the Spectacle on the Sand

The man walks onto the sand. He carries an impudent, red cape. His clothing is extravagant to draw all eyes. He is the opposite of invisible. Nearby is an angry bull pawing at the sand. The man enrages the bull with dramatic gestures of the long cape. As the beast charges him it is dazzled and confused by the cape. Veronica after veronica, the mad bull charges the cape to find it has missed the smaller, frail man. The audience cheers the man. To a man such as I, this seems not prudent. It seems suicidally arrogant and foolish. But the man and those before him have a remarkably successful record.

The crowd cheers ‘¡Olé!’


The beast grows more reckless and enraged. The beast is intent only on the death of the man. The exhaustion, and rage dull the beast. The man must maintain concentration. Another charge, another veronica.

The crowd cheers ‘¡Olé!’

Unnoticed by the beast, the team mates of the man are working in virtual invisibility to the beast and the mass of the audience both.

The crowd cheers ‘¡Olé!’

The man is Donald Trump.

The beast is a small leviathan made of the Left, the media, and internationalists.

The cape is the sparkling mass of statements made before audiences and on Twitter.

The spectacle is riveting, but will end in blood and mess one way or the other.

A boring man, I prefer orderly progress to such spectacle. I prefer the fantasy of free men working together to make a better world. Alas, the small leviathan has put itself above the nation. When elections go one way, the leviathan of the Fabian Ratchets allow it. When elections go the other way, the leviathan interposes its large unthinking mass. The leviathan has made itself invulnerable to the general will. When one party rules, it is coddled. When the other rules, the beast snorts and paws the ground. The beast has made the rule of the people its broken puppet as it wishes to break the man with the cape. I care not for this spectacle. I fear it has become necessary. If the man loses, democracy is wounded. If the man wins, he may be either Cincinnatus or Marius.If this goes on the choice may be between Marius and Sulla.

It is, I think, too early for Caesar.

I find myself shouting ‘¡Olé!’

Cromwell or Charles.

Lafayette or Marat.

Another charge.

Another veronica.

The crowd cheers ‘¡Olé!’

There will be blood on the sand soon. The beast has more power and speed. The man is as frail as Pascal’s reed.

Bet on the man.

The crowd cheers ‘¡Olé!



Finding Yourself

Johnathan and Amanda,

Here’s another thing that doesn’t much fit anywhere. Such things are seldom taught.

Picture your distant ancestors wandering. In the morning when they arise first they need to find where they are. Polaris is not yet in the North. There is no pole star at the time. The compass is yet to be invented. They wake before dawn and look for the sun. As rosy fingered dawn approaches they know what quarter of the sky is East. At dawn they know closely. So to know one’s orientation is to find the East. The Orient. And the Sun was the guiding light. Even in metaphor.

What light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Look to the sunrise. The South, the right, is the path the Sun takes to its destination. The right path to the South is warm. The right is light. The wealthy lands lie in that direction. It is the direction of your strong, agile hand. The left is the side the Sun avoids. It the direction of shadow. Crops grow less well in the North. It is the side of your weak, clumsy left hand.

The obvious idea is that the gods live in the East and the West. The South is favored, and the North is ill-omened. The other is that the left hand, the clumsy weak one is also disfavored. This is reflected in language. The word for left is taboo and replaced. Right is good. Right is correct. Right is dexterous. Right is proper. The word for left is gauche. Sinister. Left is valueless; what is left, not kept. Spanish is Izquierda. Izquierda doesn’t even look Spanish. That is because it is not. The tabooed word was replaced by a word from Basque. By the way, Spanish words with a ‘z’ are borrowed, generally from Basque.

If one wishes to know East more closely, one makes a circle on the earth. One stands in the center of the circle and has a child place a stone at the sunrise and sunset places. Repeat for a year and the line between the East and West piles is very close to East and West.


I Come to Praise Dan Carlin, Not to Challenge Him



I humbly come to recommend a podcast. Dan Carlin is an intelligent man with whom I have basic disagreements. He does an occasional podcast called Hardcore History. His most recent episode, Destroyer of Worlds, is a triumph. It is the best thing I have ever seen on the age of nuclear weapons.

I have a thousand quibbles. But they don’t matter. I wouldn’t add to the length for a quibble. And the incomplete or mistaken ideas on atomic weapons are not things I would put in a public podcast. I credit him with similar scruples.

This is a podcast every person who aspires to wisdom should hear. Please listen.

The Great Eighty-Eight! Err, Nine


I’m tired of talking about controversial things. In this election season I have offended too many friends. So how about a great negative curse. This is a major curse, but it doesn’t really fit anywhere, so you’ve probably never heard of it. It is so old that I have to explain a paragraph’s worth of the calendar first.

