Sunday, May 31, 2009

Translation of A Passage From Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, Chapter I, "Von den ersten und letzten Dingen," aphorism 31, the original and then my translation:

"Das Unlogische notwendig. — Zu den Dingen, welche einen Denker in Verzweifelung bringen können, gehört die Erkenntnis, dass das Unlogische für den Menschen nötig ist, und dass aus dem Unlogischen vieles Gute entsteht. Es steckt so fest in den Leidenschaften, in der Sprache, in der Kunst, in der Religion und überhaupt in Allem, was dem Leben Wert verleiht, dass man es nicht herausziehen kann, ohne damit diese schönen Dinge heillos zu beschädigen. Es sind nur die allzu naiven Menschen, welche glauben können, dass die Natur des Menschen in eine rein logische verwandelt werden könne; wenn es aber Grade der Annäherung an dieses Ziel geben sollte, was würde da nicht Alles auf diesem Wege verloren gehen müssen! Auch der vernünftigste Mensch bedarf von Zeit zu Zeit wieder der Natur, das heißt seiner unlogischen Grundstellung zu allen Dingen."

"The Illogical is Necessary. - Among the things which can bring a thinker to despair is the realization that the illogical is necessary for people, and that much which is good comes from the illogical. It is so deeply embedded in the passions, in language, art, religion and in everything that gives value to life that one cannot remove it without doing irreparable harm to these beautiful things. Only very naive people can believe that the nature of people can be transformed into a purely logical nature; if this goal were even nearly approached by degrees, what all would not be lost along the way! Even the most logical person has the need from time to time for nature, that is to say, for his fundamentally illogical relationship to all things."

As translations go, I think that one wasn't bad. I'm sure some people would strongly disagree, in large part because translation is a subjective thing, and if they had translated the passage themselves they would've done it differently. You might've noticed how many more commas there are in the original German aphorism than in my translation. I hate to say, but I suspect some translators would take me to task for that. What would I answer to them?

Well, the thing is, I would try to avoid the conversation to begin with. I can't imagine many more dreary debates. "To write is to fail," said Samuel Beckett. I think that what he meant is that even the very best writing will by its nature leave much to be desired -- by its creator, if by no one else. They say that something is always lost in translation, and I believe they're right about that. And so to translate is to doubly fail, to compound imperfection. I can't do justice to that passage by Nietzsche as a translator. It's hard enough for a reader fluent in German to do justice to the original. Translation is a poor substitute for learning the original language. It always is. I believe that firmly.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

History of the World, Condensed Version, Part III, Clearly Hampered By My Having Studied Mostly Just Western Civ.

Okay, we're up to the Renaissance now. Except that I think it should be referred to as the "Renaissance." The word "renaissance" is French for "rebirth." The implication is that ancient culture, especially Greek culture, was reborn in Western Europe beginning around the 14th century.

But Greek culture, philosophy based on thinkers like Plato and Aristotle, literature inspired by Homer and the Attic tragedies and Alexandrian comedies, art inspired by the ancients, had not died out, just because the West was ignorant of such things. People never stopped reading ancient Greek in the Eastern Roman Empire, in "Byzantium." The ancient Greeks were also very widely studied in Islamic lands while Western Europe was ruled by illiterates in its Middle Ages. Then, eventually, the West became more literate, and learned to study the ancient Greeks, learned with a lot of help from Greeks, and Arabs, and Turks, help which they rarely acknowledged, and rarely acknowledge to this day.

But despite my etymological problems with the word "Renaissance," in its original sense of the rebirth of a culture which had never died, and despite the fact that it's inaccurate to say that you rediscovered something you didn't know to begin with, as opposed to acknowledging that someone else taught it to to you -- despite all that, there's no denying that in the age known as the Renaissance great changes occurred in the West, great advances in science and technology -- again, often acclaimed as Western "discoveries" when they were actually borrowing from elsewhere -- great growth of cities, of trade and commerce, great plunder of the civilizations of the Western Hemisphere whose people were devastated by European guns and diseases and ruthlessness.

It's well established by now that Leif Ericsson reached Canada around AD 1000. He may not have been the first European to sail west to the "New World." Irish monks, hermits who took to the sea because Ireland didn't have any deserts, got as far west as Iceland before any Scandinavians did, and who knows how far west some of them got. Samuel Eliot Morison covered the Age of Discovery very well in The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, A.D. 500-1600 and The European Discovery of America the southern Voyages 1492-1616

With Columbus and his followers we're getting into the age of European colonialism, and thinking about that is making me very depressed. It may be a while before I get to Part IV.

