Saturday, May 07, 2016

Aristotle on Trolls

Rachel Barney has done us all a great service by rediscovering Aristotle's long-lost treatise on trolling on the internet.

That trolling is a shameful thing, and that no one of sense would accept to be called ‘troll’, all are agreed; but what trolling is, and how many its species are, and whether there is an excellence of the troll, is unclear. And indeed trolling is said in many ways; for some call ‘troll’ anyone who is abusive on the internet, but this is only the disagreeable person, or in newspaper comments the angry old man. And the one who disagrees loudly on the blog on each occasion is a lover of controversy, or an attention-seeker. And none of these is the troll, or perhaps some are of a mixed type; for there is no art in what they do....


Friday, May 06, 2016

A Quick Trip to Italy, Miscellanea III


Views from the Torre while winding up toward the top:

Additional pictures of one of the bells:

A shot of St. John the Baptist atop the baptistery, a surprisingly good photo given that it was shot from the top of the Tower:

Another shot of the Capitoline Wolf, while descending:

Here is the plaque for Galileo at the bottom of the Tower, celebrating Galileo's famous experiment testing whether the time of descent was the same for objects dropped, regardless of their masses. The experiment almost certainly never happened, but it is true that a large number of Galileo's important results on motion were discovered while he was living in Pisa:

Looking across to the Baptistery:

Looking up at the Baptistery:

Another view of the medieval wall and its prowling lion:

Here is the famous red pillar on the facade of the Duomo. According to the guides, if you make your significant other look at the pillar, they will be guaranteed to be faithful. For 24 hours.

A detail from the Pisano pulpit inside the cathedral:

The high altar:

St. Ranieri:

The ceiling in the cathedral, donated by the Medici after a cathedral fire with to show their generosity and, very likely, to remind the subjugated Pisans who their lords and masters were:

A painting in the Duomo that caught my eye as we were leaving, because it shows St. Thomas Aquinas:

to be continued

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Maronite Year XLV

Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord
Acts 1:1-14; Mk 16:15-20

From everlasting Your throne endures;
Your name alone, O Lord, is exalted.
Your majesty is above the earth,
Your glory is high above the heavens,
and You have lifted up Your people.
May all who draw near You praise Your great name,
for You ascended to the heavens,
thus to send to us Your Holy Spirit,
the Spirit of Truth, the Life-giver.

From the Father You entered the world;
when You returned again to Your Father,
You brought all creation to His throne.
In You and through You we come to heaven;
You give us a place in Your kingdom.
As we travel, pilgrims in this strange land,
send us the Holy Spirit of truth,
send us the Spirit of consolation,
that we may ascend to God with You.

You ascended but did not leave us;
You are with us in the great sacraments,
remaining till the end of the age.
Grant that by faith we may know Your presence,
and see You face to face in heaven,
as You sit at the Father's right hand.
By faith, steady our feet on Your path.
By hope, give us victory in all things.
By love, bring us to glorious dawn.

Down to the depths and up to the heights,
O Lord, You compassed all of creation,
always perfect God and perfect man,
knowing all human humiliation,
exalted far beyond creation.
May we find true humility in You,
thus to be exalted to great height;
send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us,
to teach us the truth that leads to joy.

Heaven and earth unbreakable bonds
now share through Your headship and mystery.
Lord, You are the Way, the Truth, the Life;
no one reaches the Father save through You.
You ascended to His right hand,
and Your ascent is the path of ascent.
Only Your body can take that path,
but we are Your body through sacrament.
Through You and with You we come to Him.

From age to age Your great throne stands firm;
Your name alone is exalted on high.
Your kingship is great above all things,
and You have lifted us up to heaven.
Greatly all people praise Your glory,
for You ascended to the heavens
and thence You send us the Holy Spirit,
the great Spirit of consolation,
and distributer of truth and light

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

State of Fermentation

Every man is conscious of a succession of thoughts which pass in his mind while he is awake, even when they are not excited by external objects.

The mind on this account may be compared to liquor in the state of fermentation. When it is not in this state, being once at rest, it remains at rest, until it is moved by some external impulse. But, in the state of fermentation, it has some cause of motion in itself, which, even if there is no impulse from without, suffers it not to be at rest a moment, but produces a constant motion and ebullition, while it continues to ferment.

Thomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay IV, Chapter IV.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

A Quick Trip to Italy, Miscellanea II

Florence: Museo archeologico nazionale di Firenze

Ancient putti:

Egyptian mummy; alas, I had difficulty getting proper focus through the glass:

View from a window:

Florence: San Lorenzo

A couple of details from inside:

Another view of the tablet for Bl. Nicholas Steno:


We didn't stop there, but on the way to Pisa we passed through Pistoia, the City of Plants; it is one of the world's major exporters of decorative plants. It was rather surreal; everywhere you looked all the plants were lined up in rows, tiny little bushes marching in parallel ranks with great big trees.

The Miracles Square:

Details on the Cathedral:

Some more of the Tower:

The Pisan version of the Capitoline Wolf. The primary one is in Rome, of course. I never learned if there was any story behind a copy hanging around on a pillar in the Plaza of Miracles.

to be continued

Monday, May 02, 2016

Two Poem Drafts


How foolish the world, how foolish am I;
from mewling of the babe to hopes that must die,
from vagrant cloak to toppled crown.

This illness knows no cure, or so it seems,
this flu of hearts, pathology of dreams:
almost do we win, and so we are struck down.

No matter our plans, our paths are not sure;
prepare as we will, new grief we endure,
and, learn as we might, we still play the clown.

Ah, folly, how vast is your kingdom and reign,
extending through ages o'er mountain and plain!


The womb to tomb will swiftly lead;
by tomb from womb my soul is freed.

From birth to grave, what lives must die,
and, dying, soon to life draws nigh.

Champion of Orthodoxy

S.Athanasius by M.Damaskenos (late 16th c.)

Today is the feast of St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church. From his work On the Incarnation (Chapter 7):

A man's personality actuates and quickens his whole body. If anyone said it was unsuitable for the man's power to be in the toe, he would be thought silly, because, while granting that a man penetrates and actuates the whole of his body, he denied his presence in the part. Similarly, no one who admits the presence of the Word of God in the universe as a whole should think it unsuitable for a single human body to be by Him actuated and enlightened.

Sullivan on Plato on Trump

I don't usually find Andrew Sullivan very interesting, but he has a remarkably good discussion of Plato and democracy up at

As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Plato’s Republic. It has unsettled — even surprised — me from the moment I first read it in graduate school. The passage is from the part of the dialogue where Socrates and his friends are talking about the nature of different political systems, how they change over time, and how one can slowly evolve into another. And Socrates seemed pretty clear on one sobering point: that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.” What did Plato mean by that? Democracy, for him, I discovered, was a political system of maximal freedom and equality, where every lifestyle is allowed and public offices are filled by a lottery. And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become. Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread. Deference to any sort of authority would wither; tolerance of any kind of inequality would come under intense threat; and multiculturalism and sexual freedom would create a city or a country like “a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.”

He goes on at greater length. He gets Plato essentially right, and, what's more, does so on a point on which professional philosophers sometimes trip up due to prior assumptions; thus, whether one agrees with the lessons he draws or not (and there are here and there bits of the rather odd and gossipy quirks that come up whenever he talks politics), it's a commendable look at Plato and how his political philosophy reflects on our own political system.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Fortnightly Book, May 1

The next fortnightly book will be The Theban Plays of Sophocles, translated by David Slavitt.

Sophocles is said to have written about 120 plays during his lifetime. We have seven of them and various fragments of others. The three extant Theban plays are not a trilogy in the proper sense, but three distinct plays from three distinct periods of Sophocles' life -- Antigone is quite early, Oedipus Tyrannos (also known as Oedipus Rex) is somewhat later, and Oedipus at Colonus is from the very end of his life (such that it was only performed posthumously). There is also no attempt to maintain any consistency among them. An additional complication in reading is that while the composition order is Antigone - Oedipus Tyrannos - Oedipus at Colonus, the dramatic order is Oedipus Tyrannos - Oedipus at Colonus - Antigone. So there's always a question as to the order in which one reads them. I will be following the composition order because that is the one Slavitt uses.

