"The powerful man who matches insolence with glibness is worse than a fool. He is a public danger."

What bothers me about Scalia is less his strongly held views than his blindness to his own inconsistencies. He has no problem with overruling Congress’s Voting Rights Act or its limits on campaign contributions (in Citizens United). This Supreme Court has been more activist than any we have seen in decades, but Scalia regards it as a usurping power only when the vote doesn’t go his way.
Robin Bates on Antonin Scalia and his alter ego, Pentheus from The Bacchae.

June 30, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...predestined to keep sanity in men who live forgotten in these worlds of mist..."

The Aran Islands is J.M. Synge's account of his trips to the remote Arans, off of the west coast of Ireland, in 1898-1901. I admire the sudden shifts here, in both climate and mood:

A week of sweeping fogs has passed over and given me a strange sense of exile and desolation. I walk round the island nearly every day, yet I can see nothing anywhere but a mass of wet rock, a strip of surf, and then a tumult of waves.

The slaty limestone has grown black with the water that is dripping on it, and wherever I turn there is the same grey obsession twining and wreathing itself among the narrow fields, and the same wail from the wind that shrieks and whistles in the loose rubble of the walls.

At first the people do not give much attention to the wilderness that is round them, but after a few days their voices sink in the kitchen, and their endless talk of pigs and cattle falls to the whisper of men who are telling stories in a haunted house.

The rain continues; but this evening a number of young men were in the kitchen mending nets, and the bottle of poteen was drawn from its hiding-place.

One cannot think of these people drinking wine on the summit of this crumbling precipice, but their grey poteen, which brings a shock of joy to the blood, seems predestined to keep sanity in men who live forgotten in these worlds of mist.

I sat in the kitchen part of the evening to feel the gaiety that was rising, and when I came into my own room after dark, one of the sons came in every time the bottle made its round, to pour me out my share.

It has cleared, and the sun is shining with a luminous warmth that makes the whole island glisten with the splendor of a gem, and fills the sea and sky with a radiance of blue light.

I wasn't familiar with the word poteen, which Webster's defines as "whiskey illicitly distilled in Ireland." That makes sense. I'm sure that, despite its gray color, it was an inviting and essential part of everyday life that got many people through long stretches of chill and damp, until the sunshine returned at last.

June 28, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)


"Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well." - Robert Louis Stevenson

June 28, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...fit roosting-place for their homeless selves..."

In Moby-Dick, a book full of ominous premonitions, this memorable description is particularly forboding:
Close to our bows, strange forms in the water darted hither and thither before us; while thick in our rear flew the inscrutable sea-ravens. And every morning, perched on our stays, rows of these birds were seen; and spite of our hootings, for a long time obstinately clung to the hemp, as though they deemed our ship some drifting, uninhabited craft; a thing appointed to desolation, and therefore fit roosting-place for their homeless selves. And heaved and heaved, still unrestingly heaved the black sea, as if its vast tides were a conscience; and the great mundane soul were in anguish and remorse for the long sin and suffering it had bred.
The eerie crows - or were they sea-ravens? - perched all over the playground equipment in Hitchcock's The Birds immediately comes to mind.

June 26, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)


"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." - John Milton

June 24, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"1-Legged Amputee Run Over By Rolling Toolbox At Chicagoland Speedway"

Some times it's impossible to write fiction that is superior to nonfiction. This is one of those times. This headline is an entire story in itself.

I've long sung the praises of this article's writer, Joe Hosey, who was formerly a reporter for the Joliet Herald-News and is now the manager of the Joliet Patch hyperlocal news site. (Here's one of my favorite stories of his, from back in the day.) This latest shows he's still in fine, wry form.

June 24, 2015 in Joliet | Permalink | Comments (0)


"Life passes into pages if it passes into anything." - James Salter (1925-2015)

June 21, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"God keep me from ever completing anything."

Writers, your unfinished works aren't failures. They are masterpieces, destined to be finished by future generations! From the infamous "Cetology" chapter of Moby-Dick:
But I now leave my cetological System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught—nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!
That chapter is regularly cited by readers as the most patience-trying, eye-rolling section of the book, but I actually enjoyed reading it this morning, particularly with the contrast between its weighty tone and and the giddyness of the red-clad Blackhawks fans who were crammed into my train for the downtown victory rally.

June 18, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (3)

New song on the sidebar

I finally updated "Listening" over on the sidebar, with Giant Sand's "Death, Dying & Channel 5", from that idiosyncratic band's 1985 debut album, Valley of Rain. The Amazon link is less than ideal (only a 30-second snippet) but this is just a temporary fix until I find a free solution for linking to streaming songs. I still haven't found one since the untimely demise of Grooveshark.

June 14, 2015 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

"I can stand it; yes, I can."

Touching scene from Chapter 22 of Moby-Dick, just as the Pequod is going out to sea. Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad are the owners of the ship, and though both are in retirement, it is clear that neither has yet gotten over the lure of the sea.

It was curious and not unpleasing, how Peleg and Bildad were affected at this juncture, especially Captain Bildad. For loath to depart, yet; very loath to leave, for good, a ship bound on so long and perilous a voyage—beyond both stormy Capes; a ship in which some thousands of his hard earned dollars were invested; a ship, in which an old shipmate sailed as captain; a man almost as old as he, once more starting to encounter all the terrors of the pitiless jaw; loath to say good-bye to a thing so every way brimful of every interest to him,—poor old Bildad lingered long; paced the deck with anxious strides; ran down into the cabin to speak another farewell word there; again came on deck, and looked to windward; looked towards the wide and endless waters, only bounded by the far-off unseen Eastern Continents; looked towards the land; looked aloft; looked right and left; looked everywhere and nowhere; and at last, mechanically coiling a rope upon its pin, convulsively grasped stout Peleg by the hand, and holding up a lantern, for a moment stood gazing heroically in his face, as much as to say, "Nevertheless, friend Peleg, I can stand it; yes, I can."

I can just see the old man's face, jaw clenched but quivering, and with a tear at the corner of his eye.

June 14, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (3)