Daemones Angelique

The demons are more beautiful than angels.
They have no qualms of plastic surgery.
Their hair is stylish. They need not wear white.
Their black survives through Labor day and Easter.
Their wings swing into vogue as a tattoo.
Their gossamer a thread in cashmere suits.
They are well-spoken every Sunday morning.

The demons wear the angel wings in church.
They name-drop Yahweh and they reassure
And promise to deliver you from Evil
And poverty. Good deeds they charge you with
Minister to the very wish for good.
They shirk the menial. They are more pretty

And more real than the beings whose soft robes
They crib and don from our ancestral dreams.
They wear the halos, for they have no fear
Of seeming vain in such a church as yours
Where you can drop all charges on the heavens.
Blessed is the Lord's ventriloquist.


There are fun exploitable ambiguities, like how Russian Romani činel means both "cut down, mow" and "write." Or how English "enjoin" means itself and its opposite.

But then there are ambiguities that confuse me, make it impossible to know what you mean, and generally leave me feeling like a caveman trying to decide between cellphone providers. I submit that if you're writing about the languages of the balkans, you should just never use the word "Romanophone." That word means a) a speaker of a Romance language, b) a speaker of the Romanian language, c) a speaker of Romani, d) a speaker of Latin.

Any and all of these could come into play, in any and all combinations, when you're writing about Balkan languages. There have been people whose ancestors spoke Romance but now do not e.g. the Pannonians. There are the Albanians whose ancestors were bilingual in Latin at one point, but instead of switching to Latin like the ancestors of the Romanians, became monolingual in their local language. There are people in the Balkans, and in Romania even, who speak Romance languages other than Romanian. There have been Istroromanian-speaking Roma....

Why would you ever use the word "Romanophone" in this context unless you were secretly hoping that your ideas would remain a secret? Unless you were, say, trying to avoid taking a position as to whether Istroromanian, Aromanian and Meglenoromanian are separate languages from Romanian, the use of this word is about as graceful as a concussed ox trying to help a toddler rewire a fusebox.


When ideology is your alpha and your omega, when you are willing not only to believe an ideology but believe in it, abiding any charismatic charlatan or intellectual hipster if it will be of service not necessarily to the world but to the worldview, sacrificing intellectual rigor and moral instinct if need be, you are developing the capacity to feel like you have more important things to care about than a little bit of evil visited upon the innocent. When you yield all deeper moral interrogation to the demands of pure ideology, you are setting yourself up to behave sooner or later as an intellectual cripple and a smaller human being.

A curious irony

For Marx and Engels, Russia was the reactionary behemoth and America was the great hope of liberation. This is not something they teach you at school. In either country.

A Strange Case

The tale of Zionism and Fascism in the pre-war 30s is a weird, unpleasant and contradictory one. Parts of it have been told well enough, but not the whole. Very different historians have had very different ways of telling it very badly. This is in part because it is hard to see clearly when your view is obstructed by an enormous axe which you are forced to grind.

A good comprehensive book on this topic is sorely needed in a western language. It would need to take fascism into account for what it genuinely was: the only genuinely new political ideology of the 20th century, which influenced a broad array of movements with its centripetal power.

It would have to be written by somebody more interested in what actually happened rather than in either vilifying or beatifying the modern State of Israel. Somebody who couldn't be dragooned onto either side of the polemic war of attrition that has slowly engulfed all discussions of the history of Zionism. Somebody with a fanatical devotion to historical truth. Somebody able and willing to conduct tedious archival research in at least seven languages.

Good luck finding that somebody anywhere in the historiographic landscape of today.

Obi Wanna Go Craycray

I do not think Obi Wan is well. In Star Wars IV, he looks at R2D2 and says "I don't seem to remember ever owning a droid." I contend that this is a sign that he was coming undone, and was only saved from the more obvious signs of psychotic senility by Vader's murder. If you cannot remember the droid who saved your life on multiple occasions, you are very near that climactic moment where you will be seen dropping your pants in the poultry aisle of your local grocery store and proudly declaring yourself to be a poached egg.

