Friday, November 27, 2015

R. Krebs monostich: Bats at night

~   their flitting forms    defied the eye   ~

[Quarried from this source: 
Jan Valtin, Bend in the River (1942), p. 239 ]

They Stand Revealed

All the leaves now     
fallen, fallen,
the squirrel-huts stand plain which had been hidden,
high atop the towering tulip trees.

They look woefully inadequate shielding from winter winds,
being themselves now all unshielded.


The past few days have been balmy;
and yet the hint of winter
in the skies with their wincing shrinking light
has drawn the raccoon  once again  out of the woods.

We seldom see him;  but the trash-can, toppled on its side with the lid pried,
the chicken bones denuded of their remnant juicy delicacies,
tell the tale.
Welcome back, you furry forager;
time to switch to the more cumbrous container with a lockable top.


All at a sudden-once  / seen
stark, behind spare bare branches,
a wisp of cirrus
slow       ly       slips      .   .    .
revealing  in its extended irregular outlines
indecipherable intricacies  of wind and temperature  in the high sky,

like a Gram-stain unveiling   invisible infusoria.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Careers for women in the Islamic State

The New York Times this morning provides an intimate glimpse into the exciting life of the “Daesh dames”:

Dua had only been working for two months with the Khansaa Brigade, the all-female morality police of the Islamic State, when her friends were brought to the station to be whipped.
The police had hauled in two women she had known since childhood, a mother and her teenage daughter, both distraught. Their abayas, flowing black robes, had been deemed too form-fitting.
 “Their abayas really were very tight. I told her it was their own fault; they had come out wearing the wrong thing,” she said. “They were unhappy with that.”
Dua sat back down and watched as the other officers took the women into a back room to be whipped. When they removed their face-concealing niqabs, her friends were also found to be wearing makeup. It was 20 lashes for the abaya offense, five for the makeup, and another five for not being meek enough when detained.
[...] Within the brigade, women had started using their authority to settle petty quarrels or exact revenge.

Former member of the Khansaa brigade,
dressed for success
Weiteres zum Thema:

For analysis and further particulars:


Another interesting tidbit, from the same very informative article:

To the outside world, the territory controlled by the Islamic State might seem to be a hermetically sealed land governed by the harshest laws of the seventh century. But until relatively recently, the routes into and out of Raqqa were mostly open. Traders would come and go, supplying the Organization’s needs and wants — including cigarettes, which some fighters smoked despite the fact that they were banned for Raqqa residents.

More on the political theatrics of smoking, here:


The Washington Post as well  offers a well-informed inside glimpse into those who make ISIL’s société du spectacle  possible:

What they described resembles a medieval reality show …

More on the matter here:


Der Spiegel likewise got an inside view, thanks to captured ISIL documents provided by Iraq:

The main takeaway is a refutation of those who would dismiss ISIL as basically just a large street-gang, disorganized and devoid of strategy.
Our own view of the organization was presented here:

[More than  once  al-Qaeda,
ISIL is proving  a Rorschach  for the West.]

[Update Nov 2016]

[Update 8 Feb 2017]

[Update 25 April 217]

Arabic version:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wuthering Weather

On the eve of the global climate summit (Cop21), scheduled to open at the end of this month  in Paris (which itself now crouches beneath the stormclouds of war), The New Yorker has published an engaging review-essay on the significance of weather in art and literature:

From this  we’ll single out  one fine line:

Dystopia is already here.  It’s just unevenly distributed.

Several of our own essays  touch on the subject:

            Let’s talk about the weather

            The Psychology of Meteorology

            Climatological prestidigitation

            On the movie “Take Shelter”

Contra Krugman

Over the years, Paul Krugman has contributed many valuable op-eds regarding politics and economic; but his post- Paris attacks column  is less percipient.

Take, for example, Jeb Bush’s declaration that “this is an organized attempt to destroy Western civilization.” No, it isn’t. It’s an organized attempt to sow panic.

Actually, at a strategic level, ISIL does indeed envisage “an organized attempt to destroy Western civilization,”  even if Jeb Bush says so too.   What demonstrates this  is not the Paris attacks per se (whether the Death Metal at the Bataclan represents that civilization, or rather its decline, must be left to the reader to judge), but rather the programmatic statements of ISIL itself, revealed in complete candor in several issues of their English-language magazine Dabiq, available online.  Note in particular the cover of issue #4, in which the cross atop the obelisk has been replaced by the ISIL flag (placed into context here:
and, even more remarkably, the cover of issue #2, which you can view here :

To understand why, already with the second issue, ISIL should highlight Noah’s ark, requires a level of strategic understanding not evinced in Professor Krugman’s column.   Ask yourself as well why Daesh would be so particular about destroying pre-Islamic antiquities -- of no military value, and not especially well calculated to “inspire fear” in the West;  or why, out of all the targets in Tunisia, they chose the Musée du Bardo (Roman antiquities).


