web analytics

Archive for the ‘Main’ Category

Trump’s Russian Hookers

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Media Floundering Reaches new and Exciting Lows

I don’t watch the news any more, but I’m making an exception today. Donald Trump is having a press conference which will basically be a victory dance over the prone body of the mainstream media.

In 2016, someone put out a ridiculous “dossier” claiming Trump paid prostitutes to urinate on a mattress on which Barack and Michelle Obama had slept. Major media outlets have published the story. Some have merely referred to it. CNN’s take on the story is so benign it almost amounts to an endorsement. Now the entire world knows the story is a hoax, and I want to see what Trump says.

Hmm…he was blunt, but he didn’t obsess on the story. He said it might have come from our intelligence agencies, and that this would be a major “blot” on their records.

That was pretty restrained, considering the speaker.

Journalists are not smart people. We can’t seem to absorb that fact. In college, they major in makeup, plastic surgery, diction, and wardrobe. That’s about all they know. Among journalists, people like Megyn Kelly seem like geniuses simply because they went to law school. Why do we trust journalists?

Let me refer to my new buddy Michel Seigneur de Montaigne. He astutely pointed out that people credit things they see in print more than things they hear, and he questioned that mindset. He was right. Put someone’s words in a newspaper, and suddenly they seem like the voice of God. Put a dimwit on TV, and suddenly he seems like the oracle of Delphi.

I think we all remember how Wolf Blitzer did on Jeopardy.

Trump looks pretty good. He is relatively sedate, he is serious, and he seems to be taking his responsibilities seriously. I hope that continues, but even if he spends his whole presidency making childish tweets and calling people names, it will be worth it to have the sane federal judges he appoints.

You have to wonder what the press will try next. Prank phone calls? Toilet-papering the Rose Garden? Sending pizzas to the White House? The childishness and gullibility boggle the mind.

It’s going to be an entertaining four years.

Prisoner of the Sixteenth Century

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

I Want Out

I am not quite done reading the essays of Montaigne. I call him “Montaigne” instead of using his full name because it’s confusing, deciding what to write. “Michel Montaigne”? “Michel de Montaigne”? “Michel Seigneur de Montaigne”? I can’t deal with decisions like that. Anyway, I am working on the last part of the Montaigne assignments in Columbia University’s Lit. Hum. syllabus.

As you might have predicted after reading my other commentaries on this course, I am not terribly impressed by Montaigne. He seems like a fairly typical worldly liberal. He enjoys trolling people who believe in God, decency, and the obvious superiority of western civilization. I don’t need to open a moldy old book to hear that. I can turn on MSNBC.

One of the passages I was required to read is titled “On Cannibals.” In this essay, Montaigne writes about a Brazilian native he met. Predictably, Montaigne thinks savages like the Brazilian are not backward at all. Indeed, he suggests, we are the backward and uncivilized ones. Because, you know, we wear shoes and use soap and read.

Notice I didn’t put “savage” in quotation marks (not the first time I typed it). It’s a perfectly valid term. It’s not something to sniff at. Savages are savages. Their cultures are inferior. They don’t learn anything. They don’t accumulate knowledge or pass it on. A savage’s great-great-great-grandchildren can be expected to have lives just as hard and pointless as his own. When you’re a savage, you don’t solve problems and pass the solutions on. You pass the problems on. Your gift to your descendants is that they have to reinvent the wheel every time life gives them a challenge, and often, they will fail.

I don’t think Montaigne knew much about American Indians, because he died in 1592, a hundred years after Columbus landed in the Americas. Nonetheless, he felt qualified to say a lot about them.

Modern apologists for backward people like to pretend that only civilized people make war. That’s idiotic. Open an old National Geographic and look at the spears and shields. Primitive people are more warlike than the rest of us, because they have nothing better to do, because they are too stupid to write down history and be reminded how bad war is, and because they have less to lose. We worry about having our magnificent cities destroyed and our wealth consumed. That’s not a big concern when rebuilding your largest town takes three hours.

Read up on the Indians, and you will learn that they were heavily into war, slavery, and torture. People love to say the Indians could not be enslaved. All I can say is, “Read a book.” They were all about slavery.

Montaigne doesn’t fall into the trap of claiming Indians are sweet, gentle souls who spend their days dancing with unicorns. He admits they’re violent. He celebrates it.

Montaigne claims Indians ate their defeated enemies. He says they would take prisoners, feed and care for them, and then torture them as much as possible before eating their bodies. I don’t know if that’s true. He says the victims would sneer at their captors and taunt them, saying that when they were eaten, the victors would only be tasting their own ancestors, whom the defeated had eaten in years past.

He admires this behavior. I am not kidding.

It goes without saying that a life without elective war, torture, and cannibalism is superior. I don’t know how to prove it. It’s like proving good is better than bad. Some things are just obvious. I can tell Montaigne secretly felt the same way, because he made no effort to move to South America and get himself captured. He just liked posturing and trolling.

If he lived in America, right now he would be backpedaling on his promise to move to Canada.

Throughout history, swarms of human beings have done their best to escape crude societies and move to sophisticated ones. This was already true in the Sixteenth Century. That ought to tell Montaigne something.

You may say Montaigne was highly original in his views concerning savages. I doubt that. I’m willing to bet that two thousand years before he existed, there were educated Greeks spouting the same nonsense. The grass is always greener, and because that’s a fact based on immutable human nature, the grass has always BEEN greener. I don’t think originality is a good defense.

One of the things I’ve learned from reading the classics is that ideas we think were conceived recently are almost invariably ancient. You will see this in Montaigne’s own work. He cites the Greeks and Romans over and over.

Here’s something revealing. When westerners talk about their own history, they don’t hesitate to label their forebears as losers. We love putting them down. We say life used to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Here is the exact quote, from Thomas Hobbes:

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

If our ancestors, who were a lot like Montaigne’s Indians, can be criticized as underdeveloped, why are primitive non-western people who live in our time exempt? If anything, they deserve more criticism, because they have been around as long as we have, and we have moved forward, and they haven’t.

I don’t buy into the “noble savage” myth. Give me peace, air conditioning, modern medicine, and the internal combustion engine, any time. Montaigne’s romantic notion was just as silly and untenable in his time as it is now.

People love to defend savages, saying they live in balance with nature and don’t harm the earth. I have a couple of responses to that.

1. The reason they don’t harm the earth is that their infant mortality rate is gargantuan. They don’t multiply fast enough to harm the earth.

2. Not harming the earth is not a legitimate measure of a person’s virtue. Who said it was?

Primitive people don’t harm the earth because it defeats them. Their babies die and fertilize it. The rest of us increase our numbers and make the earth fruitful, and a certain amount of pollution is an inevitable side effect. I like pollution more than I would like living in a society where a typical woman has five kids and raises one.

Today I’ve been reading “On Experience.” It’s a fun read, but it serves to discredit Montaigne to some extent. Much of the essay concerns Montaigne’s views on health and longevity. He advises people to give in to disease, in order to let it take its course and be over quickly. He says we would should yield to evil.

Montaigne had kidney stones all his life, and he died at the age of 59, from complications from tonsillitis. When someone gives you advice about health, you have to consider their track record. He didn’t do too well.

A long time ago, my mother used to read books by a lady named Adelle Davis. This woman held herself out as a health expert. She told people to eat certain foods in order to protect themselves. She said a person should eat three almonds every day, to ward off cancer.

