Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fortune favours fools



September is ending.

1. All potatoes are digged up.

2. Fortune favours fools, or as a German saying goes, "The most stupid farmer would get the biggest potatoes.

3. Sometimes a saying can be a great comfort.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Impossible Fact

Tonight my closest friend out of the blue declaimed following poem.

To me it sounds like a variation of a poem by Christian Morgenstern,

But Tetrapilotomos claims it is by "a certain" McSeanagall.


The Impossible Fact

Usmanoff, rich, an aimful rover,
walking in the wrong direction
at a busy intersection
is run over.

"How," he says, his mood restoring
but without his wrath ignoring,
"can an accident like this
ever happen? What's amiss?

"Did the world's administration
fail in free speech's deprivation?
Did police ignore the need
for reducing bloggers' speed?

"Isn't there a prohibition,
barring internet transmission
of a mighty to a wight?
Were the nasty bloggers right?"

Tightly swathed in dampened tissues
he explores the legal issues,
and his shillings soon make clear:
Free speech not permitted here!

And he comes to the conclusion:
His mishap was an illusion,
for, he reasons pointedly,
that which must not, can not be.
[McSeanagall]


The (English version of) the Original (?)

The Impossible Fact

Palmstroem, old, an aimless rover,
walking in the wrong direction
at a busy intersection
is run over.

"How," he says, his life restoring
and with pluck his death ignoring,
"can an accident like this
ever happen? What's amiss?

"Did the state administration
fail in motor transportation?
Did police ignore the need
for reducing driving speed?

"Isn't there a prohibition,
barring motorized transmission
of the living to the dead?
Was the driver right who sped ... ?"

Tightly swathed in dampened tissues
he explores the legal issues,
and it soon is clear as air:
Cars were not permitted there!

And he comes to the conclusion:
His mishap was an illusion,
for, he reasons pointedly,
that which must not, can not be.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Audiatur et altera pars

Yesterday night I had an interesting conversation with my closest friend which I want to share with you.
Confess, I am still a little puzzled. Here we go.


Tetrapilotomos?

Hm.

Busy with pre Aztecan philately?

No. Translating Post Eastern Bloc fairy tales into Latin.

Interesting. Your latest five words, so far?

. . . Cloaca Maxima. Pecunia non olet .

Never?

Try these paltry shillings.

Hm, indeed. Can’t smell anything.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

What is your current fairy tale’s title, and what is the tale about?

The poor prisoner who became a billionaire and . . . or well, to cut it short: It’s about organized crime, its increasing threat and influence on people's daily life, and about that the majority of common people - rather than caring about their freedom - are interested in panem et circenses.

Interesting coincidence. Did you read this?

Yes, and most links; and the links to the links.

And? Alarming, isn’t it?

Yes, according to my informant, her source assures the story is stinking to heaven.

Any details? What would your informant's source tell?

For the beginning, some rhetoric questions. Would Mr Putin closely associate with Mr. Usmanov, if he were not a true democrat?

Hm.

Doesn't speak for his virtues when a humble, innocent ex-prisoner being released, before you could spell bandit becomes a billionaire?

Hm.

Can an art lover be wicked?

Hm.

Would the owner of newspapers promote censorship?

Hm.

Didn't Mr Usmanov become President of the European Fencing Confederation, last not least because in his programm he proposed 'improvement and democratization'?

Hm. To be honest, I did not ask myself any of these questions before.

I thought so. According to my informant, his source moreover assures Mr Usmanov is a lover of the poor.

Of course, otherwise he would not be a billionaire.

No irony, please. And he loves Arse . . .

Bandits would not be his friends?

Not as far as according to my informant her source would tell.

Her source, his source, her source! Is your informant a he or a she?

No comment. Informant protection. Forgotten the good old codex?

Hm. Sorry for interrupting.

You are welcome.

May I humbly add one question?

This is still a free country.

Why would Mr Usmanov wash, eh ... spend his pocket money in England. Why would'nt he try to win the Champion's League with a Club like Gazprom Tashkent?

Interesting question. I shall forward it to my informant who will forward it to her source who ...

. . . will personally ask Mr Usmanov? After all, he seems to be a jolly good fellow who would do no harm to anybody.

Hm.

