The Voice before the Void: Arcana, Story, Poetry

Sep 14 2020 14 mins 1.7k

Presentations of Poems, Stories, and Arcana – Poetry is the most important thing in life; weird fiction is the most fun thing in life; esoterica is the most exciting thing in life. Divine the darkness.

“HP Lovecraft’s Madness” by P. Djéli Clark
Aug 20 2019 27 mins  
H.P. Lovecraft’s Birthday: Explicit. Message sent to P. Djéli Clark, 2019 August 14: The skinny: Hello. May I record this excellent blogpost for my podcast? A handful of listeners. Non-monetized. The phonorecord copyright would be designated to you and myself. A bit more: I was looking for something to record to release in commemoration of Lovecraft’s birthday (as I have done in previous years because I enjoy some of his stories, particularly for the ideals of cosmic horror), but something that addresses directly his racism. Lovecraft is prominently associated with racism. Consumption, but particularly dissemination, of the work ought to address the racism. I recently revisited and found that it is hidden behind a sign-up wall. Ten years ago, it was not. To wit: “IMPORTANT: Please write a FULLY FORMED & COMPLETE English sentence (6+ words) about your Cthulhu/HPL/Tabletop gaming interests. Don’t fail on this step. This is a critical spam filter.” The intense tone aroused my suspiciousness; is that really about spam? I fell to wondering what else it could be about. I wondered: did that British gaming website get trolled by folks (those they would consider outsiders: non-Lovecraft fans) calling them racists? I have no basis and no conclusions. But anyway, I typed “racism” into’s search box and found a forum post that included a link to your blogpost. I apologize for not being familiar with other of your work. I really like this blogpost. The quotations land with impact. (Were these pulls from Lovecraft’s correspondence taken from the volumes that Joshi put together?) This made me laugh out loud: “Or there’s the, ‘well we have to separate his personal life from his works’ defense. Yes, because as writers we slip out of skin, wipe our brains blank and pluck ideas from some non-personal non-reality based ether.” The tone of the post is keen and its message is direct and I like it. As I was reading your post, my mind flicked to when I first encountered, in Hughes, reference to the paradox that some of the greatest writers in history on the subject of human liberty also owned other human beings, and then you referenced the paradox. “Conflicting. Vexing. Dubois. Double-consciousness. All that.” It’s important to discuss all this. Thank you for your writing. I appreciate the links at the end of the post to posts by other writers on the same subject; all worthy reading. Thank you for your consideration, VbV “HP Lovecraft’s Madness” from The Disgruntled Haradrim, 2013 May 3 P. Djéli Clark Text © copyright 2013 by P. Djéli Clark.

“World Contact Day” from Wikipedia
Mar 15 2018 2 mins  
March 15 is World Contact Day. “World Contact Day” Wikipedia World Contact Day was first declared in March 1953 by an organization called the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB), as a day on which all IFSB members would attempt to send a telepathic message into space. The IFSB voted to hold such a day in 1953, theorising that if both telepathy and alien life were real, a large number of people focussing on an identical piece of text may be able to transmit the message through space. IFSB members focused on the following message during 1953: “Calling occupants of interplanetary craft! Calling occupants of interplanetary craft that have been observing our planet EARTH. We of IFSB wish to make contact with you. We are your friends, and would like you to make an appearance here on EARTH. Your presence before us will be welcomed with the utmost friendship. We will do all in our power to promote mutual understanding between your people and the people of EARTH. Please come in peace and help us in our EARTHLY problems. Give us some sign that you have received our message. Be responsible for creating a miracle here on our planet to wake up the ignorant ones to reality. Let us hear from you. We are your friends.” The message is referenced in the song “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft,” recorded in 1976 by Klaatu and later covered by The Carpenters. On the event’s 60th anniversary, World Contact Day was extended to a whole week.

“Vagabond House” by Don Blanding
Feb 21 2018 11 mins  
A popular poem. “Vagabond House” Don Blanding edited by The Voice before the Void When I have a house . . . as I sometime may . . . I’ll suit my fancy in every way. I’ll fill it with things that have caught my eye In drifting from Iceland to Molokai. It won’t be correct or in period style, But . . . oh, I’ve thought for a long, long while Of all the corners and all the nooks, Of all the bookshelves and all the books, The great big table, the deep, soft chairs, And the Chinese rug at the foot of the stairs; It’s an old, old rug from far Chow Wan That a Chinese princess once walked on. My house will stand on the side of a hill By a slow, broad river, deep and still, With a tall lone pine on guard near by Where the birds can sing and the stormwinds cry. A flagstone walk, with lazy curves, Will lead to the door where a Pan’s head serves As a knocker there, like a vibrant drum, To let me know that a friend has come; And the door will squeak as I swing it wide To welcome you to the cheer inside. For I’ll have good friends who can sit and chat Or simply sit, when it comes to that, By the fireplace where the fir logs blaze And the smoke rolls up in a weaving haze. I’ll want a woodbox, scarred and rough, For leaves and bark and odorous stuff Like resinous knots and cones and gums, To chuck on the flames when winter comes; And I hope a cricket will stay around, For I love its creaky, lonesome sound. A long low shelf of teak will hold My best-loved books in leather and gold, While magazines lie on a bowlegged stand In a polyglot mixture close at hand. I’ll have on a table a rich brocade That I think the pixies must have made, For the dull gold thread on blues and grays Weaves a pattern of Puck–the Magic Maze. On the mantlepiece I’ll have a place For a little mud god with a painted face That was given to me . . . oh, long ago, By a Philippine maid in Olongapo. Then–just in range of a lazy reach– A bulging bowl of Indian beech Will brim with things that are good to munch– Hickory nuts to crack and crunch, Big fat raisins and sun-dried dates And curious fruits from the Malay Straits, Maple sugar and cookies brown, With good hard cider to wash them down, Wine-sap apples, pick of the crop, And ears of corn to shell and pop With plenty of butter and lots of salt– If you don’t get filled it’s not my fault. Pictures . . . I think I’ll have but three: One, in oil, of a wind-swept sea With the flying scud and the waves whipped white– (I know the chap who can paint it right) In lapis blue and deep jade green– A great big smashing fine marine That’ll make you feel the spray in your face– I’ll hang it over my fireplace. The second picture–a freakish thing– Is gaudy and bright as a macaw’s wing– An impressionist smear called “Sin,” A nude on a striped zebra skin By a Danish girl I knew in France. My respectable friends will look askance At the purple eyes and the scarlet hair, At the pallid face and the evil stare Of the sinister, beautiful vampire face. I shouldn’t have it about the place, But I like–while I loathe–the beastly thing, And that’s the way that one feels about sin. The picture I love the best of all Will hang alone on my study wall Where the sunset’s glow and the moon’s cold gleam Will fall on the face, and make it seem

The Most Spiritual Hollywood Movie: Groundhog Day, 1993, starring Bill Murray
Feb 01 2018 25 mins  
Groundhog Day: Enthusing over this film. Spoilers. -The Voice before the Void “Have to see it again.” The Most Spiritual Hollywood Movie: Groundhog Day, 1993, starring Bill Murray Fair use of copyrighted material is claimed under United States copyright law for not-for-profit purposes of commentary and education.   “Groundhog Day (film)” Wikipedia Interpretations and analysis The film is often considered an allegory of self-improvement, emphasizing that happiness comes from placing the needs of others above one’s own selfish desires. As the released film offers no explanation why the time loop occurs—or why it ends—the viewer is left to draw his or her own conclusions. Rubin has said that while he and Ramis discussed several of the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the film, they “never intended [it] to be anything more than a good, heartfelt, entertaining story”. “Groundhog Day”, as an expression, has become shorthand for the concept of spiritual transcendence. As such, the film has become a favorite of some Buddhists who see its themes of selflessness and rebirth as reflections of their own spiritual messages. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it has been seen as a representation of purgatory. “Connors goes to his own version of hell, but since he’s not evil it turns out to be purgatory, from which he is released by shedding his selfishness and committing to acts of love,” wrote Jonah Goldberg. “Meanwhile, Hindus and Buddhists see versions of reincarnation here, and Jews find great significance in the fact that Connors is saved only after he performs mitzvahs (good deeds) and is returned to earth, not heaven, to perform more.” It has even been described by some religious leaders as the “most spiritual film of our time”. “The curse is lifted when Bill Murray blesses the day he has just lived,” wrote the critic Rick Brookhiser. “And his reward is that the day is taken from him. Loving life includes loving the fact that it goes.” Theologian Michael P. Pholey, writing for Touchstone Magazine, commented on the difficulty of determining a single religious or philosophical interpretation of the film, given Ramis’s “ambiguous religious beliefs” as “an agnostic raised Jewish and married to a Buddhist”, and suggested that when not viewed through a “single hermeneutical lens”, the film could be seen as “a stunning allegory of moral, intellectual, and even religious excellence in the face of postmodern decay, a sort of Christian-Aristotelian Pilgrim’s Progress for those lost in the contemporary cosmos.” Others see an interpretation of Nietzsche’s directive to imagine life—metaphorically or literally—as an endless repetition of events. “How would this shape your actions?” asks Goldberg. “What would you choose to live out for all eternity?”   “Groundhog Almighty” Alex Kuczynski The New York Times 2003 December 7 Since its debut a decade ago, the film has become a curious favorite of religious leaders of many faiths, who all see in “Groundhog Day” a reflection of their own spiritual messages. Curators of the series, polling some 35 critics in the literary, religious and film worlds to suggest films with religious interpretations, found that “Groundhog Day” came up so many times that there was actually a squabble over who would write about it in the retrospective’s catalog. Harold Ramis, the director of the film and one of its writers, said last week that since it came out he has heard from Jesuit priests, rabbis and Buddhists, and that the letters keep coming. “At first I would get mail saying, ‘Oh, you must be a Christian, because the movie so beautifully expresses Christian beli...

“Frost at Midnight” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Jan 24 2018 4 mins  
Winter: A revery of a night wintry. -The Voice before the Void “Frost at Midnight” Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Frost performs its secret ministry, Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before. The inmates of my cottage, all at rest, Have left me to that solitude, which suits Abstruser musings: save that at my side My cradled infant slumbers peacefully. ‘Tis calm indeed! so calm that it disturbs And vexes meditation with its strange And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood, This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood, With all the numberless goings-on of life, Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not; Only that film, which fluttered on the grate, Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing. Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature Gives it dim sympathies with me who live, Making it a companionable form, Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit By its own moods interprets, every where Echo or mirror seeking of itself, And makes a toy of Thought. But O! how oft, How oft, at school, with most believing mind, Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars, To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower, Whose bells, the poor man’s only music, rang From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day, So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear Most like articulate sounds of things to come! So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt, Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams! And so I brooded all the following morn, Awed by the stern preceptor’s face, mine eye Fixed with mock study on my swimming book: Save if the door half opened, and I snatched A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up, For still I hoped to see the stranger’s face, Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved, My play-mate when we both were clothed alike! Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side, Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm, Fill up the intersperséd vacancies And momentary pauses of the thought! My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart With tender gladness, thus to look at thee, And think that thou shalt learn far other lore, And in far other scenes! For I was reared In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim, And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars. But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds, Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible Of that eternal language, which thy God Utters, who from eternity doth teach Himself in all, and all things in himself. Great universal Teacher! he shall mould Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask. Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee, Whether the summer clothe the general earth With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall Heard only in the trances of the blast, Or if the secret ministry of frost Shall hang them up in silent icicles, Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

“The Snow-Shower” by William Cullen Bryant
Jan 07 2018 4 mins  
What darker? -The Voice before the Void “The Snow-Shower” William Cullen Bryant Stand here by my side and turn, I pray, On the lake below, thy gentle eyes; The clouds hang over it, heavy and gray, And dark and silent the water lies; And out of that frozen mist the snow In wavering flakes begins to flow; Flake after flake They sink in the dark and silent lake. See how in a living swarm they come From the chambers beyond that misty veil; Some hover awhile in air, and some Rush prone from the sky like summer hail. All, dropping swiftly or settling slow, Meet, and are still in the depths below; Flake after flake Dissolved in the dark and silent lake. Here delicate snow-stars, out of the cloud, Come floating downward in airy play, Like spangles dropped from the glistening crowd That whiten by night the milky way; There broader and burlier masses fall; The sullen water buries them all– Flake after flake– All drowned in the dark and silent lake. And some, as on tender wings they glide From their chilly birth-cloud, dim and gray, Are joined in their fall, and, side by side, Come clinging along their unsteady way; As friend with friend, or husband with wife, Makes hand in hand the passage of life; Each mated flake Soon sinks in the dark and silent lake. Lo! while we are gazing, in swifter haste Stream down the snows, till the air is white, As, myriads by myriads madly chased, They fling themselves from their shadowy height. The fair, frail creatures of middle sky, What speed they make, with their grave so nigh; Flake after flake, To lie in the dark and silent lake! I see in thy gentle eyes a tear; They turn to me in sorrowful thought; Thou thinkest of friends, the good and dear, Who were for a time, and now are not; Like these fair children of cloud and frost, That glisten a moment and then are lost, Flake after flake– All lost in the dark and silent lake. Yet look again, for the clouds divide; A gleam of blue on the water lies; And far away, on the mountain-side, A sunbeam falls from the opening skies, But the hurrying host that flew between The cloud and the water, no more is seen; Flake after flake, At rest in the dark and silent lake.

“Tobogganing” by Hattie Howard
Dec 15 2017 2 mins  
Winter: All downhill. -The Voice before the Void “Tobogganing” Hattie Howard Oh, the rare exhilaration, Oh, the novel delectation Of a ride down the slide! Packed like ice in zero weather, Pleasure-seekers close together, On a board as thin as wafer, Barely wider, scarcely safer, At the height of recreation Find a glorious inspiration, Ere the speedy termination In the snowy meadow wide, Sloping to the river’s side. Oh, such quakers we begin it, Timorous of the icy route! But to learn in half a minute What felicity is in it, As we shoot down the chute, Smothered in toboggan suit, Redingote or roquelaure, Buttoned up (and down) before, Mittens, cap, and moccasin, Just the garb to revel in; So, the signal given, lo! Over solid ice and snow, Down the narrow gauge we go Swifter than a bird o’erhead, Swifter than an arrow sped From the staunchest, strongest bow. Oh, it beats all “Copenhagen,” Silly lovers’ paradise! Like the frozen Androscoggin, Slippery, and smooth, and nice, Is the track of the toboggan; And there’s nothing cheap about it, Everything is steep about it, The insolvent weep about it, For the biggest thing on ice Is its tip-top price; But were this three times the money, Then the game were thrice as funny. Ye who dwell in latitudes Where “the blizzard” ne’er intrudes, And the water seldom freezes; Ye of balmy Southern regions, Alabama’s languid legions, From the “hot blast” of your breezes, Where the verdure of the trees is Limp, and loose, and pitiful, Come up here where branches bare Stand like spikes in frosty air; Come up here where arctic rigor Shall restore your bloom and vigor, Making life enjoyable; Come and take a jog on The unparalleled toboggan! Such the zest that he who misses Never knows what perfect bliss is. So the sport, the day’s sensation, Thrills and recreates creation.

“The Star-Treader” by Clark Ashton Smith
Nov 24 2017 8 mins  
Categorically weird poetry. -The Voice before the Void “The Star-Treader” Clark Ashton Smith I A voice cried to me in a dawn of dreams, Saying, “Make haste: the webs of death and birth Are brushed away, and all the threads of earth Wear to the breaking; spaceward gleams Thine ancient pathway of the suns, Whose flame is part of thee; And deeps outreach immutably Whose largeness runs Through all thy spirit’s mystery. Go forth, and tread unharmed the blaze Of stars where through thou camest in old days; Pierce without fear each vast Whose hugeness crushed thee not within the past. A hand strikes off the chains of Time, A hand swings back the door of years; Now fall earth’s bonds of gladness and of tears, And opens the strait dream to space sublime.” II Who rides a dream, what hand shall stay! What eye shall note or measure mete His passage on a purpose fleet, The thread and weaving of his way! It caught me from the clasping world, And swept beyond the brink of Sense, My soul was flung, and poised, and whirled, Like to a planet chained and hurled With solar lightning strong and tense. Swift as communicated rays That leap from severed suns a gloom Within whose waste no suns illume, The wingèd dream fulfilled its ways. Through years reversed and lit again I followed that unending chain Wherein the suns are links of light; Retraced through lineal, ordered spheres The twisting of the threads of years In weavings wrought of noon and night; Through stars and deeps I watched the dream unroll, Those folds that form the raiment of the soul. III Enkindling dawns of memory, Each sun had radiance to relume A sealed, disused, and darkened room Within the soul’s immensity. Their alien ciphers shown and lit, I understood what each had writ Upon my spirit’s scroll; Again I wore mine ancient lives, And knew the freedom and the gyves That formed and marked my soul. IV I delved in each forgotten mind, The units that had builded me, Whose deepnesses before were blind And formless as infinity— Knowing again each former world— From planet unto planet whirled Through gulfs that mightily divide Like to an intervital sleep. One world I found, where souls abide Like winds that rest upon a rose; Thereto they creep To loose all burden of old woes. And one I knew, where warp of pain Is woven in the soul’s attire; And one, where with new loveliness Is strengthened Beauty’s olden chain— Soft as a sound, and keen as fire— In light no darkness may depress. V Where no terrestrial dreams had trod My vision entered undismayed, And Life her hidden realms displayed To me as to a curious god. Where colored suns of systems triplicate Bestow on planets weird, ineffable, Green light that orbs them like an outer sea, And large auroral noons that alternate With skies like sunset held without abate, Life’s touch renewed incomprehensibly The strains of mirth and grief’s harmonious spell. Dead passions like to stars relit Shone in the gloom of ways forgot; Where crownless gods in darkness sit The day was full on altars hot. I heard—once more a part of it— The central music of the Pleiades, And to Alcyone my soul Swayed with the stars that own her song’s control. Unchallenged, glad I trod, a revenant In worlds Edenic longly lost; Or walked in spheres that sing to these, O’er space no light has crossed,

“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” from Wikipedia
Nov 01 2017 7 mins  
Halloween: The interesting story of Poe’s excellent story. -The Voice before the Void “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” Wikipedia “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” is a short story by American author Edgar Allan Poe about a mesmerist who puts a man in a suspended hypnotic state at the moment of death. An example of a tale of suspense and horror, it is also, to a certain degree, a hoax, as it was published without claiming to be fictional, and many at the time of publication (1845) took it to be a factual account. Poe toyed with this for a while before admitting it was a work of pure fiction in his marginalia. Analysis Poe uses particularly detailed descriptions and relatively high levels of gore in “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” displaying his own studies of medical texts. Valdemar’s eyes at one point leak a “profuse outflowing of a yellowish ichor,” for example, though Poe’s imagery in the story is best summed up in its final lines: “… his whole frame at once — within the space of a single minute, or even less, shrunk—crumbled—absolutely rotted away beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before that whole company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome—of detestable putrescence.” The disgusting imagery almost certainly inspired later fiction, including that of H.P. Lovecraft. These final lines incorporate shock, disgust, and uneasiness into one moment. The ending may also suggest that attempts to appropriate power over death have hideous results and are bound to be unsuccessful. Jeffrey Meyers notes that “Valdemar” may be roughly translated as “valley of the sea,” perhaps suggesting both solid and liquid states, as emphasized in the imagery deployed as Valdemar’s body goes from its normal solid state to liquid in the final lines. Poe typically uses teeth to symbolize mortality, as with “sepulchral and disgusting” horse’s teeth in “Metzengerstein,” the obsession with teeth in “Berenice,” and the sound of grating teeth in “Hop-Frog.” Valdemar’s death by tuberculosis, and the attempts to postpone his death, may have been influenced by the experiences of Poe’s wife, Virginia. At the time the story was published, she had been suffering from tuberculosis for four years. Poe’s extreme detail in “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” may have been based on Virginia’s suffering. Additionally, Poe may have been inspired by Andrew Jackson Davis, whose lectures on mesmerism he had attended. Valdemar’s death, however, is not portrayed sentimentally as Poe’s typical theme of “the death of a beautiful woman” portrayed in other works such as “Ligeia” and “Morella.” In contrast, the death of this male character is brutal and sensational. Publication history While editor of The Broadway Journal, Poe printed a letter from a New York physician named Dr. A. Sidney Doane that recounted a surgical operation performed while a patient was “in a magnetic sleep”; the letter served as inspiration for Poe’s tale. “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” was published simultaneously in the December 20, 1845, issue of the Broadway Journal and the December 1845 issue of American Review: A Whig Journal—the latter journal used the title “The Facts of M. Valdemar’s Case.” It was also republished in England, first as a pamphlet edition as “Mesmerism in Articulo Mortis” and later as “The Last Days of M. Valdemar.” Reception and critical response Many readers thought that the story was a scientific report. Robert Collyer, an English magnetic healer visiting Boston, wrote to Poe saying that he himself had performed a similar act to revive a man w...

“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” by Edgar Allan Poe
Oct 27 2017 25 mins  
Halloween: A classic, celebrated, unusual horror story. -The Voice before the Void “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” Edgar Allan Poe Of course I shall not pretend to consider it any matter for wonder, that the extraordinary case of M. Valdemar has excited discussion. It would have been a miracle had it not — especially under the circumstances. Through the desire of all parties concerned, to keep the affair from the public, at least for the present, or until we had farther opportunities for investigation — through our endeavors to effect this — a garbled or exaggerated account made its way into society, and became the source of many unpleasant misrepresentations; and, very naturally, of a great deal of disbelief. It is now rendered necessary that I give the facts — as far as I comprehend them myself. They are, succinctly, these: My attention, for the last three years, had been repeatedly drawn to the subject of Mesmerism; and, about nine months ago, it occurred to me, quite suddenly, that in the series of experiments made hitherto, there had been a very remarkable and most unaccountable omission: — no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis. It remained to be seen, first, whether, in such condition, there existed in the patient any susceptibility to the magnetic influence; secondly, whether, if any existed, it was impaired or increased by the condition; thirdly, to what extent, or for how long a period, the encroachments of Death might be arrested by the process. There were other points to be ascertained, but these most excited my curiosity — the last in especial, from the immensely important character of its consequences. In looking around me for some subject by whose means I might test these particulars, I was brought to think of my friend, M. Ernest Valdemar, the well-known compiler of the “Bibliotheca Forensica,” and author (under the nom de plume of Issachar Marx) of the Polish versions of “Wallenstein” and “Gargantua.” M. Valdemar, who has resided principally at Harlem, N. Y., since the year 1839, is (or was) particularly noticeable for the extreme spareness of his person — his lower limbs much resembling those of John Randolph; and, also, for the whiteness of his whiskers, in violent contrast to the blackness of his hair — the latter, in consequence, being very generally mistaken for a wig. His temperament was markedly nervous, and rendered him a good subject for mesmeric experiment. On two or three occasions I had put him to sleep with little difficulty, but was disappointed in other results which his peculiar constitution had naturally led me to anticipate. His will was at no period positively, or thoroughly, under my control, and in regard to clairvoyance, I could accomplish with him nothing to be relied upon. I always attributed my failure at these points to the disordered state of his health. For some months previous to my becoming acquainted with him, his physicians had declared him in a confirmed phthisis. It was his custom, indeed, to speak calmly of his approaching dissolution, as of a matter neither to be avoided nor regretted. When the ideas to which I have alluded first occurred to me, it was of course very natural that I should think of M. Valdemar. I knew the steady philosophy of the man too well to apprehend any scruples from him; and he had no relatives in America who would be likely to interfere. I spoke to him frankly upon the subject; and, to my surprise, his interest seemed vividly excited. I say to my surprise; for, although he had always yielded his person freely to my experiments, he had never before given me any tokens of sympathy with what I did. His disease was of that character which would admit of exact calculation in respect to the epoch of its termination in death; and it was finally arranged between us that he would send for me about twenty-four hours before the period announced by his physicians as that ...

“In a Canoe” by Windham Wyndham-Quin
Sep 22 2017 5 mins  
Autumn. Adventure. -The Voice before the Void “In a Canoe” from The Great Divide Windham Wyndham-Quin, 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl Among all the modes of progression hitherto invented by restless man, there is not one that can compare in respect of comfort and luxury with travelling in a birch-bark canoe. It is the poetry of progression. Along the bottom of the boat are laid blankets and bedding; a sort of wicker-work screen is sloped against the middle thwart, affording a delicious support to the back; and indolently, in your shirt sleeves if the day be warm, or well covered with a blanket if it is chilly, you sit or lie on this most luxurious of couches, and are propelled at a rapid rate over the smooth surface of a lake or down the swift current of some stream. If you want exercise, you can take a paddle yourself. If you prefer to be inactive, you can lie still and placidly survey the scenery, rising occasionally to have a shot at a wild duck; at intervals reading, smoking, and sleeping. Sleep, indeed, you will enjoy most luxuriously, for the rapid bounding motion of the canoe as it leaps forward at every impulse of the crew, the sharp quick beat of the paddles on the water, and the roll of their shafts against the gunwale, with the continuous hiss and ripple of the stream cleft by the curving prow, combine to make a most soothing soporific. Dreamily you lie side by side—you and your friend—lazily gazing at the pine-covered shores and wooded islands of some unknown lake, the open book unheeded on your knee; the half-smoked pipe drops into your lap; your head sinks gently back; and you wander into dreamland, to awake presently and find yourself sweeping round the curve of some majestic river, whose shores are blazing with the rich crimson, brown, and gold of the maple and other hardwood trees in their autumn dress. Presently the current quickens. The best man shifts his place from the stern to the bow, and stands ready with his long-handled paddle to twist the frail boat out of reach of hidden rocks. The men’s faces glow with excitement. Quicker and quicker flows the stream, breaking into little rapids, foaming round rocks, and rising in tumbling waves over the shallows. At a word from the bowman the crew redouble their efforts, the paddle shafts crash against the gunwale, the spray flies beneath the bending blades. The canoe shakes and quivers through all its fibres, leaping bodily at every stroke. Before you is a seething mass of foam, its whiteness broken by horrid black rocks, one touch against whose jagged sides would rip the canoe into tatters and hurl you into eternity. Your ears are full of the roar of waters; waves leap up in all directions, as the river, maddened at obstruction, hurls itself through some narrow gorge. The bowman stands erect to take one look in silence, noting in that critical instant the line of deepest water; then bending to his work, with sharp, short words of command to the steersman, he directs the boat. The canoe seems to pitch headlong into space. Whack! comes a great wave over the bow; crash! comes another over the side. The bowman, his figure stooped, and his knees planted firmly against the sides, stands, with paddle poised in both hands, screaming to the crew to paddle hard; and the crew cheer and shout with excitement in return. You, too, get wild, and feel inclined to yell defiance to the roaring, hissing flood that madly dashes you from side to side. After the first plunge you are in a bewildering whirl of waters. The shore seems to fly past you. Crash! You are right on that rock, and (I don’t care who you are) you will feel your heart jump into your mouth, and you will catch the side with a grip that leaves a mark on your fingers afterwards. No! With a shriek of command to the steersman, and a plunge of his paddle, the bowman wrenches the canoe out of its course. Another stroke or two,

“Despair” by H.P. Lovecraft
Aug 20 2017 3 mins  
H.P. Lovecraft’s Birthday: Herald now the autumnal season of death, darkness, and Halloween. -The Voice before the Void “Despair” H.P. Lovecraft O’er the midnight moorlands crying, Thro’ the cypress forests sighing, In the night-wind madly flying, Hellish forms with streaming hair; In the barren branches creaking, By the stagnant swamp-pools speaking, Past the shore-cliffs ever shrieking, Damn’d demons of despair. Once, I think I half remember, Ere the grey skies of November Quench’d my youth’s aspiring ember, Liv’d there such a thing as bliss; Skies that now are dark were beaming, Bold and azure, splendid seeming Till I learn’d it all was dreaming — Deadly drowsiness of Dis. But the stream of Time, swift flowing, Brings the torment of half-knowing — Dimly rushing, blindly going Past the never-trodden lea; And the voyager, repining, Sees the wicked death-fires shining, Hears the wicked petrel’s whining As he helpless drifts to sea. Evil wings in ether beating; Vultures at the spirit eating; Things unseen forever fleeting Black against the leering sky. Ghastly shades of bygone gladness, Clawing fiends of future sadness, Mingle in a cloud of madness Ever on the soul to lie. Thus the living, lone and sobbing, In the throes of anguish throbbing, With the loathsome Furies robbing Night and noon of peace and rest. But beyond the groans and grating Of abhorrent Life, is waiting Sweet Oblivion, culminating All the years of fruitless quest.

“Pag Triangle” from Wikipedia
Aug 15 2017 3 mins  
Mysteries are interesting. Also, aliens. -The Voice before the Void “Pag Triangle” Wikipedia Pag Triangle (Croatian: Paški trokut) is a land formation in the shape of an isosceles triangle located near Novalja, a small town on the Croatian island Pag. The triangle has one side measuring approximately 32 metres (105 ft) and two sides both measuring 22 metres (72 ft). It differs from the surrounding area in the fact that the rocks inside the triangle are of different structure than rocks outside the triangle. Croatian ufologist Stjepan Zvonarić believes it was the site of a UFO landing which heated the rocks to extreme temperatures in the past. This property is unique to the Pag Triangle rocks, and is not found in rocks in the surrounding area. Since its discovery in 1999, it is estimated that the Pag Triangle has been visited by over 500,000 tourists. It is a protected area of the Town of Novalja. Croatian ufologists have linked the existence of the triangle to a series of UFO sightings in late 20th century over the island of Pag, while some perceive the triangle as a sign of Holy Trinity, sometimes associated with Catholic priest Zlatko Sudac receiving his stigmata during a conversation about the triangle. In early 2009, a road was built connecting the triangle to the nearby village Caska and thus making it more accessible to visitors. Paški trokut Wikipedija Paški trokut ime je za megalitski otisak u obliku jednakokračnih trokuta na otoku Pagu, u blizini mjesta Novalje. Trokut je otkrio hrvatski geodet Zdenko Grbavac 9. svibnja 1999. godine na brdu Tusto čelo, prilikom obavljanja geodetskih poslova za lokaciju kamenoloma. Prilikom mjerenja tla, Zdenko je zapazio trokutnu formaciju na brdu Tusto čelo, i kada je napravio mjerenja zapazio je pravilnost trokuta koji je ima sljedeće mjere: dvije stranice od 32 metara, te jedne stranice od 22 metara te da je kamenje unutar trokuta svjetlije od kamenja izvan trokuta. Svoje otkriće Zdenko je objavio medijima, što je privuklo dosta pažnje javnosti, turista, znatiželjnika, znastvenika i ufologa. Struktura kamenja koja se nalaze u trokutu drugačija su od kamena koji se nalazi van trokuta. Prema istraživanjima hrvatskog geologa Stjepana Zvonarića, kamen unutar trokuta kada se izloži ultraljubičastim zrakama daje crvenu fosforenciju, što znači da je kamen unutar trokuta bio izložen ekstremnim temperaturama u prošlosti. Crvena fosforescencija je samo vidljiva na licu kamena koji je okrenut prema zemlji, jer tijekom godina i izlaganjem vremenskim prilikama i suncu crvena fosforescencija je isprana. Slična svojstva nisu pronađena ni u jednom kamenu u bližoj okolici paškog trokuta. Otkriće paškog trokuta 1999. godine izazvalo je pravu senzaciju kod hrvatskih ufologista, a mjesto je posjetilo prema nekim procijenama više od pola milijuna radoznalaca i turista, osobito nakon reportaža o misterioznim svjetilima koja su je pojavljivala u to vrijeme. Zbog raznoraznih nagađanja i glasina navodno o nadnaravnim moćima kamena ili kao ljekovita tvar, mnogi posjetitelji su uzimali su dijelove kamena s paškog trokuta tako da na nekim mjestima na trokutu sada zjape rupe. Zbog devastacije grad Novalja je zaštitio područje gdje se nalazi trokut 2000. godine.

“Under the Lion’s Paw” by Hamlin Garland, with Discussion
Aug 10 2017 33 mins  
“That’s really good, and it’s really sad.” “Under the Lion’s Paw” Hamlin Garland “Along the main-travelled road trailed an endless line of prairie schooners. Coming into sight at the east, and passing out of sight over the swell to the west. We children used to wonder where they were going and why they went.” It was the last of autumn and first day of winter coming together. All day long the ploughmen on their prairie farms had moved to and fro in their wide level fields through the falling snow, which melted as it fell, wetting them to the skin all day, notwithstanding the frequent squalls of snow, the dripping, desolate clouds, and the muck of the furrows, black and tenacious as tar. Under their dripping harness the horses swung to and fro silently with that marvellous uncomplaining patience which marks the horse. All day the wild geese, honking wildly, as they sprawled sidewise down the wind, seemed to be fleeing from an enemy behind, and with neck outthrust and wings extended, sailed down the wind, soon lost to sight. Yet the ploughman behind his plough, though the snow lay on his ragged great-coat, and the cold clinging mud rose on his heavy boots, fettering him like gyves, whistled in the very beard of the gale. As day passed, the snow, ceasing to melt, lay along the ploughed land, and lodged in the depth of the stubble, till on each slow round the last furrow stood out black and shining as jet between the ploughed land and the gray stubble. When night began to fall, and the geese, flying low, began to alight invisibly in the near corn-field, Stephen Council was still at work “finishing a land.” He rode on his sulky plough when going with the wind, but walked when facing it. Sitting bent and cold but cheery under his slouch hat, he talked encouragingly to his four-in-hand. “Come round there, boys! Round agin! We got t’ finish this land. Come in there, Dan! Stiddy, Kate, stiddy! None o’ y’r tantrums, Kittie. It’s purty tuff, but got a be did. Tchk! tchk! Step along, Pete! Don’t let Kate git y’r single-tree on the wheel. Once more!” They seemed to know what he meant, and that this was the last round, for they worked with greater vigor than before. “Once more, boys, an’ then, sez I, oats an’ a nice warm stall, an’ sleep f’r all.” By the time the last furrow was turned on the land it was too dark to see the house, and the snow was changing to rain again. The tired and hungry man could see the light from the kitchen shining through the leafless hedge, and he lifted a great shout, “Supper f’r a half a dozen!” It was nearly eight o’clock by the time he had finished his chores and started for supper. He was picking his way carefully through the mud, when the tall form of a man loomed up before him with a premonitory cough. “Waddy ye want?” was the rather startled question of the farmer. “Well, ye see,” began the stranger, in a deprecating tone, “we’d like t’ git in f’r the night. We’ve tried every house f’r the last two miles, but they hadn’t any room f’r us. My wife’s jest about sick, ‘n’ the children are cold and hungry—” “Oh, y’ want ‘o stay all night, eh,?” “Yes, sir; it ‘ud be a great accom—” “Waal, I don’t make it a practice t’ turn anybuddy way hungry, not on sech nights as this. Drive right in. We ain’t got much, but sech as it is—” But the stranger had disappeared. And soon his steaming, weary team, with drooping heads and swinging single-trees, moved past the well to the block beside the path. Council stood at the side of the “schooner” and helped the children ou...

