I don't usually read his musings, but Rick Capezza has a smashing good retort to a variety of reformed kids who are apparently scandalized by the sex scene in Matrix Reloaded.


There was an strong earthquake in Sendai recently. I was there, in the subway even, just about five months ago, looking up family history.

I just learned that two of my former colleagues at Hillsdale College, have been keeping rather well-developed blogs: Josh "The Big Blue Smurf made me known as 'Wa'" Mercer and one of Hillsdale's finer polymaths, Steven Fettig


Niblets from Manfred

I read Byron's drama this evening, for the first time, and was moved by (just) a few lines which I shall reproduce here:

Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most
Must mourn the deepest o'er the fatal truth,
The Tree of Knowledge is not that of Life (I.10-11).

The Preacher's sentiment, well put.

               a tyrant-spell,
Which had its birthplace in a star condemn'd,
The burning wreck of a demolish'd world,
A wandering hell in the eternal space (I.43-46).

               Yet there was one--. . .
She was like me in lineaments-- her eyes
Her hair, her features, all, to the very tone
Even of her voice, they said were like to mine;
But soften'd all, and temper'd into beauty;
She had the same lone thoughts and wanderings,
The quest of hidden knowledge, and a mind
To comprehend the universe: nor these
Alone, but with them gentler powers than mine,
Pity, and smiles, and tears-- which I had not;
And tenderness-- but that I had for her;
Humility-- and that I never had.
Her faults were mine-- her virtues were her own--
I loved her, and destroy'd her! . . .
Not with my hand, but heart-- which broke her heart;
It gazed on mine, and wither'd. I have shed
Blood, but not hers-- and yet her blood was shed--
I saw, and could not stanch it (II.198-215).

Aye, if only the Gretchen we seek were a fellow intellectual. :(

l was detain'd repairing shattered thrones,
Marrying fools, restoring dynasties,
Avenging men upon their enemies,
And making them repent their own revenge;
Goading the wise to madness, from the dull
Shaping out oracles to rule the world
Afresh, for they were waxing out of date,
And mortals dared to ponder for themselves,
To weigh kings in the balance, and to speak
Of freedom, the forbidden fruit. (II.360-369).

               his aspirations
Have been beyond the dwellers of the earth,
And they have only taught him what we know--
That knowledge is not happiness, and science
But an exchange of ignorance for that
Which is another kind of ignorance (II.428-433).

Old man! there is no power in holy men,
Nor charm in prayer, nor purifying form
Of penitence, nor outward look, nor fast,
Nor agony, nor, greater than all these,
The innate tortures of that deep despair
Which is remorse without the fear of hell
But all in all sufficient to itself
Would make a hell of heaven,-- can exorcise
From out the unbounded spirit, the quick sense
Of its own sins, wrongs, sufferance, and revenge
Upon itself; there is no future pang
Can deal that justice on the self-condemn'd
He deals on his own soul (III.66-78).

Another Faustian sentiment.

               Glorious Orb! the idol
Of early nature, and the vigorous race
Of undiseased mankind the giant sons
Of the embrace of angels, with a sex
More beautiful than they, which did draw down
The erring spirits who can ne'er return (III.174-179).