Tetrapilotomos! What's the matter? Where have your thoughts been?

I was thinking about Mr Usmanov's wife and rhythmic gymnastics, and suddenly . . . or well: And the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig again, but already . . . and then: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


There would not be many people being able to follow the wondrous paths of your thoughts, Tetrapilotomos. Apropos "diet": Has your informant's source ever met Mr. Usmanov?

According to my informant's information, yes.

Her or his source is absolutely trustworthy, and would never tell a lie?

According to my informant's information: Yes.

What did he or she say about Mr. Usmanov's outside appearance?

A true asketic. Compared to him Twiggy was Miss Piggy.

And I came to the conclusion:
All I read was an illusion,
for to reason pointedly:
what must not, that can not be.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Merci, Monsieur Marceau

In autumn 1986 he gave me about an hour of his life. We talked about Auschwitz and love, about language and absolution, about Chaplin and apartheid, about poetry, Picasso and power, about resistance and reconciliation, about . . .

At one point he said: Shshsh, and now let's five minutes talk without words.

Magic? Eyes talking. No ears needed. Silence. Thoughts flowing, waving. Question and answer dancing. Dreams. Understanding? Yes. It is possible. Magic!

May the one and the other think I am (too) sentimental: Afterwards I felt these had been very special moments in my life. I had personally met a wonderful wise human being.

So, what could I say about this poet who did not need words?

With the implicit understanding that James will take it as what it is thought to be - a compliment for his wonderful idea - I do ask you to visit him at nourishing obscurity:

There you will find all the words which right now don't come easy to me.

. . .

. . .




Saturday, September 22, 2007

The importance of being E(a)rnest II

New chapter in the most thrilling case Ernest Chambers vs. God.

In a letter signed "God" the accused invokes immunity from "some earthly laws".

Read more here.

My closest friend says he feels reminded of certain human mass murders who would not accept the International Criminal Court by choosing almost the same reasons.
But he says also that he is sure Mr Chambers will insist on the defendant's appearance in person. "And he will focus on the tiny word some, argue that immunity from some earthly laws implicates that for some earthly laws the defendant does not invoke immunity."

Obviously to be continued.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another Lip Service Day (for Peace)

As said, today is another Lip Service Day: The so-called International Day of Peace.

What's about Famine-Day?

Or will all the actions fill but one little stomach? Today? Right now? The stomach of any child soundless whining at its mother's breast which has no milk?

What is yoga as peace in action but naively acting for the sake of acting?

Peace Day? Or just another day for wheeling and dealing?

Pay Day?

Did you already order the Better World Shopping Guide?
Its FREE ... ehem . . . With your tax deductible donation of $20

Or the better world HANDBOOK?
It's even a bit freer . . . With your tax deductible donation of $50

- - -

Ah, perhaps today I am a little unfair with some nonprofit organisations.

Therefore: only those feeling blamed and insulted by what I wrote above ... only those are meant.

And now for something not completely different.

Today's Peace Day reminds me of the first poem in many many years that I spontaneously wrote in February 2003, when heinous warmongers pulled the strings and let their illiterate puppet threaten the "alliance of the unwilling" by saying "You're either with us, or against us."

New World Order

Those

pleading for peace
without diplomacy
are being taught:
You are an enemy.

- - -

According to Tetrapilotomos the puppet, which barefaced claimed to be a "peaceloving person" could have also declared: "Peace is not of vital interest to my masters. God bless me ... eh, them."

"To tell the truth", Tetrapilotomos went on, "I'd rather prefer that one day will be said about these and other masters, their puppets and other useful idiots, what in 1588 was a dictum in England: 'God blew his breath, and they were scattered.' Of course, absolute peacefully, and it needn't be a celestial being; a tiny little butterfly in the Amazonian rainforest would do."

Much ado about doing not much

Coincidence?

Yesterday, I quoted my closest friend, Tetrapilotomos:

"Sometimes I think: Past is. Is presence. Impossible to let bygones be bygones or even forget about. It’s there. Is presence. And maybe herein lies the reason that we remain unable to learn from the past."

What I had not been aware: Yesterday was so-called Children's Day. In Germany.

At night I read one of these BBC-Listeners from 1959, which - to my great delight - I had only recently rediscovered in a "forgotten" box.