Cancer is what killed Adelle Davis. I don’t read her books.

Montaigne wrote an essay about the Western custom of wearing clothes. I haven’t read it, but I feel like I can write an outline just by guessing. My bet: he’s against it. Why? Because he’s a troll, and because no one would bother taking the time to write an essay in favor of wearing clothes. People are already in favor of it.

Yes, I just took a look. He thinks wearing clothing is a nutty custom imposed on us by people who lack faith in our bodies’ natural ability to protect us from the elements.

How predictable can you be?

I have to wonder if modern educators like Montaigne simply because he agrees with a lot of their quaint, discredited notions. No. That could never happen.

People say Montaigne was humble, but I would say the opposite. I think he was conceited, because he had no regard for the wisdom of people who preceded him. Well, I suppose he would have had wisdom for the brilliant savages way upstream in his ancestral line. The naked ones who tortured unarmed captives to death and ate them, I mean. But he didn’t have much respect for the ones who built the western world.

Montaigne made himself out to be humble, but so did Socrates, and he had an ego the size of a planet. It’s sort of like Obama saying he’s not a socialist; obviously, he’s a socialist. He believes in forced redistribution of wealth. What you say you are doesn’t determine to what you are. It’s not great evidence.

The book isn’t too boring, and it provides an interesting look at sixteenth-century life. It shows you how educated people of Montaigne’s time thought, and it shows how familiar they were with the works of earlier thinkers. It’s worth reading (bits of it), but I wouldn’t go out and start a Montaigne cult after reading it. He’s not particularly wise.

After this comes Cervantes. Thankfully, the syllabus doesn’t require me to read the whole book. I think Cervantes was overrated, and I suspect he was included simply because Spanish literature isn’t as good as literature from other countries. I think he was a diversity pick. I don’t look forward to plodding through hundreds of pages of work by a man who may have been chosen not because of merit, but through affirmative action.

Could be worse. I could be going to an oncologist who got affirmative action. Or riding a space shuttle built by affirmative-action engineers.

Not what I would ever ride a space shuttle. To get me on your airline, you have to get your death risk down below 1%. That’s a rule I have.

I suppose I should have done all the reading for Lit. Hum. back when I was 19, but I see that I spared myself a lot of suffering, and I didn’t cheat myself out of a ton of useful learning. I don’t feel motivated to read a lot more of this stuff. I might read a few things, but not a whole lot.

I’m not a savage. That’s sufficient.

David Caruso and Julianna Margulies Called

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Want Their Career Strategies Back

I just read that Megyn Kelly is leaving Fox News. Actually, I’ve been reading about it for months, in the captions of clickbait ads. But now it comes from a slightly more reliable source: The New York Times.

It’s interesting. I think it’s a very bad move for her.

Megyn Kelly didn’t make Fox big. Fox made her big. Her political views are more in line with the Fox ethos than they are with the liberal culture at other networks, so she had an environment in which she could thrive. They gave her a lot of promotion, and she had viewers handed to her by inertia. People who watched the shows before and after her were likely to have the TV on when she came on the screen.

She’s good at what she does, and she’s a lot smarter than the communications majors and former models on the other networks, but she’s no Bill O’Reilly. People won’t tune in just to see her.

She has another problem: while she’s a little too liberal for Fox, she’s much too conservative for NBC. The organization will try to reject her like a transplanted arm. A lot of people there will want her to fail. Many will see her as a threat to NBC’s imaginary liberal moral superiority.

Other people have departed from Fox with big dreams or simply because they weren’t welcome any more. They don’t tend to do well. Kiran Chetry and Alisyn Camerota pretty much vanished. Andrea Tantaros is MIA. So is Gretchen Carlson. Generally, leaving Fox has been a lateral or downward move, from a career standpoint.

I think she will be considerably less prominent in January of 2018. No one can predict the future, but I think this is what will happen.

I believe this will be good for O’Reilly and Hannity. It will also be good for Shepard Smith, although he will probably leave Fox eventually. There is one less competitor in the pie-eating contest, so the rest will get more pie.

Is this good for Fox? Probably. Kelly had become a thorn in their sides, and she offended a lot of viewers. There is an unlimited reservoir of potential hosts out there, so if the Fox bigwigs choose well, they will be able to fill her slot in a way that improves the bottom line. Of course, these are the people who hired Rachel Marsden, so…

I don’t think much of the way she dealt with the Ailes kerfuffle. Sexual harassment is very bad, but the time to complain about it is before you praise the perpetrator to the skies and let him make you rich. Kelly gushed about Ailes after he allegedly harassed her, and then once he was on the canvas, she piled on with the rest. After that, her credibility is severely damaged.

My feeling is that her only hope of continued success is to pull a Huffington and pretend to have an overnight conversion to leftism. Liberals will support that; to them, honesty is a an outmoded, patriarchal, Eurocentric concept. They support Huffington even though she is clearly a tremendous, shameless liar. Kelly might be able to style herself as a heterosexual, attractive Rachel Maddow. I don’t think she’ll do well without some kind of repackaging.

I don’t watch the news any more, so maybe I shouldn’t comment. For all I know, for the last year, Kermit the Frog has been newsreading for Fox.

Interesting stuff, though.

Anyway, my prediction: bad for Kelly. Good for Fox. Good for other Fox heads.

Check back with me on January 3, 2018, to gloat or kiss my ring.

Quality is Quality

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Good Books Can be Produced Without TPS Reports

A reader sent me a link to a story in which one writer “Fisks” another. If you’re not familiar with Fisking, it means tearing someone’s work apart, line by line. The Fiskee is one Laurie Gough, who has been published somewhere or other and takes the position that self-publishers are losers and hacks. The Fisker is the host of Monsterhunternation.com. I do not know anything about this person. It’s probably not Laurie Gough’s boyfriend.

The Fisking itself is very, very long, so I didn’t read the whole thing, but I did read a lot of it, and I read Gough’s entire piece. I have to agree with the Fisker. There is nothing wrong with self-publishing, and a self-publisher imprint doesn’t mean a book is bad. On the other hand, it’s likely that most self-published work is even worse than most publisher-published work, simply because there is no one to hold the bad stuff back.

Not all self-publishers are inept. I think Ms. Gough forgets that there was a time when all authors were self-published. Moses didn’t have to deal with rejection slips. Neither did Homer. Many of the greatest works in history never went through the publication process during their author’s lives. Obviously, a publisher is not an absolute necessity when you want to create a work of real merit.

I don’t know for a fact, but I would be willing to bet a large pizza (cooked by someone else, because that phase of my life is over) that once the publishing industry was established, many of the authors we now revere got in the door by paying publishers.

She also forgets that we have modern authors who started out in post-Internet-creation self-publishing. I don’t know too much about The Martian, but it’s my understanding that it started out on the Internet. The movie version was very good. The author is stinking, filthy, reeking rich. The book and movie would not exist had he waited for a publisher to notice him.

We also have modern authors who did wonderful work without intending to be published at all. Anne Frank comes to mind. Highly reliable Internet rumors say that when her diary was submitted for publication after her death, it was rejected many times by editors. They almost protected us from that hack, Anne Frank!

I can’t agree with the snobby, elitist notion that self-publishing is only for losers. It’s not just wrong; it’s facially absurd. It’s like standing in an orange grove and denying the existence of fruit. It almost sounds like Ms. Hough is trying to set herself apart as a member of a distinct and superior class, simply because she has a publisher. That’s certainly easier than producing quality work and letting it speak for itself.