For many centuries and places the year didn’t start on January 1. Sure, that would be logical, but we are human. One popular new year’s day was Lady Day, March 25. Christians might claim that something important happened nine months before Christ’s birth – Easter. Except Easter moves. Lady Day is stationary. Sometimes the Roman’s would start the year at the spring equinox when the ‘V’ formed by the stars of Aries – the Roman God Mars – was in the proper place. That’s why Aries is the first sign of the Zodiac and December is not the twelfth month. Too bad the equinox and the ‘points of Aries’ are different things. And were moving away from each other. Julian dates are often in the form 1588/9 for the first three month’s of the Gregorian Year. So for English speakers there were fifteen months that could be considered in a year. Imagine how crazy this would be were I to be accurate!

When The Great and Happiest Spanish Armada tried to invade England and end that Protestant nonsense, the English didn’t defeat the Armada. They made a good showing, and God helps them who help themselves, but the hard work of defeating the Great and Happiest Armed Fleet was done by the Protestant Wind. This Divine Wind – anyone who thinks ‘Kami Kaze’ will be severely reprimanded – seemed to continue and end a curse on the Great and Happiest Fleet. The English called the year the ‘Great Eighty-Eight.’

Was the Eighty-eight really great?

Well in 1488/9 the whole history of the world changed when the Portuguese found how to go around Africa and reach the mysterious East. Shortly the Spanish would fund a confidence man named Columbus and become quite rich. To an Englishman 1488 was the year Henry VII betrothed his son Arthur to Catherine, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. This was well before the Spanish became rich, and it was only natural that the two great Atlantic seafaring powers should ally. This marriage should have changed the world as the powers were not tainted by great greed, but skill and lifestyle. Once again the proposals of Man were disposed of by a greater Power and the whole mess got started.

In 1388 the entire court of the King of England were convicted by Parliament of treason. Can you say Parliamentary supremacy? In one way Protestantism got its start when Wycliffe published his Bible in English and people called the Lollards started reading and arguing scripture. What they read did not much match what they were told by the Church. The Lollards would eventually engender the Boleyn faction which would do so much to make England Protestant. Ahem, Anne Boleyn? Mamma of Elizabeth the First? Oh, and in a totally unrelated field, the puppet king’s uncle, John of Gaunt, married his daughter to Henry, heir to Castile. This would ally Spain and England, but Spain wouldn’t exist as a kingdom for a while yet. But she was a queen Catherine in Spain. Her great grand daughter would be the Catherine of Aragon whose marriage would start the whole armada thing.

OK. Lets try forward. 1688. In 1688 there was the most perfectly managed revolution in history. In less than fifty days the new Catholic king and fool, James II, is tricked into abdication and exile. There were almost no casualties. A new Protestant dual monarchy is established. In early 1689, 1688 in English reckoning, the Declaration of Rights is, well, declared as a condition of the new monarchy. This leads to the actual supremacy of Parliament. In America Quakers in 1688 demand an end to slavery.

1788. American Constitution. French Revolution. If I have to expand on this, I have failed. Suffice it to say that 1788 saw the publication of ‘What is the Third Estate’ and the caling of the Estates General.

1888. The Ghost Dance starts in America. Jack the Ripper. The curse is broken. If we cheat a year we find the Golden Jubilee of Victoria when the British Empire was the largest and most successful empire in the history of humanity. It was followed closely by the estranged cousin non-empire of the United States of America. The amount of human advancement by these two English speaking polities cannot be overstated.

1988. The Return of the Curse. The first computer virus of note. We found our first extra solar planet. And the Iron Curtain collapsed. The Soviet Union collapses. Tim Berners-Lee proposes the Worldwide Web. I don’t know which of these will prove the most momentous, but one, I am sure, will be remembered a millenium hence.

So was there a Great Eighty-Eight? When enterprises of such pith and moment start or fail, some are tempted to see the hand of fate or Providence, I do not gainsay them. At the very least it is a good way to learn history. I am looking forward to 2088.

Sir Francis Drake (Eighty-Eight)

In eighty-eight, ere I was born,
As I can well remember,
In August was a fleet prepared,
The month before September.

Spain, with Biscayne, Portugal,
Toledo and Granado,
All these did meet and make a fleet,
And called it the Armado.

Where they had got provision,
As mustard, peas and bacon,
Some say two ships were full of whips,
But I think they were mistaken.

There was a little man of Spain
That shot well in a gun, a,
Don Pedro hight, as good a knight
As the Knight of the Sun, a.

King Philip made him admiral
And charg’d him to stay, a
But to destroy both man and boy
And then to run away, a.

The King of Spain did fret amain,
And to do yet more harm, a
He sent along, to make him strong,
The famous Prince of Parma.

When they had sailed along the seas
And anchored upon Dover,
Our Englishmen did board them then
And cast the Spaniards over.

