Sunday, February 21, 2016

Memorial to a familiar stranger

I read of the death of Umberto Eco yesterday.  'Oh no,' was the mundane, involuntary phrase on my lips.  My first wild thoughts were to proclaim it to every friend and acquaintance as a calamity that ought to have cracked the Earth to its mantle.  A great man was dead; a man whose insights excited so many of my own half-reasoned ruminations.

Dead!  How many anecdotes, how many hidden plots, how many conjectures died in that hour?  How much was planned and left undone?

I feel a debt to this utter stranger for the joy and sorrow I have found in his words.  A week prior and I could have established a discourse with him (not that I would have) about the protagonist of The Mysterious Flame, or questioned him about the powder of sympathy, oil of vitriol, or Seven Seas Jim.

And I find it so strange, considering him now one of those dead with whom I can commune only through the words he leaves behind.

May he find paradise somewhere, rusticating in some splendid mountain villa, loafing forever without a past or a future.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Wo ist er nun?

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Earth, Wind and Stars (tr. Lewis Galantiere)

Old bureaucrat, my comrade, it is not you who are to blame.  No one ever helped you escape.  You, like a termite, built up your peace by blocking up with cement every chink and cranny through which the light might pierce.  You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conventions of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars.  You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as man.  You are not the dweller upon an errant planet and do not ask yourself questions to which there are no answers.  You are a petty-bourgeois of Toulouse.  Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time.  Now the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Saint-Ex's Beautiful Philosophy

I've spent the last few nights finishing off Wind, Sand and StarsOverwhelming even the craftsmanship of his well rounded-tales, the beautifully humanistic nature Saint-Exupery's underlying philosophy is the most intoxicating aspect of this collection of memories.  Condensing the diverse expressions of this book into a single moral interdict is futile, but here I'll essay it nonetheless.

The general imperative I've absorbed from the worldly experiences of Saint-Exupery is this:
Love life; both yours and your fellow man's.  Develop yourself based upon the inner truth you discover in your interests, and respect the truths of others.
The message seems to me an embellishment upon the call of Orwell to treat others with a sentiment of 'common human decency.'  It is a fine creed, unfettered by the expectations of secular or religious rewards.  I have likely oversimplified the thoughts of this remarkable man, but I feel that I have at least absorbed the spirit of its beautiful meaning.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Insights of Mr. Wimbush

Aldous Huxley, Crome Yellow


     "I shall be glad," said Henry Wimbush, "when this function comes at last to an end."
     "I can believe it."
     "I do not know how it is," Mr. Wimbush continued, "but the spectacle of numbers of my fellow-creatures in a state of agitation moves in me a certain weariness, rather than any gaiety or excitement.  The fact is, they don't very much interest me.  They aren't in my line.  You follow me?  I could never take much interest, for example, in a collection of postage stamps.  Primitives or seventeenth-century books--yes.  They are my line.  But stamps, no.  I don't know anything about them; they're not my line.  They don't interest me, they give me no emotion.  It's rather the same with people, I'm afraid.  I'm more at home with these pipes."  He jerked his head sideways towards the hollowed logs.  "The trouble with the people and events of the present is that you never know anything about them.  What do I know of contemporary politics?  Nothing.  What do I know of the people I see round about me?  Nothing.  What they think of me or of anything else in the world, what they will do in five minutes' time, are things I can't guess at.  For all I know, you may suddenly jump up and try to murder me in a moment's time."
     "Come, come," said Denis.
     "True," Mr. Wimbush continued, "the little I know about your past is certainly reassuring.  But I know nothing of your present, and neither you nor I know anything of your future.  It's appalling; in living people, one is dealing with unknown and unknowable quantities.  One can only hope to find out anything about them by a long series of the most disagreeable and boring human contacts, involving a terrible expense of time.  It's the same with current events; how can I find out anything about them except by devoting years to the most exhausting first-hand study, involving once more an endless number of the most unpleasant contacts?  No, give me the past.  It doesn't change; it's all there in black and white, and you can get to know about it comfortably and decorously and, above all, privately--by reading.  By reading I know a great deal of Caesar Borgia, of St. Francis, of Dr. Johnson; a few weeks have made me thoroughly acquainted with these interesting characters, and I have been spared the tedious and revolting process of getting to know them by personal contact, which I should have to do if they were living right now.  How gay and delightful life would be if one could get rid of all the human contacts!  Perhaps, in the future, when machines have attained to a state of perfection--for I confess that I am, like Godwin and Shelley, a believer in perfectibility, the perfectibility of machinery--then, perhaps, it will be possible for those who, like myself, desire it, to live in a dignified seclusion, surrounded by the delicate attentions of silent and graceful machines, and entirely secure from any human intrusion.  It is a beautiful thought."

