Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Sound and fury, signifying nothing

Back in 2007, a Taiwanese mother hired me to coach her eight-year-old son, who was preparing for an English recitation contest in which he was to recite two texts -- a soliloquy from Macbeth and some sententious glurge from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The mother stressed that understanding was not important. So long as her son could rattle off the two pieces fluently, with flawless pronunciation, she could care less whether he could tell "the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand" from "the way to dusty death." We worked hard. Within the limits of my commission, I thought I'd done a pretty bang-up job, and when the day of the recitation contest arrived, he delivered his text with impeccable consonants and stirringly simulated conviction -- all perfect until he came to the end:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound financial structure,
Whether in government, business, or personal affairs.

He was heartily applauded by the audience of parents, who of course didn't know what he'd just said any better than he did, and ended up taking second place. Somehow I managed to keep a straight face throughout.

I've always liked to think my old friends the synchronicity fairies had a hand in that particular error, plugging a line of Junior's pompous fluff into the slot marked "sound and fury, signifying nothing."

This memory recently came back to smack me upside the head. Somehow, by slow degrees and without fully realizing it, I have been allowing the media to recolonize my mind, to such an extent that today I caught myself thinking with excited anticipation that tomorrow was September 29. What I was anticipating was, not to put too fine a point on it, the prospect of watching two disgusting old liars have a lying contest on television -- and the angel on my shoulder, who is not above resorting to sarcasm, snapped me out of it by whispering, "Yes, and it's sure to be 'full of sound financial structure'!"

Macbeth's soliloquy may be a bit bleak as an assessment of life, but it's turned out to be a pretty accurate description of the Fake Media World. The main difference, of course, is that the FMW offers up nothing so innocent as a tale told by an idiot. It's a tale told by evil liars, and if you willingly give it one second of your time, the idiot is you.

And so I repent, recommit to not drinking one single drop of their stinking Kool-Aid, and turn back to reality.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; --
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

-- William Wordsworth

Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.

-- James Joyce

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Ace of Cups: A brief overview of its development

Pierpont Morgan-Bergamo, Cary-Yale, Marseille, Rider-Waite

The cards pictured above are representative of the different forms the Ace of Cups has taken over the years in Italy, France, and England. None is a straightforward representation of a cup.

The Pierpont Morgan-Bergamo card depicts a fountain. The main body of it resembles a goblet, but there is a column rising up from the center of this cup, supporting a head with two or more spouts from which water flows down into the cup, and this head is topped with a sculpture of a bird of some kind. This is certainly not the sort of thing that anyone could lift to his lips and drink from. If the lower basin were a bit wider, it would look like the sort of bronze fountain that might serve as a garden ornament; but perhaps the narrowness of the basin is simply an artifact of the shape of the card. The whole thing almost makes me think of a samovar, though of course no real samovar is designed like that.

The Cary-Yale and Marseille cards share the same basic design: a large goblet covered with a complicated structure resembling a castle or cathedral. I have not been able to find pictures of any real objects quite like the one depicted on these cards, but the Spanish chalice and monstrance shown below, both in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, come close.

Spanish chalice and monstrance (late 15th century)

The chalice, on the left, is apparently almost unique; at any rate, I have not been able to find any other example of a chalice with a cover at all similar to that seen on the Marseille Ace of Cups. (Chalices don't normally have covers at all; any object that looks like a covered chalice is likely a ciborium, for holding hosts.) The monstrance, on the right, is one of a large number of similar objects, and its resemblance to the object on the Ace of Cups is obvious. The rub, of course, is that it's not a cup and lacks any cup-like component. (The purpose of a monstrance is to display some holy item, in this case the Eucharistic host.) If we took the top part of the monstrance and used it as a cover for the chalice, then we'd have something almost exactly like the Marseille Ace of Cups. I have not been able to find any examples of such an object, but apparently there is such a thing as a combined chalice-monstrance, with the monstrance doing double duty as the cover for the chalice. The photo below shows such an object, though the style of the monstrance is quite different from that seen on the card.

I think we must conclude, then, that the version of the Ace of Cups seen in the Cary-Yale and Marseille decks is a chalice with a cover serving as a monstrance. Both cards clearly show windows in the sides of the object, allowing for the display of the host, and the yellow circles in some of the windows on the Marseille card were perhaps originally Communion wafers.

