MT VOID 04/12/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 41, Whole Number 1749

MT VOID 04/12/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 41, Whole Number 1749

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/12/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 41, Whole Number 1749

Table of Contents

      George Washington: Mark Leeper, Martha Washington: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Question (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Is CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF a vulpine Hammer? [-mrl]

Polish Film Posters (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Apparently Poland does not (always) use the international posters for film. The distributor commissions their own posters with their own interpretations of the films. The Open Culture website presents a site with "50 Incredible Film Posters From Poland."


Complete Popular Science (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

The Open Culture website points us to an archive the entire history of "Popular Science Magazine". This magazine was often on the borders of science fiction.


Giant Robots Attack Montevideo (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

A review of the current EVIL DEAD remake mentioned that director Fede Alvarez had previously directed a nice four-minute long film of giant robots and their all-out attack on Montevideo. It is mostly just digital effects without plot, but in so short a film, who cares?

The film is "Ataque de Pánico!" ("Panic Attack!", 2009)


Argentine Ants (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I don't know if you have been following this, but there is a World War going on. Aliens are in the process of conquering much of the Earth. Though they were first seen in Argentina and Brazil, their empire now extends to every continent but Antarctica. So far it is mostly just in regions that have a very temperate climate, but they keep spreading. Toward the borders of their empire they are ferocious fighters and are deadly to their enemies. This huge war between the invaders and their enemies is going on right here on earth. Some of you may be on the front lines of the war and not even know it.

Oddly enough this is actually all true.

I'm serious.

This all sounds like a bad SF story, but it happens to be the truth. And most of us are oblivious to what is happening. As you might have guessed from my title, what I am talking about is a battle for the world by Argentine ants.

What makes Argentine ants special? Ants generally form colonies. Each member knows who is from their own colony and who is not by scent. When the ants find another colony they can have peaceful relations. Or they can end up in very nasty turf wars. They are much like humans that way. If the choice is war a lot of ants can be killed. If a single colony divides, their smells will slowly change so the ants can tell the two new colonies apart. Two colonies may have at one time been the same colony, but being separated they will smell a little different from each other and they may even war against each other. Bring one ant from each colony together and the two ants will fight each other. So colonies have limited size ... unless they don't.

In the 1800s an aggressive ant colony formed in Argentina, and it plays by different rules. If you have two Argentine ants from what appear to be different colonies they will not fight. They will recognize each other like family. Effectively they were not from different colonies after all. They were from what is de facto a single colony in two parts. Argentine ants recognize as sisters other Argentine ants from colonies continents apart. Effectively what you have is not small colonies of ants, but one family of ants spread over much of the world. Take an Argentine ant from India and one from Indiana and they will know they are from the same "super-colony." They will assist each other and even feed each other.

Sometimes ants of most breeds will adopt the babies from other colonies. Sometimes they capture and enslave ants foreign ants. Argentine ants really have just one kind of relations with other colonies. They want them exterminated. No adoption. No enslavement. It is just "We'll help you die as quickly as possible." The Argentine ants are excessively vicious against other colonies. But when they find another Argentine colony like quicksilver they merge. But when they each will have their own queen but the ants themselves will cooperate as if they were a single organism. Rather than fighting they groom each other as they would sisters from the same queen. It is a bond stronger than freemasonry and far more successful.

The boundaries of the super-colony are the front lines and their ants are constantly at war to kill and take new territory. That makes the ants seem very Spartan and warlike. But only a small proportion of the Argentine ants live in the war zone. The interiors of the colony--and with a super-colony there is a lot of interior--are peaceful and one might even say they are the ant equivalent of idyllic. Ants just live in an unchanging routine and they thrive, each doing her part--they are mostly all female, remember--to feed the colony and to help it to reproduce. For the worker the hellacious foreign policy is paying off. Sadly, it is a political philosophy that a Hitler or a Stalin might endorse.

Quite beyond serving as an unfortunate political metaphor argentine ants do pose a threat to other animals and to humans. The horned lizard is usually an ant predator. And the lizard does eat argentine ants. But to these ants he is also prey. They come in swarms to eat him. And even if they are not doing that he cannot sleep for the ants trying to crawl all over him. The lizards just get eaten alive by their own prey.