                                                                                            pp 141-142

Saturday, February 6, 2016

El Hombre Invisible

Everything and Nothing, Jorge Luis Borges (tr. Andrew Hurley)
There was no one inside him; behind his face (which even in the bad paintings of the time resembles no other) and his words (which were multitudinous and of a fantastical and agitated turn) there was no more than a slight chill, a dream someone had failed to dream.  At first he thought that everyone was like him, but the surprise and bewilderment of an acquaintance to whom he began to describe that hollowness showed him his error, and also let him know, forever after, that an individual ought not to differ from its species.  He thought at one point that books might hold some remedy for his condition, and so he learned the "little Latin and less Greek" that a contemporary would later mention.  Then he reflected that what he was looking for might be found in the performance of an elemental ritual of humanity, and so he allowed himself to be initiated by Anne Hathaway one long evening in June.

At twenty-something he went off to London.  Instinctively, he had already trained himself to the habit of feigning that he was somebody, so that his "nobodiness" might not be discovered.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Good Dog



Grave Stele of the Dog Parthenope
Marble
Castro, Metelin Island
Istanbul Archeological Museum

Engraving:

"His owner has buried the dog Parthenope, that he played with, in gratitude for this happiness.  Mutual love is rewarding, like the one for this dog:  Having been a friend to my owner, I have deserved this grave:
Looking at this, find yourself a worthy friend who is both ready to love you while you are still alive and also will care for your body when you die."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tonight

And in their blazing solitude
The stars sang in their sockets through
the night:
'Blow bright, blow bright
 The coal of this unquickened world.'
 
Thanks Phil...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Know Thyself

I have once again discovered on the Laudator Temporis Acti blog an entry worth relating.  I find it a fitting description of myself, a 'Scholler-Mountebank', a 'great Plagiarie of Tauerne-wit',  having 'taken paines to be an Asse, though not to be a Scholler'.

The likeness extends even down to the accompanying photograph*:




*  Photograph originally from -- http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Z3d2pevpktc/UTMR59itzeI/AAAAAAAACL8/DPG3koW0DFE/s1600/j-j-grandville-les-savants-envoyerent-un-academicien-arme-de-ses-ouvrages.jpg


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Paradise

Umberto Eco, tr. Geoffrey Brock, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (Harcourt, 2004) p. 216
Back at the house, I had a craving for an apple, and I entered the lower rooms of the central wing.  Strolling among the fruits and vegetables, I noticed that some of the large rooms on the ground floor were being used for storage and that in the back of one room were stacks of deck chairs.  I carried one into the yard.  I sat down facing the panorama, skimmed the newspapers, realized I was barely interested in the present, turned the chair around, and began looking at the front of the house and the hills behind it.  I asked myself what I was looking for, what I wanted, would it not be enough to sit here looking at that hill that is so beautiful, as the novel said, what was it called?  To raise three pavilions, Lord, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, and loaf without a past and without a future.  Perhaps that is what paradise is like.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How To Boil A Frog

Gore Vidal, Creation pp 398-9
The prime minister received each petitioner with a quiet courtesy that was entirely unlike his fierce political views.  He was shrewd enough to know that you can never enslave a reluctant people without first charming them.  Certainly, you must convince them that your way is their way and that the chains which you have forged for them are necessary ornaments.  In a sense, the Great Kings have always realized this.  From Cyrus to our current enlightened lord, Artaxerxes, the diverse peoples  of the empire are allowed to live pretty much as they have always lived, change for which he gives them safety and law.  Huan had managed to convince the admittedly barbarous and remote Ch'inese that although there had once been a golden age when men were free to live as they pleased, that age ended when -- and how he loved to use the phrase! -- "there were too many people and too few things."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Waste

"O! what a prodigal have I been of that most valuable of all possessions—Time!"

- The final words of the Second Duke of Buckingham

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ambition, Purpose, and ...

Ambition promotes action and wards off apathy.  Ambitious goals offer motivation to an otherwise slothful personality.  Is life's purpose simply to struggle towards those goals?  Is happiness measured by one's progress in their pursuit?

But how to choose these goals.  Whither to aim?  What ends to achieve? How to gauge advancement?