That being said, there is one very bad thing about self-publishing, and here it is: it’s harder to promote a self-published book. If you want your book to make money, you will almost certainly have to do radio and TV interviews, and to get those interviews, you want to be able to say you have a real publisher.

There are very, very good things about self-publishing. For one thing, if you self-publish, your book will exist. Existence is one of the main qualities a book needs. The book no one can buy anywhere is not a successful book in any meaningful way.

Another nice thing is that you can force your book into existence without help. You have control. You don’t have to beg anyone. You want to have a published book? Fine. Upload it now. Done.

If all you care about is expressing yourself, self-publishing is a great idea. You can write and publish fifty books a year if you’re up to it. The public won’t have to wait through a year-long process before each book appears. You can say anything you want. You won’t have to worry about editors killing your jokes by rewriting them or cutting out the parts of your work that are most important to you. Really, the only solid reason to insist on having a conventional publisher is a desire to make money.

The commenter said he would buy my work if I self-published again, but I think I’m self-publishing right now, so save your money! Anything made available to the public is published.

It’s very ugly for a person who got in the door to lob poop-bombs at all the people who haven’t made it yet, and given that Ms. Hough is not a highly admired author, it also creates opportunities for people to knock her off her high horse. If you really have to insult someone else’s work, you should be able to come up with names and specifics instead of issuing a mindless blanket condemnation of an entire class of writers.

A book is a book; published, not published, published by a publishing house, self-published…whatever. It doesn’t have to be publisher-published to be as legitimate as anything Ms. Hough will ever write. If you print one copy of your book and hide it under your bed, it’s still a real book, and its quality doesn’t depend on the opinions of publishers. Catch-22 was still a monumental achievement before Joseph Heller submitted it to publishers, and it was a monumental achievement while it was winning nothing but rejection slips.

If you feel like writing, write. If you feel like publishing, but you don’t care about fame and money, self-publish. What the hell. No one cares. Enjoy yourself.

New Message From the Literature Troll

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Avoid

I have a few minutes to kill, so I feel like writing about my Lit. Hum. project.

Literature Humanities is a mandatory course I pretty much blew off when I was at Columbia University, and I am going back over the reading to punish myself. So far, it has worked really well. I feel I have been punished greatly. I suffered through Plato’s bizarre tribute to homosexual predators, and I waded through the tedious, venal muck of Homer and Virgil. I am still buried in Boccaccio’s Decameron, and if memory serves, I will soon be tormented with Dostoevsky. I dread that like you can’t imagine.

I loved literature when I was young, and then I got over it. It looks like I’m not going to get a relapse any time soon. Literature is full of whining and self-pity. It’s unrealistic. It takes place in imaginary worlds where there is no loving God. It reinforces just about every type of evil urge a person can have. It tends to promote sexual sin, socialism, irresponsibility, and atheism. I’m starting to wonder how much of it a person can be exposed to without harm.

It kind of reminds me of rap music.

I liked Boccaccio when I started reading his book, but love has withered on the vine. His book goes on forever. It would have been much better had two-thirds of it been burned by his editor. It contains dozens of highly similar stories, and they’re not very imaginative. In terms of literary quality, I would rank it right up there with the Nancy Drew mysteries and John Grisham.

That’s not a compliment. John Grisham writes very badly, and his work doesn’t show much familiarity with the practice of law, which is odd, given his original profession. The wealthiest writers make up one set, and the best make up another. The intersection of these sets is small.

I think I can say with confidence that no one was ever moved or inspired by Boccaccio. There are no memorable quotes, either. You don’t put down the book and exclaim, “Wow! That’s brilliant!” He will never make anyone forget Joseph Heller or William Shakespeare.

Now that I’m farther into the book, I realize there’s a lot of filth in it. I mean real gutter porn, with no real literary value. It’s not even clever porn.

He reminds me of Cervantes. I haven’t read Cervantes since college (I took Columbia’s famous Don Quixote course, which was a farce and a waste of money). I don’t think Cervantes was much of a writer. He was just windy and irreverent. You can’t seriously commpare him to a French homologue such as Rabelais. He isn’t as erudite, nor is he as funny. If you want to read a brilliant, offensive book written several centuries ago in a place other than England, try Voltaire’s Candide. Don Quixote functions best as a doorstop.

Sometimes I think Cervantes gets air time simply because people are desperate to pretend Spain has a rich literary tradition that compares with northern Europe. Were that true, we would have found out about it by now.

I was going to read all of Boccaccio, even though the syllabus doesn’t demand it, but now that I see what a drag his book is, I am adhering to the schedule. I guess I’ll be done in a week. I would be moving faster, but I have other books on my plate, and they’re actually entertaining and/or full of useful knowledge, so they get priority.

I wish I had more good things to say about Boccaccio, because that would mean I was enjoying the book.

The moral, as always, is that you should read certain books in order to be educated, not in order to be entertained or impressed. And of course, they are useful to people who want to be punished.

The News, Condensed

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

In Summary, You Should Just Die

I’ve been looking at news sites on the Internet a lot this year, and I have some information for people who want to skip the effort and reap the benefit.

1. You are obligated to find fat women attractive. It is not a matter of choice. You DO find them attractive, even if they’re not. If you say you have a problem with this, people should use filthy, insulting language to help you get over it.

2. It’s a good thing when a woman exposes her breasts in a restaurant, because asking her to put a thin piece of cloth over them while she breastfeeds is oppression, sort of like…no, EXACTLY like…forced genital mutilation. Also, breasts have nothing to do with sex. That may surprise some women and result in the rewriting of a number of sex manuals.

3. Principals and teachers who correct girls who go to school dressed like sluts need to be “shut down,” and a really good mother will respond with an obnoxious Facebook tirade, preferably with a photo of herself dressed in slutwear. Corollary: even though every type of sexual sin is good, boys who look at girls dressed like sluts are oppressors and need to be shamed relentlessly.

4. If Donald Trump said or did it, it is very, very bad.

5. The proper term for a person who doubts the climate is changing due to human activity is the same term you use for someone who pretends Auschwitz didn’t happen: “denier.” It is not necessary to respond with facts. Deniers are close-minded, but people who insult them and refuse to listen to them are open-minded.

6. It was very, very important for electors to betray their states and vote against Trump, even though he would have won anyway, because the vote would have gone to the House of Representatives. Who are you to argue with an actor from M*A*S*H?

7. When an actress or model or reality TV bimbo wears something skimpy, it’s an important news story.

8. White people need to shut up while everyone else explains why we are the cause of every evil in the world, including evils that occur in places like China and Africa. “Whiteness” is like a form of criminal insanity, and it should be treated, but it can’t, so just suffer and hate yourself until you die. Corollary: every cruel thing people who are not white do or say to white people is good.

9. KARDASHIANS!!!! LOOK!!!! KARDASHIANS!!!

10. It’s great when a hunter gets death threats, dies, suffers a gruesome injury or gets cancer. No sane person questions this or sees anything wrong with celebrating.

11. Your sexual orientation is forced on you from before birth, but you can choose your actual sex at will, and it’s a great day for America when a male sex offender can walk into any locker room or rest room he wants and expose his genitals to young girls.

Saved you a lot of reading.

Hypey Days are Here Again

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Beware the BS Surge

I decided to check on “Hurricane” Matthew just now. It came ashore, which is a giant victory for the global warming people. A giant victory which can’t begin to offset eleven continuous years of total defeat. Still, congratulations.

