Thursday, April 28, 2016

GOP sez: Vote for Satan !

Exciting contest! Practice your logical chops on this classic syllogism!!

(Major premise)  Aiming to stop Trump at all costs, the GOP leadership is urging voters to vote for the non-Trump front-runner.
(Minor premise #1) Ted Cruz is the non-Trump front-runner.
(Minor premise #2) Ted Cruz is “Lucifer in the flesh” (as John Boener has just revealed.)
(Minor premise #3) Lucifer is Satan.
(Conclusion) ……..

The People's choice !!

Mail in your answer and win fabulous prizes!   Entries must be received by midnight, Greenwich Mean Time.


In a widely-cited riposte,  Cruz dismissed the charge, claiming that he had “never exchanged more than fifty words” with Lucifer.
There are, however, credible reports of a certain document  drawn up in blood, of no more than that scant word-count;  however, the super-PAC “Diabolists 4 Truthitude” are demanding to see “the long form”.


We earlier remarked upon the extraordinary resemblance, both physical and moral between Ted Cruz and Mr Pecksniff, in Dickens’ novel Martin Chuzzlewitt.  And now we are put in mind of Martin’s assessment of that gentleman:

“In thought, and in deed, and in everything else:
A scoundrel 
from the topmost hair of his head,
to the nethermost atom of his heel.”

The fabric of fact and fiction  is thick with interconnections.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Does Trump wear a toupet ?

In Dickens’ final, unfinished, prophetic novel (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, 1870), he describes Mr Grewgious:

He had a scanty flat crop of hair, in colour and consistency like some very mangy yellow fur tippet;  it was so unlike hair, that it must have been a wig, but for the stupendous improbability of anybody’s voluntarily sporting such a head.

Separated at birth!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rites of Spring (iterum -- vel ter resartus)

Today  I hauled the old lawnmower out of the shed, where it had long lain hibernating.   (I say “the” shed  since the reference is in fact unambiguous:   unlike Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson, I personally possess only one shed.) 

Nota bene:  Dr Justice is *not* like that man !!

I gassed ‘er up, and, in lieu of actually oiling anything or “replacing the plugs and points” (what is a point, exactly?), since I don’t understand anything about lawnmowers, I contented myself with prodding it here and there with my toe, and eyeing it with a masculine, propriety air -- with just a hint of asperity to it, along the lines of, “Let’s not have any of that won’t-start-up nonsense this time, shall we?”
For we have here that annually recurring agony of vernal uncertainty.   You set your stance, seize the ripcord, let loose your mightiest tug, and… it either leaps to life with a throaty roar, or… splutters impotently, mocking you, and then you’re hosed.
(I must here explain for the ladies, who would otherwise scarcely understand, that failure of one’s lawnmower to start, is humiliating for a man.)

Yet lo!   With a deafening neigh  worthy of Bucephalus,

Dr Justice, taming his lawnmower

and a forward leap recalling Pegasus,

My trusty mower, defeating the weeds

the noble mower sprang into action -- the very first on our cul-de-sac, this season, to do so!
Thanking the gods, I strode forward, laying low the uppity tussocks  and insolent weeds,  like Hector mowing down Myrmidons, relishing in Man’s estate.
In ancient Rome, it was considered a most auspicious omen, when one’s lawnmover started right up  in the spring.

~   ~
For an exhilarating parable
in which Spring becomes general,
and dry twigs  send forth  green leaves,   see
Murphy and the Magic Pawnshop
~   ~


Thirty-Two Turtles

On the sun-baked back of a fallen tree,
leaning well into the lake,
thirty-two turtles along its length,
stretched out like bells in a carillon,
from wee-littlest to next-little to less-little
through maybe-medium,  on up to the grand, rotund
Turtle King.

All are facing the same way;  only seldom does any one budge.
And why should they?  They bask in Turtletude.

Contemplating all this,  sagely from the shore,
at last I beam at them  this thought-balloon:
“Carry on, gentlemen;  carry on.”

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Meum et tuum

(I)  Mine and Thine

This morning I am, for my better edification, engaged in reading Roscoe Pound’s classic Introduction to the Philosophy of Law (1922; revised and augmented edition 1959).   It is rather dry; only a concurrent reading of Cozzens’ law-soaked novel  By Love Possessed (most gripping, precisely, in its legal passages) led me to once again  pick up this monograph.

