Homer Explains How We Ended Up With Kim Kardashian

The Homeric texts–the Iliad and the Odyssey–are foundational texts regardless of how Westerners feel about them. They are much like the Ramayana or the Mahabharata in that they are troubling reminders of a past when violence was glorified. (The present, for argument’s sake, has amazingly subtle ways of justifying violence while simultaneously condemning it.)

So, let’s think for a moment what the larger, meta issues, of the Homeric texts are?

It’s okay to be a colossal douche bag so long as you’re good at killing (Achilles)?

But, if you’re an Asian, even if you’re a dutiful son, honorable husband and loyal brother, you’re going to die a horrible death and have your body dishonored after death (Hector).

Of course it’s also okay to while your way across the world for years and abandon your wife and son. Moreover, it’s okay to murder your wife’s maids as a way of torturing them to make sure she has remained chaste while you were gallivanting across the globe screwing just about any witch, woman or whore in your path (Odysseus)?

No wonder Western Civilization is fucked.

We took a wrong turn at the very beginning and now we’re stuck with Kim Kardashian.

Narrative is Dead, Long Live Narrative!

Question posed in the New York Times a few days ago:

“If life is messy and unpredictable, and documentary is a reflection of life, should it not be digressive and open-ended too?”

Simple answer: no.

Longer answer for those with a more philosophical nature: humans evolved to tell stories, to create narrative. Narrative, I believe, more than just about anything else in life, gives us meaning.

Vulgar answer for the bloggerati: fuck that post-modern anti-intellectual, anti-artistic bullshit excuse that you’re too fucking cool to narrate a story because you’re an over-educated fuckwit.

Narrative is not dead.

That would be your imagination.

West Nile Virus and Blue Jays

West Nile Virus VictimThe most common fatalities of the West Nile Virus are not humans, but birds. All too often since the virus entered the United States whole flocks of corvids have been eviscerated.

This Blue Jay–from our back yard–died from West Nile Virus two months ago. Most of our ten strong scold, the collective noun used for a group of Blue Jays, died this summer from the disease. Those who did not die were driven off by a stronger, younger scold of jays, only to catch the disease and then die.

The symptoms of West Nile Virus in Jays and other Corvids are such:

Birds do not usually show signs of infection until the last stage of the disease, which is encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. An infected bird may appear drowsy, be unable to fly or walk properly; it may even have problems standing upright

Further, Blue Jays are known to be able to fly while very sick if they start from high in a tree, but cannot fly off from the ground, appear dazed and confused. One neighbor reported a bird falling dead right out of the sky.

Indeed, we have very few Blue Jays left.

This is sad, they are fun birds with big, inquisitive characters. We named most of them, got to know them well. We fed them every day. They knew our patterns and would squawk at us or chatter with us when they were hungry or just wanted to show off.

Jays are my favorite birds. One of the first encounters I ever had with a bird was with a Mexican Jay in Big Bend National Park. I spent hours driving across the Valley this spring looking for the elusive Brown Jay. The raucous calls and shenanigans of Green Jays are impossible to beat once you’ve seen them, looking as they do like a Blue and Green Groucho Marx:
Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas)
And at Yosemite I saw a Steller’s Jay for the first time. A true high altitude beauty.

Now, here in our yard there are no more birds, except for the ugly and over-proliferating White-winged Dove to take the old family’s place. A few Jays linger, but they don’t know us and we don’t know them yet. Hopefully the disease will pass with the coming of fall and cooler weather. Until then, I won’t be investing in the habits of our back yard friends.

The Heat

Austin via South CongressThis week it’s been solidly above 100* every day. It’s the first week of September. The worst week in central Texas if you ask me. The anticipation for the inevitable cold front has been building since the first week of August. The front normally arrives second or third week of September, but until it does it’s like a fever-pitch of expectations, hair trigger tempers and outright frustration.

For me there are always a few barely discernible hints that the heat will soon break. First, the humidity evaporates under a dry wind.

Check.

Second, in the mornings, no matter the temperature–this morning was 77*, for example–there is a slight breeze, cooler because it lacks the humidity of high summer, even if the afternoon heat is withering as today it most certainly will be.

Check.

Lastly, the Earth wobbles on its axis. That’s what creates the seasons. And with that wobble comes a change in the color and clarity of the light.

Not yet.

So, I wait. Today it will be 106*. That’s hot for any month, but for early September it’s almost unbearable.