Thursday, June 30, 2016

Die Welt Ist Weit Und Vielfaeltig

Wenn jemand aus heiterem Himmel einen Facebook-Post wie "So ein Quatsch" postet, anstatt zu versuchen, ihn oder sie zu verstehen, blockiere ich ihn oder sie, sofort, aus Prinzip, und wende mich anderen Leuten zu, hoffend, das naechste Mal werde es schoener sein. Das Leben ist einfach zu kurz dafuer, dass ich ein solches virtuelles Grunzen mit meiner nicht unendlichen Aufmerksamkeit belohne.

Und trotzdem ich das eben jetzt sofort tat, merkte ich, dank der Anstrengungen Dritter, dass "So ein Quatch" sich auf einen Literaturpreis bezog. Dieser Esel war zu faul, um etwas wie "Den diesjaehrigen Bachmannpreis finde ich ein Quatch" zu posten, nein, "So ein Quatch" sollte ausreichen. Die uebrigen Welt war ihm soviel Entgegenkommen schuldig, oder sollte schon den Zeitplan seines Tages kennen, und wissen schon, was dies Grunzen zu bedeuten hatte.

Ich hoffe, ihn bald restlos vergessen zu haben, aber in der Zwischenzeit komme ich nicht umhin, mich zu fragen, ob diese schoene Welt tatsaechlich so weit und viefaeltig ist, dass sie Platz hat fuer jemanden, der Herr "So ein Quatsch" fuer einen wichtigen Literaturkritiker haelt, und "So ein Quatsch" fuer ein brillantes Bonmot und eine erbauende Einsicht in den heutigen Literaturbetrieb. Ich halte ebendies keineswegs fuer unmoeglich. Herr "So ein Quatsch" is womoeglich Herausgeber der Feuilleton der FAZ. Aber das brauche ich nicht zu wissen, weil die Welt weit und vielfaetig ist.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It Would Have Been Much Easier For The Republicans To Stop Trump BEFORE He Was The Presumptive Nominee

How? you ask. Remarkably easy: all they would've had to do is keep 5 or 6 other candidates in the race. Trump got more votes than any other candidate in almost every Republican primary, but while there were a bunch of other candidates in the race, he was still getting far less than 50%. That's back when he was threatening that there would be riots in Cleveland if he wasn't named the nominee, remember? Back when it didn't look at all certain that he'd come to the convention with 50% of the delegates. He claimed he had a right to the nomination whether he had 50% or not.

And of course, he was wrong about that. The way both the Democratic and Republican conventions have worked, for a long, long time, maybe for as long as there have been Republican and Democratic conventions, I don't know, but definitely for a long time, is that if no one gets 50% on the first ballot, you vote again and again until someone has 50%. And after the first ballot, no delegates are pledged anymore.

All the Republicans had to do, back during the primaries, was keep Cruz and Rubio and Kasich and a couple more people in the race against Trump, and get together and decide who was going to win after the first ballet.

Oh, that doesn't sound simple to you? Compare it to trying to nominate someone else now, with a clear majority of delegates committed to Trump. My way would've been easier. And there was no reason for them to be intimidated by Trump's threats of riots: on the contrary, that's the sort of statement they easily could have used against Trump. Well, looks easy when Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren and John Lewis and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Barack Obama and Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean do it.

I think that the effort to stop Trump at the convention, when he has a big majority of delegates, will fail spectacularly, and sow acrimony and discord among Republicans generally, and leave Trump an even weaker candidate than he is now. So, as a Democrat, I'm all for it. I suspect that some of the Stop Trump Republicans have given up a while ago on winning the Presidential election, and figure that the best they can do for their party is to put as much distance between it and Trump as they can. Still, it's their party that put Trump in the the position he's in now. To some extent, all Republicans have to own that at least a little. And I think that shows that their party is in deep trouble.

Some Highlights From The History Of Solar Power

Before 600 BC someone had figured out how to start a fire using the sun's light and a magnifying glass.

In 1767, a solar oven was invented by Horace de Saussure.

In 1876, William Grylls Adams and Richard Day discovered that selenium produced electricity when exposed to sunlight. Werner von Siemens said that the discovery was very important. Selenium was not yet a cost-efficient source of power, but it was a beginning.

In 1883, Charles Fritts made selenium-based solar cells.

In a paper published in 1905, Albert Einstein formulated the photon theory of light.

In the 1920's solar warer-heating systems began to be installed in houses and apartment buildings in Florida and California.

In 1953, Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson and Daryl Chapin made the first silicon solar cells, efficient enough to power small electrical devices.

In 1956 solar cells were sold commercially for the first time. These were sold powering novelty devices and not yet as practical generators of electricity.

In 1961 the United Nations held a conference on "Solar Energy in the Developing World."

The Telstar satellite became the first solar-powered satellite in 1962, and in 1967, the Soyez 1 was the first manned spacecraft using only solar power while in orbit.

In 1971, J Baldwin of Integrated Living Systems developed the first building powered exclusively by solar and wind.

In 1972, a laboratory devoted exclusively to photovoltaic research opened at the University of Delaware. In 1973, the lab has created ahiuse, called Solar One, powered exclusively by solar.

In the 1990's, a grid-supported photovoltaic system was completed and installed in Kerman, California by Pacific Gas & Electric.

In 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California proposed a program to have solar roofs on one million buildings in the state by 2017.

Currently, Hillary Clinton supports a plan to install 500 million solar panels nationwide by 2021.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Holy $%#@! One Of The Other Guys, Marquez, And ANOTHER One Of The Other Guys 1-2-3 At The Dutch MotoGP!

This is the most surprising MotoGP race result in years. In a lot of years.

MotoGP is world-class-, king-of the-hill, best-of-the-best motorcycle road racing. MotoGP races are held all over the world. You could think of MotoGP as being to motorcycles what Formula 1 is to cars; in fact, many MotoGP and Formula 1 races are held on the same tracks.

For the past couple of seasons MotoGP has been dominated by Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi of the factory Yamaha team and Marc Marquez of the factory Honda team, also known as the Repsol team, famous for its wicked-cool orange wheels:

Rossi has won 7 top-level World Championships, plus a couple more on smaller bikes when he was coming up; Lorenzo has won 3 on the big bikes and 2 more on smaller ones; and Marquez won the championship his first 2 seasons in MotoGP, plus a couple of earlier ones.

And a half dozen or so other guys might give them a run for the top three in any given race, including Dani Pedrosa, Marquez' teammate shown in the picture above, Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso of the factory Ducati team, Pol Espargaro on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team, Pol's brother Aleix riding a factory Suzuki, and Cal Crutchlow on an LCR Honda; and then there are about a dozen other guys.

Don't get me wrong: those other guys are probably among the best 2 dozen motorcycle road racers on the planet right now. They're all very, very, very good, stunningly fast, or they wouldn't be in MotoGP. Still, going back to 2007, every season the champion has been Rossi, Lorenzo, Marquez or a 4th guy who won twice and has since retired. 2006, another guy who has moved on to other things won, and 2001-2005 it was Rossi, and, although I don't gamble, I would imagine that the odds of the champion continuing to be either Lorenzo, Rossi or Marquez for a while to come are pretty good, or at least they were pretty good before today.

So it's very impressive that Whatsisname won today in Holland and that Whosits finished 3rd. This is shocker-headline news. Good for them!

PS, 27.June 2016: This story from Fox Sports provides some of the statistics behind how incredible the other guy's win is: how Whatisname is now the 10th-youngest-ever MotoGP or 500cc winner, bumping Johnny Cecotto out of the top 10; how just 5 guys had won 147 of the previous 150 races; how long it had been since someone on a non-factory ride had won (pretty darn long), and so forth. Like I said, this is a real Holy-Shnikey! type of story.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

I Get The Impression More And More That Brexit Won't Happen

And after you've cried a lot, look around a bit and tell me just exactly how Brexit is actually going to happen.

Cameron could officially start the exit, but he won't. Parliament could vote to start the process, but they won't. Another Prime Minister will replace Cameron in a few months. Will the next PM be anti-Brexit? Gee, d'ya think?

