Monday, January 16, 2017


From “Where Do We Go from Here?,” Martin Luther King’s last presidential address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, August 16, 1967:

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World (New York: HarperCollins, 1992).
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Book battles

From The Wall Street Journal: “When Couples Fight Over Books.” A claim therein: “If you and your partner haven’t bickered about books, you’re probably not readers.” A related matter: 積ん読 [tsundoku].

Our household’s book situation has become pleasantly complicated by the formation of our two-person reading club. The copies of books we’ve yet to read sit together on a couple of shelves for new stuff. But once we’ve read a book, the two copies go their separate ways.

Bellerby & Co., Globemakers

Sean at Contrapuntalism passed on the link to a short film about Bellerby & Co., Globemakers: The Whole World Is in Their Hands (Great Big Story). See also the Bellerby website, which includes an origin story.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A sardine tin in the news

You might think that the headline says it all: “‘It all seems a bit fishy’: Audacious theft of sardine tin costume from Lamb pub sparks appeal for its return before Surbiton’s Seething Festival” (Your Local Guardian). But that’s not all: there are photographs. And this description of the Seething Festival: “The surreal procession last year saw children dressed as cheese and guinea pigs led through the streets by the legendary ‘goat boy.’”

I hope there wasn’t a wicker man.

And now that I’m free-associating: I knew some college students, years ago, who had a band called Goatboy. The name came from not from Surbiton’s procession (and not from the Spiritus Mundi) but from the toddler son of a band member. Another member was in a class with me and wrote what I still remember as one my favorite student evaluations: “Beats the shit out of any speech-comm class I could have taken.” He was a speech-comm major, and an honest sort. Too bad I couldn’t include that evaluation in my tenure portfolio.

Related reading
All OCA sardines posts (Pinboard)

[I’ve corrected the headline’s typo of Surbtion, which did seem like a strange name for a town. The headline needs a hyphen: sardine tin costume should read sardine-tin costume. A Facebook page explains the purpose of the Seething Festival: “to remember Lefi the Goatboy of Mount Seething who drove the giant away through the power of making cheese.”]

Zippy as Henry

[Zippy, January 14, 2017.]

Zippy rushes to tell the scientific community but stops himself: “Oh no! I just remembered that most Americans no longer believe in science — or even facts!”

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts : All OCA Henry and Zippy posts : All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Please imagine the links in the form of a Venn diagram.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Word of the day: tyrant

The classicist and translator Paul Woodruff on the ancient idea of the tyrant:

A tyrannos is not a legitimate king (Greek basileus, Latin rex), but a ruler who has won power by his own efforts . . .

In Greek thought at the time, a tyrant . . . is subject to insatiable desires, which drive him to a career of wanton injustice. This is the one mark of the tyrant in Plato‘s Republic, written sixty or more years after Oedipus Tyrannus. . . .

But Plato has captured only part of the classic notion of the tyrant. Several tragic plays of Sophocles’ period dwell on the tyrant as a model not so much of injustice, as Plato would have it, but of irreverent and unholy behavior — behavior that indicates a failure to recognize the limits separating human beings from gods, the principal limits being mortality and ignorance. . . .

Oedipus shares three traits with stage tyrants . . . : he is prone to fear of rebellion, he is liable to subvert the law when frightened, and he is a poor listener who flies into a rage when given advice that he does not want to hear.

Introduction to Theban Plays, by Sophocles, trans. Peter Meineck and Paul Woodruff (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2003).
You get the idea. Our president-elect appears to possess the traits of both Platonic and theatrical tyrants.

What got me thinking about ancient tyrants was the president-elect’s recent extraordinary claim: “I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created.” I think we’re beyond hubris here. Another word made from Greek parts seems to apply: megalomania.

Words for these times

Throughout history, wherever there have been monarchs, dictators, or strongmen there have been crowds of followers eager to gain influence and reap material rewards by doing their leader’s bidding. English has a wide and colorful assortment of terms for such persons.
From the American Heritage Dictionary, words for these times: “Minions, sycophants, toadies, and other creatures.” Another word that’s relevant: tyrant.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Preventing discards

A tale of librarians seeking to prevent discards: “To save books, librarians create fake ‘reader’ to check out titles” (Orlando Sentinel, via Arts & Letters Daily).

Reader, have you ever checked out a book to try to save it from being discarded? I will admit to checking out from two libraries, as an adult, the formative book of my childhood, Clifford Hicks’s Alvin’s Secret Code. When one library finally discarded its copy, I was lucky enough to find it at the book sale. But I would rather have found it still on the shelf.

Speak, Emenee

Somehow it came to mind. Do you too — yes, you, in front of the screen — remember this commercial?

I’d like to hear the sounds that a “rockin’ band” might have made with these instruments. Instant outsider music.

[Post title with apologies to Vladimir Nabokov and Mnemosyne.]

Ten bits and a jar

[Zippy, January 12, 2017.]

Fresca linked to something helpful: John Scalzi’s ten bits of advice for getting work done in these times. Though the advice is meant for “creatives” (Scalzi’s word), it’s good advice for all.

Something Elaine suggested: every day we’re each writing down one good thing from the day on a slip of paper. The slips go into a jar. We decided that we’ll keep going no matter what happens this year. (Like the comics, I suppose.) For us, the jar is not an exercise in “gratitude”; it’s to remind us that life doesn’t suck. I know that what we’re doing involves an element of privilege: we don’t have to fear deportation, say, or the loss of health insurance, though we do have more to fear than fear itself. But see especially Scalzi’s nos. 5 and 8.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[Elaine saw the jar idea somewhere on Facebook.That’s a straw in Zippy’s hand — the last straw?]