Now the question. Do we really care what ant colonies are dominant? Actually the answer is that it could be disastrous for humans. Some plants depend on non-Argentine for dispersing their seeds. Some insect pests are kept under control by the predation of animals like the horned lizard that are prey for the Argentine ants. And the Argentines actually protect aphids with whom they have a symbiotic relation but which cause crop damage. An ecological shift like this could have major effects on crops.

Killing Argentine ant colonies is very difficult. A common successful strategy man has used against ants is to kill the queen. With most species of ants the best way to destroy a colony is to kill the queen. Without a queen to lay eggs an ant colony dies. You have a single point of complete vulnerability. Argentine ants owe their allegiance not to any queen but to the super colony. Kill a dozen queens and the super colony goes on. The surviving ants from the colony just go to work for the nearest queen where they are met with open mandibles of friendship.

Okay. Beat that. Right now the super colony, which incidentally comprises more biomass than the entire human race, is unstopped and seems unstoppable. So far its interests and humans' are only tangentially in conflict. But the colony is growing and hungry. The two species will eventually conflict. The future may belong to them. [-mrl]

Iphigenia (letter of comment by David Goldfarb):

In response to Evelyn's comments on AGAMEMNON and IPHIGENIA IN AULIS in the 04/05/13 issue of the MT VOID, David Goldfarb writes:

As regards Iphigenia: I've just skimmed through IPHIGENIA AT AULIS and not seen there the story I've read elsewhere, that Agamemnon returning from a hunt rashly promised to sacrifice to Artemis the first living thing belonging to him that he encountered. Guess who was waiting at the edge of his lands for her dear father? Euripides seems to have Artemis arbitrarily demanding a human sacrifice, but other sources have her simply holding Agamemnon to his promise. [-dg]

Evelyn responds:

The "I promise to sacrifice the first living thing I meet" story seems awfully similar to the story of Jephthah's daughter in Judges 11:30-40. This was written in the 6th century B.C.E., about events between 1380 B.C.E. and 1050 B.C.E. (IPHIGENIA IN AULIS was late 6th century B.C.E., but it seems unlikely there would have been any direct influence.)

The idea also shows up in the story of Idomeneus, whose got caught in a storm on the way home from the Trojan War and promised Poseidon that he would sacrifice the first living thing he saw when he returned home. In this case, it was his son, whom Idomeneus sacrificed. This part of the Idomeneus story may be a later Roman addition.

All in all, this trope seems fairly widespread. [-ecl]

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (letter of comment by Dan Kimmel):

In response to Mark's comments on STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS in the 04/05/13 issue of the MT VOID, Dan Kimmel writes:

I get no bad vibe from the title STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. I think it's much better than the previously proposed STAR TREK: THE BAD NEIGHBORHOOD. :-) [-dk]

VAMPIRE DIARIES (letter of comment by Susan de Guardiola):

In response to Dale Skran's review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES in the 04/05/13 issue of the MT VOID, Susan Guardiola writes:

Two things re Dale Skran's review of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. I haven't seen the show, so I'm reacting purely to Dale's take on it.

1. Vervain is not just a "local herb". It's a flowering plant that grows in both Europe and America with a long history of various folk uses and association with the supernatural.

2. "Such questions would surely confront our genetic superhumans as well. Whatever they might be able to eat, there is always the temptation to over-indulge, something one suspects there is no genetic cure for."

This feels weirdly off-target to me. Surely the issue at hand is not the temptation to gluttony but the ethical problem of murdering sentient beings to survive. That's not inherent to the idea of the superhuman, but it is one of the distinguishing features of the vampire genre. I think Dale's reaching here.

Also, given recent research into hormonal control of appetite, I suspect there might indeed someday be a genetic cure for that particular form of overindulgence. [-sdg]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Continuing in the philosophy/literature course I described over the last two weeks, I have written at length about THE AENEID previously (when I did a Teaching Company course on it in conjunction with a Stanford University course, so I will limit my comments here to the specific aspects of THE AENEID that fit in with the Dreyfus's focus for this course.