End of Part III of the Condensed Version.

Friday, May 29, 2009

History of the World, Condensed Version, Part II, Clearly Hampered By My Having Studied Mostly Just Western Civ.

By the way, that "Clearly Hampered[...]" in the post title is not meant to be flip or sarcastic. The "History of the World" is the sarcastic part. A lot of "Histories of the World" have been written, and a lot of histories of Western civilization which are not much different, or actually more all-encompassing. I'm very ignorant of the majority of the world which lies outside of the scope of Western civilisation, and I'm a pretty typical Westerner in that regard. I've begun to learn a little about the rest of the world but it's just been baby steps.

So if you're understanding me clearly, my referring to these modest posts as a "History of the World" will make you smile wryly. What I'm trying to do here is to make some very general remarks about what I believe I know about certain things I find interesting. This is in part an exercise for me to see how well I can summarize some things. It is one of the quirks of the culture in which I live is that such remarks are sometimes referred to as world history. There is a lot of hubris in our culture.

To back up chronologically from the end of Part I of the Condensed Version: By several tens of thousand of years ago, humans had migrated from Africa into Asia, Europe and Oceania.

If you want to start an argument, bring together several dozen anthropologists and archaeologists selected entirely at random and bring up the question of when humans first migrated to the Western Hemisphere. That should start a nice vigorous argument for you.

Most anthropologists and archaeologists seem to agree that humans crossed the land bridge from Siberia to Alaska 10 or 12 thousand years or so ago. The disagreements begin when the questions are: did humans come to the Western Hemisphere earlier than that? How much earlier? Did they come by other routes in addition to the land bridge? Perhaps by boat across the Pacific from Asia?

Archaeologist A will present an object and say it is an artifact formed by human hands in the Wesern Hemisphere 20, or 30, or 40, or 60 or 60 thousand years ago. Archaeologist B will regard this statement by Archaeologist A and assert that it shows that A is engaged in wishful thinking as opposed to science, and that the object occurred naturally and show no evidence of having been shaped by human hands.

I don't know whom I should believe.

Meanwhile, back in Western Civ.: after the hegemonies of the Sumerians and Egyptians and Babylonians and Hittites and Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians and Persians, Alexander the Great created the Hellenistic world by conquering land as far eastward from Greece as Afghanistan and parts of India. His vast empire fragmented after his death, but in many parts of it the rulers continued to be Greek for a while. Meanwhile, both east and west of Egypt, as far west as Spain certainly, the Phoenicians had an empire as well. They were good sailors, and some people have speculated that in ancient times they sailed to the Western Hemisphere, although that seems extremely far-fetched to me. The Phoenicians had been a major power at least as far back as the eighth century BC, but not long after Alexander, who ruled his empire in the second half of the fourth century BC, the Phoenicians, and the Greeks, had a new rival for control of the Mediterranean: the Romans. In the third and seconds centuries BC Rome, which as late as 500 BC had been not much more than a village which managed to throw off the overlordship of the Etruscans, finished conquering the Italian peninsula, then conquered Phoenicia and Greece. In 30 BC the last bit of Mediterranean coastline not yet in Roman hands passed to them from Egypt, from Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh and a descendant of one of Alexander's generals.

The Israelites had rebelled against the Greek successors of Alexander, and they rebelled against the Romans. In AD 70 the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed, and in 73 AD the Jewish revolt came to an end when the Romans took the fortress of Masada. In the next several centuries Christianity, a sect arising from Judaeism, gradually spread throughout the Roman Empire until in the fourth century AD it became the official state religion and all other religions began to be persecuted and stamped out. In the fifth century Germanic tribes overran the western part of the Empire, and from this point on, only the eastern part continuously survived, until AD 1453. In a major example of the Western hubris I referred to above, to this day many otherwise well-educated Weserners continue to refer to the end of the weserrn part of the Roman Empire as the end of the Roman Empire, and refer to the surviving eastern part as Byzantium, as if it were not in fact the Roman Empire.

