Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Torso of an Archaic Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rainer Maria Rilke

meet the mormons

In 1861, at a meeting of the New Orleans Academy of Sciences, Dr. Samuel Cartwright and Professor C. G. Forshey gave an amazing account of their discovery. Relying largely upon an earlier government report by the Assistant Surgeon General of the US, they outlined some distinctive features of the Mormon "racial type":

"This condition is shown by . . . the large proportion of albuminous and gelatinous types of constitution. . . . The yellow, sunken, cadaverous visage; the greenish-colored eye; the thick, protuberant lips; the low forehead; the light, yellowish hair, and the lank, angular person, constitute an appearance so characteristic of the new race . . . as to distinguish them at a glance."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the sound of a shaken leaf

One of the “covenant curses” is curiously descriptive of the jittery culture of fear in which we now live:

But if they will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments . . . I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth them. Leviticus 26:14, 36.

Paul commands us, as members of Christ, “be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2.

For what is at the core of all “realistic” consequentialist appeals to do grave evil for the greater good is, ultimately, a refusal to trust that God knows what he is talking about. It is the conviction that the Christian revelation is not an insight into the very nature of reality but an idealistic daydream that hard thinkers and tough-minded men must sweep away in favor of ‘practical’ solutions. In this analysis, the functional belief of the Machiavellian is ‘you shall embrace evil, and evil shall make you safe.'

The response of Christian revelation is that this is, not to put too fine a point of it, a lie from the pit of hell, as well as a snare and delusion. Revelation claims that Christ intends our happiness and know better than we do what is actually the best way to realize it. This involves a conception of Christ’s commands as something other than impossible ideals or as cruel, irrational restrictions we have to obey for no reason other than fear: in short, it involves the idea that the one who created us did so because he wills our happiness and that obedience to him is actually ordered toward life and freedom, not toward our destruction.

Prudence is the clear-eyed ability to see what is so. The cultivation of fear, in contrast, places us not in the real world but in a fantasy world of Bruce Willis movies. In the real world is God and our duty to our family, community and work. This is not speculation, this is the teaching of the gospel. For the world, readiness comes from being afraid, tense, jumping at the rustle of leaves, worried about what horrible thing might happen and laboring to fantasize about what crimes you might commit to stop it.

For Paul, readiness comes from peace. That is why he tells the Ephesians to let their feet be shod with the “preparation of the gospel of peace.” Ephesians 6:15. Paul does not command us to rehearse the horrible ways in which we and those we love might suffer (and this was a man who experienced more actual suffering than we ever will). Instead—from jail—he wrote:

"Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, think on these things." Philippians 4:8.
--Chronicles Magazine, Sept 2008

the new reality

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
--Ron Suskind, NYT Oct 2004

Monday, March 23, 2009

As part of our continuing

series on Asian painting, isn't this wonderful:

Pine Forest by Hasegawa Tohaku

Here's Brigham:

Description by his counselor in the presidency:

Salt Lake City, Utah Territory
To the New York Herald

Dear Sir:

I can’t undertake to explain Brigham Young to your Atlantic citizens, or expect you to put him at his value. Your great men Eastward are to me like your ivory and pearl handled table knives, balance[d] handles, more shiny than the inside of my watch case; but with only edge enough to slice bread and cheese...and all alike by the dozen, one with another.

Brigham is the article that sells out West with us--between a Roman cutlass and a beef butcher knife, the thing to cut up a deer or cut down an enemy every bit as well, though the handpiece is buck horn and the case a hogskin hanging in the breech of your pantaloons.

You, that judge men by the handle and the sheath, how can I make you know a good Blade?

--Jedediah M. Grant

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the penitent magdalen

georges de la tour (1630). Easter treat.

morgan filly

Catching a catfish with a gourd

by Josetsu (15th century)
Zen monks believed that meditating upon an impossible task provided a useful means to enlightenment. Worked for me.

The lingering stench

In 1992, just after the fall of the Soviet Union, Jonathan Brent seized a unique opportunity that, if not for him, would doubtless have been missed. He came to negotiate a deal to publish sensitive and secret documents from Soviet Central Party Archives.