Dreyfus did not cover the entire AENEID, just Books I, IV, and VI (the introduction, the story of Dido and Aeneas, and Aeneas's visit to the Underworld). One assumes the latter was included as much to serve as a parallel with similar visits in THE ODYSSEY, THE LIBATION BEARERS, and THE DIVINE COMEDY. (There is also one in Christian tradition, based on I Peter 3:19-20, where Jesus visits Limbo during his entombment and brings certain souls from Limbo to Heaven. Dante references it in "The Inferno", Canto IV, line 53.)

If the interpretation of being in THE ODYSSEY is "mood", and in the "Oresteia" it is "justice and the rule of law", then in THE AENEID it is "pietas", an untranslatable word meaning piety, patriotism, duty, and other emotions all combined.

So far, the course has covered three works, all about some aspect of the Trojan War. The Trojan War itself is usually placed around 1190 B.C.E. Homer's ODYSSEY was probably written in the 8th or 7th century B.C.E. The "Oresteia" was written in 458 BCE, and THE AENEID between 29 B.C.E. and 19 B.C.E. So the composition of these works spans over eight hundred years, and the events they describe are four hundred years before the earliest of them.

In fact, one could say that there is also a Trojan link to THE DIVINE COMEDY, which has Virgil as Dante's guide for at least part of it. All this makes me wonder if someone has done a course somewhere titled "The Trojan War in Literature Through History" which begins with these works (and possibly additional works such as Homer's ILIAD and Euripides' HELEN, IPHIGENIA IN AULIS, IPHIGENIA IN TAURIS, and THE TROJAN WOMEN, and continues with Geoffrey Chaucer's TROILUS & CRESSIDA, William Shakespeare's TROILUS & CRESSIDA, and Johann Goethe's FAUST, PART 2.

It was when Dreyfus got to "The Gospel of John" that I realized that I had some basic problems with his theories. Much of what he said about "The Gospel of John" seemed to be based on questionable translations or interpretations, and Dreyfus admitted he did not know New Testament Greek. He would interpret "world" in "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not" [John 1:10] as meaning social structure of the (physical) world rather than the (physical) world itself. He seems to be unique in this. He also claims that Jesus/Christianity elevates the physical body in a way that the Romans did not, basing this on the Incarnation of the former and the description of bodies by those in the Underworld in the latter. Again, I do not recall any other interpretation that feels that Christianity glorifies the body. (If anything, various traditions emphasize the mortification of the flesh.)

Dreyfus's explanation of the Trinity is ... peculiar, to say the least. He argues that Jesus is a work of art--not that "The Gospel of John" is a work of art, but that *Jesus* is a work of art, and that there are three elements to a transformative work of art: the "background practices", the exemplar, and someone or something to explain how the exemplar embodies the background practices. In "The Gospel of John" these correspond to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. At least I think that is his claim, but I find it extremely contrived.

Now, I thought I had a metaphor for the Trinity, from mechanical drawing. A "puzzle" given to mechanical drawing students is to ask them to visualize a figure that has its three aspects a circle, a square, and a triangle. There is such a figure, but it obviously looks very different depending on which side it is viewed from. (I *really* wish that I could find an image on line, but I can't.) I think of this as a parallel to how a single "being" could have three very different "aspects". (I think that the Eastern Orthodox interpretation of the Trinity, at least as I understand, may be marginally closer to this than the Roman.)

However, reading "The Gospel of John", I find far too many verses that do not fit with this interpretation. One that encapsulates two types of contradicting statements is "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." [3:35] The first half has one of the two performing an action toward or on the second one that makes no sense if they are identical. The second half makes a distinction between the two in their functions. So when Jesus prays to his Father ("... And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." [11:41]) that is a contradiction in the first sense, while when he says "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:" [5.22], that is a contradiction in the second sense.

(While some might claim that John 10:30 ("I and my Father are one.") and John 14:28 ("... for my Father is greater than I.") are contradictions, in some mathematical sense they could both be true if both the Father and the Son are infinite. E.g., there are the same number of positive integers and even positive integers, yet one can also say there are more positive integers than even positive integers.)