And I found this advert.

Yes. Past is. Is presence. Nothing changed.

Why?

It is not due to any existing or not existing God's will. It is a - perhaps ... probably the infamy of mankind.

And today is another Lip Service Day . . .

And tomorrow . . .

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nazim Hikmet had a dream

Nazim Hikmet had a dream:

Yaşamak bir ağaç gibi tek ve hür
ve bir orman gibi kardeşçesine,
bu hasret bizim.

To live like a tree and at liberty
and brotherly like the trees of a forest,
this yearning is ours.

- - -

Thus spake my closest friend, Tetrapilotomos:
"Sometimes I think: Past is. Is presence. Impossible to let bygones be bygones or even forget about. It’s there. Is presence. And maybe herein lies the reason that we remain unable to learn from the past."

- - -

The following poem by Hikmet is dedicated, especially to those being in power in Turkey, pretending to love the(ir?) country, pretending to be the most democratic democrats ever on Turkish soil and under Turkish sun, pretending to be guarantors of free speech and guardians of freedom of opinion, and who - like most of their predecessors - have banned Nazim Hikmet’s books from public libraries.

I LOVE MY COUNTRY

I love my country :
I have swung on its plane trees, I have stayed in its prisons.
Nothing can overcome my spleen
as the songs and tobacco of my country.

My country :
Bedreddin, Sinan, Yunus Emre and Sakarya,
lead domes and factory chimneys
are all the work of my people
who even hiding from themselves
smile under their drooping mustaches.

My country.
My country is so large :
it seems that it is endless to go around.
Edirné, Izmir, Ulukıshla, Marash, Trabzon, Erzurum.
I know the Erzurum plateau only in its songs
and I am ashamed
not to have crossed Tauruses even once
to go to the cotton pickers
in the south.

My country :
camels, train, Fords and sick donkeys,
poplar
willow
and red earth.

My country.
The trout which likes
pine forests, best freshwaters and the lakes
at the top of mountains,
and at least half a kilo,
with red reflections on its scaleless, silver skin
swims in the Abant lake of Bolu.

My country :
goats on the Ankara plain :
the sheen of blond, silky, long furs.
The fat plump hazelnuts of Giresun.
The fragrant red-cheeked apples of Amasya,
olive
fig
melon
and of all colours
bunches and bunches of grapes
and then the plough
and then the black ox
and then : ready to accept
everything
advanced, beautiful and good
with the joyous admiration of a child
my hard-working, honest, brave people
half hungry, half full
half slave...

tr. by Fuat Engin

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Importance of being E(a)rnest

Mr Ernest W. Chambers once again proves the importance of his being: The 70-year-old Senator of Nebraska (U.S.A.) sues God.

My closest friend Tetrapilotomos first reaction: "I am relieved Mr Chambers did not sue God's wife, too. The more I am looking forward to the trial. It would be interesting to see how Mrs. God manages the earthly affairs, while her husband is living behind bars in his own country."

A Listener for Readers

Tonight I shall have a nice drop of wine on the 299th anniversary of Samuel Johnson's birth.

And I do feel glad having a "treasure" to share with connoisseurs of the English language. The following article was published in the BBC's Weekly,

The Listener, September 24, 1959, Vol. LXII. No. 1591

Enjoy reading.

Dr. Samuel Johnson after 250 Years

Ian Watt on the literature of experience


We can hardly talk about literature without using the standard oppositions between art and life, form and meaning, imagination and experience. But these antitheses are obviously misleading in many ways; one way is to make us think so highly of ‘art’, ‘form’ and ‘imagination’ that we undervalue the many kinds of writing whose main qualities are not peculiar to literature, writing whose matter is so close to common experience that we do not think of it as imaginative, and whose manner is so much that of ordinary human discourse that it hardly occurs to us to discuss its literary form. The distinction between the world of art and of life becomes irrelevant in extreme cases of this kind of writing, because both their subject-matter and their mode of communication are common to both: such, for example, are the diary, the letter, the memoir, the prayer; and sometimes these modes of expression attain a measure of performance, and thus enter the vast category of writing to which one can give the name of experience. The greatest English writer whose work belongs mainly to this category is Samuel Johnson.