Millions of people have already signed the petition calling for a do-over on the referendum. Brits who voted Leave are regretting it remarkably quickly, to say the least, and even the leaders of the Leave vote seem distinctly queasy. The only people I've seen who are impatient for this to actually happen are -- EU leaders from other countries.

What's their problem?

Clearly, the charts and memes telling us that 20-year-old British voters who will suffer the effects of Brexit for 70 years because of the votes of people over 70 are a bit overly melodramatic -- it's not going to take 70 years for the UK to rejoin the EU if they actually do leave it.


Bill Maher: "Islam Needs A Reformation"

One thing which made me tired of the New Atheist movement was the unrelenting tendency to equate Christianity with fundamentalism, Islam with ISIS, etc.

And, as I've mentioned before on this blog, there's the very unfortunate combination of constantly talking about religions with not knowing very much about them, not studying their history, which pretty much amounts to not studying human history in general. Again last night on "Real Time," Bill Maher -- who is not all bad, and who started off the show in a very knowledge-based way, talking to an environmentalist and saying, quite accurately, that climate change is the world's #1 political issue at the present time, because if we don't deal with it it will kill us all -- said not for the first time that Islam needs a Reformation.

Spoken like a New Atheist who knows squat both about Islam and about the Western Christian Reformation. (Western Christian: the Orthodox and Syriac and Armenian and Coptic and Ethiopic Churches weren't involved in the Reformation. It all happened among Catholics.) For one thing, there is no one thing which Islam needs because Islam is very far from being one unified entity. (Although I'm sure that one thing most Muslims would appreciate is if people like Maher would learn more about them and pontificate about them less.)

For another thing, an atheist who calls for a religious Reformation knows squat about the Reformation. The leaders of the Reformation, Jan Huss, Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, were much more pious and rigidly literalist and grimly fanatical than the Catholic Church around them, not less. Hus wore a hair shirt and trembled his whole life at the memory of how as a youth he had had a couple sips of wine and played a few games of dice. Before he invented Lutheranism, the Catholic monk Luther traveled to Rome and was outraged by how secular and worldly and non-Biblical the Church in Rome had become. And when some peasants misunderstood Luther's break from the Catholic Church as a call for them to rise up and free themselves from their feudal masters, Luther wrote to those masters and urged them to kill the rebellious peasants like dogs, which they did. Jean Calvin, besides giving the world the doctrine of predestination, was also an avid hunter and burner of witches, and the Puritans who hung and crushed dozens of witches in Salem in the 1690's were largely Protestant in their theology.

That was the Reformation: the hardcore nuts among the Catholics breaking away from the main Church because it wasn't hardcore enough. Protestantism has changed quite a lot since it began, and diversified so much that it's difficult to define the entire group of Protestants in any meaningful way, and there have been some ironic changes, such as that way that the Congregationalist Church, which used to be the witch-hunting Puritans, is now one of the most liberal and free-thinking of Christian denominations. But that was the Reformation.

What does Islam need? Well, different Muslims need all sorts of different things. One thing which I think would benefit all people, Muslims, Christians, atheists and others, is if history were more intensively and rigorously studied. That would tend to decrease the frequency with which people said clueless, unhelpful things, like Bill Maher saying that Islam needs a Reformation.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pliny The Elder Really, Really Liked Elephants -- A LOT

Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) did not write the first encyclopedia in the world, but his encyclopedia, usually referred to in English as the Natural History, is the earliest one which survives in more than just fragments, and, as I say, Pliny was exceptionally fond of Elephants.

Pliny's Natural History consists of 37 books (Think books of the Bible -- a book was a unit of writing that would fit onto an average-sized scroll -- and not, for example, the much larger volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.) His descriptions of elephants cover the first several pages of book 8. He said that of all the animals, the elephant was closest to humans in intelligence. I do not know whether Pliny originated the belief that elephants never forget, but he did say that their memory was exceptional. He also said that when it came to honesty, wisdom, judgment, respect for the stars and reverence for the sun and moon, they actually very often out-did humans. (Pliny had a lot of reverence for the sun and moon.) He said that they are very gentle; for example, Pliny said, if an elephant happens to get caught in the middle of a herd of sheep, it would pick sheep up with its trunk to make sure that it would not step on them.

Pliny said that sometimes, elephants fell in love with humans. He said that they would gather up bunches of plants and drop them into the beloved human's lap. He said that when the beloved human was absent, the elephant would lose its appetite. He said that elephants in love were awkward and adorable.

He praised their courage, their loyalty to each other and also to humans, and their ability to be trained. He said that once, an elephant which was below-average in intelligence, and had repeatedly failed to perform a certain exercise correctly during military training, was discovered in the middle of the night, wide awake and practicing the exercise it was having so much trouble with.

He said that when baby elephants got tired, adult elephants carried them on their backs.

I don't know whether the idea that elephants are terrified of mice originates with Pliny, but he did say that elephants despise mice, and that if they see a mouse in the feed they will refuse to eat anything from that entire portion.

And Pliny has much more to say about elephants, much of it things which we today would tend not believe.

And the reason I'm telling you this is that until I reached book 8, I often found Pliny's writing style a bit boring (although sometimes information transmitted in that writing style was fascinating), but at the beginning of book 8, when it became obvious that Pliny was in love with elephants, I found it awkward and adorable, and well worth reading and recommending to other readers for what it says about Pliny, and not necessarily for insights about elephants unavailable elsewhere to the modern person.

The Headlines About Bernie Today, The 24th Of June

So, what exactly has Bernie done this Friday? It seems to depend who you are: if you're Bernie-or-Bust, the headline over your latest newspaper story or blog post probably says: Bernie's Revolution Continues! If you're really tired of waiting for Bernie to endorse Hillary, it seems it's much more likely that your headline is, in effect: Bernie Says He'll Vote For Hillary!

Bernie actually said both of those things this morning: he said his campaign and his "revolution" (*severe eyeroll*) are continuing, and he said once that he'll vote for Hillary, and then a little later that he'll probably vote for Hillary. But I'm seeing very few headlines which mention both the continuing campaign and the voting for Hillary, and point out that both together don't make sense. I've seen exactly one headline saying that Bernie had been revealed as a Wall-Street Shillery sell-out, but that was not from a diehard Bernie-or-Bust source, but from a news-parody website. Most of the headlines saying that he said he'll vote for Hillary leave out the "probably" part.

I was about to say, as I have been saying often in this blog, that fewer and fewer people are paying attention to what Bernie says, and thank goodness for that, but I just caught myself: I don't actually know for sure that fewer people care what Bernie says and does. I should have been saying: I hope fewer and fewer people are paying attention to him and his meshugganah campaign, but I don't know that that's true. Just like both the Bernie-or-Busters today exulting that The Revolution Continues! and the people more focused on the reality of Trump vs Hillary who have taken exactly the same material, the same two interviews today and said that their message is: Bernie Will Vote For Hillary! I have been indulging in wishful thinking when I was purporting to be reporting the news. Sorry about that, I'll try to do better.

So what exactly did Bernie do today? Two things which tend to cancel each other out: he said that he's voting for Hillary, and that his campaign continues. Where is Bernie going from here? Good question! Who knows?

One Picture Of British Upperclass Twits Is Worth A Thousand Words

Bernie Almost Endorses Hillary

Bernie says he'll vote Clinton, doesn't suspend campaign.

Wow. Think of the clear and decisive leadership we could have had.

Well, that's sort of an endorsement, even though Bernie, who dropped the I'll-vote-for-her-grumble-grumble-bomb on "Morning Joe" this this morning, then walked it back to a "I'll-probably-vote-for-the-grumble-grumble" a matter of minutes later on "CBS This Morning," implying that if she took his positions on minimum wage, free college and universal health care, he might then also endorse the grumble-grumble for whom he will, probably, vote, dedicated, as he is, to doing everything humanly possible to defeating Donald Trump.

