March 31, 2004
Source Or Parallel? W. and Ferdinand of Aragon

Michael Novak in The Corner, on the calls for Condoleezza Rice to testify before Congress:

Look. We have seen this move before. Everybody rages that Bush is doing the wrong thing, he has to do X. Senator Daschle says he has to do X.

Republicans say he has to do X. The whole press says he is stupid for not doing X. Still, Bush refuses. And refuses. And refuses. Then, after everybody else has spoken, Bush suddenly says, O.K., we'll do X. Then, with the attention of the whole world upon him, and with everybody committed to X, he steps forward and goes right through the hole the attackers opened up for him. He does X, and knocks them dead.

In football, this play is called the mousetrap. The guard pulls out and moves toward the end, and the opposing players rush in on the attack. Suddenly the ball is handed off to a runner heading right for the spot the attackers had just vacated.

* * * * * * * *

This is the President's favorite play. When everybody says he is wrong--I mean, everybody--he finally shrugs, and says, OK. Then he does exactly what he intended to do anyway, but now by totally popular demand, and with everybody paying attention.

There is an interesting (though not exact) parallel in Francesco Guicciardini's Maxims and Reflections (77):

When I was ambassador to Spain, I observed that whenever his Catholic majesty Ferdinand of Aragon, most powerful and wise prince, was about to embark on some new enterprise, or make a decision of great importance, he went about it in such a way that before his intentions were known, the whole court and the people were already insisting and exclaiming: the king must do so and so. Then we would announce his decision just when all hoped and clamored for it, and it is incredible what justification and favor it found among his subjects and in his dominions.

This is Ferdinand V (1452-1516), who was married to Isabella, drove out the Muslims and Jews from Spain, and subsidized Columbus' voyages.

Guicciardini's best-known maxim is not actually his own (75):

Pope Leo used to cite his father, Lorenzo de' Medici, who often said: "Remember that those who speak ill of us do not love us."

One of the authors I would most like to see published in blog-form is Guicciardini. Each paragraph is well worth pondering, and one-a-day publication would be just about the right pace. Unfortunately, my Italian is inadequate, and the good translations are all in copyright, so I will not be able to add him to my stable of Lanx Satura lit-blogs. Perhaps someone else could do so?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:55 PM
March 21, 2004
Is This A Pun?

Is the name of New Directions Press supposed to contain an obscene pun? At least to my ears there is no difference in pronunciation between 'new directions' and 'nude erections'. And they did publish Henry Miller . . . .

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:22 PM
March 15, 2004
Happy Birthday To Me

Today is not only International Eat an Animal to Annoy PETA Day, it is also my 51st birthday. If any of my readers is at all inclined to use the PayPal or Amazon WishList buttons at the top of this page, today would be a particularly good day to do so. Not that there's ever a bad day for that sort of thing, of course.

I promise to spend the first $10 received through PayPal on meat -- maybe even raw meat, if I can get to my favorite sushi bar. I would broil a steak at home, but my oven doesn't go over 375 even after an hour of preheating.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:35 AM
Network Of Evil

Almost two years ago (March 25, 2002), I argued that the so-called 'Axis of Evil' is actually "a loosely-knotted Network of Evil":

. . . Libya supplies guns and explosives to the IRA, which sends ambassadors (bomb instructors?) to the Colombian FARC, who are in tight with Castro, and so on around the world. If North Korea sells missiles to Iran, it is no doubt mostly for the money, but partly because they're evil and like to know that other evil countries are well-armed -- there is some safety in numbers. The list of connections could be extended, but it would be easier to ask whether there is any organized violent antiWestern force in the world today that does not give or receive help from any of the others. Perhaps the Nepali Maoists? Or is it really likely that China is not shipping arms across their long and sparsely-populated border?

Someone with more detailed and up-to-date knowledge than I could put together a fascinating diagram of the most important nodes in the Network of Evil and all their known connections. It would look a little like one of those Lyndon LaRouche diagrams of who runs the world, tracing the puppet strings from the five Rockefeller brothers through the Pope, the Queen of England, various Wall Street law firms, and so on down to Bush and Blair and the rest. Of course, one important difference is that the Network of Evil has no center, no spider controlling the web: all nodes are equal, and most are independent, but they do work together. Another fundamental difference is that the connections in the Network of Evil are not imaginary. I haven't seen one of the LaRouche diagrams in over 20 years, so I'm not at all clear on who is supposed to be running the world now that Nelson and his brothers are all dead. Younger Rockefellers, I suppose, with perhaps a few Rothschilds thrown in to help hook the more antiSemitic morons.

