Corporate Zombies

If Corporations Are People, What Kind of People Are They?

If Corporations Are People, What Kind of People Are They?

The most popular posting I have ever made here at WordPress was entitled “Notes on the Zombie Apocalypse.” Why zombies and not werewolves, vampires, re-animated mummies, Frankenstein monsters, or even Creatures from the Black Lagoon? Then I thought of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling about corporations having the same rights as people. Bingo!

It took the zombie conservative phalanx of the Supremes—Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy—to attempt to pump life into this horror story. If corporations are people, what other things might have the same rights as people? Perhaps Tweets and Ann Coulter blog posts might also be so classified. What if we have to admit a Wayne LaPierre NRA Tweet into the Boy Scouts as a Tenderfoot? Would it have to learn how to swim and memorize the Morse Code? (Or is that a requirement any more?)

Now that corporate zombies have a whole slew of rights, we can look forward to having our brains devoured with increased efficiency.

Look out, people! The undead walk among us.


Of Heaven and Hell

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges

I cannot ever stop thinking of Jorge Luis Borges, of his poems, of his stories, of his diamond-like essays. For the better part of a half century, the man has guided my steps, sent me off to the Iceland of the Sagas, the paradoxes of G. K. Chesterton, the fantastic stories of that forgotten writer Rudyard Kipling, and the paintings of Xul Solar.

Today, I want to share with you the ending of a poem called “Of Heaven and Hell,” which I found in a Penguin Borges collection entitled Poems of the Night:

When Judgment Day sounds in the last trumpets
and planet and millennium both
disintegrate, and all at once, O Time,
all your ephemeral pyramids cease to be,
the colors and the lines that trace the past
will in the semidarkness form a face,
a sleeping face, faithful, still, unchangeable
(the face of the loved one, or, perhaps, your own)
and the sheer contemplation of that face—
never-changing, whole, beyond corruption—
will be, for the rejected, an Inferno,
and for the elected, Paradise.

For me, I think that face will be that of Martine. (My own face is out of the question: It is trapped in some mirror that first time I recognized it reminded me more of my father’s features than of my own.) No, Martine’s face frequently forms in my thoughts, as a special gift given to me by a God who showed me a gentle pity that was, I have always believed, more than I deserved. Does that mean I am one of what Borges called the “elegidos,” “the elect”? Time will tell.

The More Things Change …

Roman Graffiti from Pompeii

Roman Graffiti from Pompeii

Let us say we were seated across the table from an ancient Roman and, say, a Viking. Aside from the obvious language problem, would there be enough commonality to allow for a spirited discussion? I think there would be, primarily because I have read enough Roman and Viking (I should say Icelandic and Norse) literature to vouch for the fact that, when all is said and done, we are not all that different from one another.

Let me take as a case in point graffiti that has been discovered from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. You can probably find the equivalent in any nightclub’s restroom wall:

  • Philiros spado – “Philiros is a eunuch”
  • Apollinaris, medicus Titi Imperatoris hic cacavit bene – “Apollinaris, physician to the Emperor Titud, had a good crap here”
  • Oppi, emboliari, fur, furuncle – “Oppius, you’re a clown, a thief, and a cheap crook”
  • Miximus in lecto. Faetor, peccavimus, hospes. Si dices: quare? Nulla matella fuit –
    This one was found in an inn: “We have wet the bed. I admit we were wrong, my host, but if you ask why, it is because there was no chamber pot.”
  • Virgula Tertio su: Indecens esVirgula to Tertius: You are a nasty boy.“
  • Suspirium puellam Celadus thraex – “Celadus makes the girls moan”

Now I have not seen the graffiti of Ancient Rome, but I saw the viking graffiti in the tomb at Maes Howe in the Orkneys. Built over 5,000 years ago, Maes Howe was frequently visited by Viking raiders in the hopes that some buried treasure could be found there. They found none, but left such observations as the following in their Futharc runes:

  • “Thorni fucked. Helgi carved.”
  • “Ingigerth is the most beautiful of all women” next to a picture of a slobbering dog.
  • “These runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes in the Western Ocean.”

