Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tremor of Intent

Anthony Burgess

From The Best American Poetry

Anthony Burgess's Tremor of Intent (1966), his satire of espionage novels, bears a double epigraph. The first is from W. H. Auden:
But between the day and night
The choice is free to all, and light
Falls equally on black and white.
The second is from T. S. Eliot:
The worst that can be said of most of our malefactors, from statesmen to thieves, is that they are not men enough to be damned. >>

Friday, March 11, 2011


Thorn or þorn (Þ, þ), is a letter in the Old English, Old Norse, and Icelandic alphabets, as well as some dialects of Middle English. It was also used in medieval Scandinavia, but was later replaced with the digraph th. The letter originated from the rune in the Elder Fuþark, called thorn in the Anglo-Saxon and thorn or thurs ("giant") in the Scandinavian rune poems, its reconstructed Proto-Germanic name being Thurisaz.
It has the sound of either a voiceless dental fricative [θ], like th as in the English word thick, or a voiced dental fricative [ð], like th as in the English word the. Modern Icelandic usage excludes the latter, which is instead represented with the letter eth (Ð, ð), though it has a voiceless allophone [θ], which occurs in certain positions within a phrase.
In its typography, the thorn is one of the few characters in a Latin-derived alphabet whose modern lower-case form has greater height than the capital in its normal (roman), non-italic form.

Letter thorn

When reading sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century documents written in Scotland expect to come across a letter which is now defunct, and which, confusingly, looks like a y. This is the archaic letter thorn. It fell out of use because of the standardisation of letters by printers.
The thorn looks very like a y, and represented the sound th. In the image below, the word the starts with a thorn.
This is why today one can find signs saying things like Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe. This is a misrepresentation. People in the past did not say 'ye' they said 'the'; it's just that they had a separate letter, the thorn, which denoted the sound th. When transcribing a thorn, write th.
Short words beginning with a thorn were often abbreviated. For example the word in Figure 4 is that written with a thorn and a superscript t superscript to show that something is missing - in this case the letter a. It should be subscribed th[a]t

It is also possible to find thorn in the middle of common words as shown below with oth[e]r and broth[e]r.

oth[e]r broth[e]r

De Chirico- Mystery and Melancholy of a Street

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Predictability and Contentment #2

Think of it like this. Every local radio and television station has its own tag, one dictated by distance from NYC which has the canonical, One True Tag.
The further you drive from NYC the more the tags diverge: the pitches diverge; the tempos shift; the instrumentation changes.
In some dusty little town in Nebraska the result is a terrible cacophony, Gamelan played in a razor wire factory. For you in your Lexus, driving NYC to LA there is a pleasant predictability to all this. You can gauge your travel distance by how horrible the tag is and how you can be content that you won't have to listen to it for too long anyway,
For those who live in those economically broken towns in flyover country the tags are a nightmare. Here predictability breeds not contentment but rage.
Contentment without predictability is more easily understood, at least by some of us, some of the time. Being on a train in Turkey while being resigned to seemingly capricious stops and delays. Being on a plane out of SEATAC that is, unexpectedly, re-routed around Mount Rainier. Hitting an out of tune guitar and discovering a new, to you, chord.
Of course some, or most, of the above are about happiness rather than contentment. Contentment is an intensely personal, low grade, happiness drawn in pastel shades. Contentment is unobserved happiness.
In the above metaphor of radio and television tags contentment without predictability is every station having its own pleasant tag without reference to NYC or its neighbors.
You, again in you Lexus, have pleasing snippets of music to listen to all the way across the country. You have lost predictability but that is a small price to pay if the peasants are content.

Which brings us to the next part of this argument, The ongoing destruction of the middle classes of the Western World.
This can only be achieved successfully if it is done predictably (from the point of view of those doing the destruction). But the middle classes, as now constituted, are too powerful to allow this to happen. They must be kept content, and so predictable as their lives are destroyed., and one important element is distraction. One can distract oneself from the coming foreclosure by mowing the lawn; one can distract oneself from a drug addicted teenager by becoming active in the PTA; one can distract oneself from impending divorce with marriage counseling.
You're doomed. Pretend it isn't happening. Be content with what's happening and with its predictability.
That's why Heath Ledgers Joker (an amoral sociopath, far more violent and repellent that his predecessors) was poplar with audiences and even go a sympathy Oscar (the Academy, once you strip out the top five percent, is solidly midle class)
He wasn't really an anarchist as many reviewers thought. A true anarchist would have been repelled by his predictability.
He was an agent of the unpredictable; he was (very self consciously) Loki; he was a chaos magician.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Connection #12 - Robert Greene to Ludovico Ariosto

Robert Greene was baptized in Norwich1 on July 11, 1558.2 He died in London, September 3, 1592. Of the life that extended between these dates there is little of actual record. On November 26, 1575, Greene was matriculated as a sizar at St. John's Cambridge. From that college he received his primary degree in 1578.3 In 1583, July 7, he was at Clare Hall,4 where he was granted the degree of Master of Arts. Sometime in 1585 or '86 he was married. Oxford conferred a degree in July, 1588; so that he was henceforth the Academiae Utriusque Magister in Artibus of which he was so vain.

