Friday, February 25, 2005


The Conundrum of the Workshops
by Rudyard Kipling

When the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden's green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, "It's pretty, but is it Art?"

Wherefore he called to his wife, and fled to fashion his work anew--
The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;
And he left his lore to the use of his sons--and that was a glorious gain
When the Devil chuckled "Is it Art?" in the ear of the branded Cain.

They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: "It's striking, but is it Art?"
The stone was dropped at the quarry-side and the idle derrick swung,
While each man talked of the aims of Art, and each in an alien tongue.

They fought and they talked in the North and the South; They talked and they fought in the
Till the waters rose on the pitiful land, and the poor Red Clay had rest--
Had rest till that dank blank-canvas dawn when the Dove was preened to start,
And the Devil bubbled below the keel: "It's human, but is it Art?"

The tale is as old as the Eden Tree--and new as the new-cut tooth--
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;
And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: "You did it, but was it Art?"

We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yelk of an addled egg,
We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: "It's clever, but is it Art?"

When the flicker of London sun falls faint on the Club-room's green and gold,
The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mould--
They scratch with their pens in the mould of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start,
For the Devil mutters behind the leaves: "It's pretty, but is it Art?"

Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the Four Great Rivers flow,
And the Wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
And if we could come when the sentry slept and softly scurry through,
By the favour of God we might know as much--as our father Adam knew!

The Answer
by Rudyard Kipling

A Rose, in tatters on the garden path,
Cried out to God and murmured 'gainst His Wrath,
Because a sudden wind at twilight's hush
Had snapped her stem alone of all the bush.
And God, Who hears both sun-dried dust and sun,
Had pity, whispering to that luckless one.
"Sister, in that thou sayest We did not well--
"What voices heardst thou when thy petals fell?"
And the Rose answered, "In that evil hour
"A voice said, 'Father, wherefore falls the flower?
"'For lo, the very gossamers are still.'
"And a voice answered, 'Son, by Allah's Will!'"

Then softly as a rain-mist on the sward
Came to the Rose the Answer of the Lord:
"Sister, before We smote the Dark in twain,
"Ere yet the Stars saw one another plain,
"Time, Tide, and Space, We bound unto the task
"That thou shouldst fall, and such an one should ask."
Whereat the withered flower, all content,
Died as they die whose days are innocent;
While he who questioned why the flower fell
Caught hold of God and saved his soul from Hell.

Some days it's enough, and some days it's not. Today, it's enough.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


This reads like the plot to a really really bad movie. Good grief.

Τῶν ἀνδρῶν καὶ γυναικῶν Ἡλλενικῶν

The Greeks are marvelously egalitarian. Their sense of the equality of the genders is perfect.

In the genitive plural, that is.

In all other matters, they are unspeakable chauvinists.

Inasmuch as the most venerable and sage Wazoo has undertaken to pontificate upon the ineluctable realities of testosterone-marinated gray matter and the inveterate consequences thereof, it is left to me to illustrate his point. For it is attested by the wisdom of our collective fathers (to whose genius and creativity we owe great thanks) that verily, a Picture is worth a Thousand Words. The Thousand Words having been provided by my esteemed colleague, it is my honour and privilege to present unto you this Proverbial Picture, in order that you might better comprehend the magnitude of the collective foolishness and infrangible glory incumbent to masculinity. But be apprised, O Reader, that my animus is by no means the rendering of my own anandrogyny apodictic by this exhibition of the greatest and most foolhardy achievement of my paltry existence, and still less is it such bumptious vanity as would be mine were I acting in blatant competition with my Callipygian Colleague for the ascendency in epic feats of testosteronic madness. No, Gentle Reader, my only thought is for your enlightenment and edification.

I also sell tropical paradises in Massachusetts and train mammoths as house pets, if anyone is interested.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


And I don't mean mature in the XXX sense of the word. Perhaps I wouldn't have chosen the issue of smoking and its demise in the public sphere of American life as my jumping off point for a commentary on the increasing naivete of America at large (that is, our ridiculous assumption that the inalienable rights of humanity extend to things like long life and health and wealth)--but Mr. Blecher makes it work rather well. Bravo.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Most people listen to self-improvement books on tape while they drive to work. "The secret to success is a positive attitude," they say. "Implement our proven and popular system to achieve the Fuller Life in just 37 Simple Steps," they say.

My wife listens to Machiavelli.

I think I should be worried or something.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


"How are you doing?"
"Not well."
"Many reasons--let's start with the Industrial Revolution."

Friday, February 04, 2005


Which is why I'm not posting the bad news right now. Just this article from the Arab News.

Incidentally, I prefer to think of myself as a hopeful realist.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


It's not like education is all that complicated--you read, you argue, you research, you write. I don't know what or whom to wish a pox upon, but I'm doing it anyway.

A pox upon you, whomever-you-are, that made education like Abercrombie!