Brent describes in his new book how he learned to negotiate the bureaucratic obstacles, slovenly work habits, anti-Semitism, and lawlessness that make Russia enduringly Russian as he pursued what has turned out to be the most significant publishing venture of the past fifty years: Yale University Press’s Annals of Communism series.

And despite the desperate strategy of throwing all blame on Stalin so as to excuse Lenin, the latest volume, The Unknown Lenin, reproduces a selection from some six thousand Lenin documents never before released, revealing a bloodthirstiness that surprised even anti-Communists. During a famine, Lenin ordered his followers not to alleviate but to take advantage of mass starvation:

"It is precisely now and only now when in the starving regions people are eating human flesh, and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are littering the roads, that we can (and therefore must) carry out the confiscation of church valuables with the most savage and merciless energy."

About two dozen volumes already published reveal documents, never seen before in Russia or the West, of the greatest importance in understanding world Communism. Though invented by Lenin in Russia, totalitarian Communism has, after all, ruled nearly twenty countries and about 40 percent of the world’s people at one time or another, and it has inspired true believers almost everywhere, including the United States.

what would I have done, asks Hitler authority

The attempt that came closest to toppling Hitler, that of Claus von Stauffenberg in July 1944, was the culmination of a conspiracy of extraordinarily courageous men from both military and civilian life.

The courage is all the more striking given the awareness of the conspirators that they did not have the support of the German people. Stauffenberg commented that “the man who has the courage to do something must do it in the knowledge that he will go down in German history as a traitor. If he does not do it, however, he will be a traitor to his own conscience.”

Acknowledging the level of courage needed to challenge the Nazi regime even in minor ways, let alone through the actions of the “White Rose,” an Elser, or a Stauffenberg, requires some humility by those of us who, mercifully, have never had to contend with such political ruthlessness. When trying to reach moral judgments on the behavior of Germans under Hitler, we must ask ourselves how we would have behaved. If we think we would have lacked the courage to oppose such a brutal regime, then we have to recognize that we would have been prepared to make compromises and concessions, to reach an accommodation of some sort. And this was the slippery slope, descending steeply into gross inhumanity, as the passivity of the many allowed the radical hatred of a minority — if a fairly large and powerful minority — swiftly to gain ground and to engender the most devastating breach of civilization the world has yet encountered. ;
--Sir Ian Kershaw, Hitler biographer

Psalms 12:4--"our lips are our own"

Our new consumer advocate/reporter, Marvis Wilcoxson, gives a rare "five seahorse" (§§§§§)rating to this new informative site: http://www.lip-plumper-reviews.com/

As Ms. W. learned in her OT class, the ancients may well have forseen the current mania for injecting into our faces everything, lock, stock and barrel, including the kitchen sink, in the quest for selective plumpness: "they shall withal be fitted in thy lips." See, Proverbs 22:18. What a time we live in.

Yi Chong (1541–1622)
Ink Bamboo

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Science & Technology" by B. Richards

Our field reporter, Ms. Bethany Richards, has been reassigned from "general interest" to our science and technology beat. She just faxed in this report:

Scientists Discover Third Cindy Crawford Facial Expression

CAMBRIDGE, MA—The international scientific and high-fashion communities were rocked Monday by the discovery of a third facial expression on high-profile supermodel Cindy Crawford.

The new expression, a slight variation on one of the two previously known Crawford faces, had existed only as a computer-generated theoretical construct until Monday, when a team of MIT scientists definitively proved its existence. MIT research heads Dr. Roland Eisenheutz and Dr. Deng Mo Pan discovered the expression after meticulously sifting through over 75,000 photographs of Crawford.

The finding confirmed a 1991 theory developed by Stanford researcher Milton Standish, who, after exhaustive computer analysis of Crawford's facial musculature, postulated the existence of a third, "latent" expression hidden behind the other two. The discovery marks the first new supermodel facial expression since University of Chicago physicist Richard Feynman isolated Lauren Hutton's "aloof pout" in 1974.

