Monday, August 6, 2012

Xenophon: In Praise of Tyranny

The philosopher Xenophon  is a gateway or bridge between the Persian and Greco-Roman world.  

He was an essential political philosopher for ambitious empire building warlords going back to Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar and was required reading for the political elite until the obvious influence of the aristocracy fell out of favor about 100 years ago.  

If you ever wanted insight into the motivations of kings or emperors, or wondered why western civilization is built on a foundation of aggressive exploitation and criminality, follow the below linkz.  (You may also want to read Xenophon's works on Hunting and the Spartan Constitution - I haven't read them yet so I can't recommend them)

Cyropaedia :

"Cowherds are the rulers of their cattle, ...  They allow their keeper, moreover, to enjoy, just as he will, the profits that accrue from them. And then again, we have never known of a herd conspiring against its keeper, either to refuse obedience to him or to deny him the privilege of enjoying the profits that accrue. At the same time, herds are more intractable to strangers than to their rulers and those who derive profit from them.  

"But, father, what would be the best way to gain an advantage over the enemy?""By Zeus," said he, "this is no easy or simple question that you ask now, my son; but, let me tell you, the man who proposes to do that must be designing and cunning, wily and deceitful, a thief and a robber"

"...Shall we say that a man's enemies form part of his possessions?"

"Take my word for it; the fact is rather that the pleasures of the despot are far fewer than those of people in a humbler condition, and his pains not only far more numerous, but more intense."

"I highly approve of secret pickets and outposts… the holder of a concealed outpost can always place a few exposed vedettes beyond his hidden pickets, and so endeavour to decoy the enemy into an ambuscade. Or he may play the part of trapper with effect by placing a second exposed outpost in rear of the other; a device which may serve to take in the unwary foeman quite as well as that before named."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


The Gallic Wars (51 BC),  By Julius Caesar

So, what is there to learn from Julius Caesar?  Take Hostages!  Lot's of hostages.

"Caesar, though he discerned from what motive these things were said, and what circumstances deterred him from his meditated plan, still, in order that he might not be compelled to waste the summer among the Treviri, while all things were prepared for the war with Britain, ordered Indutiomarus to come to him with 200 hostages. When they were brought, [and] among them his son and near relations, whom he had demanded by name..."

The True History of the Conquest of New Spain (1568) ,  by Bernal Díaz del Castillo

So, what is there to learn from Díaz?  The secret coup d'etat.  

-And sometimes true lies make amazing adventure stories.

We staid four days in this place, and I shall never forget it on account of the immense sized locusts which we saw here. It was a stony spot on which the battle took place, and these creatures, while it lasted, kept continually flying in our faces; and as at the same moment we were greeted by a shower of arrows from the enemy, we also mistook these locusts for arrows. But, as soon as we had discovered our mistake, we deceived ourselves in another more direful way, for we now mistook arrows for locusts, and discontinued to shield ourselves against them. In this way we mistook locusts and arrows to our great sorrow, were severely wounded in consequence, and otherwise found ourselves in a very awkward predicament.” 

Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (1884), Complete by Ulysses S. Grant

So, what is there to learn from Grant?  Hire Mark Twain as a ghost writer.  

"My exploit was equal to that of the soldier who boasted that he had cut off the leg of one of the enemy. When asked why he did not cut off his head, he replied: "Some one had done that before.""

"ATTACKS!" (1937) Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel

So, what is there to learn from Rommel?  "Any offensive should combine much speed and violence."

Look for free downloads from neonazzzi sites.   

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SUPERNATURAL HORROR (proto-lovecraftian)

If you are a fan of HP Lovecraft, be sure to dig into his influences.  Here are a couple of my fav proto-Lovecraftian tales of suernatural horror.

The Hog (from the "Carnacki The Ghost-Finder" series)
This tale is completely bonkers absurd, and yet its carried off to a stunning success. 