“The Tail” from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Aug 01 2017 14 mins  
The following chapter. Also, August 1st is the anniversary of Melville’s birth. -The Voice before the Void “The Tail” from Moby-Dick; or, The Whale Herman Melville Other poets have warbled the praises of the soft eye of the antelope, and the lovely plumage of the bird that never alights; less celestial, I celebrate a tail. Reckoning the largest sized Sperm Whale’s tail to begin at that point of the trunk where it tapers to about the girth of a man, it comprises upon its upper surface alone, an area of at least fifty square feet. The compact round body of its root expands into two broad, firm, flat palms or flukes, gradually shoaling away to less than an inch in thickness. At the crotch or junction, these flukes slightly overlap, then sideways recede from each other like wings, leaving a wide vacancy between. In no living thing are the lines of beauty more exquisitely defined than in the crescentic borders of these flukes. At its utmost expansion in the full grown whale, the tail will considerably exceed twenty feet across. The entire member seems a dense webbed bed of welded sinews; but cut into it, and you find that three distinct strata compose it:–upper, middle, and lower. The fibres in the upper and lower layers, are long and horizontal; those of the middle one, very short, and running crosswise between the outside layers. This triune structure, as much as anything else, imparts power to the tail. To the student of old Roman walls, the middle layer will furnish a curious parallel to the thin course of tiles always alternating with the stone in those wonderful relics of the antique, and which undoubtedly contribute so much to the great strength of the masonry. But as if this vast local power in the tendinous tail were not enough, the whole bulk of the leviathan is knit over with a warp and woof of muscular fibres and filaments, which passing on either side the loins and running down into the flukes, insensibly blend with them, and largely contribute to their might; so that in the tail the confluent measureless force of the whole whale seems concentrated to a point. Could annihilation occur to matter, this were the thing to do it. Nor does this–its amazing strength, at all tend to cripple the graceful flexion of its motions; where infantileness of ease undulates through a Titanism of power. On the contrary, those motions derive their most appalling beauty from it. Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it; and in everything imposingly beautiful, strength has much to do with the magic. Take away the tied tendons that all over seem bursting from the marble in the carved Hercules, and its charm would be gone. As devout Eckerman lifted the linen sheet from the naked corpse of Goethe, he was overwhelmed with the massive chest of the man, that seemed as a Roman triumphal arch. When Angelo paints even God the Father in human form, mark what robustness is there. And whatever they may reveal of the divine love in the Son, the soft, curled, hermaphroditical Italian pictures, in which his idea has been most successfully embodied; these pictures, so destitute as they are of all brawniness, hint nothing of any power, but the mere negative, feminine one of submission and endurance, which on all hands it is conceded, form the peculiar practical virtues of his teachings. Such is the subtle elasticity of the organ I treat of, that whether wielded in sport, or in earnest, or in anger, whatever be the mood it be in, its flexions are invariably marked by exceeding grace. Therein no fairy’s arm can transcend it. Five great motions are peculiar to it. First, when used as a fin for

“The Fountain” from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Jul 28 2017 14 mins  
She wanted to hear me read from Moby-Dick, so I opened the book to a random chapter. -The Voice before the Void “The Fountain” from Moby-Dick; or, The Whale Herman Melville That for six thousand years–and no one knows how many millions of ages before–the great whales should have been spouting all over the sea, and sprinkling and mistifying the gardens of the deep, as with so many sprinkling or mistifying pots; and that for some centuries back, thousands of hunters should have been close by the fountain of the whale, watching these sprinklings and spoutings–that all this should be, and yet, that down to this blessed minute (fifteen and a quarter minutes past one o’clock P.M. of this sixteenth day of December, A.D. 1851), it should still remain a problem, whether these spoutings are, after all, really water, or nothing but vapour–this is surely a noteworthy thing. Let us, then, look at this matter, along with some interesting items contingent. Every one knows that by the peculiar cunning of their gills, the finny tribes in general breathe the air which at all times is combined with the element in which they swim; hence, a herring or a cod might live a century, and never once raise its head above the surface. But owing to his marked internal structure which gives him regular lungs, like a human being’s, the whale can only live by inhaling the disengaged air in the open atmosphere. Wherefore the necessity for his periodical visits to the upper world. But he cannot in any degree breathe through his mouth, for, in his ordinary attitude, the Sperm Whale’s mouth is buried at least eight feet beneath the surface; and what is still more, his windpipe has no connexion with his mouth. No, he breathes through his spiracle alone; and this is on the top of his head. If I say, that in any creature breathing is only a function indispensable to vitality, inasmuch as it withdraws from the air a certain element, which being subsequently brought into contact with the blood imparts to the blood its vivifying principle, I do not think I shall err; though I may possibly use some superfluous scientific words. Assume it, and it follows that if all the blood in a man could be aerated with one breath, he might then seal up his nostrils and not fetch another for a considerable time. That is to say, he would then live without breathing. Anomalous as it may seem, this is precisely the case with the whale, who systematically lives, by intervals, his full hour and more (when at the bottom) without drawing a single breath, or so much as in any way inhaling a particle of air; for, remember, he has no gills. How is this? Between his ribs and on each side of his spine he is supplied with a remarkable involved Cretan labyrinth of vermicelli-like vessels, which vessels, when he quits the surface, are completely distended with oxygenated blood. So that for an hour or more, a thousand fathoms in the sea, he carries a surplus stock of vitality in him, just as the camel crossing the waterless desert carries a surplus supply of drink for future use in its four supplementary stomachs. The anatomical fact of this labyrinth is indisputable; and that the supposition founded upon it is reasonable and true, seems the more cogent to me, when I consider the otherwise inexplicable obstinacy of that leviathan in HAVING HIS SPOUTINGS OUT, as the fishermen phrase it. This is what I mean. If unmolested, upon rising to the surface, the Sperm Whale will continue there for a period of time exactly uniform with all his other unmolested risings. Say he stays eleven minutes, and jets seventy times, that is, respires seventy breaths; then whenever he ...

“Voynich manuscript” from Wikipedia
Jun 30 2017 57 mins  
Genuine mysteries are so very rare, but here is an artifact of an unknown language, an unknown botany, an unknown madness, an unknown world. -The Voice before the Void “Voynich manuscript” Wikipedia The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. The vellum on which it is written has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438), and it may have been composed in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance. The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish book dealer who purchased it in 1912. Some of the pages are missing, with around 240 still remaining. The text is written from left to right, and most of the pages have illustrations or diagrams. Some pages are foldable sheets. The Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World War I and World War II. No one has yet succeeded in deciphering the text, and it has become a famous case in the history of cryptography. The mystery of the meaning and origin of the manuscript has excited the popular imagination, making the manuscript the subject of novels and speculation. None of the many hypotheses proposed over the last hundred years has yet been independently verified. The Voynich manuscript was donated by Hans P. Kraus to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1969, where it is catalogued under call number MS 408. 1. Description Codicology The codicology, or physical characteristics of the manuscript, are studied by various researchers. The manuscript measures 23.5 by 16.2 by 5 centimetres, with hundreds of vellum pages collected into eighteen quires (units of 25 pages). The total number of pages is around 240, but the exact number depends on how the manuscript’s unusual foldouts are counted. The quires have been numbered from 1 to 20 in various locations, using numerals consistent with the 1400s, and the top righthand corner of each recto (righthand) page has been numbered from 1 to 116, using numerals of a later date. From the various numbering gaps in the quires and pages, it seems likely that in the past the manuscript had at least 272 pages in 20 quires, some of which were already missing when Wilfrid Voynich acquired the manuscript in 1912. There is strong evidence that many of the book’s bifolios were reordered at various points in its history, and that the original page order may well have been quite different from what it is today. Parchment, covers, and binding Protein testing revealed the paper (parchment) was made from calf skin, and multispectral analysis in 2014 showed the parchment was unwritten before the manuscript was created. While the parchment was created with care, deficiencies exist, and the quality is assessed as average at best. Some folios are thicker than the usual parchment thickness, for example bifolios 42 and 47. The goat skin binding and covers are not original to the book but date to during its possession by the Collegio Romano. Insect holes, present on the first and last folios of the manuscript in the current order, suggest a wooden cover was present earlier to the later covers and discolouring on the edges points to a tanned leather inside cover. Ink Many pages contain substantial drawings or charts which are colored with paint. Based on modern analysis using polarized light microscopy (PLM), it has been determined that a quill pen and iron gall ink were used for the text and figure outlines; the colored paint was applied (somewhat crudely) to the figures,

“The Man Who Went Too Far” by E.F. Benson
Jun 16 2017 59 mins  
Summer Vacation: A monster story and a philosophical story about summertime, communion with the natural world, spiritual youth, the inescapable horror of death, and the inescapable horror of life. -The Voice before the Void “The Man Who Went Too Far” E.F. Benson The little village of St. Faith’s nestles in a hollow of wooded till up on the north bank of the river Fawn in the country of Hampshire, huddling close round its grey Norman church as if for spiritual protection against the fays and fairies, the trolls and “little people,” who might be supposed still to linger in the vast empty spaces of the New Forest, and to come after dusk and do their doubtful businesses. Once outside the hamlet you may walk in any direction (so long as you avoid the high road which leads to Brockenhurst) for the length of a summer afternoon without seeing sign of human habitation, or possibly even catching sight of another human being. Shaggy wild ponies may stop their feeding for a moment as you pass, the white scuts of rabbits will vanish into their burrows, a brown viper perhaps will glide from your path into a clump of heather, and unseen birds will chuckle in the bushes, but it may easily happen that for a long day you will see nothing human. But you will not feel in the least lonely; in summer, at any rate, the sunlight will be gay with butterflies, and the air thick with all those woodland sounds which like instruments in an orchestra combine to play the great symphony of the yearly festival of June. Winds whisper in the birches, and sigh among the firs; bees are busy with their redolent labour among the heather, a myriad birds chirp in the green temples of the forest trees, and the voice of the river prattling over stony places, bubbling into pools, chuckling and gulping round corners, gives you the sense that many presences and companions are near at hand. Yet, oddly enough, though one would have thought that these benign and cheerful influences of wholesome air and spaciousness of forest were very healthful comrades for a man, in so far as Nature can really influence this wonderful human genus which has in these centuries learned to defy her most violent storms in its well-established houses, to bridle her torrents and make them light its streets, to tunnel her mountains and plough her seas, the inhabitants of St. Faith’s will not willingly venture into the forest after dark. For in spite of the silence and loneliness of the hooded night it seems that a man is not sure in what company he may suddenly find himself, and though it is difficult to get from these villagers any very clear story of occult appearances, the feeling is widespread. One story indeed I have heard with some definiteness, the tale of a monstrous goat that has been seen to skip with hellish glee about the woods and shady places, and this perhaps is connected with the story which I have here attempted to piece together. It too is well-known to them; for all remember the young artist who died here not long ago, a young man, or so he struck the beholder, of great personal beauty, with something about him that made men’s faces to smile and brighten when they looked on him. His ghost they will tell you “walks” constantly by the stream and through the woods which he loved so, and in especial it haunts a certain house, the last of the village, where he lived, and its garden in which he was done to death. For my part I am inclined to think that the terror of the forest dates chiefly from that day. So, such as the story is, I have set it forth in connected form. It is based partly on the accounts of the villagers, but mainly on that of Darcy, a friend of mine and a friend of the man with whom these events were chiefly concerned. The day had been one of untarnished midsummer splendour, and as the sun drew near to its setting,

“The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” from Wikipedia
Jun 06 2017 3 mins  
D-Day Anniversary and U.S. Memorial Day: Little compares to encountering this poem for the first time, the most famous U.S. poem of the Second World War, unassuming, and unforgettable. -The Voice before the Void “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” Wikipedia “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” is a five-line poem by Randall Jarrell published in 1945. It is about the death of a gunner in a Sperry ball turret on a World War II American bomber aircraft. From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. Jarrell, who served in the Army Air Forces, provided the following explanatory note: “A ball turret was a Plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24, and inhabited by two .50 caliber machine guns and one man, a short small man. When this gunner tracked with his machine guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the fetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.” Reviewer Leven M. Dawson says that “The theme of Randall Jarrell’s ‘The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner’ is that institutionalized violence, or war, creates moral paradox, a condition in which acts repugnant to human nature become appropriate.” Most commentators agree, calling the poem a condemnation of the dehumanizing powers of “the State,” which are most graphically exhibited by the violence of war. “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” has been widely anthologized. In fact, Jarrell came to fear that his reputation would come to rest on it alone.

“My Castles in Spain” by George William Curtis
May 21 2017 10 mins  
This says everything that ever needed to be said. -The Voice before the Void “My Castles in Spain” from Prue and I George William Curtis adapted by anonymous for The Ontario Readers: Fourth Book I am the owner of great estates. Many of them lie in the west, but the greater part in Spain. You may see my western possessions any evening at sunset when their spires and battlements flash against the horizon. But my finest castles are in Spain. It is a country famously romantic, and my castles are all of perfect proportions and appropriately set in the most picturesque situations. I have never been in Spain myself, but I have naturally conversed much with travellers to that country; although, I must allow, without deriving from them much substantial information about my property there. The wisest of them told me that there were more holders of real estate in Spain than in any other region he had ever heard of, and they are all great proprietors. Every one of them possesses a multitude of the stateliest castles. It is remarkable that none of the proprietors have ever been to Spain to take possession and report to the rest of us the state of our property there, and it is not easy for me to say how I know so much about my castles in Spain. The sun always shines upon them. They stand lofty and fair in a luminous, golden atmosphere, a little hazy and dreamy, perhaps, like the Indian summer, but in which no gales blow and there are no tempests. All the sublime mountains and beautiful valleys and soft landscapes that I have not yet seen are to be found in the grounds. I have often wondered how I should reach my castles. I have inquired very particularly, but nobody seemed to know the way. It occurred to me that Bourne, the millionaire, must have ascertained the safest and most expeditious route to Spain; so I stole a few minutes one afternoon and went into his office. He was sitting at his desk, writing rapidly, and surrounded by files of papers and patterns, specimens, boxes,—everything that covers the tables of a great merchant. “A moment, please, Mr. Bourne.” He looked up hastily, and wished me good-morning, which courtesy I attributed to Spanish sympathy. “What is it, sir?” he asked blandly, but with wrinkled brow. “Mr. Bourne, have you any castles in Spain?” said I, without preface. He looked at me for a few moments, without speaking and without seeming to see me. His brow gradually smoothed, and his eyes apparently looking into the street were really, I have no doubt, feasting upon the Spanish landscape. “Too many, too many,” said he, at length, musingly, shaking his head and without addressing me. He feared, I thought, that he had too much impracticable property elsewhere to own so much in Spain: so I asked:— “Will you tell me what you consider the shortest and safest route thither, Mr. Bourne? for, of course, a man who drives such an immense trade with all parts of the world will know all that I have come to inquire.” “My dear sir,” answered he, wearily, “I have been trying all my life to discover it; but none of my ships have ever been there—none of my captains have any report to make. “They bring me, as they brought my father, gold-dust from Guinea, ivory, pearls, and precious stones from every part of the earth; but not a fruit, not a solitary flower, from one of my castles in Spain. “I have sent clerks, agents, and travellers of all kinds, philosophers, pleasure hunters, and invalids, in all sorts of ships, to all sorts of places, but none of them ever saw or heard of my castles, except a young poet, and he died in a madhouse.” “Mr. Bourne, will you take five thousand at ninety-seven?” hastily demanded a man whom, as he entered, I recognized as a broker.

“The Hoard of the Gibbelins” by Lord Dunsany
Apr 30 2017 9 mins  
Walpurgisnacht: Have a happy night. -The Voice before the Void “The Hoard of the Gibbelins” Lord Dunsany The Gibbelins eat, as is well known, nothing less good than man. Their evil tower is joined to Terra Cognita, to the lands we know, by a bridge. Their hoard is beyond reason; avarice has no use for it; they have a separate cellar for emeralds and a separate cellar for sapphires; they have filled a hole with gold and dig it up when they need it. And the only use that is known for their ridiculous wealth is to attract to their larder a continual supply of food. In times of famine they have even been known to scatter rubies abroad, a little trail of them to some city of Man, and sure enough their larders would soon be full again. Their tower stands on the other side of that river known to Homer which surrounds the world. And where the river is narrow and fordable the tower was built by the Gibbelins’ gluttonous sires, for they liked to see burglars rowing easily to their steps. Some nourishment that common soil has not the huge trees drained there with their colossal roots from both banks of the river. There the Gibbelins lived and discreditably fed. Alderic, Knight of the Order of the City and the Assault, hereditary Guardian of the King’s Peace of Mind, a man not unremembered among makers of myth, pondered so long upon the Gibbelins’ hoard that by now he deemed it his. Alas that I should say of so perilous a venture, undertaken at dead of night by a valorous man, that its motive was sheer avarice! Yet upon avarice only the Gibbelins relied to keep their larders full, and once in every hundred years sent spies into the cities of men to see how avarice did, and always the spies returned again to the tower saying that all was well. It may be thought that, as the years went on and men came by fearful ends on that tower’s wall, fewer and fewer would come to the Gibbelins’ table: but the Gibbelins found otherwise. Not in the folly and frivolity of his youth did Alderic come to the tower, but he studied carefully for several years the manner in which burglars met their doom when they went in search of the treasure that he considered his. In every case they had entered by the door. He consulted those who gave advice on this quest; he noted every detail and cheerfully paid their fees, and determined to do nothing that they advised, for what were their clients now? No more than examples of the savoury art, and mere half-forgotten memories of a meal; and many, perhaps, no longer even that. These were the requisites for the quest that these men used to advise: a horse, a boat, mail armour, and at least three men-at-arms. Some said, “Blow the horn at the tower door”; others said, “Do not touch it.” Alderic thus decided: he would take no horse down to the river’s edge, he would not row along it in a boat, and he would go alone and by way of the Forest Unpassable. How pass, you may say, the unpassable? This was his plan: there was a dragon he knew of who if peasants’ prayers are heeded deserved to die, not alone because of the number of maidens he cruelly slew, but because he was bad for the crops; he ravaged the very land and was the bane of a dukedom. Now Alderic determined to go up against him. So he took horse and spear and pricked till he met the dragon, and the dragon came out against him breathing bitter smoke. And to him Alderic shouted, “Hath foul dragon ever slain true knight?” And well the dragon knew that this had never been, and he hung his head and was silent, for he was glutted with blood. “Then,” said the knight, “if thou would’st ever taste maiden’s blood again thou shalt be my trusty steed, and if not, by this spear there shall befall thee all that the troubadours tell of the dooms of thy breed.”

“The Bird Woman” by Henry Spicer, with Discussion
Apr 29 2017 11 mins  
Walpurgisnacht: Reading horror stories in the night can, sometimes, be genuinely disturbing. -The Voice before the Void “The Bird Woman” Henry Spicer The events of this strange tale, though they actually occurred in England but a short while since, would scarcely be out of place in a book of German dreams and fancies. The narrator, a girl of the servant class, but of rather superior education and manners, had called on the writer’s sister on the subject of a place to which she had been recommended, and in the course of conversation, related the following as a recent experience. The advertisement, in which she had set forth her willingness to take charge of an invalid, infirm, or lunatic person, or to assume any office demanding unusual steadiness of nerve, was replied to by a lady whose letter was dated from a certain locality on the outskirts of a large commercial city, and who requested her attendance there at an appointed time. The house proved to be a dingy, deserted-looking mansion, and was not rendered more cheerful by the fact that the adjoining tenements on either side were unoccupied. It wore altogether a haunted and sinister aspect, and the girl, as she rang the bell, was sensible of a kind of misgiving for which she could not account. A timid person might have hesitated. This girl possessed unusual firmness and courage, and, in spite of the presentiment we have mentioned, she determined, at all events, to see what she would be called on to encounter. A lady-like person, the mistress herself, opened the door, and, conducting the applicant into an adjacent apartment, informed her in a few words that the service that would be required of her was of a very peculiar nature, imperatively demanding those precise qualities she conceived her to possess. It was right, she added, to mention that the family lived in great seclusion, partly from choice, partly from necessity, an impression having gone abroad that there existed something strange and evil in connection with the residence, which was, in reality, known in the vicinity by the title of the “haunted house.” With these preliminary warnings, the lady suggested that the applicant might wish to reconsider her purpose. The latter, however, having little fear of anything human, and none at all of apparitions, at once agreed to the terms proposed, stipulating only that the cause of the strange reports affecting the mansion should be a little more clearly explained, and her own particular duties defined. The mistress readily assented to both conditions, and, leading the way to a ground floor apartment at the back, unlocked the door and turned the handle as about to enter, but, checking herself suddenly, warned her companion, without sinking her voice below its ordinary tone, that she was about to be brought face to face with a spectacle that might well try the strongest nerves; nevertheless, there was nothing to fear so long as she retained her self-command. With this not very reassuring preface, they entered the room. It was rather dark, for the lower half of the windows were boarded up; but in one corner, on the floor, was plainly distinguishable what looked like a heap of clothes flung together in disorder. It appeared to be in motion, however, and the mistress of the house once more turning to her follower had just time to utter the mysterious words— “Don’t be frightened. If she likes you, she’ll hoot; if she doesn’t, she’ll scream” When from the apex of the seeming heap of clothes there rose a head that made the stranger’s blood run chill. It was human indeed, in general structure, but exhibited, in place of nose, a huge beak curved and pointed like that of an owl. Two large staring yellow eyes increased the bizarre resemblance, while numerous tufts of some feathery substance, sprouting from a skin hard and black as a parrot’s tongue,

“Giant huntsman spider” from Wikipedia
Apr 28 2017 2 mins  
Walpurgisnacht: What other creatures remain to be discovered? -The Voice before the Void “Giant huntsman spider” Wikipedia The giant huntsman spider (Heteropoda maxima, “the largest”) is a species of huntsman spider (Sparassidae), a family of large, fast spiders that actively hunt down prey. It is considered the world’s largest spider by leg span, which can reach up to 1 foot (30 centimeters). 1. Taxonomy and naming The giant huntsman spider was discovered in a cave in Laos in 2001. Over a thousand new species of plant and animal were found between 1997 and 2007 in the Greater Mekong Subregion. A representative of the World Wide Fund for Nature stated that “some of these species really have no business being recently discovered,” suggesting that it is surprising for such a large species to go undiscovered for so long. 2. Description The coloration is yellowish-brown with several irregularly distributed dark spots on the rear half. The legs have wide dark bands before the first bend. Like all huntsman spiders, the legs of the giant huntsman spider are long compared to the body, and twist forward in a crab-like fashion. Apart from its size, the H. maxima can be distinguished from other species of Heteropoda by genital characteristics. On males, the cymbium is much longer than usual, at least three times longer than the tegulum. The female is distinguished by a characteristically shaped epigyneal field with two anterior directed bands, and the course of their internal ducts. The giant huntsman spider is the largest member of the Sparassidae family, boasting a 30 centimeters (12 inches) leg-span, and 4.6 centimeters (1.8 inches) body-length. The largest known member of the Sparassidae known prior to the discovery of H. maxima was the Australian Beregama aurea (L. Koch, 1875) with a body length of about 4 centimeters. (Since the discovery of H. maxima, Sparassidae species larger than B. aurea have been discovered. One of them, Cerbalus aravaensis, is considered to be the largest in the Middle East.) 3. Distribution and habitat The giant huntsman spider is found in Laos, and is probably a cave dweller because of its pale colour, long legs and special hairs on the second foot of the male. There is no apparent reduction of the eyes, however, possibly because the species lives near cave entrances.

“The Ash-tree” by M.R. James, with Digressions
Apr 28 2017 52 mins  
Walpurgisnacht: Vernal weird horror. -The Voice before the Void “The Ash-tree” M.R. James Everyone who has travelled over Eastern England knows the smaller country-houses with which it is studded—the rather dank little buildings, usually in the Italian style, surrounded with parks of some eighty to a hundred acres. For me they have always had a very strong attraction, with the grey paling of split oak, the noble trees, the meres with their reed-beds, and the line of distant woods. Then, I like the pillared portico—perhaps stuck on to a red-brick Queen Anne house which has been faced with stucco to bring it into line with the ‘Grecian’ taste of the end of the eighteenth century; the hall inside, going up to the roof, which hall ought always to be provided with a gallery and a small organ. I like the library, too, where you may find anything from a Psalter of the thirteenth century to a Shakespeare quarto. I like the pictures, of course; and perhaps most of all I like fancying what life in such a house was when it was first built, and in the piping times of landlords’ prosperity, and not least now, when, if money is not so plentiful, taste is more varied and life quite as interesting. I wish to have one of these houses, and enough money to keep it together and entertain my friends in it modestly. But this is a digression. I have to tell you of a curious series of events which happened in such a house as I have tried to describe. It is Castringham Hall in Suffolk. I think a good deal has been done to the building since the period of my story, but the essential features I have sketched are still there—Italian portico, square block of white house, older inside than out, park with fringe of woods, and mere. The one feature that marked out the house from a score of others is gone. As you looked at it from the park, you saw on the right a great old ash-tree growing within half a dozen yards of the wall, and almost or quite touching the building with its branches. I suppose it had stood there ever since Castringham ceased to be a fortified place, and since the moat was filled in and the Elizabethan dwelling-house built. At any rate, it had well-nigh attained its full dimensions in the year 1690. In that year the district in which the Hall is situated was the scene of a number of witch-trials. It will be long, I think, before we arrive at a just estimate of the amount of solid reason—if there was any—which lay at the root of the universal fear of witches in old times. Whether the persons accused of this offence really did imagine that they were possessed of unusual power of any kind; or whether they had the will at least, if not the power, of doing mischief to their neighbours; or whether all the confessions, of which there are so many, were extorted by the cruelty of the witch-finders—these are questions which are not, I fancy, yet solved. And the present narrative gives me pause. I cannot altogether sweep it away as mere invention. The reader must judge for himself. Castringham contributed a victim to the auto-da-fé. Mrs Mothersole was her name, and she differed from the ordinary run of village witches only in being rather better off and in a more influential position. Efforts were made to save her by several reputable farmers of the parish. They did their best to testify to her character, and showed considerable anxiety as to the verdict of the jury. But what seems to have been fatal to the woman was the evidence of the then proprietor of Castringham Hall—Sir Matthew Fell. He deposed to having watched her on three different occasions from his window, at the full of the moon, gathering sprigs ‘from the ash-tree near my house’. She had climbed into the branches, clad only in her shift, and was cutting off small twigs with a peculiarly curved knife, and as she did so she seemed to be talking to herself.

“Pigeons from Hell” by Robert E. Howard, with Discussion
Apr 12 2017 85 mins  
Walpurgisnacht: A popular piece of pulp fiction with one hell of an ending. -The Voice before the Void “Pigeons from Hell” Robert E. Howard I. The Whistler in the Dark Griswell awoke suddenly, every nerve tingling with a premonition of imminent peril. He stared about wildly, unable at first to remember where he was, or what he was doing there. Moonlight filtered in through the dusty windows, and the great empty room with its lofty ceiling and gaping black fireplace was spectral and unfamiliar. Then as he emerged from the clinging cobwebs of his recent sleep, he remembered where he was and how he came to be there. He twisted his head and stared at his companion, sleeping on the floor near him. John Branner was but a vaguely bulking shape in the darkness that the moon scarcely grayed. Griswell tried to remember what had awakened him. There was no sound in the house, no sound outside except the mournful hoot of an owl, far away in the piny woods. Now he had captured the illusive memory. It was a dream, a nightmare so filled with dim terror that it had frightened him awake. Recollection flooded back, vividly etching the abominable vision. Or was it a dream? Certainly it must have been, but it had blended so curiously with recent actual events that it was difficult to know where reality left off and fantasy began. Dreaming, he had seemed to relive his past few waking hours, in accurate detail. The dream had begun, abruptly, as he and John Branner came in sight of the house where they now lay. They had come rattling and bouncing over the stumpy, uneven old road that led through the pinelands, he and John Branner, wandering far afield from their New England home, in search of vacation pleasure. They had sighted the old house with its balustraded galleries rising amidst a wilderness of weeds and bushes, just as the sun was setting behind it. It dominated their fancy, rearing black and stark and gaunt against the low lurid rampart of sunset, barred by the black pines. They were tired, sick of bumping and pounding all day over woodland roads. The old deserted house stimulated their imagination with its suggestion of antebellum splendor and ultimate decay. They left the automobile beside the rutty road, and as they went up the winding walk of crumbling bricks, almost lost in the tangle of rank growth, pigeons rose from the balustrades in a fluttering, feathery crowd and swept away with a low thunder of beating wings. The oaken door sagged on broken hinges. Dust lay thick on the floor of the wide, dim hallway, on the broad steps of the stair that mounted up from the hall. They turned into a door opposite the landing, and entered a large room, empty, dusty, with cobwebs shining thickly in the corners. Dust lay thick over the ashes in the great fireplace. They discussed gathering wood and building a fire, but decided against it. As the sun sank, darkness came quickly, the thick, black, absolute darkness of the pinelands. They knew that rattlesnakes and copperheads haunted Southern forests, and they did not care to go groping for firewood in the dark. They ate frugally from tins, then rolled in their blankets fully clad before the empty fireplace, and went instantly to sleep. This, in part, was what Griswell had dreamed. He saw again the gaunt house looming stark against the crimson sunset; saw the flight of the pigeons as he and Branner came up the shattered walk. He saw the dim room in which they presently lay, and he saw the two forms that were himself and his companion, lying wrapped in their blankets on the dusty floor. Then from that point his dream altered subtly, passed out of the realm of the commonplace and became tinged with fear. He was looking into a vague, shadowy chamber, lit by the gray light of the moon which streamed in from some obscure source. For there was no window in that room. But in the gray light he saw three silent shapes t...

“The Moon-Slave” by Barry Pain
Apr 04 2017 15 mins  
Walpurgisnacht. Springtime Halloween. A famous tale… of the danger of dance. -The Voice before the Void “The Moon-Slave” Barry Pain The Princess Viola had, even in her childhood, an inevitable submission to the dance; a rhythmical madness in her blood answered hotly to the dance music, swaying her, as the wind sways trees, to movements of perfect sympathy and grace. For the rest, she had her beauty and her long hair that reached to her knees, and was thought loveable; but she was never very fervent and vivid unless she was dancing; at other times there almost seemed to be a touch of lethargy upon her. Now, when she was sixteen years old, she was betrothed to the Prince Hugo. With others the betrothal was merely a question of state. With her, it was merely a question of obedience to the wishes of authority; it had been arranged; Hugo was comme ci, comma ca — no god in her eyes; it did not matter. But with Hugo it was quite different — he loved her. The betrothal was celebrated by a banquet, and afterwards by a dance in the great hall of the palace. From this dance the Princess soon made her escape, quite discontented, and went to the furthest part of the palace gardens, where she could no longer hear the music calling her. “They are all right,” she said to herself as she thought of the men she had left, “but they cannot dance. Mechanically they are all right; they have learned it and don’t make childish mistakes; but they are only one-two-three machines. They haven’t the inspiration of dancing. It is so different when I dance alone.” She wandered on until she reached an old forsaken maze. It had been planned by a former king. All round it was a high crumbling wall with foxgloves growing on it. The maze itself had all its paths bordered by high opaque hedges; in the very center was a circular open space with tall pine trees growing round it. Many years ago the clue to the maze had been lost; it was but rarely now that anyone entered it. Its gravel paths were green weeds, and in some places the hedges spreading beyond their borders had made the way almost impassable. For a moment or two Viola stood peering in at the gate — a narrow gate with curiously twisted bars of wrought iron surmounted by a heraldic device. Then the whim seized her to enter the maze and try to find the space in the center. She opened the gate and went in. Outside everything was uncannily visible in the light of the full moon, but here in the dark shaded alleys the night was conscious of itself. She soon forgot her purpose and wandered about quite aimlessly, sometimes forcing her way when the brambles had flung a lace barrier across her path, and a dragging mass of convolvulus struck wet and cool upon her cheek. As chance would have it she suddenly found herself standing under the tall pines, and looking at the open space that formed the goal of the maze. She was pleased that she had got there. Here the ground was carpeted with sand, fine and, as it seemed, beaten hard. From the summer night sky immediately above, the moonlight, unobstructed here, streamed straight down upon the scene. Viola began to think about dancing. Over the dry, smooth sand her little satin shoes moved easily, stepping and gliding, circling and stepping, as she hummed the tune to which they moved. In the center of the space she paused, looked at the wall of dark trees all round, at the shining stretches of silvery sand and at the moon above. “My beautiful, moonlit, lonely old dancing room, why did I never find you before?” she cried, “But,” she added, “you need music — there must be music here.” In her fantastic mood she stretched her soft, clasped hands upward toward the moon. “Sweet moon,” she said in a kind of mock prayer, “Make your white light come down in musi...

