the rabbits and the goats

Once there was a great clover meadow divided into two equal parts by a clear river which ran between. One field was the home of the grey rabbits, the other of the white rabbits. Each one had enough; none had too much, and all were happy.
    One day four white goats came to the field of the white rabbits and four black goats to the field of the grey rabbits, and the goats said to the rabbits: “This field is ours. Do not touch a stalk of clover.” “Who gave you the land?” asked the rabbits. “Our God and yours. The Man who lives on the Hill,” answered the goats. “Oh!” said the rabbits.
    Presently some of the older rabbits got together and, with noses twitching, nervously asked the goats: “Where shall we go and how shall we live?” “You cannot go anywhere,” said the goats, “and if you will cut clover for us we will give you enough to keep yon alive, unless you are greedy. The greedy must die.” “Oh!” said the rabbits.
    So the four white goats divided one field into quarters, each taking one as its own, and the four black goats divided the other field in the same way, and for a long time the rabbits brought the goats the hay which the goats sold to the pigs who lived on an island in the river. The goats became very fat and prosperous, but the rabbits had hardly enough to eat. The rabbits continued to have large families and grew more and more numerous, so that the clover allowed by the goats was not enough and the rabbits were starving. Some of the rabbits then said: “Brethren, four goats cannot harvest this clover. We do all the work. Let us stand together and refuse to labor unless we get more clover and shorter hours.”
    So the rabbits formed a hundred and thirty-seven unions, so that each rabbit could find a union tor its kind. There was a union for rabbits with a spot on the right fore-foot, and a union for rabbits with a spot on the left fore-foot, and so on, for all manner of rabbits, including lop-eared rabbits and blind rabbits. Sometimes the rabbits with a spot on the 
left fore-foot would walk out and sit by the edge of the field and look at the clover and refuse to work unless given more clover and shorter hours. This action was called “a squat.” Sometimes the rabbits with a spot on the right fore-foot would walk out on a squat. Sometimes it would be the lop-eared rabbits, or the three-toed rabbits, or the blind rabbits, or whichever was hungriest, and the others would do the work for the goats till those out on a squat would get so hungry looking at the clover they would, one by one, slip back into the field and go to work, and sometimes, if the crop was very big and the pigs were squealing for clover, and business was good, the goats would give the squatting rabbits a little more to eat and shorter hours.
    But when the rabbits had bred to such a multitude that there were more rabbits than were needed for the work, poor, hungry, mangy or scabby rabbits would offer to work for less clover, and then the whole thing would be in a dreadful uproar; the union rabbits would squeal “Scab!” at the poor mangy rabbits, and the goats would bleat: “Let them alone. We have a God-given right to have them work for us for less clover.” And all the other union rabbits, left-foots, right-foots, fore-foots, hind-foots, lop-ears and so on — all except the ones who were squatting — would go on harvesting the goats’ clover for them, but crying continually: “Scab! Scab! Scab!”
    Things went on this way for a long time, the white rabbits and the grey rabbits getting poorer and poorer, and the white goats and black goats getting fatter and fatter. But presently the black goats and the white goats quarreled over which should furnish clover to the pigs. The black goats declared war on the white goats, and each shouted to their own rabbits: “Quit working for us now for a while and come fight for us”; so the white rabbits rushed at the grey rabbits and the grey rabbits rushed at the white rabbits and they killed each other, squealing strange squeals: “Patriotism!” “Fatherland!” “Our Country!” “Our Flag!” “The Goats forever!” “God bless our Goats!”

    The goats wept and gave a little clover to the orphan rabbits, and hung small yellow bells on the two-legged and three-legged rabbits who had lost legs in the war, so these rabbits sat all day tinkling their bells and were fed by the other rabbits and were greatly venerated for their intelligence.
During the war the white goats sent for white foxes to fight for them, and the black goats sent for black foxes to fight for them, and the rabbits were glad and said: “We will feed the foxes who fight for us.” After a long and bitter war, and the killing of many rabbits, peace was declared between the black goats and the white goats and they divided the Pigs’ Island between them by a solemn treaty, and were fatter than ever.