'I had cleared the floor entirely, all but the exact centre where I had placed a glass-legged, upholstered table, a pile of vacuum tubes and batteries, and three pieces of special apparatus which my experiment required.
'"Now Bains," I called, "come and stand over here by this table. Don't move about. I've got to erect a protective 'barrier' round us, and on no account must either of us cross over it by even so much as a hand or foot, once it is built."
'We went over to the middle of the room, and he stood by the glass-legged table while I began to fit the vacuum tubing together round us.
'I intended to use the new spectrum "defense" which I have been perfecting lately. This, I must tell you, consists of seven glass vacuum circles with the red on the outside, and the colour circles lying inside it, in the order of orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

The Willows  by Algernon Blackwood
Lovecraft credits this story as the greatest piece fo super natural horror ever written.  It's damned good.  (hmmm maybe Ive posted this before?  If so, its worth posting again - its a must read)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Narrow Self Interest

"Unto This Last" (1860) John Ruskin

 "Unto This Last had a very important impact on Gandhi's philosophy...  Gandhi decided immediately not only to change his own life according to Ruskin's teaching, but ... translated Unto This Last into Gujarati in 1908 under the title of Sarvodaya ("well being of all"). "

So far as I know, there is not in history record of
anything so disgraceful to the human intellect as the modern idea
that the commercial text, "Buy in the cheapest market and sell in
the dearest," represents, or under any circumstances could
represent, an available principle of national economy.

Buy in the cheapest market? yes; but what made your market cheap? Charcoal
may be cheap among your roof timbers after a fire, and bricks may
be cheap in your streets after an earthquake; but fire and
earthquake may not therefore he national benefits.

Sell in the dearest? -- Yes, truly; but what made your market dear? You sold
your bread well to-day: was it to a dying man who gave his last
coin for it, and will never need bread more; or to a rich man who
to-morrow will buy your farm over your head; or to a soldier on
his way to pillage the bank in which you have put your fortune?
None of these things you can know. One thing only you can
know: namely, whether this dealing of yours is a just and
faithful one, which is all you need concern yourself about
respecting it; sure thus to have done your own part in bringing
about ultimately in the world a state of things which will not
issue in pillage or in death.

And thus every question concerning
these things merges itself ultimately in the great question of


"War is a Racket" (1935) retired U.S. Marine Major General Smedley D. Butler.

It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war itself. This expenditure yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits. That is how the 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16,000,000,000 profits is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very few.

The State Department has been studying "for some time" methods of keeping out of war. The War Department suddenly decides it has a wonderful plan to spring. The Administration names a committee – with the War and Navy Departments ably represented under the chairmanship of a Wall Street speculator – to limit profits in war time. To what extent isn't suggested. Hmmm. Possibly the profits of 300 and 600 and 1,600 per cent of those who turned blood into gold in the World War would be limited to some smaller figure.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rough and Rowdy Ways

Roughing It - Mark Twain 1872

Rough-hewn humor about Salt Lake City (including a scathing account of the Mormons), gold and silver prospecting (insanely hard work), real-estate speculation (101 cons and swindles),  gunslingers (10 feet tall), stage coach rides (horrible), and a journey to Hawaii.  Hilarious.

Twain is a bad man.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mysteries of London

The Mysteries of London 1844

"Would you rush madly into a thicket where venomous reptiles abound?" demanded the Prince: "would you plunge of your own accord into a forest where the most terrible wild beasts are prowling?" would you, without a sufficient motive, leave the wholesome country and take up your abode in a plague stricken city?"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roots of Horror Classics

On the Nature of Things aka De rerum natura by Lucretius (1st century BC)

An epic poem on "superstition and the fear of death" and a magnificent invocation to Venus.

Lucretius was an epicurean atomicist. That means that the book has a very modern post enlightenment take on the universe. The Universe is infinite and empty. WHen you die, you die... that it. Everything is going to die, the earth will die, the universe is going to die... There is no god. THe universe works by atoms smashing into each other in an infinite variation. etc.

the Book seems like a major inspiration for Darwinism and Relativity. Its the foundation of western science. No wonder the Christians outlawed all Philosophical schools in the 6th century.

