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"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)


“I wasn’t so interested in being paid. I wanted to be heard. That’s why I’m broke.” - Ornette Coleman

June 12, 2015 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

"There is no other cure for sorrow."

"Next came the son of the virgin, Dionysus, bringing the counterpart to bread, wine and the blessings of life’s flowing juices.
His blood, the blood of the grape, lightens the burden of our mortal misery.
When, after their daily toils, men drink their fill, sleep comes to them, bringing release from troubles.
There is no other cure for sorrow."
Euripides, from The Bacchae

June 12, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)


"Words and expressions will be forced into use, in spite of all the exertions of all the writers in the world.” - Noah Webster

June 10, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Ode on an Abandoned Shopping Mall"

Move over, Keats.
O what voices haunt these most mournful ruins!
Where chained to a kiosk rudely overturn’d
Ghostly vendors still accost to ask if they might buff your nails.
And echoing o’er the cracked tile, the clunking whine of a Weazel Ball
Caged before the Kay-Bee Toys, forever tumbling.
O Weazel Ball, tumble on! Bold weasel, never canst thou clasp thy prize!
Which begs the question...was Stonehenge or Machu Picchu merely the Dixie Square Mall of an ancient era? Will fossilized Cinnabons someday be cherished as prehistoric relics?

June 10, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...deliriums and death..."

Summer of Classics has begun, and I'm a few chapters into Moby-Dick. Here, Ishmael describes the lowly New Bedford public house called The Spouter-Inn.
Projecting from the further angle of the room stands a dark-looking den—the bar—a rude attempt at a right whale's head. Be that how it may, there stands the vast arched bone of the whale's jaw, so wide, a coach might almost drive beneath it. Within are shabby shelves, ranged round with old decanters, bottles, flasks; and in those jaws of swift destruction, like another cursed Jonah (by which name indeed they called him), bustles a little withered old man, who, for their money, dearly sells the sailors deliriums and death.

Abominable are the tumblers into which he pours his poison. Though true cylinders without—within, the villanous green goggling glasses deceitfully tapered downwards to a cheating bottom. Parallel meridians rudely pecked into the glass, surround these footpads' goblets. Fill to this mark, and your charge is but a penny; to this a penny more; and so on to the full glass—the Cape Horn measure, which you may gulp down for a shilling.
I'm enjoying the book so far, but Melville's tendency to meander is already apparent. (That first chapter, which argues at considerable length that every human being is innately drawn to the sea, was already a bit trying.) But I already know the book will be full of digressions and tangents, and since I'm giving myself the entire summer to read it, I'm just going to take it easy and slow and enjoy Melville's flights of fancy. At least he was a skilled enough writer to make the digressions entertaining to read.

June 8, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2)


"I expect some of the substance of these volumes has remained somewhere in my mind, corrupted by haphazard associations I cannot trace and misunderstandings that occurred at the time of reading. Yet I will not count the hours spent with them as lost." - Fred Chappell

June 7, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"It’s a powerful but low emotion."

"Of course there are a lot of regrets, and you have to let go of those. It’s a powerful but low emotion. And then there are the triumphs, which you can’t let go to your head, because then you become overly arrogant or present false humility or false modesty, which is also not too good." - Michael Stipe

It's so hard to believe that such a talented musician (one of my favorite singers ever) could just walk away from music. I hope he's finding fulfillment elsewhere.

June 5, 2015 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)


“Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.” - Christopher Morley

June 4, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Summer of Classics, a/k/a Summer of Melville

This year I'm devoting my annual Summer of Classics to Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. Though I've long been put off by the novel's bulk and legendary digressions, it really can't be any more daunting than reading the complete Studs Lonigan trilogy last summer. Though I'm a notoriously slow reader, I can't imagine the novel will consume a full three months, so I expect to fill out any remainder of the summer with Benito Cereno, yet another re-reading of Bartleby the Scrivener and/or several of Melville's public domain works that I've found on Project Gutenberg. I'm finishing up another novel right now, but will commence once that's done and after I've procured a decent used copy of Moby.