Well. So. It appears that Bernie is in the process of gradually grasping a math problem just about as simple as any math problem can be: either Hillary or Donald will be the next President. It will be this one, or that one, the most any other one can do is to screw things up for this one, or that one. Which leads us directly to the math problem of turnout and its role in deciding who the next President will be, as it decided the UK's vote on Brexit yesterday -- that problem, too, seems exceedingly plain and simple to me, as does Bernie's potential role in the turnout in November. But by now it has become completely obvious that I, along with millions of others, am on an entirely different plain of mathematical comprehension than the Bro-in-chief.

One of the things which has annoyed me most about Bernie's campaign is its success in selling the bullshit about him being way, way to the Left of Hillary. On minimum wage, on college costs and on health care, Bernie isn't all that far to the Left of Hillary. And Hillary has constantly been focused on what she thinks can be done, and not just on what she wants. Holding positions that will get tens of thousands of idiots to come out to a rally and scream undying loyalty to you is completely different than taking positions which you actually plan to get through a Congress voted in by tens of millions of Murrkins. Really making changes is completely different than just yelling about what you want changed. If you want to measure how much better Hillary's supporters understand this than Bernie's do, look at the number of each one's supporters who plan to vote for Trump if their candidate isn't nominated.

Hillary would love for the US to have a $15 minimum wage and free college and universal health care. But she looks at the Republicans who are going to get close to half of the votes in November, and has decided that, in spite of all of those Republican votes, $12.50 an hour, major reform of student loans and major expansions of Obamacare, not to mention major expansions of Social Security and Medicare, and 500 million solar panels in place and working by the end of 2020, are all do-able, and she has detailed plans for doing all of the above.

There's nothing wrong with being realistic. There's a direct connection between realism and actually accomplishing things.

You want an example of something that's not realistic, that's not reality-based? Continuing to run for President, and at the same time saying that you're going to vote for someone else for President. That's not realistic. Claiming you want to do everything possible to defeat the Republican Presidential candidate, and at the same time continuing to be a huge pain in the ass to the Democratic candidate, is not reality-based action. It's not clear and decisive.

And it shows why we're fortunate that Bernie is not the Democratic Presidential nominee and will never be President.

You go, Bernie. Say you will or won't vote this way or that. Endorse or don't endorse whoever you want. Fewer and fewer people care what you do or say.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bernie Bro-In-Chief

Nicole Gaudiano, USA TODAY 6:35 p.m. EDT June 23, 2016 WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders told talk show host Stephen Colbert on Thursday he has no immediate plans to endorse Hillary Clinton in her general-election race against Donald Trump.

Sanders flatly said “no” when asked by Colbert whether he would endorse Clinton, who has effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, during Thursday's taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He also told Colbert he's "absolutely" continuing his presidential bid and said the need to "transform America," is more important than political campaigns.

Okay then. There's no longer any shred of doubt: Bernie is a schmuck, and a huge hindrance to the progressive politics he claims to support. There's no longer any shred of doubt that he's lying, or an idiot (And which would be worse?), or both, when he says that his number-one goal is to defeat Trump, which he says about 5 or 6 times an interview, often when he's being pressed about the completely obvious number-one way he could help defeat Trump, endorsing Hillary.

Later for this idiot and the horse he rode in on, it's time for all of the people who really want to defeat Trump, who actually want to accomplish something more than a tantrum in this election, to move on and get on with it and stop waiting for Bernie to get on board. And meanwhile Bernie and Ralph Nader and Amy Goodman and Noam Chomsky and all of their equally-useless friends can sit around jerking each other off and telling each other what great democrats and revolutionaries they are.

An Epitome Of Livy: Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 668, Published In 1904

Beginning in 1897, a huge number of papyri were found in the ancient garbage dumps outside of where the city of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt had stood. Written on these papyri were passages from the Bible, apocryphal Gospels, Classical Greek literature both known to the modern world and hitherto lost, legal and official and business documents and private letters and other things. Over 5000 of these papyri have been published so far, but that's still just a tiny fraction of what was dug up. (Some sources give the total number of Oxyrhynchus papyri at 500,000, some 1 million, so for now I'm just going to stick with "only a tiny fraction have been published so far." I also can't tell you how many papyri, if any, have been excavated after the period between 1897 and 1903, although I want very much to be able to tell you. I'll keep researching.) Volume 1 of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri was published in 1898, and volume 82 was published in 2016, and there are many more volumes still to come.

One of the biggest-selling of those 82 volumes is volume 4, published in 1904.

And by far the biggest reason for the interest in volume 4 are the first 2 papyri in the volume, P. Oxy 654 and 655, which Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, the Oxford archaeologists who discovered the Oxyrhynchus garbage dumps full of history-changing papyri and who edited volume 4, named "New Sayings of Jesus" and "fragment of a lost Gospel," respectively. In the 1940's a Coptic manuscript found at Nag Hammadi was discovered to have come from the same Greek text as these two papyri and P. Oxy 1, the first papyrus in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, volume 1, and now all of the text which has been discovered and put together is known collectively as the Gospel of Thomas.

And there truly is no shortage of web pages, websites, books, TV shows and other things devoted to the Gospel of Thomas.

But I came here today to talk about another papyrus in volume 4: P. Oxy 668, an epitome of Livy, books 37-45 and 48-55. This papyrus is transcribed and discussed on pages 90-116, as well as a part of it being shown in a photograph in Plate VI at the back of the volume.

Perhaps some of you are asking: what is an epitome of Livy, books 37-45 and 48-55, and why should I care about it? Livy is the common English name of the Roman historian Titus Livius, who lived from 59 BC to AD 17, and wrote a history of Rome from its mythical beginnings to the end of the reign of the Emperor Augustus in AD 14.

There has been quite a lot of discussion of and controversy over Livy's reliability and worth as an historian. There is general agreement that he wrote very well, that his works are tremendously enjoyable and exciting to read, whether they deliver a high degree of historical value or not. I personally tend to think somewhat more highly of Livy the historian than some others do. But it must be understood that the rules for writing history were much different in ancient Rome than they are today. Much of Livy is what we would refer to as historical fiction rather than history -- when, for example, Livy puts long speeches into the mouths of people when it is clear that, whatever they said, Livy had no word-for-word record of it. Still, I think it's very important to keep in mind that some of what is written and marketed in our modern age as historical fiction -- Lion Feuchtwanger and Gore Vidal come to mind -- contains more solid reliable information about history, and far fewer egregious historical errors, than much which claims to be nonfictional historical writing.

Livy's history, commonly referred to as ab urbe condita, contained 142 books. "Books" here means much the same as the books of the Bible: a piece of writing which would fit onto a scroll. However, only 35 of those 142 books are known to us today -- books 1-10 and 21-45 -- plus a few fragments and condensations. Altogether, the text of those 35 books and the other surviving scraps add up to a text about as long as that of the canonical Bible, Old plus New Testament, since it seems that all 142 books were similar in length, what we have appears to be about 1/4 of the original work.

An epitome is a short condensed version of a text. Books 48-55 in their complete form, covering topics having to do with the Roman Republic in the mid-2nd century BC, such as the third and final Punic War, topics about which we truly do not have an overabundance of information -- Ah say Ah Say, books 48-55 are at large today, which is the biggest reason why Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 668 is such a big deal. A condensation like this misses a lot of the grand writing style of the original, but still contains many priceless bits of information which can be compared with the few other known bits of historical writing about the time and place. But this great historical value is far from the only reason why this manuscript is important. The manuscript was made in the 3rd century, and any manuscript at all which is that old is of great value because of its age alone. And a 3rd-century Latin manuscript even more so than a Greek one, because, since discoveries at Oxyrhynchus and elsewhere, ancient Greek manuscripts are suddenly much less rare than they were 200 years ago. (In Classical Studies 200 years is sudden.) The great majority of the papyri found at Oxyrhynchus are written in Greek. It's always nice for those of us who specialize in Latin, although we too are mightily excited about all of the Greek manuscripts, when a Latin papyrus like this one is found among the Greek ones. Ancient Oxyrhynchus was in a time and place dominated by writing in Greek. It's just about inconceivable that a comparatively huge collection of ancient mostly-Latin manuscripts will ever be found in one place -- inconceivable even by me, and I daydream very recklessly, believe me. Besides Oxyrhynchus, some other, smaller collections of ancient manuscripts have been found in Egypt: for example, at the above-mentioned Nag Hammadi, and also at Fayum. What these Egyptian sites have in common is the Nile, which provided enough water to sustain cities, but was close enough to regions which were arid enough that papyri, and also some pieces of parchment, could be buried in the ground and left there for thousands of years without being rotted away by moisture, or eaten by little crawling things kept alive by the same moisture.