When, fifty years ago, Walter Raleigh celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of Johnson’s birth, the terms of his eulogy illustrated one way in which the antithesis between life and arttends to be unfair to the literature of experience: ‘Johnson’, he asserted ‘was an author almost by accident; it is the man who is dear to us’.

The question is whether the man is not dear to us mainly through the greatness of the author; and it cannot be said that the question, though much debated, has yet been resolved. Raleigh certainly did much to end the relative decline in Johnson's reputation which set in soon after his death, and to suggest the main directions which subsequent interest in Johnson was to take; but whereas the general tendency of thought in the last fifty years has confirmed and amplified Raleigh's admiration of the man, it seems to have made it even more difficult to come to terms with the greatness of the author.

Modern trends in the Interpretation of Johnson the man are not easy to summarize. Johnson's contemporary, George III, allegedly never discovered how the apple got inside the apple-dumpling; perhaps one can say that new knowledge and new insights have enabled us to uncover in Johnson, beneath the portentous crust of the intimidating portraits, the polysyllabic prose, and the oracular clubman presented by Boswell, a human being who belongs to the world of our own ordinary pleasures and interests and perplexities more completely than any other writer.

Both the difficulties of Johnson's life and the magnitude of his triumph over them were of exceptional proportions. From childhood on he suffered from the King’s Evil, a tuberculous infection that scarred his face and left him with one eye almost blind; he grew up in an unhappy home which offered little prospect for the future beyond his father’s declining bookshop; he was afflicted with an uncontrollable constitutional nervousness which made him mutter to himself and twitch convulsively; and by the age of nineteen he knew that at any moment what he called, his ‘vile melancholy’ was likely to develop into complete and per­manent madness. Then came the brief days at Oxford of the angry young man from the provinces: his contemporaries remembered him as gay, but he knew well enough that ‘it was bitterness which they mistook for frolic’.

All this side of the biography, hardly touched on by Boswell, has now been painstakingly filled out by many scholars, and its psychological implications interpreted. Their work makes clear the considerable role which the modern climate of thought, and especially Freud, has played in increasing our understanding of the courage and re-source with which Johnson warded off the menace of insanity. In Johnson Agonistes, as Bertrand Bronson has called him in a now classic study, we recognize and salute one of the great heroes of the wars of the mind.

Other changes in outlook have increased our sympathetic under­standing of Johnson’s attitude to life. The Whig view of history, for example, has been sufficiently challenged for us to recognize that there was considerable basis for Johnson’s Tory anathemas on the social and political tendencies of his time; while the main events of the twentieth Century have vindicated Johnson's pronouncement that ‘the history of mankind is little else than a narration of designs that have failed and hopes that have been disappointed’.

Johnson’s political pessimism was based on his acute under­standing of the darker elements in human nature. He could hardly assent to the doctrine of progress when he was convinced that ‘there may be community of material possessions, but there can never be community of love and esteem’; and the whole liberal conception of the democratic pursuit of happiness inevitably seemed unreal to someone who, when asked if he really believed that ‘a man was not sometimes happy in the moment that was present’, answered: ‘ Never, but when he is drunk’.

Johnson's psychological pessimism - or realism, if you like - enabled him to achieve a posthumous topicality in many other ways. He was, for example, the supreme exponent of One-Upman-ship; and Boswell's Life is, among other things, a record of the vigour and variety of his tactics: witness, for example, Johnson's rejection of Boswell's offer to tell him all about Allan Ramsay’s pastoral drama The Gentle Shepherd. ‘No, Sir, I won't learn it. You shall retain your superiority by my not knowing it’.

Johnson, then, had as keen an awareness of the corruptions of pride and envy as La Rochefoucauld. But he was also, fortunately, aware of much else. His great capacity for cheerfulness kept breaking in on his conviction of human inadequacy; and this, combined with his naturally impetuous and insubordinate nature, did much to qualify the toryism which is the usual result of a pressing sense of man's weakness, greed, and irrationality. Johnson strongly opposed the ‘prevailing spirit’ of his time, which he defined as ‘a dislike of all established forms, merely because they are established’; but if his view that ' the cure for the greatest part of human miseries is not radical but palliative' made him oppose anything in the nature of radical reform, it did not turn him into a complacent sup­porter of the status quo. He never forgot the need for ‘palliatives’ and his belief that ‘a decent pro-vision for the poor is the true test of a civilization’ might well have led him to welcome the Welfare State.