Despite the fact that the Cary-Yale and Marseille cards show what seems clearly to be a Eucharistic chalice, which should contain wine, both appear to contain water instead. A blue squiggle is visible in the window in the Cary-Yale card, and the Marseille card features what I take to be three gouts of blue water spurting out of the chalice portion of the object. As far as I know, while it is customary to add some water to the sacramental wine, a chalice would never normally be filled with water alone.

Waite, ever the eclectic, alludes to both the Pierpont Morgan-Bergamo and the Marseille cards. The basic Pierpont Morgan-Bergamo layout -- a cup-shaped fountain with a bird at the top -- is reinterpreted in light of the Eucharistic imagery of the Tarot de Marseille. What was a mere birdbath ornament on the Italian card is transformed by Waite into the dove of the Holy Ghost, descending toward the chalice with a consecrated host in its bill. This is fairly common iconography -- see the First Communion clipart below -- but it was a stroke of inspired genius on Waite's part to hit on it as a way of uniting the Italian fountain and the French monstrance in a single image.

Despite this very explicit Eucharistic imagery, though, it is still water, rather than wine or blood, that pours from the chalice. The water issues in four or five streams (five on the card, four in Waite's description in the Pictorial Key; it is unclear which is the error), the shape of which makes it clear that they come from a fountain and not simply from an overflowing cup.

A dove hovering over water calls to mind the baptism of Jesus, and it is perhaps not a coincidence that Jesus connected his baptism with drinking from a cup: "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" (Mark 10:38). Another scriptural allusion would be to the "living water" of the Fourth Gospel: "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).

An open letter to Mel Gibson

Dear Mr. Gibson,

In light of the new Oscar rules, which exclude from consideration for Best Picture films involving too many people of the bad race and the bad sex if these people also exhibit normal sexual identity and attraction, here's what you need to do:

  1. Announce to the world that you are now a "trans woman."
  2. Change absolutely nothing.
  3. Respond with righteous indignation to anyone who dares to criticize you in any way.

You're a top-notch actor. You can pull this off.

Your name will still be Mel. That's an easy one, since it's a unisex name anyway.

Your pronouns (and possessive determiner) will still be he/him/his. Anyone who dares to make any sarcastic remarks about this is a hate-filled bigot. Remember, their position has never been that "trans women" must be referred to in the feminine, but rather that every person has a God-given right to choose their own preferred pronouns, or even make up new ones, and to insist that everyone else use them. For a "woman" to transgressively appropriate these traditionally masculine pronouns is actually stunning and brave and makes you sort of like Jackie Robinson. In lieu of pronouns, request that all news media say "Mel Gibson, who is a woman" in their first reference.

Wear the same sort of clothing and hairstyle you've always worn. What are your critics going to do about it? Say that a woman can't be a real woman unless she (or he!) has long hair and wears a dress?

Keep your beard and genitalia, and don't submit to any cosmetic surgery or meddling with your endocrine system. If anyone asks you about this, look them in the eye and say, "Are you implying that my having a penis somehow makes me less of a woman? What's next? Saying that a woman can't have a Y chromosome?" This will, believe it or not, count as a reductio ad absurdum.

If anyone brings up your history of transphobic comments (I'm sure you've said something, right? You're Mel Gibson!) as if that were somehow proof of your insincerity, point out that, as everyone knows, anti-QWERTY bigotry is a reliable sign of being a closeted QWERTY oneself and that you are now ready to come out of the closet. Come on, haven't these people ever seen American Beauty? What do they teach kids in schools these days?

If anyone asks if you ever experienced gender dysphoria or felt as if you had been born into the wrong body, go nuclear: "Absolutely not, and I find it offensive in the extreme that you would equate trans identity with a psychological disorder! There's no wrong way of being trans, and cis people who attempt to pathologize our identity or impose a monolithic narrative on us need to check their privilege."

If you stand firm, never break character, and gaslight long enough and hard enough, I really think you could convince the media and everyone else to pretend with great earnestness to believe you're sincere. And then when the time is right, perhaps after you've landed another Oscar or two, you can finally deliver the punchline and go down in history as the greatest troll that ever lived.

Think about it.

All the best,

William James Tychonievich

Thursday, September 24, 2020

OK, synchronicity fairies, now you're just showing off!