Matt Drudge is being criticized for suggesting NOAA hypes storms intentionally, exaggerating the threat. Without going so far as to say Drudge is right (because I don’t have enough information to say that), let me point out some amusing facts.

1. The latest NHC assessment calls Matthew a Category 1 hurricane with 75-mph winds.

2. The current wind in Wilmington, North Carolina (where Matthew is now, according to The Weather Channel) is 6.3 mph. That’s 6.3, not 63. Now I’m watching some guy on the beach in Wilmington; the winds appear to be somewhere around 20 mph.

3. If there were any good scenes of destruction or violent wind to show, they would be all over the TV. They are not. That proves they don’t exist.

I want to be fair here, but 75 mph is just barely a hurricane. And if you can stand on the beach during the height of a storm, it’s no hurricane. It’s impossible to stand steadily in sustained hurricane-force winds.

The gulf between the hype and the facts has been enormous ever since Matthew left the Bahamas. I sat here and watched the updates, and I looked out the window to see what was actually happening. There was no relationship between the weather here and the hysterical predictions on the monitor. Nothing at all happened. Not only that; long after the storm had passed this county, I was seeing tropical storm warnings for my area.

A watch means bad weather may occur. A warning means it’s expected to occur. NOAA appears to have kept warnings up for my area long after it became impossible for them to be fulfilled. What’s the explanation for that? Sure, there was a 0.000001% chance the storm could stop instantly, reverse course, and move to the west. And when you flip a coin, it can fall so it stands on its edge. We could also have been struck by a giant meteor. You don’t post warnings for things that improbable.

The storm is dead. I assume they’ll keep the cone of doom on the maps as long as possible, but tiny, weak storms don’t come back to life after going ashore and losing their hurricane status.

The talking heads are hyping the rain now. They know the wind is feeble, so they’re working with what they have. They’re not quitters.

A lot of people have lost power in Florida and Georgia, but you don’t need a powerful storm to knock the power out. Power goes out in different ways. When Andrew hit, it took power out by snapping telephone poles in half and twisting concrete power poles off at their bases. Weak storms take power out by snapping a few wires here and there. Also, power companies shut grids down before damage occurs, so some of the outages are man-made. You can’t just look at the numbers and say a storm that puts a lot of people in the dark is a big deal. You have to look at the time it takes to restore power. Andrew left damage that took about two months to fix.

When Andrew left my area, no one had power. No one. Maybe some hospitals and other facilities with their own generators, but the grid was down and could not be restored. There were no traffic lights. There were no open businesses. If you wanted a hamburger, you had to go to the next county. In areas that were hit by Matthew, power outages are hit and miss.

The flooding is bad, but it’s limited to low-lying areas, and the water goes down when the storm passes. They’re claiming the surge will hit “up to” seven feet. If I had to bet? Four.

They’re saying the storm will be expensive. Sure it will; it hit a huge area. But it’s no Katrina. Light damage over a large area equals big money. The cost doesn’t indicate the type of extinction-level event a crazed Shepard Smith predicted on Fox News.

Whether Drudge is right or not, the threat was grossly exaggerated, and the exaggeration continued even after the storm passed areas to which the hype was being applied.

Some wimp is on Wrightsville Beach right now, moaning about 35-mph winds as if the world is ending. I would be embarrassed to be seen doing that.

When the news people jump on chairs and raise their skirts over nothing, it trains the public to ignore them. They don’t think about that. Some storms are extremely intense, and the public needs to react correctly. When the pundits void themselves over minor storms like Matthew, it assures that the next big hurricane will claim more victims than it should.

The moral of the story seems to be this: turn on the Internet, follow the storms, and use your common sense, because the pundits do not have any. They just want to sell potato chips and land network jobs.

More

Things are getting truly ridiculous. Matthew is supposed to be moving at 13 mph, but somehow it’s also located over Wilmington, North Carolina, where it was hours ago. The maximum sustained wind speed is supposed to be 75 mph, but the current wind measurement in Wilmington is 12.3 mph, with gusts to 17.5.

Are they even trying any more?

Matthew 10:5

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

I Hate Hurricanes

It is 6:16 a.m., and I have already been shopping.

Hurricane Matthew is not cooperating as well as I would like. We are still looking at tropical-storm-force winds, not hurricane winds, but the storm’s projected track is too close to me to make me happy. It might move a little bit to the west, and then I could be eating out of cans for a few days.

Fortunately for me, people here are not flipping out, and CVS is piling in supplies, so I was able to get water and lots of ice very easily. Now if I can get some candles and a few groceries, I’ll be set. Unless you get a direct hit from a major storm, you don’t need to prepare for more than a few days of limited supplies.

At times like these, I feel I should have had more empathy for all the people who were hit by the storms that missed me. Being hit by a strong storm is a miserable experience. I don’t know what happened in Haiti and Cuba, but Haitians always die when hurricanes hit.

It’s very unlikely that I’ll suffer a lot. The storm would have to kill the power at several locations in order to deprive me of electricity, and the threat to the water supply is negligible.

I had forgotten how much I hate hurricanes. Andrew literally filled the streets with downed trees, and it destroyed all the shade. For several days people had to walk wherever they went, stepping over limbs and trunks as they traveled. I had to stay with my dad on his boat for weeks, waiting for electricity. Thank God he had a diesel generator. To get real food and even ice, it was necessary to drive to Broward County. The locals here were gouging everyone ruthlessly on generators and bottled water. On top of that, there was absolutely nothing to do. Once the branches were cleaned up, you just sat and waited for the government to fix everything and turn the world back on.

Speaking of the government, they don’t seem very excited. Schools will be open today, and the authorities haven’t yet decided whether they will be open tomorrow. I hope the government knows something we don’t, and by that, I’m not referring to predictions their algorithms make based on scanning all of our emails and storing our phone calls. I’m just talking about the weather.

Sometimes I feel like I haven’t fully absorbed the fact that we live in a police state. But I digress.

I’m watching one of the local channels, to get weather news. I have no idea who most of the personnel are. I go months without looking at a local channel. I have zero interest in what happens to Miami. It can’t be much worse than what has already happened.

Channel 10 has a lady with a tight, very low-cut dress talking about Matthew. She has obvious breast implants, so large they seem to imply deep insecurity. Do I really need to see that? It’s not even seven in the morning! What does her chest have to do with weather? I feel like she’s exposing skin so she can deduct the cost of the surgery.

Women are very disappointing these days. Class is dead.

Right now the weather people are trying to scare us, suggesting Matthew will hit Florida, make a loop, and hit us again. Stuff like that actually happens, but I’m not holding my breath. All the dominoes have to line up just right. Still, it’s fun for the weather people.

I guess I should sit and try to think of other things I need to do.

Pray this storm dries up. I could use another ten years of calm winds.

The Cone of Certain Death Returns

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Matthew Threatens to Kill my A/C

I can’t remember the last time this happened. A hurricane is going to come close enough to me to force me to pen up the lawn furniture.

I still recall the hysterical atmosphere of the “Global warming is going to kill us all with giant hurricanes” days. I got whacked by Rita, Wilma, and Katrina, all in the space of one week. Okay, maybe I remember that wrong. But they were fairly close together. Liberals were beside themselves with glee, hoping to see the world destroyed by Mother Gaia’s vengeful huffing and puffing. “Take that for the great auk, you swine!”

