Readings: "In the Hyborean Age, We Call That Thursday"

“[Witches] sometimes collect male organs in great numbers, as many as twenty or thirty members together, and put them in a bird’s nest or shut them up in a box, where they move themselves like living members, and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many and is a matter of common report.”
(Malleus Malleficarum, 1547)
“We don’t think of ourselves as a culture in the West. We think that we somehow exist outside of time and culture. We’re the real world moving inexorably forward: Get with it or lose the train. When the truth is, we’re the anomaly. ... We think that this that this economic system or our exists out of culture, out of time, and is the inexorable wave of history when, by definition, it is simply the product of a certain set of human beings, our lineage.”
(Wade Davis)

'China will tighten its controls over foreign singers and other performers after Icelandic singer Bjork shouted "Tibet! Tibet!" at a Shanghai concert last weekend... Bjork chanted the name of the Chinese-ruled Himalayan region after performing her song "Declare Independence," which she has used in the past to promote independence movements in other places such as Kosovo.
The performance "not only broke Chinese laws and regulations and hurt the feelings of Chinese people, but also went against the professional code of an artist," the ministry said in a statement quoted by the official Xinhua news agency.'
“The awful truth, of course, is that we’re all living in a huge conspiracy, and things are so ridiculous that we barely even think about it anymore. We entered into the Iraq war under false pretenses. Our government routinely spies on its citizens both inside and outside its borders, and runs secret courts with special rules. We torture and kill civilians in other countries because we can.
“I was surprised when I met some of Seattle’s Truth groups [Believers in alternative 9-11 conspiracies] because I was confronted by smart, sincere people with lots of information about the sad state of civil liberties and corporate control in the United States, people eager to inform other people about what’s happening to our rights and using money out of their own pockets to do it. People fighting, in other words, the single biggest sin in America: laziness. ... They could do a lot better by dropping the arguments about the melting point of steel and whether or not planes actually did hit buildings. What they already have in their hands is priceless: In just a couple of years they’ve created, from nothing, a truly democratic, highly visible grassroots framework for a new kind of peace and civil rights organization that could use that concept of “civil informationing” to bring about change.
(Paul Constant in The Stranger)

“The more I read about Socrates, the less I wonder that they poisoned him.”
(Lord Macaulay)

“It will come as a surprise to many people that there are rules in politics. Most of those rules are unwritten and are based on common understandings, acceptable practices, and the best interest of the political party a candidate seeks to lead. One of those rules is this: Do not provide ammunition to the opposition party that can be used to destroy your party's nominee. This is a hyper-truth where the presidential contest is concerned.
“By saying that only she and John McCain are qualified to lead the country, particularly in times of crisis, Hillary Clinton has broken that rule, severely damaged the Democratic candidate who may well be the party's nominee, and, perhaps most ominously, revealed the unlimited lengths to which she will go to achieve power. She has essentially said that the Democratic party deserves to lose unless it nominates her.
(Gary Hart)
“I'm not really a horror reader. I don't really love roller coasters and things that make me queasy, and I particularly dislike gore. ... But—you knew there was a "but" coming—I've always had a weakness for ghost stories. I'm not sure why; something about the attenuated cry of the long dead, something about the loss, and the possibility of justice, or at least the emergence of truth, strikes a chord in me. There's something ineluctably human about ghosts.”
(Michelle West)
“In Buckley’s world, gifts of intellect and power were to be used as bludgeons against the less gifted and powerless. For all his cunning charm, Buckley’s was a cynical view of the human condition, its practicality based on the commonest greed and fear. Alas, few truly rigorous minds ever had the chance to take on Buckley in public, though he was ultimately oblivious to argument. Still I wonder if he ever regretted that his intellectual defense of selfishness became the mindless thuggery of the current conservative movement?”
(blog comment by Ric Williams)
“Germany, Japan, and the USSR were modern industrial nation-states that posed direct, tangible, and sustainable military threats to the survival of the United States. The Islamofascist enemy is a specious conjuring of the neoconservatives that does not exist. The Islamist threat personified and led by Osama bin Laden is a direct, tangible, and enduring national-security threat to the United States, but it does not now amount to a world war, and it will not unless the neoconservatives continue to hold sway. We are fighting a war with the Islamists that is ours to lose, and at the moment we are successfully losing it because President Bush and 17 of the 19 individuals in the current crop of presidential candidates buy Podhoretz's lethal lie that the Islamists are "the latest mutation of the totalitarian threat to our civilization" and are, "like the Nazis and the Communists before them … dedicated to the destruction of the freedoms we cherish and for which Americans stand." Actually, America's war with the bin Laden-led Islamists is fueled by the impact of U.S. and Western interventionist foreign policies in the Islamic world, not, as Podhoretz claims, by "our virtues as a free and prosperous country." To the extent that America combines reduced interventionism with military action against genuine threats, we will defeat the Islamists. The increased interventionism of Podhoretz and his coterie will lead to endless war abroad and eventually between Muslim Americans and their countrymen at home – and America's defeat.”
(Michael Scheurer)
“So fuck the Street, Ben Bernanke; just this once, just for, like, a quarter or something. You don't have to play rough; I'm not asking you to nationalize any industries or institute land reform or anything, just give them a little scare. They chose this path, you know. They chose to worship Ayn Rand and wear those Paul Smith shirts and pay zero money down on their Hamptons summer homes and obnoxiously, whenever confronted by someone like myself at a bar, claim that the Market Solves Everything. Let the market solve this one for them.”
( posted by “Moe” on
Honesty feels heady right now. For seven years, we have lived with the arid, us-against-them formulas of Bush’s menial mind, with the result that the nuanced exploration of America’s hardest subject is almost giddying. Can it be that a human being, like Wright, or like Obama’s grandmother, is actually inhabited by ambiguities? Can an inquiring mind actually explore the half-shades of truth?
Yes. It. Can. The unimaginable South African transition that Nelson Mandela made possible is a reminder that leadership matters. Words matter. The clamoring now in the United States for a presidency that uplifts rather than demeans is a reflection of the intellectual desert of the Bush years.
Hillary Clinton said in January that: “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.” Wrong. America’s had its fill of the prosaic.
The unthinkable can come to pass. When I was a teenager, my relatives advised me to enjoy the swimming pools of Johannesburg because “next year they will be red with blood.”
But the inevitable bloodbath never came. Mandela walked out of prison and sought reconciliation, not revenge. Later Mandela would say: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
(Roger Cohen, “Beyond America’s Original Sin”)
“...Conan has sex with a ghost, chops up a couple dozen mummies, and then stabs a wizard who is riding a giant red eagle and summoning Lovecraftian horrors. Back in the Hyborean age, that was pretty much just called “Thursday.””
(Chris’ Invincible Super Blog)

