Monday, 24 July 2017

The Today and Every Day Programme

Despairing of history, I began to think of the strange situation in which nearly all of us find ourselves - mere persons of good faith and good will, involved from birth in an inexplicable politico-historical drama. Not one of us, by means of what he can observe in the sphere of his own experience, can put together and reconstruct the law of the political universe in which he finds himself. Even those who are best educated and best situated must think, as they recall what they know and compare it with what they see, that their knowledge only obscures the immediate political problem, which consists after all in determining the relations of one man with the mass of men he does not know. Anyone who is honest with himself and dislikes speculating on subjects that are not rationally related to his own experience, can hardly open his newspaper without plunging into a disorderly metaphysical world. What he reads, what he hears, curiously transcends what he observes or might observe. The sum of his impressions would be: No politics without myths.

Paul Valéry, "Foreword" 1931, from "The Outlook for Intelligence" 1989 p11.

El sueño de la razón is the wrong illustration from the wrong era.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Footnotes Wanted

[50] The nature of the plague, as an occurrence beyond all accounting, not only in other respects affected each person more harshly than is humanly bearable but also showed itself in the following way above all to be something completely different from the familiar diseases: all the birds and animals that feed on man either did not approach, even though there were many unburied, or died if they tasted them. And as proof: the absence of birds of this type was unmistakable, and they were seen neither elsewhere nor in this context; dogs, on the other hand, made it more possible to notice the results because they live with men.

"All the birds": the argument is not quite clear; apparently Thucydides means the corpses were toxic enough to kill scavengers, which could be more directly observed of dogs, and inferred of birds by their absence - in which case it is strange that none were seen "in this context," i.e., eating the dead.

[51] The plague, then - to omit many other peculiarities in the way it happened to occur somewhat differently for one person compared with another - was like this in overall character. And during this time none of the usual diseases troubled them, or even if any did it ended in this. Some died in neglect, others, when they had been given a great deal of attention. And no single cure was established, practically speaking, whose application could bring relief; for what had helped one person actually harmed someone else.

"No single cure": It is remarkable that no single cure is described here.

Thucydides The Pelopponesian War Book Two, trans S Lattimore (1998), p99

For myself, I am not quite clear why the argument in [50] is not quite clear or what is strange about a precise claim that Thucydides does not seem anyway to be making; nor why it is remarkable that not one cure is described here when all have variously failed.

But that is one of the joys of a really first-rate edition [insert plug for Hackett Classics ed]: footnotes at the foot of the page which demand footnotes.

Monday, 29 May 2017

The King of Mercia


The mad are predators. Too often lately they harbour
       against us. A novel heresy exculpates all maimed
       souls. Abjure it! I am the King of Mercia, and
       I know.

Theatened by phone-calls at midnight, venemout let-
       ters, forewarned I have thwarted their imminent

Today I name them; tomorrow I shall express the new
       law. I dedicate my awakening to this matter.

Geoffrey Hill, Mercian Hymns (1971)

Now that's my kind of King of Mercia.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Get Used To It

I can't even say we're getting dangerously close to fascism, because... We're there.
Thus one Gregory Locke, confirming the stereotype of Americans as the sort who, for instance, supported the invasion of Iraq because they thought it was a bad place just off Florida and thus a direct threat to the citizens of Knucklehead GA.

Are these shit-for-brains too ignorant to be even faintly aware of the possibility of their own ignorance?

Readers: Yes.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Shite Shock

Unlike your average eruption, tornado or all-out nuclear war, the Trumpy McHitlerBrexitface tsunami'o'effluent shows no signs of abating.

I have given up thinking for instance "another BBC news story? well, that'll be another sluicing of slurry; better find out what, if anything, is really at the bottom lol of this."

Now seems a good time to take up the sousaphone.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!


Hope you're all making the most of the last day or two of Saturnalia but saving a libation for Sol Invictus on the 25th.

May Marduk tame all but your entertaining monsters.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

It's the End of the World. Again.

Yes indeedy doody, the end of the world... at least according to one A. Chakrabortty writing in the Guardian on Friday.

Tim Worstall restricts himself to pointing out that Wolfgang Streeck, the subject of the piece, is an (economic) sociologist, not - as claimed -  a (political) economist.

But I think it is much shittier than that. AC is visiting a Caravaggio exhibition with WS on the morning of Trump's election, indeed an apocalyptic moment as any wag and many a Hillarista will tell you, if they haven't already

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:52

You don’t merely look at a Caravaggio; you square up to one
At a scene of cardsharps he [WS] exclaims, “Feel the decadence! The threat of violence!” He notes how many paintings date from just before the thirty years’ war: “They’re full of the anticipation that the world is about to fall apart.”
Caravaggio started his apprenticeship in 1584 and died in 1610, so in fact all of his paintings inevitably date from between 34 and 8 years before the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War in 1618. He was an Italian working in Italy. How his work might relate to events in Hungary, Bohemia, Saxony &c eight years after his death is a mystery to me.

I might note that the world did not fall apart in 1618, observe that WS and AC are not art historians or any sort of historians at all, and suggest that AC furthermore appears bereft of anything resembling common sense or honesty.

This summer, Britons mutinied against their government, their experts and the EU – and consigned themselves to a poorer, angrier future. Such frenzies of collective self-harm were explained by Streeck in the [book you're all crying out to read]
Mutinied! Against their Government (who were unanimous in their opposition to any referendum on EU membership or the possibility of Brexit)! Their experts (who are always and undisputedly right)! And against.........................omfg...................... the EU!

I am not a Guardian reader, having no appreciation of the art of the post-truth, post-fact, post-reality newspaper hack. I doubt, on this showing, the mental capacity of those who are and do.