Vexatious questions.  Attempt too much and never succeed.  Attempt too little and your gains are hollow.  Tarry long in your decision, and life passes you by.  Choose poorly, and regret it in your dotage.

Like all ideas on this blog, a more apt expression already existed generations ago:

 Robert Browning, A Grammarian's Funeral:
That low man seeks a little thing to do,
          Sees it and does it:
This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
          Dies ere he knows it.
That low man goes on adding one to one,
          His hundred's soon hit:
This high man, aiming at a million,
          Misses an unit.
Lately I find these themes in all I read: the uncertain purpose of existence, and the lament of the road not taken.  Writers have ruminated on these universal themes since reeds were pressed into clay, but put into a pretty passage, I will still freeze up as I read them.  Some samplings from recent readings:
Gore Vidal, Creation

I think that I might have done well at banking had I not been so carefully trained to be neither a priest nor a warrior.  Although I have the Persian noble's contempt of trade, I lack his passion for war and hunting and drinking wine to excess.  Although I  have a priest's deep knowledge of religion, I am not certain what is true.  Although I once heard the voice of the Wise Lord, I confess now in my old age that to hear and to listen are two different things.  I am puzzled by creation.  (p. 327)
But then, what we are is seldom what we want to be while what we want to be is either denied us -- or changes with the seasons.
     Am I not wise, Democritus?  Now that winter's come for me and the ice is black, I know exactly who and what I am -- a corpse-in-waiting.  (p. 374)
Related Posts: So & So From Wherever, All My Ghosts

Sunday, June 23, 2013

As Often As I Review Them, They Disgust Me

Michel de Montaigne, Of Presumption, (tr. Charles Cotton)
I envy the happiness of those who can please and hug themselves in what they do; for 'tis an easy thing to be so pleased, because a man extracts that pleasure from himself, especially if he be constant in his self-conceit.
...
My works are so far from pleasing me that as often as I review them, they disgust me:
When I re-peruse, I blush at what I have written;
I ever see one passage after another that I, the author,
Being the judge, consider should be erased.
[Ovid]
I have always  an idea in my soul, and a sort of disturbed image which presents me as in a dream with a better form than that I have made use of; but I cannot catch it nor fit it to my purpose; and even that idea is but of the meaner sort.

Michel de Montaigne, Of Books, (tr. Charles Cotton)
I make no doubt but that I often happen to speak of things that are much better and more truly handled by those who are masters of the trade.  You have here purely an essay of my natural parts, and not of those acquired: and whoever shall catch me tripping in ignorance, will not in any sort get the better of me; for I should be very unwilling to become responsible to another for my writings, who am not so to myself, nor satisfied with them.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

So & So From Wherever

Michel de Montaigne, Of Glory, (tr. Charles Cotton)
Of so many thousands of valiant men who have died within these fifteen hundred years in France with their swords in their hands, not a hundred have come to our knowledge.  The memory, not of the commanders only, but of battles and victories, is buried and gone; the fortunes of above half of the world, for want of a record, stir not from their place, and vanish without duration.
Matthew Arnold, Rugby Chapel
What is the course of the life
Of mortal men on the earth? --
Most men eddy about
Here and there -- eat and drink,
Chatter and love and hate,
Gather and squander, are raised
Aloft, are hurl'd in the dust,
Striving blindly, achieving
Nothing; and then they die --
Perish; -- and no one asks
Who or what they have been,
More than he asks what waves,
In the moonlit solitudes mild
Of the midmost Ocean,  have swell'd,
Foam'd for a moment, and gone.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Where are those splendid horses?

Autobiography of Giuseppe Garibaldi, tr. A. Werner (London: Walter Smith and Innes, 1889) pp 31-32.
Who can conceive the feelings awakened in the heart of a buccaneer of twenty-five by his first sight of that untamed nature?  To-day--December 20, 1871--bending with stiffened limbs over the fire, I recall with emotion those scenes of the past, when life seemed to smile on me, in the presence of the most magnificent spectacle I ever beheld.  I for my part am old and worn.  Where are those splendid horses?  Where are the bulls, the antelopes, the ostriches, which beautified and enlivened those pleasant hills?  Their descendants, no doubt, still roam over those fertile pastures, and will do so, till steam and iron come to increase the riches of the soil, but destroy those marvelous scenes of nature.
 Related Posts: Shocking Ugliness, Stupid Hurry, and Slavish Uniformity,  All My Ghosts