Johnson’s philosophical, psy­chological, and political views, then, have become much more congenial to us than they were to the nineteenth Century; our general mistrust of theory makes us welcome Johnson’s famous attacks on “the cant of those who judge by principles rather than perception’, while our residual liberalism is satisfied by Johnson’s eloquent departure from his own precept when he enunciated one sovereign principle of judgment: ‘I am always afraid of determining on the side of envy or cruelty’.

But it may be felt that all this is beside the point; that we can, no doubt - following our personal tastes - applaud Johnson the High Churchman or Johnson the gormandizer, John­son the patriot or Johnson the punster; but that the only important question is not whether the Great Cham was a great chap, or even the brightest Ornament in the casebooks of self-psychotherapy, but, simply, whether he was a great writer. The answer, simply, is yes. But the case is difficult to argue, especially in the present critical climate.

For one thing, Raleigh was in a sense right when he said Johnson ‘was an author almost by accident’. In the days of his fame, when someone complimented Johnson on his legal knowledge and remarked that he might have become Lord Chancellor if he had chosen the law as a career, Johnson was much distressed, and answered: ‘Why will you vex me by suggesting this when it is too late?’ Most of his published works were commissioned - from the first of them, a translation for a provincial bookseller, to his greatest literary achievements, the Dictionary and the Lives of the Poets. Johnson is perhaps the supreme example of a great writer with very little sense of a specifically literary vocation. This, however, may not be as disabling as it sounds. For two reasons: first, the notion of the literary vocation as something special and set apart is not necessarily the best one, and is certainly relatively new historically; and, secondly, Johnson had his own conception of his role which, though contrary to some more recent ones, was perfectly adapted to his own particular literary powers. Soon after Johnson's death the Romantics established their image of the writer as a lonely genius exploring strange seas of thought and feeling; and today this conception retains much of its power. With this stereotype goes a conception of literature as an equally special and separate kind of expression; and this idea, which is strongly supported by symbolist and formalist doctrines, has only recently been widely challenged in favour of a more literal an rational outlook.

Johnson’s idea of literature, and of the role of the writer, was certainly not in the role of tradition begun by the Romantics. If he thought of himself as an 'artist', it was in its eighteenth-century sense of a skilled craftsman; and his conception of how he should use his craft laid primary emphasis on his kinship with his fellow human beings: ‘The only end of writing’ was 'to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it’. So Johnson’s best early works in verse - London and The Vanity of Human Wishes, and in prose the Rambler papers - were moral essays, discursive modes of writing which were, as he put it, eminently adapted to ‘the propagation of truth’ and ‘the dignity of virtue’. Their manner was primarily rational and expository; Johnson insisted on the virtues of what he called ‘dogged veracity’. His psychological need to control ‘the hunger of the imagination which preys upon itself’ made him rather uneasy in the presence of fanciful and the fictional; and it is typical of him that the best parts of his quasi-novel Rasselas could easily be essay from the Rambler.


Potential and Achievement

This literal and didactic tendency, so out of keeping with recent literary fashion, was undoubtedly an important cause of what has been widely felt as a discrepancy between Johnson’s potential and his actual literary achievement. The Vanity of Human Wishes is one of the supreme poems of the Century, but Johnson obviously fell short of the bulk which is necessary to major poetic status; partly because his sense of moral and religious responsibility was so intense that it did not lend itself easily to poetry - he considered religion ‘the great, the necessary, the inevitable business of human life’, but he also held that ‘contemplative piety, or the intercourse between God and the human soul cannot be poetical’. On the other hand., unlike Boswell, he had little interest in the commonest outlet for the literal and realist habit of mind - self-expression; so it is not surprising that the bulk of Johnson’s writings are of a miscellaneous and occasional kind.

