Archives for category: Literature
The zodiacal ages since the Ice Age ended.

We have abortion, the ancients had child sacrifice.

We are profane, they were pious.

That was my first takeaway, anyway, from “Ancient Carthaginians really did sacrifice their children,” an article from the University of Oxford.

Next, try to understand the idea of sacrifice. The religious fixation on the rite of sacrifice is fascinating. For years I’ve pushed the notion of the practice as important in establishing a moral universe with an integral cost concept. Without a sense of cost, morality is impossible. Sacrifice is crude but perhaps effective in this task.

I think I have heard Jordan Peterson pushing something like that.

Anyway, the ancient Egyptians sacrificed bulls. But that was in the Age of Taurus. Upper Egypt kept the Apis Bull Worship going even after the Age of Aries began. In Lower Egypt, the folks living next to the Giza pyramids knew better, that the Ram had replaced the Bull. This became a central concept in the development of Mediterranean (“Middle Earth!”) and Mesopotamian religion. Genesis and Exodus both encode that transition. And the BC/AD divide marks the beginning of the Age of Pisces, of the Fisher Kings — the sign of the fish and all that.

Could the Carthaginians have engaged in holdover rites from the Age of Gemini, when twins were the religious fixation? I know not. Seems a stretch.

We are still a ways away from the Age of Aquarius. Or already in it. Depends on who you ask. I am unsure of why this would be of prime importance for philosophy — but the ancients were obsessed with the Great Year. Still reeling from the catastrophes of the Ice Age, they were understandably obsessed. And putting the idea of cyclical regularity into the major religions was, for them, a natural notion. And interweaving it into our collective unconscious with sacrifice? I guess that seemed vitally important.

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Remember that much-shared “meme” about how a certain hospital was being flooded with people overdosing on the “horse de-wormer” Ivermectin? Rolling Stone even published an article running with it.

I saw friends share the story on social media. And curse Fox News, Alex Jones, etc. ZeroHedge explains:

The report, sourced to local Oaklahoma outlet KFOR’s Katelyn Ogle, cites Oklahoma ER doctor Dr. Jason McElyea — who claimed that people overdosing on ivermectin horse dewormer are causing emergency rooms to be “so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting” access to health facilities.

“Rolling Stone ‘Horse Dewormer’ Hit-Piece Debunked After Hospital Says No Ivermectin Overdoses,” ZeroHedge, September 4, 2021.

That story has been revealed as completely false. The hospital denies it. ZeroHedge cites the hospital in question:

Although Dr. Jason McElyea is not an employee of NHS Sequoyah, he is affiliated with a medical staffing group that provides coverage for our emergency room.

With that said, Dr. McElyea has not worked at our Sallisaw location in over 2 months.

NHS Sequoyah has not treated any patients due to complications related to taking ivermectin. This includes not treating any patients for ivermectin overdose.

All patients who have visited our emergency room have received medical attention as appropriate. Our hospital has not had to turn away any patients seeking emergency care.

Rolling Stone did not fact check the article before publication. It was completely fake news — likely perpetrated to induce you to take Big Pharma’s experimental pseudo-vaccine.

The story stank as propaganda from the beginning. But until I saw the debunking, I wasn’t going to say anything. Maybe I should have said something. But you are an adult, right?

And as an adult, you know that the whole “horse de-wormer” meme is b.s., right? (Or, as one Twitterer put it, “horse shit.”) Ivermectin has been a prescription drug for the human animal for a long time. It has known and previous uses. Repeating the “horse de-wormer” meme amounts to a lie. It was obvious from its first social media deployment. But because the left is now thoroughly servile to the Therapeutic State, leftists now eagerly defend Big Pharma medicine.

Ivermectin is far safer than the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA treatments. Of course, it is always dangerous to use drugs, and going off established protocols is risky. Take your own risks. Don’t blame others for your anxieties. Be rational.

But remember: ideologues are happy to lie to you, and if you have any political opinion, you will find folks on your side of that issue lying.

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Tweet, which I grabbed from the ZeroHedge article, superimposed on story.

N.B. A not-irrelevant meme of my own devising might be worth looking at: Mind+Virus.

Some fantasy literature near at hand, with sf at left: bedside reading.

It’s been said before: science fiction is a conjecture culture. Well, said before, if not in those precise words.

Science fiction is not science. It’s not often scientific even in spirit, for there is no experimentation, public testing, refutation, or even knowledge at the end of it! It is often little more than what cheerleaders are to sports: the rah-rah squad. But there is more to it. Science fiction writers look behind the obvious and offer up a wide series of alternative theories — conjectures — about reality, and then play with them in interesting ways (some more interesting than others), usually focusing on the human results, or on the transcendent.