“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus
Feb 28 2017 2 mins  
Immigration has been a charged – and ugly – political issue in the U.S. for all of its history. It seems almost miraculous that this sonnet, and the French statue in New York, exist as components of U.S. culture. Perhaps one day a colossal metal monument of welcome to tired, poor, wretched, yearning masses will be built along the U.S.-Mexico border. This quoted in the Wikipedia article on the statue: “‘Liberty enlightening the world,’ indeed! The expression makes us sick. This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the ‘liberty’ of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the ‘liberty’ of this country ‘enlightening the world,’ or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme.” –“Postponing Bartholdi’s statue until there is liberty for colored as well,” The Cleveland Gazette, 1886 November 27 “The New Colossus” Emma Lazarus Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“You and the Atom Bomb” by George Orwell
Feb 19 2017 12 mins  
Orwell logically and accurately predicted the Cold War – and creeping tyranny. -The Voice before the Void “You and the Atom Bomb” George Orwell Considering how likely we all are to be blown to pieces by it within the next five years, the atomic bomb has not roused so much discussion as might have been expected. The newspapers have published numerous diagrams, not very helpful to the average man, of protons and neutrons doing their stuff, and there has been much reiteration of the useless statement that the bomb ‘ought to be put under international control.’ But curiously little has been said, at any rate in print, about the question that is of most urgent interest to all of us, namely: ‘How difficult are these things to manufacture?’ Such information as we — that is, the big public — possess on this subject has come to us in a rather indirect way, apropos of President Truman’s decision not to hand over certain secrets to the USSR. Some months ago, when the bomb was still only a rumour, there was a widespread belief that splitting the atom was merely a problem for the physicists, and that when they had solved it a new and devastating weapon would be within reach of almost everybody. (At any moment, so the rumour went, some lonely lunatic in a laboratory might blow civilisation to smithereens, as easily as touching off a firework.) Had that been true, the whole trend of history would have been abruptly altered. The distinction between great states and small states would have been wiped out, and the power of the State over the individual would have been greatly weakened. However, it appears from President Truman’s remarks, and various comments that have been made on them, that the bomb is fantastically expensive and that its manufacture demands an enormous industrial effort, such as only three or four countries in the world are capable of making. This point is of cardinal importance, because it may mean that the discovery of the atomic bomb, so far from reversing history, will simply intensify the trends which have been apparent for a dozen years past. It is a commonplace that the history of civilisation is largely the history of weapons. In particular, the connection between the discovery of gunpowder and the overthrow of feudalism by the bourgeoisie has been pointed out over and over again. And though I have no doubt exceptions can be brought forward, I think the following rule would be found generally true: that ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the dominant weapon is cheap and simple, the common people have a chance. Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak. The great age of democracy and of national self-determination was the age of the musket and the rifle. After the invention of the flintlock, and before the invention of the percussion cap, the musket was a fairly efficient weapon, and at the same time so simple that it could be produced almost anywhere. Its combination of qualities made possible the success of the American and French revolutions, and made a popular insurrection a more serious business than it could be in our own day. After the musket came the breech-loading rifle. This was a comparatively complex thing, but it could still be produced in scores of countries, and it was cheap, easily smuggled and economical of ammunition. Even the most backward nation could always get hold of rifles from one source or another, so that Boers, Bulgars, Abyssinians, Moroccans — even Tibetans — could put up a fight for their independence, sometimes with success.

“Piri Reis map” from Wikipedia
Jan 25 2017 13 mins  
Ambiguity breeds speculation. -The Voice before the Void “Piri Reis map” Wikipedia The Piri Reis map is a world map compiled in 1513 from military intelligence by the Ottoman admiral and cartographer Piri Reis. Approximately one third of the map survives; it shows the western coasts of Europe and North Africa and the coast of Brazil with reasonable accuracy. Various Atlantic islands, including the Azores and Canary Islands, are depicted, as is the mythical island of Antillia and possibly Japan. The historical importance of the map lies in its demonstration of the extent of exploration of the New World by approximately 1510, and in its claim to have used Columbus’s maps, otherwise lost, as a source. It used ten Arab sources, four Indian maps sourced from the Portuguese, and one map of Columbus. More recently, it has been the focus of pseudohistoric claims for the pre-modern exploration of the Antarctic coast. 1. Description The map is the extant western third of a world map drawn on gazelle skin parchment, with dimensions reported as 90 cm × 63 cm, 86 cm × 60 cm, 90 cm × 65 cm, 85 cm × 60 cm, 87 cm × 63 cm, and 86 cm × 62 cm. These discrepancies are largely due to the damaged corner. The surviving portion primarily details the western coast of Africa and the eastern coast of South America. The map was signed by Piri Reis, an Ottoman-Turkish admiral, geographer and cartographer, and dated to the month of Muharram in the Islamic year 919 AH, equivalent to 1513 AD. It was presented to Ottoman Sultan Selim I in 1517. In the map’s legend, Piri inscribed that the map was based on about twenty charts and mappae mundi. According to Piri, these maps included eight Ptolemaic maps, an Arabic map of India, four newly drawn Portuguese maps from Sindh, Pakistan and a map by Christopher Columbus of the western lands. From Inscription 6 on the map: “From eight Jaferyas of that kind and one Arabic map of Hind [India], and from four newly drawn Portuguese maps which show the countries of Sind [now in modern day Pakistan], Hind and Çin [China] geometrically drawn, and also from a map drawn by Qulūnbū [Columbus] in the western region, I have extracted it. By reducing all these maps to one scale this final form was arrived at, so that this map of these lands is regarded by seamen as accurate and as reliable as the accuracy and reliability of the Seven Seas on the aforesaid maps.” There is some scholarly debate over whether the 20 charts and mappae mundi in Piri’s inscriptions includes the eight Ptolemaic maps, the four Portuguese maps, the Arabic map and the Columbus map. From one perspective, the number of charts and mappae mundi used by Piri equals 20, while in the other, it could mean a total of 34. Some have claimed that the source maps were found in the ancient Library of Alexandria, based on Piri’s allusions to Alexander the Great, the founder of Alexandria, Ptolemy I, who ruled Alexandria in the 4th century BC, and Claudius Ptolemy, the Greek geographer and cartographer who lived in Alexandria during the 2nd century AD. Gregory McIntosh states: “Arab writers often confused Claudius Ptolemy, the geographer of the second century C.E., with Ptolemy I, one of Alexander’s generals… Piri Reis has undoubtedly made the same error, resulting in his believing the charts and maps were from the time of Ptolemy I instead of Claudius Ptolemy.” 2. History The map was discovered serendipitously on 9 October 1929, through the philological work of the German theologian Gustav Adolf Deissmann (1866-1937). He had been commissioned by the Turkish Ministry of Education to catalogue the Topkapı Palace library...

“At the Piano” by Anna Katharine Green
Jan 16 2017 2 mins  
As all is unknown. -The Voice before the Void “At the Piano” Anna Katharine Green Play on! Play on! As softly glides The low refrain, I seem, I seem To float, to float on golden tides, By sunlit isles, where life and dream Are one, are one; and hope and bliss Move hand in hand, and thrilling, kiss ‘Neath bowery blooms, In twilight glooms, And love is life, and life is love. Play on! Play on! As higher rise The lifted strains, I seem, I seem To mount, to mount through roseate skies, Through drifted cloud and golden gleam, To realms, to realms of thought and fire, Where angels walk and souls aspire, And sorrow comes but as the night That brings a star for our delight. Play on! Play on! The spirit fails, The star grows dim, the glory pales, The depths are roused—the depths, and oh! The heart that wakes, the hopes that glow! The depths are roused: their billows call The soul from heights to slip and fall; To slip and fall and faint and be Made part of their immensity; To slip from Heaven; to fall and find In love the only perfect mind; To slip and fall and faint and be Lost, drowned within this melody, As life is lost and thought in thee. Ah, sweet, art thou the star, the star That draws my soul afar, afar? Thy voice the silvery tide on which I float to islands rare and rich? Thy love the ocean, deep and strong, In which my hopes and being long To sink and faint and fail away? I cannot know. I cannot say. But play, play on.

Money for the Machinery of Human Slaughter by Charles Edward Jefferson
Jan 13 2017 19 mins  
U.S. Inauguration Day: The portentousness can be petrifying. As the First World War was obliterating millions of lives in Europe, before the United States entered that war, military “preparedness” was a key political topic in the U.S.: Should a nation presently at peace prepare for potential future war? Clergyman Jefferson argues here that to refuse to arm yourself against your fellow humans is an act of pure strength; to arm yourself, an act of pure fear; and, Clergyman Jefferson writes, “Christians” ought have nobler emotions than fear to motivate their actions. Genuine “Christian” morality of uncompromising pacifism and self-sacrificing charity – pacifism even when your enemies murder you; charity even when you starve – is as powerful and as impressive and as deserving of veneration as it is rare to find publicly expressed, either eloquently or vulgarly; and, where expressed, it can be expected to be popularly ignored if not outright derided. Clergyman Jefferson also writes that if you “create a war machine,” you cannot know who will use it, nor whether the next U.S. president will be a “megalomaniac… who, when he wants a thing, takes it.” -The Voice before the Void Money for the Machinery of Human Slaughter from “Military Preparedness a Danger to Democracy” Charles Edward Jefferson published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1916 July edited by William Dudley and The Voice before the Void

“Ortega hypothesis” from Wikipedia
Jan 06 2017 4 mins  
“The matter is not settled.” “Ortega hypothesis” Wikipedia The Ortega hypothesis holds that average or mediocre scientists contribute substantially to the advancement of science. According to this hypothesis, scientific progress occurs mainly by the accumulation of a mass of modest, narrowly specialized intellectual contributions. On this view, major breakthroughs draw heavily upon a large body of minor and little-known work, without which the major advances could not happen. 1. Citation research The Ortega hypothesis is widely held, but a number of systematic studies of scientific citations have favored the opposing “Newton hypothesis,” which says that scientific progress is mostly the work of a relatively small number of great scientists (after Isaac Newton’s statement that he “stood on the shoulders of giants”). The most important papers mostly cite other important papers by a small number of outstanding scientists, suggesting that the breakthroughs do not actually draw heavily on a large body of minor work. Rather, the pattern of citations suggests that most minor work draws heavily on a small number of outstanding papers and outstanding scientists. Even minor papers by the most eminent scientists are cited much more than papers by relatively unknown scientists; and these elite scientists are clustered mostly in a small group of elite departments and universities. The same pattern of disproportionate citation of a small number of scholars appears in fields as diverse as physics and criminology. The matter is not settled. No research has established that citation counts reflect the real influence or worth of scientific work. So, the apparent disproof of the Ortega hypothesis may be an artifact of inappropriately chosen data. Stratification within the social networks of scientists may skew the citation statistics. Many authors cite research papers without actually reading them or being influenced by them. Experimental results in physics make heavy use of techniques and devices that have been honed by many previous inventors and researchers, but these are seldom cited in reports on those results. Theoretical papers have the broadest relevance to future research, while reports of experimental results have a narrower relevance but form the basis of the theories. This suggests that citation counts merely favor theoretical results. 2. The name The name of the hypothesis refers to José Ortega y Gasset, who wrote in The Revolt of the Masses that “astoundingly mediocre” men of narrow specialties do most of the work of experimental science. Ortega most likely would have disagreed with the hypothesis that has been named after him, as he held not that scientific progress is driven mainly by the accumulation of small works by mediocrities, but that scientific geniuses create a framework within which intellectually commonplace people can work successfully. For example, Ortega thought that Albert Einstein drew upon the ideas of Immanuel Kant and Ernst Mach to form his own synthesis, and that Einstein did not draw upon masses of tiny results produced systematically by mediocrities. According to Ortega, science is mostly the work of geniuses, and geniuses mostly build on each other’s work, but in some fields there is a real need for systematic laboratory work that could be done by almost anyone. The name “Ortega hypothesis” refers only to this last element of Ortega’s theory, not the main thrust of it. Ortega characterized this latter type of research as “mechanical work of the mind” that does not require special talent or even much understanding of the results, performed by people who specialize in one narrow corner of one science and hold no curiosity beyond it.

“Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings” by Ralph Adams Cram, with Discussion
Jan 05 2017 42 mins  
U.S. Inauguration Day: “All the multiple manifestations of a free and democratic society fail of their predicted issue, and we find ourselves lapped in confusion and numb with disappointment and chagrin.” “Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings” Ralph Adams Cram The Ancient doctrine of progressive evolution which became dominant during the last half of the nineteenth century, was, I suggest, next to the religious and philosophical dogmas of Dr. Calvin and the political and social doctrines of M. Rousseau, the most calamitous happening of the last millennium. In union with Protestantism and democracy, and apparently justified in its works by the amazing technological civilization fostered by coal, iron, steam and electricity, it is responsible for the present estate of society, from which there is no escape, it would seem, except through comprehensive calamity. I state my thesis thus bluntly in order to get it over with. Its justification as well as its implications I shall now expound as best I can. Let me say that I was born and bred in the briar-patch of this same progressive evolution. By the time I was of age I had read all of Spencer’s “Synthetic Philosophy” as well as the greater part of the writings of Darwin, Tyndal and Huxley, though, fortunately I believe, with a strong admixture of Ruskin, Emerson, Matthew Arnold and Carlyle, the latter group acting as a counter-agent that became operative and dominant after the passage of years. Now the point I make is that the entire scheme was based on what was then a very partial and limited knowledge of geological, biological and anthropological facts and on a particularly faulty deductive process, whereby the nature of man, his period of existence in time and space, his relationship to other forms of life, his inherent potency and his ultimate destiny were gravely misinterpreted, with the result that during the last century he has been possessed by “delusions of grandeur” that have made it impossible for him justly to estimate his own acts, to acquire a right standard of values, or consciously to provide against the issue of his own follies and parlous courses. According to the old doctrines of my youth, now showing so thin and thread-bare, man was the crown of an immemorial sequence of inevitable and even mechanical development from lower to higher, engineered by myriads of small upward steps from primeval slime through one vertebrate to another, through femur and anthropoid ape to homo sapiens, Paleolithic and Neolithic man, to the Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman and their successors, ever in an ascending line, to the glorious product of the Victorian era. As there had always been a constant, though intermittent upward progress to this delectable event, so, logically, this must continue indefinitely with an ever extending horizon of ever increasing glory and honour. The prospect was alluring and it is no wonder that it was accepted with avidity. Coming in the midst of a bewildering epoch of discovery, invention and material aggrandizement, almost, though by no means quite, equal to that that we now know, occurred between 4000 and 3500 B.C., it gave a cachet of sublimity to events then transpiring and fixed the assurance that, as it was then most erroneously assumed, the Greeks were greater than the Egyptians, the Romans than the Greeks, the Renaissance than Hellenism. (They naively slurred over the thousand years of Christian civilization as an anomalous retrogression made amends for by the sixteenth century recovery.) Therefore, and inevitably, the new era of Protestantism, democracy and industrialism must be better than the Renaissance, with God knew what of glory in the proximate future if only all those things going strong were pushed to the limit and the old and outworn things relentlessly cast aside. As I say then,

“Robert Fuller Murray” from Wikipedia
Jan 02 2017 4 mins  
Thirty years old. -The Voice before the Void “Robert Fuller Murray” Wikipedia Robert Fuller Murray (1863–1894), was a Victorian poet. Although born in the United States, Murray lived most of his life in the United Kingdom, most notably in St Andrews, Scotland. He wrote two books of poetry and was published occasionally in periodicals. Murray was born 26 December 1863 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, son of Emmeline and John Murray, the latter a Scotsman and a Unitarian minister. In 1869 his father took him to Kelso and from that point on, except for a brief visit to Egypt, he stayed in the U.K. He attended grammar school in Ilminster and Crewkerne and in 1881 he entered the University of St Andrews. In 1886 his father died. He worked for a while assisting John M.D. Meiklejohn, Professor of the Theory, History, and Practice of Education at the University of St Andrews, and contributed some poems to the school newspaper. In 1889 he left St Andrews and worked in Edinburgh at low-level journalism, including a period of employment at the Scottish Leader. He began to have frequent bouts of colds. In 1890 he returned to St Andrews, where he contributed occasionally to Longman’s Magazine. At this point it became clear he had the beginnings of “consumption” (likely tuberculosis). In 1891 he went to Egypt, but his stay was short as he disliked it. He again returned to St Andrews, and his first book, The Scarlet Gown, was published. His second book, Robert F. Murray: His Poems with a Memoir, was published in 1894 after his death. The volume includes a lengthy biographical introduction by Andrew Lang. In attempting to place Murray in the context of his contemporaries, Lang wrote: …the Victorian age produced Scottish practitioners of the art of light verse who are not remembered as they deserve to be. Lord Neaves, perhaps, is no more than a ready and rollicking versifier, but George Outram is an accomplished wit, and Robert Fuller Murray a disciple of Calverley who might well have rivalled his master had death not taken him while still in his pupilage.

“A Social Call” by Ambrose Bierce
Dec 24 2016 2 mins  
Xmas: The most glorious misanthrope, Bierce, gives the best holiday greetings. -The Voice before the Void “A Social Call” Ambrose Bierce Well, well, old Father Christmas, is it you, With your thick neck and thin pretense of virtue? Less redness in the nose—nay, even some blue Would not, I think, particularly hurt you. When seen close to, not mounted in your car, You look the drunkard and the pig you are. No matter, sit you down, for I am not In a gray study, as you sometimes find me. Merry? O, no, nor wish to be, God wot, But there’s another year of pain behind me. That’s something to be thankful for: the more There are behind, the fewer are before. I know you, Father Christmas, for a scamp, But Heaven endowed me at my soul’s creation With an affinity to every tramp That walks the world and steals its admiration. For admiration is like linen left Upon the line—got easiest by theft. Good God! old man, just think of it! I’ve stood, With brains and honesty, some five-and-twenty Long years as champion of all that’s good, And taken on the mazzard thwacks a-plenty. Yet now whose praises do the people bawl? Those of the fellows whom I live to maul! Why, this is odd!—the more I try to talk Of you the more my tongue grows egotistic To prattle of myself! I’ll try to balk Its waywardness and be more altruistic. So let us speak of others—how they sin, And what a devil of a state they ‘re in! That’s all I have to say. Good-bye, old man. Next year you possibly may find me scolding— Or miss me altogether: Nature’s plan Includes, as I suppose, a final folding Of these poor empty hands. Then drop a tear To think they’ll never box another ear.

“Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident” from Wikipedia
Dec 20 2016 13 mins  
Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler Incident Anniversary: War is a crime and war stories are horrific, but any story of mercy is a great story; any story that humanizes an enemy is a great story; and any story of friendship is a great story. This story is triply great. -The Voice before the Void “Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident” Wikipedia The Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident occurred on the 20th of December, 1943, when, after a successful bomb run on Bremen, 2nd Lt. Charles “Charlie” Brown’s B-17 Flying Fortress (named “Ye Olde Pub”) was severely damaged by German fighters. Luftwaffe ace Franz Stigler had the opportunity to shoot down the crippled bomber, but for humane reasons, he decided to allow the crew to fly back to England. After an extensive search by Brown, the two pilots met each other over 40 years later and developed a friendship that lasted until Stigler’s death in March 2008. 1. Pilots 2nd Lt. Charles L. “Charlie” Brown (“a farm boy from Weston, West Virginia,” in his own words) was a B-17F pilot with the 379th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces’ 8th Air Force, stationed at RAF Kimbolton in England. Franz Stigler, a former airline pilot from Bavaria, was a veteran Luftwaffe fighter pilot attached to Jagdgeschwader 27; at the time, he had 22 aerial victories to his name and would be eligible for the coveted Knight’s Cross with one more downed enemy bomber. 2. Bremen mission The mission was the Ye Olde Pub crew’s first and targeted the Focke-Wulf 190 aircraft production facility in Bremen. The men of the 527th Bombardment Squadron were informed in a pre-mission briefing that they might encounter hundreds of German fighters. Bremen was guarded by 250 flak guns, operated by the elite Officer Candidate School of gunners. Brown’s crew was assigned to fly “Purple Heart Corner,” a spot on the edge of the formation that was considered especially dangerous. Bomb run Brown’s B-17 began its 10-minute bomb run at 8,300 m with an outside air temperature of −60 °C. Before the bomber released its bomb load, accurate flak shattered the Plexiglas nose, knocked out the number two engine, and further damaged the number four engine, which was already in questionable condition and had to be throttled back to prevent overspeeding. The damage slowed the bomber and Brown was unable to remain with his formation and fell back as a straggler – a position from which he came under sustained enemy attacks. Attacks by fighters Brown’s straggling B-17 was now attacked by over a dozen enemy fighters (a mixture of Messerschmitt Bf 109s and Focke-Wulf Fw 190s) of JG 11 for over 10 minutes. Further damage was sustained, including damage to the number three engine, which would produce only half power (meaning that the aircraft had at best 40% of its total rated power available). The bomber’s internal oxygen, hydraulic, and electrical systems were also damaged, and the bomber lost half of its rudder and its port elevator, as well as its nose cone. Many of the gunners’ weapons then jammed, probably as a result of improper pre-mission oiling, leaving the bomber with only two dorsal turret guns and one of three forward-firing nose guns (from eleven available) for defense. Most of the crew were wounded: the tail gunner, Eckenrode, had been killed by a direct hit from a fighter shell, while Yelesanko was critically wounded in the leg by shrapnel, Pechout had been hit in the eye by a shell fragment, and Brown was wounded in his right shoulder. The morphine syrettes onboard froze, complicating first aid efforts by the crew, while the radio was destroyed and the bomber’s exterior heavily damaged. Franz Stigler Brown’s damaged bomber was spotted by Germans on the ground,

“Acámbaro figures” from Wikipedia
Dec 19 2016 5 mins  
Seems legit. “Acámbaro figures” Wikipedia The Acámbaro figures are several thousand small ceramic figurines allegedly found by Waldemar Julsrud in July 1944, in the Mexican city of Acámbaro, Guanajuato. The figurines are said by some to resemble dinosaurs and are sometimes cited as anachronisms. Some young-Earth creationists have adduced the existence of figurines as credible evidence for the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans, in an attempt to cast doubt on scientific dating methods and potentially offer support for a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative. However, there is no known reliable evidence for the validity of the Acámbaro figures as actual ancient artifacts; and many have questioned the motives of those who argue for their validity. 1. History The Acámbaro figures were uncovered by a German immigrant and hardware merchant named Waldemar Julsrud. According to Dennis Swift, a young-Earth creationist and major proponent of the figures, Julsrud stumbled upon the figures while riding his horse and hired a local farmer to dig up the remaining figures, paying him for each figure he brought back. Eventually, the farmer and his assistants brought him over 32,000 figures which included representations of everything from the supposed dinosaurs to peoples from all over the world including Egyptians, Sumerians, and “bearded Caucasians.” The figures attracted little attention from scholars and scientists, and when Julsrud began to assert that they were accurate representations of dinosaurs created by an ancient society, he only alienated himself further from serious scientific investigation. Tabloids and popular media sources covered the story, however, and the figures steadily became somewhat famous.[citation needed] Archaeologist Charles C. Di Peso was working for the Amerind Foundation, an anthropological organization dedicated to preserving Native American culture. Di Peso examined the figures and determined that they were not authentic, and had instead been produced by local modern-day farmers. “He concluded that the figurines were indeed fakes: their surfaces displayed no signs of age; no dirt was packed into their crevices; and though some figurines were broken, no pieces were missing and no broken surfaces were worn. Furthermore, the excavation’s stratigraphy clearly showed that the artifacts were placed in a recently dug hole filled with a mixture of the surrounding archaeological layers. Di Peso also learned that a local family had been making and selling these figurines to Julsrud for a peso apiece since 1944, presumably inspired by films shown at Acámbaro’s cinema, locally available comic books and newspapers, and accessible day trips to Mexico City’s Museo Nacional.” -Pezatti, Alex (2005). “Mystery at Acámbaro, Mexico”. Expedition Magazine. 47(3):7-8. University of Pennsylvania Museum. Others, however, argued that Di Peso could not have conducted a thorough investigation in the four hours he spent at Julsrud’s home. Charles Hapgood, pioneer of pole shift theory, became one of the figures’ most high profile and devout supporters.

“Body Ritual among the Nacirema” by Horace Mitchell Miner
Dec 12 2016 14 mins  
Worth listening twice. -The Voice before the Void “Body Ritual among the Nacirema” Horace Mitchell Miner Most cultures exhibit a particular configuration or style. A single value or pattern of perceiving the world often leaves its stamp on several institutions in the society. Examples are “machismo” in Spanish-influenced cultures, “face” in Japanese culture, and “pollution by females” in some highland New Guinea cultures. Here Horace Miner demonstrates that “attitudes about the body” have a pervasive influence on many institutions in Nacirema society. The anthropologist has become so familiar with the diversity of ways in which different people behave in similar situations that he is not apt to be surprised by even the most exotic customs. In fact, if all of the logically possible combinations of behavior have not been found somewhere in the world, he is apt to suspect that they must be present in some yet undescribed tribe. The point has, in fact, been expressed with respect to clan organization by Murdock. In this light, the magical beliefs and practices of the Nacirema present such unusual aspects that it seems desirable to describe them as an example of the extremes to which human behavior can go. … Nacirema culture is characterized by a highly developed market economy which has evolved in a rich natural habitat. While much of the people’s time is devoted to economic pursuits, a large part of the fruits of these labors and a considerable portion of the day are spent in ritual activity. The focus of this activity is the human body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern in the ethos of the people. While such a concern is certainly not unusual, its ceremonial aspects and associated philosophy are unique. The fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease. Incarcerated in such a body, man’s only hope is to avert these characteristics through the use of ritual and ceremony. Every household has one or more shrines devoted to this purpose. The more powerful individuals in the society have several shrines in their houses and, in fact, the opulence of a house is often referred to in terms of the number of such ritual centers it possesses. Most houses are of wattle and daub construction, but the shrine rooms of the more wealthy are walled with stone. Poorer families imitate the rich by applying pottery plaques to their shrine walls. While each family has at least one such shrine, the rituals associated with it are not family ceremonies but are private and secret. The rites are normally only discussed with children, and then only during the period when they are being initiated into these mysteries. I was able, however, to establish sufficient rapport with the natives to examine these shrines and to have the rituals described to me. The focal point of the shrine is a box or chest which is built into the wall. In this chest are kept the many charms and magical potions without which no native believes he could live. These preparations are secured from a variety of specialized practitioners. The most powerful of these are the medicine men, whose assistance must be rewarded with substantial gifts. However, the medicine men do not provide the curative potions for their clients, but decide what the ingredients should be and then write them down in an ancient and secret language. This writing is understood only by the medicine men and by the herbalists who, for another gift, provide the required charm. The charm is not disposed of after it has served its purpose, but is placed in the charmbox of the household shrine. As these magical materials are specific for certain ills, and the real or imagined maladies of the people are many, the charm-box is usually full to overflowing.

“Train of thoughts (Tren de pensamientos)” by Alsazzi Terrato
Nov 30 2016 7 mins  
“Obligaciones que no se quieren cumplir…” “Train of thoughts” Alsazzi Terrato translated from the Spanish by the author and The Voice before the Void Houseplants, “well trimmed nails.” street and documents… a little Dr. Pepper over sterile soil… blind men and federales… red Mustang, torn bills and blood… dried blood on leather seats… moss and stones. A familiar voice… your lies are old… but you tell them very well… and all seems unreal… the unreality makes all the things seem real… sad luck. Old ships, deception and French men. A little Chopin to cheapen life, Vietnam on the walls and Montevideo on the mind… alfajores* and a fistful of pine nuts… later than one in the morning and the laughter has ended, canyons in the distance, in the past, roaring… and still deafening us… in this solitude all is cold… the bags of garbage, the light of the television, the smoke of incense and even the occasional maulings of a cat. Cold feet even though one finds oneself covered to the head… itch on the nape of the neck and flowers recently sent, without a sender… without a purpose. obligations that one does not want to fulfill and rejection of oblivion… pizza in an orange place, cola poured in transparent plastic cups, ice cracking in tepid liquid, now Italians talking of Lebanon and Mussolini, black shirts… why not brown… obligations that one does not want to fulfill, sudden panic attacks in a world that seems to be too vast… obligations that one does not want to fulfill, to sleep… it is better to sleep. *a marzipan candy of Latin America “Tren de pensamientos” Alsazzi Terrato Plantas, well trimmed nails. calle y documentos… un poco de Dr. Pepper sobre tierra estéril… ciegos y federales… Mustang rojo, billetes rotos y sangre… sangre seca sobre asientos de piel… musgo y piedras. Una voz conocida… tus mentiras son viejas… pero las dices muy bien… y todo parece irreal… lo irreal hace que todas las cosas parezcan reales… triste suerte. Barcos viejos, decepción y franceses. Un poco de Chopin para abaratar la vida, Vietnam en las paredes y Montevideo en la cabeza… alfajores y un puñado de piñones… mas de la una de la mañana y se terminaron las risas, cañones a lo lejos, en el pasado, rugiendo… y aún siguen ensordeciéndonos… en esta soledad todo es frío… las bolsas de basura, la luz de la televisión, el humo de incienso y hasta los maullidos ocasionales de un gato. Pies fríos aunque uno se encuentre cubierto hasta la cabeza… comezón en la nuca y flores recién enviadas, sin remitente… sin sentido. obligaciones que no se quieren cumplir y rechazo al olvido… pizza en un lugar color naranja, refresco de cola servido en vasos transparentes de plástico, hielo crujiendo al cuartearse en líquido tibio, ahora italianos hablando de Líbano y Mussolini, camisas negras… porque no mejor cafés… obligaciones que no se quieren cumplir, ataques repentinos de pánico en lo que aparenta ser un mundo tan vasto… obligaciones que no se quieren cumplir, dormir… mejor es dormir.

“Ronald Skirth” from Wikipedia
Nov 10 2016 17 mins  
Armistice Day: The only type of war hero that ought be celebrated. -The Voice before the Void “Ronald Skirth” Wikipedia John Ronald Skirth (11 December 1897 – 1977) served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War. His experiences during the Battle of Messines and the Battle of Passchendaele led him to resolve not to take human life, and for the rest of his army service he made deliberate errors in targeting calculations to try to ensure the guns of his battery missed their aiming point on the first attempt, giving the enemy a chance to evacuate. Many years later, after retiring from a career as a teacher, he wrote a memoir of his years in the army, describing his disillusionment with the conduct of the war and his conversion to pacifism. In 2010 the memoir was published as The Reluctant Tommy, edited by Duncan Barrett. 1. Early life and war service Skirth was born in Chelmsford and grew up in Bexhill-on-Sea. In the First World War, having volunteered for the British Army under the Derby Scheme, and having requested that the process be expedited, he was called up in October 1916, two months before his 19th birthday. He became a Battery Commander’s Assistant in the Royal Garrison Artillery, responsible for making the calculations necessary to target the large guns of a field battery. When he argued with a superior officer over whether to use a French church for target practice he was demoted in rank from Corporal to Bombardier. Skirth saw action in the Battle of Messines, in which two of his closest friends, Bill and Geordie, were killed. On the same day he had an “epiphany” when he stumbled across the body of a dead German of about his own age, and realised that one of the shells he had targeted might well have killed him. This was to mark a turning point in his thinking about the war as he determined that he was morally responsible for his actions and for their consequences, despite the chain of command. During the Battle of Passchendaele, Skirth and another friend, Jock Shiels, left their post when they discovered that their commanding officer had ignored an order to withdraw from the front line. Skirth was knocked out by a shell which killed Shiels, and subsequently suffered from shell-shock and amnesia. Following a period of convalescence in hospital in France, he was sent to the Italian Front in December 1917, where his battery was being reorganised. There, following a relapse of shell-shock, he was treated in hospital in Schio and at the mud spa at Montegrotto. In Italy, Skirth made a resolution that he would do everything within his power to avoid further loss of human life. He felt that the “just war” he had signed up for was anything but just, and was disillusioned with the army and the conduct of the war. In a church in the Italian village of San Martino, near Vicenza, he made a private pact with God that he would never again help to take a human life. He wrote to his future wife, Ella Christian, claiming that he had become a pacifist and a conscientious objector. He also began a campaign of small acts of sabotage, introducing minor errors into his trajectory calculations so as to mistarget the guns, such that they “never once hit an inhabited target” on the first attempt, giving the enemy a chance to evacuate. His actions were never discovered by his superiors. Apparently he carried out this sabotage while still in Italy where he remained until February 1919, aside from a fortnight of leave back in England in November and December 1918. He received the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his war service but declined the Military Medal, which he felt was offered as part of an attempt to whitewash a fatal accident he had tried to prevent. 2. Later life In September 1919 Skirth returned to England, to commence teacher training,

“A Good War” by Lord Dunsany
Nov 10 2016 11 mins  
Armistice Day: Such is every war. -The Voice before the Void “A Good War” from Unhappy Far-off Things Lord Dunsany Nietzsche said, “You have heard that a good cause justifies any war, but I say unto you that a good war justifies any cause.” A man was walking alone over a plain so desolate that, if you have never seen it, the mere word desolation could never convey to you the melancholy surroundings that mourned about this man on his lonely walk. Far off a vista of trees followed a cheerless road all dead as mourners suddenly stricken dead in some funereal procession. By this road he had come; but when he had reached a certain point he turned from the road at once, branching away to the left, led by a line of bushes that may once have been a lane. For some while his feet had rustled through long neglected grass; sometimes he lifted them up to step over a telephone wire that lolled over old entanglements and bushes; often he came to rusty strands of barbed wire and walked through them where they had been cut, perhaps years ago, by huge shells; then his feet hissed on through the grass again, dead grass that had hissed about his boots all through the afternoon. Once he sat down to rest on the edge of a crater, weary with such walking as he had never seen before; and after he had stayed there a little while a cat that seemed to have its home in that wild place started suddenly up and leaped away over the weeds. It seemed an animal totally wild, and utterly afraid of man. Grey bare hills surrounded the waste: a partridge called far off: evening was drawing in. He rose wearily, and yet with a certain fervour, as one that pursues with devotion a lamentable quest. Looking round him as he left his resting-place he saw a cabbage or two that after some while had come back to what was a field and had sprouted on the edge of a shell-hole. A yellowing convolvulus climbed up a dead weed. Weeds, grass and tumbled earth were all about him. It would be no better when he went on. Still he went on. A flower or two peeped up among the weeds. He stood up and looked at the landscape and drew no hope from that, the shattered trunk of a stricken tree leered near him, white trenches scarred the hillside. He followed an old trench through a hedge of elder, passed under more wire, by a great rusty shell that had not burst, passed by a dug-out where something grey seemed to lie down at the bottom of many steps. Black fungi grew near the entrance. He went on and on over shell-holes, passing round them where they were deep, stepping into or over the small ones. Little burrs clutched at him; he went rustling on, the only sound in the waste but the clicking of shattered iron. Now he was among nettles. He came by many small unnatural valleys. He passed more trenches only guarded by fungi. While it was light he followed little paths, marvelling who made them. Once he got into a trench. Dandelions leaned across it as though to bar his way, believing man to have gone and to have no right to return. Weeds thronged, in thousands here. It was the day of the weeds. It was only they that seemed to triumph in those fields deserted of man. He passed on down the trench and never knew whose trench it once had been. Frightful shells had smashed it here and there, and had twisted iron as though round gigantic fingers that had twiddled it idly a moment and let it drop to lie in the rain for ever. He passed more dug-outs and black fungi, watching them; and then he left the trench, going straight on over the open: again dead grasses hissed about his feet, sometimes small wire sang faintly. He passed through a belt of nettles and thence to dead grass again. And now the light of the afternoon was beginning to dwindle away. He had intended to reach his journey’s end by daylight, for he was past the time of life when one wanders after dark, but he had not contemplated the difficulty of walking o...

