There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Life is paradox.
-The Voice before the Void

There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Works mentioned:
Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour
50 Great American Short Stories edited by Milton Crane
Great Short Works of Herman Melville edited by Warner Berthoff
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
“Arma Virumque” by Ambrose Bierce
The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Sea-Wolf by Jack London
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Other authors mentioned:
Homer
Mark Twain
Robert Benchley
Patrick F. McManus
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Edgar Allan Poe
H.P. Lovecraft

“Voynich manuscript” from Wikipedia

Genuine mysteries are so very rare, but here is an artifact of an unknown language, an unknown botany, an unknown madness, an unknown world.
-The Voice before the Void

“Voynich manuscript”

Wikipedia

The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. The vellum on which it is written has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438), and it may have been composed in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance. The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish book dealer who purchased it in 1912.

Voynich manuscript undeciphered untranslated unknown language mystery tome grimoire rare medieval codex book Beinecke Library Yale University page 181 folio 102 recto weird plantsSome of the pages are missing, with around 240 still remaining. The text is written from left to right, and most of the pages have illustrations or diagrams. Some pages are foldable sheets.

The Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World War I and World War II. No one has yet succeeded in deciphering the text, and it has become a famous case in the history of cryptography. The mystery of the meaning and origin of the manuscript has excited the popular imagination, making the manuscript the subject of novels and speculation. None of the many hypotheses proposed over the last hundred years has yet been independently verified. Continue reading

“The Man Who Went Too Far” by E.F. Benson

Summer Vacation:
A monster story and a philosophical story about summertime, communion with the natural world, spiritual youth, the inescapable horror of death, and the inescapable horror of life.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Man Who Went Too Far”

E.F. Benson

The little village of St. Faith’s nestles in a hollow of wooded till up on the north bank of the river Fawn in the country of Hampshire, huddling close round its grey Norman church as if for spiritual protection against the fays and fairies, the trolls and “little people,” who might be supposed still to linger in the vast empty spaces of the New Forest, and to come after dusk and do their doubtful businesses. Once outside the hamlet you may walk in any direction (so long as you avoid the high road which leads to Brockenhurst) for the length of a summer afternoon without seeing sign of human habitation, or possibly even catching sight of another human being. Continue reading

“The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” from Wikipedia

D-Day Anniversary and U.S. Memorial Day:
Little compares to encountering this poem for the first time,
the most famous U.S. poem of the Second World War,
unassuming, and unforgettable.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”

Wikipedia

“The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” is a five-line poem by Randall Jarrell published in 1945. It is about the death of a gunner in a Sperry ball turret on a World War II American bomber aircraft.

From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, Continue reading

“My Castles in Spain” by George William Curtis

This says everything that ever needed to be said.
-The Voice before the Void

“My Castles in Spain”

from Prue and I

George William Curtis

adapted by anonymous for The Ontario Readers: Fourth Book

I am the owner of great estates. Many of them lie in the west, but the greater part in Spain.

You may see my western possessions any evening at sunset when their spires and battlements flash against the horizon. But my finest castles are in Spain. It is a country famously romantic, and my castles are all of perfect proportions and appropriately set in the most picturesque situations.

I have never been in Spain myself, but I have naturally conversed much with travellers to that country; although, I must allow, without deriving from them much substantial information about my property there. Continue reading

“You and the Atom Bomb” by George Orwell

Orwell logically and accurately predicted the Cold War – and creeping tyranny.
-The Voice before the Void

“You and the Atom Bomb”

George Orwell

Considering how likely we all are to be blown to pieces by it within the next five years, the atomic bomb has not roused so much discussion as might have been expected. The newspapers have published numerous diagrams, not very helpful to the average man, of protons and neutrons doing their stuff, and there has been much reiteration of the useless statement that the bomb ‘ought to be put under international control.’ But curiously little has been said, at any rate in print, about the question that is of most urgent interest to all of us, namely: ‘How difficult are these things to manufacture?’ Continue reading