Then it all went south. From a liberal’s point of view. The rest of us were thrilled. The hurricanes dried up, and they have not returned. Al Gore is probably still furious.

By the grace of God, literally, Miami hasn’t had a hurricane since…now I have to look it up…well, it turns out Rita didn’t actually hit Miami. I guess the peripheral winds messed things up, and I remembered it as a hurricane. Wilma sort of went north of us, but it made a big mess here. Katrina actually hit us. All three storms hit in 2005.

I remember thinking Wilma wasn’t that bad. It hit in October, so when the power went out, the temperature in the house was maybe 84 degrees instead of infinity. Sleeping was not possible, but one did not necessarily leave a wet spot when one got off the couch. Katrina was an August storm, so the lack of A/C was ample grounds for suicide. I remember sitting very still, watching drops of sweat pour off my nose.

The center of Matthew is expected to pass about 150 miles to the east, and given the size of the storm, that makes it unlikely that I will see hurricane-force winds. The weather people are projecting 40 mph or so. I can handle that. I’m not even sure I need to take the garbage cans in.

Hurricanes swirl counterclockwise. That means they push water toward the west on their upper sides. We will be to the west of Matthew. Storm surge (rising water due to hurricane winds) should be very light, due to the distance between us and the eye. Andrew put big steel commercial ships on dry land; that won’t happen this time. Not here!

A lot of people flip out with preparations. I do virtually nothing. Unless a true monster storm hits, things go back to normal in a week, and you can buy ice and batteries (and McMuffins) the day after the storm. If another Andrew were coming, I would be pretty depressed right now. I would be wishing I had a diesel generator and 500 pounds of Beef-a-Roni, because I would be looking at maybe six weeks without power, along with maybe three weeks without water. But Andrew was special.

I served with Andrew. I knew Andrew. Andrew was a friend of mine. Matthew, you’re no Andrew.

Maybe I shouldn’t joke. I’m sure terrible things have happened in Haiti. They build flimsy houses, and it seems like every storm that passes kills a lot of people.

I hate a stinking hurricane. I just hope I dodge this latest bullet.

If you live in a place where you might get a real hit, you should get a generator and a huge cooler. Fill the cooler with sandwich stuff and ice. Get jugs of water. If you don’t have a real phone (not mobile or portable), get one, because only hardwired phones work after storms. Get a flashlight for everyone in the house, and get batteries for two weeks.

That’s about all you can do.

Oh…do your laundry.

Don’t worry too much about fuel. Gas stations don’t stay closed long unless your area is totally flattened.

If you don’t hear from me, it means Mother Gaia finally got me. So what? My demise is a drop in the bucket compared to all the times I’ve used my septic tank.

I win on points.

Unexpected Message

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Who’s Sharing YOUR Bed?

Something fascinating happened last night.

First, some background. For some time now, I’ve been waking up–consistently–between six and seven in the morning. I thought it was God, waking me up to pray. Also, I have been asking God to expose the people and spirits who are against him in my life, and I have asked him to defeat them and drive them away, no matter who they are.

This morning, I woke up, as usual. This time, I heard a voice. It was as though I had answered the phone and someone was speaking to me. Just after I awoke, I heard a woman with an American accent say something I no longer remember, and then she said, “See you later.”

She said it with a smug, hostile tone, like someone who was tormenting me and who expected to be able to come back and torment me in the future.

It got me thinking.

My prayer life has gone nuts over the last few years, and it keeps getting more powerful. More and more, I spend time on the offensive, attacking people and spirits that work against God. It works. That has to make demons and fallen angels very angry.

When Eve fell, evil spirits received the keys to the earth. It wasn’t supposed to be theirs, but they won it by fooling a carnal woman. Since then, Satan has ruled the world, and the spoiled, vicious children of the fallen angels have tormented human beings.

We talk about evil spirits (when we admit they exist) as though they’re isolated rogues, out of control. In reality, they have every right to be here and to abuse us. We gave it to them. In fact, demons are human. They are our brothers and sisters. They were created when angels had sex with human beings. The fight between demons and humans is actually a family squabble; it’s sibling rivalry.

It’s crazy to think you can give yourself to God and go on the attack without infuriating the beings you’re humiliating and driving out. They’ve had it good. They haven’t been pitched into the lake of fire. They can’t die. They are allowed to wander the earth, hidden from us, torturing and killing the beings they hate the most.

They don’t want to have that taken away from them. It’s the best thing they’ll ever have. They have no other hope of pleasure or safety. Soon they’re going to find themselves burning forever, in complete humiliation and powerlessness. It should be obvious that they will fight back.

Christians don’t like to talk about this. When you mention demons and angels, people who call themselves Christians–people who claim to worship a spirit–tell you you’re mentally ill. That’s the way Satan likes it. The best way to divert attack is to convince your enemy you aren’t there.

I see why God hates lukewarmness. If you’re lukewarm, you’re probably praying every other day and doing pretty much as you please. You’re not aware of the supernatural. You’re not doing anything to defeat Satan. You’re just lying back on the couch, allowing the enemy to have his way with you. You’re like a drunken college girl, lying beside a dumpster, exposed, with her legs up.

A lukewarm person doesn’t fight back, and God doesn’t do all that much fighting for him.

I have problems. I have had failures that were extremely improbable and damaging, in spite of my carnal efforts. No wonder! I blew my front door off the hinges and lay down on the floor, waiting passively. What did I expect?

This defeated, worthless, doomed thing has been coming to me every morning, and I haven’t done enough to get rid of it. What else is coming to me? What other problems are caused by trespassers I welcomed and fed?

When Jesus sent the disciples out (Matthew 10), he ordered them to do four things: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.” Those were his priorities at the time. He didn’t say, “Buy 20 purple suits for $3000.00 each, build a pink megachurch, and start a TV show.” The things he told them to do were important. They’re still important. He said he had come to set the captives free. He wasn’t just referring to salvation. You can’t be free in this life until you dethrone the spirits that control you.

This message draws all kinds of resistance, because demons do not like being humiliated. Their inheritance is weakness, servitude, and pain, and they do not want to receive it. They will come after anyone who speaks against them, and they will use Christians to shut such people down, because Christians have credibility among Christians.

I felt I should pass this information along, because chances are, you are not doing much about your spirit problem.

I want whatever authority and deliverance I can get. I plan to keep going forward so I can get whatever is available.

These things are real. Don’t expect them to go away just because they’re bored.

Air!

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

It’s Available, Cheaper Than You Think

As much as I try to avoid saying anything useful, occasionally I have to break the rules and tell you something that could help you. This is one of those times.

For years, I’ve been trying to defeat nighttime congestion. It’s a horrible problem. When your nose clogs up during the night, you may dream you’re suffocating. Nighttime congestion puts you in the habit of feeling stifled and frustrated, so you don’t fully escape the aggravation during the daytime.

I’ve used nasal sprays. They work, but you have to use them every day, because once you’ve used something like Afrin two days in a row, you will start to get rebound congestion. Every time the spray wears off, your nose will close up, even if there is nothing around to provoke an allergic response. Also, sprays will irritate your nose to the point where you’ll blow out blood and little scabs.

Cleaning up helps, because it gets rid of dust and mites, but I don’t think anyone who lives in a normal house with fabrics and paper and so forth can ever get it clean enough to completely get rid of congestion. Maybe you could do it if you had a bare closet containing only a cot.

