And as the credits rolled
Tristan turned to Iseult
Said, "What did ya think?"
"It was okay, I guess
That story's pretty old
It's a bit clichéd and hackneyed, I thought."
Tarkio, "Tristan and Iseult" (1999)

of purpose

No one has yet discovered any warlike purpose to be served by the theory of numbers or relativity, and it seems unlikely that anyone will do so for many years.

G.H. Hardy, "A Mathematician's Apology" (1940)

five years later, hiroshima.


I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, "The Bell Jar" (1963)


Just because you’re a bird doesn’t mean you’re an ornithologist.

David Epstein, "The Sports Gene" (2013)


Now what...?

the last line of every "Luther" season finale

re: 2017

thanks for reading.

see you next year.


"It's a children's story, about a young shepherd boy who gets lonely while tending his flock. So he cries out to the villagers that a wolf is attacking the sheep. The people come running, but of course there's no wolf. He claims that it's run away and the villagers praise him for his vigilance."

"Clever lad. Charming story."

"I'm not finished. The next day, the boy does it again, and the next too. And on the fourth day a wolf really comes. The boy cries out at the top of his lungs, but the villagers ignore him, and the boy, and his flock, are gobbled up."

"Well, that's a little graphic for children, wouldn't you say?"

"But the point is, if you lie all the time, nobody's going to believe you, even when you're telling the truth."

"Are you sure that's the point, Doctor?"

"Of course. What else could it be?"

"That you should never tell the same lie twice."

"Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1995)


If anyone tells you that such a person speaks ill of you, don’t make excuses about what is said of you, but answer:

“He does not know my other faults, else he would not have mentioned only these."

Epictetus, "The Enchiridion" (135)

i was unable to craft a pun between the the idea of faults as numerous as the stars and the classic line "the fault lies not in our stars."

lucid living

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

Kurt Vonnegut, "Mother Night" (1961)

alphas and omega

Spirit of my silence I can hear you
But I’m afraid to be near you
And I don’t know where to begin
And I don’t know where to begin

Somewhere in the desert there’s a forest
And an acre before us
But I don’t know where to begin
But I don’t know where to begin
Again I've lost my strength completely, oh be near me
Tired old mare with the wind in your hair

Amethyst and flowers on the table, is it real or a fable?
Well I suppose a friend is a friend
And we all know how this will end
Sufjan Stevens, "Death with Dignity" (2015)


Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.

Søren Kierkegaard, "Journalen" (1843)


Mierzwiak! Please let me keep this memory. Just this one.

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004)

ms. november

You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat.

Roger Kahn (undated)


Socrates tells the story of Thales, who was by some accounts the first philosopher. He was looking so intently at the stars that he fell into a well. Some witty Thracian servant girl is said to have made a joke at Thales’ expense — that in his eagerness to know what went on in the sky he was unaware of the things in front of him and at his feet. Socrates adds, in Seth Benardete’s translation, “The same jest suffices for all those who engage in philosophy.”

What is a philosopher, then? The answer is clear: a laughing stock, an absent-minded buffoon, the butt of countless jokes from Aristophanes’ “The Clouds” to Mel Brooks’s “History of the World, part one.” Whenever the philosopher is compelled to talk about the things at his feet, he gives not only the Thracian girl but the rest of the crowd a belly laugh. The philosopher’s clumsiness in worldly affairs makes him appear stupid or, “gives the impression of plain silliness.” We are left with a rather Monty Pythonesque definition of the philosopher: the one who is silly.

But as always with Plato, things are not necessarily as they first appear, and Socrates is the greatest of ironists. First, we should recall that Thales believed that water was the universal substance out of which all things were composed. Water was Thales’ philosophers’ stone, as it were. Therefore, by falling into a well, he inadvertently presses his basic philosophical claim.

But there is a deeper and more troubling layer of irony here that I would like to peel off more slowly. Socrates introduces the “digression” by making a distinction between the philosopher and the lawyer, or what Benardete nicely renders as the “pettifogger.” The lawyer is compelled to present a case in court and time is of the essence. In Greek legal proceedings, a strictly limited amount of time was allotted for the presentation of cases. Time was measured with a water clock or clepsydra, which literally steals time, as in the Greek kleptes, a thief or embezzler. The pettifogger, the jury, and by implication the whole society, live with the constant pressure of time. The water of time’s flow is constantly threatening to drown them.