Money for the Machinery of Human Slaughter by Charles Edward Jefferson

U.S. Inauguration Day:
The portentousness can be petrifying.
As the First World War was obliterating millions of lives in Europe, before the United States entered that war, military “preparedness” was a key political topic in the U.S.: Should a nation presently at peace prepare for potential future war?
Clergyman Jefferson argues here that to refuse to arm yourself against your fellow humans is an act of pure strength; to arm yourself, an act of pure fear; and, Clergyman Jefferson writes, “Christians” ought have nobler emotions than fear to motivate their actions.
Genuine “Christian” morality of uncompromising pacifism and self-sacrificing charity – pacifism even when your enemies murder you; charity even when you starve – is as powerful and as impressive and as deserving of veneration as it is rare to find publicly expressed, either eloquently or vulgarly; and, where expressed, it can be expected to be popularly ignored if not outright derided.
Clergyman Jefferson also writes that if you “create a war machine,” you cannot know who will use it, nor whether the next U.S. president will be a “megalomaniac… who, when he wants a thing, takes it.”
-The Voice before the Void

Money for the Machinery of Human Slaughter

from “Military Preparedness a Danger to Democracy”

Charles Edward Jefferson

published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1916 July

edited by William Dudley and The Voice before the Void

“Ortega hypothesis” from Wikipedia

“The matter is not settled.”

“Ortega hypothesis”

Wikipedia

The Ortega hypothesis holds that average or mediocre scientists contribute substantially to the advancement of science. According to this hypothesis, scientific progress occurs mainly by the accumulation of a mass of modest, narrowly specialized intellectual contributions. On this view, major breakthroughs draw heavily upon a large body of minor and little-known work, without which the major advances could not happen.

1. Citation research

The Ortega hypothesis is widely held, but a number of systematic studies of scientific citations have favored the opposing “Newton hypothesis,” which says that scientific progress is mostly the work of a relatively small number of great scientists (after Isaac Newton’s statement that he “stood on the shoulders of giants”). The most important papers Continue reading

“Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings” by Ralph Adams Cram, with Discussion

U.S. Inauguration Day:
“All the multiple manifestations of a free and democratic society fail of their predicted issue, and we find ourselves lapped in confusion and numb with disappointment and chagrin.”

“Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings”

Ralph Adams Cram

The Ancient doctrine of progressive evolution which became dominant during the last half of the nineteenth century, was, I suggest, next to the religious and philosophical dogmas of Dr. Calvin and the political and social doctrines of M. Rousseau, the most calamitous happening of the last millennium. In union with Protestantism and democracy, and apparently justified in its works by the amazing technological civilization fostered by coal, iron, steam and electricity, it is responsible for the present estate of society, from which there is no escape, it would seem, except through comprehensive calamity. Continue reading

“Ronald Skirth” from Wikipedia

Armistice Day:
The only type of war hero worthy of veneration.
-The Voice before the Void

“Ronald Skirth”

Wikipedia

John Ronald Skirth (11 December 1897 – 1977) served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War. His experiences during the Battle of Messines and the Battle of Passchendaele led him to resolve not to take human life, and for the rest of his army service he made deliberate errors in targeting calculations to try to ensure the guns of his battery missed their aiming point on the first attempt, giving the enemy a chance to evacuate. Many years later, after retiring from a career as a teacher, he wrote a memoir of his years in the army, describing his disillusionment with the conduct of the war and his conversion to pacifism. In 2010 the memoir was published as The Reluctant Tommy, edited by Duncan Barrett.

1. Early life and war service

Skirth was born in Chelmsford and grew up in Bexhill-on-Sea. In the First World War, having volunteered for the British Army under the Derby Scheme, and having requested that the process be expedited, he was called up in October 1916, two months before his 19th birthday. Continue reading

“The Night Ocean” by R.H. Barlow and H.P. Lovecraft

Halloween:
Amidst brooding philosophy, the pieces of the horror lie unobtrusively throughout the story for us to fit together. A superb story.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Night Ocean”

R.H. Barlow and H.P. Lovecraft

I went to Ellston Beach not only for the pleasures of sun and ocean, but to rest a weary mind. Since I knew no person in the little town, which thrives on summer vacationists and presents only blank windows during most of the year, there seemed no likelihood that I might be disturbed. This pleased me, for I did not wish to see anything but the expanse of pounding surf and the beach lying before my temporary home.