As such, science fiction has what I think of as a generally salutary effect on the mind.

Except when it doesn’t, as in the case of the inspiration Paul Krugman’s took from Asimov’s Foundation series, to double down on his technocracy. That’s like taking the Bible as an excuse to kill witches or Jews.

And it shows the great danger of science fiction: scientism. That is the misuse of certain outward forms of science to replace religion and influence politics. It is often the worship of science as technique to make a better world — but actually making the world much worse.

Thankfully, this also is a central theme of science fiction: the opposition to scientism. It can be found in a wide diversity of dystopian nightmares and comedies and melodramas, the most obvious being Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and even in space opera, such as C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy.

So, science fiction can serve as the cure for the disease of which it is also, too often, the most obvious symptom.

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When Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., 46th President of These Benighted States, speaks, we should listen. Amidst his fits and starts and faux pas we can find real gems of revelation.

The latest examples come from his G7 adventures. Speaking of Russia, he wants to appear smart. He obviously enjoys every old-timey turn of phrase, and he smiles as he says Russians have “bitten off some real problems they are going to have trouble chewing on.” I wonder if he rehearsed that. It is not exactly Shakespeare, but it is the Bard Himself compared to his repeated references to “Libya.”

You see, Biden meant to say “Syria,” which Russia has defended against repeated U.S. attempts at the overthrow of the Alawite regime. Biden wants to make Putin look bad here, for getting in the way of noble, peace-loving U.S. intervention. But Biden ruins this brilliant bit of misdirection by repeatedly bringing up Libya. For Libya’s the far bigger mess, and it was a mess caused by the United States, the Obama-Biden Administration in particular.

So, why would he do that?

I figure that his ability to lie is low, his pre-frontal cortex being so shriveled up that he cannot maintain the prevarication. Libya is the counter to everything Biden wants to say about Russian and Syria. It shows that it is the United States that is in way over its head, or, to use Biden’s preferred cliché, has bitten off more than it can possibly chew. The Obama-Biden-Clinton team ruined Libya. It is the U.S. that is responsible for that mess, and what a mess it is! And Biden knows that HE MUST NOT SAY IT, so he says it.

The Imp of the Perverse is Edgar Allan Poe’s metaphor:

Induction, à posteriori, would have brought phrenology to admit, as an innate and primitive principle of human action, a paradoxical something, which we may call perverseness, for want of a more characteristic term. In the sense I intend, it is, in fact, a mobile without motive, a motive not motivirt. Through its promptings we act without comprehensible object; or, if this shall be understood as a contradiction in terms, we may so far modify the proposition as to say, that through its promptings we act, for the reason that we should not. In theory, no reason can be more unreasonable; but, in fact, there is none more strong. With certain minds, under certain conditions, it becomes absolutely irresistible. I am not more certain that I breathe, than that the assurance of the wrong or error of any action is often the one unconquerable force which impels us, and alone impels us to its prosecution. Nor will this overwhelming tendency to do wrong for the wrong’s sake, admit of analysis, or resolution into ulterior elements. It is a radical, a primitive impulse—elementary. It will be said, I am aware, that when we persist in acts because we feel we should not persist in them, our conduct is but a modification of that which ordinarily springs from the combativeness of phrenology. But a glance will show the fallacy of this idea. The phrenological combativeness has for its essence, the necessity of self-defence. It is our safeguard against injury. Its principle regards our well-being; and thus the desire to be well, is excited simultaneously with its development. It follows, that the desire to be well must be excited simultaneously with any principle which shall be merely a modification of combativeness, but in the case of that something which I term perverseness, the desire to be well is not only not aroused, but a strongly antagonistical sentiment exists.

An appeal to one’s own heart is, after all, the best reply to the sophistry just noticed. No one who trustingly consults and thoroughly questions his own soul, will be disposed to deny the entire radicalness of the propensity in question. It is not more incomprehensible than distinctive. There lives no man who at some period, has not been tormented, for example, by an earnest desire to tantalize a listener by circumlocution. The speaker is aware that he displeases; he has every intention to please; he is usually curt, precise, and clear; the most laconic and luminous language is struggling for utterance upon his tongue; it is only with difficulty that he restrains himself from giving it flow; he dreads and deprecates the anger of him whom he addresses; yet, the thought strikes him, that by certain involutions and parentheses, this anger may be engendered. That single thought is enough. The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing, and the longing, (to the deep regret and mortification of the speaker, and in defiance of all consequences,) is indulged.

Something like that is going on in Biden’s poor head. I suspect it is not unrelated to other impulses, which we see at play in the Law of Nemesis.