I linger yet with Nature, for the night
Hath been to me a more familiar face
Than that of man; and in her starry shade
Of dim, and solitary loveliness,
I learn'd the language of another world.
I do remember me, that in my youth,
When I was wandering,-- upon such a night
I stood within the Coloseum's wall,
Midst the chief relics of almighty Rome.
The trees which grew along the broken arches
Waved dark in the blue midnight, and the stars
Shone through the rents of ruin; from afar
The watchdog bay'd beyond the Tiber; and
More near from out the Caesars' palace came
The owl's long cry, and, interruptedly,
Of distant sentinels the fitful song
Begun and died upon the gentle wind.
Some cypresses beyond the time-worn breach
Appear'd to skirt the horizon, yet they stood
Within a bowshot. Where the Caesars dwelt,
And dwell the tuneless birds of night, amidst
A grove which springs through levell'd battlements,
And twines its roots with the imperial hearths,
Ivy usurps the laurel's place of growth;--
But the gladiators' bloody Circus stands,
A noble wreck in ruinous perfection!
While Caesar's chambers, and the Augustan halls
Grovel on earth in indistinct decay.--
And thou didst shine, thou rolling moon, upon
All this, and cast a wide and tender light,
Which soften'd down the hoar austerity
Of rugged desolation, and fill'd up,
As 'twere anew, the gaps of centuries;
Leaving that beautiful which still was so,
And making that which was not, till the place
Became religion, and the heart ran o'er
With silent worship of the great of old,--
The dead, but sceptred sovereigns, who still rule
Our spirits from their urns.(III.263-301)

This long soliloquy seems to me to be the most beautiful part of the poem; in part, because I remember all too well central Rome at night, with its shadows and antique romance. Oh, how it draws one to itself! :)


Well, I've added a few features to this "blogspot." And I learnt a lot about debugging HTML in the process!
Is SARS really of extraterrestial origin?

Thulcandra as seen from Malacandra--first pictures!


Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

East Coker, V.


Family and the shadow of the past

Whenever I go home for too long or visit with the now marrying-and-otherwise-being-preoccupied brothers, once I get back I find myself waxing despondent, pricked a little with despair at the future prospects and pricked a little with regret at where the onrush of time has left not only my once heady, buckish and exuberant youth, but also what seems now to have been a golden and idyllic past in which I was not nearly as considerate, appreciative, or studious as I ought to have been. Didn't Uncle Charles say that Greatgrandfather always found it most hard when "all of the family would leave"?
The Chinese are producing a rip-off of Sex and the City..

The Australians are selling giant cockroaches as pets--"they liven up your apartment, mate!"



"Matrix II" was a very fun action movie, and includes some very indulgent set-pieces. Mace Windu . . . uhmf, I mean Morpheus, has some very profound lines (e.g., "My beliefs do not require that I do"). It's almost as if Yoda were magically imprisoned in the body of some big, super-cool, bad-ass black dude. Trinity is, as ever, "super sexy" but does seem to have "lost that mysterioso sado-masochistic edge" as one review put it. And Neo, well, is still Keanu Reeves.
Pro Christo et Patria

I went to my brother's graduation at Geneva College this weekend. Geneva is the official college of the Reformed Presbyterian [Kirk] of North America, and the home of Covenanterdom on earth. Theirs is undoubtedly an heroic enshrinement of the past--specifically of a Reformation splinter-world which Cromwell came to end--and as such is a dissent from a modern world gone wrong, an order fatally intoxicated with the sweet liqueur of false autonomy. The motto itself, "For Christ and Country," is a blunt political demand for "no king but Christ," made, in fine, in despite of Tudor despotism. But equally, the Covenanters serve as a warning of how the Church can degenerate into an historically-conditioned ethnically-delimited cult and, like Tolkien's elves, "dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten." Yes, as heirs of a Christian Roman civilization which united the virtue of Athens with peace of Jerusalem, our love for great books and great paintings is deeper than the depths of the Sea; as medieval souls alienate to a modern world of machines, bureaucracy, and corporate fictions, our regret is indeed undying and never be wholly assuaged. :) But what is over and past--which I suggest includes both the "Old" West and "Christian" America--is now usefully chiefly as a treasury of historical lessons, a coffee-table photo-atlas of wrong turns, a mine of moral instruction and biographical inspiration. The world has been changed too many times to make the honouring of old ordainances too much the point of honor, let alone the point for defining where the community of the Elect begins and ends. Too much blood and cellophane shrink-wrap stand between us, as the Matrix-conscious children of flower children, and the heroes of the SL&C.

And don't get me started on the regulative principle . . .


