Monday, May 27, 2013

Wherein is revealed the difference between the Fegee and Erromangoan word for "whale"

from Samuel Johnson's The Dictionary of the English Language (1755)

from Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, or the Whale (1851), in the Etymology  section

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Two remedies for the corrupt state of our society

It is widely acknowledged that Economic Necessities nowadays impose upon everyone the need to obtain what is called an Higher Education. It is less acknowledged that Higher Education is a form of life-long Financial Indebtitude for all but a few Privileged Elites, and that this Higher Education can nowadays also be acquired without the student ever having to read my novel Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady--- which I published in 1748, and which today is regarded as the greatest novel in the English Language, not to mention the longest, about 980,000 words.

I would like young men and women to take seriously into consideration the following two Alternatives to University; for men, that they retire to a Monastery for four years; and for women, that they read my Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady. Many young men indeed would benefit greatly from a Monastic Life.  Many are weary of their conflicts with adversity, and are willing to eject those passions which have long busied them in vain. They find themselves unsatisfied with any of life’s pleasures, no matter how they attempt to increase their pleasures, as by buying the latest technological gew-gaw, like the Samsung Galaxy or watching the latest Superman movie. Their thoughts are never more than 140 characters in length. And many are dismissed by Physical Puniness from the more Laborious Duties of society. In Monasteries the Weak and Timorous may be happily sheltered, the Weary may repose, and the Penitent may meditate. Those retreats of prayer and contemplation have something so congenial to the mind of man that, perhaps, there is scarcely one that does not purpose to close his life in Pious Meditation.

For the females, I suggest that they undertake a study of my novel Clarissa. A studied reading of myClarissa, or History of a Young Lady is the only proper secular equivalent to the experience of a four-year Retreat to a Monastery. It takes rather less time, and one does not need to leave the house. You are even encouraged to read it while having Tea and Cake.  In my novel, the reader will find not only the highest exercise of a reasonable and practicable friendship, between female minds endowed with the noblest principles of virtue and religion, but, occasionally interspersed with such delicacy of sentiment, particularly with regard to the other sex. Such instances of impartiality, each freely, as a fundamental principle of their friendship, blaming, praising, and setting right the other, are strongly to be recommended to the female reader.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Reflections upon the modern homo-sapiens

'Tis a well-known fact that New York City has no beastly creatures inhabiting its streets but overwhelmingly those that belong to either of the two categories, the rodent family or the pigeon family. 

As I was sitting on a city bench this afternoon, partaking of the warm Spring air, beneath an oak, I chanced to observe some frenzied interactions among a small gang of these urban blighters; I simply saw some squirrels sporting with some pigeons, pigeons with squirrels, and squirrels with pigeons. Having fixed my eyes upon this scene for a few minutes, I began to think---

"What makes the difference between me and all the rest of the squirrels and pigeons in the world, and, in fact, all the rest of the animal creation? Every pigeon that strays beside me has the same corporal creation; he is hungry and gleans from the trash, he is thirsty and drinks from the puddle, his thirst and hunger appeased, he is satisfied and sleeps; he rises again and is hungry, he again gleans the trash and drink the puddle water and is at rest. I am hungry and thirsty like this pigeon, but when thirst and hunger cease, I am not at rest; I am, like him, pained with want, but am not, like him satisfied with fullness. The pigeon is content when it finds a bagel on the ground and an awning for cover. But I am content neither with the iPhone 3, nor with the iPhone 4, or 5, neither with the Samsung Galaxy S3, nor Samsung Galaxy S4. No matter how many Galaxies I acquire I feel not satisfied at all. The periods in between the release of the latest electronic gewgaw are tedious and gloomy for me.