Bonus -- 
For an in-depth Auseinandersetzung with Krugman’s essay “Interests, Ideology And Climate”,  try this:

            The Psychology of Meteorology

And, on Paul Krugman and Thomas Frank:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

C’est parti -- ça commence

A discarded cellphone  which the police found near the Bataclan, contained this text-message:

on est parti  on commence’’

Loosely translated:  Let’s roll.”

That might prove, for November/Friday-the-13th,  what “The match begins tomorrow” became (in the public mind) for 9/11.
Not because of that day’s body-count;  but because the event may later be seen as the “tipping-point” -- das Umkippen -- when even slow learners like Hollande  finally got the message.  Epigram/epitaph  going forward:

C’est parti -- ça  commence.

Loosely:  Now we’re in for it.”


If so, this may, in some sense, be bigger than 9/11.
For:  the freakishly high death-toll of 9/11  was in part due to an unexpected result of architectural engineering.  Watching the twin towers just … collapse … vertically … engendered disbelief.  (The bastard offspring  of such disbelief  was a conspiracy theory.)  Moreover, there has been almost no follow-up on American soil.  And this, because it really was an extraneous attack of a few intruders; there was no indigenous Muslim fan-club for those guys, in America, at that point.

Quite different is the scene in France, where a follow-on op to Nov/Vendredi-13, was not long in coming. Here, a magnificent public presentation by the Procureur de Paris, François Molins -- Churchillian in its focus and concision:

Le commando neutralisé à Saint-Denis était prêt à «passer à l'acte»

And here, an unusually detailed blow-by-blow account of the Saint-Denis raid, from its leader, Jean-Michel Fauvergue:

Kudos to you, gentlemen.

Eyewitness from the Bataclan:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Onomatopoeia of the Day: "bataclan"

Among the several targets of the Parisian suicide/killer commandos (Arabic inghimâsiyûn, French kamikazes), the one with the highest casualties was the Bataclan music-hall.   One shred of civilization that we may harvest from the catastrophe, is an explanation of the term.

Bataclan is like the synonymous American shebang or kit and caboodle -- scarcely used outside an idiom (“the whole shebang” / “tout le bataclan”).  Bordas defines the word as “attirail hétéroclite et encombrant”, and compares (one sense of) the word bastringue.   The two sense-components are:  (1) heterogeneous , and (2) comprehensive.  In the former sense, note the idiom inventaire à la Prévert, for a “shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax” sort of list -- that very example (from the 19th-century writer Lewis Carroll) proving that the French poet did not initiate the genre.  In the latter sense, we enjoy the idiom tout le toutime.   Put ‘em together, and you’ve got a bataclan.


As for etymology:  It doesn’t really have one, in the proper sense -- nothing that slipped from the lips of Livy will give you a clue to it.  It’s a sort of onomatopeia connoting vigorous confusion:  an anapest with vocalism a - a - a.   Here bata- is a sort of variant of the more popular pata-.  As:  patatras ‘crash!  ka-boom!’; and patata, in et patati et patata ‘yadda yadda yadda’.  You might call out “Patatras!” when someone fait patapouf (comes a cropper).   If someone screws up linguistically rather than kinesthetically, il fait un pataquès .  (In that last, the -s is pronounced;  the word is delocutive in origin, alluding to a tournure populaire involving a faute de liaison :  Je ne sais pas-t-à  qu’est-ce ‘I don’t know whose it is’.)  Wittily, this cranpheme pata-  (cranpheme © WDJ Enterprises, All Rights Reserved, y compris en URSS) has been used to confect that choice vocable, pataphysique, whereof we have often had occasion to avail ourselves.
Cf. further here:


Finally, an attestation of the term  from a joual-speaking family in Maine, ca. 1967, recounted to me the other day by a colleague.   One day, when she was just seven years old, she was sprawling about in a tomboyish way, which fit ill with her knee-skirt attire.  Her grandmother admonished:  Tu es bataclan!  Tout à l’air!”  Which is to say:  the fillette thereby afforded a glimpse (to any hypothetical passing gentlemen) of what Gigi (in similar circs) referred to as her ce-que-je-pense, for which she was likewise admonished by her grandmother.  (Tout here meaning ce strictement-rien qui est pourtant le grand (ou minime) secret de l’Ewig-weibliche.)