And at last Ar-Pharazon came even to Aman, the Blessed Realm, and the coasts of Valinor; and still all was silent, and doom hung by a thread. For Ar-Phazaron wavered at the end, and he almost turned back. His heart misgave him when he looked upon the soundless shores and saw Taniquetil shining, whiter than snow, colder than death, silent, immutable, terrible as the shadow of the light of Iluvatar. But pride was now his master, and at last he left his ship and strode upon the shore, claiming the land for his own, if none should do battle for it. . . .

The Silmarillion
, p.278.


More cute lines from our elder epic

itti sabiitima ikkala shamma
itti bulim mashqaa
itti nammashshee mu itib libbashu

, I.158-160.

"With the gazelles he eats fodder, with the herd he drinks at the hole, with the wild beasts water gladdened his heart."
For a good essay on Straussianism, see this

UPDATE:Gideon Strauss has posted a very nice list of weblinks--I'm tempted to say "bibliographic note," but that somehow doesn't feel right--dealing with Strauss and his influence in the present administration and in Conservativism generally.


And I thought the Elvish freaks were bad . . .

Apparently, there's a need for professional interpreters of Klingon in the mental health field. Apparently (unless this is all a gigantic prank), Gilgamesh (!), Hamlet, and many other keynote works of world lit have been "uncovered." There is even a translation of the Bible in progress."You haven't experienced Shakespeare until you've read him in the original Klingon" (screenplay, Star Trek VI).


Pulcherrima rapta. The Cellini saltceller has been stolen!


I went to an evening service for the first time in a long while, and was very blessed.
So that's why I'm tend to be unhappy: I'm thin!


The Hooding

I went to my law school hooding yesterday, and received a very nice scarlet and silver hood after lining up with 200 other J.D. candidates for about two hours. If I were a girl, I'd exclaim "It's so cute!," but I'll spare all of you the hysteronics. Anyways, my empty diploma case should come in very handy--unless I fail a class.

I was especially grateful to have my parents, sisters, grandmother, and favorite aunt and uncle in attendance!

Believe it or not, I was voted "Most Obscure 3L" in a poll of the class. Rather odd for a guy who was Homecoming (Philosopher-)King at Hillsdale College. I admit, I was a bit aloof, but somehow I just never embraced the legal education culture; it all seemed so--false and hollow.


For a completely hilarious mock-peacenik treatment of the Peter Jackson version of Tolkien, click here.

This does, however, raise the Q of incipient racism and fascism in Tolkien. And this could could be be partially answered, of course, by remembering Gandalf's remarks about pitying even his slaves and Aragorn's grant of Lake Nun to the Orcs after their defeat.
Done with Law School

I'm pleased to announce that I have completed all of my coursework and finals and am done, over, and through with law school (barring potential failure in some course). Today, at 3 p.m., I am to be hooded in a large ceremony at the Ohio Theatre.

It's hard to say how glad I am to be done with law school. Frankly, had I understood it better ab initio, I wouldn't have entered at all, but would have hung out for the "right" terminal program. One can always do law school later, especially if it's really just to be a adjunct graduate degree. I wish I had been more involved in things at the law school, and I still don't really feel as though I know very many students at all, but such are "what-ifs" and "might-have-beens." So very different from Hillsdale, where I somehow became king just by trying to be authentically philosophical and personable; here, I tried to be that self a few times, and the profs just stared and the students asked me if I had sat down in the wrong building.

My estimation of the American legal and legal education system could fill a small book--and probably will, Godwilling. The most important thing I learned in law school was how to be able to argue for things that one really doesn't believe in all, as means of exercising power over others, or of appeasing those in power, or of simply making some dialectical progress towards absolute truth. LOL. That was a skill which I didn't learn in the strictures of Hillsdale's bunker mentality (although perhaps I would have had I taken huge doses of Shtromas and Stephens). My best classes here were those which tended towards the philosophical: first amendment, international, jurisprudence, crim theory. So much of law school is simply sophistry--making the weaker argument the stronger. So much of political theology of SCOTUS is simply penis-envy of the Roman Pontiff. And so much of what even conservatives would protect and conserve in the law are no more than socially-constructed historicisms stemming from when the kings of the seventeenth-century earth took their stand against the Messiah's overlordship.