Of course one other advantage of 'Network of Evil' as a slogan is that it is so much more contemporary. 'Axis of Evil' sounds so industrial age, five-year-plan, smelters and turbines, battleships and trench warfare, in short, so 19th-century. Bin Laden's cell phones and e-mailed communiqués, and the lack of any real front line in this particular war are just a few of the things that make it a network, not an axis.

The most significant suggestion is in bold-face. I still think this is a good idea. Here's what I have in mind: a pictorial diagram of the Network of Evil, in the form of an interactive map of the world. Nodes would be color-coded, and would fall into three classes:

  1. Evil countries, such as North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.
  2. Evil NGOs, such as Al Qaeda, ETA, IRA, FARC, LTTE, JI, MILF, Hamas, Hezbollah, and dozens, if not hundreds, more.
  3. 'Enablers', countries (e.g. Germany) and NGOs (e.g. the U.N.) that supply the evil countries and NGOs with arms and money.

These would be displayed on a map of the world, with a dot for each node, and lines connecting all the nodes known (or suspected) to be connected. A reader who clicked on any line would be given the list of connections between the two countries or NGOs connected by that line, whether proven, probable, or possible, with URLs for the evidence. For example, the line connecting Libya with the Irish Republican Army would give all the evidence for cooperation between the two. A reader who clicked on any node would be given a list of all other nodes connected to it, and could then select one connection for further examination.

So: Does any of my readers have the technical skills and spare time to put together such a site? I suspect (and hope) that the U.S. government already has such a map, but an amateur private-sector version would also be useful.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:20 AM
March 14, 2004
MT Quirks, Spam-Comments, And More

To save money and time, none of my Lanx Satura blogs has its own domain. This works well except for two quirks in Movable Type:

The first is minor, but annoying: The file numbers of individual posts all share the same sequence. I would have preferred that a separate blog with 11 posts number them 1-11, instead of interleaving them with the numbers of all my other blogs.

The other quirk is more serious: When I ban someone in one blog, I would prefer that he be banned in all the rest without my having to put the information in separately. I already have three Lanx Satura blogs (plus one 'meta-blog') and hope to add more, and that makes for a lot of work. (Yes, I know: I need to get the software add-on.) The porn-spam comments I've been getting have been more abundant than actual comments, and each one is more perverted than the one before.

One thing that puzzles me: I've recently gotten three porn-spam comments that no one else could possibly ever have seen. Two were comments on an unfinished post from last June that was never published, and the other was attached to a post on an experimental blog that was never unveiled even to my friends and has never been linked by me or (I assume) anyone else. I'm torn being glad that the spammer was wasting his effort so stupidly and angry (also a bit worried) that he can even get at my unpublished stuff.

Porn-spam comments annoy me far more than ordinary e-mail spam, however filthy. It's bad enough to have my own peace of mind disturbed, but at least the e-mails leave my readers out of it. It's rather like the difference between getting an obscene phone call and having filthy graffiti spray-painted on your house for every passerby to see. (I do wish a certain family half a block from here would paint over the unexpurgated 'F*ck Y*u B*tch' that's been on their garage door since I moved in six months ago.)

Last Tuesday, Tyler Cowen of the Volokh Conspiracy reported that on-line casinos have been targetted by extortionists who used "denial-of-service attacks" to shut them down until they were paid large sums of money. Would it be possible to use such tactics on spammers? It would be important to make sure that no innocent parties got caught in the crossfire, but I wonder if there is some way to attack the spammers with their own weapons. What I have in mind is some kind of easy-to-install software that would allow me to select an incoming porn message or (even better) porn-spam comment, click once, and have 100 or 1000 messages automatically sent back to the spammer. If these messages were cunningly designed to look like actual orders from porn-fans or viagra-users or inadequately-endowed men (or those who fall into all three categories) the spammers would have to sift through all the fake messages looking for the ones they actually want. Probably there's some technical reason this wouldn't work.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:28 PM
More James -- Not Henry, The Other One