“Patterns” by Amy Lowell
Nov 09 2016 7 mins  
Armistice Day: A celebrated poem about the Flanders Campaign of the British army during the War of the First Coalition, written and published during the First World War as the British army was fighting in Flanders. -The Voice before the Void “Patterns” Amy Lowell I walk down the garden paths, And all the daffodils Are blowing, and the bright blue squills. I walk down the patterned garden-paths In my stiff, brocaded gown. With my powdered hair and jewelled fan, I too am a rare Pattern. As I wander down The garden paths. My dress is richly figured, And the train Makes a pink and silver stain On the gravel, and the thrift Of the borders. Just a plate of current fashion, Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes. Not a softness anywhere about me, Only whalebone and brocade. And I sink on a seat in the shade Of a lime tree. For my passion Wars against the stiff brocade. The daffodils and squills Flutter in the breeze As they please. And I weep; For the lime-tree is in blossom And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom. And the plashing of waterdrops In the marble fountain Comes down the garden-paths. The dripping never stops. Underneath my stiffened gown Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin, A basin in the midst of hedges grown So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding, But she guesses he is near, And the sliding of the water Seems the stroking of a dear Hand upon her. What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown! I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground. All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground. I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths, And he would stumble after, Bewildered by my laughter. I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles on his shoes. I would choose To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths, A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover, Till he caught me in the shade, And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me, Aching, melting, unafraid. With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops, And the plopping of the waterdrops, All about us in the open afternoon— I am very like to swoon With the weight of this brocade, For the sun sifts through the shade. Underneath the fallen blossom In my bosom, Is a letter I have hid. It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke. “Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell Died in action Thursday se’nnight.” As I read it in the white, morning sunlight, The letters squirmed like snakes. “Any answer, Madam,” said my footman. “No,” I told him. “See that the messenger takes some refreshment. No, no answer.” And I walked into the garden, Up and down the patterned paths, In my stiff, correct brocade. The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun, Each one. I stood upright too, Held rigid to the pattern By the stiffness of my gown. Up and down I walked, Up and down. In a month he would have been my husband. In a month, here, underneath this lime, We would have broke the pattern; He for me, and I for him, He as Colonel, I as Lady, On this shady seat. He had a whim That sunlight carried blessing. And I answered, “It shall be as you have said.” Now he is dead. In Summer and in Winter I shall walk Up and down The patterned garden-paths In my stiff, brocaded gown. The squills and daffodils

“Paris is Full of Russians” by Ernest Hemingway
Nov 07 2016 2 mins  
October Revolution Anniversary and U.S. Election Day: Ever is there political turmoil; ever are there displaced people. -The Voice before the Void “Paris is Full of Russians” Ernest Hemingway Toronto Star 1922 February 25 Paris. Paris is full of Russians at present. The Russian ex-aristocracy are scattered all over Europe, running restaurants in Rome, tearooms on Capri, working as hotel porters in Nice and Marseilles and as laborers along the Mediterranean shipping centers. But those Russians who managed to bring some money or possessions with them seem to have flocked to Paris. They are drifting along in Paris in a childish sort of hopefulness that things will somehow be all right, which is quite charming when you first encounter it and rather maddening after a few months. No one knows just how they live except it is by selling off jewels and gold ornaments and family heirlooms that they brought with them to France when they fled before the revolution. According to the manager of a great jewel house on the Rue de la Paix, pearls have come down in price because of the large numbers of beautiful pearls that have been sold to Parisian jewel buyers by the Russian refugees. It is true that many Russians are living fairly lavishly in Paris at present on the sale of jewels they have brought with them in their exile. Just what the Russian colony in Paris will do when all the jewels are sold and all the valuables pawned is somewhat of a question. It is usually impossible for a large body of people to support themselves indefinitely by borrowing money, although a few people enjoy a great success at it for a time. Of course things may change in Russia, something wonderful might happen to aid the Russian colony. There is a cafe on the Boulevard Montparnasse where a great number of Russians gather every day for this something wonderful to happen and then, eventually, like all the rest of the world, the Russians of Paris may have to go to work. It seems a pity, they are such a charming lot.

“The Wehr-wolf” by George W.M. Reynolds
Oct 29 2016 15 mins  
Halloween: A monster’s frenzied night run of true awfulness and horror. Have a Happy Halloween Night! -The Voice before the Void “The Wehr-wolf” from Wagner the Wehr-wolf George W.M. Reynolds ‘Twas the hour of sunset. The eastern horizon, with its gloomy and somber twilight, offered a strange contrast to the glorious glowing hues of vermilion, and purple, and gold, that blended in long streaks athwart the western sky. For even the winter sunset of Italy is accompanied with resplendent tints—as if an emperor, decked with a refulgent diadem, were repairing to his imperial couch. The declining rays of the orb of light bathed in molten gold the pinnacles, steeples, and lofty palaces of proud Florence, and toyed with the limpid waves of the Arno, on whose banks innumerable villas and casinos already sent forth delicious strains of music, broken only by the mirth of joyous revelers. And by degrees as the sun went down, the palaces of the superb city began to shed light from their lattices, set in rich sculptured masonry; and here and there, where festivity prevailed, grand illuminations sprung up with magical quickness, the reflection from each separate galaxy rendering it bright as day far, far around. Vocal and instrumental melody floated through the still air; and the perfume of exotics, decorating the halls of the Florentine nobles, poured from the widely-opened portals, and rendered the air delicious. For Florence was gay that evening—the last day of each month being the one which the wealthy lords and high-born ladies set apart for the reception of their friends. The sun sank behind the western hills; and even the hot-house flowers closed up their buds—as if they were eyelids weighed down by slumber, and not to wake until the morning should arouse them again to welcome the return of their lover—that glorious sun! Darkness seemed to dilate upon the sky like an image in the midst of a mirage, expanding into superhuman dimensions—then rapidly losing its shapeliness, and covering the vault above densely and confusedly. But, by degrees, countless stars began to stud the colorless canopy of heaven, like gems of orient splendor; for the last—last flickering ray of the twilight in the west had expired in the increasing obscurity. But, hark! what is that wild and fearful cry? In the midst of a wood of evergreens on the banks of the Arno, a man—young, handsome, and splendidly attired—has thrown himself upon the ground, where he writhes like a stricken serpent, in horrible convulsions. He is the prey of a demoniac excitement: an appalling consternation is on him—madness is in his brain—his mind is on fire. Lightnings appear to gleam from his eyes, as if his soul were dismayed, and withering within his breast. “Oh! no—no!” he cries with a piercing shriek, as if wrestling madly, furiously, but vainly against some unseen fiend that holds him in his grasp. And the wood echoes to that terrible wail; and the startled bird flies fluttering from its bough. But, lo! what awful change is taking place in the form of that doomed being? His handsome countenance elongates into one of savage and brute-like shape; the rich garments which he wears become a rough, shaggy, and wiry skin; his body loses its human contours, his arms and limbs take another form; and, with a frantic howl of misery, to which the woods give horribly faithful reverberations, and, with a rush like a hurling wind, the wretch starts wildly away, no longer a man, but a monstrous wolf! On, on he goes: the wood is cleared—the open country is gained. Tree, hedge, and isolated cottage appear but dim points in the landscape—a moment seen, the next left behind; the very hills appear to leap after each other. A cemetery stands in the monster’s way, but he turns not aside—through the sacred inclosure—on,

“Gavon’s Eve” by E.F. Benson
Oct 28 2016 28 mins  
Halloween: Legend and mystery and scandal, a witch and a ghost, and a blasphemous ritual in a castle ruin in the autumnal midnight. -The Voice before the Void “Gavon’s Eve” E.F. Benson It is only the largest kind of ordnance map that records the existence of the village of Gavon, in the shire of Sutherland, and it is perhaps surprising that any map on whatever scale should mark so small and huddled a group of huts, set on a bare, bleak headland between moor and sea, and, so one would have thought, of no import at all to any who did not happen to live there. But the river Gavon, on the right bank of which stand this half-dozen of chimneyless and wind-swept habitations, is a geographical fact of far greater interest to outsiders, for the salmon there are heavy fish, the mouth of the river is clear of nets, and all the way up to Gavon Loch, some six miles inland, the coffee-coloured water lies in pool after deep pool, which verge, if the river is in order and the angler moderately sanguine, on a fishing probability amounting almost to a certainty. In any case, during the first fortnight of September last I had no blank day on those delectable waters, and up till the 15th of that month there was no day on which some one at the lodge in which I was stopping did not land a fish out of the famous Picts’ pool. But after the 15th that pool was not fished again. The reason why is here set forward. The river at this point, after some hundred yards of rapid, makes a sudden turn round a rocky angle, and plunges madly into the pool itself. Very deep water lies at the head of it, but deeper still further down on the east side, where a portion of the stream flicks back again in a swift dark backwater towards the top of the pool again. It is fishable only from the western bank, for to the east, above this backwater, a great wall of black and basaltic rock, heaved up no doubt by some fault in strata, rises sheer from the river to the height of some sixty feet. It is in fact nearly precipitous on both sides, heavily serrated at the top, and of so curious a thinness, that at about the middle of it where a fissure breaks its topmost edge, and some twenty feet from the top, there exists a long hole, a sort of lancet window, one would say, right through the rock, so that a slit of daylight can be seen through it. Since, therefore, no one would care to cast his line standing perched on that razor-edged eminence, the pool must needs be fished from the western bank. A decent fly, however, will cover it all. It is on the western bank that there stand the remains of that which gave its title to the pool, namely, the ruins of a Pict castle, built out of rough and scarcely hewn masonry, unmortared but on a certain large and impressive scale, and in a very well-preserved condition considering its extreme antiquity. It is circular in shape and measures some twenty yards of diameter in its internal span. A staircase of large blocks with a rise of at least a foot leads up to the main gate, and opposite this on the side towards the river is another smaller postern through which down a rather hazardously steep slope a scrambling path, where progress demands both caution and activity, conducts to the head of the pool which lies immediately beneath it. A gate-chamber still roofed over exists in the solid wall: inside there are foundation indications of three rooms, and in the centre of all a very deep hole, probably a well. Finally, just outside the postern leading to the river is a small artificially levelled platform, some twenty feet across, as if made to support some super-incumbent edifice. Certain stone slabs and blocks are dispersed over it. Brora, the post-town of Gavon, lies some six miles to the south-west, and from it a track over the moor leads to the rapids immediately above the Picts’ pool, across which by somewhat extravagant striding from boulder to boulder a man can p...

“The Dead Valley” by Ralph Adams Cram
Oct 24 2016 27 mins  
Halloween: All the more creepy to think this based upon some obscure forgotten folklore. -The Voice before the Void “The Dead Valley” from Black Spirits and White Ralph Adams Cram I have a friend, Olof Ehrensvärd, a Swede by birth, who yet, by reason of a strange and melancholy mischance of his early boyhood, has thrown his lot with that of the New World. It is a curious story of a headstrong boy and a proud and relentless family: the details do not matter here, but they are sufficient to weave a web of romance around the tall yellow-bearded man with the sad eyes and the voice that gives itself perfectly to plaintive little Swedish songs remembered out of childhood. In the winter evenings we play chess together, he and I, and after some close, fierce battle has been fought to a finish—usually with my own defeat—we fill our pipes again, and Ehrensvärd tells me stories of the far, half-remembered days in the fatherland, before he went to sea: stories that grow very strange and incredible as the night deepens and the fire falls together, but stories that, nevertheless, I fully believe. One of them made a strong impression on me, so I set it down here, only regretting that I cannot reproduce the curiously perfect English and the delicate accent which to me increased the fascination of the tale. Yet, as best I can remember it, here it is. “I never told you how Nils and I went over the hills to Hallsberg, and how we found the Dead Valley, did I? Well, this is the way it happened. I must have been about twelve years old, and Nils Sjöberg, whose father’s estate joined ours, was a few months younger. We were inseparable just at that time, and whatever we did, we did together. “Once a week it was market day in Engelholm, and Nils and I went always there to see the strange sights that the market gathered from all the surrounding country. One day we quite lost our hearts, for an old man from across the Elfborg had brought a little dog to sell, that seemed to us the most beautiful dog in all the world. He was a round, woolly puppy, so funny that Nils and I sat down on the ground and laughed at him, until he came and played with us in so jolly a way that we felt that there was only one really desirable thing in life, and that was the little dog of the old man from across the hills. But alas! we had not half money enough wherewith to buy him, so we were forced to beg the old man not to sell him before the next market day, promising that we would bring the money for him then. He gave us his word, and we ran home very fast and implored our mothers to give us money for the little dog. “We got the money, but we could not wait for the next market day. Suppose the puppy should be sold! The thought frightened us so that we begged and implored that we might be allowed to go over the hills to Hallsberg where the old man lived, and get the little dog ourselves, and at last they told us we might go. By starting early in the morning we should reach Hallsberg by three o’clock, and it was arranged that we should stay there that night with Nils’s aunt, and, leaving by noon the next day, be home again by sunset. “Soon after sunrise we were on our way, after having received minute instructions as to just what we should do in all possible and impossible circumstances, and finally a repeated injunction that we should start for home at the same hour the next day, so that we might get safely back before nightfall. “For us, it was magnificent sport, and we started off with our rifles, full of the sense of our very great importance: yet the journey was simple enough, along a good road, across the big hills we knew so well, for Nils and I had shot over half the territory this side of the dividing ridge of the Elfborg. Back of Engelholm lay a long valley, from which rose the low mountains, and we had to cross this,

“The Night Ocean” by R.H. Barlow and H.P. Lovecraft
Oct 22 2016 73 mins  
Halloween: Amidst brooding philosophy, the pieces of the horror lie unobtrusively throughout the story for us to fit together. A superb story. -The Voice before the Void “The Night Ocean” R.H. Barlow and H.P. Lovecraft I went to Ellston Beach not only for the pleasures of sun and ocean, but to rest a weary mind. Since I knew no person in the little town, which thrives on summer vacationists and presents only blank windows during most of the year, there seemed no likelihood that I might be disturbed. This pleased me, for I did not wish to see anything but the expanse of pounding surf and the beach lying before my temporary home. My long work of the summer was completed when I left the city, and the large mural design produced by it had been entered in the contest. It had taken me the bulk of the year to finish the painting, and when the last brush was cleaned I was no longer reluctant to yield to the claims of health and find rest and seclusion for a time. Indeed, when I had been a week on the beach I recalled only now and then the work whose success had so recently seemed all-important. There was no longer the old concern with a hundred complexities of colour and ornament; no longer the fear and mistrust of my ability to render a mental image actual, and turn by my own skill alone the dim-conceived idea into the careful draught of a design. And yet that which later befell me by the lonely shore may have grown solely from the mental constitution behind such concern and fear and mistrust. For I have always been a seeker, a dreamer, and a ponderer on seeking and dreaming; and who can say that such a nature does not open latent eyes sensitive to unsuspected worlds and orders of being? Now that I am trying to tell what I saw I am conscious of a thousand maddening limitations. Things seen by the inward sight, like those flashing visions which come as we drift into the blankness of sleep, are more vivid and meaningful to us in that form than when we have sought to weld them with reality. Set a pen to a dream, and the colour drains from it. The ink with which we write seems diluted with something holding too much of reality, and we find that after all we cannot delineate the incredible memory. It is as if our inward selves, released from the bonds of daytime and objectivity, revelled in prisoned emotions which are hastily stifled when we translate them. In dreams and visions lie the greatest creations of man, for on them rests no yoke of line or hue. Forgotten scenes, and lands more obscure than the golden world of childhood, spring into the sleeping mind to reign until awakening puts them to rout. Amid these may be attained something of the glory and contentment for which we yearn; some image of sharp beauties suspected but not before revealed, which are to us as the Grail to holy spirits of the medieval world. To shape these things on the wheel of art, to seek to bring some faded trophy from that intangible realm of shadow and gossamer, requires equal skill and memory. For although dreams are in all of us, few hands may grasp their moth-wings without tearing them. Such skill this narrative does not have. If I might, I would reveal to you the hinted events which I perceived dimly, like one who peers into an unlit realm and glimpses forms whose motion is concealed. In my mural design, which then lay with a multitude of others in the building for which they were planned, I had striven equally to catch a trace of this elusive shadow-world, and had perhaps succeeded better than I shall now succeed. My stay in Ellston was to await the judging of that design; and when days of unfamiliar leisure had given me perspective, I discovered that – in spite of those weaknesses which a creator always detects most clearly – I had indeed managed to retain in line and colour some fragments snatched from the endless world of imagining. The difficulties of the process,

“Darkness” by Lord Byron
Sep 27 2016 5 mins  
Halloween: Ineluctably, the world shall end. -The Voice before the Void “Darkness” Lord Byron I had a dream, which was not all a dream. The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars Did wander darkling in the eternal space, Rayless, and pathless, and the icy Earth Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air; Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day, And men forgot their passions in the dread Of this their desolation; and all hearts Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light: And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones, The palaces of crownéd kings—the huts, The habitations of all things which dwell, Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed, And men were gathered round their blazing homes To look once more into each other’s face; Happy were those who dwelt within the eye Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch: A fearful hope was all the World contained; Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks Extinguished with a crash—and all was black. The brows of men by the despairing light Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits The flashes fell upon them; some lay down And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest Their chins upon their clenchéd hands, and smiled; And others hurried to and fro, and fed Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up With mad disquietude on the dull sky, The pall of a past World; and then again With curses cast them down upon the dust, And gnashed their teeth and howled: the wild birds shrieked, And, terrified, did flutter on the ground, And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawled And twined themselves among the multitude, Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food: And War, which for a moment was no more, Did glut himself again:—a meal was bought With blood, and each sate sullenly apart Gorging himself in gloom: no Love was left; All earth was but one thought—and that was Death, Immediate and inglorious; and the pang Of famine fed upon all entrails—men Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh; The meagre by the meagre were devoured, Even dogs assailed their masters, all save one, And he was faithful to a corse, and kept The birds and beasts and famished men at bay, Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food, But with a piteous and perpetual moan, And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand Which answered not with a caress—he died. The crowd was famished by degrees; but two Of an enormous city did survive, And they were enemies: they met beside The dying embers of an altar-place Where had been heaped a mass of holy things For an unholy usage; they raked up, And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath Blew for a little life, and made a flame Which was a mockery; then they lifted up Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld Each other’s aspects—saw, and shrieked, and died— Even of their mutual hideousness they died, Unknowing who he was upon whose brow Famine had written Fiend. The World was void, The populous and the powerful was a lump, Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless— A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay. The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still, And nothing stirred within their silent depths;

“The Room in the Tower” by E.F. Benson
Sep 21 2016 37 mins  
Halloween: A cold reading of what has instantly become a new favorite Halloween story. -The Voice before the Void “The Room in the Tower” E.F. Benson It is probable that everybody who is at all a constant dreamer has had at least one experience of an event or a sequence of circumstances which have come to his mind in sleep being subsequently realized in the material world. But, in my opinion, so far from this being a strange thing, it would be far odder if this fulfilment did not occasionally happen, since our dreams are, as a rule, concerned with people whom we know and places with which we are familiar, such as might very naturally occur in the awake and daylit world. True, these dreams are often broken into by some absurd and fantastic incident, which puts them out of court in regard to their subsequent fulfilment, but on the mere calculation of chances, it does not appear in the least unlikely that a dream imagined by anyone who dreams constantly should occasionally come true. Not long ago, for instance, I experienced such a fulfilment of a dream which seems to me in no way remarkable and to have no kind of psychical significance. The manner of it was as follows. A certain friend of mine, living abroad, is amiable enough to write to me about once in a fortnight. Thus, when fourteen days or thereabouts have elapsed since I last heard from him, my mind, probably, either consciously or subconsciously, is expectant of a letter from him. One night last week I dreamed that as I was going upstairs to dress for dinner I heard, as I often heard, the sound of the postman’s knock on my front door, and diverted my direction downstairs instead. There, among other correspondence, was a letter from him. Thereafter the fantastic entered, for on opening it I found inside the ace of diamonds, and scribbled across it in his well-known handwriting, “I am sending you this for safe custody, as you know it is running an unreasonable risk to keep aces in Italy.” The next evening I was just preparing to go upstairs to dress when I heard the postman’s knock, and did precisely as I had done in my dream. There, among other letters, was one from my friend. Only it did not contain the ace of diamonds. Had it done so, I should have attached more weight to the matter, which, as it stands, seems to me a perfectly ordinary coincidence. No doubt I consciously or subconsciously expected a letter from him, and this suggested to me my dream. Similarly, the fact that my friend had not written to me for a fortnight suggested to him that he should do so. But occasionally it is not so easy to find such an explanation, and for the following story I can find no explanation at all. It came out of the dark, and into the dark it has gone again. All my life I have been a habitual dreamer: the nights are few, that is to say, when I do not find on awaking in the morning that some mental experience has been mine, and sometimes, all night long, apparently, a series of the most dazzling adventures befall me. Almost without exception these adventures are pleasant, though often merely trivial. It is of an exception that I am going to speak. It was when I was about sixteen that a certain dream first came to me, and this is how it befell. It opened with my being set down at the door of a big red-brick house, where, I understood, I was going to stay. The servant who opened the door told me that tea was being served in the garden, and led me through a low dark-panelled hall, with a large open fireplace, on to a cheerful green lawn set round with flower beds. There were grouped about the tea-table a small party of people, but they were all strangers to me except one, who was a schoolfellow called Jack Stone, clearly the son of the house, and he introduced me to his mother and father and a couple of sisters. I was, I remember, somewhat astonished to find myself here,

Infinite Pages: 4 Stories by Jorge Luis Borges, from Wikipedia
Aug 24 2016 22 mins  
Jorge Luis Borges’ Birthday: Four stories of philosophy, touching upon fantasy, horror, and weirdness, and even H.P. Lovecraft. Spoilers. -The Voice before the Void “The Aleph” Wikipedia “The Aleph” is a short story by the Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. First published in September 1945, it was reprinted in the short story collection, The Aleph and Other Stories, in 1949, and revised by the author in 1974. Plot summary In Borges’ story, the Aleph is a point in space that contains all other points. Anyone who gazes into it can see everything in the universe from every angle simultaneously, without distortion, overlapping, or confusion. The story traces the theme of infinity found in several of Borges’ other works, such as “The Book of Sand.” As in many of Borges’ short stories, the protagonist is a fictionalized version of the author. At the beginning of the story, he is mourning the recent death of a woman whom he loved, named Beatriz Viterbo, and resolves to stop by the house of her family to pay his respects. Over time, he comes to know her first cousin, Carlos Argentino Daneri, a mediocre poet with a vastly exaggerated view of his own talent who has made it his lifelong quest to write an epic poem that describes every single location on the planet in excruciatingly fine detail. Later in the story, a business on the same street attempts to tear down Daneri’s house in the course of its expansion. Daneri becomes enraged, explaining to the narrator that he must keep the house in order to finish his poem, because the cellar contains an Aleph which he is using to write the poem. Though by now he believes Daneri to be quite insane, the narrator proposes without waiting for an answer to come to the house and see the Aleph for himself. Left alone in the darkness of the cellar, the narrator begins to fear that Daneri is conspiring to kill him, and then he sees the Aleph for himself: “On the back part of the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance. At first I thought it was revolving; then I realised that this movement was an illusion created by the dizzying world it bounded. The Aleph’s diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror’s face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe. I saw the teeming sea; I saw daybreak and nightfall; I saw the multitudes of America; I saw a silvery cobweb in the center of a black pyramid; I saw a splintered labyrinth (it was London); I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me; I saw in a backyard of Soler Street the same tiles that thirty years before I’d seen in the entrance of a house in Fray Bentos; I saw bunches of grapes, snow, tobacco, lodes of metal, steam; I saw convex equatorial deserts and each one of their grains of sand…” -“The Aleph,” by Jorge Luis Borges, translated from the Spanish by Norman Thomas di Giovanni in collaboration with the author Though staggered by the experience of seeing the Aleph, the narrator pretends to have seen nothing in order to get revenge on Daneri, whom he dislikes, by giving Daneri a reason to doubt his own sanity. The narrator tells Daneri that he has lived too long amongst the noise and bustle of the city and spent too much time in the dark and enclosed space of his cellar, and assures him that what he truly needs are the wide open spaces and fresh air of the countryside, and these will provide him the true peace of mind that he needs to complete his poem. He then takes his leave of Daneri and exits the house. In a postscript to the story,

“The Music of Erich Zann” by H.P. Lovecraft
Aug 20 2016 29 mins  
H.P. Lovecraft’s Birthday: Upon Brennan’s recommendation. “Happy birthday, Mr. Lovecraft. And with that, let begin the season of Halloween.” -The Voice before the Void “The Music of Erich Zann” H.P. Lovecraft I have examined maps of the city with the greatest care, yet have never again found the Rue d’Auseil. These maps have not been modern maps alone, for I know that names change. I have, on the contrary, delved deeply into all the antiquities of the place, and have personally explored every region, of whatever name, which could possibly answer to the street I knew as the Rue d’Auseil. But despite all I have done, it remains an humiliating fact that I cannot find the house, the street, or even the locality, where, during the last months of my impoverished life as a student of metaphysics at the university, I heard the music of Erich Zann. That my memory is broken, I do not wonder; for my health, physical and mental, was gravely disturbed throughout the period of my residence in the Rue d’Auseil, and I recall that I took none of my few acquaintances there. But that I cannot find the place again is both singular and perplexing; for it was within a half-hour’s walk of the university and was distinguished by peculiarities which could hardly be forgotten by any one who had been there. I have never met a person who has seen the Rue d’Auseil. The Rue d’Auseil lay across a dark river bordered by precipitous brick blear-windowed warehouses and spanned by a ponderous bridge of dark stone. It was always shadowy along that river, as if the smoke of neighboring factories shut out the sun perpetually. The river was also odorous with evil stenches which I have never smelled elsewhere, and which may some day help me to find it, since I should recognize them at once. Beyond the bridge were narrow cobbled streets with rails; and then came the ascent, at first gradual, but incredibly steep as the Rue d’Auseil was reached. I have never seen another street as narrow and steep as the Rue d’Auseil. It was almost a cliff, closed to all vehicles, consisting in several places of flights of steps, and ending at the top in a lofty ivied wall. Its paving was irregular, sometimes stone slabs, sometimes cobblestones, and sometimes bare earth with struggling greenish-grey vegetation. The houses were tall, peaked-roofed, incredibly old, and crazily leaning backward, forward, and sidewise. Occasionally an opposite pair, both leaning forward, almost met across the street like an arch; and certainly they kept most of the light from the ground below. There were a few overhead bridges from house to house across the street. The inhabitants of that street impressed me peculiarly; At first I thought it was because they were all silent and reticent; but later decided it was because they were all very old. I do not know how I came to live on such a street, but I was not myself when I moved there. I had been living in many poor places, always evicted for want of money; until at last I came upon that tottering house in the Rue d’Auseil kept by the paralytic Blandot. It was the third house from the top of the street, and by far the tallest of them all. My room was on the fifth story; the only inhabited room there, since the house was almost empty. On the night I arrived I heard strange music from the peaked garret overhead, and the next day asked old Blandot about it. He told me it was an old German viol-player, a strange dumb man who signed his name as Erich Zann, and who played evenings in a cheap theater orchestra; adding that Zann’s desire to play in the night after his return from the theater was the reason he had chosen this lofty and isolated garret room,

“H.P. Lovecraft, An Evaluation” by Joseph Payne Brennan
Aug 18 2016 18 mins  
H.P. Lovecraft’s Birthday: Quite a prescient consideration. -The Voice before the Void “H.P. Lovecraft, An Evaluation” Joseph Payne Brennan MACABRE HOUSE 55 Trumbull St. New Haven 10 Connecticut Since the publication of my “H. P. Lovecraft: A Bibliography” (Biblio Press, 1952), I have been repeatedly urged to write out my opinion of Lovecraft’s work. I have been kept from doing so by the pressure of a full-time library job, plus my own creative work in the diverse fields of the horror story, the western story, and poetry, as well as the semi-annual publication of ESSENCE and other time-consuming activities such as an unending struggle against censorship groups which are violating Constitutional rights on both a local and national level. The following brief essay is an admittedly hurried and incomplete attempt to meet demands for a Lovecraft critique. An entire book, requiring many months of uninterrupted work, could be devoted to the project and I sincerely regret that circumstances do not permit me to undertake such a task. But I hope that my comments, in spite of their brevity, will be of some interest. Nearly twenty years have passed since Lovecraft’s death, but, unfortunately, a final evaluation of the man and of his work is still not possible. His collected poems, though due to appear shortly, have not yet been published. His letters, either selected or collected, have not appeared. Probably some of the pieces which he contributed under pseudonyms to “little” magazines have never been reprinted. And of course no complete and carefully written biography of the man has ever been published. With the important exception of the poems and letters however, all of Lovecraft’s work of any significance has been in print for some years. It seems doubtful, therefore, that an evaluation of his work, at this time, will be seriously qualified by future publication. In his essay on Lovecraft, “Tales of the Marvellous and the Ridiculous”, which originally appeared in “The New Yorker” and was later reprinted in his book, “Classics and Commercials”, Edmund Wilson states flatly: “Lovecraft was not a good writer.” (Before Lovecraft admirers reach for their shotguns, I might point out that Edmund Wilson also refers to no less a literary figure than Somerset Maugham as “second-rate” and “a half-trashy novelist.”) Even though his criticism is far too severe–too much of a generalization–Wilson does call attention to two Lovecraft faults which I must reluctantly acknowledge: his frequent prolixity and his tendency to lean on shopworn adjectives such as “terrible”, “horrible”, “hellish”, etc. to achieve eerie effects. In a good horror story, adjectives such as this are best omitted or at least introduced very sparingly. Beyond these criticisms, Wilson emphasizes the essential weakness and lack of verisimilitude of the “Cthulhu Mythos” episodes. With this, too, I must grudgingly agree. And at this point I would like to call attention to the fact that the two specific faults mentioned immediately above–prolixity and adjectivitus–are more frequently encountered in the “Mythos” stories than in any others. The “Cthulhu Mythos” has raised a great commotion. Over a period of years, enthusiastic collaborators, imitators, friends and admirers have elevated the Cthulhu myth to a pedestal of importance which it scarcely deserves. The “Mythos” did indeed become the frame for Lovecraft’s later tales, but they were not his best tales. Lovecraft also amused himself by employing Cthulhu terminology in some of his huge correspondence, but it now seems doubtful that he attached as much importance to the “Mythos” as do some of h...

“Lemon Wedges” by Tracy Lindquist Price
Aug 01 2016 1 mins  
Love is a tremendous thing. I love this poem. Read Price’s work at The Cherry Window and Plains Prose. -The Voice before the Void “Lemon Wedges” Tracy Lindquist Price Today I chewed on lemon wedges to kill the sweet taste of you in my mouth but still the water came and the acid stung my cheeks as the pulp tears slid down my face they leapt off my chin hit the ground and beneath my feet a lemon tree grew I watched as it emerged, the trunk was crusted in sugar the leaves were glossy and crystallized, the fruit had begun to bear from the yellow cracked bits of flowers that perched upon the edges of candied sticks and there is where the hard rock lemon drops formed by the thousands; and to shake the hung tree was tempting so I did just that in my sapphire dress with a wedge between my teeth it poured over me like rain in a storm, landing quiet as cotton balls and a mountain of stones built around me, I was pushed atop the peak. I took a step, grabbed the highest branch and sat quiet on a limb. I listened when the dropped mountain began to tremble, gazed as it all started falling upwards from the bottom to the top until nothing remained on the grass, but me, the empty tree and the last of my lemon rinds. Through the sky the drops flew higher, beyond the clouds and the moon and I could not tell what twinkled more, the sugar or the stars each stopped in time to find its place and I fixated on Cepheus when into his crown did a handful slip as Cassiopeia sighed; love within reach forever.