Crawford's two previously known facial expressions—the sexy "winning smile," a dazzling, white-toothed grin conveying confidence and sass, and the equally alluring "sultry glance," a smoky, heavy-lidded variation on the across-the-room stare—are well-known within scientific circles for their ability to stop men dead in their tracks. The existence of a third expression, however, has until now been limited to mere conjecture.

First-ever photographic evidence confirming the theory.

Monday, March 16, 2009

from the lazlo letters:

From: Lazlo Toth ...... January 12, 1991
To: President, Preparation H
Dear Mr. President, I have seen commercials for your product on television and I have but one question -- What does the "H" stand for?

To: Lazlo Toth ...... January 30, 1992
From: Cecilia McDonnell, Manager, Consumer Affairs, Whitehall Laboratories (Preparation H)
Dear Mr. Toth: Thank you for your recent letter concerning Preparation H. Please be advised that H stands for hemorrhoids.

Thus the World Was Lost

From Milton Mayer's book, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45:

Mayer tells the story of a chemical engineer, who brought Mayer "even closer to the heart of the matter...":

One day, when we had become very friendly, I said to him, "Tell me now--how was the world lost?"

"That," he said, "is easy to tell, much easier than you may suppose. The world was lost one day in 1935, here in Germany. It was I who lost it, and I will tell you how.

"I was employed in a defense plant (a war plant, of course, but they were always called defense plants). That was the year of the National Defense Law, the law of 'total conscription.' Under the law I was required to take the oath of fidelity. I said I would not; I opposed it in conscience. I was given twenty-four hours to 'think it over.' In those twenty-four hours I lost the world."

The engineer recounts how his refusal to take the oath would have meant the loss of his job, and that he would have had difficulty getting another, at least in his chosen field. But he tried "not to think" of himself or his family -- but of "the people to whom I might be of some help later on, if things got worse..."

He finally took the oath: "That day the world was lost, and it was I who lost it." But in fact, the engineer did save lives: "For the sake of argument," he said, "I will agree that I saved many lives later on. Yes."

"Which you could not have done if you had refused to take the oath in 1935."


"And you still think that you should not have taken the oath."


"I don't understand," I said.

"Perhaps not," he said, "but you must not forget that you are an American. I mean that, really. Americans have never known anything like this this experience--in its entirety, all the way to the end. That is the point."

"You must explain," I said.

"Of course I must explain. First of all, there is the problem of the lesser evil. Taking the oath was not so evil as being unable to help my friends later on would have been. But the evil of the oath was certain and immediate, and the helping of my friends was in the future and therefore uncertain. I had to commit a positive evil, there and then, in the hope of a possible good later on. The good outweighed the evil; but the good was only a hope, the evil was a fact."

As their conversation continues, and to make the case for the engineer's decision to take the oath as strong as possible, they agree that "only" three million innocent people were slaughtered by the Nazis, while the engineer saved as many as a thousand lives. The engineer asks:

"And it would have been better to have saved all three million, instead of only a hundred, or a thousand?"

"Of course."

"There, then, is my point. If I had refused to take the oath of fidelity, I would have saved all three millions."

"You are joking," I said.


"You don't mean to tell me that your refusal would have overthrown the regime in 1935?"


"Or that others would have followed your example?"


"I don't understand."

"You are an American," he said again, smiling. "I will explain. There I was, in 1935, a perfect example of the kind of person who, with all his advantages in birth, in education, and in position, rules (or might easily rule) in any country. If I had refused to take the oath in 1935, it would have meant that thousands and thousands like me, all over Germany, were refusing to take it. Their refusal would have heartened millions. Thus the regime would have been overthrown, or, indeed, would never have come to power in the first place. The fact that I was not prepared to resist, in 1935, meant that all the thousands, hundreds of thousands, like me in Germany were also unprepared, and each one of these hundreds of thousands was, like me, a man of great influence or of great potential influence. Thus the world was lost."

"You are serious?" I said.