My long work of the summer was completed when I left the city, and the large mural design produced by it had been entered in the contest. It had taken me the bulk of the year to finish the painting, and when the last brush was cleaned I was no longer reluctant to yield to the claims of health and find rest and seclusion for a time. Indeed, when I had been a week on the beach I recalled only now and then the work whose success had so recently seemed all-important. There was no longer the old concern with a hundred complexities of colour and ornament; no longer the fear and mistrust of my ability to render a mental image actual, and turn by my own skill alone the dim-conceived idea into the careful draught of a design. And yet that which later befell me by the lonely shore may have grown solely from the mental constitution behind such concern and fear and mistrust. For I have always been a seeker, a dreamer, and a ponderer on seeking and dreaming; and who can say that such a nature does not open latent eyes sensitive to unsuspected worlds and orders of being? Continue reading

Infinite Pages: 4 Stories by Jorge Luis Borges, from Wikipedia

Jorge Luis Borges’ Birthday:
Four stories of philosophy, touching upon fantasy, horror, and weirdness, and even H.P. Lovecraft.
Spoilers.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Aleph”

Wikipedia

“The Aleph” is a short story by the Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. First published in September 1945, it was reprinted in the short story collection, The Aleph and Other Stories, in 1949, and revised by the author in 1974.

Plot summary

In Borges’ story, the Aleph is a point in space that contains all other points. Anyone who gazes into it can see everything in the universe from every angle simultaneously, without distortion, overlapping, or confusion. The story traces the theme of infinity found in several of Borges’ other works, such as “The Book of Sand.” Continue reading

Interview with Noelle Myers of the Northern Ink Writers’ Group of Grand Forks, North Dakota

I sat down with Noelle Myers, the moderator of the Northern Ink Writers’ Group, which meets every two weeks in the Grand Forks Public Library in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
The Red River, which flows through Grand Forks north to the Hudson Bay, catastrophically flooded the city in 1997. The Grand Forks Herald won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its coverage of the flood.
We talked about Northern Ink’s Life in the North anthology; fiction genres; literary charities; writers’ conferences; constructive criticism; narrative construction; creating a new genre; geological and economical fiction; the “new adult” genre; “heat” or sex in fiction; rules for publishing and “pirate rules”; taboo subjects in fiction; the difference between romance fiction and women’s fiction or literary fiction; science fiction and Hugo Gernsback; sub-genres; anthologies; the purpose of life; being a better writer; the UND and NDSU sports rivalry; sports, arts, literature, and other frivolity; beauty; collegiate sports funding; online writing groups and writing sprints; dead-tree books and Nooks; antique children’s books; book collecting; the Grand Forks Flood of 1997; antique stores; the library swap shelf; support and encouragement; the Grand Forks Herald and its Pulitzer; and writers’ characters.
“There’s like 20 different -punks.”
-The Voice before the Void

Northern Ink
The Laughing Girls Poetry Reading Series and The Laughing Girls on Facebook
Teegan Loy at Dreamspinner Press
Written? Kitten!
WriteOrDie.com
PaperbackSwap.com

Interview with Noelle Myers of the Northern Ink Writers’ Group of Grand Forks, North Dakota

The Voice before the Void

3 Lakota Heroes: Red Cloud, Gall, and Crazy Horse by Charles Eastman

Battle of the Little Bighorn Anniversary:
June 25 is the anniversary of the great victory. As of 2016, it’s been only 140 years.
From one of his popular books, here presented are dramatic biographies of three men by the Dakota writer Ohiyesa, more widely known as Charles Eastman.
-The Voice before the Void

3 Lakota Heroes: Red Cloud, Gall, and Crazy Horse

from Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains

Charles Eastman

“Red Cloud”

The Sioux were now entering upon the most stormy period of their history. The old things were fast giving place to new. The young men, for the first time engaging in serious and destructive warfare with the neighboring tribes, armed with the deadly weapons furnished by the white man, began to realize that they must soon enter upon a desperate struggle for their ancestral hunting grounds. The old men had been innocently cultivating the friendship of the stranger, saying among themselves, “Surely there is land enough for all!”