    So the rabbits, white and grey, went back to their fields to work, only each had to labor harder because there were so many crippled rabbits and so many foxes to support. The rabbits were thus harder worked and poorer than ever, but every time they grumbled or one of their unions squatted the goats set the foxes on them and drove them back to work.

    Things became so unbearable that an old grey rabbit called all the rabbits together, white and grey, and said to them: “Are we not all rabbits? Are we not all brothers? Are we not all enslaved? Our mistake was in admitting the right of the goats to own the land, because that has enslaved us. We must live from the land. Without it we die. Our remedy is to undo this error and to assert that not even our God, the Man on the Hill, can give away the ownership of the fields. They must be as before, open and free to whomsoever will use them. If the goats want clover, let them get what they can use, and no more. The same with the pigs, and the same with rabbits; and as for rabbits killing each other, it is worse than wicked — it is foolish.” “But,” said a large white rabbit, “what will become of the foxes?” “Let them die,” said the grey rabbit. “But they won’t die. They will eat us,” said the white rabbit. “No,” said the grey rabbit, “there are many more of us, and we can kick powerfully if we want to. Moreover, unless we work for the goats, how can they buy the chickens they feed to the foxes? Foxes cannot eat clover.” “But how are we to do this? The goats are larger than we are,” said the white rabbit “Easily,” replied the grey rabbit; “let us unite in one great brotherhood. Not lop-eared or blind rabbits, but just rabbits, all rabbits, in one common band. Then let us say to the goats; ‘We will harvest no more clover for you. Work yourselves, or starve. We deny your ownership of the fields. We will help ourselves.’ Oh, my brothers,” he added, “see this mutilated ear which was chewed by a white rabbit while each of us was fighting for the goats, he for the white goats, I for the black. Let it be so no more. Let us all get together as one band of brothers. Let us break this ownership of our fields by the goats, and then no more shall our little ones starve in meadows of abundance.” “Very fine words,” said the white rabbit, “but only words. Do not listen to him. He is a visionary. A dreamer. Labor is not vision. Labor is life. Life is labor. Let us all go back to our jobs. That is life. We can from time to time squat and kick as before, separately and independently, for more clover and shorter hours. That also is life. Anything beyond a little more clover or shorter hours is vision, and sensible rabbits will not bother with it.”
So the rabbits all returned to labor for the goats, while the foxes watched them from the shade.

unnatural crimes amongst pachyderms

If crimes of sexuality were confined to the human species, we should not have an opportunity to study the biological beginnings of crime as observed in curious instances of criminality in animals, which raises doubts as to whether these inversions of the genesic instinct are with them unnatural phenomena, or rather an outward manifestation of an imperious functional want. Without exposing the details of the analogy upon which is founded the presumption, we are warranted in saying that as many of the lower beings in the zoölogical scale show virtues having analogy to those of man, we must expect to find parallel vices. It is an error to suppose that aberration of the genesic instinct is confined to our species, time, or race. Evidence shows that unnatural crime exists under all latitudes. It extends from the prehistoric time of the troglodytes up to Hippocrates, who stigmatizes it in his oath, and from his time to the present. I have observed common instances of sexual perversion in dogs and turkeys. A short time since, at the Washington races, a celebrated stallion was the favorite on whom the largest bets were made. A friend of mine, having ascertained from the groom the day before the race that the horse had procured an ejaculation by flapping his penis against the abdomen, accordingly risked his pile on another horse, who, by the way, came in ahead. Only a few days ago, to escape a shower, I took refuge in the elephant house in the Washington Zoölogical gardens, where are confined two male elephants, “Dunk” and “Gold Dust.” To my astonishment they entwined their probosces together in a caressing way; each had simultaneous erection of the penis, and the act was finished by one animal opening and allowing the other to tickle the roof of his mouth with his proboscis after the manner of the oscula more Columbino, mentioned, by the way, in some of the old theological writings, and prohibited by the rules of at least one Christian denomination.