"Completely," he said. "These hundred lives I saved--or a thousand or ten as you will--what do they represent? A little something out of the whole terrible evil, when, if my faith had been strong enough in 1935, I could have prevented the whole evil."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

a privilege to believe

"To be a rock, a bastion of surety, revelation must be something on which one can count and receive in every occasion of real need. I began to seek for it actively. I prayed, I fasted, I lived the gospel as best I knew. I was faithful in my church duties. I tried to live up to every scruple which my conscience enjoined upon me. And dependable revelation did come. Intermittently, haltingly at first, then steadily, over some years it finally came to be a mighty stream of experience. I came to know that any time of day or night, in any circumstance, for any real need, I could get help. That help came in the form of feelings of encouragement when things seemed hopeless. It came in ideas to unravel puzzles that blocked my accomplishment. It came in priesthood blessings which were fully realized. It came in whisperings of prophecy which were fulfilled. It came in support and even anticipation of what the General Authorities of the Church would say and do in general conference. It came in the gifts of the Spirit, as the wonders of eternity were opened to the eyes of my understanding. That stream of spiritual experience is today for me a river of living water that nourishes my soul in every situation. It is the most important factor of my life. If it were taken away, all that I have and am would be dust and ashes. It is the basis of my love, life, understanding, hope, and progress. My only regret is that though this river is so wonderful, I have not been able to take full advantage of it as yet. My life does not yet conform to all that I know. But now I do know; I do not just believe."
--Chauncey C. Riddle, Sunstone Symposium IX

Saturday, March 14, 2009

update on stefano

A sympathetic photographer recently sent me this candid shot of her highness. I guess things aren't working out so great with Stefano after all. Who cares!

another younger brother makes good

International race car driver Andreas Mikkelsen at work.

those loveable, wacky romans!

Celebrated classics professor Mary Beard has brought to light a volume more than 1,600 years old, which she says shows the Romans not to be the "pompous, bridge-building toga wearers" they're often seen as, but rather a race ready to laugh at themselves.

Written in Greek, Philogelos, or The Laughter Lover, dates to the third or fourth century AD, and contains some 260 jokes which Beard said are "very similar" to the jokes we have today

An ancient version of Monty Python's dead parrot sketch sees a man buy a slave, who dies shortly afterwards. When he complains to the seller, he is told: "He didn't die when I owned him."

Beard's favourite joke is a version of the Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman variety, with a barber, a bald man and an absent-minded professor taking a journey together. They have to camp overnight, so decide to take turns watching the luggage. When it's the barber's turn, he gets bored, so amuses himself by shaving the head of the professor. When the professor is woken up for his shift, he feels his head, and says "How stupid is that barber? He's woken up the bald man instead of me."

Fascinating book, The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas, covers the Atlantic slave trade from 1440 to 1870. It was a literally filthy business from first to last. More than 11,000,000 Africans were brought to the New World, while countless others — probably about 2,000,000 — died of miserable conditions in the overcrowded ships en route.

Interesting fact: fewer than 5 per cent — about 500,000 — of these Africans were brought to this country. Some 4,000,000 were carried to Brazil by the Portuguese, 2,500,000 to Spanish possessions, 2,000,000 to the British West Indies, and 1,600,000to the French West Indies.

All this puts something of a damper on the assumption that slavery was a sin specific or “peculiar” to the American South. The slaves had been Africans who were sold to European merchants by other Africans who had enslaved them in the first place. Several of Africa’s proudest empires were built on the sale of slaves. For centuries Africa’s chief export was human beings. When Congresswoman Maxine Waters speaks of “my African ancestors’ struggle for freedom,” she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Slavery was an African institution long before it spread to the South , and there was no abolition movement to trouble it. When Europe banned the slave trade, African economies reeled. What a world.

a day that will live in...?

was December 21, 1970, when Richard Nixon's secretary informed him that the "King" wished to see him immediately. Nixon reportedly expressed surprise that no state visit was noted on his calendar for the day. Turned out, it was not just a king, but The King. Elvis had showed up at the White House, unannounced and seriously stoned, with some urgent news for the president.

Elvis told Nixon that he had come to lend his name and support to Nixon's as-yet-unnamed "War on Drugs." "Mr. President," Elvis said, "I'm on your side. I want to be helpful. And I want to help get people to respect the flag because that's getting lost." Then Elvis got to the point. "Mr. President, can you get me a badge from the Narcotics Bureau?"