Interview with Noelle Myers of the Northern Ink Writers’ Group of Grand Forks, North Dakota
Jul 23 2016 58 mins  
I sat down with Noelle Myers, the moderator of the Northern Ink Writers’ Group, which meets every two weeks in the Grand Forks Public Library in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Red River, which flows through Grand Forks north to the Hudson Bay, catastrophically flooded the city in 1997. The Grand Forks Herald won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its coverage of the flood. We talked about Northern Ink’s Life in the North anthology; fiction genres; literary charities; writers’ conferences; constructive criticism; narrative construction; creating a new genre; geological and economical fiction; the “new adult” genre; “heat” or sex in fiction; rules for publishing and “pirate rules”; taboo subjects in fiction; the difference between romance fiction and women’s fiction or literary fiction; science fiction and Hugo Gernsback; sub-genres; anthologies; the purpose of life; being a better writer; the UND and NDSU sports rivalry; sports, arts, literature, and other frivolity; beauty; collegiate sports funding; online writing groups and writing sprints; dead-tree books and Nooks; antique children’s books; book collecting; the Grand Forks Flood of 1997; antique stores; the library swap shelf; support and encouragement; the Grand Forks Herald and its Pulitzer; and writers’ characters. “There’s like 20 different -punks.” -The Voice before the Void Northern Ink The Laughing Girls Poetry Reading Series and The Laughing Girls on Facebook Teegan Loy at Dreamspinner Press Written? Kitten! Interview with Noelle Myers of the Northern Ink Writers’ Group of Grand Forks, North Dakota The Voice before the Void

3 Lakota Heroes: Red Cloud, Gall, and Crazy Horse by Charles Eastman
Jun 25 2016 62 mins  
Battle of the Little Bighorn Anniversary: June 25 is the anniversary of the great victory. As of 2016, it’s been only 140 years. From one of his popular books, here presented are dramatic biographies of three men by the Dakota writer Ohiyesa, more widely known as Charles Eastman. -The Voice before the Void 3 Lakota Heroes: Red Cloud, Gall, and Crazy Horse from Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains Charles Eastman “Red Cloud” The Sioux were now entering upon the most stormy period of their history. The old things were fast giving place to new. The young men, for the first time engaging in serious and destructive warfare with the neighboring tribes, armed with the deadly weapons furnished by the white man, began to realize that they must soon enter upon a desperate struggle for their ancestral hunting grounds. The old men had been innocently cultivating the friendship of the stranger, saying among themselves, “Surely there is land enough for all!” Red Cloud was a modest and little-known man of about twenty-eight years when General [William S.] Harney called all the western bands of Sioux together at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for the purpose of securing an agreement and right of way through their territory. The Ogallalas held aloof from this proposal, but Bear Bull, an Ogallala chief, after having been plied with whisky, undertook to dictate submission to the rest of the clan. Enraged by failure, he fired upon a group of his own tribesmen, and Red Cloud’s father and brother fell dead. According to Indian custom, it fell to him to avenge the deed. Calmly, without uttering a word, he faced old Bear Bull and his son, who attempted to defend his father, and shot them both. He did what he believed to be his duty, and the whole band sustained him. Indeed, the tragedy gave the young man at once a certain standing, as one who not only defended his people against enemies from without, but against injustice and aggression within the tribe. From this time on he was a recognized leader. Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse, then head chief of the Ogallalas, took council with Red Cloud in all important matters, and the young warrior rapidly advanced in authority and influence. In 1854, when he was barely thirty-five years old, the various bands were again encamped near Fort Laramie. A Mormon emigrant train, moving westward, left a footsore cow behind, and the young men killed her for food. The next day, to their astonishment, an officer [John Lawrence Grattan] with thirty men appeared at the Indian camp and demanded of old Conquering Bear that they be given up. The chief in vain protested that it was all a mistake and offered to make reparation. It would seem that either the officer was under the influence of liquor, or else had a mind to bully the Indians, for he would accept neither explanation nor payment, but demanded point-blank that the young men who had killed the cow be delivered up to summary punishment. The old chief refused to be intimidated and was shot dead on the spot. Not one soldier ever reached the gate of Fort Laramie! [Grattan Massacre] Here Red Cloud led the young Ogallalas, and so intense was the feeling that they even killed the half-breed interpreter [Lucien Auguste]. Curiously enough, there was no attempt at retaliation on the part of the army, and no serious break until 1860, when the Sioux were involved in troubles with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes [Colorado War]. In 1862, a grave outbreak was precipitated by the eastern Sioux in Minnesota under Little Crow [Dakota War of 1862],...

“Dewey Lake Monster” from Wikipedia
Jun 20 2016 3 mins  
Dewey Lake Monster Sightings Anniversary: In the Northern Hemisphere, June is when bipedal creatures are most active. -The Voice before the Void “Dewey Lake Monster” Wikipedia The Dewey Lake Monster is the name given to a large bipedal creature approximately 10 feet (3 meters) tall and weighing about 500 pounds (227 kilograms), which first gained wide notoriety in June 1964 after several reported sightings near Dewey Lake in Dowagiac, Michigan. It is also referred to as the Michigan Bigfoot and Sister Lakes Sasquatch. The beast had already been known to locals in the area for several years prior to the June 1964 events and was rumored to dwell primarily along a 15-mile stretch of swamp-land extending from Dowagiac/Sister Lakes toward Decatur, Michigan (along Dewey Lake Street); however, in 1964 it gained national attention in the United States after several notable attacks and sightings prompted investigation by authorities, which in turn resulted in coverage by national newspapers and caused a flood of curious thrill-seekers and monster-hunters to besiege the local community in the summer of ’64. Though the monster was never captured nor the mystery resolved, footprints were photographed and plaster casts taken as well as sketches rendered. Former Cass County Sheriff, Paul Parrish, was quoted as saying “it was one of the strangest times” in his “33 years of southwestern Michigan law enforcement.” He added: “We investigated it long and hard, but were never able to come up with whatever it was. But some good, honest, legitimate people” reported it. The mystery remains to this day, as do the sightings. Perhaps the most curious aspect of the case is that the people who witnessed the “beast” are still reluctant to discuss what they saw; they only want to forget it and are not interested in having their names associated with the “thing” they encountered. Further reading Bigfoot Casebook Updated: Sightings and Encounters from 1818 to 2004. Janet and Colin Bord, ed. Pine Winds Press. 2006. Mysterious America: The Ultimate Guide to the Nation’s Weirdest Wonders, Strangest Spots, and Creepiest Creatures. Loren Coleman. Paraview Pocket Books. 2007.

“Nyarlathotep” from Wikipedia
Jun 18 2016 12 mins  
H.P. Lovecraft encounters Nikola Tesla and dreams a nightmare. -The Voice before the Void “Nyarlathotep” Wikipedia Nyarlathotep is a name used for a character in the works of H.P. Lovecraft and other writers. The character is commonly known in association with its role as a malign deity in the Lovecraft Mythos fictional universe, where it is known as the Crawling Chaos. First appearing in Lovecraft’s 1920 prose poem of the same name, he was later mentioned in other works by Lovecraft and by other writers and in the tabletop role-playing games making use of the Cthulhu Mythos. Later writers describe him as one of the Outer Gods. Although the deity’s name is fictional, it bears the historical Egyptian suffix -hotep, meaning “peace” or “satisfaction.” 1. In the work of H.P. Lovecraft In his first appearance in “Nyarlathotep” (1920), he is described as a “tall, swarthy man” who resembles an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. In this story he wanders the earth, seemingly gathering legions of followers, the narrator of the story among them, through his demonstrations of strange and seemingly magical instruments. These followers lose awareness of the world around them, and through the narrator’s increasingly unreliable accounts the reader gets an impression of the world’s collapse. Nyarlathotep subsequently appears as a major character in “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” (1926/27), in which he again manifests in the form of an Egyptian Pharaoh when he confronts protagonist Randolph Carter. The twenty-first sonnet of Lovecraft’s poem-cycle “Fungi from Yuggoth” (1929/30) is essentially a retelling of the original prose poem. In “The Dreams in the Witch House” (1933), Nyarlathotep appears to Walter Gilman and witch Keziah Mason (who has made a pact with the entity) in the form of “the ‘Black Man’ of the witch-cult,” a black-skinned avatar of the Devil described by witch hunters. Finally, in “The Haunter of the Dark” (1936), the nocturnal, tentacled, bat-winged monster dwelling in the steeple of the Starry Wisdom sect’s church is identified as another manifestation of Nyarlathotep. This avatar can not tolerate the slightest light. Though Nyarlathotep appears as a character in only four stories and two sonnets, his name is mentioned frequently in other works. In “The Rats in the Walls” (1924), Nyarlathotep is mentioned as a faceless god in the caverns of earth’s center. In “The Whisperer in Darkness” (1931), the Mi-Go chant his name in reverential tones, describing him as a non-human entity who takes the form of a man. In “The Shadow Out of Time” (1936), the “hideous secret of Nyarlathotep” is revealed to the protagonist by Khephnes during their imprisonment by the Great Race of Yith. Nyarlathotep does not appear in Lovecraft’s story “The Crawling Chaos” (1920/21), despite the similarity of the title to the character’s epithet. 2. Inspiration In a 1921 letter to Reinhardt Kleiner, Lovecraft related the dream he had had — described as “the most realistic and horrible [nightmare] I have experienced since the age of ten” — that served as the basis for his prose poem “Nyarlathotep.” In the dream, he received a letter from his friend Samuel Loveman that read: Don’t fail to see Nyarlathotep if he comes to Providence. He is horrible — horrible beyond anything you can imagine — but wonderful. He haunts one for hours afterward. I am still shuddering at what he showed. Lovecraft commented: I had never heard the name NYARLATHOTEP before, but seemed to understand the allusion.

“Nyarlathotep” by H.P. Lovecraft
Jun 01 2016 10 mins  
Few things are as fun as Lovecraft at the height of his powers. Nary a word in excess here. A wonderful evocation of the atmosphere of the End of the World. -The Voice before the Void “Nyarlathotep” H.P. Lovecraft Nyarlathotep… the crawling chaos… I am the last… I will tell the audient void… I do not recall distinctly when it began, but it was months ago. The general tension was horrible. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. I recall that the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men shiver in dark and lonely places. There was a demoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons the autumn heat lingered fearsomely, and everyone felt that the world and perhaps the universe had passed from the control of known gods or forces to that of gods or forces which were unknown. And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was, none could tell, but he was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh. The fellahin knelt when they saw him, yet could not say why. He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries, and that he had heard messages from places not on this planet. Into the lands of civilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy, slender, and sinister, always buying strange instruments of glass and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger. He spoke much of the sciences of electricity and psychology and gave exhibitions of power which sent his spectators away speechless, yet which swelled his fame to exceeding magnitude. Men advised one another to see Nyarlathotep, and shuddered. And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished, for the small hours were rent with the screams of nightmare. Never before had the screams of nightmare been such a public problem; now the wise men almost wished they could forbid sleep in the small hours, that the shrieks of cities might less horribly disturb the pale, pitying moon as it glimmered on green waters gliding under bridges, and old steeples crumbling against a sickly sky. I remember when Nyarlathotep came to my city the great, the old, the terrible city of unnumbered crimes. My friend had told me of him, and of the impelling fascination and allurement of his revelations, and I burned with eagerness to explore his uttermost mysteries. My friend said they were horrible and impressive beyond my most fevered imaginings; and what was thrown on a screen in the darkened room prophesied things none but Nyarlathotep dared prophesy, and in the sputter of his sparks there was taken from men that which had never been taken before yet which shewed only in the eyes. And I heard it hinted abroad that those who knew Nyarlathotep looked on sights which others saw not. It was in the hot autumn that I went through the night with the restless crowds to see Nyarlathotep; through the stifling night and up the endless stairs into the choking room. And shadowed on a screen, I saw hooded forms amidst ruins, and yellow evil faces peering from behind fallen monuments. And I saw the world battling against blackness; against the waves of destruction from ultimate space; whirling, churning, struggling around the dimming, cooling sun. Then the sparks played amazingly around the heads of the spectators, and hair stood up on end whilst shadows more grotesque than I can tell came out and squatted on the heads. And when I, who was colder and more scientific than the rest, mumbled a trembling protest about imposture and static electricity,

“Sims, North Dakota” from Wikipedia
Apr 30 2016 3 mins  
Walpurgis Night Special: Visit North Dakota. “Sims, North Dakota” Wikipedia Sims is a ghost town in Morton County, North Dakota, United States. The town was founded in 1883, and Sims Scandinavian Lutheran Church was constructed the following year. Today, the church has been restored and still worships every other Sunday. The church parsonage has also been restored and is home to the Sims Historical Society Museum. During her trip to North Dakota in October 2008, First Lady Laura Bush visited Sims and toured its church. History Sims was founded in 1883 as a coal town. Coal mining and the town’s brickyard helped Sims grow to a population of more than 1,000 people. However, the 1910 Census recorded a population of just 86 people. The population fluctuated over the years, with an estimated 98 people in 1940. The post office was founded in 1883 and closed in 1947, with mail routed through Almont, North Dakota, to the south. Sims Scandinavian Lutheran Church was built in 1884 as a combination church and residence. A new church was built in 1896 next to the parsonage. The church is reportedly North Dakota’s oldest Lutheran church west of the Missouri River. The congregation still has roughly 50 members, even though they do not live in Sims. Locals report, however, that the town does have one remaining resident: a former pastor’s wife who died between 1916 and 1918. Dubbed the “Gray Lady Ghost,” her spirit is reported to haunt the old parsonage, wandering the rooms and playing the organ.

“The Gun” by Philip K. Dick
Apr 24 2016 34 mins  
Some pointed pulp science fiction from Master Dick. -The Voice before the Void “The Gun” Philip K. Dick The Captain peered into the eyepiece of the telescope. He adjusted the focus quickly. “It was an atomic fission we saw, all right,” he said presently. He sighed and pushed the eyepiece away. “Any of you who wants to look may do so. But it’s not a pretty sight.” “Let me look,” Tance the archeologist said. He bent down to look, squinting. “Good Lord!” He leaped violently back, knocking against Dorle, the Chief Navigator. “Why did we come all this way, then?” Dorle asked, looking around at the other men. “There’s no point even in landing. Let’s go back at once.” “Perhaps he’s right,” the biologist murmured. “But I’d like to look for myself, if I may.” He pushed past Tance and peered into the sight. He saw a vast expanse, an endless surface of gray, stretching to the edge of the planet. At first he thought it was water but after a moment he realized that it was slag, pitted, fused slag, broken only by hills of rock jutting up at intervals. Nothing moved or stirred. Everything was silent, dead. “I see,” Fomar said, backing away from the eyepiece. “Well, I won’t find any legumes there.” He tried to smile, but his lips stayed unmoved. He stepped away and stood by himself, staring past the others. “I wonder what the atmospheric sample will show,” Tance said. “I think I can guess,” the Captain answered. “Most of the atmosphere is poisoned. But didn’t we expect all this? I don’t see why we’re so surprised. A fission visible as far away as our system must be a terrible thing.” He strode off down the corridor, dignified and expressionless. They watched him disappear into the control room. As the Captain closed the door the young woman turned. “What did the telescope show? Good or bad?” “Bad. No life could possibly exist. Atmosphere poisoned, water vaporized, all the land fused.” “Could they have gone underground?” The Captain slid back the port window so that the surface of the planet under them was visible. The two of them stared down, silent and disturbed. Mile after mile of unbroken ruin stretched out, blackened slag, pitted and scarred, and occasional heaps of rock. Suddenly Nasha jumped. “Look! Over there, at the edge. Do you see it?” They stared. Something rose up, not rock, not an accidental formation. It was round, a circle of dots, white pellets on the dead skin of the planet. A city? Buildings of some kind? “Please turn the ship,” Nasha said excitedly. She pushed her dark hair from her face. “Turn the ship and let’s see what it is!” The ship turned, changing its course. As they came over the white dots the Captain lowered the ship, dropping it down as much as he dared. “Piers,” he said. “Piers of some sort of stone. Perhaps poured artificial stone. The remains of a city.” “Oh, dear,” Nasha murmured. “How awful.” She watched the ruins disappear behind them. In a half-circle the white squares jutted from the slag, chipped and cracked, like broken teeth. “There’s nothing alive,” the Captain said at last. “I think we’ll go right back; I know most of the crew want to. Get the Government Receiving Station on the sender and tell them what we found, and that we—” * * * He staggered. The first atomic shell had struck the ship, spinning it around. The Captain fell to the floor, crashing into the control table. Papers and instruments rained down on him. As he started to his feet the second shell struck.

“A Deal in Wheat” by Frank Norris
Mar 13 2016 26 mins  
One of the greatest of the great stories. In masterful narrative form, juxtaposing world upon world, Norris delivers the quintessence of the American civilization. -The Voice before the Void “A Deal in Wheat” Frank Norris I. The Bear – Wheat at Sixty-Two As Sam Lewiston backed the horse into the shafts of his buckboard and began hitching the tugs to the whiffletree, his wife came out from the kitchen door of the house and drew near, and stood for some time at the horse’s head, her arms folded and her apron rolled around them. For a long moment neither spoke. They had talked over the situation so long and so comprehensively the night before that there seemed to be nothing more to say. The time was late in the summer, the place a ranch in southwestern Kansas, and Lewiston and his wife were two of a vast population of farmers, wheat growers, who at that moment were passing through a crisis—a crisis that at any moment might culminate in tragedy. Wheat was down to sixty-six. At length Emma Lewiston spoke. “Well,” she hazarded, looking vaguely out across the ranch toward the horizon, leagues distant; “well, Sam, there’s always that offer of brother Joe’s. We can quit—and go to Chicago—if the worst comes.” “And give up!” exclaimed Lewiston, running the lines through the torets. “Leave the ranch! Give up! After all these years!” His wife made no reply for the moment. Lewiston climbed into the buckboard and gathered up the lines. “Well, here goes for the last try, Emmie,” he said. “Good-by, girl. Maybe things will look better in town to-day.” “Maybe,” she said gravely. She kissed her husband good-by and stood for some time looking after the buckboard traveling toward the town in a moving pillar of dust. “I don’t know,” she murmured at length; “I don’t know just how we’re going to make out.” When he reached town, Lewiston tied the horse to the iron railing in front of the Odd Fellows’ Hall, the ground floor of which was occupied by the post-office, and went across the street and up the stairway of a building of brick and granite—quite the most pretentious structure of the town—and knocked at a door upon the first landing. The door was furnished with a pane of frosted glass, on which, in gold letters, was inscribed, “Bridges & Co., Grain Dealers.” Bridges himself, a middle-aged man who wore a velvet skull-cap and who was smoking a Pittsburg stogie, met the farmer at the counter and the two exchanged perfunctory greetings. “Well,” said Lewiston, tentatively, after awhile. “Well, Lewiston,” said the other, “I can’t take that wheat of yours at any better than sixty-two.” “Sixty-two.” “It’s the Chicago price that does it, Lewiston. Truslow is bearing the stuff for all he’s worth. It’s Truslow and the bear clique that stick the knife into us. The price broke again this morning. We’ve just got a wire.” “Good heavens,” murmured Lewiston, looking vaguely from side to side. “That—that ruins me. I can’t carry my grain any longer—what with storage charges and—and—Bridges, I don’t see just how I’m going to make out. Sixty-two cents a bushel! Why, man, what with this and with that it’s cost me nearly a dollar a bushel to raise that wheat, and now Truslow—” He turned away abruptly with a quick gesture of infinite discouragement. He went down the stairs, and making his way to where his buckboard was hitched, got in, and, with eyes vacant, the reins slipping and sliding in his limp, half-open hands, drove slowly back to the ranch. His wife had seen him coming, and met him as he drew up before the barn.

“A Balloon Attack” by James Norman Hall
Feb 25 2016 29 mins  
World War I: American volunteer pilots in the Lafayette Escadrille of the French air service target German observation balloons behind enemy lines in Hall’s wry – and, at times, beautiful – first-hand account of flying in the First World War. -The Voice before the Void “A Balloon Attack” from High Adventure: A Narrative of Air Fighting in France James Norman Hall “I’m looking for two balloonatics,” said Talbott, as he came into the messroom; “and I think I’ve found them.” Percy, Talbott’s orderly, Tiffin the steward, Drew, and I were the only occupants of the room. Percy is an old légionnaire, crippled with rheumatism. His active service days are over. Tiffin’s working hours are filled with numberless duties. He makes the beds, and serves food from three to five times daily to members of the Escadrille Lafayette. These two being eliminated, the identity of the balloonatics was plain. “The orders have just come,” Talbott added, “and I decided that the first men I met after leaving the bureau would be balloonatics. Virtue has gone into both of you. Now, if you can make fire come out of a Boche sausage, you will have done all that is required. Listen. This is interesting. The orders are in French, but I will translate as I read:— On the umteenth day of June, the escadrilles of Groupe de Combat Blank [that’s ours] will cooperate in an attack on the German observation balloons along the sector extending from X to Y. The patrols to be furnished are: (1) two patrols of protection, of five avions each, by the escadrilles Spa. 87 and Spa. 12; (2) four patrols of attack, of three avions each, by the escadrilles Spa. 124 [that’s us], Spa. 93, Spa. 10, and Spa. 12. The attack will be organized as follows: on the day set, weather permitting, the two patrols of protection will leave the field at 10.30 A.M. The patrol of Spa. 87 will rendezvous over the village of N——. The patrol of protection of Spa. 12 will rendezvous over the village of C——. At 10.45, precisely, they will start for the lines, crossing at an altitude of thirty-five hundred metres. The patrol furnished by Spa. 87 will guard the sector from X to T, between the town of O—— and the two enemy balloons on that sector. The patrol furnished by Spa. 12 will guard the sector from T to Y, between the railway line and the two enemy balloons on that sector. Immediately after the attack has been made, these formations will return to the aerodrome. At 10.40 A.M. the four patrols of attack will leave the field, and will rendezvous as follows. [Here followed the directions.] At 10.55, precisely, they will start for the lines, crossing at an approximate altitude of sixteen hundred metres, each patrol making in a direct line for the balloon assigned to it. Numbers 1 and 2 of each of these patrols will carry rockets. Number 3 will fly immediately above them, offering further protection in case of attack by enemy aircraft. Number 1 of each patrol will first attack the balloon. If he fails, number 2 will attack. If number 1 is successful, number 2 will then attack the observers in their parachutes. If number 1 fails, and number 2 is successful, number 3 will attack the observers. The patrol will then proceed to the aerodrome by the shortest route. Squadron commanders will make a return before noon to-day, of the names of pilots designated by them for their respective patrols. In case of unfavorable weather, squadron commanders will be informed of the date to which the attack has been postponed. Pilots designated as numbers 1 and 2 of the patrols of attack will be relieved from the usual patrol duty from this date. They will employ their time at rocket shooting. A target will be in place on the east side of the field from 1.30 P.M. to-day. “Are there any remarks?” said Talbott, as if he had been reading the minutes at a debating-club meeti...

“Sex and sexuality in speculative fiction” from Wikipedia
Feb 23 2016 30 mins  
Some of the most challenging of ideas. -The Voice before the Void “Sex and sexuality in speculative fiction” Wikipedia The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Sexual themes are frequently used in science fiction or related genres. Such elements may include depictions of realistic sexual interactions in a science fictional setting, a protagonist with an alternative sexuality, or exploration of the varieties of sexual experience that deviate from the conventional. Science fiction and fantasy have sometimes been more constrained than non-genre narrative forms in their depictions of sexuality and gender. However, speculative fiction also offers the freedom to imagine societies different from real-life cultures, making it an incisive tool to examine sexual bias and forcing the reader to reconsider his or her cultural assumptions. Prior to the 1960s, explicit sexuality of any kind was not characteristic of genre speculative fiction. In the 1960s, science fiction and fantasy began to reflect the changes prompted by the civil rights movement and the emergence of a counterculture. New Wave and feminist science fiction authors imagined cultures in which a variety of gender models and atypical sexual relationships are the norm, and depictions of sex acts and alternative sexualities became commonplace. There also exists science fiction erotica, which explores sexuality and the presentation of themes aimed at inducing arousal. Contents 1. Critical analysis 1.1 Themes explored 2. SF literature 2.1 Proto SF 2.2 The pulp era (1920–30s) 2.3 The Golden Age (1940–50s) 2.4 The New Wave era (1960–70s) 2.5 Modern SF (post-New Wave) 3. See also 1. Critical analysis As genres of popular literature, science fiction and fantasy often seem even more constrained than non-genre literature by their conventions of characterization and the effects that these conventions have on depictions of sexuality and gender. Science fiction in particular has traditionally been a puritanical genre oriented toward a male readership. Sex is often linked to disgust in science fiction and horror, and plots based on sexual relationships have mainly been avoided in genre fantasy narratives. On the other hand, science fiction and fantasy can also offer more freedom than do non-genre literatures to imagine alternatives to the default assumptions of heterosexuality and masculine superiority that permeate many cultures. In speculative fiction, extrapolation allows writers to focus not on the way things are (or were), as non-genre literature does, but on the way things could be different. It provides science fiction with a quality that Darko Suvin has called “cognitive estrangement”: the recognition that what we are reading is not the world as we know it, but a world whose difference forces us to reconsider our own world with an outsider’s perspective. When the extrapolation involves sexuality or gender, it can force the reader to reconsider his or her heteronormative cultural assumptions; the freedom to imagine societies different from real-life cultures makes science fiction an incisive tool to examine sexual bias. In science fiction, such estranging features include technologies that significantly alter sex or reproduction. In fantasy, such features include figures (for example, mythological deities and heroic archetypes) who are not limited by preconceptions of human sexuality and gender, allowing them to be reinterpreted. Science fiction has also depicted a plethora of alien methods of reproduction and sex. 1.1 Themes explored

“Who Made the Law?” by Leslie Coulson
Feb 17 2016 3 mins  
World War I: Soldier’s war poetry. “Who Made the Law?” Leslie Coulson Who made the Law that men should die in meadows? Who spake the word that blood should splash in lanes? Who gave it forth that gardens should be bone-yards? Who spread the hills with flesh, and blood, and brains? Who made the Law? Who made the Law that Death should stalk the village? Who spake the word to kill among the sheaves, Who gave it forth that death should lurk in hedgerows, Who flung the dead among the fallen leaves? Who made the Law? Those who return shall find that peace endures, Find old things old, and know the things they knew, Walk in the garden, slumber by the fireside, Share the peace of dawn, and dream amid the dew — Those who return. Those who return shall till the ancient pastures, Clean-hearted men shall guide the plough-horse reins, Some shall grow apples and flowers in the valleys, Some shall go courting in summer down the lanes — THOSE WHO RETURN. But who made the Law? the Trees shall whisper to him: “See, see the blood — the splashes on our bark!” Walking the meadows, he shall hear bones crackle, And fleshless mouths shall gibber in silent lanes at dark. Who made the Law? Who made the Law? At noon upon the hillside His ears shall hear a moan, his cheeks shall feel a breath, And all along the valleys, past gardens, crofts, and homesteads, HE who made the Law, He who made the Law, He who made the Law shall walk along with Death.

“Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen
Feb 10 2016 2 mins  
World War I “Sweet and fitting it is To die for one’s country.” Poem emblematic of the First World War, and of all war. -The Voice before the Void “Dulce et Decorum Est” Wilfred Owen Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind. Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . . Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,– My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.

“The Canal” by Everil Worrell
Feb 06 2016 47 mins  
Vampire romance – vintage, and done properly… that is: with horror. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Canal” Everil Worrell Past the sleeping city the river sweeps; along its left bank the old canal creeps. I did not intend that to be poetry, although the scene is poetic—somberly, gruesomely poetic, like the poems of Poe. I know it too well—I have walked too often over the grass-grown path beside the reflections of black trees and tumble-down shacks and distant factory chimneys in the sluggish waters that moved so slowly, and ceased to move at all. I have always had a taste for nocturnal prowling. As a race we have grown too intelligent to take seriously any of the old, instinctive fears that preserved us through preceding generations. Our sole remaining salvation, then, has come to be our tendency to travel in herds. We wander at night—but our objective is somewhere on the brightly lighted streets, or still somewhere where men do not go alone. When we travel far afield, it is in company. Few of my acquaintance, few in the whole city here, would care to ramble at midnight over the grass-grown path I have spoken of—not because they would fear to do so, but because such things are not being done. Well, it is dangerous to differ individually from one’s fellows. It is dangerous to wander from the beaten road. And the fears that guarded the race in the dawn of time and through the centuries were founded on reality. A month ago, I was a stranger here. I had just taken my first position—I was graduated from college only three months before, in the spring. I was lonely, and likely to remain so for some time, for I have always been of a solitary nature, making friends slowly. I had received one invitation out, to visit the camp of a fellow employee in the firm for which I worked, a camp which was located on the farther side of the wide river, the side across from the city and the canal, where the bank was high and steep and heavily wooded, and little tents blossomed all along the water’s edge. At night these camps were a string of sparkling lights and tiny, leaping campfires, and the tinkle of music carried faintly far across the calmly flowing water. That far bank of the river was no place for an eccentric, solitary man to love. But the near bank, which would have been an eyesore to the campers had not the river been so wide—the near bank attracted me from my first glimpse of it. We embarked in a motor-boat at some distance downstream, and swept up along the near bank, and then out and across the current. I turned my eyes backward. The murk of stagnant water that was the canal, the jumble of low buildings beyond it, the lonely, low-lying waste of the narrow strip of land between canal and river, the dark, scattered trees growing there—I intended to see more of these things. That week-end bored me, but I repaid myself no later than Monday evening, the first evening when I was back in the city, alone and free. I ate a solitary dinner immediately after leaving the office. I went to my room and slept from seven until nearly midnight. I wakened naturally, then, for my whole heart was set on exploring the alluring solitude I had discovered. I dressed, slipped out of the house and into the street, started the motor in my roadster and drove through the lighted streets. When I parked my car on a rough, cobbled street that ran directly down into the inky waters of the canal, and crossed a narrow bridge, I was repaid. In a few minutes I set my feet on the old tow-path where mules had drawn river-boats up and down only a year or so ago. As I walked upstream at a swinging pace, the miserable shacks where miserable people lived across the canal seemed to march with me, and then fell behind. The bridge I had crossed was near the end of the city going north, as the canal marked its western extremity. Ten minutes of walking,

“Dead Man’s Dump” by Isaac Rosenberg
Jan 27 2016 4 mins  
World War I: Soldier’s war poetry. “Dead Man’s Dump” Isaac Rosenberg The plunging limbers over the shattered track Racketed with their rusty freight, Stuck out like many crowns of thorns, And the rusty stakes like sceptres old To stay the flood of brutish men Upon our brothers dear. The wheels lurched over sprawled dead But pained them not, though their bones crunched; Their shut mouths made no moan. They lie there huddled, friend and foeman, Man born of man, and born of woman; And shells go crying over them From night till night and now. Earth has waited for them, All the time of their growth Fretting for their decay: Now she has them at last! In the strength of their strength Suspended–stopped and held. What fierce imaginings their dark souls lit? Earth! Have they gone into you? Somewhere they must have gone, And flung on your hard back Is their souls’ sack, Emptied of God-ancestralled essences. Who hurled them out? Who hurled? None saw their spirits’ shadows shake the grass, Or stood aside for the half-used life to pass Out of those doomed nostrils and the doomed mouth, When the swift iron burning bee Drained the wild honey of their youth. What of us who, flung on the shrieking pyre, Walk, our usual thoughts untouched, Our lucky limbs as on ichor fed, Immortal seeming ever? Perhaps when the flames beat loud on us, A fear may choke in our veins And the startled blood may stop. The air is loud with death, The dark air spurts with fire, The explosions ceaseless are. Timelessly now, some minutes past, These dead strode time with vigorous life, Till the shrapnel called ‘An end!’ But not to all. In bleeding pangs Some borne on stretchers dreamed of home, Dear things, war-blotted from their hearts. A man’s brains splattered on A stretcher-bearer’s face: His shook shoulders slipped their load, But when they bent to look again The drowning soul was sunk too deep For human tenderness. They left this dead with the older dead, Stretched at the cross roads. Burnt black by strange decay Their sinister faces lie, The lid over each eye; The grass and coloured clay More motion have than they, Joined to the great sunk silences. Here is one not long dead. His dark hearing caught our far wheels, And the choked soul stretched weak hands To reach the living world the far wheels said; The blood-dazed intelligence beating for light, Crying through the suspense of the far-torturing wheels Swift for the end to break Or the wheels to break, Cried as the tide of the world broke over his sight, ‘Will they come? Will they ever come?’ Even as the mixed hoofs of the mules, The quivering-bellied mules, And the rushing wheels all mixed With his tortured upturned sight. So we crashed round the bend, We heard his weak scream, We heard his very last sound, And our wheels grazed his dead face.