—Irving C. Rosse, “Sexual Hypochrondriasis and Perversion of the Genesis Instinct”, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, whole series volume 19, new series, volume 17, number 11, November 1892, pp. 798-799

the bird’s the word

“Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.”

This principle generalizes to all theologies, or ways of relating man to his innermost values and motives, agglomerating rational thought and dogmatic mythology. All men argue like pigeons play chess when their core concerns are at stake.

jokes of the moment

     Ray: Then I do know a Belgian joke. What’s Belgium famous for? Chocolates and child abuse. And they only invented the chocolates to get to the kids!

—Martin McDonagh, In Bruges

Roger Vangheluwe, Belgium’s longest serving bishop has stepped down after admitting to sexually abusing a young boy about 25 years ago.

Q: Why do arabs priests fuck their camels little kids?
A: Because they know that the camels the kids don’t like it.

keep klear of knut’s knuts

We have been informed that PETA wants to forestall incest by castrating Knut. Their notion recalls Saul Alinsky’s ninth rule: the threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself. David Affeld relates that it was anticipated in a more elegant form by the great chess theoretician Aron Nimzowitsch: eine Drohung ist stärker als eine Ausführung, the threat is stronger than the execution. Now, Knut is a little slow on the uptake, so he might not be alarmed by the threat of orchidectomy betokened by the approach of a PETA specialist brandishing rusty shears. But we may safely presume that Knut is as attached to his nuts sentimentally, as he is physiologically, and his attachments will define the wannabe surgeon’s prospects of success and survival. Whence comes our ursine amendment to Nimzovitch and Alinsky: before threatening a bear, make sure that you are willing and able to execute.

An update extracted from correspondence:

Dear Fred,
Ever since we began our amicable conversations, you have postulated violent death as the sanction for declining your prescriptions. Without meaning to impugn your authority, I wish to stress my survival over the ensuing quarter century, with its last decade consumed by holding a tiger by the tail. Let us both take to heart the lesson of Sir Isaac Newton and Benedict Spinoza, as related by Chief Dan George, by endeavoring to persevere for another such stretch.

Michael — — 7576 Willow Glen Road, Los Angeles, CA 90046 — 323.363.1860
All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. — Samuel Beckett

strange sex some may have known

     “Molte son le volte che li muscoli componitori de’ labbri della bocca movano li muscoli laterali a sè congiunti, e altrettante son le volte che essi muscoli laterali movano li labbri d’essa bocca, ritornandola donde da sè ritornare non po, perchè l’uffizio del muscolo è di tirare e non di spingere, eccetto li membri genitali e la lingua.”

—Leonardo da Vinci, De vocie, in Edmondo Solmi, “Il trattato di Leonardo da Vinci sul linguaggio «De vocie»”, 1906

“There are many occasions when the muscles that form the lips of the mouth move the lateral muscles that are joined to them, and there are an equal number of occasions when these lateral muscles move the lips of this mouth, replacing it where it cannot return of itself, because the function of muscle is to pull and not to push except in the case of the genitals and the tongue.”

The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, translated by Edward MacCurdy, 1939

     “I tell you that one?…I tell you about the Polack who thinks Peter Pan’s a wash basin in a cathouse?…The difference between erotic and kinky? Erotic you use a feather, kinky you use the whole chicken?”

—Elmore Leonard, Stick, 1983

     I write about what people do to each other. It isn’t pretty.

—Derek Raymond, The Hidden Files, 1992

     HANNAH: Sex and literature. Literature and sex. Your conversation, left to itself, doesn’t have many places to go. Like two marbles rolling around a pudding basin. One of them is always sex.
BERNARD: Ah well, yes. Men all over.
HANNAH: No doubt. Einstein—relativity and sex. Chippendale—sex and furniture. Galileo—‘Did the earth move?’ What the hell is it with you people?