Dave Stevens, 1955-2008

Dave Stevens was a wonderful artist whose influence exceeded his output, a meticulous technician who would draw and redraw (I am told by my friend Wayne) every panel until he had it right. The man had chops. I don't think I'm exagerrating to say that at least two generations of artists took his example to go back and put in the hours to learn technique. The retro-illustrations for his comic The Rocketeer -- never more than a couple of issues ever produced, because of the time he put into it-- were pored over by amateur artists. Dave Stevens taught us that it wasn't just an older generation of illustrators who possessed alchemical tricks of technique, that someone in our debased age could rediscover and surpass the illustrators of the past. I still have my tattered copy of the first Rocketeer, look over it in admiration at least once a year, and pinned on the bulletin board is a cover saved from the Jonny Quest comic "Jade, Inc."-- glamor! adventure! pluck! that sums up everything I loved about those characters.

Before anyone had ever heard of him, long before the leukemia that killed him, Dave Stevens did a wonderful thing for the scales of cosmic justice. His photo reference for those early comics was an obscure, almost forgotten pin-up girl of the 1950s named Bettie Page. Stevens' success with the image of Bettie led to his discovery that she was still alive and nearby. It was Dave Stevens who tracked her down in gratitude and curiosity-- did she know that there were fans and artists who still traded her likeness and spoke of her with affection? He protected her desire for privacy and became a surrogate grandson to Bettie Page, driving her to church and to the movies or dinner once a week.

Stevens' art brought the case of Bettie Page to the attention of Hugh Hefner, who had made a fortune from her in the Fifties, and who now, just as discreetly, arranged for lawyers to get Bettie Page some royalties for all the old Irving Klaw and Bunny Yeager photos and the thousands of Bettie images out there and her ongoing cult following. There are worse things to do with your life than to make the world a little bit safer for beauty and sweetness.

"It doesn't explain or justify. It just seems to remind me of how things are.
Picture a very swift torrent, a river rushing down between rocky walls. There is a long, shallow bar of sand and gravel that runs right down the middle of the river. It is under water. You are born and have to stand on that narrow, submerged bar, where everyone stands. The ones born before you, the ones older than you are, are upriver from you. The younger ones stand braced on the bar downriver. And the whole long bar is slowly moving down that river of time, washing away at the upstream end, and building up downstream.
"Your time, the lives of all your contemporaries, schoolmates, your loves and your adversaries, is that part of the shifting bar on which you stand. And it is crowded at first. You can see the way it thins out, upstream from you. The old ones are washed away and their bodies go swiftly by, like logs in the current. Downstream where the younger ones stand thick, you can see them flounder, lose footing, wash away. Always there is more room where you stand, but always the swift water grows deeper, and you feel the shift of the sand and the gravel under your feet, as the river wears it away. Someone looking for a safer place can nudge you off balance, and you are gone. Someone who has stood beside you for a long time gives a forlorn cry and you reach to catch their hand, but the fingertips slide away, and they are gone. There are the sounds in the rocky gorge, the roar of the water, the shifting, gritty sound of sand and gravel underfoot, the forlorn cries of despair as the nearby ones, and the ones upstream, are taken by the current. Far downstream from you are the thin, startled cries of the ones who never got planted, never got set, never quite understood the message of the torrent. Some old ones who stand on a good place, well braced, understanding currents and balance, last a long time. A Churchill, fat cigar atilt, sourly amused at his own endurance, and, in the end, indifferent to rivers and the rage of waters."