“Cattle Rustling and the Republic” by Theodore Roosevelt
Jan 24 2016 5 mins  
With an old cowboy story of North Dakota, Roosevelt illustrates a moral truth about representative democracy and the line it threads between brutal revolution and authoritarian plutocracy. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Cattle Rustling and the Republic” from Realizable Ideals (The Earl Lectures), “The Public Servant and the Eighth Commandment,” address delivered extemporaneously to the Pacific Theological Seminary, Berkeley, California, 1911 spring Theodore Roosevelt edited by The Voice before the Void In the old days, I used to have a cow-ranch in the short-grass country. At that time, there were no fences within a thousand miles of it. If a calf was passed by on the round-up, so that next year when it was a yearling and was not following any cow, it was still unbranded, it was called a maverick. It was range custom or range law that if a maverick were found on any range, the man finding it would put on the brand of that range. I had hired a new cow-puncher, and one day when he and I were riding, we struck a maverick. It was on a neighbor’s range, the Thistle Range. The puncher roped and threw the maverick; we built a little fire of sage-brush, and took out the cinch iron, heated it, and started to run on the brand. I said to him: “The Thistle brand.” He answered: “That’s all right, boss, I know my business.” In a minute, I said, “Hold on, you’re putting on my brand”; to which he answered: “Yes, I always put on the boss’s brand.” I said: “Oh, well, you go back to the house and get your time.” He rose, saying, “What’s that for? I was putting on your brand”; and I closed the conversation with the remark: “Yes, my friend, and if you will steal for me, you will steal from me.” That applies in lots of occupations besides those of the cow-punchers. Nowhere does it apply more clearly than in public life. Perhaps the most dangerous of all public servants… is the public servant who gets into office by persuading a section of the public that he will do something that is just a little bit crooked in their interest. [It does not matter] what section of the public is thus persuaded. [It does not matter] whether it is the great corporation man who wishes to see a given individual made judge, or executive officer, or legislator, “because he is our man and he will look out for the rights of property,” or whether, on the other hand, it is the wage-worker, the laboring man, who supports some candidate because that candidate announces that he is “the friend of labor,” although… the candidate is the foe of decency… [because he] preaches violence, envy, class hatred…. The capitalist who thinks it is to the interest of his class to have in high office a corrupt man who will serve his class interest, is laying up for himself and for his children a day of terrible retribution; for if that type of capitalist has his way long enough, he will persuade the whole community that the interest of the community is bound up in overthrowing every man in public office who serves property…. The corrupt capitalist may help himself for the moment, and he may be defended by others of his own class on grounds of expediency; but in the end, he works fearful damage to his fellows. If a business man cannot run a given business… save on condition of doing things which can only be done in the darkness, then… let him get out of it and into some other business…. The test is easy. Let him ask whether he is afraid anything will be found out or not. If he is not, he is all right; if he is, he is all wrong. So much for the capitalist. Let the wage-worker in his turn remember that the candidate for public office who appeals for his support upon the ground that he will condone lawless violence,

“At the Home of Poe” by Frank Belknap Long
Jan 19 2016 3 mins  
Edgar Allan Poe’s Birthday: A lilting story of a life. ⁓The Voice before the Void “At the Home of Poe: A Poem in Prose” Frank Belknap Long To H. P. Lovecraft The home of Poe! It is like a fairy dwelling, a gnomic palace built of the aether of dreams. It is tiny and delicate and lovely, and replete with memories of sere leaves in November and of lilies in April. It is a castle of vanished hopes, of dimly-remembered dreams, of sad memories older than the deluge. The dead years circle slowly and solemnly around its low white walls, and clothe it in a mystic veil of unseen tears. And many marvellous stories could this quaint little old house tell, many weird and cryptic stories of him of the Raven hair, and high, pallid brow, and sad, sweet face, and melancholy mien; and of the beloved Virginia, that sweet child of a thousand magic visions, child of the lonesome, pale-gray latter years, child of the soft and happy South. And how the dreamer of the spheres must have loved this strange little house. Every night the hollow boards of its porch must have echoed to his footfall, and every morn the great rising sun must have sent its rays through the little window, and bathed the lovely tresses of the dream-child in mystical yellow. And perhaps there was laughter within the walls of that house—laughter and merriment and singing. But we know that the Evil One came at last, the grim humourless spectre who loves not beauty, and is not of this world. And we know that the house of youth and of love became a house of death, and that memories bitter as the tears of a beautiful woman assailed the dreamer within. And at last he himself left that house of mourning and sought solace among the stars. But the house remains a vision out of a magical book; a thing seen darkly as in a looking-glass; but lovely beyond the dreams of mortals, and ineffably sad.

“The Sorcery of Aphlar” by Duane W. Rimel with H.P. Lovecraft
Jan 16 2016 9 mins  
The power of prayer… entreated upon odd things. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Sorcery of Aphlar” Duane W. Rimel with H.P. Lovecraft The council of twelve seated on the jewelled celestial dais ordered that Aphlar be cast from the gates of Bel-haz-en. He sat too much alone, they decreed, and brooded when toil should have been his lot. And in his obscure and hidden delvings he read all too frequently those papyri of Elder æons which reposed in the Guothic shrine and were to be consulted only for rare and special purposes. The twilight city of Bel-haz-en had climbed backward in its knowledge. No longer did philosophers sit upon street corners speaking wise words to the populace, for stupid ignorance ruled within the crumbling and immemorially ancient walls. Where once the wisdom of the stars abounded, only feebleness and desolation now lay upon the place, spreading like a monstrous blight and sucking foul nurture from the stupid dwellers. And out of the waters of the Oll that meandered from the mountains of Azlakka to pass by the aged city, there rose often great clouds of pestilence that racked the people sorely, leaving them pale and near to dying. All this their loss of wisdom brought. And now the council had sent their last and greatest wise man from them. Aphlar wandered to the mountains far above the city and built a cavern for protection from the summer heat and winter chill. There he read his scrolls in silence and told his mighty wisdom to the wind about the crags and to the swallows on the wing. All day he sat and watched below or drew queer drawings on small bits of stone and chanted to them, for he knew that someday men would seek the cave and slay him. The cunning of the twelve did not mislead him. Had not the last exiled wise man’s screams rent the night two moon-rounds when people thought him safely gone? Had not his own eyes seen the priest’s sword-slashed form floating by in the poison waters? He knew no lion had killed old Azik, let the council say what they might. Does a lion slash with a sword and leave his prey uneaten? Through many seasons Aphlar sat upon the mountain, gazing at the muddy Oll as it wound into the misty distance to the land where none ever ventured. He spoke his words of wisdom to the snails that worked in the ground by his feet. They seemed to understand, and waved their slimy feelers before they sank beneath the sand again. On moonlit nights he climbed the hill above his cave and made strange offerings to the moon-God Ale; and when the night-birds heard the sound they drew close and listened to the whispering. And when queer winged things flapped across the darkened sky and loomed up dimly against the moon Aphlar was content. Those which he had addressed had heeded his beckoning. His thoughts were always far away, and his prayers were offered to the pale fancies of dusk. Then one day past noontide Aphlar rose from his earthen chair and strode down the rock mountainside. His eyes, heeding not the rotten, stone-walled city, held steadfast to the river. When he drew near its muddy brink he paused and looked up the bosom of the stream. A small object floated near the rushes, and this Aphlar rescued with tender and curious care. Then, wrapping the thing in the folds of his robe, he climbed up again to his cave in the hills. All day he sat and gazed upon the object; rummaging now and then in his musty chronicles, and muttering awful syllables as he drew faint figures on a piece of parchment. That night the gibbous moon rose high, but Aphlar did not climb above his dwelling. Queer night-birds flew past the cavern’s mouth, chirped eerily, and fled away into the shadows. Many days passed before the council sent their messengers of murder; but at last the time was thought ripe, and seven darkbrowed men stole away to the hills. Yet when that grim seven ventured within the cave they saw not the wise man Aphlar. Instead,

“Counter-Attack” by Siegfried Sassoon
Jan 13 2016 2 mins  
World War I: Soldier’s war poetry. “Counter-Attack” Siegfried Sassoon We’d gained our first objective hours before While dawn broke like a face with blinking eyes, Pallid, unshaved and thirsty, blind with smoke. Things seemed all right at first. We held their line, With bombers posted, Lewis guns well placed, And clink of shovels deepening the shallow trench. The place was rotten with dead; green clumsy legs High-booted, sprawled and grovelled along the saps And trunks, face downward, in the sucking mud, Wallowed like trodden sand-bags loosely filled; And naked sodden buttocks, mats of hair, Bulged, clotted heads slept in the plastering slime. And then the rain began,— the jolly old rain! A yawning soldier knelt against the bank, Staring across the morning blear with fog; He wondered when the Allemands would get busy; And then, of course, they started with five-nines Traversing, sure as fate, and never a dud. Mute in the clamour of shells he watched them burst Spouting dark earth and wire with gusts from hell, While posturing giants dissolved in drifts of smoke. He crouched and flinched, dizzy with galloping fear, Sick for escape,— loathing the strangled horror And butchered, frantic gestures of the dead. An officer came blundering down the trench: ‘Stand-to and man the fire-step!’ On he went… Gasping and bawling, ‘Fire-step…counter-attack!’ Then the haze lifted. Bombing on the right Down the old sap: machine-guns on the left; And stumbling figures looming out in front. ‘O Christ, they’re coming at us!’ Bullets spat, And he remembered his rifle…rapid fire… And started blazing wildly…then a bang Crumpled and spun him sideways, knocked him out To grunt and wriggle: none heeded him; he choked And fought the flapping veils of smothering gloom, Lost in a blurred confusion of yells and groans… Down, and down, and down, he sank and drowned, Bleeding to death. The counter-attack had failed.

Top Secret – United States Air Forces in Europe item 14 – 1948 November 4
Jan 08 2016 5 mins  
“This document was found at the National Archive II in College Park, Maryland in the USAF HQ intelligence Top Secret files for 1948.” Top Secret – United States Air Forces in Europe item 14 – 1948 November 4 DECLASSIFIED Authority: NNDS13055 By: KC – NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] Date: 7/31/97 2-5317 TOP SECRET USAFE [United States Air Forces in Europe] 14 – TT 1524 – TOP SECRET – 4 Nov 1948 From OI OB For some time we have been concerned by the recurring reports on flying saucers. They periodically continue to pop up; during the last week, one was observed hovering over Neubiberg Air Base [Munich, Germany] for about thirty minutes. They have been reported by so many sources and from such a variety of places that we are convinced that they cannot be disregarded and must be explained on some basis which is perhaps slightly beyond the scope of our present intelligence thinking. When officers of this Directorate recently visited the Swedish Air Intelligence Service. This question was put to the Swedes. Their answer was that some reliable and fully technically qualified people have reached the conclusion that “these phenomena are obviously the result of a high technical skill which cannot be credited to any presently known culture on earth.” They are therefore assuming that these objects originate from some previously unknown or unidentified technology, possibly outside the earth. One of these objects was observed by a Swedish technical expert near his home on the edge of a lake. The object crashed or landed in the lake and he carefully noted its azimuth from his point of observation. Swedish intelligence was sufficiently confident in his observation that a naval salvage team was sent to the lake. Operations were underway during the visit of USAFE officers. Divers had discovered a previously uncharted crater on the floor of the lake. No further information is available, but we have been promised knowledge of the results. In their opinion, the observation was reliable, and they believe that the depression on the floor of the lake, which did not appear on current hydrographic charts, was in fact caused by a flying saucer. Although accepting this theory of the origin of these objects poses a whole new group of questions and puts much of our thinking in a changed light, we are inclined not to discredit entirely this somewhat spectacular theory, meantime keeping an open mind on the subject. What are your reactions? TOP SECRET (END OF USAFE ITEM 14)   This file is a work of a U.S. Air Force airman or employee, made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, this file is in the public domain.

The 3 Classic UFO Encounters: Mantell Incident, Chiles-Whitted Encounter, and Gorman Dogfight
Jan 07 2016 45 mins  
Mantell UFO Incident Anniversary Special: Edward J. Ruppelt was the first head of Project Blue Book, an official U.S. Air Force investigation of UFOs. In his 1956 book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, Ruppelt identified three UFO encounters of 1948 as the “classic” encounters that convinced Air Force personnel “that UFOs were real” and energized the UFO phenomenon in the mainstream public consciousness. As Ruppelt wrote: “With the Soviets practically eliminated as a UFO source, the idea of interplanetary spaceships was becoming more popular. During 1948 the people in the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) were openly discussing the possibility of interplanetary visitors without others tapping their heads and looking smug. … ‘The Classics’ were three historic reports that were the highlights of 1948. They are called ‘The Classics,’ a name given them by the Project Blue Book staff, because: (1) they are classic examples of how the true facts of a UFO report can be twisted and warped by some writers to prove their point, (2) they are the most highly publicized reports of this early era of the UFO’s, and (3) they ‘proved’ to ATIC’s intelligence specialists that UFO’s were real.” The three “classic” encounters were: the Mantell UFO incident of January 7 near Franklin, Kentucky; the Chiles-Whitted UFO encounter of July 24 near Montgomery, Alabama; and the Gorman UFO dogfight of October 1 in the skies over Fargo, North Dakota. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Mantell UFO incident” Wikipedia The Mantell UFO incident was among the most publicized early UFO reports. The incident resulted in the crash and death of 25-year-old Kentucky Air National Guard pilot, Captain Thomas F. Mantell, on January 7, 1948 while in pursuit of a UFO. Historian David M. Jacobs argues the Mantell case marked a sharp shift in both public and governmental perceptions of UFOs. Previously, the news media often treated UFO reports with a whimsical or glib attitude reserved for silly season news. Following Mantell’s death, however, Jacobs notes “the fact that a person had died in an encounter with an alleged flying saucer dramatically increased public concern about the phenomenon. Now a dramatic new prospect entered thought about UFOs: they might be not only extraterrestrial but potentially hostile as well.” However, later investigation by the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book indicated that Mantell may have died chasing a Skyhook balloon, which in 1948 was a top-secret project that Mantell would not have known about. Overview Mantell was an experienced pilot; his flight history consisted of 2,167 hours in the air, and he had been honored for his part in the Battle of Normandy during World War II. On January 7, 1948, Godman Field at Fort Knox, Kentucky received a report from the Kentucky Highway Patrol of an unusual aerial object near Maysville, Kentucky. Reports of a westbound circular object, 250 feet (76 m) to 300 feet (91 m) in diameter, were received from Owensboro, Kentucky, and Irvington, Kentucky. At about 1:45 PM, Sergeant Quinton Blackwell saw an object from his position in the control tower at Fort Knox. Two other witnesses in the tower also reported a white object in the distance. Colonel Guy Hix, the base commander, reported an object he described as “very white,” and “about one fourth the size of the full moon … Through binoculars it appeared to have a red border at the bottom … It remained stationary, seemingly, for one and a half hours.

“Jesus H. Christ” from Wikipedia
Dec 25 2015 9 mins  
Xmas Special: Happy birthday, Harold. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Jesus H. Christ” Wikipedia This article is about the phrase. For the religious figure, see Jesus. “Jesus H. Christ” is a common phrase used to refer to the religious figure Jesus Christ. It is a vulgarism and is uttered in anger, surprise, or frustration, though sometimes also with humorous intent. It is not used in the context of Christian worship. 1. History The earliest use of the phrase is unknown, but in his autobiography, Mark Twain observed that it was in general use even in his childhood. Twain refers to an episode from 1847, when he was working as a printer’s apprentice; Roger Smith tells the tale thus: [Twain] recounts a practical joke a friend played on a revival preacher when Twain was an apprentice in a printing shop that Alexander Campbell, a famous evangelist then visiting Hannibal, hired to print a pamphlet of his sermon. While checking the galleys, Twain’s fellow apprentice, Wales McCormick, found he had to make room for some dropped words, which he managed by shortening Jesus Christ on the same line to J. C. As soon as Campbell had read the proofs, he swept indignantly into the shop and commanded McCormick, “So long as you live, don’t you ever diminish the Savior’s name again. Put it all in.” The puckish McCormick obeyed, and then some: he set Jesus H. Christ and printed up all the pamphlets. Smith also suggests that “Jesus H. Christ” is a specifically American profanity, and indicates that at least in his experience it is uttered primarily by men. The frequency of use of the expression – in books only – may be traced on the Google Ngram Viewer utility. It appears to have been vanishingly rare in books up to about 1930, and began a sharp ascent in frequency starting in about 1970 and continuing to the present day. 2. Stress pattern Multiple authors emphasize the practice of placing a strong stress on the “H,” relating it in various ways to expletive infixation. British author Michael Quinion writes: Its long survival must have a lot to do with its cadence, and the way that an especially strong stress can be placed on the H. You might also think of it as an example of emphatic infixing that loosely fits the models of words like abso-bloody-lutely or tribu-bloody-lation. 3. Etymology Using the name of Jesus Christ as an oath has been common for many centuries. But the precise origins of the letter “H” in the expression “Jesus H. Christ” are obscure. While many explanations have been proposed, the most widely accepted derivation is from the divine monogram of Christian symbolism. The symbol, derived from the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus (Ἰησοῦς), is transliterated iota-eta-sigma, which can look like IHS, ΙΗC (with lunate sigma), JHS, or JHC (“J” was historically a mere variant of “I”). For how this learned-sounding acronym could have served as the basis for vulgar slang, Smith offers the hypothesis that it was noticed by ordinary people when it was worn as a decoration on the vestments of Anglican (or, in America, Episcopal) clergy. The “JHC” variant would particularly invite interpretation of the “H” as part of a name. Folk etymology If this is the most likely origin of the “H,” there remains the issue of folk etymology; that is, the sense shared by ordinary people (not necessarily historically correct) of where the “H” comes from. Here, a possible origin is the name “Harold,” which indeed is mentioned by Smith as the basis of a variant form,

“The Children’s Friend” by Arthur J. Stansbury
Dec 23 2015 1 mins  
Xmas Special: The genesis of the American Santa Claus and his flying reindeer and his fearsome moral adjudication. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Children’s Friend: A New-Year’s Present to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve” Arthur J. Stansbury Old Santeclaus with much delight His reindeer drives this frosty night, O’er chimney tops, and tracks of snow, To bring his yearly gifts to you. The steady friend of virtuous youth, The friend of duty, and of truth, Each Christmas eve he joys to come Where love and peace have made their home. Through many houses he has been, And various beds and stockings seen; Some, white as snow, and neatly mended, Others, that seem’d for pigs intended. “Where e’er I found good girls or boys, That hated quarrels, strife, and noise, I left an apple, or a tart, Or wooden gun, or painted cart; To some I gave a pretty doll, To some a peg-top, or a ball; No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets, To blow their eyes up, or their pockets. No drums to stun their Mother’s ear, Nor swords to make their sisters fear; But pretty books to store their mind With knowledge of each various kind. But where I found the children naughty, In manners rude, in temper haughty, Thankless to parents, liars, swearers, Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers, I left a long, black, birchen rod, Such as the dread command of God Directs a Parent’s hand to use When virtue’s path his sons refuse.”

“False protagonist” from Wikipedia
Dec 19 2015 3 mins  
A spoiler. ⁓The Voice before the Void “False protagonist” Wikipedia In fiction, a false protagonist is a literary technique, often used to make the plot more jarring or more memorable by fooling the audience’s preconceptions, that constructs a character whom the audience assumes is the protagonist but is later revealed not to be. A false protagonist is presented at the start of the fictional work as the main character, but then is eradicated, often by killing them (usually for shock value or as a plot twist) or changed in terms of their role in the story (that is, making them a lesser character, a character who leaves the story, or revealing them to actually be the antagonist). A false protagonist is a red herring in the form of a character. Especially in film and literature, the false protagonist may begin as a narrator. In video games, a false protagonist may initially be a playable character, only to be killed or revealed to be the antagonist. Due to the episodic nature of television, it is possible to accidentally create a false protagonist, when an actor leaves a series prematurely or becomes busy with other projects. Example Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho may be the first film to feature a false protagonist. It opens with Marion Crane as the main character; however, she is killed partway through the film, making the murder far more unexpected and shocking. The death of the character assumed to be the protagonist takes the audience completely by surprise and builds the villain Bates up to be far more fearsome and frightening. Hitchcock felt that the opening scenes with Marion as the false protagonist were so important to the film that when it was released in theaters, he compelled theater owners to enforce a “no late admission” policy.

“Battle of Fredericksburg” from Wikipedia
Dec 13 2015 55 mins  
Battle of Fredericksburg Anniversary Special: Why do people do this? Why is this what people do? Why is this our history and our future? ⁓The Voice before the Void “Battle of Fredericksburg” Wikipedia The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought 1862 December 11–15, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, between Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Ambrose Burnside. The Union army’s futile frontal attacks on December 13 against entrenched Confederate defenders on the heights behind the city is remembered as one of the most one-sided battles of the U.S. Civil War, with Union casualties more than twice as heavy as those suffered by the Confederates. A visitor to the battlefield described the battle to President Abraham Lincoln as a “butchery.” Burnside’s plan was to cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in mid-November and race to the Confederate capital of Richmond before Lee’s army could stop him. Bureaucratic delays prevented Burnside from receiving the necessary pontoon bridges in time, and Lee moved his army to block the crossings. When the Union army was finally able to build its bridges and cross under fire, urban combat resulted in the city on December 11–12. Union troops prepared to assault Confederate defensive positions south of the city and on a strongly fortified ridge just west of the city known as Marye’s Heights. On December 13, the “grand division” of William Franklin was able to pierce the first defensive line of Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson to the south, but was finally repulsed. Burnside ordered the grand divisions of Edwin Sumner and Joseph Hooker to make multiple frontal assaults against James Longstreet’s position on Marye’s Heights, all of which were repulsed with heavy losses. On December 15, Burnside withdrew his army, ending another failed Union campaign in the Eastern Theater. 1. Background and Burnside’s plan In 1862 November, Lincoln needed to demonstrate the success of the Union war effort before the Northern public lost confidence in his administration. Confederate armies had been on the move earlier in the fall, invading Kentucky and Maryland, and although each had been turned back, those armies remained intact and capable of further action. Lincoln urged General Ulysses S. Grant to advance against the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi. He replaced General Don Carlos Buell with William Rosecrans, hoping for a more aggressive posture against the Confederates in Tennessee, and on November 5, seeing that his replacement of Buell had not stimulated General George McClellan into action, he issued orders to replace McClellan in command of the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. McClellan had stopped Lee at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland, but had not been able to destroy Lee’s army, nor did he pursue Lee back into Virginia aggressively enough for Lincoln. McClellan’s replacement was Ambrose Burnside, the commander of the IX Corps. Burnside had established a reputation as an independent commander, with successful operations earlier that year in coastal North Carolina and, unlike McClellan, had no apparent political ambitions. However, he felt himself unqualified for army-level command and objected when offered the position. He accepted only when it was made clear to him that McClellan would be replaced in any event and that an alternative choice for command was Joseph Hooker, whom Burnside disliked and distrusted. Burnside assumed command on November 7. In response to prodding from Lincoln and general-in-chief Henry Halleck,

“The Stuffed Owl” by James Thomas Fields
Dec 09 2015 2 mins  
I adjusted the title and ending. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Stuffed Owl” James Thomas Fields edited by The Voice before the Void “Who stuffed that white owl?” No one spoke in the shop: The barber was busy, and he couldn’t stop; The customers, waiting their turns, were all reading The Daily, the Herald, the Post, little heeding The young man who blurted out such a blunt question; Not one raised a head or even made a suggestion; And the barber kept on shaving. “Don’t you see, Mister Brown,” Cried the youth, with a frown, “How wrong the whole thing is, How preposterous each wing is, How flattened the head is, how jammed down the neck is— In short, the whole owl, what an ignorant wreck ’tis! I make no apology; I’ve learned owl-eology. I’ve passed days and nights in a hundred collections, And cannot be blinded to any deflections Arising from unskilful fingers that fail To stuff a bird right, from his beak to his tail. Mister Brown! Mister Brown! Do take that bird down, Or you’ll soon be the laughing-stock all over town!” And the barber kept on shaving. “I’ve studied owls, And other night fowls, And I tell you What I know to be true: An owl cannot roost With his limbs so unloosed; No owl in this world Ever had his claws curled, Ever had his legs slanted, Ever had his bill canted, Ever had his neck screwed Into that attitude. He can’t do it, because ‘Tis against all bird-laws Anatomy teaches, Ornithology preaches An owl has a toe That can’t turn out so! I’ve made the white owl my study for years, And to see such a job almost moves me to tears! Mister Brown, I’m amazed You should be so gone crazed As to put up a bird In that posture absurd! To look at that owl really brings on a dizziness; The man who stuffed him don’t half know his business!” And the barber kept on shaving. “Examine those eyes. I’m filled with surprise Taxidermists should pass Off on you such poor glass; So unnatural they seem They’d make Audubon scream, And John Burroughs laugh To encounter such chaff. Do take that bird down; Have him stuffed again, Brown!” And the barber kept on shaving. “With some sawdust and bark I would stuff in the dark An owl better than that; I could make an old hat Look more like an owl Than that horrid fowl, Stuck up there so stiff like a side of coarse leather. In fact, about him there’s not one natural feather.” Just then, with a wink and a sly normal lurch, The owl, very gravely, got down from his perch. And the barber kept on shaving.

“Krampus” from Wikipedia
Dec 04 2015 17 mins  
Krampusnacht Special: Winter is the darkest time of year. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Krampus” Wikipedia In German-speaking Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure. According to traditional narratives around the figure, Krampus punishes children during the Christmas season who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved children with gifts. Regions in the Austrian diaspora feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe. The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated a pre-Christian origin for the figure. Traditional parades in which young men dress as Krampus, such as the Krampuslauf (Krampus run), occur annually in some Alpine towns. Krampus is featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten. Appearance Although Krampus appears in many variations, most share some common physical characteristics. He is hairy, usually brown or black, and has the cloven hooves and horns of a goat. His long, pointed tongue lolls out. Krampus carries chains, thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church. He thrashes the chains for dramatic effect. The chains are sometimes accompanied with bells of various sizes. Of more pagan origins are the ruten, bundles of birch branches that Krampus carries and occasionally swats children with. The ruten have significance in pre-Christian pagan initiation rites. The birch branches are replaced with a whip in some representations. Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack or a washtub strapped to his back; this is to cart off evil children for drowning, eating, or transport to Hell. This part of the legend refers to the times of the Barbary slave trade, when Barbary pirates from North African bases raided European coasts to abduct the local people into slavery. This quality can be found in other Companions of Saint Nicholas such as Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) of Dutch folklore. Origins The history of the Krampus figure has been theorized as stretching back to pre-Christian traditions. In a brief article discussing the figure, published in 1958, Maurice Bruce wrote: There seems to be little doubt as to his true identity for, in no other form is the full regalia of the Horned God of the Witches so well preserved. The birch—apart from its phallic significance—may have a connection with the initiation rites of certain witch-covens; rites which entailed binding and scourging as a form of mock-death. The chains could have been introduced in a Christian attempt to “bind the Devil” but again they could be a remnant of pagan initiation rites. Discussing his observations while in Irdning, a small town in Styria in 1975, anthropologist John J. Honigmann wrote that: The Saint Nicholas festival we are describing incorporates cultural elements widely distributed in Europe, in some cases going back to pre-Christian times. Nicholas himself became popular in Germany around the eleventh century. The feast dedicated to this patron of children is only one winter occasion in which children are the objects of special attention, others being Martinmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and New Year’s Day. Masked devils acting boisterously and making nuisances of themselves are known in Germany since at least the sixteenth century while animal masked devils combining dreadful-comic (schauriglustig) antics appeared in Medieval church plays. A large literature, much of it by European folklorists, bears on these subjects. … Austrians in the community we studied ar...

“Hunting the Deceitful Turkey” by Mark Twain
Nov 30 2015 7 mins  
Mark Twain’s Birthday Special: Twain bestows personality upon your holiday meal. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Hunting the Deceitful Turkey” Mark Twain When I was a boy my uncle and his big boys hunted with the rifle, the youngest boy Fred and I with a shotgun–a small single-barrelled shotgun which was properly suited to our size and strength; it was not much heavier than a broom. We carried it turn about, half an hour at a time. I was not able to hit anything with it, but I liked to try. Fred and I hunted feathered small game, the others hunted deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, and such things. My uncle and the big boys were good shots. They killed hawks and wild geese and such like on the wing; and they didn’t wound or kill squirrels, they stunned them. When the dogs treed a squirrel, the squirrel would scamper aloft and run out on a limb and flatten himself along it, hoping to make himself invisible in that way –and not quite succeeding. You could see his wee little ears sticking up. You couldn’t see his nose, but you knew where it was. Then the hunter, despising a “rest” for his rifle, stood up and took offhand aim at the limb and sent a bullet into it immediately under the squirrel’s nose, and down tumbled the animal, unwounded, but unconscious; the dogs gave him a shake and he was dead. Sometimes when the distance was great and the wind not accurately allowed for, the bullet would hit the squirrel’s head; the dogs could do as they pleased with that one–the hunter’s pride was hurt, and he wouldn’t allow it to go into the gamebag. In the first faint gray of the dawn the stately wild turkeys would be stalking around in great flocks, and ready to be sociable and answer invitations to come and converse with other excursionists of their kind. The hunter concealed himself and imitated the turkey-call by sucking the air through the leg-bone of a turkey which had previously answered a call like that and lived only just long enough to regret it. There is nothing that furnishes a perfect turkey-call except that bone. Another of Nature’s treacheries, you see. She is full of them; half the time she doesn’t know which she likes best–to betray her child or protect it. In the case of the turkey she is badly mixed: she gives it a bone to be used in getting it into trouble, and she also furnishes it with a trick for getting itself out of the trouble again. When a mamma-turkey answers an invitation and finds she has made a mistake in accepting it, she does as the mamma-partridge does–remembers a previous engagement–and goes limping and scrambling away, pretending to be very lame; and at the same time she is saying to her not-visible children, “Lie low, keep still, don’t expose yourselves; I shall be back as soon as I have beguiled this shabby swindler out of the country.” When a person is ignorant and confiding, this immoral device can have tiresome results. I followed an ostensibly lame turkey over a considerable part of the United States one morning, because I believed in her and could not think she would deceive a mere boy, and one who was trusting her and considering her honest. I had the single-barrelled shotgun, but my idea was to catch her alive. I often got within rushing distance of her, and then made my rush; but always, just as I made my final plunge and put my hand down where her back had been, it wasn’t there; it was only two or three inches from there and I brushed the tail-feathers as I landed on my stomach–a very close call, but still not quite close enough; that is, not close enough for success, but just close enough to convince me that I could do it next time. She always waited for me, a little piece away, and let on to be resting and greatly fatigued; which was a lie, but I believed it, for I still thought her honest long after I ought to h...

“Thomas McGrath (poet)” from Wikipedia
Nov 20 2015 3 mins  
Thomas McGrath’s Birthday Special: Never enough poet-heroes. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Thomas McGrath (poet)” Wikipedia Thomas Matthew McGrath (born 1916 November 20, near Sheldon, North Dakota; died 1990 September 20, Minneapolis, Minnesota) was a celebrated American poet. McGrath grew up on a farm in Ransom County, North Dakota. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. During World War II, he served with the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. McGrath was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford, and also pursued postgraduate studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He taught at Colby College in Maine and at Los Angeles State College in California, from which he was dismissed in connection with his appearance, as an unfriendly witness, before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1953. Later he taught at North Dakota State University in Fargo, and Moorhead State University in Minnesota. McGrath was a member of the Communist Party USA and a Guggenheim Fellow. He was married three times and had one son. McGrath wrote mainly about his own life and social concerns. His best-known work is probably Letter to an Imaginary Friend, published in sections between 1957 and 1985, and as a single poem by Copper Canyon Press in 1997. “Best of all, Letter to an Imaginary Friend licks its fingers and burps at the table. Polite it is not–and the better for it when McGrath turns from his populist vitriol to what may be his most abiding talent: that of bestowing praise–grace, even–on the common, the unruly, the inconsolable, those McGrath chose to side and sing with and for whom ‘the world is too much but not enough with us.'” –Josie Rawson, Rain Taxi, Vol. 2 No. 4, Winter 1997/1998

“The Hill” by Edgar Lee Masters
Nov 15 2015 2 mins  
The vastnesses of life (death), the paltriness, the irony. A great poem. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Hill” from Spoon River Anthology Edgar Lee Masters Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley, The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter? All, all are sleeping on the hill. One passed in a fever, One was burned in a mine, One was killed in a brawl, One died in a jail, One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife — All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill. Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith, The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one? — All, all are sleeping on the hill. One died in shameful child-birth, One of a thwarted love, One at the hands of a brute in a brothel, One of a broken pride, in the search for heart’s desire, One after life in far-away London and Paris Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Mag — All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill. Where are Uncle Isaac and Aunt Emily, And old Towny Kincaid and Sevigne Houghton, And Major Walker who had talked With venerable men of the revolution? — All, all are sleeping on the hill. They brought them dead sons from the war, And daughters whom life had crushed, And their children fatherless, crying — All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill. Where is Old Fiddler Jones Who played with life all his ninety years, Braving the sleet with bared breast, Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin, Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven? Lo! he babbles of the fish-frys of long ago, Of the horse-races of long ago at Clary’s Grove, Of what Abe Lincoln said One time at Springfield.