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Credulity, Part One

Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum, tr. William Weaver (Harcourt, 1989), p. 49:

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us.  We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.  When I was ten, I asked my parents to subscribe to a weekly magazine that was publishing comic-strip versions of the great classics of literature.  My father, not because he was stingy, but because he was suspicious of comic strips, tried to beg off.  "The purpose of this magazine," I pontificated, quoting the ad, "is to educate the reader in an entertaining way."  "The purpose of your magazine," my father replied without looking up from his paper, "is the purpose of every magazine: to sell as many copies as it can."
That day, I began to be incredulous.
Or, rather, I regretted having been credulous.  I regretted having allowed myself to be borne away by a passion of the mind.  Such is credulity.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

All My Ghosts

A few years ago I read a poem on the blog Laudator Temporis Acti.  The poem is by August von Platen, with a translation by one Eric Sams.  Hardly a day passes for me without a thought of its lines.
Der Strom, der neben mir verrauschte, wo ist er nun?
Der Vogel, dessen Lied ich lauschte, wo ist er nun?
Wo ist die Rose, die die Freundin am Herzen trug?
Und jener Kuß, der mich berauschte, wo ist er nun?
Und jener Mensch, der ich gewesen, und den ich längst
Mit einem andern Ich vertauschte, wo ist er nun?
The river whose sound faded past me, where is it now?
The bird whose song I listened to, where is it now? 
Where is the rose that my love wore at her breast, 
And that kiss which enraptured me, where is it now? 
And that man I once was and whom I long ago 
Exchanged for another self, where is he now?
Borges tells us that 'poetry is the encounter of the reader with the book, the discovery of the book.'  In such an encounter we might glimpse our own reflection, and perhaps in our mind's eye we gaze wistfully upon some half-vanished memory or some unfulfilled intention.  And with this pang of recognition stalk the ghosts of all the men we could have been had we only chosen to be them.
But then, all our lives we postpone everything that can be postponed; perhaps we all have the certainty, deep inside, that we are immortal and that sooner or later every man will do everything, know all there is to know.  (Jorge Luis Borges, Funes, His Memory, tr. Andrew Hurley)




Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why Should Life All Labor Be?

A. E. Housman, Last Poems, XI:
Yonder see the morning blink:
  The sun is up, and up must I,
To wash and dress and eat and drink
And look at things and talk and think
  And work, and God knows why.
 
Oh often have I washed and dressed
  And what's to show for all my pain?
Let me lie abed and rest:
Ten thousand times I've done my best
  And all's to do again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In Dreams

Who can say what happens at the gates of horn and ivory, somewhere beyond the wall of sleep?  Most people dream, and most people who dream attempt to remember their dreams.  Do we do this just to complete the puzzle of the night's events?  Is it simply the pursuit of a frisson whose end comes in remembrance, no more meaningful than checking the morning headlines to learn what happened while our eyes were closed?

Literature, at least,  assigns a special role to sleep.  Spectral visitors are common in the somnolent hours--I think first of Hector's bloody ghost and the phantom in the dreams of Xerxes.  Aeneas and Xerxes recount and analyze these dreams because they are warnings and admonitions about the waking world.  But nocturnal ghosts need not be all business, and the emotional effect of a dream is perhaps an even greater incentive to those who wish to recall it.

In one of my favorite passages in Euripides, Admetus voices the desire of many a widow and widower. 

Alcestis, 354-356 (tr. Richmond Lattimore): 

                                                     You could come
to see me in my dreams and comfort me.  For they
who love find a time's sweetness in the visions of the night.

                                                 ἐν δ᾽ ὀνείρασιν
φοιτῶσά μ᾽ εὐφραίνοις ἄν: ἡδὺ γὰρ φίλους
κἀν νυκτὶ λεύσσειν, ὅντιν᾽ ἂν παρῇ χρόνον.
Dreams are a setting where one can experience joys denied by life's cruel circumstances, but always with a catch.  Admetus realizes it is only a time's sweetness before his sense of loss is renewed.  Like all outstanding experiences in life, the best dreams are bittersweet.  The most vivid and enjoyable can be a nightly Pisgah sight, whose conclusion leaves us resentful of the necessity of waking.  Seeming so real, they tempt us to believe they are another reality, another existence outside of our own.  In the daylight we reconstruct this existence only from the fleeting impressions that remain.

