In case you missed it, we're posting at least twice a week now: once on Wednesdays (obviously) and one or more times on the weekends. The latter, we call The Weekend Eudemon. More details can be found at the end of this week's issue. Readers who enjoy TWE but can't handle (stomach) so much brilliance (inanity) more than once a week, needn't worry. TWE's format will continue, largely unchanged.
Another Return to Paganism
We can't say we understand the disgusting Idaho scalping incident, but here are bits and pieces from an Associated Press story:
Marianne Dahle, 26, scalped a sixteen-year-old girl (who's only being identified as "Sheila"). They were members of the same punk group whose trademark was the mohawk. Sheila had apparently shown disrespect to women somehow. As punishment, Dahle tied her up and cut off her scalp.
This happened in Idaho, the idyllic home state of Napoleon Dynamite. The story doesn't make a lot of sense to us, but, then, we've never understood the whole punker thing. Maybe Dahle thought scalping was just another form of bodily mutilation and therefore not terribly beyond the pale of ordinary punker behavior.
Dawn Eden, AP-award winning copy editor and headline writer for the New York Post, was fired last week for editing another writer's piece to reflect a more balanced view on in-vitro fertilization. Her job went well at the beginning, but then she gave an interview to one of our favorite rags, Gilbert Magazine. Things went downhill from there, eventually culminating in her release. Was she released for being a pro-life and right-leaning Christian, for editing another writer's piece, or a combination? You decide. The complete story can be found in the 2/13/2005 issue of The New York Observer.
"In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything, desire to have pleasure in nothing. In order to arrive at possessing everything, desire to possess nothing." St. John of the Cross
Bought on a lark: The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (Believer Books, 2004). According to its cover page, it's "a hilarious and true account of one man's struggle with the monthly tide of the books he's bought and the books he's been meaning to read." It reminded Eric Scheske of his own lust for new books but inability to finish them (see below), so we thought it worth a try.
We didn't particularly care for it, though there are some interesting and/or funny passages, like these two:
(1) Hornby talks about biographers who are "so sweetly devoted" to their subjects that they can't recognize flaws as flaws. As anecdotal evidence, he cites a Dylan Thomas biographer who went to great pains to explain the genius behind an awkward rhyme in one of Thomas' poems. According to Hornby, the "notion that Dylan might have just thought, 'Oh, f*** it, that'll do' never" occurs to him.
(2) Writing about homeopathic medicines, he writes, "Did you know that Jacques Benveniste, one of the world's leading homeopathic 'scientists,' now claims that you can email homeopathic remedies? Yeah, see, what you do is you can take the 'memory' of the diluted substance out of the water electromagnetically, put it on your computer, email it, and play it back on a sound card into new water. I mean, that could work, right?"
That's funny stuff, but overall, there's not enough of it. Hornby also has a taste in books that doesn't much interest us and very few of the books he discusses are more than ten years old. A final criticism: he frequently uses parentheses and hyphens for his cute commentary, a practice used best when used sparingly.
The Incontinent Reader
Related to previous: here's an excerpt from a piece Eric Scheske wrote awhile back for The Vocabula Review.
"And the books I've dumped? They include Robert Graves's Good-bye to All That, Flannery O'Connor's The Habit of Being, Adams's The Education of Henry Adams, Alberto Manguel's A History of Reading (there's irony in that incompletion), Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery, Russell Kirk's Eliot and His Age. There are many more, including some Aristotle and some Shakespeare.
"They sit on the shelves, touched and toyed with, underlining in the first half and the hideous mark of rejection -- the bookmark -- sticking up from the middle. It pains me to walk by them. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Oh, what those fine books would say about being rejected and shelved by the likes of me, similar to a gorgeous model getting dumped by a bald fat man.
"What is this magnetism in me that attracts all these books? Why is it combined with an inability to finish them?
"Surely, I am one of the most laughable victims of nature's skullduggery: the passionate reader who seeks out books, pays for them, starts reading with the rapt interest of a teenager holding a girl for the first time, and then, poof, his attention is drawn away to another. It's as if I have two addictions: one, to reading; the other, to that indescribable "high" that comes with buying and starting a new book.
"Fortunately, I'm not alone in my scholar-fool predicament. Joseph Epstein once wrote about his reading habits: 'I learned not to finish books by the time I was forty. I do not, it is true, set out not to finish books but neatly accomplish this task all the same.'
"I've also found solace in historian John Lukacs's words about reading history: 'There are no rules about this, no rules about reading, no rules about what should -- or will -- interest you. What you must do is follow and feed your own interests.'"
We promised more religion during Lent, but this issue hasn't had much of it. In compensation, we dedicate this week's cute-but-useless quote box to that which is supremely useful.
"Those who approach the Lord ought to pray in quietness, peace, and great tranquility. They ought to attend the Lord, not using uncalled for or disturbing outcries, but rather with an attentive heart and controlled thoughts." Pseudo-Macarius
"It is hard to change or eradicate the character of a man who has willingly surrendered himself to passions." Gregory of Sinai
"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'" C.S. Lewis
"St. Catherine of Siena and her namesake St. Catherine of Genoa . . . like all true saints . . . detested eccentricity." Evelyn Underhill
"The good use the world that they may enjoy God; the wicked, on the contrary, that they may enjoy the world would fain use God." St. Augustine
"A man is as much as he is in God's eyes, but no more." St. Francis
The Last Word
Eiron: a stock character in Greek comedy who pretends to be less intelligent than he really is; the word "irony" derives from the pretence adopted by the eiron (which should give you a clue about its pronunciation). "Is he an eiron or just a moron?"