1865-1880 - Sioux - Red Bear, Young Man Afraid of his Horses, Good Voice, Ring Thunder, Iron Crow, White Tail, Spotted Tail, Yellow Bear, Red Cloud, Big Road, Little Wound, Black CrowRed Cloud was a modest and little-known man of about twenty-eight years when General [William S.] Harney called all the western bands of Sioux together at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for the purpose of securing an agreement and right of way through their territory. The Ogallalas held aloof from this proposal, but Bear Bull, an Ogallala chief, after having been plied with whisky, undertook to dictate submission to the rest of the clan. Enraged by failure, he fired upon a group of his own tribesmen, and Red Cloud’s father and brother fell dead. According to Indian custom, it fell to him to avenge the deed. Calmly, without uttering a word, he faced old Bear Bull and his son, who attempted to defend his father, and shot them both. Continue reading

“Sex and sexuality in speculative fiction” from Wikipedia

Some of the most challenging of ideas.
-The Voice before the Void

“Sex and sexuality in speculative fiction”

Wikipedia

The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.

Sexual themes are frequently used in science fiction or related genres. Such elements may include depictions of realistic sexual interactions in a science fictional setting, a protagonist with an alternative sexuality, or exploration of the varieties of sexual experience that deviate from the conventional.

1872 illustration by David Henry Friston in lesbian vampire story Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu 0Science fiction and fantasy have sometimes been more constrained than non-genre narrative forms in their depictions of sexuality and gender. However, speculative fiction also offers the freedom to imagine societies different from real-life cultures, making it an incisive tool to examine sexual bias and forcing the reader to reconsider his or her cultural assumptions. Continue reading

“Cattle Rustling and the Republic” by Theodore Roosevelt

With an old cowboy story of North Dakota, Roosevelt illustrates a moral truth about representative democracy and the line it threads between brutal revolution and authoritarian plutocracy.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Cattle Rustling and the Republic”

from Realizable Ideals (The Earl Lectures), “The Public Servant and the Eighth Commandment,” address delivered extemporaneously to the Pacific Theological Seminary, Berkeley, California, 1911 spring

Theodore Roosevelt

edited by The Voice before the Void

In the old days, I used to have a cow-ranch in the short-grass country. At that time, there were no fences within a thousand miles of it. If a calf was passed by on the round-up, so that next year when it was a yearling and was not following any cow, it was still unbranded, it was called a maverick. It was range custom or range law that if a maverick were found on any range, the man finding it would put on the brand of that range. I had hired a new cow-puncher, and one day when he and I were riding, we struck a maverick. It was on a neighbor’s range, the Thistle Range. The puncher roped and threw the maverick; we built a little fire of sage-brush, and took out the cinch iron, heated it, and started to run on the brand. I said to him: “The Thistle brand.” He answered: “That’s all right, boss, I know my business.” In a minute, I said, “Hold on, you’re putting on my brand”; to which he answered: “Yes, I always put on the boss’s brand.” I said: “Oh, well, you go back to the house and get your time.” He rose Continue reading

“Not the Wind, Not the Flag” by Wumen Huikai

“Not the Wind, Not the Flag”

from The Gateless Gate

Wumen Huikai

translated from Japanese by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps

“Quest of the Golden Fleece” by Hugh Clifford, with Discussion

A lurid story of headhunters in colonial Borneo, yet a story of engaging complexity, with an ending that almost makes the reader complicit in the horror, followed by our breathless analysis.
Read by Brent Woodfill. Brent is an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Maya cave complexes of Guatemala and the Yucatán.
“There’s a lot on the other hand.”
Authors and works referenced in the discussion include: Mark Twain, Clifford Geertz, Gilbert Herdt, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, editor Milton Crane, “A Distant Episode” by Paul Bowles (anthologized in The Granta Book of the American Short Story Volume Two edited by Richard Ford), “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson, The Earth (La Terre) by Émile Zola, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, The True History of the Conquest of New Spain (Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España) by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Diego de Landa, and Charles Dickens.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Quest of the Golden Fleece”

Hugh Clifford

“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man” by the Marquis de Sade, version 2

Second version. Read with Brent Woodfill. Brent is an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Maya cave complexes of Guatemala and the Yucatán.
Actually, I was full drunk.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man”

Marquis de Sade

translated from the French

PRIEST – Come to this the fatal hour when at last from the eyes of deluded man the scales must fall away, and be shown the cruel picture of his errors and his vices – say, my son, do you not repent the host of sins unto which you were led by weakness and human frailty?