Few of us would deny Sir James Murrav’s estimate that in Johnson’s hands the dictionary ‘became a department of literature’; nor would we dissent from Logan Pearsall Smith’s expert appraisal of Johnson as our supreme aphorist: but we hardly know how to rank these two genres in th e literary hierarchy. We like wit and brevity and analytic power, but the definition and the aphorism seem much too short-winded and discontinuous to rank as major literary creations; and both are essentially occa­sional - supremely so in the Dictionary, where every word was a new and unavoidable challenge.

To no one else, surely, can we better apply Johnson’s own definition: ‘True genius is a mind of large general powers, accidentally determined in some particular direction’; his union of formidable analytic power with immediate command of memorable verbal expression needed only aa appropriate eliciting occasion, whether in a literary task or in the occasions of daily life. This poses further critical problems. First, we must learn how to deal with writing which was not intended as literature at all. The famous private Letter to Lord Chesterfield is not surpassed by any of his public writings, and the great gifts found in The Vanity of Human Wishes are as fully manifested in some of Johnson’s private prayers and in his letters.

Seriousness in Conversation

Secondly, it is even more difficult to come to critical terms with Johnson’s conversation. When Boswell remarked ‘But I wonder, Sir, you have not more pleasure in writing than in not writing’, Johnson refused to be drawn: ‘Sir. you may wonder’. It seems clear that conversation was Johnson’s most natural means of expression - perhaps because there the stimulus was varied and

immediate. In any case, just as Johnson's moral sense made the distinction between public and private writing unimportant, so it meant that he put as much seriousness and energy into his conversation as into his writing. He ' laid it down as a fixed rule to do his best on every occasion and in every Company '; and to impart whatever he knew in the most forcible language he could put in'. Consequently, Fanny Burney ' could not help remarking how . . . much the same thing it was to hear h i m or to read him'; while Johnson's conversation offers as impressive evidence as bis writings of the variety of his powers, from what Boswell described as ' the majestic teacher of moral and religious wisdom ', to the greatest of the English humorists».

Humour it another literary quality which has not yet received justice. In general it can be regarded as a supremely inclusive response to the complexities of experience; and a response
whose success requires great gifts of sensitiveness and imagination. Mrs. Thrale tells of a Lincolnshire lady who was ill-advised enough to show Johnson the underground grotto in her garden, and then enquire complacently ‘if he did not think it would be a pretty convenient habitation?’
‘I think it would, Madam’, he replied — ‘for a toad’. The retort was rude; but not
gratuitously so, because at soon as Johnson was summoned to endorse a grotto as a convenient human habitation he felt himself bound to remind the Lincolnshire lady that civilization has progressed from living in caves to living in houses only through long and patient efforts, and that it can continue only on such terms.

To do justice to Johnson's literary achievement, then, we must include the totality of his recorded utterances: the conversations and the various marginal kinds of writing, as well as the poems, the essays and the Lives of the Poets. This means that we must usually judge Johnson’s content on the basis of literal as opposed to imaginative truth.

This is what the literature of experience usually demands, but it is contrary to most modern critical theory, with its insistence on the literary artefact as an autonomous verbal structure best considered as separate both from its author and from any relation to real life. Obviously the correspondence of an author’s statements to reality or truth is even more difficult to establish than intrinsic literary excellence where we can at least find all - or most - of the evidence on the page before us. We must also remember that there is a real danger in confusing art and life; for one thing, it tends to authorize the common 'let's have no nonsense' sort of Philistinism, and Johnson had many admirers in this camp: Raleigh himself as Virginia Woolf noted, in his later years 'ceased to profess literature, and became instead a Professor of Life'.

Truthful Vision of Human Experience

But the other extreme position is even more impossible; we may not want to go as far as Johnson did in disregarding the distinctions between literature and life, but we obviously cannot disregard the whole tradition of wisdom literature, from the Book of Ecclesiastes to Montaigne and Pascal, or all the other writings in which man has faced and recorded his actual thoughts and feelings. Johnson’s own works and reported utterances no doubt constitute a dispersed, untidy, and awkward body of material for the critic to see as a whole, but that whole constitutes an impressively eloquent, consistent, and truthful vision of human experience.