In the penultimate chapter, Pound arrives at the question of Thine and Mine.  To get some clarity on this vexed subject, he begins with a clean desktop by doing what we all should do whenever tackling a difficult problem:  arranging the data into six convenient groups:

Theories by which men have sought to give a rational account of private property as a social and legal institution  may be arranged conveniently into six principal groups, each including many forms.  These groups may be called:

(1) Natural-law theories;
(2) Metaphysical theories;
(3) Historical theories;
(4) Positive theories;
(5) Psychological theories;  and
(6) Sociological theories.
-- (p. 114)

There!  And now (in the word’s of Portnoy’s psychoanalyst, at the end of the book) -- Now we can begin!

Our interest here lies chiefly in the metaphysical theories, which began with Kant.  And Kant began with this:

He begins with the inviolability of the individual human personality. A thing is rightfully mine, he says, when I am so connected with it  that anyone who uses it without my consent  does me an injury.
-- (p. 117)

Ordinarily, philosophical argument is supposed to start with what is self-evident, or at least colorable, and to proceed by ever-cleverer reasoning  to some conclusion  the path to which was not initially plain.  Yet here we find ourselves in quicksand, before the journey is quite begun.

For  consider:
Little Timmy is playing happily with his new toy dinosaur, bought for him by his grandmother the day before.  Along comes Tommy and seizes the object by main force.  Timmy is dismayed, his playtime ruined; tears  well in his eyes.
But now consider Tommy, happily at play with his newfound fun dinosaur.  Let Timmy, or Bobby, or anyone else, come along and likewise appropriate the coveted item, and -- now Tommy is dismayed, his playtime in tatters; salt tears  sting his eyes.

The only way we might distinguish between the sense of grievance of the two boys, is in light of some antecedent theory of ownership  and notions of justice attached thereto, held by one or both boys:  quod erat demonstrandum, sed demonstratum non est.

That, alas, is an actual incident, from America’s tragic past.  Here, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, are the facts (David v. The Cruel World, 1955):

~ The Case of the Purloined Dinosaur ~

I was not quite five years old, temporarily living with my maternal grandmother  in Garden City, Long Island, while my parents, having moved from Tennessee, were off house-hunting in New Jersey.  In the course of a visit to the Museum of Natural History (fondly recalled here) she had bought me a lovely little bronze statuette of a brontosaurus;  I had few or no toys dating from the time of our rather exiguous existence in Oak Ridge, and this brontosaurus  was by far my most precious possession.

I was outdoors alone, playing with this wondrous toy, when along came a neighborhood boy and, liking what he saw, calmly possessed himself of the animal and began walking home.  Stunned at this calamity, I trailed along after him, alternately remonstrating, threatening replevin or trover, and expostulating, citing seriatim the old Roman (“natural law”) theories of possession, along with the metaphysical, the historical, the positive, the psychological, and the sociological -- finally adducing canon law and the opinions of the early Church fathers concerning matters of tortious conversion -- or would have, had I heard of any of that.   He merely shrugged -- then trumped me, with a legal axiom of his own -- and one which stood irrefutable, as it rhymed:

~  Finders keepers,  losers weepers ~

That adage took me aback.  I was amazed that the world here below should be so ill-ordered, but such apparently was the case.

Later that day, I appealed to the local areopagus, in the form of my grandmother -- herself the daughter of a clergyman, and pretty clear on matters of right and wrong.   She phoned the boy’s mother, who then tried to recover the object from her child’s well-stocked toybox;  but by then it had been lost and forgotten.


Had we each, I and that larcenous lad (who now, if he yet live, is even older than I am, if such a thing may be conceived) -- had we, I say, myself and that Barabbas rapscallion (prior to his eventual death in the monastery  whither he had  no doubt  latterly repaired, in penance of his depredations, dying finally in an odor of sanctity, his palms emblazoned with stigmata  in the shape of brontosaurs):  had we, say I, either of us, possessed a copy of Pound’s treatise (necessarily the original edition, since the second was not yet out) -- had the two of us sat down, like men of reason, and conned its pages  for guidance in our perplexity -- I might not (contrary to intuition) have been the gainer thereby.  
For in that work, does not the author refer to “the maxim possession vaut titre in continental law” (p. 128);  and does he not likewise allege, that

when one appropriates a thing, fundamentally he manifests  the majesty of his will  by demonstrating that external objects that have no wills  are not self-sufficient
(-- p. 120)

Our light-fingered adventurer might well take that as praise.