-- John D. MacDonald, "Pale Grey for Guilt"

Commonplace Book: Quotations

“The more extraordinary the story the more ordinary the drunk.”
(old AA saying)
“One of my favorite concepts in anthropology is that of the polite fiction. It's something nobody believes, but we all pretend to because it makes life so much easier. My favorite example was of a Pygmy couple. Pygmy divorce involves quite literally breaking up the home: the couple tears apart their house (it's easy - the houses are made of leaves) and once it's down, the union is dissolved. One anthropologist was watching a long-married couple have a fight. It escalated until the wife threatened to leave, and the husband yelled something along the lines of ‘Fine!’ and there was nothing the wife could do but start tearing down the house. She began tearing the roof off, clearly miserable. The husband looked wretched too, but at this point neither could back down without losing face and by now the whole village was watching.
Finally, the husband called out the Pygmy equivalent of ‘You're right, honey! The roof is dirty! It'll look much better once we get those leaves washed!’ The two of them started carrying leaves down to the river, soon with the help of the whole village, and then washed and rebuilt the whole roof. When the anthropologist later discreetly asked how often one washes the roof, everyone looked at him like he was a complete doofus.”
(Ali Davis, True Porn Clerk Stories)
“This is an important sophisticated argument. It doesn't help to point at the amputees and say how terrible it is."
(British Tory Peter Viggers, speaking against a ban on land mines)
“In contrast to Winston Churchill — another son with a famous father, who managed to free himself psychologically and politically from the shadow of his parent, learning from his elder’s mistakes without being governed by the need to rebel programmatically — the younger Mr. Bush, according to Mr. Weisberg, “played out his family drama in a way that had devastating consequences for his family, his country and the world.”
-- NYT review of The Bush Tragedy by Jacob Weisberg

Will Elder, The Shadow, Mad Magazine, 1950s
“The point of Obama's candidacy is that the damaged state of American democracy is not the fault of George W. Bush and his minions, the corporate-controlled media, the insurance industry, the oil industry, lobbyists, terrorists, illegal immigrants or Satan. The point is that this mess is our fault. We let in the serpents and liars, we exchanged shining ideals for a handful of nails and some two-by-fours, and we did it by resorting to the simplest, deepest-seated and readiest method we possess as human beings for trying to make sense of the world: through our fear.”
(Michael Chabon)
“The Clintons... and yes, I think it's fair to refer to the plural... have ridden their centrist, sellout, fundie-crooked-accomodationist pony right into the ground. They've controlled the Democratic agenda and enabled the most egregious GOP crap. They are emblematic of a Congress that's done little to repudiate George Bush. ... The Clintons are admitted hawks, they're prudes, and they're absolutely quaint on issues like continuing the embargo on Cuba. Someone needs to surgically remove the Cold War out of their ass. They take advantage of liberals hoping that they are more "cool" in their private lives than they are in their public ones. Who cares? I don't want to "have a beer" with them; I'd rather they show their social justice colors in their public policy.”
(Susie Bright)

Miss Sylvia, daughter of Tim and Staci

Mark Twain's Rules for Funeral Etiquette

Do not criticize the person in whose honor the entertainment is given.

Make no remarks about his equipment. If the handles are plated, it is best to seem to not observe it.

If the odor of the flowers is too oppressive for your comfort, remember that they were not brought there for you, and that the person for whom they were brought suffers no inconvenience from their presence.

Listen, with as intense an expression of attention as you can command, to the official statement of the character and history of the person in whose honor the entertainment is given; and if these statistics should seem to fail to tally with the facts, in places, do not nudge your neighbor, or press your foot upon his toes, or manifest, by any other sign, your awareness that taffy is being distributed.

If the official hopes expressed concerning the person in whose honor the entertainment is given are known by you to be oversized, let it pass -- do not interrupt.

At the moving passages, be moved -- but only according to the degree of your intimacy with the parties giving the entertainment, or with the party in whose honor the entertainment is given. Where a blood relation sobs, an intimate friend should choke up, a distant acquaintance should sigh, a stranger should merely fumble sympathetically with his handkerchief. Where the occasion is military, the emotions should be graded according to military rank, the highest officer present taking precedence in emotional violence, and the rest modifying their feelings according to their position in the service.

Do not bring your dog.