These things happen to other people
They don't happen at all, in fact

-- They Might Be Giants

Shortly after 6:00 yesterday evening, I was teaching an English class and noticed that two of the students were wearing Snoopy T-shirts -- but, while one of these T-shirts said "Peanuts," the other read "Penuats." Any English speaker who was in Taiwan 10 or 15 years ago will be familiar with this sort of thing -- we used to call them Taiwanagrams -- but they're much less common nowadays. I wouldn't normally risk embarrassing someone by commenting on such things in public, but I knew the "Penuats" student well and knew he would get a kick out of it, so I pointed it out. I told them, as I have just told you, that such things used to be much more common in the good old days and gave an example. Any number of examples would have served -- I could have mentioned "Kine" sportswear, say, or the amazing "Spired-Nam," or even my T-shirt that reproduces the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Fight Like a Brave" album cover with every word scrambled ("Dre Tho Chlii...") -- but the one I happened to choose was a T-shirt I had seen and photographed in a night market well over a decade ago, which had a picture of Mickey Mouse and the word "Kicmey."

Today I checked my email and found a message that had been sent at 4:02 a.m. -- less than 10 hours after I had told my students about "Kicmey" Mouse. Here it is:

Yes, I do own that image. I took it at a night market in Huwei, Taiwan, in 2005 or thereabouts, as I was just telling my students 10 hours before receiving this email! I posted it on Flickr back then, when Flickr was a thing. I haven't touched Flickr since 2007, and the photo is no longer available, but somehow or other this Jane character, searching for content related to Mickey Mouse (322 million Google hits), found it -- apparently by way of the Norwegian-language Wikipedia page for "Anagram," which uses it.

So, of all the long-defunct gin joints on all the websites on all the Internet, she walks into mine? And then asks to use my photo within 10 hours of my telling the story of how I took it? What are the odds?

Is this the kernel from which On Stranger Tides grew?

There is a scene in the Tim Powers novel On Stranger Tides in which Woefully Fat -- a gigantic Jamaican voodoo sorcerer who happens to be deaf -- is escorted by a naval officer and several armed sailors into the Maritime Law and Records Office, much to the surprise of the pen-pushers working there.

One of the clerks, prodded forward by his white-haired superior, approached the group. "Wh-what are you doing here?" he quavered. He stared in horror up at Woefully Fat. "What d-do you want?"

The Navy officer started to speak, but Woefully Fat's earthquake-rumble voice easily overrode him. "Ah'm deaf, Ah cain't hear," the bocor announced.

The clerk paled and turned to his superior. "Oh, my God, sir, he says he's going to defecate here!"

This is so indescribably perfect that it must have been planned well in advance. Surely the whole purpose of the Maritime Law and Records Office scene is to allow these lines to be uttered. Very likely Woefully Fat himself, a fairly major character, was created in order that a clerk could mishear him announcing that he was going to defecate in the Maritime Law and Records Office. Possibly the entire plot, and the whole pirates-who-do-voodoo premise, was created as a backdrop for this one perfect scene.

Tolkien is supposed to have said that he wrote The Lord of the Rings simply to create a world in which someone could say "A star shines on the hour of our meeting." I propose that Tim Powers wrote On Stranger Tides simply to create a world in which someone could say, "Oh, my God, sir, he says he's going to defecate here!"

Update (July 3, 2021): Mr. Powers has contacted me and confirmed that my speculation was "exactly right."

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Life and Vita, Square and Compass, ROTA

Trigger warning: Mormon temple symbolism discussed (but no covenants of secrecy violated). Also, I use the word Mormon. Mormon, Mormon, Mormon!

Some years ago I wrote a post (qv) about the marks on the breasts of the Garment of the Holy Priesthood, which officially represent the Masonic square and compass but in fact look like the letters L and V. I proposed the hypothesis (which I still stand by) that the resemblance was deliberate and that, in addition to the Masonic meaning, the breast marks stood for Lux and Veritas -- a Latin translation, current in Joseph Smith's New England, of the biblical Hebrew terms Urim and Thummim. (The Urim and Thummim were worn in the breastplate of the high priest, just as the breasts are pricked with the square and compass in a Masonic initiation.) In that post I mentioned in passing one of my earlier fancies about the meaning of the L and the V.

The fact is, the Garment marks don’t look like a square and a compass (though one can see the resemblance once it has been explained). They look like the letters L and V. As an uninitiated teenager, I always thought of them as standing for the words life and vita. (The words came from Vita Adae et Evae, a pseudepigraphical work I had read in translation as Life of Adam and Eve. I knew that the Mormon temple ritual dealt with the life of Adam and Eve, so I suppose that’s why I made the connection.)

