Monthly Archives: October 2020

Omnium Gatherum: 31oct2020

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween, observed Samhain! Hope you have a good one. Also remember that Astronomical Samhain, ☉ at 15° ♏ (Sun at 15° Scorpio) occurs in the Northern Hemisphere at 22:56 UTC on November 7, 2020. So, feel free to keep the month of Halloween going into November!

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

This post was possible because of support from generous ongoing Patrons and Members of the newsletter. Both Patrons and Members get access to Omnium Gatherum immediately and directly via web and email. On the blog, this will be exclusive to Patrons for one year, after which I’ll make it publicly available to everyone so they can see what they’ve been missing.

This is the Lord’s house and I am his representative here on earth, and I swear if you don’t all shut up and behave yourselves, I will see to it that you meet him personally!

Scott Meyer, Off to Be the Wizard [Bookshop, Amazon]

Hermetic quote Meyer Off to See the Wizard if you all don't shut up and behave yourselves

The Liar’s Tale

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Liar’s Tale: A History of Falsehood [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by Jeremy Campbell.

Campbell The Liar's Tale

Jeremy Campbell is a high-end journalist, and his Liar’s Tale is an excitingly scarce commodity: a popularizing history of epistemology! He organizes the narrative around the changing valuation of falsehood, necessarily describing in the process the corresponding shifts in the idea of truth. The treatment is very wide ranging, exploring such fields as evolutionary biology and aesthetics as they come into contact with the central topic. But most of the discussion is given over to the vertebral canon of Western philosophy. 

I did enjoy the book, although I think I differ with the author with respect to our positions and allegiances. My first warning was on page 72, where the author mentions in passing that Socrates “shuns relativism, the doctrine that tends to favor brute force.” Huh? That’s a pretty substantial conclusion to pack into a subordinate clause without any further support or explanation. I took note again when he quoted Alan Bullock to define Surrealism as a “cult” that developed “a scorn not only for reason but for humanity.” (266)

In his final chapter, Campbell cashes in the various chips he has accumulated in an otherwise even-handed account, in order to vilify the post-structuralists, deconstructionists and post-modernists of the intellectual left, as well as quantum theorists and other theoretical physicists; whom he sets in opposition to the virtue of “common sense.” Unsurprisingly, he makes much of the Sokal hoax, and he also quotes approvingly from rightist pundit Shelby Steele. Campbell–writing at the end of the 1990s–predictably lumps in Bill Clinton as a signal liar. Campbell says it is “common sense” that illicit blow-jobs disqualify political leaders, and the sustained public support for Clinton in the face of his impeachment was therefore a function of a popular appetite for lies. I wish that I could feel confident that Campbell would come out later even more strongly against the derision of the “reality-based community” expressed by a Bush aide (Karl Rove?) to Ron Suskind in 2004: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.” Suskind’s source demonstrates that a doctrine of creative mendacity has at least as much resonance among the anti-intellectual right as it does among the intellectual left, and the real-world impact of the former is certainly more grievous: generating wars of aggression, fostering denial about global climate change, propagating economic malaise, and so forth.

Although I disagree with Campbell’s ideological perch, his high-altitude summary of philosophical history is still entertaining and largely accurate, and it would be a helpful orientation for someone with a beginning interest in the field of theories of knowledge and meaning. Still, the reader should not be taken in by the easygoing journalistic style, but should rather subject this book to the level of suspicion that its topic rightfully evokes.

The Innsmouth Tabernacle Choir Hymnal

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Innsmouth Tabernacle Choir Hymnal [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by Darrell Schweitzer, illustrated by Allen Koszowski.

Schweitzer The Innsmouth Tabernacle Choir Hymnal

Brother Schweitzer here offers the only contemporary published tome of Elder Filking of which I am aware. It is a veritable thingsend to someone like me, who, though steeped in the lore and unmentionable fluids of Those Who Shall Return, has never had the pious pleasure of attending one of the blasphemous conventicles organized by the Reverend Robert Price under the aegis of the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast. 

The quality of the lyrics is pretty high. My particular favorite is the “Hymn to Yog-Sothoth” to the tune Nun danket. (19) Alas, there are only ten hymns included, making it an inadequate resource for a regular congregation or choir. The madness undergirding our tenuous reality demands a more wide-ranging liturgical inventory. Given that all of the songs in this volume are of Brother Schweitzer’s own invention, however, it is a reasonable achievement. A more robust volume would draw on the exudations of a larger corps of scribes. 