I have said little about Johnson’s writings as such, but I will close by letting him speak for himself, all too briefly, in one of the supreme examples of the literature of experience. Perhaps the most famous example of Johnson’s literalism is his attack Milton’s Lycidas: 'Where there is leisure for fiction’, he said, ‘there is little grief'. Johnson’s elegy ‘On the Death of Dr. Level’ is an absolutelv direct treatment of the death of a member of his household, described by Boswell as ‘an obscure practiser in phvsic, of a strange, grotesque appearance’. The poem was written hardly a year before Johnson’s own death, and in it all his friendship and humanity was framed by a steady of mankind's limitations:

Condemn’d to hope’s delusive mine,
As on we toil from day to day,
By suddenblasts, or slow decline,
Our social comforts drop away.

Well tried through many a varying year
See Levet to the grave descent;
Officious, innocent, sincere,
Of ev'ry friendless name the friend.

Yet still he fills affection’s eye,
Obscurely wise, and coarsely kind,
Nor letter’d arrogance deny
The praise to merit unrefin’d.

When fainting nature called for aid,
And hov’ring death prepar’d the blow,
His vig’rous remedy display’d
The poewer of art without the show.


In misery’s darkest caverns known,
His useful care was ever nigh,
When hopeless anguish pour’d his groan,
And lonely want retir’d to die.

No summon mock’d by chill delay,
No petty gain disdain’d by pride,
The modest wants of ev’ry day,
The toil of ev’ry day supplied.

His virtues walk’d their narrow round,
Nor made a pause, nor left a void;
And sure th’ Eternal Master found
The single talent well employ’d.

The busy day, the peaceful night,
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by:
His frame was firm, his powers were bright,
Tho’ now his eightieth year was nigh.

Then with no throbbing fiery pain,
No cold graduations of decay
Death broke at once the vital chain,
And forc’d his soul the nearest way.

Congratulations, Russia!

You can't say civilization don't advance. ... for in every war they kill you another way.

[Will Rogers]

Monday, September 17, 2007

What a cardinal error

When art becomes estranged from worship, culture becomes degenerate (art).

Says Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, Germany.

Some people dare to critizise him.

Why not feel great pity for this poor man?

Born to be wilde, 70 years ago his "Aryan wisdom" would have generated (sic) thundering applause.






Thursday, September 13, 2007

Slightly strange syllogisms

One week after his "letter to the Turkish military", today Mustafa Akyol got another remarkable article published in Turkish Daily News (TDN). Headline: The opium of the atheists.

"Did you also read it?" I asked my closest friend. "Ah, sorry, what are you busy with?"

"Yes. Syllogisms, dialectic, nothing special."

"And did you read ..."

"Unconcentrated or impolite, Sean? One word for your first question, even four for your second."

"Sorry, missed that. What do you think about the article?"

"Thought-out. Question-provoking. Listen: The king has two legs. Hens have two legs. Ergo the king is a hen. What's your opinion?"

"Wrong."

"Lovely, my sophisticated friend. Your opinion is, of course, not wrong."

"But you think Mr. Akyol's opinion is wrong? By the way, I am relieved you chose king as your subject, and not ..."

"Mr. Akyol's opinion is not wrong. He is absolutely right. I do just wonder, if he means what he did not say."

?

"Theists are believers.
Atheists are believers.
Ergo there is a god."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wanted! Good answers to good questions

No, there does not exist any contract or gentleman's agreement between Mr. Bekdil and me.

No, I am not sure Mr. Bekdil is in possession of the best solutions to everything and all.

Yes, I do appreciate the questions he is asking.

Yes, I should like to read somebody's answers to these questions.

No, not Mr. Akyol's answers. (They would - with respect - be of no relevance.)

But what's about both Mr. Akyol's and (sic) Mr. Bekdil's president and prime minister?

Your turn, Mr. Gül! Your turn, Mr. Erdoğan!

Yes?

World's most semiotic nation!

Apropos unrivalled.

Mr. Bekdil lets indeed follow a question mark to one of his recent headlines.

By reading the article it is transmogrifying into an exclamation mark, though:

World's most semiotic nation!

Turkishness unrivalled

By "googling" Argentinianness, Chineseness, Germanness, Hungarianness etc., coming to Turkishness it becomes obvious:

Turkishness is unique!