“And There Was a Great Calm” by Thomas Hardy
Nov 11 2015 3 mins  
Armistice Day Special: Millions of men murdered in mud for nothing. Millions more mangled and blinded and left limbless. Millions displaced. Millions dead of influenza. World War I is a forever emblem of human civilization. ⁓The Voice before the Void “And There Was a Great Calm” Thomas Hardy (On the Signing of the Armistice, November 11, 1918) There had been years of Passion–scorching, cold, And much Despair, and Anger heaving high, Care whitely watching, Sorrows manifold, Among the young, among the weak and old, And the pensive Spirit of Pity whispered, “Why?” Men had not paused to answer. Foes distraught Pierced the thinned peoples in a brute-like blindness, Philosophies that sages long had taught, And Selflessness, were as an unknown thought, And “Hell!” and “Shell!” were yapped at Lovingkindness. The feeble folk at home had grown full-used To “dug-outs,” “snipers,” “Huns,” from the war-adept In the mornings heard, and at evetides perused; To day–dreamt men in millions, when they mused– To nightmare-men in millions when they slept. Waking to wish existence timeless, null, Sirius they watched above where armies fell; He seemed to check his flapping when, in the lull Of night a boom came thencewise, like the dull Plunge of a stone dropped into some deep well. So, when old hopes that earth was bettering slowly Were dead and damned, there sounded “War is done!” One morrow. Said the bereft, and meek, and lowly, “Will men some day be given to grace? yea, wholly, And in good sooth, as our dreams used to run?” Breathless they paused. Out there men raised their glance To where had stood those poplars lank and lopped, As they had raised it through the four years’ dance Of Death in the now familiar flats of France; And murmured, “Strange, this! How? All firing stopped?” Aye; all was hushed. The about-to-fire fired not, The aimed-at moved away in trance-lipped song. One checkless regiment slung a clinching shot And turned. The Spirit of Irony smirked out, “What? Spoil peradventures woven of Rage and Wrong?” Thenceforth no flying fires inflamed the gray, No hurtlings shook the dewdrop from the thorn, No moan perplexed the mute bird on the spray; Worn horses mused: “We are not whipped to-day”; No weft-winged engines blurred the moon’s thin horn. Calm fell. From Heaven distilled a clemency; There was peace on earth, and silence in the sky; Some could, some could not, shake off misery: The Sinister Spirit sneered: “It had to be!” And again the Spirit of Pity whispered, “Why?”

“From the Deck of a Transport (A Returning Soldier Speaks)” by Margaret Elizabeth Sangster
Nov 10 2015 3 mins  
Armistice Day Special: War is a crime committed against soldiers. ⁓The Voice before the Void “From the Deck of a Transport (A Returning Soldier Speaks)” Margaret Elizabeth Sangster I am coming back with a singing soul through the surge of the splendid sea, Coming back to the land called home, and the love that used to be— I am coming back through a flash of spray, through a conquered tempest’s hum, I am coming back, I am coming back…. But, God, do I want to come? I have heard the shriek of the great shells speak to the dawn of a flaming day; And a growling gun when the fight was won, and the twilight flickered gray, I have seen men die with their chins raised high, and a curse that was half a prayer— I have fought alone when a comrade’s groan was tense on the blinding air. I have tramped a road when a burning load was strapped to my aching back, Through miles of mud that was streaked with blood, when my closing eyes turned black— I have cried aloud to a heedless crowd of a God that they could not know, And have knelt at night when the way was bright with a rocket’s sullen glow. I am going home through the whirling foam—home to her arms stretched wide— I am going back to the beaten track and the sheltered fireside, With gasping breath I have sneered at death, and have mocked at a shell’s swift shirr, And safe again, through the years of pain, I am going back—to HER! I am coming back with a singing soul through the surge of the splendid sea, Coming back—BUT MY SINGING SOUL WILL NEVER BE QUITE FREE— For I have killed, and my heart has thrilled to the call of the battle hum…. I am coming back to the used-to-be—But, God, do I want to come?

“The Witch of Coös” by Robert Frost
Oct 30 2015 9 mins  
Halloween Special: Insanity, horror-haunted by adultery and murder, with secrets and lies and talking with the dead, from America’s favorite poet. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Witch of Coös” Robert Frost I staid the night for shelter at a farm Behind the mountain, with a mother and son, Two old-believers. They did all the talking. The Mother Folks think a witch who has familiar spirits She could call up to pass a winter evening, But won’t, should be burned at the stake or something. Summoning spirits isn’t “Button, button, Who’s got the button?” I’d have you understand. The Son Mother can make a common table rear And kick with two legs like an army mule. The Mother And when I’ve done it, what good have I done? Rather than tip a table for you, let me Tell you what Ralle the Sioux Control once told me. He said the dead had souls, but when I asked him How that could be—I thought the dead were souls, He broke my trance. Don’t that make you suspicious That there’s something the dead are keeping back? Yes, there’s something the dead are keeping back. The Son You wouldn’t want to tell him what we have Up attic, mother? The Mother Bones—a skeleton. The Son But the headboard of mother’s bed is pushed Against the attic door: the door is nailed. It’s harmless. Mother hears it in the night Halting perplexed behind the barrier Of door and headboard. Where it wants to get Is back into the cellar where it came from. The Mother We’ll never let them, will we, son? We’ll never! The Son It left the cellar forty years ago And carried itself like a pile of dishes Up one flight from the cellar to the kitchen, Another from the kitchen to the bedroom, Another from the bedroom to the attic, Right past both father and mother, and neither stopped it. Father had gone upstairs; mother was downstairs. I was a baby: I don’t know where I was. The Mother The only fault my husband found with me— I went to sleep before I went to bed, Especially in winter when the bed Might just as well be ice and the clothes snow. The night the bones came up the cellar-stairs Toffile had gone to bed alone and left me, But left an open door to cool the room off So as to sort of turn me out of it. I was just coming to myself enough To wonder where the cold was coming from, When I heard Toffile upstairs in the bedroom And thought I heard him downstairs in the cellar. The board we had laid down to walk dry-shod on When there was water in the cellar in spring Struck the hard cellar bottom. And then some one Began the stairs, two footsteps for each step, The way a man with one leg and a crutch, Or little child, comes up. It wasn’t Toffile: It wasn’t any one who could be there. The bulkhead double-doors were double-locked And swollen tight and buried under snow. The cellar windows were banked up with sawdust And swollen tight and buried under snow. It was the bones. I knew them—and good reason. My first impulse was to get to the knob And hold the door. But the bones didn’t try The door; they halted helpless on the landing, Waiting for things to happen in their favor. The faintest restless rustling ran all through them. I never could have done the thing I did If the wish hadn’t been too strong in me To see how they were mounted for this walk. I had a vision of them put together Not like a man, but like a chandelier.

“Curse of the pharaohs” from Wikipedia
Oct 14 2015 19 mins  
Halloween Special: There is no curse, and there is. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Curse of the pharaohs” Wikipedia The curse of the pharaohs refers to an alleged curse believed by some to be cast upon any person who disturbs the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian person, especially a pharaoh. This curse, which does not differentiate between thieves and archaeologists, allegedly can cause bad luck, illness, or death. Since the mid-20th century, many authors and documentaries have argued that the curse is “real” in the sense of being caused by scientifically explicable causes such as bacteria or radiation. However, the modern origins of Egyptian mummy curse tales, their development primarily in European cultures, the shift from magic to science to explain curses, and their changing uses—from condemning disturbance of the dead to entertaining horror film audiences—suggest that Egyptian curses are primarily a cultural, not exclusively scientific, phenomenon. There are occasional instances of genuine ancient curses appearing inside or on the façade of a tomb, as in the case of the mastaba of Khentika Ikhekhi at Saqqara. These appear to be directed towards the ka priests to protect the tomb carefully and preserve its ritual purity rather than as a warning for potential robbers. There had been stories of curses going back to the 19th century, but they multiplied after Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. Despite popular misconceptions, no curse was actually found inscribed in the pharaoh’s tomb. The evidence for curses relating to King Tutankhamun is considered to be so meager that Donald B. Redford viewed it as “unadulterated clap trap.” 1. Tomb curses Curses relating to tombs are extremely rare, possibly because the idea of such desecration was unthinkable and even dangerous to record in writing. They most frequently occur in private tombs of the Old Kingdom era. The tomb of Ankhtifi contains the warning: “any ruler who… shall do evil or wickedness to this coffin… may Hemen [a local deity] not accept any goods he offers, and may his heir not inherit.” The tomb of Khentika Ikhekhi contains an inscription: “As for all men who shall enter this my tomb… impure… there will be judgment… an end shall be made for him… I shall seize his neck like a bird… I shall cast the fear of myself into him.” Curses after the Old Kingdom era are less common though more severe, sometimes invoking the ire of Thoth or the destruction of Sekhemet. Zahi Hawass quotes an example of a curse: “Cursed be those who disturb the rest of a pharaoh. They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by a disease that no doctor can diagnose.” 2. Modern accounts Hieroglyphs were not deciphered until the beginning of the 19th century by Jean-François Champollion, so reports of curses prior to this are simply perceived bad luck associated with the handling of mummies and other artifacts from tombs. In 1699, Louis Penicher wrote an account in which he recorded how a Polish traveler bought two mummies in Alexandria and embarked on a sea journey with the mummies in the cargo hold. The traveler was alarmed by recurring visions of two specters, and the stormy seas did not abate until the mummies were thrown overboard. Zahi Hawass recalled that as a young archaeologist excavating at Kom Abu-Bellou he had to transport a number of artifacts from the Greco-Roman site. His cousin died on that day, on its anniversary, his uncle died and on the third anniversary his aunt died. Years later, when he excavated the tombs of the builders of the pyramids at Giza,

“The Hand” by Guy de Maupassant
Oct 05 2015 18 mins  
Halloween Special: Maupassant has a brilliant way of relating the supernatural. He does not say: “this supernatural thing happened,” a fact which would be unbelievable; instead he says: “it is said that this supernatural thing happened,” a fact which is indisputable. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Hand” Guy de Maupassant translated from the French All were crowding around M. Bermutier, the judge, who was giving his opinion about the Saint-Cloud mystery. For a month this in explicable crime had been the talk of Paris. Nobody could make head or tail of it. M. Bermutier, standing with his back to the fireplace, was talking, citing the evidence, discussing the various theories, but arriving at no conclusion. Some women had risen, in order to get nearer to him, and were standing with their eyes fastened on the clean-shaven face of the judge, who was saying such weighty things. They, were shaking and trembling, moved by fear and curiosity, and by the eager and insatiable desire for the horrible, which haunts the soul of every woman. One of them, paler than the others, said during a pause: “It’s terrible. It verges on the supernatural. The truth will never be known.” The judge turned to her: “True, madame, it is likely that the actual facts will never be discovered. As for the word ‘supernatural’ which you have just used, it has nothing to do with the matter. We are in the presence of a very cleverly conceived and executed crime, so well enshrouded in mystery that we cannot disentangle it from the involved circumstances which surround it. But once I had to take charge of an affair in which the uncanny seemed to play a part. In fact, the case became so confused that it had to be given up.” Several women exclaimed at once: “Oh! Tell us about it!” M. Bermutier smiled in a dignified manner, as a judge should, and went on: “Do not think, however, that I, for one minute, ascribed anything in the case to supernatural influences. I believe only in normal causes. But if, instead of using the word ‘supernatural’ to express what we do not understand, we were simply to make use of the word ‘inexplicable,’ it would be much better. At any rate, in the affair of which I am about to tell you, it is especially the surrounding, preliminary circumstances which impressed me. Here are the facts: “I was, at that time, a judge at Ajaccio, a little white city on the edge of a bay which is surrounded by high mountains. “The majority of the cases which came up before me concerned vendettas. There are some that are superb, dramatic, ferocious, heroic. We find there the most beautiful causes for revenge of which one could dream, enmities hundreds of years old, quieted for a time but never extinguished; abominable stratagems, murders becoming massacres and almost deeds of glory. For two years I heard of nothing but the price of blood, of this terrible Corsican prejudice which compels revenge for insults meted out to the offending person and all his descendants and relatives. I had seen old men, children, cousins murdered; my head was full of these stories. “One day I learned that an Englishman had just hired a little villa at the end of the bay for several years. He had brought with him a French servant, whom he had engaged on the way at Marseilles. “Soon this peculiar person, living alone, only going out to hunt and fish, aroused a widespread interest. He never spoke to any one, never went to the town, and every morning he would practice for an hour or so with his revolver and rifle. “Legends were built up around him. It was said that he was some high personage, fleeing from his fatherland for political reasons; then it was affirmed that he was in hiding after having committed some abominable...

“Elizabeth Coatsworth” from Wikipedia
Oct 04 2015 4 mins  
One whose work flirts with Buddhism and beings not quite human. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Elizabeth Coatsworth” Wikipedia Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth (May 31, 1893 – August 31, 1986) was an American writer of fiction and poetry for children and adults. She won the 1931 Newbery Medal from the American Library Association recognizing The Cat Who Went to Heaven as the previous year’s “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” In 1968 she was a highly commended runner-up for the biennial international Hans Christian Andersen Award for children’s writers. Life Elizabeth Coatsworth was born May 31, 1893, to Ida Reid and William T. Coatsworth, a prosperous grain merchant in Buffalo, New York. Coatsworth attended Buffalo Seminary, a private girl’s school, and spent summers with her family on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie. She began traveling as a child, vising the Alps and Egypt at age five. Coatsworth graduated from Vassar College in 1915 as Salutatorian. In 1916 she received a Master of Arts from Columbia University. She then traveled to the Orient, riding horseback through the Philippines, exploring Indonesia and China, and sleeping in a Buddhist monastery. These travels would later influence her writing. In 1929, she married writer Henry Beston, with whom she had two daughters, Margaret and Catherine. They lived at Hingham, Massachusetts, and Chimney Farm, Maine. Elizabeth Coatsworth died at her home in Nobleboro, Maine, August 31, 1986. Her papers are held in the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota and Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, with a small archive from late in her career in the de Grummond Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. Career Coatsworth began her career publishing her poetry in magazines. Her first book was a poetry collection for adults, Fox Footprints, in 1912. A conversation with her friend, Louise Seaman, who had just founded the first children’s book publishing department in the United States at Macmillan, led Coatsworth to write her first children’s book, The Cat and the Captain. In 1930, The Cat Who Went to Heaven appeared. The story of an artist who is painting a picture of Buddha for a group of monks, it won the Newbery Medal. Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers says “Coatsworth reached her apogee in her nature writing, notably ‘The Incredible Tales.'” These four books were published for adults in the 1950s. They tell the story of the Pedrys, a family living in the forests of northern Maine who may not be entirely human. Coatsworth had a long career, publishing over 90 books from 1910 to her autobiography and final book in 1976.

“Caterpillars” by E.F. Benson
Oct 01 2015 29 mins  
Halloween Special: Does knowledge of the world come through dreaming or waking? Or both? Or neither? ⁓The Voice before the Void “Caterpillars” E.F. Benson I saw a month or two ago in an Italian paper that the Villa Casana, in which I once stayed, had been pulled down, and that a manufactory of some sort was in process of erection on its site. There is therefore no longer any reason for refraining from writing of those things which I myself saw (or imagined I saw) in a certain room and on a certain landing of the villa in question, nor from mentioning the circumstances which followed, which may or may not (according to the opinion of the reader) throw some light on or be somehow connected with this experience. The Villa Casana was in all ways but one a perfectly delightful house, yet, if it were standing now, nothing in the world–I use the phrase in its literal sense–would induce me to set foot in it again, for I believe it to have been haunted in a very terrible and practical manner. Most ghosts, when all is said and done, do not do much harm; they may perhaps terrify, but the person whom they visit usually gets over their visitation. They may on the other hand be entirely friendly and beneficent. But the appearances in the Villa Casana were not beneficent, and had they made their “visit” in a very slightly different manner, I do not suppose I should have got over it any more than Arthur Inglis did. The house stood on an ilex-clad hill not far from Sestri di Levante on the Italian Riviera, looking out over the iridescent blues of that enchanted sea, while behind it rose the pale green chestnut woods that climb up the hillsides till they give place to the pines that, black in contrast with them, crown the slopes. All round it the garden in the luxuriance of mid-spring bloomed and was fragrant, and the scent of magnolia and rose, borne on the salt freshness of the winds from the sea, flowed like a stream through the cool vaulted rooms. On the ground floor a broad pillared loggia ran round three sides of the house, the top of which formed a balcony for certain rooms of the first floor. The main staircase, broad and of grey marble steps, led up from the hall to the landing outside these rooms, which were three in number, namely, two big sitting-rooms and a bedroom arranged en suite. The latter was unoccupied, the sitting-rooms were in use. From these the main staircase was continued to the second floor, where were situated certain bedrooms, one of which I occupied, while from the other side of the first-floor landing some half-dozen steps led to another suite of rooms, where, at the time I am speaking of, Arthur Inglis, the artist, had his bedroom and studio. Thus the landing outside my bedroom at the top of the house commanded both the landing of the first floor and also the steps that led to Inglis’ rooms. Jim Stanley and his wife, finally (whose guest I was), occupied rooms in another wing of the house, where also were the servants’ quarters. I arrived just in time for lunch on a brilliant noon of mid-May. The garden was shouting with colour and fragrance, and not less delightful after my broiling walk up from the marina, should have been the coming from the reverberating heat and blaze of the day into the marble coolness of the villa. Only (the reader has my bare word for this, and nothing more), the moment I set foot in the house I felt that something was wrong. This feeling, I may say, was quite vague, though very strong, and I remember that when I saw letters waiting for me on the table in the hall I felt certain that the explanation was here: I was convinced that there was bad news of some sort for me. Yet when I opened them I found no such explanation of my premonition: my correspondents all reeked of prosperity. Yet this clear miscarriage of a presentiment did not dissipate my uneasiness.

“Deep Web,” “Darknet,” “Dark Web,” and “Darknet Markets” from Wikipedia
Sep 04 2015 49 mins  
The Internet is a network, or more accurately: it is a network of connected networks. The World Wide Web is a cyberspace that exists upon the Internet… or “via”(?) the Internet. – (I don’t think our language, our human English, has words to accurately describe how networks and cyberspaces are related; for example, your brain is a neural network, or, more accurately, it is a network of networks; your consciousness (your thoughts, your memories, your emotions… your “content”(?)) exists “upon”(?) your brain. You see?: our language doesn’t really describe this.) The Deep Web is content of the World Wide Web that is not accessible through standard search engines. A darknet is a network that is built on top of, or overlaid upon, the Internet, and to which access is restricted, requiring, for example, special software or authorization. The Dark Web is content that exists on darknets. A darknet market is a marketplace that exists on a darknet. The Internet and darknets are networks; darknets overlay the Internet. Considering the World Wide Web as content on the Internet, the World Wide Web can be divided into two subsets: the Surface Web and the Deep Web. The Surface Web is content that is accessible through standard search engines. The Deep Web is content that is not accessible through standard search engines, and it is much, much larger than the Surface Web, but it is mainly composed of information in databases (databases are generally not searchable through standard search engines). However, some content of the Deep Web is not accessible by standard search engines because it exists upon darknets, and that content is called the Dark Web. The World Wide Web is the superset; the Deep Web is a subset of the World Wide Web; the Dark Web is a subset of the Deep Web; and darknet markets form a subset of the Dark Web. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Deep web (search)” Wikipedia This article is about the part of the World Wide Web not indexed by traditional search engines. For the part of the World Wide Web which exists on Darknets, see Dark Web. The Deep Web, Deep Net, Invisible Web, or Hidden Web are search terms referring to the content on the World Wide Web that is not indexed by standard search engines. Computer scientist Michael K. Bergman is credited with coining the term in 2000. 1. Terminology conflation The first conflation of the terms came about in 2009 when Deep Web search terminology was discussed alongside illegal activities taking place on the darknet Freenet. In subsequent media reporting about the darknet market Silk Road, many commentators and media outlets have taken to using the term “Deep Web” synonymously with the terms “Dark Web” and “Darknet,” a comparison BrightPlanet Corporation rejects as inaccurate, and consequently is an ongoing source of confusion. Wired reporters Kim Zetter and Andy Greenberg recommend the terms be used in distinct fashions. 2. Size In the year 2000, Michael K. Bergman said how searching on the Internet can be compared to dragging a net across the surface of the ocean: a great deal may be caught in the net, but there is a wealth of information that is deep and therefore missed. Most of the web’s information is buried far down on sites, and standard search engines do not find it. Traditional search engines cannot see or retrieve content in the Deep Web. The portion of the web that is indexed by standard search engines is known as the Surface Web. As of 2001, the Deep Web was several orders of magnitude larger than the Surface Web.

Old Yellow Top, or the Pre-Cambrian Shield Man
Sep 03 2015 3 mins  
Apparently, Bigfoots have individuating characteristics and long lifespans. “Bigfoot” does start to sound less like a mythical creature, more like a species of large primate. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Pre Cambrian Shield Man Seen by Two Prospectors” North Bay Nugget, North Bay, Ontario, Canada Cobalt, Ontario, Canada July 27, 1923 Mr. J. A. MacAuley and Mr. Lorno Wilson claim they have seen the “Pre-Cambrian shield man” while working on their mining claims North and East of the Wettlaufer Mine, near Cobalt. This is the second time in seventeen years that a hairy ape-like creature nicknamed “Old Yellow-Top” because of a light colored mane has been seen in the district. The two prospectors said they were taking test samples from their claim property when they spotted what looked like a bear picking in a blueberry patch. Mr. Wilson said he threw a stone at the creature. He said, “It kind of stood up and growled at us, then ran away. It sure was like no bear I have ever seen. Its head was kind of yellow and the rest of it was black, like a bear, all covered with hair.” The first report of the creature was made in Sept. 1906, by a group of men building the head frame at the Violet Mine, east of Cobalt. It had not been seen since that time. “Old Yellow Top” Wikipedia Old Yellow Top was reported to be a 7-foot (2-meter) tall Sasquatch-like creature that was sighted several times around the town of Cobalt, Ontario, Canada, during the 20th century. Descriptions of the creature by eyewitnesses closely resembled that of a Sasquatch; however, Old Yellow Top had a blonde patch of hair on its head and a light-coloured mane, which accounted for the creature’s name. Alleged sightings took place over a 64-year period, with the first reported sighting in September 1906, the second in July 1923, and the third in April 1947. The last reported sighting took place on August 4, 1970. Twenty-seven miners in a bus were on their way to work the graveyard shift at Cobalt Lode Mine when the creature walked across the road in front of them, causing the driver to lose control of the bus and nearly plunge down a rock cut.

“The Hoard of The Wizarrd-Beast” by H.P. Lovecraft and R.H. Barlow
Aug 20 2015 19 mins  
H.P. Lovecraft’s Birthday Special: A decidedly Dunsanian fantasy adventure. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Hoard of The Wizarrd-Beast” H.P. Lovecraft and R.H. Barlow There had happened in the teeming and many-towered city of Zeth one of those incidents which are prone to take place in all capitals of all worlds. Nor, simply because Zeth lies on a planet of strange beasts and stranger vegetation, did this incident differ greatly from what might have occurred in London or Paris or any of the great governing towns we know. Through the cleverly concealed dishonesty of an aged but shrewd official, the treasury was exhausted. No shining phrulder, as of old, lay stacked about the strong-room; and over empty coffers the sardonic spider wove webs of mocking design. When, at last, the giphath Yalden entered that obscure vault and discovered the thefts, there were left only some phlegmatic rats which peered sharply at him as at an alien intruder. There had been no accountings since Kishan the old keeper had died many moon-turns before, and great was Yalden’s dismay to find this emptiness instead of the expected wealth. The indifference of the small creatures in the cracks between the flagstones could not spread itself to him. This was a very grave matter, and would have to be met in a very prompt and serious way. Clearly, there was nothing to do but consult Oorn, and Oorn was a highly portentous being. Oorn, though a creature of extremely doubtful nature, was the virtual ruler of Zeth. It obviously belonged somewhere in the outer abyss, but had blundered into Zeth one night and suffered capture by the shamith priests. The coincidence of Its excessively bizarre aspect and Its innate gift of mimicry had impressed the sacred brothers as offering vast possibilities, hence in the end they had set It up as a god and an oracle, organising a new brotherhood to serve It—and incidentally to suggest the edicts It should utter and the replies It should give. Like the Delphi and Dodona of a later world, Oorn grew famous as a giver of judgments and solver of riddles; nor did Its essence differ from them save that It lay infinitely earlier in Time, and upon an elder world where all things might happen. And now Yalden, being not above the credulousness of his day and planet, had set out for the close-guarded and richly-fitted hall wherein Oorn brooded and mimicked the promptings of the priests. When Yalden came within sight of the Hall, with its tower of blue tile, he became properly religious, and entered the building acceptably, in a humble manner which greatly impeded progress. According to custom, the guardians of the deity acknowledged his obeisance and pecuniary offering, and retired behind heavy curtains to ignite the thuribles. After everything was in readiness, Yalden murmured a conventional prayer and bowed low before a curious empty dais studded with exotic jewels. For a moment—as the ritual prescribed—he stayed in this abased position, and when he arose the dais was no longer empty. Unconcernedly munching something the priests had given It was a large pudgy creature very hard to describe, and covered with short grey fur. Whence It had come in so brief a time only the priests might tell, but the suppliant knew that It was Oorn. Hesitantly Yalden stated his unfortunate mission and asked advice; weaving into his discourse the type of flattery which seemed to him most discreet. Then, with anxiety, he awaited the oracle’s response. Having tidily finished Its food, Oorn raised three small reddish eyes to Yalden and uttered certain words in a tone of vast decisiveness: “Gumay ere hfotuol leheht teg.” After this It vanished suddenly in a cloud of pink smoke which seemed to issue from behind the curtain where the acolytes were. The acolytes then came forth from their hiding-place and spoke to Yalden, saying: “Since you have pleased the deity with your concise statement of a v...

“Tomb of Orcus” from Wikipedia
Aug 10 2015 8 mins  
An ancient tomb in Italy bears the only known picture of a mysterious monster of the underworld. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Tomb of Orcus” Wikipedia The Tomb of Orcus (Italian: Tomba dell’Orco), sometimes called the Tomb of Murina, is a 4th-century BCE Etruscan hypogeum (burial chamber) in Tarquinia, Italy. Discovered in 1868, it displays Hellenistic influences in its remarkable murals, which include the portrait of Velia Velcha, an Etruscan noblewoman, and the only known pictorial representation of the daemon Tuchulcha. In general, the murals are noted for their depiction of death, evil, and unhappiness. Because the tomb was built in two sections at two stages, it is sometimes referred to as the Tombs of Orcus I and II; it is believed to have belonged to the Murina family, an offshoot of the Etruscan Spurinnae. The foundation is inscribed with the following enigmatic phrase: “Larthiale Hulchniesi Marcesi Caliathesi munisule nacnvaiasi thamuce Le…” which may be interpreted as: “Le[ive] erected this monument for posterity [during the magistracy] of Larth Hulchnie and Marce Caliathe.” 1. History Orcus I was built between 470 and 450 BCE; a separate hypogeum, Orcus II, was built c. 325 BCE. At some point in antiquity, the wall between the two was removed, creating a large tomb with two dromes (entrances). The tomb was excavated in 1868 by an officer of the French Army. Upon its discovery, the excavator mistook the painting of the cyclops for the Roman god of the underworld, Orcus, hence the name “Tomb of Orcus.” The Italian name (Tomba dell’Orco) can also mean “Tomb of the Ogre,” and it is used that way in Italy today. The second tomb has never been fully excavated. 2. Murals Though most of the walls are muraled, the artists did not complete the ceiling. A scientific analysis in 2001 revealed that the paint used contained cinnabar, ochre, orpiment, calcite, copper, and Egyptian blue. While the artwork in Orcus I is highly praised (particularly the painting of Velia Velcha), some of the artwork of Orcus II is considered poorly done. It is likely that the French excavators of the tomb tried to remove some of the murals for exhibition in the Louvre, which resulted in significant deterioration. 2.1 Orcus I The Tomb of Orcus I (also known as the Tomb of Velcha) was constructed between 470 and 450 BCE. The main and right walls depict a banquet, believed to be the Spurinnae after their death in the Battle of Syracuse. The banqueters are surrounded by daemons who serve as cupbearers. One of the banqueters is a noblewoman named Velia Velcha (or by some interpretations, Velia Spurinna), whose portrait has been called the “Mona Lisa of antiquity.” Her realistic profile (especially her eye) bears the influence of Hellenistic art. Unlike the Mona Lisa, however, she is noted for her grimace or sneer. 2.2 Orcus II The Tomb of Orcus II (sometimes distinguished as the Tomb of Orcus) was constructed over a hundred years after Orcus I, around 325 BCE. Its entrance is guarded by paintings of “Charun” (Charon), the keeper of the underworld, and a cyclops (possibly Polyphemus or Geryon). The back wall depicts a funeral procession overseen by “Aita” (Hades), the Etruscan god of the underworld, and his wife “Phersipnei” (Persephone). The left wall is believed to depict Agamemnon, Tiresias, and Ajax in the underworld.

“Bloop” from Wikipedia
Jul 30 2015 5 mins  
Let’s say it was ice. But it was Cthulhu. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Bloop” Wikipedia Bloop was an ultra-low-frequency and extremely powerful underwater sound detected by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1997. The sound was consistent with the noises generated by icequakes in large icebergs, or large icebergs scraping the ocean floor. Analysis The sound’s source was roughly triangulated to 50°S 100°W (a remote point in the south Pacific Ocean west of the southern tip of South America), and the sound was detected several times by the Equatorial Pacific Ocean autonomous hydrophone array. This system is primarily used to monitor undersea seismicity, ice noise, and marine mammal population and migration. This system was developed to augment NOAA’s use of the U.S. Navy Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS), which was equipment originally designed to detect Soviet submarines. According to the NOAA description, it “r[ose] rapidly in frequency over about one minute and was of sufficient amplitude to be heard on multiple sensors, at a range of over 5,000 km.” The NOAA’s Dr. Christopher Fox did not believe its origin was man-made, such as a submarine or bomb, nor familiar geological events such as volcanoes or earthquakes. While the audio profile of Bloop does resemble that of a living creature, the source was a mystery both because it was different from known sounds and because it was several times louder than the loudest recorded animal, the blue whale. Fox initially speculated that Bloop may be ice calving in Antarctica. A year later, journalist David Wolman paraphrased Dr. Fox’s updated opinion that it was probably animal in origin: “Fox’s hunch is that the sound nicknamed Bloop is the most likely to come from some sort of animal, because its signature is a rapid variation in frequency similar to that of sounds known to be made by marine beasts. There’s one crucial difference, however: in 1997 Bloop was detected by sensors up to 4,800 kilometres apart. That means it must be far louder than any whale noise, or any other animal noise for that matter. Is it even remotely possible that some creature bigger than any whale is lurking in the ocean depths? Or, perhaps more likely, something that is much more efficient at making sound?” The NOAA Vents Program has since then attributed the sound to that of a large icequake. Numerous icequakes share similar spectrograms with Bloop, as well as the amplitude necessary to spot them despite ranges exceeding 5,000 km. This was found during the tracking of iceberg A53a as it disintegrated near South Georgia Island in early 2008. If this is indeed the origin of Bloop, the iceberg or icebergs involved in generating the sound were most likely between Bransfield Straits and the Ross Sea; or possibly at Cape Adare, a well-known source of cryogenic signals.

“The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft
Jul 28 2015 106 mins  
Cosmic horror. / However phantasmical his narratives may be, Lovecraft’s assertion that it is horrific to ponder what immensities in our universe must lie hidden from us oozes through as profoundly true. / (R’lyeh might be the capital of North Carolina.) ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Call of Cthulhu” H.P. Lovecraft Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a survival… a survival of a hugely remote period when… consciousness was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and forms long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing humanity… forms of which poetry and legend alone have caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters, mythical beings of all sorts and kinds… –Algernon Blackwood I. The Horror in Clay The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from an accidental piecing together of separated things – in this case an old newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor. I hope that no one else will accomplish this piecing out; certainly, if I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so hideous a chain. I think that the professor, too intended to keep silent regarding the part he knew, and that he would have destroyed his notes had not sudden death seized him. My knowledge of the thing began in the winter of 1926-27 with the death of my great-uncle, George Gammell Angell, Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages in Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Professor Angell was widely known as an authority on ancient inscriptions, and had frequently been resorted to by the heads of prominent museums; so that his passing at the age of ninety-two may be recalled by many. Locally, interest was intensified by the obscurity of the cause of death. The professor had been stricken whilst returning from the Newport boat; falling suddenly; as witnesses said, after having been jostled by a nautical-looking negro who had come from one of the queer dark courts on the precipitous hillside which formed a short cut from the waterfront to the deceased’s home in Williams Street. Physicians were unable to find any visible disorder, but concluded after perplexed debate that some obscure lesion of the heart, induced by the brisk ascent of so steep a hill by so elderly a man, was responsible for the end. At the time I saw no reason to dissent from this dictum, but latterly I am inclined to wonder – and more than wonder. As my great-uncle’s heir and executor, for he died a childless widower, I was expected to go over his papers with some thoroughness; and for that purpose moved his entire set of files and boxes to my quarters in Boston.