A few years back, I got a Honeywell air purifier. This thing is a big box the size of a hamper. It has three filters in it. A noisy fan blows air through it, and supposedly, it takes allergens out of the air.

Here is a summary of my conclusions regarding Honeywell air purifiers. They do remove dust from the air. They also blow dust into the air, because they keep air moving. They don’t have much of an effect on allergies. They make a nice white noise, however, and that’s very helpful when you’re trying to sleep, especially if you have Hispanic neighbors. The noise costs $200 plus electricity, so it’s not a great deal. The filters are expensive, too.

Last year, somehow or another, I decided to try adding things to the air in the house. There are certain substances that naturally open your airways up. Camphor, pine oil, tea tree oil, menthol, and so on. One of the chemicals that do the work is alpha-pinene.

Alpha-pinene is expensive in its pure form. Guess how you can get it cheap? By buying turpentine. Alpha-pinene is one of the main ingredients in turpentine. Why does a quart of turpentine cost six bucks, while an ounce of alpha-pinene or pine oil costs seven bucks? I do not know.

Anyway, I found that splashing a little turpentine in a dish and leaving it in my bedroom was very helpful with congestion. If you don’t like the smell of turpentine, you can buy tea tree oil and put a few drops in a dish. Somehow the aromatic chemicals overcome the funk and must and whatever that make nostrils clench up.

You can also buy tea tree oil and put it on your upper lip. Or you can buy Vick’s Vaporub, which contains camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol.

Vick’s sells little waterless vaporizers that plug into electric sockets. The problem is that they use little pads that will cost you about $400 per year, and you also have to find a free socket.

Whatever you use will evaporate during the night, but you can always start over.

You can’t just buy a jug of turpentine and take the cap off every night. The good parts of the turpentine evaporate and leave the useless parts behind. If you leave the jug open, the good stuff will disappear early, and then you’ll have nothing. You have to dispense and use a small amount every night.

It also works to deodorize your house. I add it to mop water, and sometimes I pour it on the floor under the air conditioner air handler. It blows throughout the house.

Miami’s natural smell is like the smell of a pile of warm sweaty underwear. That’s just the way it is. It’s nice to have something clean and crisp to counteract it.

I tried these things in 2015, and they worked. Somehow I got distracted and quit. Big mistake. I went back to it this week, and it’s wonderful. I don’t have to worry about lying on one side so the nostril on the other side will open up. I don’t have to lie on my back so both nostrils will open. I just sleep.

Now, what do I do with the machine? My neighbors are still noisy and thoughtless. I need sounds to shut them out.

I’ve decided to try a dedicated white noise machine. I already have a Homedics Sound Spa clock radio, which is very nice. It plays relaxing sounds. The problem with it is that the digital audio clips it uses are short, and once you’ve heard one a few times, you know exactly where it stops and starts. You start listening for the repetitions, and then you lie awake. A true white noise machine doesn’t use digital files.

A company called Marpac makes a machine called the Dohm Sound Conditioner. It comes in a model with one speed and a model with two speeds. It’s completely analog. It has been around since 1962. You can adjust the pitch and volume of the sound. I ordered one, and if it works, the Honeywell is going on Craigslist.

If your nose keeps you awake and you’re tired of the terrible medications used to treat it, give this a try. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Proof that All Socialists are Evil

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

My Mind has Been Violated by a Pedantic Bolshevik

I feel like I owe Virgil an apology.

I got my copies of The Aeneid from Amazon. I was looking for a translation by Allen Mandelbaum. That’s the translation Columbia University uses.

I did my homework. I searched by ISBN and everything. Unfortunately, Amazon has a problem with Mr. Mandelbaum. When you try to buy his translations, they sell you books translated by a person named Mackail. It doesn’t say “WARNING! MACKAIL!” in big red letters on the front, either. I never found it on my paperback version, and the Kindle version I bought concealed it pretty well.

I was reading, and criticizing, the Mackail translation. I thought I was looking at Mandelbaum.

The paperback I bought is so cheap it’s not worth it to return it. I’m throwing it out. I did get Amazon to refund the 99 cents I spent on the Kindle version. I ordered the Kindle version of Mandelbaum’s translation, but I was afraid to order a new paperback because of the confusion at Amazon, so I went to Barnes & Noble.

I read a little bit of Mandelbaum’s work today. What a relief. It’s much less opaque than Mackail’s constipated wall of compressed and convoluted verbiage. Mandelbaum seems considerably less likely to throw out words that are obscure even to a national spelling bee alumnus such as myself. Mackail used “guerdon” and “foison,” like, yeah, people just KNOW those words.

“Inly.” Who says inly? Even inly?

It reminds me of William F. Buckley, who used to memorize obscure words and repeat them just to make himself look smarter. My feeling is this: if you have never seen it in the Sunday New York Times puzzle, it’s probably a word you will never find useful, and you shouldn’t go out of your way to use it. Unless it’s math or science. “Holonomic” is useful to some people, but it doesn’t pop up in puzzles.

Check this out; you won’t believe it:

‘Am I then to abandon my baffled purpose, powerless to keep the Teucrian king from Italy? and because fate forbids me? Could Pallas lay the Argive fleet in ashes, and sink the Argives in the sea, for one man’s guilt, mad Oilean Ajax? Her hand darted Jove’s flying fire from the clouds, scattered their ships, upturned the seas in tempest; him, his pierced breast yet breathing forth the flame, she caught in a whirlwind and impaled on a spike of rock. But I, who move queen among immortals, I sister and wife of Jove, wage warfare all these years with a single people; and is there any who still adores Juno’s divinity, or will kneel to lay sacrifice on her altars?’

Oops; I accidentally cut the line that says, “Foison foison guerdon inly.”

According to Wikipedia, Mackail was a socialist, so I guess there was nothing good about him at all.

Here is Mandelbaum’s version of the above text:

‘Am I, defeated, simply to stop trying,
unable to turn back the Trojan king
from Italy? No doubt, the Fates won’t have it.
But Pallas–was she powerful enough
to set the Argive fleet on fire, to drown
the crewmen in the deep, for an outrage done
by only one infuriated man,
Ajax, Oileus’ son? And she herself
could fling Jove’s racing lightning from the clouds
and smash their galleys, sweep the sea with tempests.
Then Ajax’ breath was flame from his pierced chest;
she caught him up within a whirlwind; she
impaled him on a pointed rock. But I,
the queen of gods, who stride along as both
the sister and the wife of Jove, have warred
so many years against a single nation.
For after this, will anyone adore
the majesty of Juno, or, before
her altars, pay her honor, pray to her?
Foison, inly, inly, guerdon?

I added a bit at the end to give it flavor.

Anyway, it’s considerably more readable. I don’t know what Mackail was smoking when he wrote his version, but I can see why it’s available free on the Internet (as a socialist’s goods should always be), while Mandelbaum gets paid.

I feel better now, but then I’m not focusing on the time I’ve spent suffering with Mackail. If I thought about that a lot, I would be pretty miserable.

Best not to dwell on misfortune. Cervantes is on the way, and I don’t want to be depressed when I collide with him.

The Foul Wind That Blows From Ausonia

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Ex Libris Ant Man

People must think I’ve stopped blogging again.

I am still buried in my dad’s business affairs. It’s as if I’m treating a sick calf that keeps vomiting up garbage it ate before I showed up. A lot of things got screwed up over the last year and a half. I am untying the Gordian Knot with tweezers, one strand at a time.

