JNW's Big Christmas List;
or, The List as Genre:

1. [Secret.]
2. A nice, crisp stapler.
3. Gift certificates to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.
4. Silk boxers. (I love the feel!)
5. Audio tapes or CDs for learning Hebrew, Sanskrit, and Classical Chinese.
6. A large "My Dad is my Boss" bumper sticker.
7. A large "My wife is a 4.0 Ph.D. student at Kent State University" bumper sticker.
8. 0.5 mm pencil lead.
9. Bookends (and not the S&G album).
10. Poetry on CD. (Already have Milton, Spenser, and Gilgamesh.) Need Keats, other Romantics, Eliot, Yeats, and El Bardo.
11. Good reading lists for the oriental classics.
12. New pair of winter gloves with leather palms. (My present pair is holy and thus sacrosanct.) 13. Cheez-its.
14. Goose Island Orange Creme Soda of Chicago (the gold standard of orange cremes!).
15. A unique ornament for our first Christmas tree together.
16. Philosophy-related children's books that I can read to Marsha in bed.
17. A nice frame for a good picture of my kitty cats to put on my desk at work.
18. Light therapy.
19. Two buckets (for the next time we meet with a certain customer).
20. A free subscription to The Drudge Report.
21. A paid subscription to First Things or The Economist.
22. Orange-accented chocolate. All kinds.
23. Unusual beers.
24. Nice set of wine glasses.
25. A guide or self-help book for overcoming fleeting obsessions.
26. A baby name book (strictly for future reference, of course).
27. A bold, classy tie.
Finishing Dante.

I am taking a break from Mr. Aflaton, and reading something that I was supposed to read many years ago at Thanksgiving, but somehow never got around to doing: Il Paradisio.. (Instead, I only read the Purgatorio and the Inferno for Daniel James Sundahl, before getting deathly sick and barely finishing the semester.) I see now what I have missed. Of course, perhaps it's that the Sinclair translation, its notes, the facing Italian, and my general background by now make for a rather more illuminated reading.

e forse sua sentenza รจ d'altra guisa
che la voce non suona, ed esser puote
con intenzion da non esser derisa



Joshua and the Giant Turd

My office is next door to a single-user men's restroom. The air is often pretty foul, and the fan is very noisy. Anyways, this afternoon, about 4 p.m., I got up and went to use it. At first, I thought that Mr. Last had just forgotten to flush. So I flushed--only to find that there was a huge turd lodged sideways in the bowl, with little hope of budging on its own. Did I say a big turd? I mean one big log. This thing must have had tree rings. It was about 3 inches in diameter and about a foot long. Skeptically, I flushed again. The water just washed around. I flushed a third time. No movement.

At that point, I was giggling silly and tears were streaming down my cheeks. As this was clearly a faggot of historic, if not geologic dimensions, I set off in search of a digital camera. Returning, I flushed three more times, and snapped three pics. Finally, with my journalistic urges satisfied, I took a plunger to it, wacking the stick as with an ax. It broke up, sorta, but the stench was horrible. I wretched, and contributed to the mess my string of bile with bits of single with pickle onion only. I flushed a seventh time, and thanked God for the miracle of plumbing.


Winter Comes to Nargothrond

I like to repost this poem when winter sets in (or else to email it to the cast of friends). It is, for my money, one of Tolkien's overlooked gems:

The summer slowly     in the sad forest
waned and faded.     In the west arose
winds that wandered     over warring seas.
Leaves were loosened     from labouring boughs:
fallow-gold they fell,     and the feet buried
of trees standing     tall and naked,
rustling restlessly     down roofless aisles,
shifting and drifting.
                                The shining vesel
of the sailing moon     with slender mast,
with shrouds shapen     of shimmering flame,
uprose ruddy     on the rim of Evening
by the misty wharves     on the margin of the world.
With winding horns     winter hunted
in the weeping woods,     wild and ruthless;
sleet came slashing,     and slanting hail
from glowering heaven     grey and sunless,
whistling whiplash     whirled by tempest.
The floods were freed     and fallow waters
sweeping seaward,     swollen, angry,
filled with flotsam,     foaming, turbid,
passed in tulmult.     The tempest died.
Frost descended     from far mountains
steel-cold and still.     Stony-glinting
icehung evening     was opened wide,
a dome of crystal     over deep silence,
over windless wastes     and woods standing
as frozen phantoms     under flickering stars.
Does reading the Great Books tend to make one depressed? Is this just a Greek thing or is it the St. Johnnie syndrome? Maybe I just need to read more Christians and fewer pagans, infidels, and apostates.
I see that OSU beat Michigan, 37-21. Go Bucks!