June 2, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (3)

Road Coffee


Our latest Hilton Head trip provided two additions to our burgeoning Road Coffee list: Jet Coffee in Florence, Kentucky (pictured above), which is just off of I-75 and offers surprisingly good espresso; and Atmalogy in Nashville, Tennessee, which is located in a charming old house across the street from the Vanderbilt University campus.

Also worth noting is that Corner Perk has moved to a new location in downtown Bluffton, South Carolina (previous review here), and is now more of a breakfast/lunch sort of place, while continuing to serve very good espresso; they now even roast their own beans.

June 2, 2015 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

Photographs from Hilton Head Island

We vacation in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, nearly every year. While there, we just take it easy - sleeping in, walking the beach, swimming in the pool, enjoying good dinners and cocktails. All of that down time means plenty of opportunities for photography. Here are some of my favorites from the past week.

Sunset (small)

Sunsets are so beautiful there, it's almost impossible to not take great images in the evening. It almost feels like cheating.


Channel (small)

When the tide recedes, it often leaves behind a channel of water which sometimes flows back into the ocean, and sometimes remains stranded in a pool that lingers until the next high tide. This is the former; walking the ridged sand often leaves you at the end of a peninsula, at which point you either have to turn back or walk through water that can be two or even three feet deep.


Jellyfish (small)

Most of the jellyfish we found were washed up on the sand, and dead, but this one survived (momentarily?) in a tidal pool, where it was propelling itself around in its gentle manner. So gently, in fact, that it could be easy to forget how painful its sting would be. I wish I could say I'm such a brilliant photographer that I intentionally framed this photo to include the beach umbrella at the upper right, which echoes the shape and position of the jellyfish. But I never even saw the umbrella until I edited the photograph hours later.


Chairs (small)

Just before leaving the resort, while taking one last view from our patio, I admired the graceful curve of these deck chairs. But in the original photo, the curve was lost amid background clutter. So during editing, I turned down the brightness and turned up the contrast, and all that remained is the chairs and tables. Nicely abstract, I think.

Incidentally, the first three photos were taken with my new GoPro camera, which has an ultra-wide-angle lens that creates a fisheye effect. No, the horizon is not curved in Hilton Head.

June 1, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Red Cross Pharmacy, Antimigraine

Anti-migraine (small)

This fading ad (in Savannah, Georgia, at the corner of Broughton and Habersham Streets) appears to actually be two ads, of two different but related businesses that once occupied the building: the lower ad ("Antimigraine Cures Headaches") must have been from the The Antimigraine Company, which was here from 1891 to 1892, while the upper ad ("Red Cross Pharmacy", with a faint yellow background), from 1904-05. The building has undergone an extensive restoration by the Savannah College of Art and Design; until recently, the ad was hidden by a coat of white paint, and was only painstakingly recovered:

When work began the entire building was painted white. There was no evidence of a commercial sign though students thought it might be "neat" if there was a Coke sign under the paint. To remove the white paint a chemical and power washer (hot water) were used. One day as Jim was inspecting the project he saw the letter "A" begin to unveil itself in the paint removal process. He immediately stopped the workmen. He did not want to strip away any of the historical evidence of the commercial sign. To uncover the sign, which must have been painted with lead-based paint, the paint stripper was diluted and the power on the washer was turned down. What eventually was revealed are the words "Anti-migrane Cures Headaches" of the original 1890 business of the Anti-migrane Pharmacy. The round disks shown simulate pills. Also revealed was "Red Cross Pharmacy" which was what the name of the pharmacy was at some point during its history. And, if you look closely to the south end of the sign you might see lady looking toward you in profile.

That lady isn't visible in this photo, and while I did take another that captures that section, the image is badly deteriorated and the lady can now be seen only with a great deal of imagination. How wonderful that the preservationist took such care to save this ad. If that is at all suggestive of the work that has been done on the interior of the building, it must be a lovely restoration indeed.

June 1, 2015 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)