Prioritizing is not easy. I set time aside for this or that, and then I get sandbagged by something equally urgent. The people I deal with must think I’m just lying on the couch, eating fun size Snickers bars all day. Good guess. No, I’m chiseling away at the job. It may look different to the people I deal with. Each one of them only sees his little corner of the maelstrom.

I have a few major tasks to finish this month. Once that’s done, my life will probably seem as featureless as limbo.

I haven’t looked at C programming in several days. By the time I get done fooling with Quickbooks, creditors, flaky contractors, and ordinary bills, all I want to do is space out and watch Misfit Garage.

I’m keeping up with The Aeneid, sort of. I let it go for a couple of days. The paperback I ordered arrived. It’s really something. It’s supposed to be a long book, but the version I got is about 3/8″ thick. I opened it up, hoping I had made an impossible error in judging the poem’s length. No, sorry. It turned out I bought the microprint version. You have to read it with a proton microscope.

The print is slightly bigger than phone book print, and there are no gaps to speak of. I’m not sure why anyone buys this version. I tried to read it for a while, and then I gave up and went back to my phone.

It’s boring. It’s so incredibly boring. I don’t care if saying that proves I’m a clod. It’s terrible.

Aeneas is in Sicily. He sailed there from Carthage, where ***SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER*** he jilted Queen Dido, who proceeded to kill herself (because anorexia and self-cutting hadn’t been invented). In Sicily, he ran into other Trojans, and he decided to hang out a while. As usual, the top priority for these Hellenists was naked sports.

I don’t actually know that they were naked, but I’m willing to assume it out of laziness.

Aeneas had a bunch of ships full of really tired people who want to found a nation and relax, so of course, he decided to hold games.

It’s the usual stuff. Tedious narrations of unentertaining events in which the self-pitying, diaper-worthy losers cry like fat girls who didn’t make the cheerleading squad. Really off-putting.

Here is my position on men crying: if you cry because your mom got run over, fine. If you cry tears of joy because your son was just born, great. If you cry because you lost a stupid foot race, you are a pansy, and someone should slap you.

Once again, I find myself filled with contempt for the values of the Greeks (yes, they were Trojans, but same culture). The shallowness is profound (I love a good oxymoron). All they care about is winning and being admired. It’s like reading about a bunch of neurotic, narcissistic, superficial Olympic athletes. This is what hanging out with Lance Armstrong must be like.

I have no respect for people like that. Zero. I have no desire to be around them. Egotistical people ruin the world. They are idiots.

Virgil is very long-winded. I keep wondering…is this because ancient people had no entertainment and long attention spans, or is it just that he was a bad writer with no understanding of pace?

I lean toward the latter explanation. You’re not allowed to criticize the classics, but I do anyway, so I will say it: Virgil needs an editor. Bad.

I don’t really need to know everything that happened in the boat race between Mnestheus and Sergestus. Wrap it up. Keep it punchy. Five hundred or a thousand words will do it to death. You don’t need five thousand.

To prove my point, let me remind you that Shakespeare lived before TV, and he wasn’t a bore. Lots of respected pre-technological writers weren’t bores. Virgil is a bore. He is an epic bore, in more ways than one.

Today I saw an interesting article on the web. Some guy thinks he has found the 40 smartest people who ever lived. I checked the list out. I saw something astounding. The guy whose IQ may have been 400? No. The guy who could recite The Aeneid WORD FOR WORD.

What on earth was wrong with him? How could he stand it? How could he bear reading this miserable work over and over until it was committed to memory? What possible reason could he have for wasting that much time? Who sat beside him for four days holding the text as he recited, checking his accuracy?

Here’s a secret: it’s a lie. No one can memorize 400 pages without a mistake, and no one would sit still to check his memory. I can’t prove any of this, but then there are a lot of crazy stories I can’t disprove.

People tend to lie about geniuses and people they simply want to pretend are geniuses. John Kennedy told a reporter to say he read 2,000 words per minute, and now we accept it as gospel. There are some crazy-smart people out there, but no one memorized The Aeneid. I won’t believe it without proof.

Some of the genius stories are credible. If a kid goes to a reputable university and gets a doctorate at 13, I believe it’s legitimate. Things like that have happened. I think. It’s not all that shocking. People tend to underestimate the capabilities of smart kids, so they don’t teach them as much as they could. It happened to me. A super-brilliant kid (or even a kid who is merely really smart) with attentive parents should have no problem graduating from college before puberty. But I do not buy the memorization story.

Maybe I’m wrong; maybe it’s easier in Latin. Maybe it rhymes. But what a thing to do to yourself. What use is it? It’s not like your friends are going to beg you to come over and recite a boring poem for 19 hours. No one will pay you for it. “Come over and remind me how bored I was in college.” No.

It’s kind of a bummer, reading about all these smart people. It’s obvious that many of them had parents who made a responsible effort to cultivate them. No kid walks into a university admissions office alone at the age of 9. I love my parents and all that, but they did a very bad job. I can’t memorize The Aeneid, and I don’t think I was ever in any danger of revolutionizing physics, but I had a certain amount of potential, and my parents let about 90% of it go down the toilet. On the up side, I saw every episode of Star Trek at least five times, I didn’t have to play organized football, and I got to eat a lot of ice cream.

Here’s something else that’s interesting: a lot of the smart people in the article didn’t achieve much. Some did great things. Others hid away from society. One works at Home Depot.

The guy Will Hunting was based on took a civil service exam and got a low grade. Seems like no one is safe from underachievement. I don’t know how you get a low grade on that type of exam. I assume he forgot to breathe. Maybe they put the thermometer in the wrong end.

I can relate to these people, from my own relatively amoeba-like level. I may well be the least ambitious person on earth who is not in a coma. Ambitious people give me the willies. I wouldn’t want to be in a room with Reince Priebus or Hillary Clinton for more than a few seconds.

Leonardo da Vinci was known for underachieving, if you can believe it. He had a reputation for starting things he didn’t finish. I suppose the ideas were more interesting than the implementation. You have an exciting idea, you do enough work to prove it’s good, you say, “Yeah, I can do that,” and then you wander off and play Grand Theft Auto…feeling successful.

Leonardo did not understand Latin. He was spared the Virgil experience. Lucky guy.

I guess it’s time to call more flakes and do more bookkeeping. I hope to be done with Virgil soon. When things settle down, I may just climb into the refrigerator and stay there until September.

More

Here’s horrible news. Amazon’s listings for The Aeneid are screwed up. They claimed they were selling me a translation by Allen Mandelbaum, but they actually sold me one by a guy named Mackail. So now I’m 39% of the way through the book…with a translation I wouldn’t wish on Hitler.

Arrggh. It’s hard out here for a classics scholar.

You’re It!

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

I May Open an Account at the Liquor Store

I am close to finishing the job of preparing my dad’s tax documents for his accountant. I thought it would never end. Even when it’s done, the job of arranging his affairs will continue for at least a month or two.

I feel like I was ambushed. When a person suddenly loses the ability to handle his business without help, having the job thrust on you is like having someone throw you a bale of wet hay without warning. At first, you’re going to reel a little.

As the job has progressed, my dad’s value as a resource has dropped fast. I used to be able to ask questions about his practices or about the locations of things I needed, and he could help. Now a question that should take five minutes to answer can result in over an hour of talking in circles. It’s better to let him rest and figure things out on my own.

