Heroes and Monsters

Heroes and Monsters:

After an encouragement posted here some time ago, I decided to find a copy of Beowulf for reading. The first copy I found was an audio-book at a local library, a recent edition translated and read by Seamus Heaney. More recently, I have been able to find a text version of the same translation, with the Anglo-Saxon text set out alongside the translation.

There's a lot that could be said; I'll simply say that I loved it.

The story-telling sometimes rushes, sometimes wanders, and sometimes takes unexpected side-turnings. But when it is read aloud by a competent poet and story-teller like Heaney, it comes alive in the listener's mind. As the story draws towards its ending, the listener is filled with awe at the life and death of Beowulf.

One of the interesting parts of the story is contained in who and what Beowulf fights. He is a powerful wrestler, very capable with spear and sword, and must have fought fellow-men many times in the wars between the Geats, Frisians, Danes, and Swedes. But the poem doesn't mention these fights. All of the important feats of Beowulf that are mentioned are struggles against monstrous evil.

This makes Beowulf's deeds stand out in sharp relief; he is a mighty warrior against the demonic evil of Grendel, the hideous strength of Grendel's mother, and the fiery danger of a dragon. These examples of courage allow Beowulf to become more than an example of a particularly good warrior for his tribe. They make him into an example for a much wider audience.

I suspect this is why the story survived in the form it did, and why it is still capable of enthralling readers and listeners.

A surprising aside along the way: I have learned that Beowulf was a curiousity for historians and scholars of the Anglo-Saxon language for several centuries after its re-discovery. In the 1930's, a watershed lecture by scholar J.R.R. Tolkien changed this radically, by insisting that Beowulf was important first as a work of art. Some say that the old Anglo-Saxon poem would not be read widely today if Tolkien had not delivered that lecture.

At minimum, I suspect that there are echoes of Beowulf in the works of Tolkien. Which should make re-reading Tolkien's works much more interesting.
"There is nothing on this Green Earth..."

Ok, gents, you got my attention with that one.

Army Strong (streaming video)

Better than the last slogan, that's for sure.



I love a clever man, even one on the other side:

Thirty illegal entrants were found in a vehicle that had been made up to look like a U.S. Border Patrol transport van, authorities said.
They got caught on the Tohono O'odham reservation by Border Patrol Agents. No doubt it was because the Indians called to complain about an unauthorized incursion by the Feds.

Good work, in any event. Even a clever coyote is still a coyote.

Internet gambling

...In Which Grim Defends Somebody:

The Corner is right enough about the internet gambling bill. Hat tip, again, InstaPundit.

What is the value of gambling ? Here is the value. Some human beings enjoy doing it. Shouldn't that be our principle? If individuals like doing something and they harm no one, we will allow them to do it, even if other people disapprove of what they do.
Well, I could be making a good living at internet gambling, if it weren't for my sentiment against breaking the law. I've always done well at poker, and would be only too glad to spend my days relieving the willing of excess cash.

Well, maybe Frist is right after all... I end up doing something useful, instead of gambling all the day and night. Hm. @#$@#$@! I can't even rightfully complain about it, can I? @#%@##@$@!


Kain-Tuck in Iraq:

Our friends at Military.com have this story about Kentucky tankers in Iraq. When we bought the Kentucky land from the Cherokee, who fought there with Creek and Shawnee, they told us we were buying a "dark and bloody ground." It's still poor country, but beautiful.

So may Iraq be, in time -- and perhaps not even poor. Worth remembering what we've done, given how many people have opinions on what we can't do.

Join Resistance

Join the Resistance:

The Geek has some thoughts, based on an National Review piece by Dave Kopel. "The Resistance," like the general militia, is made up of each one of us who intends that no evil should take place in his presence -- and keeps to hand the means to stop it.

BATF ethics

Say it Ain't So, Joe:

Ethics violations at the BATF? Who'd have ever suspected such a thing?


Pilsner & American Brew:

An interesting book review disputes the history of American beer. As this is a topic of keen interest to many of us, I refer you to it.

Bless Texas

Bless Texas:

Now this is a good news story. (Via InstaPundit.)