[Sponsored content]
Clothiers to gentlemen since 1917

That style of etymologizing, admitting (for some explicanda) multiple-parentage and a role for “playfulness”, was characteristic of our dear teacher Yakov Malkiel, who taught Romance Philology at Berkeley.  It contrasted with the earlier, earnest, Junggrammatiker-influenced approach, of seeking elaborate (unattested) Vulgar-Latin origins, or (equally unattested) Celtic or Thracian or what-have-you substrata.   For the pioneers, outside the stately structure of classical philology  lay a vacuum;  but it is a creative vacuum, like quantum foam.

[Note:  I wanted to post a photo of the man;  but the Web has become so crowded, it has crowded him out.  An image-search on even
      => yakov malkiel "romance philology" berkeley
brought up a host of unrelated images, but none of the etymologist.]

Sunday, November 15, 2015



Acting on an anonymous Smartphone tip, the Speech Police are reporting an allegation of a possible rumor of a Microaggression, either recent, or in progress, or expected to occur,  at an unnamed educational facility. Ladies and those identifying as ladies  should proceed to the nearest Safe Space. Other students are advised to shelter in place.

Documented examples of actual micro-aggressions :
[Background, quoted from a liberal source: 

Ernest Gellner (mitteleuropäischen Ursprungs; later taught at LSE) wrote, in a perceptive and indeed prescient essay (“The Panther and the Dove”, 1969)

What is worrying about the student part of the movement  is its occasional illiberalism.  However libertarian its members may be about legalizing marijuana, they do sometimes put forward proposals such as the student control of ‘what is taught and how’.
-- reprinted in: Ernest Gellner, Contemporary Thought and Politics (1978), p. 83

The deformations that Gellner noticed on campuses, almost half a century ago, have continued to grow like weeds.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Leckerbissen aus dem deutschen Sprachraum.

Der Detektiv -- Private Eye, versteht sich -- ist ein Mann ohne Eigenschaften…

Eigenschaften hab' ich keine ...

The following poem is not merely “correct”, from the standpoint of German;  it embodies the Germanic folk-ballad  to the very core …

Znüni ?  It’s Schwizerdütsch for what in general German would be Imbiß (etymologically: ‘in-bite’):  ‘snack’, or rather specifically a morning snack, since etymologically it means “a nine-o’clock-er” (from the Alemannic equivalents of zu + neun).


“Träume sind Schäume”

… aiming for a slight Entfremdungseffekt,   along the lines of Heidegger’s  Was heisst Denken? or Dedekind’s Was Sind und Was Sollen  die Zahlen?

"Die Vermessung der Welt"

I have frequently had occasion to quote the Comments of the alert and witty Figaronauts;  here, the readers of the Frankfurter Allgemeine  likewise do not disappoint.

Es war eben nur kurz nach meiner Promovierung zum Doktor der Medizin, als ich noch mich als Forscher im Physiologischen Institut Brückes in Wien tätig machte, da kam es zu mir im Labor  eine mir bisher unbekannte junge Dame …

“During a performance of Parsifal  in the Vienna Staatsopera,  in the middle of the most solemn scene,  he had the most irresistible impulse  to shout at the top of his voice:  Mazzesknoedel!” “

“Unter allen großen Völkern der Erde  entnationalisiert sich keines so leicht  wie die Deutschen.”

Hurra!  Wir kapitulieren !!!

“Who Am I – Kein System ist sicher”

This sort of logopoeic confection was completely characteristic of the Russian of the time, e.g. Komsomol (roughly: COMmunist /SOviet/MOLodyets (youth).)
Somewhat similarly, in German, among the opponents of the Hooligans (who are perceived as right-wing) are the Antifa

the parallel between Schutzverwandte and dhimmis,

“Künftig ist es verboten, Kennzeichen oder Symbole der Miliz in Deutschland zu verwenden…”

“Der dunkle Schatten des F-Worts”

“Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.”

Gröfaz:  a name ugly enough to have served some monster of mythology, some twisted kobold or goblin…”

"Hör' zu, Maria, zärtliche Vorschläge

It is the central plot-device of Chamisso’s celebrated  novella Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte, in which the hapless title character (a Pechvogel, and eponym of all later schlemiels and schlemazels) sells his shadow to the Devil

“Palmström loves  to wrap himself in rustles … “

“Der Gröfaz ist ein gräßlich Ding…”

So,  schneeweiss means ‘snow-white, white as snow’.  Whereas schlohweiss means:  white as snowbunnies.