Simon Critchley, "What Is a Philosopher?" (2010)


I’ll still destroy you someday, sleep well, beast.
You as well, beast.
The National, "Sleep Well Beast" (2017)


In planning to translate the poem (The Odyssey) into English, my first thoughts were of style. The original is written in a highly rhythmical form of verse. It reads nothing like prose and nothing like any spoken or nonpoetic kinds of discourse. Many modern poets in the Anglo-American tradition write free verse, and modern British and American readers are not usually accustomed to reading long narratives with a regular metrical beat, except for earlier literature like Shakespeare. Most contemporary translators of Homer have not attempted to create anything like a regular line beat, though they often lay out their text as if it were verse. But The Odyssey is a poem, and it needs to have a predictable and distinctive rhythm that can be easily heard when the text is read out loud. The original is in six-footed lines (dactylic hexameters), the conventional meter for archaic Greek narrative verse. I used iambic pentameter, because it is the conventional meter for regular English narrative verse—the rhythm of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Keats, and plenty of more recent anglophone poets. I have spent many hours reading aloud, both the Greek original and my own work in progress. Homer's music is quite different from mine, but my translation sings to its own regular and distinctive beat.


Matthew Arnold famously claimed that translators of Homer must convey four supposedly essential qualities of Homeric style: plainness, simplicity, directness of thought, and nobility. But Homeric style is actually quite often redundant and very often repetitious—not particularly simple or direct. Homer is also very often not "noble": the language is not colloquial, and it avoids obscenity, but it is not bombastic or grandiloquent. The notion that Homeric epic must be rendered in grand, ornate, rhetorically elevated English has been with us since the time of Alexander Pope. It is past time, I believe, to reject this assumption. Homer's language is markedly rhythmical, but it is not difficult or ostentatious, The Odyssey relies on coordinated, not subordinated syntax ("and then this, and then this, and then this," rather than "although this, because of that, when this, which was this, on account of that"). I have frequently aimed for a certain level of simplicity, often using fairly ordinary, straightforward, and readable English. In using language that is largely simple, my goal is not to make Homer sound "primitive," but to mark the fact that stylistic pomposity is entirely un-Homeric.

Emily Wilson, "Translator's Note to The Odyssey" (2017)

I cannot remember the last book I pre-ordered, but this gets me even more hyped.

find the beginning

Tell me about a complicated man.

Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost when he wrecked the holy town of Troy, and where he went, and who he met, the pain he suffered in the storms at sea, and how he worked to save his life and bring his men back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools, they ate the Sun God's cattle, and the god kept them from home. New goddess, child of Zeus, tell the old story for our modern times.

Find the beginning.

Emily Wilson, "The Odyssey" (2017)

the publisher has only released the first chapter of this new translation of the original, but i cannot wait to pick up the full text in the next coming weeks as i have never read it.

and as an aside, many greek works begin with a call to a higher muse to guide the hand of the narrator/storyteller.

of course, sufjan stevens opens up one of his album in such a way in the first lines.

Spirit of my silence I can hear you
But I'm afraid to be near you
And I don't know where to begin
And I don't know where to begin
Sufjan Stevens, "Death with Dignity" (2015)


The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them -- words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.

Stephen King, "The Body" (1982)

fencing a forest fire

I admire him (Benjamin Franklin). I admire his sturdy courage first of all, then his sagacity, then his glimpsing into the thunders of electricity, then his common-sense humour. All the qualities of a great man, and never more than a great citizen. Middle-sized, sturdy, snuff-coloured Doctor Franklin, one of the soundest citizens that ever trod or 'used venery'.

I do not like him.

And, by the way, I always thought books of Venery were about hunting deer....

I am a moral animal. But I am not a moral machine. I don't work with a little set of handles or levers. The Temperance- silence-order- resolution-frugality-industry-sincerity - justice- moderation-cleanliness-tranquillity-chastity-humility keyboard is not going to get me going. I'm really not just an automatic piano with a moral Benjamin getting tunes out of me.

Here's my creed, against Benjamin's. This is what I believe:

'That I am I.'
'That my soul is a dark forest.'
'That my known self will never be more thana little
 clearing in the forest.'
'That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest
 into the clearing of my known self, and then go back.'
'That I must have the courage to let them come and go.'
'That I will never let mankind put anything over me,
 but that I will try always to recognize and submit
 to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women.'

There is my creed. He who runs may read. He who prefers to crawl, or to go by gasoline, can call it rot.