You can find more about the Pompeiian graffiti by clicking here. The runes at Maes Howe are explained here.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

[St. Peter] Chanel High School (1957-2013)

Seal of Chanel High School

Seal of Chanel High School

I was there when St. Peter Chanel High School in Bedford, Ohio, was born—I was in the school’s second graduating class in 1962—and now it looks as if I’m around when the school dies later this year. When I attended, it was called simply Chanel High School and was run by priests of the Society of Mary (Marists, not Marianists).

My four years there were largely happy ones, even though the brain tumor that was to come to a crisis later on was already causing frequent severe frontal headaches. My teachers were excellent, particularly the priests who gave me the best background in high school English it was possible to receive anywhere. My teachers were, in order,  Fathers Gerard Hageman, Raymond E. Healy, Alan Parker, and Edward Murray.

Back then, Chanel was strictly a boys’ school, with girls being admitted much later, probably when the school was taken over by the Catholic Archdiocese of Cleveland, which changed its name to St. Peter Chanel, after the 19th century Marist martyr of Polynesia after whom the school was named.

In recent years, the enrollment has plummeted, with only 54 students enrolling for the current ninth-grade class.

I feel a great sadness about the school’s passing, because now I will never to be able to indulge in my fantasy of coming to the school’s aid with my millions. (Who am I kidding?) I feel I owe a debt to the good men who taught me—dedicated, smart, and devout men who gave their lives to God and to an ideal of education that seems to be passing away before our eyes. Who is that dedicated today? Few, very few. And those that are are under constant attack by Conservatives who back a misguided goal of home schooling by idiots.


Okay, Jim, so you’re a dinosaur. It is your sad role to note the passing of things that meant a great deal to you, while so many contemporary phenomena leave you cold. All those girls in jeggings and boots with their smart phones. All that cacophonous pop music. Television. Celebrities. Will you kids get off my lawn before I call the police!

La Poderosa’s Final Tour

Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Due to a premonition, Alberto didn’t want to drive [the motorcycle nicknamed “La Poderosa,” “The Mighty One”], so I sat up front though we only did a few kilometers before stopping to fix the failing gearbox. A little further on, as we rounded a tight curve at a good speed, the screw came off the back brake, a cow’s head appeared around the bend, then many, many more of them, and I threw on the hand brake which, soldered ineptly, also broke. For some moments I saw nothing more than the blurred shape of cattle flying past us on each side, while poor Poderosa gathered speed down the steep hill. By an absolute miracle we managed to graze only the leg of the last cow, but in the distance a river was screaming toward us with terrifying efficacy. I veered on to the side of the road and in the blink of an eye the bike mounted the two-meter bank, embedding us between two rocks, but we were unhurt.

…. [W]e were put up by some Germans who treated us very well. During the night I had a bad case of the runs and, being ashamed to leave a souvenir in the pot under my bed, I climbed out on to the window ledge and gave up all my pain to the night and blackness beyond. The next morning I looked out to see the effect and saw that two meters below lay a big sheet of tin where they were sun-drying their peaches; the added spectacle was impressive. We beat it fast.—Ernesto “Che” Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries


Janus, the Roman God of Beginnings and Transitions

Janus, the Roman God of Beginnings and Transitions

For many years now, I have had a habit during the month of January of reading only those books written by authors I have never read before. Here are some of the discoveries I have made in past years:

2001 – Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World
2002 – Lieut Col F M Bailey, Mission to Tashkent
2003 – Orhan Pamuk, My Name Is Red
2004 – William Hazlitt, Essays
2005 – Michael Cunningham, The Hours
2006 – Victor Segalen, René Leys
2007 – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
2008 – Simon Sebag Montefiore, In the Court of the Red Tsar
2009 – Mischa Glenny. The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers 1804-1999
2010 – Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (I didn’t want to be the only person in America who hadn’t read this book)
2011 – Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
2012 – W G Sebald, Vertigo
2013 – Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate

Now these books may not mean much to you, but for an adventurer in reading such as myself, they were real milestones. Beginning in 2008, you might see an Eastern European element creeping in. That’s because, as I age, I see myself more and more as an Eastern European.

