I never did get around to explaining my affection for Gragnola, did i?

At one point in the book, he’s explaing a few things to Yambo about the rise of fascism. Naturally this leads to a critique of the Ten Commandments, and how only four of them are worth obeying. He goes on a charismatic tangent attacking one commandment then another, but it’s the tenth commandment that drives Gragnola into a froth.

…And now we come to the last commandment. Don’t covet other people’s stuff. But have you ever asked yourself why this commandment exists, when you’ve already got Don’t steal? If you covet a bike like the one your friend has, is that a sin? No, not if you don’t steal it from him. Don Cognasso will tell you that this commandment prohibits envy, which is certainly which is certainly an ugly thing. But then there’s bad envy, which is when your friend has a bicycle and you don’t, and you hope he breaks his neck going down a hill, and there’s good envy, which is when you want a bike like his and work you butt off to be able to buy one, even a used one, and it’s good envy that makes the world go round. And then there’s another envy, which is justice envy, which is when you can’t see any reason why a few people have everything and others are dying of hunger. And if you feel this fine sort of envy, which is socialist envy, you get busy trying to make a world in which riches are better distributed. But that’s exactly what the commandment prohibits you from doing: Don’t covet more than you have, respect the rule of property. In this world there are those who own two fields of grain just because they inherited them, and there are those who toil in those fields for a crust of bread, and the ones toiling must not covet the owner’s fields, otherwise the state will be ruined and we’ll have revolution. Therefore, my dear boy, don’t kill and don’t steal from poor kids like yourself, but go ahead and covet what other people have taken from you…

That’s not what makes Gragnola a gnostic obviously, but he insists in a later conversation that the creator God is a fascist and most likely evil. It’s a lot more lively out of his mouth than some of the dry texts exploring dusty, neglected heresies.

Astronomy at the Vatican

See this very interesting article on an elite summer program for astronomers at the Vatican. See the aftermath of the Galileo affair.

I mention it here because of this bit:

“This place is fantastic,” said Sarah Chamberlain, 25, a Ph.D. from Australia, one of 25 students selected from more than 200 applicants for this year’s courses on “astrobiology,” or the search for evidence of life forms on other planets.

“We have very little history in my country but here you just breathe the history. There are books written in 1667 by some of the people that I have only read about or have been taught about in first year physics. To be in this place is absolutely fantastic. Galileo walks here,” she said.

Astrobiology. At the Vatican. The Vatican is searching for life in space.

Quick, somebody write a novel.

more on the Ponchatoula sex cult

I ran across this post on the Hosanna sex abuse ring and misread it initially. I thought that this blogger was a skeptic like me in my cursory reading, but it turns out that he actually believes that this involved the occult. I’ve posted about this before. I’m a native of Tangipahoa Parish, and am very familiar with how things work around there. Some of my friends even used to be cops there, and explained some of the tactics of the less honorable, less intelligent members of the force.

It turns out that there was no real evidence of occult ritual, just as i predicted. I wouldn’t trust what the NYT printed about pentagrams, as it most likely was just nonsense that a deputy made up to tell a reporter, just like they did they time they arrested my friends for trespassing. I admit that i have no idea what to make of the black robes and the masks, but those are not necessary to prove whether these people are rapists or not.

If this turns out not to be a complete invention by the local cops, no one should let these sick fuckers let some imaginary devil be responsible for their crimes. Please understand that hiding behind Satanism is what lets these bastards believe that they are only pawns. Not only do they need to be held trial, but they need to comprehend that they made they choice to rape children. No supernatural force made them do it.

Borges done himself wrong

Maud Newton has an essay by Coetzee on Borges posted. It’s from his new collection of essays, Stranger Shores. It’s making want to read Borges in the original Spanish even more than i did before, as i find some of his attempts at Anglicizing himself frustrating. The example that Coetzee gives, turning violento into tangled instead of violent, in describing hair.

I gotta admit that i find the description of “violent hair” rather poetic.

what’s up with The Specimen Days?

I just read the synopsis of the book on Amazon, and what keeps running through my mind is Cloud Atlas. I know that Cunningham has already staked out those interlocking stories with The Hours (which i have not and likely will never read,) but adding the crossing of these kinds of genres seems more like Mitchell. Am i way off for that?

finished Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

I’m still puzzling over my reactions to Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. Bill had warned me of a dodgy translation, but i don’t think that’s my problem with it. My problem’s with the ending. I could feel it telegraphed from much earlier in the book, and it was not the kind of resolution that i was hoping for. Once again, what i want is not necessarily what a book needs, but it felt like an awkward fit. Very little of the exploration of the meaning of Lila compelled me. Even though this thread wove through the whole narrative, it seemed like a deliberate short ciruit to end the story, an obvious device to end the narrative rather than having the most crucial meaning of it. Yeah, i know that i gotta explain that….

I must go to work, so i’ll have to dwell on this mild disappointment all day, but i hasten to add that i loved Eco’s insinuation of the self-invented gnostic Gragnola. As much as i’m entertained by the exploration of how pulp can shape identity, when an anarchist who describes himself as a coward begins to divulge his understanding of the nature of God and the universe to Yambo, it was my high point of the book. Hopefully i can get back to him tonight.

Trapper Creek site in Alaska

This excavation near Trapper Creek, in the Susitna Valley in Alaska has been turning up some odd tools, tools too unwieldy to carry for the normal hunter-gatherer 7,000 years ago. Brian Wygal proposes that the technology rached the area through trade.

I’m a little too fuzzyheaded to make sense of this story this morning. I had just assumed that it was established that even at that early date that trade routes were established, and exchange of technology was obvious. That’s another thing that i forgot in my annoyance with the Harper’s Kennwick article, in that there might not have been any Clovis people, only Clovis technology.