I should emphasize that I "thought of them as" standing for life and vita -- not that I ever believed that they might in fact stand for those words. When I was a toddler and still somewhat uncertain as to which shoe went on which foot, my parents resorted to writing a big R in sharpie on the sole of one sneaker and an L on the other -- and so every time I put on my shoes I thought to myself "Roar, lions!" (or, if I happened to pick up the left shoe first, "Lions, roar!"). Of course I knew that the letters in fact stood for right and left, but that knowledge did nothing to break the fanciful association with lions roaring. In much the same way, every time I was on laundry duty and had to fold my parents' temple Garments, I always thought to myself "Life, vita" even though the letters obviously couldn't actually mean that. I mean, what would be the point of representing the same word twice, in two different languages?

The other day I happened to be searching archive.org for a particular, somewhat obscure Tarot-related text from the last century and eventually, way leading on to way as it does, found myself looking at the frontispiece of a certain Liber Θ, which appears to be some sort of Crowley-inspired revision of Golden Dawn material (it claims to be "a traditional instruction of the R.R. et A.C., revised and expanded"). This is the diagram I saw.

Life in the upper left, Vita in the upper right (okay, L·I·F·E· and V·I·T·A·; these Crowleyans and their magickal puncktuation!) -- corresponding precisely to the L and V on the Garment, which I had fancifully so interpreted in my teens. (The L is over the wearer's right breast, but is on the left to someone looking at the garment from the outside.)

Notice also that the word life is accompanied by the letter T, with right angles suggesting a square; and vita by a letter A so stylized as to suggest the Masonic compass, which is always open at an angle of 60 degrees. (Though this sort of thing of course varies from font to font, the letter A more usually has an angle of approximately 36 degrees, forming a golden rather than an equilateral triangle, as can be seen in the word VITA itself.)

This T and A are part of the word TARO/ROTA, to be read clockwise -- a motif, originating in Éliphas Lévi's interpretation of Guillaume Postel, on which I have posted quite a bit. This diagram offers yet another possible orientation of those four letters.

The choice to write it as TAPO -- with a Greek P rather than a Latin R -- is a strange one, since the Greek version of TARO/ROTA properly uses Ω rather than O. We thus have the reverse of the version used in the Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, which has a Latin R with a Greek Ω. (Even the Greek word βίος is written in Latin characters here -- inadvertently calling to mind a Basic Input/Output System! -- making the use of the Greek P even stranger.) At any rate, this anomalous spelling is fortuitous in the present context, since the two remaining marks on the Garment are the "navel mark" and the "knee mark" (the latter being esoterically located at the mouth). The letter O suggests the navel, both visually and by way of the Greek ὀμφαλός. P is ambiguous; as a Greek letter, it derives from the Semitic ר, meaning "head"; as a Latin letter, it comes from פ, "mouth."

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Jonesing for news

(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

-- Acts 17:21

In the past few days I keep catching myself checking the news and refreshing my social media feeds. Not literally, of course -- I don't read the news and don't have any social media feeds to refresh -- but doing the equivalent: checking the handful of blogs I read far more frequently than makes sense given that no one's been posting much recently, branching out to more frequently updated (and therefore lower-quality, newsier) blogs, checking my own blog for new comments, checking for responses to comments I've left elsewhere -- basically a slightly more respectable version of mainlining Farcebook. 

This is highly uncharacteristic behavior for me, and I'm not sure why I'm doing it. I have this persistent semi-conscious feeling that if I can just amass enough data -- new data, things I don't already know -- and organize and visualize it just so (I keep seeing mental images of extremely complicated color-coded maps), then -- I don't know, I'll be freaking enlightened or something. Everything will fall into place. Something Very Important will become clear.

At the same time, I find myself unable to write anything of substance. My drafts folder is full of beginnings of posts on a wide variety of  topics -- metaphysics, Tarot, the Bible, math, you know the kind of stuff I write -- but I just can't seem to work on any of them. It's a minor miracle I've managed to write, what is it, three whole paragraphs and counting on this post!

Always in the background is this feeling that I'm waiting for something, that Something Big is about to happen and I just have to maintain a holding pattern and wait for it to happen already before I can do anything else.

I wouldn't normally consider this "how I'm feeling today" kind of stuff to be worth posting, but I know that several of my pen friends and fellow bloggers have been feeling more or less the same way, which makes me think this is something bigger than my own psychology. What might that be? I wish I could tell you, but I'm still waiting dammit!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

No freedom, no stars!