If you have an older relative whose finances are complicated, you need to keep an eye on them. They may be saving every single computer document in one folder, with titles like “1.” They may be throwing all their paper documents into one accordion folder. They may have piles of new checkbooks and deposit slips for accounts that were cancelled years ago. They may have accounts for which they haven’t saved statements, and you will have to unearth the accounts and get the required papers. You will probably discover late fees and open balances. You may find out there are safe deposit boxes you never heard of.

My natural tendency in life is to live and let live…because people do not listen to me. If I see you doing something really ill-advised, and I’m confident you’re informed, I will probably leave you alone unless you ask for my opinion. I stayed out of my dad’s affairs because I didn’t know whether I was going to inherit anything and I didn’t want to spend my life arguing with him, knowing he would almost never accept my advice.

That’s how this mess happened, but I don’t think there was much I could have done differently. It would have been nice if I had been able to have some input, because he made mistakes I knew were going to bite him in the future. I am definitely having input now, after the mess has been made. This is nearly a solo act now.

Maybe your older relatives won’t listen to you. That’s not your fault. I advise you to keep sounding them, because they may become more open to advice as they start to sink, and you may not know it if you don’t test the waters on occasion.

I Can Haz Aeneid?

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Reading the Classics in the Age of Instant Electronic Gratification

I managed to get free from The Symposium. What a disgusting experience; an entire book dedicated to predatory gay relationships, with a side order of specious, disappointing argument. I’m so glad I’m finished with it.

I’m now working on The Aeneid, Virgil’s book about the founding of Rome. In case you’re interested, Virgil had a last name. His full name is Publius Vergilius Maro. Sounds Italian. Maybe he wore shiny suits without vents.

“Hey! You leanin’ on my chariot?!”

I was hoping for a quick read, but according to Amazon, the book has 400 pages. It makes me wonder if I want to go on living.

I say “according to Amazon” because I don’t have a hardcopy yet. I ordered one, but I got a head start using Kindle. I’m using Kindle for PC, and it doesn’t show page numbers, so I’m not sure what’s going on. I do know this: after one 30-minute session, I’m 1/12 of the way through it.

It makes me wonder how anyone survives Columbia College. According to the syllabus, you get one week to read this book. I read faster than other people, and it will clearly take me six hours to get through it, not including side excursions to look things up. So for a real student of average ability, let’s say ten hours, all told. How are you supposed to cope with that while carrying at least three other courses?

More and more, I understand why people use Cliff’s Notes.

I do not like The Aeneid. It is extremely boring. It is very badly written. I guess that’s heresy, but we always cut the ancients more slack than we do contemporary writers. Homer was a terrible writer; he was verbose, repetitive, and totally unfamiliar with structure and pace. Plato is somewhat better; his big problem is his subject matter. Virgil is a horror.

Shakespeare was magnificent. Voltaire wrote well. Rabelais wrote well. I’m not prejudiced against all dead writers.

Unfortunately, I found a page on Columbia’s website that suggests I may have to read stuff beyond the list I already have. They provide a list of all the works known to have been read for Lit. Hum. since the earth cooled. If the list is correct, my 2015 syllabus doesn’t cover all the junk I chose not to read a thousand years ago, when I was supposed to. I may have to read The Golden Ass (totally serious) and a number of other things I would rather use as doorstops.

What drives a person to become a classics scholar? How can they take the pain? Maybe it’s not so bad, because there aren’t that many classics. It’s not like Virgil is still writing in a converted barn in Vermont. If he were, we could hire someone to bump him off. But that won’t be necessary.

Check this out; it’s some text from Virgil:

Arms, and the man I sing, who, forc’d by fate,
And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate,
Expell’d and exil’d, left the Trojan shore.
Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore,
And in the doubtful war, before he won
The Latian realm, and built the destin’d town;
His banish’d gods restor’d to rites divine,
And settled sure succession in his line,
From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
And the long glories of majestic Rome.
O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;
What goddess was provok’d, and whence her hate;
For what offense the Queen of Heav’n began

I didn’t bother looking for a good place to end the excerpt. It doesn’t matter; the point is to show you what I’m dealing with. The above bit comes from a translation Columbia doesn’t use. It was handier to access for copying. Can you imagine sweating through 400 pages of that?

Here’s something that will chill your bones even further: many of the paragraphs are over a page long. That’s inhumane. It must be due to translator ineptitude. I doubt Virgil used paragraphs at all.

I don’t care what you’re writing; you can break it up better than that. Long paragraphs are for the lazy and the uneducated.

There must be 500 words to a page. It’s crammed in there as if paper were platinum. To get another turgid word into a page, you would have to grease it and use a hydraulic press.

No one actually enjoys reading this crap. No way. They can pretend all they want. No one wants to read 500 convoluted words that add up to, “Aeneas raised his sail.”

I guess two things have to be considered. First, ancient people had almost no entertainment, so they probably wanted books to be as long as possible. They were probably like people who didn’t want Breaking Bad to end. When your book ended, you went back to your grimy, unpunctuated, hopeless potato-eater existence. Second, they didn’t have a lot of works to compare. Maybe they thought Virgil did a fine job.

You don’t read books like this one in order to enjoy them. You read them to gather information which, it is to be hoped, improves your mind.

That’s not true. In reality, that’s a loftier motivation than most of us have. We really read them (or the Cliff’s Notes) in order to get grades and get dreary classes behind us.

It appears that writing is a lot like blogging. The earlier you started, the more likely you are to receive attention and praise, regardless of the quality of your work. If Virgil wrote The Aeneid today, he’d be held for observation and banned from owning a computer.

I’m forcing myself not to look, but I’m afraid Dostoevsky is in my future. I have tried to read him before. I thought it would kill me. You read a paragraph, and you pause to regain your strength. You read another paragraph. You look out the window. You read another paragraph. You flip to the end of the book to check, and yes, it’s 900 pages long.

Maybe I’m secretly (or not so secretly) a lowbrow. Maybe I need the pop-up Aeneid. Maybe I need a version edited by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, with car chases inserted in random locations. I want the Nicholas Cage Aeneid: Gone to Rome in Sixty Seconds.

Here’s what my review of Citizen Kane would look like:

The best thing is to think of these books as trips to the dentist. It’s impossible to enjoy many of them, so why try? You don’t come home disappointed when you don’t enjoy getting a filling. Fillings are good for you. Spinal taps are good for you. Having a gangrenous leg amputated out in the woods with no anaesthetic is good for you. Don’t feel bad about not enjoying it. Just lie back and think of England.

The problem is that so many people pretend to enjoy boring books. They make the rest of us–the honest ones–feel guilty. I’m not afraid to confess my inadequacy. This book is boring. I do not like it. If that bothers you, shoot me. Pierce me with a dart from Phoebus’ gilded bow.

It could be worse. I could be Kanye West, a self-proclaimed “proud non-reader of books.”

Maybe he’s not crazy after all. Maybe he’s right when he says he’s a genius.

He also said, “I would never want a book’s autograph.”

I’ll just leave that there.

I don’t enjoy Charlie Parker, either. Shoot me some more. I proclaim it from the rooftops. His music sounds like hailstones falling on a cement patio. I don’t care if it’s brilliant. I don’t turn on the stereo to be lectured.

Perhaps I have now purged to the point where I can force myself to read more. I wish Virgil were still alive. I would create a very scathing Internet meme with his picture on it.

Don’t buy this book. Read the Cliff’s Notes. I absolve you.