Police said the 14-year old had gone home sick from school when the suspect broke in and threatened the boy and his mother with a knife. He tied them up, but they broke free, they grabbed a gun, and the 14-year-old fired through a crack in the door, killing the alleged burglar.
That's a boy who was raised properly, at least in certain key points. Brave, smart, wise with weapons, and bearing a certain basic sense for tactics as well. Good for him.

Here's the reaction from the 'jury pool' of neighborhood peers:
As you can imagine residents living in the area are shocked an incident like this could happen so close to their homes.

Neighbors told 6 News that although this is not a "high crime" area, most have their own story to tell about a break-in or something similar. Quite a few of them are telling us they support the boy for his actions.
I'm not sure how "shocked" goes with "but we all have stories like that." I am sure how "we all have stories like that" goes with "we support the heroic boy."

We had an incident like this when I was growing up, when a pair of young boys (twelve, if I recall) were coming back from target shooting on the farm, only to find their house being robbed. The robbers shot at them, so the boys returned fire, to the detriment of the criminals.

I suspect the late Col. Cooper would be proud.


Pillars of Government Week, II:

Cassandra's second part, on the legislature, is here.


Pillars of Government Week, I:

Cassandra of Villanious Company, who sometimes blogs here as well, has decided to take a whole week to respond to "Time for a Change." She wishes to explore some of the ideas in greater detail than a single post. This is surely a useful undertaking given the depth of problems discussed and the seriousness of the proposed remedies.

Part I is here, and treats something I didn't examine in detail at all -- the question of the military's stability and force structure.


The AP on the DPRK:

Associated Press headlines are normally mildly anti-administration, but today's leading pair are the opposite. Consider:

Bush: World leaders united over N. Korea

Democrats assail Bush's N. Korea policy

Got it. "World leaders" are united... but the Democrats are totally opposed. I guess that explains things.



I've been expecting a DPRK nuclear test for years -- guess it took them this long to get the tech right. There was no doubt they'd test one when they had one to test.

Now that they've got it, what to do with it? Reports suggest it's too big for their missiles, and they can't launch their long-range missiles without obvious preparation anyway. They could, though, sell the design.

Kim Myong Chol, considered by most an unofficial spokesman for the DPRK goverment, says here that the weapons won't be used for bargaining. They'll be used on the Continential US, to turn our cities into infernos.

The DPRK has always been given to bluster on that score. On the other hand, we have no reason to trust them except contempt for their capabilities. That is, it's not that we don't believe they mean us harm -- it's that we don't believe, even now, they have a real capacity.

Still, the ability to sell the weapons is enough. Either we take the DPRK down now, or we commit ourselves to a containment model that means giving China everything it wants from us in the near future. After all, China controls the main border. We need their cooperation to contain the DPRK's nuclear weapons and secrets.

So -- fight or commit to an alliance with China? I guess we'll see soon.

Some Links of a Sunday:

Greyhawk has started an interesting discussion of the problem of momentum, in Iraq and Afghanistan. See the comments. Good stuff.

Captain's Quarters points to another government injustice against a woman. It doesn't involve a death sentence, but in two ways it is actually worse than the Iranian women: First, it's our government doing the wrong, and we ought to expect more of America than we do of Iran.

Second, the woman herself has done nothing wrong at all. In fact, the government's only complaint against her is that her husband, an American military contractor and US citizen, died fighting our war.

brain Waves

Brain Waves:

Does this mean that we could bombard Iraq with magnetic waves -- in theory, I mean, not in practice -- and eliminate suicide bombing? Get people to put aside their anger, and start thinking rationally?

And if it does mean that, is that a good or bad thing? Extra points for Serenity references, but what if it really worked? No reavers -- and no real change in the subject's emotional structure -- just shutting down the part of the brain that would cause them to choose the harm?

I keep wanting to say that it's a bad thing anyway -- improper meddling with the natural human freedom to make up your own mind. I think that's the proper position rationally. Yet, emotionally, thinking of the harm averted... So, would the magnetic waves make me more inclined to support banning the use of those waves, or less so? And is a choice made under such circumstances legally or morally binding -- e.g., does it fall in contract law under the prohibition against "compulsion," since it's only getting you to choose what's in your rational best interest?

Fascinating new world we're building.