Wwe next read Dante's "Inferno". I had recently (November 2011) re-read this in the John Ciardi translation, and discussed some of the differences my column in the 12/10/10 issue of the MT VOID. Someone who read that recommended the Dorothy Sayers translation, so when I had to read THE DIVINE COMEDY again for this course, I read her translation instead of the Ciardi (which was the official class translation). So first I will expand my comparisons to include hers as well, even though that has nothing to do with the class.

For example, the description of Dante climbing a steep hill is rendered by Ciardi as:

"And there I lay to rest from my heart's race
till calm and breath returned to me. Then rose
and pushed up that dead slope at such a pace
each footfall rose above the last."
     [Canto I, Lines 28-31]

Huse says:

"After I had rested a little my weary body,
I took my way over the lonely slope
[climbing] so that the firm foot always was the lower."
     [Canto I, Lines 27-29]

Sayers is closer to Huse:

"Weary of limb I rested a brief hour
  Then rose and onward through the desert hied,
  So that the fixed foot always was the lower;"      [Canto I, Lines 28-30]

Huse and Sayers are clearer, but not as poetic as Ciardi. They are also probably closer to the Italian, at least for the last line.

I said that in Ciardi one sometimes hears echoes of Bible verses:

"These are the nearly soulless
whose lives concluded neither blame nor praise.
They are mixed here with that despicable corps
of angels who were neither for God nor Satan,
but only for themselves."
     [Canto III, Lines 32-36]

This reminded me of:

"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
     [Revelation 3:15-16]

Neither Huse nor Sayers has the compact "either-or" structures of Ciardi.

And sometimes I saw something that might have been Ciardi taking his inspiration from elsewhere:

"... [I] walked at his side
in silence and ashamed until we came
through the dead cavern to that sunless tide."
     [Canto III, Lines 76-78]

This sounds a lot like:

"Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea."
     [Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Kubla Khan"]


"We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea."
     [Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"]

Huse renders this:

"Then with eyes ashamed and lowered,
fearing that my words might have offended him,
I kept from speaking until we reached the stream."
     [Canto III, Lines 78-80]

which drops both the "dead cavern" and the "soulless tide". The latter implied a "sea", while Huse refers merely to a "stream".

Sayers has:

"Abashed, I dropped my eyes; and, lest unmeet
  Chatter should vex him, held my tongue, and so
  Paced on with him, in silence and discreet
"To the riverside."
     [Canto III, Line 79-82]

She has no caverns and a river rather than a sea.

I had found the inclusion of Saladin, Galen, Hippocrates, Avicen, and Averroës in Limbo odd, since they lived after Jesus and according to Ciardi the residents of Limbo are there because:

"And still their merits fail,
for they lacked Baptism's grace, which is the door
of the true faith *you* were born to. Their birth fell
before the age of the Christian mysteries,
and so they did not worship God's Trinity
in fullest duty. I am one of these."
     [Canto IV, Lines 34-39]

In other words, only good pre-Christians are in Limbo.

But Sayers translates this differently:

"They sinned not, yet their merit lacked its chiefest
  Fulfillment, lacking baptism, which is
  The gateway to the faith which thou believest;
Or living before Christendom, their knees
  Paid not aright those tributes that belong
  To God; and I myself am one of these."
     [Canto IV, Lines 34-39]

This says there are two categories of people in Limbo: good pre-Jesus pagans and "sinless" post-Jesus pagans.

According to Sayers's note, this inclusion of post-Jesus non-Christians in Limbo may be Dante's personal view rather than Church doctrine. Certainly the presence of Saladin, who fought the Crusaders, remains peculiar. In any case, her recognition of the problem may account for the difference in translation.

For that matter, there is some confusion over Virgil's place in all this. He is normally in Limbo, presumably because he is pre-Christian, but he says that God "wills not that I, once rebel to His crown," should be able to enter Paradise. [Canto I, Line 125] But how exactly did Virgil rebel against God? And if he add, wouldn't he be in the last circle with the other traitors to their lords?

(In this age of electronic texts, I could look at the original, but Dante predates even Chaucer, so I suspect his Italian would be difficult enough for a native Italian speaker, let alone someone who does not even know modern Italian.)