An American politician is giving a speech. "If you're not a free state, you don't get a star on the flag. As simple as that!"

The crowd erupts into chants of "No freedom, no stars! No freedom, no stars!"

I think my dreaming mind has pretty accurately captured the niveau of contemporary politics.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

All in all, this monster ought not to have been made.

Early in my teaching career, one of my students wrote an essay on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the concluding sentences of which have stuck in my memory all these years: "All in all, this monster ought not to have been made. The maker is culpable of punishment."

I've always found that hilarious -- not because of the grammatical and stylistic infelicities ("culpable of punishment"), which are par for the course for a non-native speaker, but because of the content. Dr. Frankenstein's monster ought not to have been created. Ya think? In other news, Othello ought not to have murdered his wife and Humbert Humbert should probably, in my considered opinion, have kept his filthy mitts off Dolores Haze. Everyone takes it for granted that of course Frankenstein's monster was a Very Bad Idea, which is what makes writing an essay arguing the point -- and prefacing the conclusion with "all in all," as if some careful weighing of pros and cons were called for -- so funny.

But that was 15 years ago. Now it is, as we are so often reminded, the current year.

Monday, September 7, 2020

"Richard" Lattimore: most misprinted name ever

Back in 2011, after many years of reading works by (as I thought) the 20th-century classicist Richard Lattimore, I finally noticed that his name had actually been Richmond Lattimore all along. I posted about this at one of my old blogs, and I reproduce that post below.

Just yesterday I was looking at the cover of one of my books and noticed something funny. It was a volume of English translations of Euripides, edited by David Grene and Richard Lattimore -- only they had written his name as Richmond Lattimore, right there on the front cover! Then I looked at the back cover, and the title page, and a Sophocles book by the same editors -- and I found that, by golly, the guy's name actually was Richmond.

I read a lot of Greek literature in translation, and I must have seen Mr. Lattimore's name hundreds or even thousands of times before without ever once noticing that it wasn't Richard. They say the brain recognizes words mainly by how they begin and end (wcihh is why Esilgnh is slitl pltcefrey lbilege wehn you wtrie it lkie tihs), and I suppose the first time I encountered this particular name, my brain said something like, "R-I-C-something, ends with D -- okay, I know this one." After that, the more times I saw the name, and the more familiar it became, the more likely my brain would be to recognize it as a unit rather than actually reading it letter-by-letter and recognizing its mistake.

This isn't the first time this has happened to me. It was only last year that I discovered, much to my surprise, that Euripides himself was not called Euripedes -- this after reading about a dozen of his plays and writing extensively about him in a notebook.

When I was a child, I was once discussing the characters in a Tintin book with my sister, and she mentioned the name Spalding. I said, "Don't you mean Spadling?" She said she was pretty sure the character's name was Spalding, but I insisted: "No, it's Spadling -- you know, like the basketball brand!" -- at which point she went and got our Spalding basketball and showed it to me. You don't forget an embarrassing experience like that. (Years later I tried to correct the same sister, then a grad student in philosophy, for saying Leibniz instead of Liebniz. I should have learned my lesson the first time.)


I'm sure I'm not the only person who does this. Another childhood memory is of my father reading to us from The Lord of the Rings -- and always pronouncing Rohirrim as "Rohimmir" (though I can't be sure he thought it was spelled that way, I suppose). And I can't count how many times I've seen people list "Jane Austin" as a favorite author -- that is, an author whose name they must have seen written innumerable times and should be able to spell.

Some of these mistakes are pretty easy to understand. There are 200 Austins for every Austen in the most recent U.S. Census, and Richmond is so unusual as a Christian name that I can't even calculate how much less frequent it is than Richard, the seventh-most popular name for men in my country.

"Spadling," of course, is not a normal name at all, but the -ling ending is fairly common in English, and I suppose that's what my brain thought it recognized. It made the same mistake when I read Tolkien, reading Eorlingas as Eorlings. (I was really quite shocked to discover much later that the a had been there all along.) My father's own Rohan-related misreading is harder to understand, though, since -im as a suffix for the name of a people should seem quite natural to a Bible-reader, much more so than -ir.

"Euripedes" and "Liebniz" are also hard to understand. I guess a lot of Greek names end in -edes, like Archimedes and -- well, that's the only one that comes to mind. I think I have a reasonable guess for "Liebniz," though. My pre-teen philosophical education consisted of (1) reading everything Plato ever wrote, (2) reading everything Nietzsche ever wrote, and (3) nothing else. When I first encountered another German philosopher with a prominent ni-z in his name, my brain must have decided that ie was a more appropriate vowel than ei.