There is no Nile in the middle of a desert where the main written language was Latin, and that is why there could be no Latin Oxyrhynchus laying around waiting to be excavated, full of ancient Latin manuscripts. There could be huge discoveries of ancient Latin manuscripts, but because of climate, as several papyrologists finally managed very patiently to explain to me, those discoveries would have to be of some different nature.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bernie Has Proven That He Can't Do Math -- Does He Also Have No Sense Of Time?

"The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly. And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time." -- Senator Bernie Sanders, June 16, 2016.

6 freakin' days ago, Bernie. "A very short period of time" was days ago. Has it slipped your mind?

Oh well. It would've been nice if Bernie had conceded and endorsed Hillary, as anyone who actually does want to see Trump defeated badly and is not a complete moron can see. But the more time passes and he does Jack Squat instead, the less it matters what he does.

Would this have been what we could have expected from a President Sanders in a moment of crisis? "I will respond to this emergency in a very short period of time --" and 6 days later, he's still leaving the disaster victims hangin', with not one further word on the emergency, because he's off sulking because he feels that another head of state cheated him in some way?

This both is and isn't funny: funny, because Bernie's behavior, or should I say, his prolonged lack of any behavior, is so pathetic, and not funny, because this is important, big-time stuff with huge consequences, calling for decisive action, not prolonged meditation and fasting. But like I say: the longer Bernie does nothing, the less clout he has, the less Presidential he appears. And that seems to be a good thing, if what he's going to do is -- nothing.

Dream Log: Social Awkwardness In Bonn

In real life I spent the 1989-90 academic year as a student at the University of Bonn. Other famous alumni of that university include Marx, Heine and Nietzsche, so it makes sense that I was a student there too. The former palace of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne --

-- houses the humanities departments of the university, so when I was there I regarded it as pretty much the entire university. Turns out they've got a lot of other stuff going on in different buildings. The title of Elector signifies that the Archbishop was one of the 7 princes who elected the Holy Roman Emperor. The palace, built in the late 17th and early 18th century, looks pretty much the same on the outside as it always has; on the inside, very disappointingly, it looks exactly the same as a huge university building without big enough windows. Lots of concrete.

Last night I dreamed that I returned to Bonn. Just as in 1989-90, I moved into a student dormitory and spent little time or energy on academic things, concentrating on my social life instead. Some of the people I had met in Bonn as fellow students 27 years ago had also come back.

I felt that a lot of them were shunning me. I wasn't sure, but that's how it felt. That's how it feels being autistic a lot of the time: socially awkward, entirely unsure how welcome or unwelcome one is in a given social situation.

Someone I knew from 1989-90 was spending some of his time with a tight-knit group of younger students, students of a more typical age for college attendance. At one point I and my friend from back then and a small young man from the younger group were sitting at a long table in what may have been a university cafeteria. Whatever the building was used for, at that moment it was relatively empty. The younger guy was very energetically working at a large notebook, drawing things which looked liked artistic images and scientific diagrams and equations at the same time. The three of us were talking and to me the conversation felt rather strained. In the conversation, it came up that the young guy could do Rain Man-level arithmetic in his head. I was like, Oh yeah? and gave him pairs of numbers to multiply in his head. He fired products back at me right away, without slowing down his work in his large notebook. The problems were to large for me to do in my head, and I was a little annoyed with myself that I didn't write them down along with his answers so that I could check them later with a calculator. I was unsure whether he was calculating accurately or just messing with me. In any case, he knew enough that his answers had the correct numbers of digits and ended with the correct number. for example, if I'd asked him to multiply 563 times 477, his immediate answer had 6 digits and ended with 1.

I was completely uncertain, not just about the multiplication: I didn't know whether the work the young man was doing was art, math, science or all three simultaneously or something else; I didn't know whether he was doing this as schoolwork or for some other purpose; and I had no idea whatsoever whether my presence there was welcome, indifferent or unwelcome to the other two.

Then it was night and I was outside and it was cold. I saw a friend or acquaintance of mine (I didn't know how he would describe me to others) going into a house where a party was going on inside, and I slipped inside right behind him.

John Goodman, the actor who played Rosanne's husband and has appeared in many Coen Brothers movies, was sitting at a table just inside. In the dream, he was one of the people I knew from Bonn 1989-90. He saw me immediately, and rushed me straight back outside into the cold and started walking me briskly away from the house and the party. Sometimes it's clear to me that I haven't been welcome somewhere, and this was one of those times.

At the same time, though, John Goodman's attitude toward me was not clear. He said something to me about my being dressed all wrong for the party. I had no idea whether I really was unacceptably dressed for the party, or if I was unwelcome there for other reasons. I didn't know whether the problem was me specifically or if any party crasher would've been rushed right straight back outside. I tried to get some clarification from John about this, but I didn't get anywhere with that. He was talking to me a mile a minute, and I didn't understand what the problem was at all. Maybe John and the other people at that party never wanted to see me on any social occasion, and John's talk was intended to keep me from seeing this too clearly and becoming enraged over it. I didn't know whether John and/or others had heard that I was autistic, or if some of them equated "autistic" with "crazy" and "crazy" with "dangerous." (The truth is, I'm as harmless as a puppy.) Maybe there really was no problem here except that I was in jeans and a T-shirt and sweatshirt and hooded winter jacket instead of the somewhat slicker attire of the other guests: nice-looking button-down shirts and overcoats for the guys, skirts for many of the ladies, like that. Maybe that really was the only reason why John rushed me out. Maybe it was somewhere in between. I had no idea.

At this point, I just wanted to get away from John and from the party. John mumbled something about his having heard I'd been diagnosed with something, and asked what that was about. Again, I was completely unsure whether this was friendly concern, or an attempt to muddy some waters, or something else entirely. I yelled at John, "It's called autism! Millions of us have it! Google it! Good night!"

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fame Isn't For Everybody

Some people do not want to be rich and famous. Only rich. And they are wise. Fame isn't for everybody. The thing is, though: with certain kinds of fame, you get lots of free stuff.

If you're a famous writer, or Oprah Winfrey or Bill Clinton, publishers are dying to have you say something about one of their books, so they send you free advance copies of all of them. If paparazzi photos of you appear everywhere, you get free T-shirts and watches and sunglasses and shoes and pants and hats and gloves and socks and shoes and belts and swimwear, because the manufacturers are dying to have their products seen round the world being worn by your fabulous self. You repeatedly hear the phrase: "Your money's no good here, Sir or Madam" at restaurants and hotels, because the chance that you'll be seen there is worth much more to them than the bill. You have to worry much less about reservations than most people do, for the same reason.

It depends how you got famous, to some extent. If you're rich and famous because you won a Powerball jackpot and you made no request for privacy, you probably get offered much less free stuff than if you're Bruce Willis or the Pope. I'm not sure what effect there would be if Bruce Willis let it be known than he wanted less free stuff -- or more.

The amount of free stuff a famous person gets no doubt rises and falls no matter how he or she reacts to it. If a celebrity is sad because he or she is no longer the "flavor of the month," I suspect one thing he or she may be sad about is being offered less free stuff.

Early on in the series "Just Shoot Me!" the character played by Laura San Giacomo was a brand-new member of the fashion industry because her Daddy had given her a job writing at the magazine he owned and operated. Because of her new job, and the newly-won influence which came with it, she got some free stuff, including some boots which she loved. But she gave all of the free stuff back because of her "integrity."