Evidence: People trying to learn more about history, geography, literature, architecture, poetry, cuisine, music etc., on the first two pages would find nothing but

denigration of Turkishness (2)

insulting Turkishness (15)

belittling Turkishness

degrade Turkishness

Telling this my closest friend whose current topic of research - Pre-Assyrian Philately - is keeping him very busy, did not even look up when saying: "Inferiority complex."

"Tetrapilotomos", I whispered, "mind your tongue! Some people might feel insulted."

"That's it. Exactly those who feel insulted are meant. I can just repeat again and again that according to a Chinese saying those who feel insulted by others confess to their mental, their intellectual inferiority."

And off he went.






Tuesday, September 11, 2007

All these mysterious Nessies



Scientific way to better present 'Turkishness'.

An interesting headline, isn't it?!

Why do people tend to do the second step before the first?

Why trying to find a "scientific" (sic) way to better present (sic) 'Turkishness'?

What is Turkishness?

Or Argentinianness, Chineseness, Germanness, Hungarianness ... Finnish...ness?


Questions I asked my closest friend Tetrapilotomos, who is one of the politest human primates under the sun and therefore should rarely answer a question by a counterquestion.

The more I got surprised hearing him murmur:

"Turkish Ness ... Turkish Ness ... Has it something to do with Lough Ness?"

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mens insana . . .

World is small.
Coincidences are great.

1. I do highly recommend to read this. The background arcticles are worth reading, too.

2. James Higham who happened to find a link to this very article on another blogger's site (sorry for not memorising it), left a comment roughly saying he'd need to learn more about the issue and - voilà, today delivered interesting thoughts.

3. I am a little tired (not only) these days talking about religion, fanatism, stupidity etc.

But I shall not withhold following short "dialogue":

Spake Tetrapilotomos: "I think to understand it is enough to read the 23rd paragraph."

?

"Just read and get close to the essential inheritent interior essence which is hidden in the root of the kernel of everything."

Mr ul Haq was 3 when he came to Britain and 13 when he became a student at the first and most influential of Britain’s Deobandi seminaries, which opened in 1975 in a converted sanatorium in the rural hills above Bury, Greater Manchester.

?

Spake Tetrapilotomos: "A sanatorium is a sanatorium is a sanatorium . . ."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Some more tears for Tabori

Peculiar.
Originally, tonight I intended to drop a few words about why I would not be able to drop a few posts for a couple of days.

And now I am sitting here, thinking of a few people who enriched my life for quite a few decades and who recently took their last dwelling six feet under.

Ulrich Mühe (July 22nd)
George Tabori (July 23rd)
Ingmar Bergman (July 30th)
Michelangelo Antonioni (July 31st)

Today Luciano Pavarotti.
And tomorrow?

Coincidences. Coincidences?

No necrologies to follow, don’t worry. There has been shown, told, written enough about these artists.

But I shall not stop myself to tell that non of his plays impressed me more than this “joke” by the man who in a way was the obstetrician to a serious reflection of the holocaust and other atrocities “made in Germany”: George Tabori:

[To understand you need to know: Witz means joke]

”Wie lautet der kürzeste deutsche Witz? - Auschwitz.”
”What is the shortest German Witz? - Auschwitz.”

It was - I think – for this sentence that I dropped more than one tear – when I heard this wonderful wise human
being ("There are tabus that need to be destroyed")
had done his last breath.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Una (non) furtiva lacrima

Once upon a time, after reading or telling a (bedtime) story, on the children’s demand intoning with my deepest voice “the song”, there would quite frequently a caring voice been chirping, “Sean, why wouldn’t you try it in a friendly manner first?”

”But the children love it”, I’d say, vehemently nodding and rolling my eyes at my audience who would immediately tell the chirping voice what they had learnt by heart: “Pavarotti would give up his career, if only once he could listen Daddy singing.”

Anyway, despite the enormous popularity that I achieved with “What shall we do with the drunken sailor”, this chirped question was – there can’t be any doubt – the main reason that I lost the little interest in the opera that had been remaining.

End of the antecedent.

Although not really fond of opera, it was always a pleasure for my ears to hear Luciano Pavarotti singing.

Was?

Is.

Right now I can/do listen to his voice. Nessun dorma.

And yes, although agnostic I do not deny “Una furtiva lacrima”.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Pleasure of Leisure



All intellectual improvement arises from leisure.

[Dr. Johnson]