D.H. Lawrence, "Studies in Classic American Literature" (1923)


"Want to know the real tragedy about marriage?"

"No, thanks."

"Women always think men will change, but they don't. Men think women won't change, but they do."

Luther (2010)

as above, so below

Which is better?" I asked, out of simple curiosity. "Above or below?"

..."It's not a question of better or worse. The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you're supposed to go up and down when you're supposed to go down. When you're supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you're supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there is no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness. 'I am he and/ He is me:/ Spring nightfall.' Abandon the self, and there you are.

Haruki Murakami, "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" (1995)


"Ohana" means "family". "Family" means nobody gets left behind.

"Lilo & Stitch" (2002)

the fabric of hyperspace

Hyperreality is more real than real. This is… actually sounds… if some of this sounds like advertising slogans: good. Because in Baudrillard the heritage of philosophy and social theory has passed over into advertising and television. So if it sounds superficial: good, because the theory; the world that he looks at has become superficial and banal. If it sounds hokey like a salesman’s pitch: good. The world he describes is the world of Jurassic Park not of Dante. So that is all evidence on the side of Baudrillard if you follow the argument deep enough and with enough clarity.

Okay let me explain the concept of hyperreality; this is an important concept in Baudrillard. In Baudrillard, we have already said that reality is simply that which could be simulated. Can’t be simulated; not real. But more real than real is a reality… and I guess again I could give you… and I hate to use these movie examples if you haven’t seen the movies but in A Clockwork Orange there is a great line that anticipates the postmodern. When the character played by Malcolm McDowell says “It’s funny how blood isn’t really blood until you viddy it on the screen”; until you see it on a movie screen. In real life it looks kind of brown and mucky, on the screen it looks sort of more real than real blood and this sense of the sort of hyperreality we get with cinema, we get with television and so on is another phenomenon Baudrillard wants to examine.

And I think that here we get… and I guess my politics are showing again, but here we get the phenomenon of Reagan; the hyperreal president, more real than real. I mean he’s better at being Harry Truman than Harry Truman. I mean, the distinction about what he is is lost in the hyperreality of his smile which like the Cheshire Cat’s, you know, just gleams across his face and we get for the first time a phenomenon never known in polling which is the phenomenon of not liking a person, but of liking liking a person. This is a sign you are dealing with the hyperreal.

Let me go over that again: Reagan’s popularity was popular. When you went through the various traits of Reagan and what Reagan stood for and his policies and so on vast numbers of people disliked nearly all of them. What was popular was his popularity and I don’t think that Reagan’s alone in this.

Show business figures had this same thing go on for years. I can’t remember the last Michael Jackson song that I even listened to – or my kids who also don’t like Michael Jackson – but he’s popular, but not in the old sense. It is a hyper popularity, if you follow me. It is popular that he is popular.

Rick Roderick, "Self Under Siege" (1993)

dante's inferno

The sea is the cemetery of the Chateau D'If.

Alexandre Dumas, "The Count of Monte Christ" (1845)

amara's law

We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

Roy Amara (1975)

the hunt

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal— to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect— between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer— and, in a sense, the tragedy of life— is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

Hunter S. Thompson (circa 1957)

el olvido


Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdido.

Oir la noche immensa, más inmensa sin ella. 
Y el verso cae al alma como al pasto el rocío.

Qué importa que mi amor no pudiera guardarla.
La noche está estrellada y ella no está conmigo.

Eso es todo. A lo lejos alguien canta. A lo lejos.
Mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Como para acercarla mi mirada la busca.
Mi corazón la busca, y ella no está conmigo.

De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.
Es tan corto al amor, y es tan largo el olvido.

Porque en noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos,
mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Aunque ésta sea el último dolor que ella me causa,
y éstos sean los últimos versos que yo le escribo.
Pablo Neruda, 'Poema 20' (1924)

exit music

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love
You make
the last lyric on the last song written by "The Beatles"


In an effort to get people to look 
into each other’s eyes more, 
and also to appease the mutes, 
the government has decided 
to allot each person exactly one hundred   
and sixty-seven words, per day. 

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear   
without saying hello. In the restaurant   
I point at chicken noodle soup. 
I am adjusting well to the new way. 

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,   
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.   
I saved the rest for you. 

When she doesn’t respond, 
I know she’s used up all her words,   
so I slowly whisper I love you 
thirty-two and a third times. 
After that, we just sit on the line   
and listen to each other breathe.
Jeffrey McDaniel, "The Quiet World" (1998)