“Meinecke … was never taken in by those he called the Schlagododros …”

Wie eine Kultur  sich selbst auffrißt

A mittel-europäischer rationalist recalls “those golden, and, all in all very peaceful final decades of the colonial system”,  and adverts ad the hermeneuts …

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pellicular Wikipedia

To fans of “Blindspot”, it has by now become apparent, that those tattoos (like some Inca inscriptions)  purport to explain absolutely everything,  Present Past or (especially) Future:  like Wiki -- or rather, like Borges’s  Universal Library.  All that is known, or might ever be known,  imprinted upon her skin.

To the cold, hard core of “Memento” fans, that is disappointing.  But to the rest of Walmartamerica, that is good news.  So -- Here is how YOU can employ those iconographic indicators  to your own benefit.  Take it from me, my smiling wife Veronica and our faithful dog Spot!  Just in the past three days, we brought in  this:

* Puzzled husband:  “Someone’s been swiping tomatoes from our garden again!”
Loyal wife: “ A steganographic exploitation of the inkblot blocking the singed skin hidden beneath the bandaid on Jane’s left buttock reveals:  The perpetrator is none other than the neighborhood raccoon!”
P. H:  “Ha-ha!  That furry rascal!”

* Puzzled husband:  “Omigosh, what shall we do?  Tomorrow’s our big picnic, and the weatherman is predicting thunderstorms !!”
Loyal wife: “A previously overlooked inscription  on the inside  of Jane’s eyelid  contains a cipher which, run through our Tordella supercomputers, breaks out to “21 Oct 2015”; which, according to the Old Style (Julian) calendar, breaks out to tomorrow!  And the graphic equates to an ideogram for the Egyptian sun-god Ra!  So:  It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiney day !!”
P.H.:  “Woo-hoo!  Packing the mayo !!!”

* Puzzled husband:  “Gosh, honey, I’ve looked everywhere!  Wherever can I have left my carkeys ???”
Loyal wife: “A p-adic attack on the recursively-enciphered left-armpit image from Jane reveals … (long technical discussion deleted) ….they're  in the right pocket of your gray overcoat!”

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Allies versus “guarantors”

In his sad, wise, detailed chronicle of the fall of the Troisième république, William Shirer amply deliniates the hypocrisy and fecklessness of the French military high command, and much of the government as well.   In that, they are outdone only by the quite contemptible performance of the Belgians, both King and military.

But our point here is not to rake over those coals (though the lessons should be borne in mind, as the European Union shudders and cracks under the strain of the migrants crisis);  rather,  simply to cite therefrom, a useful and interesting terminological dichotomy, insufficiently in use in our day, between allies and guarantors:

The fact that Britain had sent the only army it had, and the French the best army it had, to help defend Belgium, did not seem to mean to him [King Leopold] that Belgium owed anything to them.  As the Belgian writer Marcel Thiry later pointed out,
The thought of the King was that, even after the violation of our tettitory, we had no allies but merely guarantors.  This was much more than a nuance:  with allies, you make war to the end, cost what it may;  guarantors, on the other hand, have the unilateral obligation to aid you by all their means, without you assuming any obligations toward them.
-- Wm Shirer, The Collapse of the Third Republic (1969), p. 696

The distinction regains point during the current going pageant on in Washington, in which Obama and Netanyahu put on a pantomime of their respective countries being “allies”.
The United States and Israel are not allies -- never have been.  Rather, the U.S. is Israel’s guarantor.  And perhaps that’s a good thing, perhaps an excellent thing -- to taste;  but no-one should form any illusion that the relationship is reciprocal.  (It is what the French call a contrat léonin.)

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Yet another reason never to say anything online, anywhere, ever, at all

From this morning’s news:

A former Countdown champion hunted down and attacked a teenager after she posted a bad review of his book online.
Richard Brittain smashed a bottle of wine into Paige Rolland’s head as she stacked shelves in an Asda supermarket in Glenrothes, Scotland.
He tracked the 18-year-old down online through her social media accounts after reacting badly to her analysis of his self-published title.
Brittain, 28, who was crowned Countdown champion in 2006, travelled 500 miles from his home in Bedford to the Fife town.

PS:   Every book I have ever read  was simply wonderful.
(With the possible exception of some by certain dead guys.  Only, even they might have their fanatical fans.   So, yeh, I totally loved “Paradise Regained”.)

Further proof (if more were needed) that “silence is golden”:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Rede an die deutsche Nation

Rede an die deutsche Nation
von Frau Doktor Bundeskanzlerin
Angela Erika Merkel

* Your replacements have arrived.