Our queen was then at Tilbury,
What could you more desire, a?
For whose sweet sake Sir Francis Drake
Did set them all on fire, a.

But let them look about themselves,
For if they come again, a,
They shall be served with that same sauce
As they were, I know when, a.

Roy Palmer's note and glosses
The ballad looks back at the armada, possibly from the time of James I. Some of the details have become
 blurred, though the picture of victory remains clear enough.

August  the main fighting was in fact over by the end of July.
Biscayne  Vizcava, one of the Basque provinces
full of whips  a widely-held belief. Cf. Deloney's'New Ballet of the straunge and most cruel Whippes
 which the Spanyards had prepared to whippe and torment English men and women'.
Don Pedro  the Spanish commander-in-chief was in fact Don Alonso Perez, Duke of Medina Sidonia.
 called Knight of the Sun  hero of a Spanish romance,
The Mirrour of Princely Deedes and Knighthood, which was widely known in England through translations.
amain  with all his might
Parma  the Duke of Parma's fleet was to have joined the armada from the Netherlands, but failed to do so.
 Tilbury  Queen Elizabeth delivered a rousing triumphal speech there in August 1588. She was mounted
 on a white horse, thus giving rise, it is said, to the nursery rhyme,'Ride a  cock horse'.

A Small Memory

     I was 21 when I knew Lynette. She was about the same age and had recently been runner-up for Miss mumble in my state. We worked in the same place. I had recently heard an interview on NPR where it was said that no woman liked her own thighs. I was working alone in the back room when she came in.

I said, ‘I heard a rumor. It was said that you hate your thighs.’

     Lynette looked around, saw we were alone, assumed an unfamiliar frown, and hissed as loud as he could in a whisper, ‘Who told you!’

     I think about that sometimes when I talk to my love.

Imbue Wonder


I have come to habitually bid farewell to folks with Irish blessings. I am not especially Irish, but I have come to believe that the world is riven in twain by those who sap life of intrigue and wonder, and those who strive to imbue the world around the with more mystery and joy.

There is little enough awe and magnificence in how we se the world. Bon mots and beau gestes are not empty of sense, but small redeeming graces. The occasional bogglements of each other are practical Koans that  inject magic into the weary mundanity we have created.

The greatest wonder of all is how we can fail to perceive the magic all around us. It takes many years of schooling to fail to stare in amazement at a dust devil or the way a Newton’s cradle acts to conserve momentum and energy in a totally invisible and dazzling manner.


May the Good ye do be celebrated,

                                                              And the Ill forgotten.

The Good Green Men





Let me be petty for a moment. I recently saw a public service commercial which set me off.

These are made by people purporting to be wise to tell the rest of us how to live. Generally they are made by people less happy and successful than the rest of us. The one I saw pirates the ancient Green Man character into a mute and be-bearded hippy. It told me to set my water heater to 120 Fahrenheit to save energy. My first thought was that more energy could be saved by insulating the pipes and water heater. That would save freezing pipes too. Much energy would be saved in not replacing split pipes in cold winters. Of course, we don’t really deserve hot baths and comfortable houses or enough hot water for everyone.. Mainly the sort of advertisements I see here try to make one feel virtuous for metaphorical cold showers and hair shirts.

When I was young water heaters were set to 160 or 170. By the time I was eighteen the enviro-sapiens told us to set them to 140 Fahrenheit. As a diligent student, I believed what I was told. Now that I am told 120 Fahrenheit.

I wish to think out loud. There was good reason to set water heaters to 160, it tended to sterilize. When — not if — debris entered the water heater it was killed by the heat. Also the hot water lines were kept sterilized. And the drains for some distance.

At 120 any algae or other debris is incubated. We encourage bacterial growth. Hot water pipes have interesting slimes growing in them. One should not drink water from a hot water line. If one goes to England one finds separate hot and cold taps. This is a cultural memory of the early water heaters when one risked contaminating the potable water supply from the hot water. At 120 we might consider the same.

Is this really saving energy? Or is it risking public health? Do the people running the PSA’s care or do they not think?

This is like the CAFE standards for cars. The idea is to save energy. But every advance in CAFE cost human deaths. When we make cars lighter we remove protections. This is not too terrible because of clever engineering. But this is not to the credit of those setting the unreasonable goals. A car company once made the Pinto. The short version had the gas tank too near the rear bumper. The car was prone to deadly gasoline fires when rear ended. But it made the CAFE standard!

Ford was sued. They knew about the problem beforehand and calculated that it was less expensive to settle law suits than to fix the problem. It was thought monstrous that there was a price set on human life and suffering. Is this not what the bureaucrats who establish the CAFE standards do? What number of barrels of oil are worth a human life?

I come not to criticize Cassius and Brutus. They are good green men.