—Tom Stoppard, Arcadia, 1993

At the outset of an eponymous 1832 novel, Honoré de Balzac caused Louis Lambert, his precocious Swedenborgian hero, to air out his doctrines of meaning:

—Souvent, me dit-il, en parlant de ses lectures, j’ai accompli de délicieux voyages, embarqué sur un mot dans les abîmes du passé, comme l’insecte qui flotte au gré d’un fleuve sur quelque brin d’herbe. Parti de la Grèce, j’arrivais à Rome et traversais l’étendue des âges modernes. Quel beau livre ne composerait-on pas en racontant la vie et les aventures d’un mot ? sans doute il a reçu diverses impressions des événements auxquels il a servi ; selon les lieux il a réveillé des idées différentes ; mais n’est-il pas plus grand encore à considérer sous le triple aspect de l’âme, du corps et du mouvement ? À le regarder, abstraction faite de ses fonctions, de ses effets et de ses actes, n’y a-t-il pas de quoi tomber dans un océan de réflexions ? La plupart des mots ne sont-ils pas teints de l’idée qu’ils représentent extérieurement ? à quel génie sont-ils dus ! S’il faut une grande intelligence pour créer un mot, quel âge a donc la parole humaine ? L’assemblage des lettres, leurs formes, la figure qu’elles donnent à un mot, dessinent exactement, suivant le caractère de chaque peuple, des êtres inconnus dont le souvenir est en nous. Qui nous expliquera philosophiquement la transition de la sensation à la pensée, de la pensée au verbe, du verbe à son expression hiéroglyphique, des hiéroglyphes à l’alphabet, de l’alphabet à l’éloquence écrite, dont la beauté réside dans une suite d’images classées par les rhéteurs, et qui sont comme les hiéroglyphes de la pensée ? L’antique peinture des idées humaines configurées par les formes zoologiques n’aurait-elle pas déterminé les premiers signes dont s’est servi l’Orient pour écrire ses langages ? Puis n’aurait-elle pas traditionnellement laissé quelques vestiges dans nos langues modernes, qui toutes se sont partagé les débris du verbe primitif des nations, verbe majestueux et solennel, dont la majesté, dont la solennité décroissent à mesure que vieillissent les sociétés ; dont les retentissements si sonores dans la Bible hébraïque, si beaux encore dans la Grèce, s’affaiblissent à travers les progrès de nos civilisations successives ? Est-ce à cet ancien Esprit que nous devons les mystères enfouis dans toute parole humaine ? N’existe-t-il pas dans le mot VRAI une sorte de rectitude fantastique ? ne se trouve-t-il pas dans le son bref qu’il exige une vague image de la chaste nudité, de la simplicité du vrai en toute chose ? Cette syllabe respire je ne sais quelle fraîcheur. J’ai pris pour exemple la formule d’une idée abstraite, ne voulant pas expliquer le problème par un mot qui le rendît trop facile à comprendre, comme celui de VOL, où tout parle aux sens. N’en est-il pas ainsi de chaque verbe ? tous sont empreints d’un vivant pouvoir qu’ils tiennent de l’âme, et qu’ils lui restituent par les mystères d’une action et d’une réaction merveilleuse entre la parole et la pensée. Ne dirait-on pas d’un amant qui puise sur les lèvres de sa maîtresse autant d’amour qu’il en communique ? Par leur seule physionomie, les mots raniment dans notre cerveau les créatures auxquelles ils servent de vêtement. Semblables à tous les êtres, ils n’ont qu’une place où leurs propriétés puissent pleinement agir et se développer. Mais ce sujet comporte peut-être une science tout entière ! Et il haussait les épaules comme pour me dire : Nous sommes et trop grands et trop petits ! “Often,” he has said to me when speaking of his readings, “often have I made the most delightful voyages, carried along by a word down the abysses of the past, like an insect floating on a blade of grass consigned to the flow of a river. Starting from Greece, I would get to Rome, and traverse the extent of modern ages. What a fine book might be written of the life and adventures of a word! Doubtless it has received various stamps from the events that it has served; it has revealed different ideas in different places; but is it not still grander to consider it under the triple aspects of soul, body, and motion? To regard it in the abstract, apart from its functions, its effects, and its actions, is it not a matter of falling into an ocean of reflections? Are not most words colored by the idea they represent externally? To whose genius are they due? If it takes great intelligence to create a word, how old does it make human speech? The combination of letters, their shapes, and the look they give to the word, are the exact reflection, in accordance with the character of each nation, of the unknown beings whose memory survives in us. Who would philosophically explain to us the transition from the sensation to a thought, from the thought to a word, from the word to its hieroglyphic expression, from the hieroglyphics to an alphabet, from the alphabet to written eloquence, whose beauty resides in a series of images classified by rhetoricians, and forming, as it were, the hieroglyphics of thought? Was it not the ancient mode of representing human ideas as embodied in the forms of animals that determined the shapes of the first signs that the Orient used for writing down its language? Then has it not left its traditional traces within our modern languages, which have all inherited some remnant of the primitive speech of nations, a majestic and solemn tongue whose majesty and solemnity decrease as communities grow old; whose sonorous tones ring in the Hebrew Bible, and still are noble in Greece, but grow weaker under the progress of our successive civilizations? Is it to this time-honored spirit that we owe the mysteries lying buried in every human word? Is there not a certain fantastic rectitude in the word TRUE? Does not the compact brevity of its sound contain a vague image of chaste nudity, of the simplicity of truth in all things? The syllable exudes an ineffable freshness. I chose the formula of an abstract idea on purpose, not wishing to pose the problem with a word that should make it too easy to the apprehension, as the word FLIGHT for instance, which is a direct appeal to the senses. But is it not so with every word? They are all stamped with a living power that comes from the soul, and which they restore thereto through the mysterious and wonderful action and reaction between thought and speech. Might we not speak of it as a lover who draws from the lips of his mistress as much love as he gives? Thus, by their mere physiognomy, words call to life in our brain the beings whom they serve to clothe. In the way of all beings, they have but one place where their properties can fully act and develop. But perhaps the subject comprises a science to itself!” And he would shrug his shoulders, as if to say, “But we are too high and too low!”