Presley was a collector of police badges. And he was a dopehound of legendary excess. ... And so it came to pass that on the day Elvis Presley died of a drug overdose in 1977, he was a credentialed Special Assistant in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. (In a show of appreciation, Elvis presented Nixon with the concealed pistol he was carrying.)

A photo was taken of the two shaking hands. It is the most popular postcard image at the Nixon Library. The pistol is also reportedly on disiplay there. What a world.

Friday, March 13, 2009

history lesson

Although the US signed international agreements opposing forced repatriation, after WW II, Roosevelt, Churchill and cronies, under a program called "Operation Keelhaul" forcibly turned over at least two million persons to Soviet slave labor camps. The Allies even kept secret from the world the fact that Stalin was holding over 5,000 Allied soldiers as hostages in order to make sure that the West complied with his demands for repatriation. US and British troops had to beat, drug, and drive at gunpoint these millions of liberty loving people back to Russia. Even after doing so, Stalin never did return American and British prisoners. They died in the Soviet Gulags. The US still refuses to open the archives about their fate. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called this operation "the last secret of World War II."

Nikolai Tolstoy described the scene of Americans returning to the internment camp after having delivered a shipment of people to the Russians:

"The Americans returned to Plattling visibly shamefaced. Before their departure from the rendezvous in the forest, many had seen rows of bodies already hanging from the branches of nearby trees. On their return, even the SS men in a neighboring compound lined the wire fence and railed at them for their behavior. The Americans were too ashamed to reply."
See, e.g., http://www.fff.org/freedom/0495a.asp

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

U.S. Finishes A 'Strong Second' In Iraq War

BAGHDAD—After 19 months of struggle in Iraq, U.S. military officials conceded a loss to Iraqi insurgents Monday, but said America can be proud of finishing "a very strong second."

Casey (left) and Lt. Gen. John Abizaid shake hands with an enlisted soldier after the war.

"We went out there, gave it our all, and fought a really good fight," said Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. "America's got nothing to be ashamed of. We outperformed Great Britain, Poland, and a lot of the other top-notch nations, but Iraq just wouldn't stay down for the count. It may have come down to them simply wanting it more."

"In spite of jumping out to an early lead and having the better-trained, better-equipped team, I'm afraid we still came up short in the end," Casey said. "Sometimes, the underdog just pulls one out on you. But there's no reason for the guys who were out in the field to feel any shame over this one. They played through pain and injury and never questioned the strategy, even when we started losing ground."

Casey said that, although the U.S. military did not win, it did set records for kills, yardage gained, palaces overrun, defensive stops, and military bases stolen.
"The Americans can be proud of the numbers," Casey said. "All things considered, there was some very impressive maneuvering out there. We kept the folks at home on the edge of their seats, that's for sure."

When I was a young man, I served as counselor to a wise district president in the Church. He tried to teach me. One of the things I remember wondering about was this advice he gave: “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”

I thought then that he was pessimistic. Now, more than 40 years later, I can see how well he understood the world and life.
Henry G. Eyring

Jesus Christ paid the price and will satisfy the demands of justice for all who are obedient to His teachings. Thus, full forgiveness is granted, and the distressing effects of sin need no longer persist in one's life. Indeed, they cannot persist if one truly understands the meaning of Christ's Atonement.
Elder Richard G. Scott

Richard Lewontin—an atheist who thinks matter is all there is—in the New York Review of Books (January 9, 1997): “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just–so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.” He continues, “It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.

For another example, consider the remarks of the philosopher Thomas Nagel in his book The Last Word. The purpose of the book is to defend philosophical rationalism against subjectivism. At a certain point Nagel acknowledges that rationalism has theistic implications. For the moment, the important thing is not whether that is true, but that Nagel thinks that it is. Note well what he says next. After suggesting that contemporary subjectivism may be due to “fear of religion,” he writes, “I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well–informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” Nagel adds, “My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. . . . Darwin enabled modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning, and design as fundamental features of the world.” First Things

[Members of] organized religious communities...can participate in the polite conversation of the day. Habitually, they talk and listen to men, whereas listening to God is hardly such a habit.