A notable error arises in connection with the hymn “An Eldritch Horror Is Our God.” (15) While it does quite effectively expose the cosmic horror lying at the back of the German reformer’s famous song, it is missing a line at the conclusion of each full stanza. (The text gives two stanzas printed as four.) I propose a one-line refrain to conclude each: “Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!” Alternatively, the title itself “An Eldritch Horror Is Our God” scans adequately.

Allen Koszowski’s illustrations are also quite suitable.

Omnium Gatherum: 28oct2020

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for October 28, 2020

Last week, at library HQ, there was a day with a high in the 80s F. This week there was a day entirely below freezing all day and snow, which stayed on the ground for two days. Hope you and yours are staying warm, well, and safe!

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

This post was possible because of support from generous ongoing Patrons and Members of the newsletter. Both Patrons and Members get access to Omnium Gatherum immediately and directly via web and email. On the blog, this will be exclusive to Patrons for one year, after which I’ll make it publicly available to everyone so they can see what they’ve been missing.

Omnium Gatherum: 25oct2020

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for October 25, 2020

Okay, I’ve finished my Halloween decorating! At library HQ, I’ve installed a medieval moat, Gothic tower, British club, French bistro, Roman bath, and Turkish seraglio. The library cats now meow in 7 languages depending on which room they are in.

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

This post was possible because of support from generous ongoing Patrons and Members of the newsletter. Both Patrons and Members get access to Omnium Gatherum immediately and directly via web and email. On the blog, this will be exclusive to Patrons for one year, after which I’ll make it publicly available to everyone so they can see what they’ve been missing.

The devils of Paris would not shut up. They declaimed as they came, in a hundred languages, they hissed and howled descriptions of their hadal cities, and beat their claws on the sigils they wore, of the houses of the pit, and they shouted rather too often to those they hunted and killed that it was from Hell that they came, and so that everyone should be terrified.

China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris: A Novel [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher]

Hermetic quote Miéville The Last Days of New Paris the devils of Paris would not shut up

Ubik

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Ubik [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by Philip K Dick.

Dick Ubik

Ubik is easily one of my favorite PKD novels: less lauded but more tightly composed than VALIS, it too makes pervasive but subtle use of Gnostic themes throughout. In his self-exegetical notes, Dick paired Ubik with The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch as stories grounded in the mechanism of the Eucharist. (In Three Stigmata the Eucharist is averse or malign–a sort of interplanetary Black Mass.) The initial science-fictional concept in Ubik is that of the “moratorium,” a medico-funerary facility that arrests brain deterioration in fresh corpses, so that the “dead” can be milked for small amounts of further interaction with their survivors; all of which opens up the question of the subjective experience of such “death,” not to mention all death, and perhaps life as well.

The characters are unusually clear, lacking the amorphousness that Dick’s psychological approach often inflicts on his protagonists, and this feature may well have been a function of his onetime development of this story as a prospective film treatment. In my dream universe, David Cronenberg has already directed a production of Ubik!

Eyes of the Storm

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Bone: Eyes of the Storm [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by Jeff Smith, book 3 of the Bone series.

Smith Bone Eyes of the Storm

This third collection of Bone comics is the first that I have read in its original black-and-white format. I read the two previous volumes in the colorized editions from the Scholastic GRAFIX imprint. While I respect author/artist Smith for realizing his vision in the independent black-and-white comics market, and at the hazard of offending purist afficianados, I have to say that the comic is more attractive, readable, and compelling with the high-quality colors of the later reprints. 

As far as the story goes, it takes a major turn in this segment: the “serious” fantasy plot about the political history of the valley, and the roles of Rose and Thorn in that history are revealed, along with more detail about their foes. None of these revelations should come as any great surprise to the attentive reader, though, and none of them are in any way contrary to fantasy conventions. All of this plot explication comes at a price, which is that of considerably less comedy. There is still a humorous parallel narrative about the Bone brothers’ return to the Barrel-Haven tavern, and the development of Fone Bone’s poetic talents continues amusingly on page 120. But on the whole, there is more action and intrigue, and less of the wry humor that was so characteristic of the earlier books.

The “Moby Bone” dream episode is supposed to be a highlight of this volume, and it certainly did its job well enough. But I thought it paled next to the more elaborate and involved dream sequences in Sim’s Cerebus

The final page advises readers that we have reached the “End of Part One.” Even though the plot proper seems still to be barely getting off the ground, this does seem like a reasonable point to pause.