Already  I sense, you are reaching for your well-worn,  dog-earned,  espresso- or brandy-stained copy of The Common Law, by Mr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Esq. (1881; which surely graces your night-table) for help in ascertaining what night lie aback of all of this.  To that work, therefore, we now repair.

Holmes’ tract is  if anything  even drier, even more nose-to-the-grounds-of-precedents (some quite ancient) than Pound’s.  Yet he claims to have his eyes as well on higher (or deeper) things:

The interest attaching to the theory of possession  does not stop with its practical importance in the body of English law.  The theory has fallen into the hands of the philosophers.
-- chapter “Possession”

And not merely  for their own abstract amusement;  for Pound goes on to declare the influence bidirectional:

Nowhere is the reciprocal action  of legal rules  and philosophical theories  more strikingly manifest  than in our law of contractual liability.
-- Pound, op. cit., p. 

Anyhow, readers hoping for sure philosophical guidance from Holmes’ book  might be disappointed.  As, consider the following hypothetical case:

A pocket-book was dropped on the floor of a shop by a customer, and picked up by another customer before the shopkeeper knew of it. 
-- Holmes, op. cit., p. 222

(And, be it understood, made off with it;  that is not stated in the text, but apparently was the expected behavior of a shopper.)

Now, for fifty points -- answer this simple quiz from WDJ.  The appropriate holding would be:

(1) The purloiner of the pocket-book is a common thief, and should be prosecuted as such, regardless of whether he repents and returns the stolen item.
(2)  In the event that, unprompted, the purloiner  of his own accord  return the lost property to its owner, no charges should be larged.
(3)  Screw the owner -- the perp gets to keep it, free and clear.
(4)  Actually the shopkeeper gets to appropriate the mislaid item.

(Pause for reflection;  then read on.)

If you answered (1) or (2), you are (according to Bridges v. Hawkesworth), a patsy, a loser.  “Finders keepers, losers weepers” rules -- the correct answer is (3):

Common-law judges and civilians would agree that the finder got possession first, and so could keep it  as against the shopkeeper.
-- id.



After that little Gedankenexperiment, we gloomily wonder why a table-sweeping fifth option was not added:

(5) Property is theft.  (La propriété, c'est le vol. -- Proudhon.)

And indeed, Roscoe Pound does cite that 18th-century ideological Brandstifter  J-J Rousseau, to much that effect:

Rousseau held that the man who first laid out of plot of ground and said, “This is mine”, should have been lynched.
-- Pound, op cit., p. 119

To that we might merely observe that … he probably was.  As was any man who, outside the receptive and self-developing Greco-Roman-Christian current of history, presumed to invent or discover anything (or at best, he was ignored, and his find  died with him). “No such constitutional framework of contractual security as the Roman  was evolved by any other people in the ancient world.” --  Adda Bozeman, Politics and Culture in International History (1960), p. 201. (See also Lord Raglan, How Came Civilization.)

(II)  Adverse Possession

Apart from simply seizing someone else’s property and walking off with it, or invading it by main force, there is a subtler way of annexing the same, which can even cadge recognition by the law.   This trick is called:  Adverse Possession.
Thus, Princeton University owns a bit of woodland, containing a birdwatchers tower, to which access is unrestricted.  Yet one day a year, they bar the access-road and say No Trespassing:  this, lest their title lapse.  


Monday, April 11, 2016

West-Easterly Divan (II)

O, daß der Sinnen doch so viele sind!
Verwirrung bringen sie ins Glück herein.
Wenn ich dich sehe, wünsch ich taub zu sein,
wenn ich dich höre, blind.

[Quelle: West-östlicher Divan, Buch Suleika]

Too many senses  overload my self,
to seize thee clearly, thereby undermined.
When I thee see, I would that I were deaf;
When I thee hear, would I were blind!


Bruce Springsteen:  I Wish I Were Blind

O  wär’ ich lieber blind !

Sunday, April 10, 2016

West-Easterly Divan (I)

Als ich auf dem Euphrat schiffte,
Streifte sich der goldne Ring
Fingerab in Wasserklüfte,
Den ich jüngst von dir empfing.