The basic tale of the House of Laius is easy enough to grasp. Oedipus was born to Laius and Jocasta, but there was a prophecy that any son born to Laius would murder his father. Because of this, Oedipus's feet were bound together and he was taken to a place where he could die of exposure. A shepherd saves him, however, and takes him to the court of Polybus of Corinth and Merope, who raise him as his own. When he grows up, however, he hears a rumor that he is not the son of Polybus and Merope, and, just to be sure, asks the Delphic Oracle who his parents are. The Oracle tells him that he will mate with his mother and murder his father. Oedipus misinterprets this as the Oracle refusing to give him an answer, takes it to be claiming that he will kill Polybus and sleep with Merope, and thus flees Corinth so that such a prediction can never come true. Of course, the tragedy lies in that the Oracle did, in fact, precisely identify who his real mother and father were. On the road to Thebes, he meets a man in a chariot and, as men sometimes do, they get into a quarrel over who has the right of way. Oedipus kills the man and proceeds to Thebes. When he eventually gets to Thebes, he saves it from a terrible monster, the Sphinx, and is rewarded by being made king and marrying the now widowed queen. Of course, the man he killed was his father Laius and the woman he marries is his mother Jocasta, although he does not know it. After some time passes, a plague has begun to rage in Thebes, and Oedipus sends Creon, his brother-in-law, to the Delphic Oracle to determine why. It is here that Oedipus Tyrannos picks up.

I've read all the plays before, but not in this translation. I very much liked Slavitt's translation of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy; it's very colloquial and at times paraphrastic, but very nice for conveying the gist of the work. Thus when I saw this work on the dollar rack at Half Price Books a couple of weeks back, I thought I would try out the translation. He gives an account of his own ideas of how Sophocles should be translated here; Eva Brann, who knows whereof she speaks, has an interesting review of this particular translation here, noting its strengths and weaknesses. Somewhere I have Paul Roche's translation of the plays of Sophocles, so I might compare the two on occasion.

Maronite Year XLIV

In the Maronite calendar, all of the Sundays of the Season of Resurrection deal with the aftermath of the Resurrection, the first six with Jesus's appearances to his disciples after the Resurrection. The Sixth Sunday is no different, and like all of the prior Sundays except New Sunday repeats the Easter liturgy. However, the Sixth Sunday of the Resurrection also looks forward to the Ascension, which separates it from the Seventh Sunday of the Resurrection.

The first Sunday in May is also always the feast of Our Lady of Lebanon, Notre Dame du Liban. The feast was instituted in 1908 at the dedication of the major Lebanese national shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon, in Harissa, which had begun to be built to mark the Golden Jubilee of the definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.

Sixth Sunday of the Resurrection
Romans 10:1-13; Luke 24:36-48

By Your death, O Lord, we are reconciled with God;
being reconciled, we are saved by Your rising,
knowing the sure hope of life and resurrection,
nourished by Your great sacrament.

In hope of victory we fight the great battles;
in hope we prepare for the light beyond all light.
You are our hope, for You are our means and our end,
and we are drawn upward with You.

In stupor, in confusion, the apostles stared,
astounded by Your ascension to Your Father;
they returned to Jerusalem in great wonder,
pondering with an Easter faith.

Are You not the one who comes forth from Your Father;
are You not the one who returns to His right hand?
Do you not from there send the Spirit as a help,
and there prepare a place for us?

From faith in Your ascension comes great and pure love,
a heart that bursts with great fire to ascend on high,
a heart that in Spirit is with our great High Priest,
present by prayer, hoping for more.

You have ascended to be present with Your Church,
working through her and in her in Your mysteries;
by sacrament we participate Your priesthood,
as if heaven were brought to earth.

In hope, in greatest hope, we fulfill our duties;
through Your rising and ascending we are raised high,
preparing to enter the light of God's glory,
on the day we rise and ascend.

Our Lady of Lebanon
Hebrews 7:1-10; Matthew 12:46-50

Blessings are great upon you, O Lady,
for you had faith and did the will of God.
O Cedar of Lebanon, high-enthroned,
look on your children with guidance and love.

Beautiful you are, pure of heart;
no blemish can be found in you.
Come from Lebanon, beloved!
Come from Lebanon, O fair bride!

Pray for us that we may have faith like yours;
intercede that we may withstand great winds,
like cedars that do not bend in the storm
but fearlessly hope for returning sun.

Beautiful you are, pure of faith;
no blemish can be found in you.
Come from Lebanon, beloved!
Come from Lebanon, O fair bride!

Pray for us that we may hope in Your Son;
intercede that we may know His great joy,
believing well what your Son has revealed,
and loving with the love He has shown us.

Beautiful you are, pure of hope;
no blemish can be found in you.
Come from Lebanon, beloved!
Come from Lebanon, O fair bride!

Mother of the Church, pray that we might love:
that we might love the blessed Trinity,
and also love you as our fair mother,
and complete these with true love of neighbor.

Beautiful you are, pure of love;
no blemish can be found in you.
Come from Lebanon, beloved!
Come from Lebanon, O fair bride!