Genesis, by Francis Carsac

By Francis Carsac
Translated from French by A.Z. Foreman

The ship circled the planet for the seventh time: vast desolate expanses, tremendously stirless mountains, empty plains. A lifeless and absolutely sterile world, it seemed, much like its only moon which had already been visited. There remained the seas.

The ship landed, and the exploratory pod disappeared into the surge of indefatigable waves licking the beach's pale sand. A few hours later, the skipper recorded the sensor reports: no trace of life, however small, could be detected in the wind-churned mass of liquid. The ocean nonetheless contained — in appreciable quantity — complex carbon compounds actinically synthesized under the young sun's rays.

The astronaut recorded in his log: "Star Z-221 — 44-767. Planet 3. Sterile. After spectroscopic examination of the sun it is safe to conclude for certain that the stage where life might have arisen has already passed. Other planets in the system are either too far or too near the sun. Average mineral wealth. System of no interest. Not to be revisited."

He carefully emphasized the final words.

"Great Thyophan," he sighed "those bumptious morons on the General Galactic Committee should understand once and for all that no expedition has ever once encountered life this far from the center! There must be something these stars at the periphery just don't have. Meanwhile the Exploration Service is sending poor guys like us out for months and years to do the work of biologists!"

On the beach, something seemed to be moving in the surf. Could the auto-analyzer have been mistaken? He stepped out to check, without his suit —which would be useless in this nontoxic atmosphere — with a simple respirator on his face. Sterile air, at any rate. Absolutely sterile. He took a few steps onto the beach, thinking: these will be the first and the last footprints ever to mark this sand. All that was floating in the spume was a mucus of organic compounds in which the detector could not, even at close range, discern any sign of life. Then, his mind now at ease and full of contempt, he spat into the sea.


Pour la septième fois, l’astronef fit le tour de la planète : de vastes étendues désolées, des chaînes de montagnes formidablement immobiles, des plaines vides. Un monde sans vie, absolument stérile, semblait-il, comme son unique satellite, déjà visité. Restaient les mers.

L’astronef se posa, et, dans le déferlement inlassable des vagues qui léchaient le sable pâle de la plage disparut la torpille d’exploration. Quelques heures plus tard, le chef de bord enregistra le rapport des appareils : pas la moindre trace de vie n’avait pu être décelée, si infime soit-elle, dans cette masse liquide qu’agitait le vent. Cet océan contenait pourtant, et en quantité appréciable, des composés carbonés complexes, synthétisés par l’action actinique des rayons du jeune soleil.

Au journal de bord, l’astronaute consigna : « Étoile Z-221 – 44-767. Planète III. Stérile. L’examen du spectre de son soleil permet de conclure avec certitude que le stade où la vie aurait pu apparaître est déjà dépassé. Quant aux autres planètes, elles sont ou trop loin ou trop près du soleil. Richesses minérales moyennes. Système sans intérêt. À ne pas revisiter. »

Soigneusement, il souligna les derniers mots.

« Grand Thyophan, soupira-t-il. Ces imbéciles prétentieux du Comité Central Galactique devraient bien finir par comprendre que jamais aucune expédition n’a rencontré de vie si loin du Centre ! Il doit manquer quelque chose à ces soleils de la Périphérie. Et nous, pauvres bougres du Service d’Exploration, on nous expédie au loin pendant des mois et des années, pour faire le travail des biologistes ! »

Sur la grève, quelque chose sembla bouger, dans le ressac. L’analyseur automatique se serait-il trompé ? Il sortit pour vérifier, sans scaphandre, inutile dans cette atmosphère non toxique, un simple respirateur sur le haut de la face. Un air stérile, en tous cas. Absolument stérile. Il fit quelques pas sur la plage, pensant : les premiers et les derniers qui se marqueront jamais dans ce sable. Dans l’écume flottait seulement une glaire de composés organiques dans laquelle le détecteur ne put, à bout portant, déceler trace de vie. Alors, la conscience tranquille et plein de mépris, il cracha dans la mer.