* Leave the key under the doormat.

* Good luck with what’s left of your life.

I love to go  a-wandering
upon the moun-tain track!
And as I go, I love  to  sing,
my knapsack on my back.

[Update 8 November 2015] From a noted German author:

Was hat denn Schiller gemeint, wenn er rief: Seid umschlungen, Millionen?
Das war abstrakt und erhaben, im Reich des Gedankens. Heute kann es uns passieren, dass nicht wir die Millionen umschlingen, sondern die Millionen  uns.

Viele der Muslime wissen nicht, was es heisst, eine andere Religion zu respektieren. Man hat vergessen, dass auf den Flüchtlingsbooten Christen ins Wasser geworfen wurden.

[Weiteres zum Thema: ]

For your viewing pleasure:

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Procedurals: a Viewer’s Guide

Disappointed critics of the TV show “Blindspot  have suggested that it devolved to a mere police-procedural.   Actually it is not that:  it is less than that, aspiring to be more than that.

A police procedural is of interest  only if it actually gives you a glimpse of the procedures of the police (or FBI, or whoever).   Tradecraft above all.  As such, the Police Procedural, as a genre, is inherently neither more nor less interesting than insights into any other walk of life, such as:

* Plumber’s Procedural

This week, we learn how to really unclog a toilet.

* Philologist’s Procedural

This week, we meet a ferociously irregular verb.

* Penguin Procedural

Last week, we mostly just stood around motionless, just like the week before, and the week before that.   This week, we finally go get some fish.

On “Blindspot”, we see no real police-work at all.  The solution is handed to the team on a platter, based on the tattoos plus less a four seconds’ worth of mumbo-jumbo.  And that is all as well.  If you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all -- don’t waste screen-time.   Forensically, each episode’s crime-of-the-week  is no more than a featureless pushpin on a wall-map.   The question is whether that wall-map will eventually develop  an interesting pattern.


As pure a specimen of a broadcast police procedural  as you might hope to find, was the old “Dragnet” radio series of the 1950s.  I used to savor its re-runs on “The Big Broadcast” (Ed Walker, God rest your soul).  Though one may doubt how closely the scripts hewed to actual LAPD cases, they were conformable in pattern, in that they were -- basically boring.   No moles, no Dickensian witnesses from the past, very little gunplay (the cops might be investigating some previous gunplay, but you didn’t hear it in flashback), no interesting intricacy of plot.  Just the sort of dumb crimes that the sort of dullards who become petty criminals  typically perpetrate.  It took a sort of heroism to stick with that formula, week after week and year after year -- just as the actual flatfeet on the beat had to do.   They did not save the planet weekly, in fiction or in fact, based on helicopter gunships and cool cryptic naked-lady tattoos.


[Update 3 November 2015]  As the series lazily unrolls, it becomes apparent that it owes less than nothing to the humdrum but workmanlike procedurals.   Unfortunately, the genre it most resembles is computerized role-player games.  As there, there are indefinitely many bad-guys to shoot, like ducks in a gallery:  you can always do it, despite the fact that they are armed with automatic weapons and you with just a service revolver, because they contain nor flesh nor blood -- unlike reality, they can’t really shoot back. In Episode 6, a refreshingly skeptical badguy comments, to the FBI team, astray in the greenwood:  “What is this, a scavenger hunt?”  Well, exactly. To your right, there lies a mailbox; or, a dwarf offers you a key:  in this case, the payoff was a trunk full of automatic weapons plus a treasure map that led to a fully-fueled spanking-new helicopter waiting for your convenience in a meadow, under a tarp.   A deux ex machina that probably went down very well with a generation that lives in daily expectation of having cool stuff handed to them free.

[Update March 2016]  I finally gave up on it.  The program having by now amply demonstrated that Tattoo Girl is far smarter and more capable than any of the men around her, is now reduced (by way of nearest variation) to demonstrating the similar superiority of what’s-her-name (which I forgot;  she is referred to only by a business-like surname, but of course otherwise has all the babe stigmata) to whatever straw-Man is standing around waiting to be put smartly in his place -- his Y chromosome dangling from his neck  like a leper’s bell.
At the latest such instance, I discreetly pushed a buzzer at my desk, and the whole show dropped disappearing through a trap-door in the floor.

[Update April 2016]  Curious nevertheless to see if any dots were getting connected, I glanced at Wikipedia’s summaries recent episodes.  They may be summarized thus:

In the next episode, the shark jumps the monkey, and then they have sex.