Biden knows he must not mention Libya, but cannot help but bring it up.

The imp is upon him, like the narrator in the Poe story, who is mysteriously impelled to run out into the public confessing to murder — inevitably bringing on his own destruction.

He is utterly in thrall to that imp.

That imp now rules America.

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Two squibs in Liberty by this site’s proprietor:

p.7
The issue featured many remembrances of Murray N. Rothbard, then recently deceased; p. 22.

James Littleton Gill provided illustrations for the ’zine:

pp. 21 & 22

The late Rex F. May placed many of his gag cartoons in Liberty:

p. 52
p. 66
p. 61
From pages 137-138 of

Every now and then I search for friends and colleagues with whom I have lost touch. Until today, I had tried numerous times to find Terry Campbell, with whom I worked briefly in the late 1990s, with no luck. I just did a search, only to discover he had died a year and a half ago:

Terry was found in his car, which had veered from his driveway into the woods. He lived near a field where llamas graze in rural Chimacum, Washington, a tiny speck on the map near Port Townsend, not far from Seattle. My heart was wrenched by the news.

Warren Goldie, “A Good Friend Is Forever: Discovering the Terry Campbell Fan Club” (November 30, 2019).

The author of this appreciation for Terry wrote well and meant well, with a boyhood cartoon and a fine photo. I wish I had known Terry when he sported the beard, for, sans beard, he looked eerily like author Stephen King. But Mr. Goldie, the eulogist, was misinformed about the nature of the job for which Terry had crossed the country:

Terry found a job as the managing editor of a libertarian magazine in Port Townsend that promptly went out of business right after Terry arrived. He landed on hard times, working a string of part-time jobs—apartment manager, librarian, custodian. Often, he was down on his luck.

The magazine was Liberty, which I helped found in 1987. The publisher, Bill Bradford, hired Terry largely because I didn’t want the job of managing Liberty’s editorial operations. Terry was fired from the job about a half year after joining; I left soon after. In our negotiations for my departure, Bradford expressed his surprise at my lack of interest in doing the job that Terry had applied for and won. “Bill,” I said. “The job of managing editor is basically managing you. I knew I was utterly incapable of doing it successfully. Terry is the only person I have witnessed pulling it off, professionally. And he grew to hate you. Because you were the problem. Not anyone else. You.”

It was a sad conversation. But after Terry and I left, Bradford managed to find competent help, I gather, for the magazine lasted past Bradford’s death in 2005. So maybe he was easier to manage during that stage of his life. I know I thought the prospect hopeless, and Terry judged it vexing.

Terry was a terrific at his job. Never before had the editorial process at the magazine flowed in a timely manner, without bottlenecks. But the half a year at Liberty almost destroyed him. I always felt badly about that. To what extent was I responsible? For the record, Bradford did indeed blame me. But it was Terry he fired. For what Terry could not do was contain his well-developed rage at Bradford; he could not believe that the toughest part of his job was to get his boss to perform tasks within a rational time frame. I had it much easier, in a sense, for whatever anger I felt at how badly the magazine ran, I felt a dozen other emotions as well. To be consumed by one emotion is not good.

Terry kept my cat for half a year after I left, but I never really kept track of the man, because I was far away and knew I could only sympathize — as I figured it, since I had not tried to place myself as a buffer between him and Bradford, as I had for several others, I was not the person for him to fall back upon. I couldn’t make up for what I had not done.

Besides, both he and Bill were strong-willed, obstinate people. I do not try to control such folks. I do what I can and watch them reap what they sow.

It is a tough world. It is sad to see another Liberty laborer leave us. First Bradford in 2005, then Eric and Terry in 2019. Perhaps I will be next.

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Angus Wilson was a second-tier literary figure of post-war Britain. Does anyone read him any longer? I know that I have not. But I do own four of his novels. And the openings are quite good:

This opening of The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot strikes me as perfect. We are going to get a good character study by a competent observer of the social world. The book is my age. I really should read it.

Perhaps only because I recognized the fine writing of the first novel, above, I bought this second, on a whim. I did not carefully read this first page in the book store. Buying Late Call was an impulse purchase. But his 1964 novel’s first page is unexceptionable, indeed worthy of more attention than I have given it. It is a pity that Angus Wilson just looms in my imagination as an less as a vital author and more as Terra incognita.

Old Men at the Zoo (1961) is one of his most popular books, from what I have so far gathered, and I bought the Granada/Panther paperback with assurance from John Wain on the front cover — the back cover blurbs being most unhelpful. Wilson’s cautionary note up front is fairly amusing:

The fourth book of his in my library is the oldest, from 1956 (though this is a second edition), and the paper cover of my copy is creased and worn. Somebody almost certainly read it, years ago.