Things went very poorly in the West for several centuries which we usually, and I think quite rightly, call the Dark Ages. Some people use the terms "Dark Ages" and "Middle Ages" synonymously. I think it makes more sense to use "Dark Ages" for the period between 476, when Romulus Augustulus, the last Western Emperor, surrendered to Odoacer, a Germanic chieftain, and 800, when Charlemagne, in an act by no means free of unrealistic connotations, was crowned Emperor by the Pope, and to use the term "Middle Ages" to describe the entire time between the fal of the western part of the Empire until the Rennaissance: say, 1350 in Italy, and later as you head north.

End of Part II of the Condensed Version

That Which Does Not Kill Me Could Still Maim Me For Life

"That which does not kill me makes me stronger" is an often-quoted, perhaps the most often-quoted line from Nietzsche. I'm a big fan of Nietzsche, but I certainly don't agree with everything he said, and frankly, I'm surprised that he isn't called more often on this one. Clearly, what does not kill you still often leaves you worse off, weaker, not stronger.

The quote comes from Götzen- Dämmerung. Oder Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert. (Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize With a Hammer), the chapter "Sprüche und Pfeile" ("Sayings and Arrows"), saying -- or arrow -- No. 8:

"Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens. — Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker."

"From the war-school of life. - That which does not kill me makes me stronger."

War school. Nietzsche was one of those people who praise warriors without ever being one. He volunteered for duty in the Prussian army, but was not accepted as a soldier. The official reason given was "Schmallbruestigkeit," "narrow-chestedness." But even if Nietzsche had not been too skinny to be a soldier, he likely would've been too near-sighted. He also seems to have had migraine headaches. I have migraines. If you get them, imagine having them in the 19th century, without the benefit of any medications invented since then. Nietzsche had a lot of serious health problems his whole life long. It's widely speculated that his mental breakdown, which happened around the time Götzen-Dämmerung was published in 1889, was caused by syphilis. That's possible, but it could've been a lot of other things too. Nietzsche was a frail sickly guy, and eventually, in 1889, when he was 44 years old, something which did not immediately kill him made him completely lose his mind. From then until his death in 1900 he was unable to care for himself and mostly bed-ridden.

"That which does not kill me makes me stronger." Simply not true! No more true than "The meek will inherit the earth." Nietzsche was overcompensating. Maybe if he did not talk tough like that all the time, he would've broken down sooner. Or maybe he would've taken better care of himself and lived to a relatively robust ripe old age.

Watch out for pithy lines which sound good. So often we choose mottoes which sound good but don't really make sense.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

History of the World, Condensed Version, Part I, Clearly Hampered By My Having Studied Mostly Just Western Civ.

About 15 billion years ago, something very small and heavy, containing everything in the universe of which we know, exploded and became very big and hot and gassy. Gravity occurred somehow, or had already been there, or is an aspect or manifestion of the universe being curved, I don't know. Anyhow, hot gas eventually settled into balls, and one of these hot gas balls is our sun, and the Earth was a gas ball orbiting the Sun, and it cooled to the point where it became partly solid, and the Moon started orbiting the earth by mistake, it seems, because generally moons are much smaller proportion to their planets. See Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, and Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, or better yet, ask an actual scientist for tips for further reading.

Water appeared, then single-celled organisms. These eventually became more complex and differentiated into plants and animals. Richard Dawkins in The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life tells us when certain species appeared, all of which are ancestors of us humans, hence the book's title. Did you know we're descended from lungfish? They were around 417 million years ago!

Yeah, I'm pretty clueless about such things. I refer you to Dawkins and Darwin, The Origin Of Species.

Darwin referred to the "struggle for existence. The geologist McCandles in William Gaddis' novel Carpenter's Gothic, presumably speaking for the author, complained about people having to struggle against the stupidity of other people, and speculated that it had been thus for quite a while: he imagined the brightest of out hominid ancestors two million years ago in Africa, banging away with rudimentary stone tools and trying to get something done despite the interference of idiots.

Art seems to have pre-dated urban life. Human life so far seems to have included at least 30,000 Years of Art; whether there actually were, by 10,000 B.C., huge stone temples and substantial towns such as those depicted in Roland Emmerich's film, I don't know. I'm picturing nothing much more than huts and cabins at that point, but what do I know?