With legal education behind me, I look forward to finding some gainful means of employment and resuming neglected areas of study. First and foremost among those will be a renewed study of the English language. I've forgotten how to write. Well, not quite, but close. Legal writing, coupled with the Chinese water torture of so many bloody cases, has left my prose style suffering from . . . well, water damage. I need to immerse myself deeply in the sound-world of our golden and silver poetry--Spenser, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Pope, and the Romantics--and make a systematic study of periodic English prose, analyzing the syntax and tropes of a handful of worthy authors the way I used to read Cicero.

Secondarily, I must reclaim my infirm Latin and very sick Greek. Arabic has been good for me in emphasizing other things about how a language ought to be studied, especially the aural/oral element, and Akkadian has reminded me of why I took up Greek in the first place: to comprehend epic and tragedy. But I must return upwards in time ad fontes meos.

     Tityrus hinc aberat. ipsae te, Tityre, pinus
     ipsi te fontes, ipsa haec arbusta vocabant.

My familiarity with Vergil is getting closer to bare adequacy: almost all of the Eclogues, most many times; almost all of Aeneid I-VI. But I don't really know Horace, have never really known Catullus and Ovid, and have forgotten Livy. In Greek, there's always Homer, although Pindar is incredibly worthwhile. There was a time at which I could sight-read a page of Plato and need to ask for just two words. Maybe I can regain that. Maybe not.

Oh, and another thing I would really like to do in this next phase of life is to read, well and hard, the text of the female body--i.e., get married and learn to become a good lover (in that order). osculetur me osculo oris sui quia meliora sunt ubera tua vino. Which, I might add, is better too than art itself: vino is, after all, archetypically art.

Last and most importantly, there is the opportunity to master the canon of moral and political philosophy to which Shtromas, really, introduced me and which legal education steadfastly refused to treat. Basically, I have an enormous amount to read, from Averroes and Ockham and Descartes and Leibniz, to the poetry of Camoes and Ronsard, through Kant and Goethe, up to Sein und Zeit and Surveiller et Punir. I do confess a little attraction to the methods and the aspirations of the Straussians, although I am, perhaps, more of a Christian and less of a rationalist, fascinated as I may be by their Neorenaissance dream of cultivating civic virtue through the rhetorical proclamation of ethical reflection. What we really require, though, is a new Christian political and moral philosophy which looks back before Westphalia, unto Christendom as normative, and yet takes account of Whiggery and Marxism. To this end, I will read and write.


The ever-speculative Gideon Strauss has some interesting observations on why people blog--or, rather, on why he thinks they should. For me, I think, blogging is part pseudopoetic scrapbook and part yearning for the sort of intellectual community I've been missing since undergrad. Florence and Cluny and Jerusalem and Athens seem now so . . . far away. All we have here are lousy coffeeshops.

Does anyone want to start a Jesuit order for reformed boys and girls?


A new statistical sample indicates that SARS may have a higher death rate than hitherto thought.
Romance, travel, and the mysteries of the heart

"I saw also what you saw, Eomer. Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man's heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned. Sorrow and pity have followed me ever since I left her desperate in Dunharrow and rode to the Paths of the Dead; and no fear upon that way was as present as the fear for what might befall her. And yet, Eomer, I say to you that she loves you more truly than she loves me; for you she loves and knows; but in me she loves only a shadow and a thought: a hope of glory and great deeds, and lands far from the fields of Rohan."

The Return of the King,
p. 143.

Yes, let us take solace in great literature. Who says that Tolkien doesn't have a rather good grasp of human nature? :)


                        Et iam nox umida caelo
praecipitat, suadentque cadentia sidera somnos

"And now dew-ladden night falls from heaven, and wheeling stars soften sleep."