The strange thing about errors of this kind is how confident we are in them. I wasn't unsure about the names Spalding and Leibniz; I was confidently correcting people who pronounced them correctly! It's not that I was unsure of Mr. Lattimore's Christian name. If you had asked me two days ago, I would have said without hesitation, "Richard." And if you'd said, "Are you sure it isn't Richmond?" -- well, as they say, I could have sworn his name was Richard. Why? Because I'd seen his name so very many times, and every single time I saw it as Richard.

(Rereading this now, it occurs to me that "Richard" Lattimore probably counts as an instance of the so-called Mandela Effect -- that the same sort of mechanism must be behind some people's subjective certainty that the Berenstain Bears used to be the Berenstein Bears, or that the Fruit of the Loom logo used to feature a cornucopia.)

The Lattimore error was brought back to my attention recently when a commenter at the Junior Ganymede mentioned that Lawrence Auster had recommended "Richard" Lattimore's translation of the Iliad. (The error was the commenter's, not Auster's.) This made me wonder just how common a mistake this is.

Extremely common, it turns out.

Using Google Ngram Viewer, I searched for the two strings "David Grene and Richmond Lattimore" and "David Grene and Richard Lattimore." (Grene and Lattimore were the coeditors of a popular collection of Greek tragedies in translation. My reason for including Grene's name in the search string was to ensure that all the Richards I picked up were in fact errors for Richmond. There have surely been real people named Richard Lattimore, but I'm fairly confident none of them ever collaborated with David Grene.) You can see the Ngram results here. The chart below shows, for selected years from 1959 (when The Complete Greek Tragedies was published) to 2019, what percentage of the hits were for Richard rather than Richmond.

As you can see, in recent decades, an astonishing 20% of published references to Grene and Lattimore -- one in five! -- have mistakenly called the latter author "Richard." Keep in mind that we're using data from Google Books -- professionally published books, not the Internet.

For comparison, hits for "Jane Austen's Emma" outnumber "Jane Austin's Emma" 95 to 1. The other errors mentioned in my post above -- Euripedes, Liebniz, etc. -- also show an incidence rate of about 1%. (Although Lattimore's collaborator, David Grene, also had the sort of name that might often be misspelled, only about 10% of references mistakenly call him "Greene.")

"Richard" Lattimore is, by a remarkably wide margin, the most frequently misprinted name I have been able to find.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Another self-defeating logo from the Democrats

Remember Hillary Clinton's unintentionally prophetic logo from 2016?

The design immediately called to mind the toppling of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Later, on September 11, 2016, Clinton would physically fall down at a 9/11 memorial service, and in the early hours of the other 9/11 -- 9 November -- Donald J. Trump would be announced the winner of the election.

Red and blue symbolize the right and the left, respectively, in U.S. politics, and Clinton's logo inexplicably showed a red arrow pointing to the right, slashing through two blue towers. The two towers represent the two mainstream parties (one a bit to the right of the other, but both basically "blue" or leftist), and the red arrow is Trump.

This is just one of several examples of self-defeating symbolism used by the Clinton campaign in 2016. Another was the incredibly stupid choice to adopt a playing-card metaphor (the "woman card") in a fight against someone named Trump.

Whoever designs these logos appears to have learned nothing. Here's the logo for this year's Democratic National Convention.

You may have heard that the semi-legendary creatures known as white supremacists supposedly use the number 88 as one of their symbols -- said to represent "Heil Hitler" because H is the 8th letter of the alphabet. A longer version is 1488, with 14 representing some 14-word slogan these baddies are supposed to use. (If, in the spirit of 88, we replace letters with numbers, D.J. = 4 + 10 = 14, and Trump = 20 + 18 + 21 + 13 + 16 = 88, so the president's very name proves he's Literally Hitler.)

Where am I going with this? Well, the 20th letter of the alphabet is T -- so D20 = DT = Donald Trump.

Just as in 2016, the logo features an arrow pointing to the right, though this time they at least had the sense to make it blue rather than red. What's the arrow pointing to? A red two and a blue zero -- two terms for red Trump, and zero for blue Biden.

Five cornerstones

I recently received another batch of emails from a correspondent who keeps encountering repetitions of the number 5 (55, 555, etc.). This ma...