I never liked that episode or the message it was sending. Where do I even start? Did she give back the job her Daddy gave her? No! Did she offer to change positions and work her way up from the mailroom or wherever entry-level was at the magazine? No again! Never offered her office back to the guy who got summarily thrown out of it to make room for Daddy's girl...

Anyway. I kept watching the show. I think Laura San Giacomo is really great. And my point is that I'm pretty sure I could receive lots and lots of free stuff and retain my integrity. And if not: I'd still have a lot of free stuff, and, maybe in part because my Daddy never owned and operated a big magazine, I'd like to think I'd still appreciate the free stuff, and never forget about all the people who've never gotten a free Rolex watch or a free pair of really exceptional shoes, and even give some of my free stuff away to people who needed it more because they were neither rich nor famous.

And isn't that what it's all about, really? And isn't that a great message for the kids? Is anyone thinking of the children, here?!

In conclusion, I really, really, really, really want lots and lots of that sweet, sweet, swag. Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless the United States of America!

Rolling Stones Recording "Blues" Album With Eric Clapton

Read all about it.

I didn't realize they were still calling the band The Rolling Stones after Charlie died. [PS, 21 June 2017: Charlie Watts is alive and well. I don't know why I thought otherwise . Sorry.] Well, that's their business.

Some Stones fans seem to dislike the idea of them recording with Clapton. I'm not a huge Clapton fan but I'm not worried about the Stones recording with him: because, as many others have noted, Clapton is chameleon-like: get him with the Beatles, you get that riff on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," one of the hugest things ever in "rock n roll." Get him jamming with Duane Allman and you get "Layla," almost as huge. Get him making an album with a lot of slick, soulless hired guns and he sounds like one more slick, soulless hired gun. Put him together with Mick, Keith and Ronnie, and I'm confident that Eric will be in fine form. Eric's a Christian, and Mick and Keith are -- well, they're Mick and Keith, but I don't foresee a problem. Music transcends stuff. Just look at U2: 3 Christians + 1 not so much = 1 tight band with no personnel changes in 40 years. Music transcends stuff.

In fact, it'd be great for the world's ears if the Stones could get Eric to join the band permanently. Unfortunately, though, I'm pretty sure Eric will be back to screwing up his next solo album soon. We've just got to try to enjoy the uncharacteristic brilliant moments when he teams up with brilliant people as much as we can.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hannah Luehmann On the Genitalia Of Today's Leftist Men

To paraphrase what Jerry Hall said to Saddam Hussein: If Hannah Luehmann is trying to ask me out, she's going about it all wrong! I was going to link her absurd article in the Welt asking why Leftist men have no balls these days, but I just barely escaped from the Welt website without getting the link after it opened several pop-ups and froze my computer, so: screw you, Hannah Luehmann, and screw the Welt too! (Die Welt is a silly, popular German newspaper.) Look up Luehmann's article at your own risk. I wonder whether the source of Frau Luehmann's sexual frustration with today's generation of Leftist men might have more to do with her than with anything else. I'm really having trouble picturing her getting along great with Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Of course, Fassbinder himself can no longer weigh in on the subject one way or another, so it's just my bitchy opinion again Luehmann's. In conclusion: as John Oliver frequently points out: Donald Trump has tiny little raccoon hands, and Camille Paglia's critics wore me down a while ago.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Deep Thoughts About "Game Of Thrones"

So I've been watching "Game of Thrones" for a couple of years now. I'm well aware that many people who've seen the entire series and were reading the novels it's based on before the series started have been intensively discussing it for a long time. HBO even hosts one of these discussions online. I don't think I'm going to make a big splash with the hardcore fans with this little post. (Although it would be nice, of course, if it turned out to be this post which finally made me rich and famous. It'd be nice if any of the posts on the blog turned out to be the one that did that.)

Before becoming a fan of "Game of Thrones," I hadn't been a big fan of anything in the fantasy genre. It took me a little while to get into the spirit of the show. I resisted it at first for being ahistorical. I felt like telling the whole world that "Game of Thrones" was WRONG because it was obviously set mostly in Western or Central or Eastern Europe apart from Greece and Rome and its culture was non-Christian and literate, and none of those parts of Europe became literate until they became Christian and, and... and then I told myself: none of those areas actually had dragons either, for example, or armies of skeleton zombies. It's not supposed to be historically accurate, it's an alternate world. It's fantasy. Took me a while to get that.

In the last couple of episodes, a couple of remarks about Cersei and Jaime Lannister, America's sweethearts, caught me off-guard: Olenna says to Cersei that she wonders whether Cersei is the most vile person she's ever met; and Brienne tells Jaime that she knows that there is some honor in him, as if it were plain that most of what there was to see of him were evil; and Edmure asks Jaime how he manages to tell himself that he's a decent person, saying that we all need to tell ourselves that we're decent.

Those remarks took me off guard because I hadn't been thinking of Cersei and Jaime as loathesome people. Not at all. Then I thought back a while and remembered that I had loathed Cersei back when she blamed Tyrion for Joffrey's death, and that since then Tyrian had left King's Landing, leaving Cersei less opportunity to behave loathesomely to him, and that Cersei had been through a lot of suffering at the hands of the Sparrows, who just by contrast made her look much more sympathetic (to me at least).

But in the case of Jaime it was harder to explain away my surprise at and resistance to the charge that he was a loathesome person. Jaime had helped Tyrion escape Cersei's plot to have him legally murdered; when Brienne brings up unpleasant things he's done, he responds by saying that he'd rather not talk politics with her, and it clear that there is some common ground and respect between them, and that he'd prefer to emphasize the positive side of things; when Edmure reminds him of some awful things he's done, Jaime replies: We're at war. I'm sorry if it's inconvenienced you. He recalls that Edmure had had him imprisoned, and Edmure's sister had hit him in the head with a rock, but that he didn't hate her at all. On the contrary, he admired her very much. Her fierce loyalty to her children reminded him of that of his sister. Which means: loyalty to his children, because he and his sister Cersei are secretly a couple. How much of a secret it is, is not clear at this moment with Edmure, just as it is unclear at other times with other people.

Anyway: Jaime does not seem devastated when someone implies that he's a dreadful person, even someone like Brienne, whom he likes very much. Instead, he seems to believe that life is simply too complex and full of plots within plots and causes entangled with other causes, for him to neatly divide people up between the good and the evil, the noble and the loathesome. A woman hit him in the head with a rock while he was in prison, and he greatly admires her. He didn't stop looking at her and considering her side of things when he got hit with that rock. On the other hand, a moment after he expresses that admiration, he cold-bloodedly threatens to do truly terrible things. On the third hand, those cold-blooded threats end up preventing a lot of bloodshed.

Jaime is a moral relativist. If he thinks about good and evil at all, he sees that they are a matter of perspective.

And, perhaps, so do the people who make the show. And maybe that has to do with why I like it so much: a character can do something horrible, and it's not sugarcoated, not justified away in an unrealistic manner; but still, that character can have a good side. The characters are complex, like real people. And not just one or two of the characters, but dozens if not hundreds. You can like a character generally but still be appalled by some of the things he or she does, and you can dislike a character generally and still be moved when bad things happen to him or her.

Except of course for the thoroughly evil and monstrous Ramsay Bolton, who must be destroyed in order to save the world, literally. And the zombies may be in a separate category.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I Turn 55 Tomorrow

I wonder whether Jon, a building contractor who was my next-door neighbor for 8 years, but he renovated his own house and put it up for sale and the For Sale sign disappeared a few days ago, will come and knock on my door tomorrow, and pretend to be very concerned about something, and ask me to please come next door with him right away because there's an emergency and he'll tell me about it when we get there, and when we get there the house will be full of people, and they all yell "Happy Birthday!" and someone will explain that the For Sale sign went away because a bunch of them got together and chipped in and bought me the house for my birthday, and people will take me around the house and exclaim about how many bookshelves and coffee table and desks with reading/writing lamps there are, and they'll also mention that there was enough when they chipped in that they also got me a $55,000 tax-free annuity so I wouldn't have to worry about money ever again, and also a few million dollars in cash, and

a platinum Rolex Cosmograph Daytona with the ice-blue dial and also

a few other nice solid gold and platinum watches and other gifts, and if there will be a video of Andrew Wylie apologizing for not being at my party in person, and saying that he loved my blog and wondered whether we could do business, and if I was interested please call him next week?