I know that by 7,000 or 6,000 BC there were cities in Mesopotamia like Ur. (I don't know whether the name of the Mesopotamian city is only coincidentally the same as the German prefix or whether there's more to it than that.) Within a couple of thousand years after that, there were fairly complex civilizations with big towns in Mesopotamia and also in Egypt.

After 3,100 BC the record becomes much more detailed, because by then people had started writing. Probably in Mesopotamia first, in Sumeria, followed closely by Egypt. In both areas writing began as hieroglyphics, picture-writing, but in Mesopotamia it quickly became more abstract. Egypt became a very monolithic single state, Mesopotamia was filled with competing political entities, rising and falling over and over: among these were the Babylonians in the early second millenium BC, the Assyrians in the late second and early first millenia, and in the mid-first millenium, the neo-Babylonians and, pushing into Mesopotamia from the east where they held much more territory still, the Persians.

End of Part I of the Condensed Version

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Am I an Historian?

[PS, 19. March 2016: No, I'm not an historian, I'm an essayist with a strong interest in history who's also written novels, stories and plays.]

Well... yes, I think perhaps I am, I think an historian may be what I am turning into. If an historian is someone who not only studies historical topics a lot, but also often has questions, the answers to which he does not find in other peoples' historical writings, and is seized by the strong desire to search among primary documents and artifacts as well as in secondary sources until he finds those answers, and then writes about what he has found, then, yes, I am very much an historian.

Here's an example of one of those questions which occurred to me recently: I had been aware that Johannes Gutenberg, whether or not he actually invented printing, had begun printing sometime in the 1430's or '40's, and from that I had assumed that the editio princeps of many a work of Classical antiquity dated from before 1450. But this appears not to be the case: I know of only one Classical work printed before 1469: Cicero's De Officiis,printed in 1465. Then beginning in 1469 a great number of first editions of Classical authors followed in close succession, with editions of Apulius, Livy, Lucan, Vergil, Caesar and Pliny the Elder all appearing in that year alone,

Why did it take so long for printers to get around to printing Classical texts? Was the interest in Classical material really so small? Were students of Classical literature somehow averse to the new technology?

No, and no. Rather, it seems that I had been puzzled because I made a couple of anachronistic assumptions: that the invention of printing, once achieved, became widely-known with a speed analogous to the news of inventions in out time; and that Gutenberg and other printers would seek out any and all customers for their invention. Actually, Gutenberg, and other of the earliest European printers in Gutenberg's corner of Germany, did not seek to publicize his invention. On the contrary, he tried very hard to keep it secret, so that others couldn't imitate what he did and compete with him. This naturally meant, for as long as they successfully maintained this secrecy, that their potential market remained small and local. And the customers they knew wanted primarily Christian things: parts of the Bible, eventually whole Bibles,and contemporary and medieval theology. The Classical printings came in great quantity as soon as the techniques of printing became less secret, and spread across Europe. This appears not to have happened until about 1469, when it spread very rapidly indeed all over Western Europe.

If I had a little more professionalism as an historian, I could, and would, tell you from exactly whom I learned all this. Unfortunately, I remembered roughly what was said and forgot who said it -- somewhere on the Internet. That was several months ago, though, and I'm getting more conscientious, more into the habit of recording attribution more as a matter of course when I note things. Good historians are good about giving attribution in their footnotes. Not only is this polite and proper, it also answers the question Oh yeah? Who sez? with which we (they? we) are perpetually confronted.

Years ago -- 10 years? 15? 20? I don't know how many years ago, I hadn't gotten into the habit yet of writing such things down -- a question which I much wanted to answer was, What was Charlemagne's native language? I read accounts of Charlemagne in several history books without learning the answer, until I found it here: Karl der Große. Mit Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten,by Wolfgang Braunfels. It turns out that Charlemagne's native langugae was German; in fact, the written German language pretty much begins in his reign, and, more than that, at the very least the process of making German a written language received his strong support. It may have been his idea. (In those days people tended to write in languages which already had a tradition of writing: Latin, Greek, Hebrew and so forth -- mostly Latin in Charlemagne's Empire -- and it seems only rarely to have occurred to anyone to write in one of the various spoken languages of Europe.)