Aside from meditating on the horrors of deep space and inspiring all sorts of dark twisted writers. The book also meditates on the beauty of nature and love. It would be easy to trace the roots of the entire Romantic poetry movement to this book. Walt Whitmans poetry style seems heavily influenced by this book. THe mix of Romaticism and horror seems to have been a big influence on Novalis's Romantic Nocturn.


The Faerie Queene (1596) by Edmund Spenser

the longest poem in the English language... hear that you rappers... go!

THe book mixes Orlando Epic inspired action with Dante's inferno style horror and morality. It smells like a major influence on Poe and Lewis Carrols Jabberwockey Poem. -Also the Goblin Market poem I recommended earlier. Spencer is a well known influence on Shakespeare, for whatever thats worth.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Horror


by Algernon Blackwood

H.P. Lovecraft considered it to be the finest supernatural tale in English literature.

The Yellow Wallpaper 1892

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

"one of the finest, and strongest, tales of horror ever written. It may be a ghost story. Worse yet, it may not"

The Beckoning Fair One 1911

by Oliver Onions

"widely regarded as one of the best in the genre of horror fiction, especially psychological horror...

The story can be read as narrating the gradual possession of the protagonist by a mysterious and possessive feminine spirit, or as a realistic description of a psychotic outbreak culminating in catatonia and murder, told from the sufferer's point of view...

Another theme is a connection between creativity and insanity; in this view, the artist is in danger of withdrawing from the world altogether and losing himself in his creation."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blood and Thunder

Salammbô (1862) by Gustave Flaubert

"An exercise in sensuous and violent exoticism" - About the Mercenary Revolt against Carthage in the third century BC.

I would describe this book as a mix of pulp action plotting and ornate literary embellishment. As if Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni painted a Conan the Barbarian comic book.


Benvenuto Cellini (November 3, 1500 – February 13, 1571)

The illest autobiography in history. Cellini studies under Michelangelo and wins the favor of the Pope and the King of France with his sculpture and gold work. But Cellini cant help but drive all that good will into the dirt with outrageous bloodthirsty criminality, and paranoid delusional behavior. What Cellini admits in his autobiography is shocking, and his obvious lies are shocking; for example, when Cellini is shooting birds off the pope's window sill for "target practice" he is obviously threatening the pope with assassination.

from wikipedia:

Cellini's autobiographical memoirs, which he began writing in Florence in 1558, give a detailed account of his singular career, as well as his loves, hatreds, passions, and delights, written in an energetic, direct, and racy style. They show a great self-regard and self-assertion, sometimes running into extravagances which are impossible to credit. He even writes in a complacent way of how he contemplated his murders before carrying them out.

"When certain decisions of the court were sent me by those lawyers, and I perceived that my cause had been unjustly lost, I had recourse for my defense to a great dagger I carried; for I have always taken pleasure in keeping fine weapons. The first man I attacked was a plaintiff who had sued me; and one evening I wounded him in the legs and arms so severely, taking care, however, not to kill him, that I deprived him of the use of both his legs. Then I sought out the other fellow who had brought the suit, and used him also such wise that he dropped it."

Parts of his tale recount some extraordinary events and phenomena; such as his stories of conjuring up a legion of devils in the Colosseum, after one of his not innumerous mistresses had been spirited away from him by her mother; of the marvelous halo of light which he found surrounding his head at dawn and twilight after his Roman imprisonment, and his supernatural visions and angelic protection during that adversity; and of his being poisoned on two separate occasions.

Tales from the Dark Ages

The Kalevala

An Epic poem about Väinämöinen, a shamanistic hero with the magical power of songs and music. He is born of the primeval Maiden of the Air and contributes to the origin of Earth.

from Finnish and Karelian folklore in the nineteenth century - compiled by Elias Lönnrot

The Mabinogion

pre-Christian Iron Age Celtic mythology, international folktale motifs, and early medieval historical traditions.

Compiled by Lady Charlotte Guest in the mid 19th century.