Thus Balzac extends etymological naturalism of Cratylus into the realm of Romantic aesthetics. In keeping with his observations, etymological creation continues in our days. Accordingly, in a muchly discussed article published by The New York Times on 5 November 2006, James Gleick testified:

Much of the new vocabulary appears online long before it will make it into books. Take geek. It was not till 2003 that O.E.D.3 caught up with the main modern sense: “a person who is extremely devoted to and knowledgeable about computers or related technology.” Internet chitchat provides the earliest known reference, a posting to a Usenet newsgroup, net.jokes, on Feb. 20, 1984.

In a Usenet message dated 10 January 2004, OED lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower confirmed the policy of “accep[ting] Usenet quotes as archived on (formerly) DejaNews or (now) Google Groups, in certain circumstances.” Hence a specimen of OED draft entry dated March 2003, which reflects such acceptance in language unfit to print in our newspaper of record: Beware of Rodents!

l’homme aux rats

Anarchist, Symbolist, insubordinate dreyfusard, man about town, Octave Mirbeau is an indispensable maître mineur of the Third Republic. His most popular work, Le Journal d’une femme de chambre, merited film treatment by the greatest Latin directors of all times, Luis Buñuel and Jean Renoir. His most scandalous novel remains unfilmable. In Le Jardin des supplices, which appeared in 1899, at the height of the Dreyfus Affair, Mirbeau targeted fear and hatred, the twin foundations of bourgeois society, in a narrative arc traversing the terrain of desire and disgust to culminate in a strange sexual obsession. And what about the rats?