. Computer predictions will be considered probable cause. You wait and see.

Eventually you’ll have to curtain your web use very severely, or give up all hope of staying out of the matrix.

It’s going to be an interesting time.

Spare me a Beating

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Click This Link

As you may be aware, Sondra K. is now a kickboxer. For that reason, I am posting the following link:

LINK. When you get to that link, you are to vote for Soldier’s Angels, a fine charity which Sondra likes. Apparently, the charity with the most votes gets a big wad of cash.

She asked me to post that a few days ago, and I completely forgot. Hopefully I have spared myself a kickboxing lesson.

Oops

Looks like they called this thing off early! No point in voting now.

I have to go hide from Sondra.

A Vote for McCain is a Quiet Lynching

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

We are All Racists Now

Has everyone noticed how the Obama campaign and its surrogates are openly accusing their opponents of racism? Any criticism of Obama or his cronies, no matter how legitimate, can now be characterized as racist. It’s disgusting and shameful, but that’s how leftists play. Here’s a wake-up call to the swing voters: if Obama and his pals are crying “victim” now, what do you think they’re going to do after he’s elected? For four solid years, anyone who disagrees with the President will risk public accusations of racism. And because that threat will be hanging over the head of every pundit in the world, they will hesitate to warn us when Obama screws up, just as they chickened out when Frank Raines (black) looted Fannie Mae and caused the economic crisis.

You think you’ve seen Teflon? You’re fooling yourself. Reagan was called the Teflon President because liberal smears didn’t stick. Obama goes one step further. He aborts criticism in the womb. Prior restraint, without the Constitutional issues. It’s a thing of beauty.

And after he’s gone, historians will face the same fear. No matter what this man does to us, he’ll be remembered by historians as a messiah.

Does that mean we should never elect black politicians to high office? Of course not. The Bush administration gave us Condi Rice and Colin Powell, and pundits have been very willing to criticize them, because Rice and Powell don’t whimper about racism. They would fail if they tried. The Republican deck doesn’t come with a race card. The press removes it as soon as a black conservative takes office.

The lesson here is this: never elect a minority politician who makes bogus racism allegations during his campaign. Not unless you want to cope with the same tactics for the remainder of his public existence.

Here’s an unintentionally funny quote from a New York Observer piece:

And Kevin Parker, a New York state senator from Brooklyn, said, “If you have to remind people that Barack Obama is African-American, you have reached the bottom.”

Looks like Obama and his surrogates reached the bottom quite some time ago.

I Don’t Hate Obama; I Pity the Fool

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Get Down With Your Own Bad Self, B.

I have been neglecting the blog because I have had to screw with some hosting problems. I hope none of you tried to email me at any address not on the HOI domain, because if you did, your emails are history.

Here’s something fun to keep you entertained while I finish my electrical project.

By the way, Walken now has his own email address. You can find it on the blog.

Blogrolls Wiped Out

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

WordPress!

I have had to redo a couple of my websites. If you were on the blogrolls at the old sites, you are gone now, because WordPress failed to transfer the links. I’ll try to replace everyone. Sorry about that.

More

You will be glad to know Wilford Brimley is backing John McCain.