That would be nice. Of course, what I really want most of all is exactly the same thing that millions of other people want: for Bernie to concede and endorse Hillary. But I don't think that will happen. Ever. And so I'll just have to try to be happy with and grateful for whatever I get.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

If I Were Hillary, This Is What I'd Say To Bernie

"Okay, Bernie, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is, we keep heaping you with praise, and moving closer and closer to your positions, and in return you campaign for me. And by 'campaign for me," what I mean, basically, is: you start singing 'Happy, happy, joy, joy, happy, happy, joy, joy, happy, happy, joy, joy, joy!" right now, tonight, and you don't stop singing until late election night, after the polls have closed in Hawaii and Guam.

"The hard way is, we keep moving closer and closer to your positions, and heaping everyone with praise who has moved from campaigning for you to campaigning for me, and we don't exactly call out any of the die-hards, we don't really talk about the die-hards very much at all, we just let them make themselves look more and more unreasonable and insane, by the contrast they make with those who actually do think I'm a better choice than Donald.

"Did you hear about that protest in Massachusets against Elizabeth for endorsing me? Everybody wore all black to symbolize how any faith they had ever had in Elizabeth had died? People with a lot of time on their hands, who also all happened to have all-black outfits. I couldn't dress black head-to-toe without going shopping first, could you? Anyway, my point was, there were about 10 or 12 people at that protest.

"So: do you want to be a die-hard, or do you want to start singing 'Happy, happy, joy joy'?"

Okay: maybe it's a good thing for Hillary that I'm not Hillary. But you know that at some point, either Bernie will get the %$&# on board, or Hillary will do what she has to do and get on with it, and stop just taking slap after slap from Bernie with a big smile on her face.

I'm Stupid, And I Want Help!

I don't have much to say -- why doesn't anybody believe that?! I'm pretty much in the dark. I don't know all that much. I don't know what I can help you out with. I don't know anything I can tell you now. I've got 7 guides to Germany and Austria here in front of me now, plus a map, that's all I can tell you. There's a green Michelin guide to West Germany and Berlin, from the mid-80's, and one to Austria and the Bavarian Alps, that one's from 1969. They're both in English. Then there's 2 Baedeckers in English from the 1980's, one for Cologne and the other for the Rhine.

The rest are in German. 2 Baedecker Autoresiefuehrers, Oesterreich, 1958, and Deutschland, 1960. Then a Baedecker Rheinlande from 1909. That just leaves the map. It's a Berlin Falkplan. I got it when I was in Berlin in 2004. It's got all of the folds. The folds confuse me. The map is hard for me to use -- because I'm stupid! And I'm not even in Europe! I just look at these maps and guides and pretend I'm there! What do you want from me?!

I didn't know life was going to be like this -- one thing after the other, on and on. People negotiate tough and deals close fast and sometimes, years later, I figure out what happened in front of my eyes, and in the meantime stuff has kept on going on, constantly, so even though I someone eventually figure out what some people were talking about, I still just get farther and farther behind.

The movies said there was something in it for me. Something on my own.

My own! Did you ever stop to consider that maybe I'd just rather you sent me off to to this, to do that, take care of some Micky Mouse dogwalking job! Send me to pick somebody up at the airport! That sort of thing maybe I could've handled! I know, I know, I screwed up that one pet-sitting job, and I'm really sorry. Those dogs deserved better. I just wasn't up to the task, it overwhelmed me.

Mom would've liked for me to've become an accountant. That the way she wanted it. But it ain't the way I wanted it! I can't handle things! I can't even get the damn squirrels out of my own crawlspaces! I'm dumb -- not like everyone says, like... smart! I'm DUMB, and I want help!

Tell you about the investigation?! What investigation?! There's an investigation?! See, this is what I'm trying to tell you, this is what happens when people think I'm smart, and they can leave me in charge of things and everything will be fine! How many times do I have to screw up before people realize that just because I ace some IQ test, it doesn't mean... anything! At all!

I've been looking for the Alexanderplatz on this Berlin Falkplan map for three days, and I just found it now, and I'm fluent in German! This is what I'm trying to tell you! I need help! What I just said a minute ago, about how people should send me to pick up someone at the airport -- no! No! I was just bragging! Don't give me a job like that, I'll screw it up! And like I said, with the pet sitting -- I screwed it up! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I Guess It Shouldn't Surprise Me

Some die-hard Bernie-or-Bust people are saying that the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub is Hillary's fault, and will lead to her losing the Democratic nomination for President.

I guess if you believe that Hillary is history's greatest monster, that she murdered Vince Foster who thought he was her friend, because he was about to say something critical of her, that she intentionally sent US servicemen to their deaths in Ben Ghazi because... for some reason, and that she is a Republican in disguise who works hand-in-glove with Wall Street and Big Oil, and bathes in the blood of virgins and drinks the tears of homeless children... you know: if you believe all of that long list of bullshit that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck say about her, as some of Bernie's supporters clearly do, then of course you would believe that Orlando was Hillary's fault.

Or maybe what I saw was someone making fun of Bernie's supporters and the way they blame everything on Hillary and are constantly saying that the latest tragedy which is her fault will hand the nomination to Bernie. Sometimes it's very hard to tell satire apart from reality.

Looking Forward To "Bernie-Or-Bust" Heads Exploding When/If He Endorses Hillary

Predictably, some of the diehard Bernie folks have denounced Elizabeth Warren for endorsing Hillary. Cenk Uygur and Truthdig, for example, have said that the endorsement has unmasked her as a "phony progressive."

As readers of this blog know, I consider Bernie to be a phony Socialist. That is, I consider the Democratic Party to be socialist, it's just that we have a phobia in the US of the term "socialist" because we don't know what it means: a stronger social safety net, universal health care, labor unions, education, infrastructure, regulation of businesses and financial markets -- in short: Democratic stuff. Bernie isn't to the Left of the Left wing of the Democratic Party. Case in point: Elizabeth Warren.

One big difference between Bernie and Elizabeth is that Elizabeth doesn't just talk about government giving more help to those who need it and less help to those who don't: she gets it done, by working with other Democrats, because the reality is: it's Democrats or Republicans. Endorsing Hillary is a case in point. Bernie talks about wanting to do everything he can to defeat Trump. Elizabeth did something about it, she endorsed Trump's opponent. I hope Bernie endorses Hillary too.

If he does -- I'm not at all sure that he will. I think he might even go third-party. I think he's that much of a self-centered asshole -- if and when he does endorse Hillary, I can't wait to see the reactions of all of these completely useless people who call themselves the true American Left, who refuse to ever accomplish anything by actually participating in the process of government in the US, who run for office in political campaigns which always fail.

So many people are saying so many reassuring things about how Bernie will eventually endorse Hillary and campaign for Hillary. I hope they're right, because that would almost surely mean a huge Democratic landslide in November. It's not all just about Hillary. It's also about Congress and Governors and mayors and city councils and judges and so forth. Obama has been struggling against a Republican Party which, as we now know, has been systematically working to sabotage his each and every move. If there are Democratic majorities in Congress and state and local government, a Democratic President will actually be able to get a lot done.

Bernie can be a big help with that, or he can continue to be a crybaby and a sore loser, and continue to alienate his followers from the Democratic Party, which would be a huge help for the Republican Party and continue this gridlock we're in.

And also, as I said, it would be great fun for me personally to see Bernie's hardcore doofuses failing to be able to process the information that Bernie had endorsed Hillary. Calling him a sellout, claiming that they had seen all along that Bernie was fake, whatever nonsense they come up with. Bernie endorsing Hillary, and campaigning for her like he really means it, would detach the hard core of his followers who believe that Hillary is an evil corporate thug from the political process, as well as uniting the Democratic Party. We don't need the Hillary-hating, low-information hardcore, because there aren't enough of them to matter.