Another oddity is the semi-henothesitic view Dante seems to take. Henotheism is defined as "the worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods." Based strictly on the Biblical texts, there is nothing heretical about this: Exodus 20:3, for example, just says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," not that there are no other gods. But these days we think of Christianity as allowing for the existence of only one God, and if any other "gods" are in existence, they are considered as demons.

But Dante constantly sees creatures from Greek and Roman mythology, and even some gods (e.g., Pluto). True, they're all in Hell, so they could be considered demons, but I was still surprised to see Dante acknowledging their existence.

(A fantasy novel that takes henotheism as its premise is Harry Turtledove's The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump.)

of course, none of this has anything to do with the course.

One thing that does have to do with the course is the translation chosen. Dreyfus chose John Ciardi's translation, but then spent a lot of time criticizing it (and Ciardi), explaining how Ciardi changed the words to say what he (Ciardi) wanted it to say, and so on. The obvious question is: why did Dreyfus pick this translation at all, especially since my comparisons among Ciardi, Huse, and Sayers indicate that Huse and Sayers are fairly consistent with each other, but that Ciardi is often very different.

Dreyfus says that the views given of the sins are Virgil's (and the Romans of Virgil's time)), and that is why Virgil is harder on sins that Dante is not as concerned with, but the actual presence of someone in a circle has to be Dante's decision as the author. You cannot claim that Dante did not think that chivalric love (for example) was not a sin, but that Virgil did and so that is why Paolo and Francesca are being punished.

For that matter, Dreyfus keeps harping on the notion that Virgil often gives speeches about the structure of the Inferno and Purgatory and sin and virtue which are based on the Christian view of them, but that this makes no sense, because Virgil's view would be that of a Roman pagan, and he would not know all this Christian theology. But why would one not assume that after death, everyone is made aware of the Christian view of the universe (as being the actual, true view)? All the pagans in Hell for having sinned seem to know why they are there, and understand that there is an Inferno and not a Hades, or Elysian Fields, or whatever.

Sayers says that the story of Paolo and Francesca mirrors that of Lancelot and Guinevere (which may well have been the story they were reading). In both cases, the man was sent to woo the woman for someone else. (Think of it as the "John Alden Syndrome"--or doesn't anyone learn about John Alden any more?) But Sayers does not mention Tristan and Iseult (who are mentioned--or at least Tristan is), and their story is the same one.

Dreyfus says that Virgil takes Dido to task as "untrue to Sychaeus' ashes," but that he (Dreyfus) knows of no ethical system that requires loyalty to a dead husband. Surely he has heard of the Hindu system, where even if the wife does not immolate herself, she is expected to become live celibate the rest of her life. (I found it odd that, although Dido "slew herself for love," she is not in the Wood of Suicides, nor is Socrates. According to Sayers, however, suicide is only a sin for Christians.)

The Inferno, according to Dante, is divided into two parts, the outer and the inner. The outside is for sins of excess, the inside (the City of Dis) for sins of rebellion: "willfully opposing gods will so as to will what you will." Dreyfus insists that the city is a fortress rather than the prison Ciardi describes it as, because there are guards on the walls that try to keep Dante and Virgil out and speak of "invasio." But a prison is also a fortress, with guards on the walls and the possibility of "invasion" (an attempt to stage a break-out), and while the demons and fallen angels may remain by choice, it is certainly questionable that the souls in torment do.

Dreyfus keeps referring to the war in heaven (described in Revelation) and assumes everyone knows it, though he felt he had to explain the Incarnation and many other theological points in "The Gospel of John" for students unfamiliar with them.

Less time was spent on "Purgatory" than on "The Inferno", and even less on "Paradiso". (As a side note, why do most people refer to the three pieces as "The Inferno", "Purgatory", and "Paradise"? It would seem as though either the first one should be "Hell", or the last two "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso".)