On the subject of sincere meditation or prayer, LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley stated the following in a 1998 priesthood leadership meeting: I daresay that most of those in this room today have not taken an hour in the last year to just sit down quietly, each man to himself, as a son of God, reflecting upon his place in the world, upon his destiny, upon his capacity to do good, upon his mission to make some changes for good. In a recent instruction to Brigham Young University department of religion faculty, an LDS general authority said it was apparent that only about five percent of the membership of the church studied the scriptures by topics; that is, rather than reading the scriptures as a textbook on reality, they read them as a mere literary work of history or philosophy.

happy days, for some

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble:

“We learned from the worldwide economic crisis of the 1920s (1930s) that an
economic crisis can result in an incredible threat for all of society. The consequences of that depression was Adolf Hitler and, indirectly, World War II and Auschwitz.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

"Never waste a good crisis. . . . Don’t waste it when it can have a very positive impact on climate change and energy security. . . . This is a propitious time . . . we can actually begin to demonstrate our willingness to confront this."

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel:

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."


It Is Not the Fact That I Will Die That I Mind

but that no one will love as I did
the oak tree out my boyhood window,
the mother who set herself
so stubbornly against life,
the sister with her serious frown
and her wish for someone at her side,
the father with his dreamy gaze
and his left hand idly buried
in the fur of his dog.
And the dog herself,
that mournful look and huge appetite,
her need for absolute stillness
in the presence of a bird.
I know how each of them looks
when asleep. And I know how it feels
to fall asleep among them.
No one knows that but me,
No one knows how to love the way I do.

by Jim Moore

When the distinction between natural and supernatural . . . breaks down, . . . one realizes how great a comfort it had been--how it had eased the burden of intolerable strangeness which this universe imposes on us by dividing it into two halves and encouraging the mind never to think of both in the same context. What price we may have paid for this comfort in the way of false security and accepted confusion of thought is another matter. CS Lewis-Perelandra.

[Walking back from superb fly-fishing on Magic Island, in my favorite shoes, I think of saints and mystics.] Catherine of Siena, for example, said, "All the way to heaven is heaven." On the face of it, I was thinking the other day, this is an insanely optimistic statement that flies in the face of a ton of our grimmest experiences. Yet Catherine of Siena was no fool. Nor was she sheltered. She lived in a time of hatred, and she made her outrageous statement even though half of Italy and beloved members of her family were killed, during her early childhood, by the Black Death.

Catherine owned no felt-soled wading shoes, I was thinking, and so maybe took no Magic Island walks. But my theory is that she walked around feeling as though she was playing a fish like my Magic Island Brown Trout anyway. Catherine of Siena, it seemed to me in my favorite shoes the other day, somehow hooked an invisible and interior fish that somehow connected her to kingdom and electrocuted her daily with joy.
David James Duncan, on fishing and his favorite shoes (Patagonia waders)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

things I never knew

A few deep thoughts from our new Hawaii reporter, Kona Lowell:

I never knew how pretty you were until I saw you with someone I really hated and wanted to kill, slowly and painfully and in a creatively malevolent way, like a Bond villain with a high-pitched voice and creepy eyebrows wearing a Nehru jacket and surrounded by indifferently beautiful women of dubious morals and deadly kung fu skills.

I never knew I had limitations until my head hit the ceiling with a resounding "thump."

I never knew Frank Sinatra, but I remember a song his daughter used to sing about boots.

I never knew so many people had dogs with last names.

I never knew enough to make me dangerous or rich.

I never knew I would miss you before you left and would want you to leave again so I could miss you some more and get over it.

I never knew my laugh was funnier than what I was laughing at.

I never knew that sheep could go for days without dreaming.

I never knew that the Farmer's Almanac was a book farmers used. I just thought it was written by some guy named Farmer.

I never knew soup was considered real food worldwide.

I never knew that chameleons could give birth whenever they felt like it.

I never knew I wasn't adopted.

I never knew dancing could lead to even more dancing.

I never knew the meaning of wife.

I never knew that a pretty girl was like a melody. I thought it was "malady."

I never knew the way to San Jose.

I never knew a man I didn't like, but I met plenty.

I never knew a secret someone else didn't already know.

I never knew you cared.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009