Borges said it well in his lecture on nightmares (Seven Nights, tr. Eliot Weinberger):
We don't know exactly what happens in dreams.  It is not impossible that, during dreams we are in heaven, we are in hell.  Perhaps we are someone, the someone whom Shakespeare called "the thing I am"; perhaps we are ourselves, perhaps we are God.  All of this we forget at waking.  We can only examine the memory of a dream, the poor memory.          

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Another Post About the Rain

It's been rain--incessant rain, all day, all night in Maryland, and the house is leaky. 
So here's a well worn snippet of Verlaine:  
Il pleure dans mon cœur
Comme il pleut sur la ville ;
Quelle est cette langueur
Qui pénètre ma maison ?
 
 

Embryon Philosophers

Sir Thomas Browne, Hydriotaphia, Urn-Burial; or A brief Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk (London: 1669) p. 22:
The particulars of future Beings must needs be dark unto ancient Theories, which Christian Philosophy yet determines but in a Cloud of Opinions.  A Dialogue between two Infants in the womb concerning the state of this world might handsomly illustrate our ignorance of the next, whereof methinks we yet discourse in Plato's Den, and are but Embryon Philosophers.
Shakespeare, Hamlet, (Act III, Scene i, 70-82):
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of dispriz'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Two Extra Notes on Burckhardt

A few more quotes from the introduction to The Greeks and Greek Civilization.

Jacob Burckhardt, ed. Oswynn Murray, trans. Sheila Stern, The Greeks and Greek Civilization (St. Martin's Griffin, 1999) p. xiii:
Politically Burckhardt was a natural conservative, who disliked and despised the new industrialization and the development of the national state: he foresaw in the course of his own lifetime the coming of an age of 'terribles simplificateurs' and demagouges, who would control the masses and bring ruin to Europe.  This pessimistic conservatism is characteristic of a reflective historian, who cultivated irony and distance form the enthusiasms of contemporary nationalist historians.  In so far as he foresaw the development of industrial society toward the totalitarian popular regimes of National Socialism and Marxism, he was of course a prophet out of his time, standing against the tide of history.
And a passage a bit farther down the page, I believe from one of Burckhardt's letters.
But, my dear friend, Freedom and the State have lost nothing in me.  States are not built with men like me; though as long as I live I mean to be kind and sympathetic to my neighbour; I mean to be a good private individual, and affectionate friend, a good spirit; I have some talent in that direction and mean to develop it.  I can do nothing more with society as a whole; my attitude towards it is willy-nilly ironical; the details are my affair...we may all perish, but at least I want to discover the interest for which I am to perish, namely the ancient culture of Europe.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shocking Ugliness, Stupid Hurry, and Slavish Uniformity

J. P. Mahaffy, Rambles & Studies in Greece, Third Edition. (MacMillan and Co., London, 1887), pp. xii-xiii:
But this is a digression into vulgar matters, when I had merely intended to inform the reader what intellectual novelties he would find in revisiting Athens.  For nothing is more slavish in modern travel than the inability the student feels, for want of time in long journeys, or want of control over his conveyance, to stop and examine something which strikes him beside his path.  And that is the main reason why Oriental -- and as yet Greek -- traveling is the best and most instructive of all traveling.  You can stop your pony or mule, you can turn aside from the track which is called your road, you are not compelled to catch a train or a steamer at a fixed moment.  When roads and rails have been brought into Greece, hundreds of people will go to see its beauty and its monuments, and will congratulate themselves that the country is at last accessible.  But the real charm will be gone.  There will be no more riding at dawn through orchards of oranges and lemons, with the rich fruit lying on the ground, and the nightingales, that will not end their long hours of song, still out singing from the deep-green gloom the sounds of opening day.  There will be no more watching the glowing east across the silver-grey glitter of dewy meadows; no more wandering along grassy slopes, where the scarlet anemones, all drenched with the draughts of night, are stringing to raise their drooping heads, and open their splendid eyes to meet the sun.  There will be no more watching the serpent and the tortoise, the eagle and the vulture, and all the living things whose ways and habits animate the sunny solitudes of the south.  The Greek people now talk of going to Europe, and coming form Europe, justly too, for Greece is still, as it always was, part of the East.  But the day is coming when enlightened politicians, like Mr. Tricoupi, will insist on introducing, through all the remotest glens, the civilisation of Europe, with all its benefits forsooth, but with all its shocking ugliness, its stupid hurry, and its slavish uniformity.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Paragons of Honesty