"The squirrels snatch acorns from the green and eat them on the fire-escapes, or they too glean from the trash cans, and enjoy the fruits of their labor under a car. I likewise have a choice of food and can choose from among hundreds of restaurants in Manhattan alone. Indeed on just one city block where I live, on an average Midtown city street, I can choose from the following options: Greek Food, or Fast Food Chicken, or Fast Food Sandwiches, or Pizza, or Middle Eastern, or Coffeehouse, or Japanese. Yet the Greek Food restaurant is noisy, the Fast Food Chicken place greasy, Fast Food Sandwiches boring, Pizza unhealthy, Middle Eastern boring, and Japanese too expensive. I can discover within me no power of perception which is not glutted with its proper pleasure, yet I do not feel myself delighted. Man has surely some desires distinct from the senses which must be satisfied before he can be happy."

These were the thoughts that occupied my mind after I saw the squirrels and the pigeons frolicking near the oak, all living things indeed enjoying the warm Spring air, earlier this afternoon.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Halloween Iconologia

It has occurred to me that young children nowadays are given many opportunities to experience some form of costumed entertainment---as, for example, during school events, through private parties, or at that public festivity known as Halloween. During these events, the children are either themselves tricked out in some ridiculous costume or their parents expose them to the spectacle of these professional or amateur theatricals. 'Tis a known fact that for the past three of four generations children all over America---through nothing less than pure idolatrous worship---have revered a certain Michael Mouse character. Americans of all ages in fact worship at the shrine of this Cartoon Rodent; and the entire temple that represents their culture is raised upon this stone.----And by worship, I mean trade in money-bags.----Other currently popular costumes along this vein are zombies, vampires, and a character known as Sponge-Robert Square-Trousers.

I have therefore taken upon myself the responsibility of reforming these wayward children by suggesting alternative costumes that may be worn in public by all legitimate people both young and old. Now, the children thus a-costumed may sport with their friends at these Halloween festivities, and shine as model behavior for all young urchins. 

'Tis well known that some popular costumes among females are: a “Sexy Cheerleader,” a “Sailboat Cutie,” or a “Pin-Up Betty”---And in response to this wantonness and general laxity of morals, I here offer my suggestion for a first costume---

   1. Humility

This costume is suitable for all ages and economic classes. Even the poorest wight is bound to have the materials necessary for the costume somewhere in the house. To personify Humility when wearing the costume ‘tis important that you take these simple measures---that you walk barefoot, always in a humble pose, with downcast eyes and arms crossed on your breast; that you must be dressed in simple garments of white or grey, simple pattern-less sheets shall be fine; and that you must be holding some kind of a rubbery ball in your hand. You may also want to have a lamb accompanying you. Needless to say, you are to wear no other clothes over or underneath the sheets----none of your lacy undergarments.

from Cesare Ripa's Iconologia

The lamb of course is the symbol of the meek, and peaceful man, Christ. The ball symbolizes the idea that---as a ball that always bounces back and returns to you when thrown against a wall---the truly Humble person remains aware of his humility, no matter how highly placed, or with what force he may experience a change of condition.      

2. Doctrine
This costume is most appropriate for people of mature ages. To personify Doctrine while in your costume, you are to take the following steps---put on a robe of iridescent purple, and carry an open book every where you go. In your other hand, which you ought to be holding outwards as much as possible, a scepter tipped with a representation of the sun.

from Cesare Ripa's Iconologia

Only in mature age are people able to learn and understand Doctrines, be they sacred or secular. Your open book and your open arms symbolize the liberality of Doctrine, which tries to embrace all those willing to hear. The scepter with the sun represents the dominion of doctrine over the horrors of the night of ignorance, the sun being the symbol of light and truth.

3. Service

This costume is most suitable for young men who intend later in life to serve some capitalist employer. To personify Service you must wear a short white coat, one hand on your breast and a lighted candle in your other hand, and on your feet you must wear winged sandals, which you can easily construct for yourself.

from Cesare Ripa's Iconologia
Service is young because youth is the time of life when labor can best be supported. Your coat is short because there should be no hindrance in performing your true Services---white because that is the color of the purity of the true Servant’s loyalty. Your feet are winged, for good Service is performed with speed and dispatch. Your lighted candle alludes to Service’s motto “Aliis inserviendo, me consumo” (In Serving others, I consume myself).