My Januarius is almost over for 2013, though I still have 2-3 more books to read this month. We’ll see how far I get.

Fire and Ice

A Warehouse Fire in Chicago Presents Some Strange Contrasts

A Warehouse Fire in Chicago Presents Some Strange Contrasts

On one hand, we have global warming. We are already seeing shipping along the Arctic Sea north of Russia and Siberia. On the other, we can have some anomalies as the Chicago warehouse fire in single-digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures . The fire burns away amid ice and low temperatures.

It’s an interesting contrast. I don’t envy the firefighters, though, who get to choose between frostbite and severe burns.


Fairy Tales

Reading Fairy Tales Is Good For You!

Reading Fairy Tales Is Good For You!

This evening, I started reading a sale book I had downloaded onto my Kindle 2: It was Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants. I did not know it was a children’s book, or a fairy tale, but it was set in that twilight world of the Vikings and their Asatru gods. It was probably the best thing I could have read on this grim day of endlessly analyzing the investments of our largest client. I highly recommend it, as I recommend all fairy tales … because they help one do things that are extraordinary.

Years ago, there were published in England a series of fairy tale books edited by Andrew Lang. There were twelve of them in all, and all were identified by a color: Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, Pink, Grey, Violet, Crimson, Brown, Orange, Olive, and Lilac. All twelve are now in the public domain and available in cheap illustrated editions from Dover Publications. You can find them (along with other of Lang’s books) by clicking here and checking out the two pages that follow.

I own all twelve of the Lang books and frequently pick one up to read a fairy tale or two. Why should kids have all the fun?

The Proverbs of Hell

Blake’s Illustration

Blake’s Illustration

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plow.
Dip him in the river who loves water.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measur’d by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure.
All wholsom food is caught without a net or a trap.
Bring out number weight & measure in a year of dearth.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
A dead body revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set another before you.
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
Folly is the cloke of knavery.
Shame is Prides cloke.

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.
The fox condemns the trap, not himself.
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.
Let man wear the fell of the lion. woman the fleece of the sheep.
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.
The selfish smiling fool, & the sullen frowning fool shall be both thought wise, that they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once only imagin’d.
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbet; watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse, the elephant, watch the fruits.
The cistern contains: the fountain overflows.
One thought fills immensity.
Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth.
The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.
The fox provides for himself. but God provides for the lion.
Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.
He who has suffer’d you to impose on him knows you.
As the plow follows words, so God rewards prayers.
The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.
Expect poison from the standing water.
You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
Listen to the fools reproach! it is a kingly title!
The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the beard of earth.
The weak in courage is strong in cunning.
The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow; nor the lion, the horse, how he shall take his prey.
The thankful reciever bears a plentiful harvest.
If others bad not been foolish, we should be so.
The soul of sweet delight can never be defil’d.
When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius. lift up thy head!
As the catterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.
To create a little flower is the labour of ages.
Damn braces: Bless relaxes.
The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest.
Prayers plow not! Praises reap not!
Joys laugh not! Sorrows weep not!—from William Blake, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”


Yummy! Fried Brains!

Some Days You Just Can’t Describe in Any Other Way

Some Days You Just Can’t Describe in Any Other Way

Today was the most brutal day of tax season so far. In addition to continuing securities analysis on our biggest client, there were a half dozen 1099s to print, tax returns on partnerships and fiduciaries (neither of which entity types I understand), installation of a new version of our tax program, filing our 4th quarter 2012 payroll tax returns to the IRS and California Employment Development Department, and miscellaneous other administrative duties. The net result: At least another half day or more tomorrow just finishing up today’s work.

In the next three months, there will more more days like this. I just want to hang it up, go home, eat dinner, drink some iced tea, and finish reading Jason Goodwin’s Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire.

There will be better days to come. And there will be worse days. May the latter be few and may they pass quickly.