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes was written long before the very concept “Anglo-Saxon” was considered racist, as it is today amongst the college crowd and cognitive elite in America, but not before the notion conveyed some comic embarrassment and a whiff of the absurd. The main character appears to be “depressed”:

Now, Angus Wilson usually suffers from the inevitable comparison with Kingsley Amis, whose comic novels usually place him above the rest of the Angry Young Men set. Lucky Jim (1954), which I have read three times, at least, is a perfect confection. In my Twenties I read a whole shelf of Amis books, including Take a Girl Like You (1960) and One Fat Englishman (1963) and even The Alteration (1976). But I haven’t read Amis’s fiction in years, and what I have in my shelves includes several I haven’t read past the first chapter.

Indeed, I have read only two of these: Jake’s Thing (1979) and The Green Man (1969). The former is hilarious and first rate while the latter is a surprisingly good ghost story, with a transcendent aspect (God makes a showing).

Jake’s Thing benefits from being a comedy of impotence and growing old — built-in hilarity — but more substantive is the satire on modern faddish therapeutics. I remember this being one of Amis’s very best novels.

But I probably enjoyed The Green Man more. It is the Amis book I am most likely to re-read.

Until taking this snap of the first page, I may never have cracked open The Crime of the Century (1975). It does not really move me to read on.

I tried to read The Russian Girl (1992) just this last winter, but the writing struck me as bad; looking at it again, now, and I am mystified as to why I leveled such a strong negative judgment against it.

Difficulties With Girls (1988), on the other hand, entices. It is probably the next Amis I will read. But I don’t think it has much of a reputation. Which is probably why I have neglected it so far.

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Nelson Bond, a bookseller who specialized in the work of James Branch Cabell — and from whom I may have purchased a Cabell volume back in the 1980s or ’90s — was also a writer. In 2002, a few years before he died, Arkham House published a collection of his stories, The Far Side of Nowhere. I just read its first story, “Command Performance,” first published in a pulp in 1951.

It is a tale of madness and psychological treatment. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this science fiction story is that the science which provides the backbone of it is “dianetics.” Which is a technique developed by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who would build on it to make a religion, Scientology.

Dianetics is treated most matter-of-factly. There is no gosh-wow or super-science, and though the author insists that the technique is not hypnosis, it sure seems like hypnosis.

The story is no masterwork, but it has its charms. And it ends with a twist. A very pulpy, science-fiction-y twist. A twist with the word “twist” in it, for “The Twisted Ones” is a key concept.

It would make a good hour-long episode of The Twilight Zone.

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Why do conservatives love Ayn Rand?

…as answered  on Quora….

Only some conservatives love Ayn Rand’s work. But why do they do so?

Since I am not a conservative or extremely enamored of Rand, I am going to try to answer this based on observation of others.

  1. Rand was a good writer. She did some literary things very well. Quite a few people who dislike her politics, or other aspects of her philosophy, often say she is not, but a former colleague of mine took passages from her novels around to his fellow literature professors in a ‘blind taste test,’ so to speak, and they rated those passages very highly, recognizing the genre and tradition which they exemplified and judged them as quite successful literarily. So one reason to like or even love an author is because the author wrote well.
  2. Rand extolled human industry, vision and responsibility. Conservatives tend to love that stuff, and since many political writers (especially on the left) sure seem to be opposed to these things, characterizing entrepreneurs and businessmen as thieves and the standards of individual responsibility as somehow compromised and/or oppressive, it is no wonder that conservatives find some comfort in her writings.
  3. Rand dramatically showed the tyrannical and exploitative nature of leftist ideologies and leftists’ beloved dirigiste state. Conservatives generally favor some limits on government, and are deeply opposed to totalitarian government, so understandably some are drawn to her work.
  4. Rand supported individual rights, including rights to person and property. Many strands of American conservatism do the same, and appreciate attempts to clarify such issues, which, right or wrong, Rand attempted to do, with bravura and persuasiveness.

I could go on and on in this vein. There is much in Rand for conservatives to hate, of course — her atheism, alien moralistic dogmatism, and surrounding cult (!) — but we tend to love writers for their merits and, if those merits speak to us, we ignore or downplay their demerits.

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N.B. Do a search on this site and you will discover many “anti-Randian” thoughts. Ayn Rand had no significant influence on my intellectual development, other than in the reverse. That is, dissecting a few of her errors helped me to hone my normative social philosophy. Of the handful of Rand’s major literary works, I’ve seen her most famous play in a local production and read the novel The Fountainhead. The latter I deemed a brilliant but imperfect work.