I have now posted the second story from M. R. James, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary: "Lost Hearts". It's a little less (how to put it?) academic than the first, though it does refer to Simon Magus and the Clementine Recognitions. Just follow the link in the left margin. Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right is also chugging along, one brief entry per day, though Gracián's Oráculo Manual is a week behind. I may have bitten off more than I can chew on that one, and am considering aiming for three chapters per week instead of one per day. The Lanx Satura MetaBlog will provide further news on all three lit-blogs, and any others I may find time to add.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:08 PM
The View From Here

Since others are posting pictures of their 'blogging spaces' and mine is rather repulsive, here's the view from my armchair, with nonfunctional stone-carved fireplace, drunken gorilla, CDs and DVDs, equipment to play them, Tower of Babel engraving, and (just visible on the left) an entire bookshelf of Ovid books backed by another full of Propertius books:

One of these days I'll get around to fixing the date on my digital camera.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:53 PM
March 08, 2004

The Twisted Spinster, Andrea Harris, writes:

Is it just me, or does the new habit of using the words “female” and “male” where the words “man” or “woman” used to be used grate on the ears of others than myself?

No, it is not just her (she?): it certainly grates on my nerves. Oddly, none of the 19 comments (so far) on her post mentions that calling women or girls "females" makes the speaker sound like a Ferengi, and that's not a good thing. Star Trek episodes with Ferengi involved do tend to be more amusing, but you still don't want to sound like one.

Tangential linguistic pedantry:

One of her commentators (16th comment) mentions the Danes who invaded England in the Middle Ages and "ravished convents and monasteries". I think he means that they ravaged them. No doubt they ravished the nuns while they were ravaging their convents, and they may well have ravished a monk or two along the way, but (to simplify only slightly) "ravage" means "plunder" while "ravish" means "rape". Of course, like "flaunt" and "flout", they are often confused in these degenerate days.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:24 PM
March 07, 2004
Two More Lanx Satura Blogs

Following up on Tuesday's post, I have now launched two more spin-off lit-blogs:

  1. The Lanx Satura MetaBlog, which will list all developments in the project as a whole. I will, of course, mention the more important additions here.
  2. M. R. James: Ghost Stories, which will accompany the web publication of the fifteen stories included in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904) and More Ghost Stories (1911), with marginal notes (in the text) and open comments (in the accompanying blog). The first story, and one of the best, is "Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book". Anyone who wishes to read it without going to the blog first may click here.
Posted by Dr. Weevil at 01:06 PM
March 02, 2004
Taking The Steyn Challenge

In today's Mark's Mailbox, Mark Steyn writes:

. . . unlike certain other countries, Canada is not recognizable by its shape. You don't have to be an arrogant, ignorant, irrelevant, self-absorbed, pathetic, destructive, ineffectual, wasted Brit to think that. I was once on a radio show with Mordecai Richler and Garrison Keillor which began with Keillor condescendingly explaining to Mordecai that Canada had no definable shape as a country. You could picture the 49th Parallel, but the northern and eastern edges just sort of dribbled away into ice and water. If you're so high on the "world's 2nd largest land mass", here's a simple test: sit down and draw the outline of the Canadian map from memory.

I'm not even Canadian, but I think I can meet the challenge. Here's my map, done entirely from memory in under a minute on a double-sized yellow post-it note:

Of course, all those large and empty islands up top are impossible to draw accurately, because impossible to remember. Here's a second attempt on white paper, after a few minutes contemplation of the first:

I added the little notch on top of Minnesota, improved the Great Lakes area to make it fit better with the neighboring (United) states, fiddled with the coast of Labrador, put in Baffin Island, the only one whose approximate shape I can remember at all, and got rid of the nonexistent large island (Atlantis?) just north of Newfoundland. (I got a little carried away filling in the indistinguishable islands on the first map and continued too far east and then south.) Other than that, the first attempt seemed fairly accurate. Any complaints, Canadian readers?

Perhaps I should add that I'm not particularly 'high on the world's second-largest land mass', I just like geography in general.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 08:25 PM
Announcing Lanx Satura

My first two spin-off lit-blogs are now up and ready for unveiling:

  1. Gracián's Oráculo Manual
  2. Ambrose Bierce: Write It Right, A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults

More will follow. Please check them out.

As for the series title, Lanx Satura is Latin for 'smorgasbord'.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:12 AM