In one of the appendices to "Purgatory", "Note C: The Sacra Fame Riddle", Sayers writes, "But if Dante is really taking that to be the original meaning of Virgil's line, then he has committed the biggest howler in history, beside which the 'pink emu' looks pale, and the 'sorrowful wolf' hides its diminished head." I had no idea what this meant. Googling "pink emu" was not helpful at all, but "sorrowful wolf" got me the following extract from Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's Schooldays:

The boy who was called up first was a clever, merry School House boy, one of their set: he was some connection of the Doctor's and a great favourite, and ran in and out of his house as he liked, and so was selected for the first victim.

'Triste lupus stabulis,' began the luckless youngster, and stammered through some eight or ten lines.

'There, that will do,' said the Doctor, 'now construe.'

On common occasions, the boy could have construed the passage well enough probably, but now his head was gone.

'Triste lupus, the sorrowful wolf,' he began.

A shudder ran through the whole form, and the Doctor's wrath fairly boiled over; he made three steps up to the construer, and gave him a good box on the ear.

Apparently this refers to Virgil's 3rd Eclogue, lines 80-81: &nbps;&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;triste lupus stabulis, maturis frugibus imbres,
&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;arboribus venti, nobis Amaryllidis irae
translated by H. Rushton Fairclough as: &nbps;&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;Baneful to the folds is the wolf, to the ripe crop the rains,
&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;to trees the gales, and to me the anger of Amaryllis!

I still have no idea what the "pink emu" refers to.

The lectures covered Dante's arrival in Purgatory, a discussion by Virgil of free will and determinism, and the pageant upon Beatrice's arrival to meet Dante for the last leg of his journey, whereupon Virgil rather abruptly vanishes. Not surprisingly, Dreyfus chose the Cantos that would serve to illustrate or support his thesis that Dante's world view is one of order and of rankings--an orderly universe designed by a Creator where everything has been made for a purpose, and which is extremely hierarchical. Unlike the Underworlds of Homer, Aeschylus, or Virgil, where everyone seems to mingle together in a sort of equality, the Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise are places where people are assigned a position based on their worth, and some are definitely better than others.

Similarly, Dreyfus chose a limited number of cantos in "Paradiso", concentrating on those connected to his thesis (although as I noted, he somewhat expanded his original selection.)

The hierarchical nature of Paradise leads to the question, of course, as to whether the residents of Paradise who are further from God wish they were closer to God. The spirits having come up through Purgatory, where there is room for advancement (as it were), one might think that they would hope for something similar in Paradise. But, no, as one resident of the most distant area says:

"If we could wish to bide in lofty bowers,
  Our wish would jangle with that will of His
  Which hath assigned our proper place and powers;
     [Canto III, Lines 73-75]

Dreyfus seems to make an error when he claims that the lowest level of Paradise is inhabited by all the nuns. (This is the Moon, though this is symbolic rather than indicating that they actually reside on the moon.) It is clear from Dante's description that it is inhabited by those who were inconstant in their vows, not just all nuns:

"From the vain world my eager girlhood leapt
  To follow her; I donned her habit, chose
  Her order's rule, and vowed it should be kept;
But men more apt for ill than good arose
  To snatch me out from the sweet cloister's fold,
  And what my life thenceforth became, God knows.
     [Canto III, Lines 103-116]

One might argue that the omission of any monks from this lowest level indicates some amount of misogyny--were not some of them inconstant to their vows?

The symbolism connecting the Moon with inconstancy cannot fail to remind us of Juliet's speech in Romeo and Juliet:

O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.

And isn't it convenient that the flaws of those in Paradise are in same same hierarchical order as the heavenly bodies connected with them?

And to top it all off, someone asked what should have been an obvious question (but I do not recall having heard before): what makes Dante so special that Beatrice, Lucy, and Mary arrange for a personal tour for him through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise? There are millions of sinners in the world, but apparently Dante is either the only one worth saving, or the only one who requires such an elaborate attempt. (Which is just as well, because can you imagine the chaos if Hell was filled with a never-ending stream of tourists being guided through by dead Romans?)

As noted, Pascal's PENSEES was dropped. For my comments on MOBY DICK, see, which has links to comments for each chapter. (So far I have written over 40,000 words, and am only to Chapter 56 of 135 chapters.) [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, 
          defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.
                                          --Gore Vidal

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