There are so many things I don't know. For instance: how many people could read Latin in the Roman Republic and Empire, and then in Western Europe after the fall of the Western Empire? We tend to assume that the numbers dropped drastically between the Classical era and the Dark Ages, but is this true, or is it more the case that a large illiterate demographic of Germanic peoples are more prominent in our backward historical gaze, while the actual Romans remained as literate as before, although less powerful?

Has the total number of people at any given time who could read Latin ever been in the millions? Has the number actually declined over the past couple of centuries, or does it only seem smaller because it represents a smaller percentage of the much greater number of people who now have attended universities?

For some works of Classical Latin there have survived hundreds of manuscripts, some have disappeared, perhaps never to be recovered, some are represented today by a single manuscript. Does the number of manuscripts known to us today tell us anything about the past popularity of a given text? I wonder. Books xli-xlv of Livy's ab urbe condita, his history of Rome from its mythical beginnings down to his own time during the reign of Augustus, appeared to have vanished when in 1527 Simon Grynaeus found them in a 5th-century codex in a monestary in Switzerland. Before 1527 30 of Livy's 142 books -- think of books of the Bible, Livy's books are of a roughly comparable length -- were known to the public, since Grynaeus' discovery it's been 35, plus a few small fragments which have since come to light here and there, and two compilations from the 4th century AD, an anonymous summary or periochae, and a listing by a certain Julius Obsequens of all the "prodigies" -- natural disasters, plagues, eclipses and so forth -- mentioned in the entire work. And yet the mentions of Livy in other ancient, medieval and modern texts seem to indicate that he was consistently one of the most highly-regarded, widely read of all Classical authors.

But that's yet another speculation on my part, inferring a rough idea of the comparative size of dimensions of Livy's total readership based on some comments here and there. For all I know, some other writers in ancient Rome could've been much more popular than Livy, writers about whom no-one today knows anything, because the interest in them died out quickly, and the people who may have written mentions of them were themselves not considered interesting, and so their writings too were lost. A lot can get lost in 2,000 years, lost or destroyed or forgotten. Or just misplaced, like that 5th-century copy of Livy's books xli-xlv. The volume may have lain on that shelf in that monastery in Switzerland for centuries without so much as being touched.

How many other interesting old manuscripts are just laying around, with a race going on, a very very slow race between someone eventually finding them, by design or accident, and them rotting away?

Again: I really have no idea at all. I'd like to see Livy's work restored to its full 142 books. I'd love to discover some of the missing material myself, but there's an entire branch of a learned profession in line in front of me in terms of being likely to make such a find. How likely is it that anybody will ever find anything more of Livy's work?

Again: I. Really. Just. Don't. Know.

The authors of this anthology seem very bright and learned, they probably have much more exact ideas about the possibilities and probabilities involved in such things than I: Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics, edited by Leighton D. Reynolds, N.G. Wilson.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spelling Rules are Arbitrary and Sily! [sic!]

Teh pruopse of lnagauge is to comouniatce. Sepllnig deosn't hvae to be eevn colse to "corerct" in odrer for wirtnig to be cmorpehesiblne.

Goethe and Shakespeare didn't care about standardized spelling. I don't know whether the concept even existed yet in Shakespeare's time. Some of the crackpots who dispute that Shakespeare really even existed, let alone wrote the works attributed to him --- I think he existed and wrote the works attributed to him -- point triumphantly to the fact that his signature is spelled differently in different cases. It seems they may be unaware that it was NOT UNUSUAL AT THE TIME TO SPELL YR NAME ONE WAY ONE TIME AND ANOTHER THE NEXT. By Goethe's time the idea of "correct" vs "incorrect" spelling had started to spread, there definitely were some language police around by that time, but Goethe had no use for them.

So, you believe in rigidly standardized spelling, Sparky? you think you know better than Goethe, is that it? Hm?

Hallo Katharina!

Nett, dass Du mal reingeguckt hast! Ich sage hier Hallo, weil ich versuchte, Hallo zu sagen bei Deiner Homepage, die aber keine ist, aber irgendwie doch, und ich fand dort zwar Angebote fuer T-Shirts und Muetzen aber keinen Platz wo man Hallo sagt.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Books I Like

At first I thought about giving this post the title "Books I Heartily Recommend," but "Books I Like" is more accurate. If you know me a little, you'll have some idea whether and to what extent the fact that I like a book means you'll like it too. Checking out some of these books would not be a bad way to get to know me and get a feel for my interests.