DYING MAN – Yes, my friend, I do repent.

PRIEST – Rejoice then in these pangs of remorse, during the brief space remaining to you profit therefrom to obtain Heaven’s general absolution for your sins, and be mindful of it, only through the mediation of the Most Holy Sacrament of penance will you be granted it by the Eternal.

DYING MAN – I do not understand you, any more than you have understood me. Continue reading

“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man” by the Marquis de Sade, version 1

“An interesting, well-reasoned argument for atheism,” as Brent describes this piece.
Read with Brent Woodfill. Brent is an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Maya cave complexes of Guatemala and the Yucatán.
We were drinking when we read these.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man”

Marquis de Sade

translated from the French

PRIEST – Come to this the fatal hour when at last from the eyes of deluded man the scales must fall away, and be shown the cruel picture of his errors and his vices – say, my son, do you not repent the host of sins unto which you were led by weakness and human frailty?

DYING MAN – Yes, my friend, I do repent.

PRIEST – Rejoice then in these pangs of remorse, during the brief space remaining to you profit therefrom to obtain Heaven’s general absolution for your sins, and be mindful of it, only through the mediation of the Most Holy Sacrament of penance will you be granted it by the Eternal.

DYING MAN – I do not understand you, any more than you have understood me. Continue reading

“Dark romanticism” from Wikipedia

Edgar Allan Poe’s Birthday Special:
All great and dark.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Dark romanticism”

Wikipedia

Dark romanticism (often conflated with Gothicism or called American romanticism) is a literary subgenre centered on the writers Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville.

As opposed to the perfectionist beliefs of Transcendentalism, the Dark Romantics emphasized human fallibility and proneness to sin and self-destruction, as well as the difficulties inherent in attempts at social reform.

1. Characteristics

G.R. Thompson stressed that in opposition to the optimism of figures like Ralph Waldo Emerson, “the Dark Romantics adapted images of anthropomorphized evil in the form of Satan, devils, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and ghouls,” as more telling guides to man’s inherent nature. Continue reading

“How Cowboys Die in North Dakota” by Theodore Roosevelt

“How Cowboys Die in North Dakota”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

Last spring one of the Three-Seven riders, a magnificent horseman, was killed on the round-up near Belfield, his horse bucking and falling on him. “It was accounted a plumb gentle horse too,” said my informant, “only it sometimes sulked and acted a little mean when it was cinched up behind.” The unfortunate rider did not know of this failing of the “plumb gentle horse,” and as soon as he was in the saddle it threw itself over sideways with a great bound, and he fell on his head, and never spoke again.

Such accidents are too common in the wild country to attract very much attention; the men accept them with grim quiet, as inevitable in such lives as theirs–lives that are harsh and narrow in their toil and their pleasure Continue reading

“The Ending of a Desperado” by Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt recounts the story of one of his friends telling him the story of one of his scars.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Ending of a Desperado”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

One of my valued friends in the mountains, and one of the best hunters with whom I ever travelled, was a man who had a peculiarly light-hearted way of looking at conventional social obligations. Continue reading

“Introduction to M-theory” from Wikipedia

All is but vibration.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Introduction to M-theory”

Wikipedia

This article is a non-technical introduction to the subject.

In non-technical terms, M-theory presents an idea about the basic substance of the universe. Continue reading

“Fyodor Shcherbatskoy” from Wikipedia

Fyodor Shcherbatskoy’s Birthday Special:
The reason you have ever heard of “nirvana.”
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Fyodor Shcherbatskoy”

Wikipedia

Fyodor Ippolitovich Shcherbatskoy (Фёдор Ипполи́тович Щербатско́й) (1866 October 1 – 1942 March 18), often referred to in the literature as Stcherbatsky, was a Russian Indologist who, in large part, was responsible for laying the foundations in the Western world for the scholarly study of Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy.Fyodor Shcherbatskoy Stcherbatsky Russian Indologist Buddhism Buddhist philosophy nirvana Continue reading