Does Bernie need them, for ego-related reasons, is the question. I'm really worried that he does, and that he might really mess things up instead of "doing everything he can to defeat Trump," as he has constantly been saying for months he wants to do, without mentioning Hillary's name or giving any indication that he acknowledges that she might have some part to play in defeating Trump. Alongside the many reassuring voices saying that Bernie will definitely do the right thing and get behind party unity in a big way (about a year after he finally joined the Democratic Party, in order to use it for this big ego-trip), there are also some people saying that Bernie has never been a gracious loser, which is what he needs to be now. That is to say: it's what the real Left needs from him right now, the Left that actually gets to determine US policy and pass laws. I'd like to believe the reassuring voices telling us that Bernie is about to get on board. But he sure looks and sounds like a bad loser to me, who cares much more about being special, about being adored by crowds who are deluded into thinking that his policies are completely different from those of the Democrats, than about being a team player.

I hope so much that I'm completely wrong about him. Bernie and Hillary are going to meet on Tuesday evening. What on Earth will they have to talk about, if he doesn't concede?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

My Memory Isn't Immaculate, But It's Fun

I'm pretty sure that somewhere on this blog I have mistakenly attributed the saying "ars longa vita brevis" or "ars longa vita brevis est" (Latin for "art is long and life is short") to Horace. Probably more than once. I'm going to have to find those misattributions and correct them. After thorough research today, and much research before today, I am ready to admit, once and for all, that Horace, one of my favorite writers, never wrote "ars longa vita brevis," one of my favorite sayings, and that Seneca, one of my least favorite writers, did, translating "Ὁ βίος βραχύς, ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρή" by Hippocrates.

I know -- I'm pretty sure, that is. One theme of this post is the unreliability of my memory -- I'm pretty sure that the first time I encountered this thought, it was expressed neither in Greek nor in Latin, but in English, by Joseph Conrad: "Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off." I'm fairly sure that I did not read it where Conrad left it, in the Preface to a novella of his whose title is today completely politically incorrect. I'm pretty sure I first came upon it when some other writer quoted it -- Hunter S Thompson? I don't know. (Did Thompson ever refer to himself as an artist? Seems a bit unlike him, come to think of it. Maybe he quoted Conrad to emphasize how far from art he considered his work to be? I dunno.)

Until today it puzzled me greatly how I could have come to believe that Horace wrote "ars longa vita brevis," believe it so strongly that I thought I had remembered reading those 4 words in my copy of Horace's works, a middling-thick Oxford Classical Texts copy, old enough that the pages of the text are unnumbered. Don't ask me why, but until a few decades ago many of the volumes of the Oxford Classical Texts didn't have page numbers for the text. My copy of Horace, printed in 1957, has Roman numerals, i through x, for the prefaces and siglia, and then no page numbers for the text. My OCT copy of Lucretius, also printed in 1957, has no page numbers whatsoever.

My OCT copy of Grenfell and Hunt's Hellenica oxyrhychia cum Theopompi et cratippi fragmentis is so old that it has no date following the title page -- and so old that its cover is orange, not blue, making the mimicry of Teubner that much more obvious. I'm guessing it was printed about 1910, a year after the date of the preface. It has Roman numerals for the prefatory material and no numerals for the pages. (Those Roman numerals which look like page numbers are just keeping track of the numbered books of Theopomus.)

(Many editions of Plato have standardized page numbers and subdivisions of pages -- based on what, I don't know -- so that one page may be numbered 315c, and the next 316b, or what have you. It's a whole big thing that happens. Seems these standardized page numbers for Plato may have been some of the earliest text page numbers in the OCT. I have 2 volumes of Plato from the OCT, one printed in 1958 and the other in 1961. Both have these standardized page numbers for the texts and no Roman numerals for the prefatory pages.)

To this day, most of the volumes of the OCT and the Teubner Classics have no tables of contents. Why? They go to such extraordinary lengths of exacting editing and thorough critical apparatus, provide detailed bibliographies and exhaustive indices -- but a table of contents telling you what page various parts of the volume begins on, somehow that would just be too much trouble.

I think I got my copy of Horace in the early 1990's, which would have made it one of the first volumes in Latin which I owned, at a time when I was just beginning to learn Latin. Wherever I came across "ars longa vita brevis," my recognition that Conrad had anglicized it was probably one of the first instances of my recognizing such quotes from the Classics and from the Bible which positively pepper the works of authors who wrote back in the good old days when the Classics and the KJV were more widely read.

And as far as how I became so strongly convinced that I had read "ars longa vita brevis" in my copy of Horace, one of the very first volumes of Latin I ever owned -- it may be that I saw the word "ars" in the phrase "ars longa vita brevis" over the front door of a yuppie bar in Columbus, Ohio, and at about the same time in the title of Horace's work "ars poetica," and confused the phrase with the title because "ars" was one of the very first Latin words I learned. Or it may be that I read a misattribution of the phrase by someone, or several people, who had confused the motto and the title in a very similar way. Or it may have been a combination of those things.

Recently I covered the cover of my copy of Horace, and my OCT copy of Lucretius -- I think the Lucretius was the very first volume of Latin I ever obtained, and the Horace the second, both roughly a quarter-century ago -- in scotch tape. Now they both are much more readable for me, because the covers are no longer unpleasant to touch. Just because of the tape. It's a big deal. It's a huge deal.

In conclusion: you gotta believe me, the Classics, ancient Greek and Latin, are waycool, and if you're not neck-deep in this stuff, you're missing out, I'm telling you. I will try to clean up the misattributions to Horace in the blog, I promise.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Top 10 Reasons I've Blocked Someone On Facebook

10. Using the word "Killery."

9. Insisting that Hillary must stand down as a candidate for the nomination.

8. Saying that the Democratic primaries are rigged.

7. Insisting that in 2008, Barack trailed Hillary all the way until the last few primaries.

6. Saying that it was unfair that the media said Hillary was the nominee before New Jersey and California.

5. Campaigning for Jill Stein.

4. Saying that Hillary is not progressive.

3. Insisting, after mid-April, that Bernie still had a shot at the nomination.

2. E-mail and/or Benghazi.

And the number 1 reason I've blocked someone on Facebook: *drumroll*

1. Other related miscellaneous indications that they're low-information, non-math-doing idiots.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Continue Your Campaign, Or Be Helpful, Bernie. You Can't Do Both

Okay: After Bernie met with Barack, he said he would meet with Hillary and work with her to do everything he can to defeat Trump, and he also vowed to continue his campaign on into the convention.

Mother of Sweating Jesus. Bernie, ya gotta pick one: be helpful, or continue your campaign. You can't do both.

I'm not with this whole be-nice-and-gentle-with-Bernie-and-his fanatical-followers approach. As has been pointed out often lately in clear hindsight, the Republican Party's policy of being nice and gentle with the Tea Party nutbags has led directly to Candidate Trump. The Bernie-or-Bust irrationality is a different kind of irrationality from the Te Party-Trump madness, but it is irrationality nevertheless. And it is never good to act as if irrationality is rational, as if irreality is real. The race for the nomination is over. Bernie wasn't cheated out of it, he just lost, that's all. And it wasn't close.

Okay. I don't know what Barack and Bernie talked about, but a couple of hours later, Barack officially endorsed Hillary. Elizabeth Warren will endorse Hillary soon. This primary race is over, and Bernie is behaving like a jackass, and being nice and gentle about it is only encouraging him to continue behaving like a jackass.

If I Were Obama, This Is What I'd Say To Bernie

This is what I'd say to Bernie:

"Bernie, pal, look. This is all very clear-cut here. First of all, don't even start with me about you winning the nomination. You lost. The question is what you're going to do now. And what you do now will determine how you're going to be remembered.

"Second: we've already given you a lot at the Convention, and you've responded by punching us in the face. And, you know -- reaching out a friendly hand and getting kicked in the teeth for it tends to tick people off. It's time for you to give. And you know what we want. Get behind Hillary, and you'll be amazed at how quickly we're in a giving mood again.