More Restaurant Reviews

Marsha and I checked out the Hyde Park Grill this evening off 271. It was very good. I was favorably impressed by the atmosphere and very impressed by the selection of breads and the quality of the meat. Not altogether unreasonable, either.

Overhead: "I could eat at El Campesino three times a week. It's the new Wendy's."



I visited the Collegian website tonight. Apparently, my alma mater is offering a course in Arabic. It's an honors class (1 credit) where people learn about the culture and learn the alphabet. Very interesting.

I went on to read the op-ed page of this little paper which seemed once so big in Mecca, now so far away. There is juvenile energy here. It strikes me as, well, strange, other, and desirable. I wonder now what some people--people I really respect--really thought of my pseudo-Socratic columns in 1999. In memory, they are fond. In fact, they may have been much worse. Jacob tried to tell me so.

Perhaps there is food for thought in this. Perhaps not. Can I yet do no more than to reminisce about the souls that I have met, the profs taken, and even books read some years ago? Am I more than the sum of all that I have bought, meaning to read? Or of the logoi begun and yet not followed?

You know, it is possible that Hillsdale ruined me.

Who are you?

You know, I used to really dig Babylon 5. I knew every line. Jonathan and I used to quote them to each other to describe everything and everyone. Rachel was Delenn. The elf-woman from outer space.

What happened?

The real world?

Perhaps. Even the wisest cannot say.

Some of my friends may remember how I once wrote a graphic short story in which I laid rather bare my "girl problems." I meant to follow it up with a story about the "God problems." I started many times, but it was too much work. Too much responsibility. For what is dearer than the soul? I tried to talk to my parents about God and love and philosophy. I tried to explain to them that I needed to pursue the logos to the bitter end, even if that end was Lucretius, Chaos, and ancient Night. I tried to reason with them, and to apologize for absolutes. I tried to make them see that if they loved me, they would understand that I could not shrink from tearing the curtain, even if discomforting to them. Do you love me, Peter? You know that I love you, but am I just one of the sheep?

It seems important that I revisit such restless thoughts with you, my friends, from time to time. For who would lose, though full of pain . . . Yes, there is certainly a danger of self-pity, but cannot self-pity be something quite other than the apprehension that mentem mortalia tagunt, that every man hangs by the cross of himself, that sapience increases dolor?


Great Books!

My sisters (teenagers) came up this weekend and we ran around Cleveland, visting the art museum and bookstores. Three half-prices and two Border's outlets, to be exact.

My sisters bought 39 books between them. Most were Christmas presents for their friends and family, but . . . still. I was a little shocked when I looked around near epic poetry and started picking Spenser, Ovid, and other people out a basket on the floor and full of what looked like twentysomething books waiting to be shelved. My sister interrupted me and explained that they were actually hers.


Two Original Jokes by Joshua

(Composed on the road, as comic relief, 11/12/04.)

Q. What is the best thing between the United States and Canada?

A. Borders.

Q. What is the biggest single problem with polygamy?

A. Mothers-in-law.


I drove over to Kenyon tonight and went to the bookstore. After an hour or so of shifting--gold! I found a hardcover copy of John of Salisbury's Metalogicon, Daniel D. McGarry (Peter Smith, 1971).


Whatever else his faults may be, Milton shows his genius by how aptly he can put such pathos in the mouth of such a monster.

And should I at your harmless innocence
Melt, as I do, yet publick reason just,
Honour and empire with revenge enlarged,
By conquering this new world, compels me now
To do what else, though damned, I should abhor.

Paradise Lost
, III.387-391.

This particular passage is not so very far from the speech of the Cyclops to his ram in Odyssey IX.


For some reason that I cannot fully explain, I have begun to feel a craving to study classical Chinese.

Do I need help?
I have been away from Aflatun—as the Arabs called him—for too long. Right now, I am midway through my deep read of the Republic, and am seeing a lot of things that I didn't see the last time I went through. Of course, I am using the Loeb and consulting the Greek heavily, whereas last time I was using Allan Bloom. Paul Shorey's notes are surpisingly good—sortalike a abbreviated commentary.


I still can't believe that Bush won. I reckoned that there were more people who hated him with a more perfect hatred than there were those who loved him. Now, with prospect of a two-term reign, it seems surreal. One can only wonder what the future will bring. Reversal of Roe? War in Persia? Real tax reform? Hillary in 2008?


And I just voted!—for all the right people and the right issues.
And so it begins. No one here is exactly as he appears.

My wife and I are off to the polling places to take part in what is certainly the most interesting election since 1980.