Herodotus,  3.72 (tr. Aubrey de Sélincourt)
If a lie is necessary, why not speak it?  We are all after the same
thing, whether we lie or speak the truth:  our own advantage.  Men lie
when they think to profit by deception, and tell the truth for the
same reason – to get something they want, and to be the better trusted
for their honesty.  It is only two different roads to the same goal.
Were there no question of advantage, the honest man would be as likely
to lie as the liar is, and the liar would tell the truth as readily as
the honest man.
George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (Harvest, 1980), pp. 230-1:
And I hope the account I have given is not too misleading.  I believe that on such an issue as this no one is or can be completely truthful.  It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, and consciously or unconsciously everyone writes as a partisan.  In case I have not said this somewhere earlier in the book I will say it now: beware of my partisanship, my mistakes of fact and the distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events.  And beware of exactly the same things when you read any other book on this period of the Spanish war.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Might Makes Wrong or Try And Stop US

As a prelude to some upcoming posts on the perversity of war, I've culled a lovely group of lines from one of today's dispatches
The strike came as Pakistani-U.S. relations are struggling since the unilateral American raid that killed bin Laden in the northwest Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. The continued missile attacks, which Pakistan officially opposes, suggests Washington considers the tactic too valuable to give up.
Though Pakistan objects to the covert, CIA-run missile program, it is believed to have aided it at times. The U.S. rarely acknowledges the program.
The two missiles hit a house Friday in Sheen Warsak village in the South Waziristan tribal area, according to two Pakistani intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
The identities of the dead were not immediately clear. Although U.S. officials insist the vast majority of victims in the strikes are militants, Pakistanis and some human rights activists have said civilians are often caught up in the attacks.
Now to mount the soapbox.

The italics in the above quote are mine, because, to be blunt, that is pretty messed up.  'Please trust our secretive, CIA-run missile program to discern the good foreign people from the bad ones when it launches unilateral missile strikes.  Oh, and if we happen to kill a few innocent folks along the way, don't worry, most of the dead people were militants.'  Whatever gets the winds to blow at Aulis...

------

Terrorism, it seems to me, is bad because it punishes innocent people for not agreeing with the beliefs of the terrorist.  These innocent people encompass those killed or wounded in an attack, as well as the populace whose psyche bears a residual imprint from the action.  I am certainly not saying that U.S. drone attacks are equivalent to the actions of a suicide bomber in a marketplace, but 'mistakes' (pardon the meiosis) like this just might have similar psychological effects on nations that already distrust us enough. 

It upsets me to see things like al-Megrahi getting a hero's welcome in Tripoli, and I don't consider myself a citizen of the Great Satan.  I understand that there are dangerous, bad people in the world who wouldn't hesitate to kill complete strangers.  I get it.  I just wish my country would exercise more tact and precision--and a lot more respect for life--in its efforts to stop them.  There are enough dead innocent people already. 

Dismount soapbox.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Best Last Exit, or I Want To Die Like Roy

Euripides, Andromache, 100-2 (tr. James Morewood)

Andromache: No mortal should be called happy
before he has died and you see how he passes
his final day and goes below.

χρὴ δ᾽ οὔποτ᾽ εἰπεῖν οὐδέν᾽ ὄλβιον βροτῶν,
πρὶν ἂν θανόντος τὴν τελευταίαν ἴδῃς
ὅπως περάσας ἡμέραν ἥξει κάτω.

The death of Roy Orbison, as recounted by Wikipedia:*
While Orbison determinedly pursued his second chance at stardom, he reacted to his success in constant surprise, confessing "It's very nice to be wanted again, but I still can't quite believe it."[86] He lost some weight to fit his new image and the constant demand of touring, as well as the newer demands of making videos. In November 1988 Mystery Girl was completed and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was rising up the charts. Orbison went to Europe where he was presented with an award and played a show in Antwerp where footage for the video for "You Got It" was filmed. He gave multiple interviews a day in a hectic schedule. A few days later a manager at a club in Boston was concerned that he looked ill, but Orbison played the show to another standing ovation.[87] Finally, exhausted, he returned to his home in Hendersonville to rest for a few days before flying again to London to film two more videos for the Traveling Wilburys. On December 6, 1988, he spent the day flying model airplanes with his sons. After having dinner at his mother's home in Tennessee, Orbison died of a heart attack.[88]
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*If this is incorrect in any way, I blame Wikipedia for being inaccurate. 
**http://kobason.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/roy-orbison.jpg