"Hee inherited more vertues than vices," says Nashe again. "Debt and deadly sinne, who is not subject to? with any notorious crime I never knew him tainted." ... "A good fellowe he was;" considerable of a drinker. "Hee made no account of winning credite by his workes, ... his
only care was to have a spel in his purse to conjure up a good cuppe of wine with at all times." . . . "Why should art answer for the infirmities of maners? Hee had his faultes, and thou thy follyes."
The young Bohemians lived hard in those days. And they died hard. Greene was only thirty-four when he went to that "fatall banquet of Rhenish wine and pickled hearing (if thou wilt needs have it so)."8 All through the month of August Greene was ill, at first taking no alarm. He got his Blacke Bookes Messenger ready for the press, and told his plans for the Blacke Booke itself.9 Then gradually, as the days wore on, he came to realize that he could never be well. He was greatly troubled in his mind. If he could only pray, he would be happy. But there was a voice ringing in his ears, "Robin Greene, thou art damned." He tried to find comfort in the hope of God's mercy, and be pacified. But the battle went on. Sometimes he hoped, sometimes he feared. "There was one theef saved and no more, therefore presume not; and there was one saved, and therefore despair not." 

Greene's plays include The Scottish History of James IV, Alphonsus, and his greatest popular success, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (c. 1589), as well as Orlando Furioso, based on Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem. He may also have had a hand in numerous other plays, and may have written a second part to Friar Bacon, (which may survive as John of Bordeaux).

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ley Lines #2

The facts I have discovered, which lead up to the conclusions, can be verified for the most part on an inch to mile ordnance map with aid of a straight edge.
Taking all the earthworks mentioned, add to them all ancient churches, all moats and ponds, all castles (even castle farms), all wayside crosses, all cross roads or junctions which bear a place name, all ancient stones bearing a name, all traditional trees (such as gospel oaks), marked on maps, and all legendary wells. Make a small ring round each on a map. Stick a steel pin on the site of an undoubted sighting point, place a straight edge against it, and move it round until several (not less than four) of the objects named and marked come exactly in line.
You will then find on that line fragments here and there of ancient roads and footpaths, also small bits of modem roads conforming to it. Extend the line into adjoining maps, and you will find new sighting points on it, and it will usually terminate at both ends in a natural hill or mountain peak, or sometimes (in the later examples) in a legendary well or other objective.
If you travel along the actual sighting line you will find fragments of the road showing as a straight trench in untilled land,

although these are few and far between, as the plough obliterates it all. The line usually crosses a river at a known ford or ferry. Sighting tumps not marked on the map are also to be found.
Two specific proofs are illustrated in Plate IV and explained in the Table of Illustrations. Also from the highest point of the earthworks of Dinedor Camp the spire of All Saints' Church can be seen precisely between the pinnacles of Hereford Cathedral, thus showing a sighting tump and two churches on one ley. The Offa Street example (see under Churches) is another three-point proof.

Early British Trackways, Moats, Mounds, Camps and Sites by Alfred Watkins [1922]

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tipu's Tiger

 Tipu's Tiger, c.1790 (wood) by Indian School, (18th century). Made for the amusement of Sultan Tipu (1749-99); the tiger has a miniature organ with keyboard and bellows to simulate the groans of a dying British officer.

The Golden Tractate of Hermes Trismegistus #4




MY SON, before all things I admonish thee to fear God, in whom is the strength of thy undertaking, and the bond of whatsoever thou meditatest to unloose; whatsoever thou hearest, consider it rationally. For I hold thee not to be a fool. Lay hold, therefore, of my instructions and meditate upon them, and so let thy heart be fitted also to conceive, as if thou wast thyself the author of that which I now teach. If thou appliest cold to any nature that is hot, it will not hurt it; in like manner, he who is rational shuts himself within from the threshold of ignorance; lest supinely he should be deceived.
Take the flying bird and drown it flying and divide and separate it from its pollutions, which yet hold it in death; draw it forth, and repel it from itself, that it may live and answer thee; not by flying away into the regions above but by truly forbearing to fly. For if thou shalt deliver it out of its prison, after this thou shalt govern it according to Reason. and according to the days that I shall teach thee; then will it become a companion up to thee, and by it thou wilt become to be an honoured lord.
Extract from the racy its shadow, and from the light its obscurity, by which the clouds hang over it and keep away the light; by means of its construction, also, and fiery redness, it is burned
Take, my Son, this redness, corrupted with the water, which is as a live coal holding the fire, which if thou shalt withdraw so often until the redness is made pure, then it will associate with thee, by whom it was cherished, and in whom it rests.

"Take the flying bird " (or Soul), says Hermes, "and drown it flying" (birth in body), " separate it from its redness which holds it in death" (sense), " draw it forth that it may live, not by flying away to the region above " (death), "but by forbearing to fly" (returning to body). "If thou shalt deliver it out of its prison" (body) "thou shalt afterwards govern it according to reason, and it will become a companion to thee."
Theosophical siftings, Volume 5  By Theosophical Publishing Society (London, England)

Stand here by ray ride, and turn, I pray,
On the lake below thy gentle eyes;
The clouds hang over it heavy and gray,
And dark and silent the water lies;
And out of that frozen mist the snow
In wavering flakes begin to How:
Flake after Hake,
They Gink in the dark and silent lake.

 by BUY ANT 
Harper's magazine, Volume 10  By Making of America Project