A Pilgrimage to the Grave of Oscar Wilde

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To ascend the spiral stair from Philippe Auguste station,
     to go to Père Lachaise at the end of your vacation.

To crisscross cobblestone causeways in the crepuscular Parisian air,
     through forests of consecrated, moss-covered crenellations,

which riddle the peripheral of winding pebble paths,
     beneath the rain-bruised clouds enshrouding all that pass.

And to wonder if you’ll find one single marker
     before the twilight falls and all grows darker.

To stumble on Avenue Carette—at last—worry subsides—
     an endeavor you won’t regret after all.

Ahead, the barrier glass, the wingèd eunuch,
     the limestone tomb—dead flowers ring the monument en masse.

And to realize what a peculiar task 
     you’ve undertaken—
To cross an ocean to pay respects

     to a man you never knew,
          from a time in which you never lived,

                    for pangs you've never suffered.

To bestow in such perfunctory fashion
     splendour that impassioned such a number
who strove their lives entire to lie
     in such a station—

     Ensconced by lip-smeared safety glass,
          besmirched by love in which you’ll never bask,
     lauded by those in life you’ll never pass—

What more can the triumphant ask?

This 3rd of July

America, tomorrow sate your lust
   for roasted flesh and trite casuistry
to remember what our independence cost—
   or stroke your patriotic vanity
instead. Rationalize your vices by Christ.
   How better sanctify your ministry?
But beware the wiles of science on illusion;
verifiable facts pose such an intrusion.
 
But there'll be no inconvenient truths
   tomorrow. Media outlets won't pull threads
that might unravel market economy myths
   of thriving individualist thoroughbreds
galloping gallantly right over groups
   intent on interfering with our heads
by eroding quaint American culture—
freedoms—and eating 'til our waistlines rupture.
 
So, staunch red-blooded Americans disport
   yourselves freely. Pretend the earth weren't teeming
with fossil fuels. Never attempt to thwart
   exploding populations. Keep on thumbing
your nose at scientific led reports.
   Go on—bury your head in magical thinking.
To bring to culmination your theocracy;
and spoils of abusing our democracy.

To a Feckless Colleague

Do you have qualities that don't offend
   the axiomatic principles conceived
by decent men? This I cannot defend
   without some irrefutable proof involved—
To read a book, you'll never condescend;
   and love for reason in you did not evolve.
And, while some seek redemption for your numbskullery,
I'm not saint enough to endure such drudgery.

Review of AHMM: 13 Tales of New American Gothic


17703880._UY400_SS400_Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents: 13 Tales of New American Gothic
by Elaine Menge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very enjoyable collection of ghost and weird stories that span several genres, everything from paranormal/science fiction to historical mystery. The highlights for me were “The Wall” by Rhys Bowen and “Ten Thousand Cold Nights,” by James Lincoln Warren. The latter is a Japanese themed ghost story that, while not a historical mystery per se, incorporates a good deal of Japanese history.

“The Gorilla Murders,” by O’Neil De Noux, also deserves honorable mention–a historical mystery set in New Orleans. It pays homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

View all my reviews

The Key to Altruistic Reciprocity: Religion?

I wondered back in grad school while reading about the evolutionary origins of speech and music if religion hadn’t played a role in the evolution of civilization, and more to the point, man’s desire to be charitable to his fellow man. I remember reading that evolutionary scientists had struggled to discover why people were charitable. Game-theory experiments result in a single selfish player adulterating the entire population within a handful of generations.

The idea really congealed for me several years back when I traveled to Japan for the first time. That was my first encounter with a Buddhist culture, and I saw that karma played the same role in a Buddhist culture that the concept of an all-knowing God does in western society—that is, it gave people a reason to be honest and play fairly. If our pre-historic ancestors developed a fear that they would be punished, either by karma or an all-seeing/all-knowing God, then even the selfish might have followed the rules in exchanges of altruism. And it’s precisely these rules that make society work.

A biological-wiring theory might explain the prevalence and resilience of religious belief around the world, even in light of overwhelming evidence regarding the inaccuracy of virtually every religious origin mythology.

It might also explain cultural phenomena, such as the fact that people, even the non-religious, statistically have difficulty trusting atheists.

Anyway, it’s fascinating to see that evolutionary psychologists are pursuing this line of reasoning.

On Trump’s Tweets . . .

If his tweets seem oddly and unintentionally comical, remember they’re not for you. Understand them the way you understand pronouncements from North Korea—that is, intended for a constituency that lives in a bubble—only receiving information from its leader and lacking access to reliable media.

The sad thing being that for Trump voters, the bubble is willfully self-imposed.

Moby Dick: The Royal-Clothing Test of Literature

Also at LitHub is a lengthy collection of different books that have been hailed as the great American novel (it’s Moby-Dick) and why they have been called such (it’s still Moby-Dick).

via The revision strategies of 12 different writers are revealing and totally fascinating – Vox

When I hear someone tout Moby Dick as the “Great American Novel,” I know I’m dealing with someone who is more interested in parading literary acumen and identifying with book culture than in evaluating literature or good writing. I mean, we’re talking about a book that has about 15,000 words of story sandwiched between multiple chapters on the technical aspects of whaling, with one chapter that is the 19th century equivalent of a musical theater number thrown in for good measure. The soupçon of plot in Melville’s novel could have produced a momentous short story, but fails spectacularly as a novel. As it stands, it’s an exercise in overwriting and, what’s more egregious, a waste of the reader’s time.

And before you trot out that line about the differences in readership attention between Melville’s time and our own, I’ll draw your attention to Melville’s contemporary (and friend, for that matter) Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose work is tightly-plotted and well-edited, as good writing should be.

So please, spare me your specious accolades for a book you only pretend to like because your schoolmarm told you it was good literature. Try reading it again, but this time, open your eyes and evaluate it for what it is. In other words, think for yourself—just a little bit.