Also träumt' ich. Morgenröte
Blitzt ins Auge durch den Baum.
Sag', Poete! sag', Prophete!
Was bedeutet dieser Traum?

The indispensable link

While gliding  over glistening silver river,
Lo! that ring of gold  that you me gave
slid down, slid out, slid off  my frozen finger,
and swam, and sank, to seek  a watery grave.

Now strikes the sun  through leaves on boughs low-leaning,
and wakes me, still adrift  upon the stream.
Ho! Poet, say!  O Prophet,  speak thy meaning:
What means indeed, to me, this drifting dream ??

(Aus dem Deutschen Goethes, aus dem Deutschen von Hammer-Purgstall, aus dem Persischen von Hafis)

The Perfection of Penguins: an inductive proof

In mathematical induction, you begin with the base case a.k.a. Induktionsanfang, traditionally symbolized as P(0) (where P stands for “Penguin”, and  0 depicts the egg).   In the present instance, P(0) is Baby Fuzzy.

Kleiner Kuschel-Induktionsanfang
Now, P(1) = Fuzzy’s Mommy;  and they rejoice in a Perfect Love.  Thus, the Induction Hypothesis is established.
Now consider any arbitrary P(k).  In this case, P(k)  is known as Fluffy;  and P(k +1) (the k-plus-first Penguin) is Fluffy’s perfectly adoring mate.   So once again, the induction goes through.
Thus we have established the Perfection of Penguins.
Note:  Using the more powerful technique of Transfinite Induction, we can establish the existence of (the wonderful, the unutterable) Zorn’s Penguin.   This, however, requires the Axiom of Choice, in its strengthened form, “Choose Penguinity”.

An open-pattern ambiguity

Some words are ambiguous in unique, idiosyncratic ways:  e.g. pen (‘writing-implement’; ‘corral’; ‘female swan’; ‘penitentiary’);  these do not generalize in any sense.   Others, in ways more systematic, though still contingently gerrymandered over the lexicon as a whole: as, the actio/actum distinction of many verbal nouns, which has counterparts in many languages.

An ambiguity of the latter sort  I noticed just the other day.  Schematically,

& <the [Surname] of … [area of activity]>

I was reading (somewhat drowsily, candle guttering on the nightstand) a history of the early twentieth century,  and encountered the phrase

“the Nelson of the Russo-Japanese War”

My semi-befuddled brain (well prepped for noctural Lethe  by abundance of brandy, but less well fit for analysis) first apprehended this as referring to:  a certain Commodore or Admiral, active in the R-J war, and surnamed Nelson (by Christian name  a Clive, or a Bartholemew, as the case might be), but not to be confused with his more celebrated predecessor and namesake, Horatio Nelson. 
But the reference was to:  Admiral Togo.


I noticed that  while wearing my linguistic cap;  but upon re-reading, it stands revealed as but an instance of, or at least closely related to, the general topic of possible-world counterparts, and the sort of conundrums of counterfactuals discussed, for example, by Nelson Goodman in Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.  As such, a philosopher will greet it with a nod of recognition, or perhaps a yawn.  But for the benefit of such of my readers who may have spent too few hours reading analytic philosophy, and too many playing “Angry Birds”, we offer it anyway, in all humility.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dining habits of the Bogeyman

The Bogeyman eats up all the little boys,
then taps his lips with a napkin.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Scala naturæ (downward direction)

Jesus preached to the people;
then Francis, a man, catechized the birds of the air
(as Saint Maël, we read, preached to the penguins).

Shall a penguin, then,
take pulpit to the ocean-folk,
filling them with such dim visions as might fit,
proportional to their subaqueous understanding?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

March in Maryland

In like a lion,
out like a lamb ...

Back in like a lion,
Back out like a lamb ...

[And as to this new April -- It seems to be suffering from some kind of Gender Identity Disorder, imagining itself to be January.]