The Recognitions and JR, William Gaddis' first two novels, long and delightfully difficult and tremendously good. Gaddis' next two novels are excellent as well, but I like these ones the most. The fifth one, published posthumously, is still unfinished, in my opinion, and is of interest only to hard-core fans. The posthumous collection of essays is also a bit of a letdown.

On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry and The Tunnel a novel, by William H. Gass. Gass is in some ways even more difficult than Gaddis. The term "unflinching" perhaps never was more entirely fitting to any other writer. The term "catharsis" applies as well. On Being Blue is about the color blue and about being depressed and melancholy and about writing about sex and about many other things. The Tunnel is about an American historian specializing in the Third Reich who is thoroughly unlikeable. The tunnel of the title is one he's digging under his house, and a symbol for the abysses into which the human soul can sink.

The History Of The Reformation Of The Church Of England V4 is a collection of some of the sources for Gilbert Burnett's history of the Reformation: letters to and from the English monarchs from Henry VII through Elizabeth I and from related personages, and other documents of the time. Untranslated. Elizabeth wrote very good Latin. (But I don't think she wrote any of the plays attributed to Shakespeare.)

Der Antichrist (ISBN 3-458-32647-2) von Friedrich Nietzsche ist nicht umsonst noch heute ein Renner. Hier findet man knapp und klar resumiert die Schaden, die das Christentum dem Denken eines Drittel der Menschheit zugefuegt hat, and die Gruende, warum man Schluss damit machen muss. (Dass es von einem Maerchen handelt ist laengst nicht der einzige Grund, ist nicht mal der Hauptgrund.)

The Sicilian Vespers: A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later Thirteenth Century (Canto) or just about any other book by Steven Runciman, except that if you're interested in the bibliographies, you will want to avoid his abridged version of The First Crusade. (The unabridged version is A History of the Crusades Vol. I: The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem) And if you are anything at all like me, you will absolutely delight in Runciman's bibliographies.

I could go on and on and on and on and on. I will definitely rattle off a lot of other book titles in future posts. For the moment let me just say that Gaddis, Gass, Nietzsche and Runciman are the best teachers I have ever had so far. None of them is perfect: Nietzsche was afflicted with a bad crazy case of misogyny, and Runciman seems to have been infected with a bit of anti-semitism fashionable in Cambridge in the early 20th-century. (Although his case was far from the most severe -- he was far from being the bigot that, for example, T.S. Eliot was -- and he may have partly cured himself of it over the course of his long life.) Those are serious shortcomings, but then again, as far as I know, no-one is perfect. These four writers share vast scholarship, huge ambition, keen judgement and beautiful prose style.

Well Hello There!

This is my first blog post ever, I just created my first blogger account. I'm not sure why I'm doing this except that some people who seem to know what they're talking about said I should.

I suppose I'll be writing mostly about historical, philosophical, religious and anthropological topics. The history will include a lot of art history. The philosophy will be of the sort where I mention lots of other philosophers and attempt to define my own position through my agreements with and differences from them.

My approach to religion is purely anthropological. I don't believe in God or the "supernatural." Not that that means that I regard all religions and all religious activity as equally wrong. As Nietzsche said, "Es gibt sehr nuetzliche Irrtuemer." (I'm going to be posting a lot of stuff in languages other than English, and I'm not going to translate all of it. If you find my blogs interesting, and you come across a passage in a language which is foreign to you, I hope you might take the trouble to learn a bit of that language. I hope that doesn't seem mean.) I find that the Old Testament is better written than the New, and that Homer is much, much better than either of them: more realistic, more true to the vitality and complexity of human life, just as polytheism, while no more true than monotheism, reflects much more closer the realities of human life with its inabsolutenesses and ongoing struggles between multiple powers.

I've written three books, a collection of essays and two novels, published zero. Is this blog gonna help me with that? I sure hope so. I think it's very likely I'll write at least a fourth and fifth.

Why am I The Wrong Monkey? I suppose I like the idea of monkeys and apes, who are being cruelly abused in labs and elsewhere, rising up, rebelling, evolving and eventually proving that they were the wrong monkeys to be messing with. I suppose I feel I've been kicked around and abused a bit, too. I imagine most people and many monkeys feel that way. I'm all about evolving, opposing oppression and exploitation, finding ways for us to be a little more decent to each other.