"You have said that your positions are much closer to Hillary's than to Trump's. But unless I'm mistaken, it's been several months since you've said it publicly. The last time I can remember is the first debate. You said that the differences between you and Hillary, although they were important to you, were tiny not only compared to the differences between you and Trump, but also between you and anyone running for the Republican Presidential nomination.

"Did you actually stop believing that because of a Hollywood fund-raiser? You said that the price of admission to George Clooney's fundraiser was 'obscene.' I don't get that: when rich people like Hollywood superstars or Lehman Brothers give big checks to Democrats, it's obscene, but when some waitress gives you a check for $50 which she might not actually be able to afford, it's democracy.

"If you no longer believe that your positions are much closer to Hillary's than to those of the Republicans, then maybe there's nothing much more for us to talk about. But if you still believe that Hillary and the Democrats are much better than the Republicans, you can get behind us, and campaign hard for Hillary. When your die-hard supporters start booing as soon as you say her name, shout 'em down, tell 'em that all of this talk about her being a monster and a Republican in everything but name is nonsense, point out to them that when it comes to women's health and freedom to choose, green energy, tax breaks for Big Oil, labor unions, whether one fears that the government has too much control over corporations or that corporations have too much control over the government, whether the best way to help all of us is to help the poorest and weakest or the richest and most powerful, whether or not everyone should have access to affordable health care, whether too many tax breaks are available to corporate CEO's making 8 figures a year or more or to teachers and firemen making $50,000 a year or less, whether GLBT's don't have enough rights or whether they have too many, whether or not it's time to revoke the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, whether or not drilling for oil and gas in national parks would be a good idea, and whether or not I'm a secret Kenyan Muslim Communist, there is a difference of night and day between Hillary and Donald, and between Hillary and most Republicans. Point out to them that the one single person who's done more than any other, going back to the early 90's, to get affordable health care to more people, is Hillary Clinton.

"If you fire up your supporters for Hillary, if you campaign hard for her and for down-ticket Democrats, then we're going to have a landslide in November. Not just Hillary winning by a mile, but also Democratic majorities in both houses of Congresses and in the Governors' offices and in mayoral offices and city councils and so on. We might have huge majorities. Imagine all the things a Democratic President could do with a filibuster-proof Democratic Congress backing her up. A Progressive Democratic Congress that keeps pulling her to the Left -- she'll go Left with you, it's not that far from where she was headed anyhow. Education and infrastructure would be restored, we'd convert from oil and coal and gas to solar and wind and geothermal, the air and water would get clean again, wages would go up, regulation would keep Wall Street in line, poverty and homelessness would plummet.

"Bernie, it would be beautiful. And you would be beloved, because everybody would know that you were a huge part of it.

"Or you can keep acting like a spoiled brat who can't admit that he lost, and continue to make everything harder for us, and you'll go down in history as an ultra-Nader. Hillary will still win, but those down-ballot Democratic majorities could vanish. Hillary could be faced with the same obstructionist Republican bullshit I've had to deal with. And people will realize that it was because of you. It'll take some time for some people to see it, the way it took some people some time to figure out what Nader did in 2000, but they'll figure it out. You'll be an ultra-Nader.

"Your power will fade very fast if you don't get with us. It already is fading: a lot of your biggest former backers are already publicly behind Hillary. They didn't wait for you to come to your senses. If you continue to fight her, pretty soon your support will have shrunken down to a hard-core of low-information voters, or non-voters. Haters. Mysogynists. I don't know: maybe those really are your people. Maybe you want to stick with them, and don't want to try to enlighten them about their actual choices in November. Maybe you like having those hard-care crazies and you against the world.

"You're gonna do what you're gonna do. You can be a huge part of a glorious victory, or you can continue to throw a tantrum because you didn't get everything you wanted, and sabotage all of your own causes, which are our causes too. Now get out of my Oval Office, I've got work to do. Decide whether you're my ally or my enemy."

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

It's Going To Be Okay

Chris Hayes and his guests on "All In" are talking about enabling crazy and addictive behavior. They're talking about the Republican Party and how they allowed the right-wing craziness in their party to grow and grow, from the Tea Party to the disaster who is their presumed Presidential candidate, and how they're in denial about how Trump is simply unacceptable as a candidate, and how they need to face the ugly truth and stand up and say that they don't support Trump -- whether it's too late to actually nominate someone else, or not.

But eventually, I think, if Bernie just keeps campaigning and campaigning, people will see the folly of enabling that too, and waiting and waiting for him to face reality in his own time and "make the landing," and reassuring each other that Bernie and all of his top people can do the math (clearly, they can't), and being as nice as possible to him and his die-hard supporters, because that's just enabling craziness and refusing to face it and letting it grow and grow while hoping it goes away somehow, too.

But have you noticed how many of Bernie's supporters are NOT WAITING for Bernie to get behind Hillary? It's encouraging. And there are still enough die-hards left over to follow Bernie around from rally to rally like Deadheads and keep giving him that ego jolt he's apparently become addicted to, without actually affecting the November election.

Everybody wins! Those of us who live in the real world -- including almost all of Bernie's former supporters -- will stop Trump and get on with government, and Bernie and the diehards can keep living in their bubble, saying they're going to flip the superdelegates and go all the way to the White House and that everyone in the world is cheating them. We just won't have to pay any attention to them anymore. We can just separate from them and move on.


If you have been getting your primary-season news from CNN and MSNBC, you may think that the results of the California Democratic Presidential primary -- Hillary winning big, 56.0% to 43.1%, with 69% of the vote counted, Hillary with 1,841,285 so far and Bernie with 1,416,742 -- are jarringly at odds with the polls, which had shown Hillary up by 2 points or even trailing Bernie slightly. If you have been getting your primary-season news from this blog, however, you know that in addition to those polls, other polls continued to show Hillary with a double-digit lead right up to the end. Not even I, however, have been able to answer the question of why the polls saying it was close in California got so much more news coverage than the ones predicting a blowout for Hillary.

Here are some more numbers: there are about 125 million households in the US. The great majority, 116 million, receive cable, satellite or telco TV -- pay TV, that is. More channels than just broadcast. Only about 36 1/2 million get HBO. That's because HBO is expensive. But talking heads on MSNBC and people writing for Mother Jones have been comparing the 2016 Presidential campaign to the HBO series "Game of Thrones" as if everyone got HBO and would know what they're talking about. That assumption seems rather elitist for media outlets which are supposedly progressive.

Hillary clinched the majority of pledged delegates last night in California. There are 4046 pledged delegates in the Democratic Presidential primary, 2023 is exactly half. CNN currently shows Hillary with 2168. More will be added to that total as late returns come in. Not enough to give Hillary 2383 pledged delegates, but close. 2383 pledged delegates for Hillary would mean that it was absolutely impossible for Bernie to take the nomination away from her even if he got every single one of the 719 superdelegates. It would mean that claims that Bernie could still win the nomination, that Hillary has not completely lead-pipe clinched it, had finally crossed that fine line between completely silly and no-excuses insane.

So, how is Bernie's campaign to win over the superdelegates going? It continues to go not good: CNN shows Hillary with 572 and Bernie with 47. Superdelegates Bernie has flipped so far? Holding at 0. (I keep hoping that more of Bernie's superdelegates will switch to Hillary, to help to give him that hint hint, nudge nudge, but apparently the number who have done so remains 1. But let's keep an eye on that, see if any of the 47 he currently has fly the coop.)

Number of Bernie's supporters, both journalists and Democratic politicians, calling on Bernie to concede and help to unify the Democratic Party? I don't have any raw numbers there, but the number is huge and growing very rapidly. The allusion to "Game of Thrones" in Mother Jones to which I alluded above compared Trump to the Winter King and Democratic unity to unity of the Kingdoms of the North. (Those are "Game of Thrones" things.)

Number of people who know Bernie personally who assure the public that Bernie will do the right thing, soon: very big. *shrug* Okay. They know him personally. I don't.