Monday, April 4, 2016

worm poem (k thx bai)

“With dawn  pinking the eastern sky
and the early bird  chirping  over its early worm …”
-- P.G. Wodehouse, Service with a Smile (1961)

That status of that passage  is rather fraught.  It is not truly Found Poetry;  for, though it appeared originally in straight prose, and though it is (if you like) rather poetic, it was never intended as unselfconscious prose-poetry:  rather, it was a burlesque of such language in a purely comic context.  And yet -- Its utterance (on the lips of that irresponsible/irrepressible way, Uncle Fred) -- does remind us, somehow, of the sweetness of such visions, even so expressed, before jadedness and taedium vitae set in …

Mini-semi-monostich from V. Wyck Brooks

 … with hollyhocks, and borders of box.

[Source: New England: Indian Summer (1940), p. 348]

Note:   That is slight;  I cite it merely, as a rebuke to those (and they -- like Satan’s names -- are legion)  who wag their fingers against any appearance of rhyme or rhythm in prose.  The larger context here  was:

…yards overflowing with larkspurs, petunias, and asters, with hollyhocks, and borders of box.

That final rhyme, then, brings back the borders of that petunia’d profusion, to something like the order of a proper flower-bed.

Aturdido Epigram

(From the prattle of a fashionable young Edwardian: )

“I do so want to see what Corsica’s like;
 it looks so silly on the map.”

(Here, it is the speaker who is étourdie;  yet later, out of context, the reader is … aturdido …)

[Source:  a 1914 sketch by Saki.]

Sunday, April 3, 2016

“Saki” aperçu

 ~  horses drinking knee-deep   in duck-crowded ponds ~

[from a short sketch of 1911, by H.H.Munro]

The author, glancing down his nose
at the jumped-up American's  pathetic attempts
to horn in on “Saki”s fame

Kiplingian hemi-monostich

. . .   presage  of coming coolness …

[Few poetic genres are so spare, as that of the monostich.
But in this overscheduled day and age -- the time of TLDR --
we must offer abbreviated versions.
The above -- ultimately from Kipling -- is from the forthcoming anthology,
Mini-Monostichs for the Busy Businessman. ]

Found, down by the sea-shore

“The she-seals  seek the shore
  to drop their pups aland.”

[That doesn’t really qualify as Found Poetry:  first, because it was set as poetry to begin with -- Kipling’s “Rhyme of the Three Sealers”;  second, because what he actually wrote was “the matkas seek the shore” and so forth;  a footnote explained that matkas means ‘she-seals’;  and I substituted that, as it is a much more evocative word that matkas, which sounds rather like something Yiddish to eat.  The result, though not Found Poetry, is a sort of Discovered Tongue-Twister;  and as such, I bequeath it to literary history.]

Kipling, chortling
at the way that Dr Justice
has improved upon his verse


Afterpiece: Arabic irregular plurals

In grief, the Arabic plurals  lie
broken    upon the sands …

Imru al-Qays,
lamenting over the grave
of a diptote

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Suum cuique

Suum cuique

Den starken Zeitwörtern  zugewidmet

You can fashion a flavor sensation,
and season with spices and herbs.
But you’ll ne’er find a dish   half so delish’
as German irregular verbs!

The height of the heart knows no summit,
no bliss in the bosom reverbs
like the lofty elation, the sweet conjugation
of German irregular verbs.

Wherewith shall we banish the sadness
such gloom as the savant perturbs?
With what but the magic, celeste or pelagic
of German irregular verbs?

In vain seek we higher instruction,
from the citadel  down to the ‘burbs.
Leave off Kant or Newton,  hie thee to the Teuton
for German irregular verbs!

Ye may seek among Greeks and Phoenicians,
and query both Croats and Serbs,
But never shall find  such a treat for the mind
as German irregular
German irregular
German irregular verbs !!

Wunderbar !!!


[Poetic parental advisory:]

When our young son had ripened  to the sum of three summers,
he used to like to ride me
while I cavorted and cantered
to the tune and the timing   of Milne’s rhythmic ditty,
“We Two”:
Wherever I go, there’s always POOH,
there’s always POOH  and me!  (da-DUM)
Upon each stroke of “POOH”,
I would leap, as though to launch him --
yet held his ankles firmly,
as he, with elfin arms, embraced my neck.

The present poem -- a dactylic dithyramb --
is likewise suited
for such pedagogical and saccadic use.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Poetry found in “Saki”

the wine had been suddenly   spilt
from his cup of life;
and he had stayed  to suck at the dregs
which the wise throw away

[Source:  Reginald (1904), by H.H. Munro.]