“Ex Oblivione” by H.P. Lovecraft
Jul 06 2015 6 mins  
The dark fantastical dream; the great dream. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Ex Oblivione” H.P. Lovecraft When the last days were upon me, and the ugly trifles of existence began to drive me to madness like the small drops of water that torturers let fall ceaselessly upon one spot of their victim’s body, I loved the irradiate refuge of sleep. In my dreams I found a little of the beauty I had vainly sought in life, and wandered through old gardens and enchanted woods. Once when the wind was soft and scented I heard the south calling, and sailed endlessly and languorously under strange stars. Once when the gentle rain fell I glided in a barge down a sunless stream under the earth till I reached another world of purple twilight, iridescent arbours, and undying roses. And once I walked through a golden valley that led to shadowy groves and ruins, and ended in a mighty wall green with antique vines, and pierced by a little gate of bronze. Many times I walked through that valley, and longer and longer would I pause in the spectral half-light where the giant trees squirmed and twisted grotesquely, and the grey ground stretched damply from trunk to trunk, some times disclosing the mould-stained stones of buried temples. And always the goal of my fancies was the mighty vine-grown wall with the little gate of bronze therein. After a while, as the days of waking became less and less bearable from their greyness and sameness, I would often drift in opiate peace through the valley and the shadowy groves, and wonder how I might seize them for my eternal dwelling-place, so that I need no more crawl back to a dull world stript of interest and new colours. And as I looked upon the little gate in the mighty wall, I felt that beyond it lay a dream-country from which, once it was entered, there would be no return. So each night in sleep I strove to find the hidden latch of the gate in the ivied antique wall, though it was exceedingly well hidden. And I would tell myself that the realm beyond the wall was not more lasting merely, but more lovely and radiant as well. Then one night in the dream-city of Zakarion I found a yellowed papyrus filled with the thoughts of dream-sages who dwelt of old in that city, and who were too wise ever to be born in the waking world. Therein were written many things concerning the world of dream, and among them was lore of a golden valley and a sacred grove with temples, and a high wall pierced by a little bronze gate. When I saw this lore, I knew that it touched on the scenes I had haunted, and I therefore read long in the yellowed papyrus. Some of the dream-sages wrote gorgeously of the wonders beyond the irrepassable gate, but others told of horror and disappointment. I knew not which to believe, yet longed more and more to cross for ever into the unknown land; for doubt and secrecy are the lure of lures, and no new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace. So when I learned of the drug which would unlock the gate and drive me through, I resolved to take it when next I awaked. Last night I swallowed the drug and floated dreamily into the golden valley and the shadowy groves; and when I came this time to the antique wall, I saw that the small gate of bronze was ajar. From beyond came a glow that weirdly lit the giant twisted trees and the tops of the buried temples, and I drifted on songfully, expectant of the glories of the land from whence I should never return. But as the gate swung wider and the sorcery of the drug and the dream pushed me through, I knew that all sights and glories were at an end; for in that new realm was neither land nor sea, but only the white void of unpeopled and illimitable space. So, happier than I had ever dared hope to be, I dissolved again into that native infinity of crystal oblivion from which the daemon Life had called me for one brief and desolate hour....

“Every Year Has Its Dark Stain” by Helen Hunt Jackson
Jul 04 2015 11 mins  
U.S. Independence Day Special: Comprehensive United States history does not offer much cause for celebration. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Every Year Has Its Dark Stain” from A Century of Dishonor: A Sketch of the United States Government’s Dealings with Some of the Indian Tribes Helen Hunt Jackson There are within the limits of the United States between two hundred and fifty and three hundred thousand Indians, exclusive of those in Alaska. The names of the different tribes and bands, as entered in the statistical tables of the Indian Office Reports, number nearly three hundred…. There is not among these three hundred bands of Indians one which has not suffered cruelly at the hands either of the Government or of white settlers. The poorer, the more insignificant, the more helpless the band, the more certain the cruelty and outrage to which they have been subjected. This is especially true of the bands on the Pacific slope. These Indians found themselves of a sudden surrounded by and caught up in the great influx of gold-seeking settlers, as helpless creatures on a shore are caught up in a tidal wave. There was not time for the Government to make treaties ; not even time for communities to make laws. The tale of the wrongs, the oppressions, the murders of the Pacific-slope Indians would be a volume by itself, and is too monstrous to be believed. It makes little difference, however, where one opens the record of the history of the Indians ; every page and every year has its dark stain. The story of one tribe is the story of all, varied only by differences of time and place ; but neither time nor place makes any difference in the main facts. Colorado is as greedy and unjust in 1880 as was Georgia in 1830, and Ohio in 1795 ; and the United States Government breaks promises now as deftly as then, and with an added ingenuity from long practice. One of its strongest supports in so doing is the wide-spread sentiment among the people of dislike to the Indian, of impatience with his presence as a “barrier to civilization,” and distrust of his presence as a possible danger. The old tales of the frontier life, with its horrors of Indian warfare, have gradually, by two or three generations’ telling, produced in the average mind something like an hereditary instinct of unquestioning and unreasoning aversion which it is almost impossible to dislodge or soften. There are hundreds of pages of unimpeachable testimony on the side of the Indian; but it goes for nothing, is set down as sentimentalism or partisanship, tossed aside and forgotten. President after president has appointed commission after commission to inquire into and report upon Indian affairs, and to make suggestions as to the best methods of managing those affairs. The reports are filled with eloquent statements of wrongs done to the Indians, of perfidies on the part of the Government ; they counsel, as earnestly as words can, a trial of the simple and unperplexing expedients of telling truth, keeping promises, making fair bargains, dealing justly in all ways and all things. These reports are bound up with the Government’s Annual Reports, and that is the end of them. It would probably be no exaggeration to say that not one American citizen out of ten thousand ever sees them or knows that they exist, and yet any one of them, circulated throughout the country, read by the correct-thinking, correct-feeling men and women of this land, would be of itself a “campaign document” that would initiate a revolution which would not subside until the Indians’ wrongs were, so far as is now left possible, righted. In 1869 President Grant appointed a commission of nine men, representing the influence and philanthropy of six leading States, to visit the different Indian reservations, and to “examine all matters appertaining to Indian affairs.

“The Buffalo Hunt” by Pierre Falcon and Agnes Christina Laut
Jul 01 2015 3 mins  
Canada Day Special: Glory and grisly death, for food and clothing. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Buffalo Hunt” Pierre Falcon and Agnes Christina Laut Now list to the song of the buffalo hunt, Which I, Pierre, the rhymester, chant of the brave! We are Bois-Brulés, Freemen of the plains, We choose our chief! We are no man’s slave! Up, riders, up, ere the early mist Ascends to salute the rising sun! Up, rangers, up, ere the buffalo herds Sniff morning air for the hunter’s gun! They lie in their lairs of dank spear-grass, Down in the gorge, where the prairie dips. We’ve followed their tracks through the sucking ooze, Where our bronchos sank to their steaming hips. We’ve followed their tracks from the rolling plain Through slime-green sloughs to a sedgy ravine, Where the cat-tail spikes of the marsh-grown flags Stand half as high as the billowy green. The spear-grass touched our saddle-bows, The blade-points pricked to the broncho’s neck; But we followed the tracks like hounds on scent Till our horses reared with a sudden check. The scouts dart back with a shout, “They are found!” Great fur-maned heads are thrust through reeds, A forest of horns, a crunching of stems, Reined sheer on their haunches are terrified steeds! Get you gone to the squaws at the tents, old men, The cart-lines safely encircle the camp! Now, braves of the plain, brace your saddle-girths! Quick! Load guns, for our horses champ! A tossing of horns, a pawing of hoofs, But the hunters utter never a word, As the stealthy panther creeps on his prey, So move we in silence against the herd. With arrows ready and triggers cocked, We round them nearer the valley bank; They pause in defiance, then start with alarm At the ominous sound of a gun-barrel’s clank. A wave from our captain, out bursts a wild shout, A crash of shots from our breaking ranks, And the herd stampedes with a thunderous boom While we drive our spurs into quivering flanks. The arrows hiss like a shower of snakes, The bullets puff in a smoky gust, Out fly loose reins from the bronchos’ bits And hunters ride on in a whirl of dust. The bellowing bulls rush blind with fear Through river and marsh, while the trampled dead Soon bridge safe ford for the plunging herd; Earth rocks like a sea ‘neath the mighty tread. A rip of the sharp-curved sickle-horns, A hunter falls to the blood-soaked ground! He is gored and tossed and trampled down, On dashes the furious beast with a bound, When over sky-line hulks the last great form And the rumbling thunder of their hoofs’ beat, beat, Dies like an echo in distant hills, Back ride the hunters chanting their feat. Now, old men and squaws, come you out with the carts! There’s meat against hunger and fur against cold! Gather full store for the pemmican bags, Garner the booty of warriors bold. So list ye the song of the Bois-Brulés, Of their glorious deeds in the days of old, And this is the tale of the buffalo hunt Which I, Pierre, the rhymester, have proudly told.

“Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp” from Wikipedia
Jun 29 2015 14 mins  
First Reported Sighting of the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp Anniversary Special: Something’s out there. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp” Wikipedia The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp (also known as the Lizard Man of Lee County) is a reptilian humanoid cryptid which is said to inhabit areas of swampland in and around Lee County, South Carolina, as well as sewers and abandoned subways in towns near the swamp. 1. Strange car mauling In the summer of 1988, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene of a strange instance of vehicle damage. On the morning of July 14, deputies made their way to a residence located in a small rural community known as Browntown on the outskirts of Bishopville, South Carolina. When they arrived, homeowners Tom and Mary Waye showed them the vehicle in question. Police found that the chrome molding had been torn away from the fenders, the sidewalls were scratched and dented, the hood ornament was broken, the antenna was bent, and even some wires from the motor had been ripped out. Upon closer inspection, it appeared that parts of the molding had actually been chewed, as if an animal had used its teeth to inflict the damage. To further support the animal theory, the Wayes pointed out clumps of reddish colored hair and muddy footprints that had been left all over the car. However, while Sheriff Liston Truesdale was investigating the car, local residents informed him that there might be yet another, more bizarre possibility. Truesdale said, “While we were there looking over this situation, we learned that people in the Browntown community had been seeing a strange creature about seven feet tall with red eyes. Some of them described it as green, but some of them as brown. They thought it might be responsible for what happened [to the car].” 2. Davis sighting Prompted by a newspaper article about the strange car mauling, a local father brought his terrified son to the Sheriff’s Office on July 16. Seventeen-year-old Christopher Davis reported that he had encountered a creature while driving home from work at 2 AM on June 29. According to his account, Davis stopped on a road bordering Scape Ore Swamp in order to change a tire that had blown out. When he was finishing up, he heard a thumping noise from behind him and turned around to see a creature running towards him. In Davis’ words: “I looked back and saw something running across the field towards me. It was about 25 yards away and I saw red eyes glowing. I ran into the car and as I locked it, the thing grabbed the door handle. I could see him from the neck down – the three big fingers, long black nails and green rough skin. It was strong and angry. I looked in my mirror and saw a blur of green running. I could see his toes and then he jumped on the roof of my car. I thought I heard a grunt and then I could see his fingers through the windshield, where they curled around on the roof. I sped up and swerved to shake the creature off.” After he had returned home, Davis’ side mirror was found to be badly damaged, and scratch marks were found on the car’s roof. 3. Further incidents In the month that followed the Davis sighting, there were several further reports of a large lizard-like creature, and of unusual scratches and bite marks found on cars parked close to the swamp. Most of these are said to have occurred within a 3-mile (5 km) radius of the swamps of Bishopville. At the time, local law enforcement officials reacted to reports of the Lizard Man with a mixture of concern and skepticism, stating that a sufficient number of sightings had been made by apparently reliable people for them to believe that something tangible was being seen, but also that it was more likely to be a bear than a Lizard Man. Two weeks after the Davis sighting,

“The Man Who Found Out (A Nightmare)” by Algernon Blackwood, part 3
Jun 27 2015 10 mins  
A weird ending… but what other ending could be possible? ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Man Who Found Out (A Nightmare)” Algernon Blackwood part 3 5 It was five o’clock, and the June sun lay hot upon the pavement. He felt the metal door-knob burn the palm of his hand. “Ah, Laidlaw, this is well met,” cried a voice at his elbow; “I was in the act of coming to see you. I’ve a case that will interest you, and besides, I remembered that you flavoured your tea with orange leaves!—and I admit—” It was Alexis Stephen, the great hypnotic doctor. “I’ve had no tea to-day,” Laidlaw said, in a dazed manner, after staring for a moment as though the other had struck him in the face. A new idea had entered his mind. “What’s the matter?” asked Dr. Stephen quickly. “Something’s wrong with you. It’s this sudden heat, or overwork. Come, man, let’s go inside.” A sudden light broke upon the face of the younger man, the light of a heaven-sent inspiration. He looked into his friend’s face, and told a direct lie. “Odd,” he said, “I myself was just coming to see you. I have something of great importance to test your confidence with. But in your house, please,” as Stephen urged him towards his own door—”in your house. It’s only round the corner, and I—I cannot go back there—to my rooms—till I have told you. “I’m your patient—for the moment,” he added stammeringly as soon as they were seated in the privacy of the hypnotist’s sanctum, “and I want—er—” “My dear Laidlaw,” interrupted the other, in that soothing voice of command which had suggested to many a suffering soul that the cure for its pain lay in the powers of its own reawakened will, “I am always at your service, as you know. You have only to tell me what I can do for you, and I will do it.” He showed every desire to help him out. His manner was indescribably tactful and direct. Dr. Laidlaw looked up into his face. “I surrender my will to you,” he said, already calmed by the other’s healing presence, “and I want you to treat me hypnotically—and at once. I want you to suggest to me”—his voice became very tense—”that I shall forget—forget till I die—everything that has occurred to me during the last two hours; till I die, mind,” he added, with solemn emphasis, “till I die.” He floundered and stammered like a frightened boy. Alexis Stephen looked at him fixedly without speaking. “And further,” Laidlaw continued, “I want you to ask me no questions. I wish to forget for ever something I have recently discovered—something so terrible and yet so obvious that I can hardly understand why it is not patent to every mind in the world—for I have had a moment of absolute clear vision—of merciless clairvoyance. But I want no one else in the whole world to know what it is—least of all, old friend, yourself.” He talked in utter confusion, and hardly knew what he was saying. But the pain on his face and the anguish in his voice were an instant passport to the other’s heart. “Nothing is easier,” replied Dr. Stephen, after a hesitation so slight that the other probably did not even notice it. “Come into my other room where we shall not be disturbed. I can heal you. Your memory of the last two hours shall be wiped out as though it had never been. You can trust me absolutely.” “I know I can,” Laidlaw said simply, as he followed him in. 6 An hour later they passed back into the front room again. The sun was already behind the houses opposite, and the shadows began to gather. “I went off easily?” Laidlaw asked.

“The Man Who Found Out (A Nightmare)” by Algernon Blackwood, part 2
Jun 26 2015 18 mins  
Knowledge is fearsome to possess, sojourner, but take solace: you shall never possess it. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Man Who Found Out (A Nightmare)” Algernon Blackwood part 2 3 A year passed slowly by, and at the end of it Dr. Laidlaw had found it necessary to sever his working connexion with his friend and one-time leader. Professor Ebor was no longer the same man. The light had gone out of his life; the laboratory was closed; he no longer put pen to paper or applied his mind to a single problem. In the short space of a few months he had passed from a hale and hearty man of late middle life to the condition of old age—a man collapsed and on the edge of dissolution. Death, it was plain, lay waiting for him in the shadows of any day—and he knew it. To describe faithfully the nature of this profound alteration in his character and temperament is not easy, but Dr. Laidlaw summed it up to himself in three words: Loss of Hope. The splendid mental powers remained indeed undimmed, but the incentive to use them—to use them for the help of others—had gone. The character still held to its fine and unselfish habits of years, but the far goal to which they had been the leading strings had faded away. The desire for knowledge—knowledge for its own sake—had died, and the passionate hope which hitherto had animated with tireless energy the heart and brain of this splendidly equipped intellect had suffered total eclipse. The central fires had gone out. Nothing was worth doing, thinking, working for. There was nothing to work for any longer! The professor’s first step was to recall as many of his books as possible; his second to close his laboratory and stop all research. He gave no explanation, he invited no questions. His whole personality crumbled away, so to speak, till his daily life became a mere mechanical process of clothing the body, feeding the body, keeping it in good health so as to avoid physical discomfort, and, above all, doing nothing that could interfere with sleep. The professor did everything he could to lengthen the hours of sleep, and therefore of forgetfulness. It was all clear enough to Dr. Laidlaw. A weaker man, he knew, would have sought to lose himself in one form or another of sensual indulgence—sleeping-draughts, drink, the first pleasures that came to hand. Self-destruction would have been the method of a little bolder type; and deliberate evil-doing, poisoning with his awful knowledge all he could, the means of still another kind of man. Mark Ebor was none of these. He held himself under fine control, facing silently and without complaint the terrible facts he honestly believed himself to have been unfortunate enough to discover. Even to his intimate friend and assistant, Dr. Laidlaw, he vouchsafed no word of true explanation or lament. He went straight forward to the end, knowing well that the end was not very far away. And death came very quietly one day to him, as he was sitting in the arm-chair of the study, directly facing the doors of the laboratory—the doors that no longer opened. Dr. Laidlaw, by happy chance, was with him at the time, and just able to reach his side in response to the sudden painful efforts for breath; just in time, too, to catch the murmured words that fell from the pallid lips like a message from the other side of the grave. “Read them, if you must; and, if you can—destroy. But”—his voice sank so low that Dr. Laidlaw only just caught the dying syllables—”but—never, never—give them to the world.” And like a grey bundle of dust loosely gathered up in an old garment the professor sank back into his chair and expired. But this was only the death of the body. His spirit had died two years before. 4 The estate of the dead man was small and uncomplicated, and Dr. Laidlaw, as sole executor and residuary legatee, had no difficulty in settling it up.

“The Man Who Found Out (A Nightmare)” by Algernon Blackwood, part 1
Jun 25 2015 20 mins  
Summer Vacation Special: A quintessential weird tale. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Man Who Found Out (A Nightmare)” Algernon Blackwood part 1 1 Professor Mark Ebor, the scientist, led a double life, and the only persons who knew it were his assistant, Dr. Laidlaw, and his publishers. But a double life need not always be a bad one, and, as Dr. Laidlaw and the gratified publishers well knew, the parallel lives of this particular man were equally good, and indefinitely produced would certainly have ended in a heaven somewhere that can suitably contain such strangely opposite characteristics as his remarkable personality combined. For Mark Ebor, F.R.S., etc., etc., was that unique combination hardly ever met with in actual life, a man of science and a mystic. As the first, his name stood in the gallery of the great, and as the second—but there came the mystery! For under the pseudonym of “Pilgrim” (the author of that brilliant series of books that appealed to so many), his identity was as well concealed as that of the anonymous writer of the weather reports in a daily newspaper. Thousands read the sanguine, optimistic, stimulating little books that issued annually from the pen of “Pilgrim,” and thousands bore their daily burdens better for having read; while the Press generally agreed that the author, besides being an incorrigible enthusiast and optimist, was also—a woman; but no one ever succeeded in penetrating the veil of anonymity and discovering that “Pilgrim” and the biologist were one and the same person. Mark Ebor, as Dr. Laidlaw knew him in his laboratory, was one man; but Mark Ebor, as he sometimes saw him after work was over, with rapt eyes and ecstatic face, discussing the possibilities of “union with God” and the future of the human race, was quite another. “I have always held, as you know,” he was saying one evening as he sat in the little study beyond the laboratory with his assistant and intimate, “that Vision should play a large part in the life of the awakened man—not to be regarded as infallible, of course, but to be observed and made use of as a guide-post to possibilities—” “I am aware of your peculiar views, sir,” the young doctor put in deferentially, yet with a certain impatience. “For Visions come from a region of the consciousness where observation and experiment are out of the question,” pursued the other with enthusiasm, not noticing the interruption, “and, while they should be checked by reason afterwards, they should not be laughed at or ignored. All inspiration, I hold, is of the nature of interior Vision, and all our best knowledge has come—such is my confirmed belief—as a sudden revelation to the brain prepared to receive it—” “Prepared by hard work first, by concentration, by the closest possible study of ordinary phenomena,” Dr. Laidlaw allowed himself to observe. “Perhaps,” sighed the other; “but by a process, none the less, of spiritual illumination. The best match in the world will not light a candle unless the wick be first suitably prepared.” It was Laidlaw’s turn to sigh. He knew so well the impossibility of arguing with his chief when he was in the regions of the mystic, but at the same time the respect he felt for his tremendous attainments was so sincere that he always listened with attention and deference, wondering how far the great man would go and to what end this curious combination of logic and “illumination” would eventually lead him. “Only last night,” continued the elder man, a sort of light coming into his rugged features, “the vision came to me again—the one that has haunted me at intervals ever since my youth, and that will not be denied.” Dr.

Octavia E. Butler, Part 2: Notable Works
Jun 22 2015 44 mins  
Extraordinary stories. ⁓The Voice before the Void Octavia E. Butler, Part 2: Notable Works compiled from Wikipedia Lilith’s Brood Lilith’s Brood is a series of three science fiction works by Octavia E. Butler. The three volumes (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago) were previously collected under the title of Xenogenesis; the collection was first published under the current title of Lilith’s Brood in 2000. Synopsis The first novel in the trilogy, Dawn, was published in 1987. The story begins after the United States and the Soviet Union obtained nuclear weapons and their actions resulted in a terrible nuclear war that left the earth uninhabitable. Humans are all but extinct. The few survivors are plucked from the surface of their dying world by an alien race, the oankali. The title character Lilith (a black human female) awakens from stasis centuries later on an oankali ship. She meets her saviors/captors and is repulsed by their alienness. The oankali don’t have eyes, or ears, or noses, but sensory tentacles over their entire bodies with which they can perceive the world much better than a human can. Stranger still, the oankali have three genders: male, female, and ooloi. All oankali have the ability to perceive biochemistry down to a genetic level, but the ooloi have the ability to directly manipulate genetic material. Ooloi can mutate and “evolve” any living thing they touch and build offspring gene by gene using the genetic material from their male and female mates. Despite their alienness, the ooloi are strangely alluring – sexually arousing even while being visually repulsive. The oankali have made earth habitable again and want Lilith’s help in training humans to survive on earth without human technology. In exchange, the oankali want to interbreed with the humans to create a new human-oankali hybrid race. This book focuses on the conflict between Lilith’s desire to stay human and her loyalty to her species, and her desire to survive at any cost. The second book, Adulthood Rites, published in 1988, takes place years after the events of Dawn. Humans and oankali live together on earth though everything is not peaceful. Some humans have accepted the bargain and live with the oankali and give birth to hybrid children called constructs. Others, however, have refused the bargain and live in separate, all-human villages. The ooloi have made all humans infertile so the only children born are the ones made with ooloi intervention. This creates a great deal of tension and strain as the humans see themselves being outbred by the oankali-human constructs. Desperate humans often steal human-looking construct children to raise as their own. The main character of the second book, Akin, is the first male construct born to a human mother. Akin has more human in him than any construct before him. This book focuses on Akin’s struggle with his human and his oankali natures. As a human, he understands the desire to fight for the survival of humanity as an independent race. As an oankali, he understands that the combination of the species is necessary and that humans would destroy themselves again if left alone. The final book of the trilogy, Imago, published in 1989, shows the reader what has been hinted at in the first two books: the full potential of the new human-oankali hybrid species. The story is told from the perspective of the shape-shifting healer Jodahs. Through Jodahs’ unique heritage, it has unlocked the latent genetic potential of humans and oankali. In order to survive its metamorphosis, Jodahs must find suitable human male and female mates, and it finds them in the most unexpected of places: a village of renegade humans. This book brings a sense of completeness to the story by allowing the reader to understand the oankali better by understanding Jodahs. Themes Throughout the Xenogenesis series, themes of sexuality,

Octavia E. Butler, Part 1: Biography and Themes
Jun 21 2015 22 mins  
Octavia E. Butler’s Birthday Special: An extraordinary writer. ⁓The Voice before the Void Octavia E. Butler, Part 1: Biography and Themes compiled from Wikipedia Octavia Estelle Butler (1947 June 22 – 2006 February 24) was an American science fiction writer. A multiple-recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Butler was one of the best-known women in the field. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship. Biography “I began writing about power because I had so little.” -Octavia E. Butler, in Carolyn S. Davidson’s “The Science Fiction of Octavia Butler” Early life Octavia Estelle Butler was born in 1947 in Pasadena, California, the only child of Octavia Margaret Guy, a housemaid, and Laurice James Butler, a shoeshine man. Butler’s father died when she was seven, so Octavia was raised by her mother and maternal grandmother in what she would later recall as a strict Baptist environment. While growing up in the racially-integrated community of Pasadena allowed Butler to experience cultural and ethnic diversity in the midst of segregation, she became acquainted with the workings of white supremacy when she accompanied her mother to her cleaning work and witnessed her entering white people’s houses through back doors and being spoken to or about in disrespectful ways. Many times, Butler’s mother would bring home books and magazines the white families had discarded for her young daughter to read. From an early age, an almost paralyzing shyness made it difficult for Butler to socialize with other children. Her awkwardness, paired with a slight dyslexia that made schoolwork a torment, made her believe she was “ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless.” Eventually, she grew to almost six feet tall, becoming an easy target for bullies. As a result, she frequently passed the time reading at the Pasadena Public Library and writing reams and reams of pages in her “big pink notebook.” Hooked at first on fairy tales and horse stories, she quickly became interested in science fiction magazines such as Amazing Stories, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Galaxy and began reading stories by Zenna Henderson, John Brunner, and Theodore Sturgeon. At age ten, she begged her mother to buy her a Remington typewriter on which she “pecked [her] stories two fingered.” At age twelve, watching the televised version of the film Devil Girl from Mars convinced her that she could write a better story, so she drafted what would later become the basis for her Patternist novels. Happily ignorant of the obstacles that a black female writer could encounter, she became unsure of herself for the first time at the age of thirteen when her well-intentioned aunt Hazel conveyed the realities of segregation in five words: “Honey… Negroes can’t be writers.” Nevertheless, Butler persevered in her desire to publish a story, even asking her junior-high science teacher, Mr. Pfaff, to type the first manuscript she submitted to a science fiction magazine. After graduating from John Muir High School in 1965, Butler worked during the day and attended Pasadena City College at night. As a freshman, she won a college-wide short story contest, her first fifteen dollars earned as a writer. She also got the “germ of the idea” for what would become her best-selling novel, Kindred, when a young African-American classmate involved in the Black Power Movement loudly criticized previous generations of African-Americans for being subservient to whites. As she explained in later interviews, the young man’s remarks instigated her to respond with a story that would give historical context to that shameful subservience so that it could be understood as silent but courageous survival. Butler graduated from PCC in 1968. Rise to success

“The Crowded Street” by William Cullen Bryant
Jun 12 2015 2 mins  
Days and nights are long; life and death continues. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Crowded Street” William Cullen Bryant Let me move slowly through the street, Filled with an ever-shifting train, Amid the sound of steps that beat The murmuring walks like autumn rain. How fast the flitting figures come! The mild, the fierce, the stony face; Some bright with thoughtless smiles, and some Where secret tears have left their trace. They pass–to toil, to strife, to rest; To halls in which the feast is spread; To chambers where the funeral guest In silence sits beside the dead. And some to happy homes repair, Where children, pressing cheek to cheek, With mute caresses shall declare The tenderness they cannot speak. And some, who walk in calmness here, Shall shudder as they reach the door Where one who made their dwelling dear, Its flower, its light, is seen no more. Youth, with pale cheek and slender frame, And dreams of greatness in thine eye! Goest thou to build an early name, Or early in the task to die? Keen son of trade, with eager brow! Who is now fluttering in thy snare? Thy golden fortunes, tower they now, Or melt the glittering spires in air? Who of this crowd to-night shall tread The dance till daylight gleam again? Who sorrow o’er the untimely dead? Who writhe in throes of mortal pain? Some, famine-struck, shall think how long The cold dark hours, how slow the light, And some, who flaunt amid the throng, Shall hide in dens of shame to-night. Each, where his tasks or pleasures call, They pass, and heed each other not. There is who heeds, who holds them all, In His large love and boundless thought. These struggling tides of life that seem In wayward, aimless course to tend, Are eddies of the mighty stream That rolls to its appointed end.

“Grass” by Carl Sandburg
May 25 2015 1 mins  
U.S. Memorial Day Special: This poem is affecting and quiet. (Grass is abiding; battle is momentary.) This poem is recognized and anthologized. (Train riders are workaday, everyday, oblivious, all of us.) This poem feels to be one of the immortal poems that should live long beyond our current civilization. I thought I had a handle on it, but it is too complex. Is it a melancholic, uplifting poem about healing? Is it a bitter, rebuking poem about forgetting? The imagery of the grass seems serene, is set in contrast to the implied uproar of battle. The imagery of train riders has been archaic and therefore exotic for already fifty years, but continues to work, and should continue to continue to work. The five battles named are and should ever remain prominent in history, even when that history is far more distant and exotic than it already is today; in two thousand years and in ten thousand years, the slaughter of the battles should still be as comprehendible. Can any work of art imbue beauty to battle? This poem achieves something great… but what is that, exactly? ⁓The Voice before the Void “Grass” Carl Sandburg Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo, Shovel them under and let me work– I am the grass; I cover all. And pile them high at Gettysburg And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor: What place is this? Where are we now? I am the grass. Let me work.

“Ashes of Soldiers” by Walt Whitman
May 25 2015 3 mins  
U.S. Memorial Day Special: Whitman’s love is unbearable. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Ashes of Soldiers” Walt Whitman Ashes of soldiers South or North, As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought, The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes, And again the advance of the armies. Noiseless as mists and vapors, From their graves in the trenches ascending, From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee, From every point of the compass out of the countless graves, In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes or single ones they come, And silently gather round me. Now sound no note O trumpeters, Not at the head of my cavalry parading on spirited horses, With sabres drawn and glistening, and carbines by their thighs, (ah my brave horsemen! My handsome tan-faced horsemen! what life, what joy and pride, With all the perils were yours.) Nor you drummers, neither at reveille at dawn, Nor the long roll alarming the camp, nor even the muffled beat for burial, Nothing from you this time O drummers bearing my warlike drums. But aside from these and the marts of wealth and the crowded promenade, Admitting around me comrades close unseen by the rest and voiceless, The slain elate and alive again, the dust and debris alive, I chant this chant of my silent soul in the name of all dead soldiers. Faces so pale with wondrous eyes, very dear, gather closer yet, Draw close, but speak not. Phantoms of countless lost, Invisible to the rest henceforth become my companions, Follow me ever–desert me not while I live. Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living–sweet are the musical voices sounding, But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead with their silent eyes. Dearest comrades, all is over and long gone, But love is not over–and what love, O comrades! Perfume from battle-fields rising, up from the foetor arising. Perfume therefore my chant, O love, immortal love, Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers, Shroud them, embalm them, cover them all over with tender pride. Perfume all–make all wholesome, Make these ashes to nourish and blossom, O love, solve all, fructify all with the last chemistry. Give me exhaustless, make me a fountain, That I exhale love from me wherever I go like a moist perennial dew, For the ashes of all dead soldiers South or North.

Plastic Bottles at Midnight in Mongolia by Meredith Potts
May 23 2015 7 mins  
Meredith Potts is the executive director of the non-profit NGO FIRE, the Flagstaff International Relief Effort, based in Flagstaff, Arizona and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Since 1997, FIRE has been administering aid programs in Mongolia, with a current focus on viral hepatitis and liver cancer, which are epidemic in Mongolia. As of May of 2015, FIRE has also begun a relief project for the survivors of the village of Langtang in Nepal; the village was almost completely destroyed by a landslide triggered by the earthquake of April 25. Learn more and help support FIRE at: FIRE is a non-profit organization; all contributions are tax-deductible. ⁓The Voice before the Void Plastic Bottles at Midnight in Mongolia Meredith Potts Dusk did not even begin until 9:45 PM on this May night in Mongolia’s capital city. Still feeling energized, I took the long way home from a friend’s house at 12 midnight through Chinggis Square. It has been more than four years since I was last in Mongolia. As I casually strolled, absorbing the dramatic changes in Ulaanbaatar, from the skyline to the abundant and overly friendly taxi drivers concerned for my safety at that late hour in new cars (not 20-year-old junk-heaps) to the new planters and upgraded sidewalks and well-lit streets, I became a bit annoyed with the plastic bottles everywhere. My first inclination was to pick them up and put them in the recycle bin. Then I remembered that I was not in the United States and there are no recycle bins in Mongolia. As an avid recycler, the thought of putting a plastic bottle in a trash can made me feel a bit awkward. So I tried to ignore the bottles. Across the square, I saw a husband and wife picking through the trash cans in search of bottles. Wearing everything they owned, including a winter coat in 60-degree weather, their stained skin and soiled clothes were the familiar dark-brown color created from years of layered dirt, telling a long, arduous, and painful tale. The rice bag he dragged behind him was almost full. I walked around the square collecting bottles until my arms were overflowing – something we volunteer to do at home. I walked over to the husband and unloaded my arms into the rice bag. One of the bottles still had some grape-flavored soda in it. I handed the bottle to him asking, “Is it okay?” (Zugeer uu?) to drink or “No?” (Ugui?) in my one-word, kindergarten Mongolian. I could see a tiny glint in his eyes, and the corners of his lips turned up ever so slightly. He gulped it down. We both thanked each other a few times over, as I was happy to know the bottles would be recycled. Though it is an activity of desperation for them, not choice, I was very glad someone was doing it. I started to walk out of the square. Again, the bottles were everywhere. With another armload, I walked back to the man with the bag. This time he was with his wife. I had found a bottle with some water in it; I handed the bottle to her. Sometimes the trash pickers are aggressive. Often, they are drunk. Almost always, they are adults. In 2004, during my very first week in Mongolia, a man was found dead in the stairwell of my apartment building. He had been beaten to death in a drunken fight over the rights to dig through the building’s dumpster. This couple was not aggressive. They were not drunk. His face was deformed from what looked to be a terrible burn. He was humbled and appreciative – me, the foreigner helping them pick up trash in the middle of the night. She was grateful and ashamed. Both were bewildered, with the same look on their faces I saw so often during my years of delivering clothes ger-to-ger, hand-to-hand. “What? Why? You have come from where? To do this, for me?” I gave them 5,000 togrog. My heart strained as I looked into their eyes for the few seconds they let me hold contact. For her, it was barely a split second.

“And the Greatest of These is War” by James Weldon Johnson
May 20 2015 4 mins  
Johnson makes the point well by depicting the Pride of Hell. O War. O War. ⁓The Voice before the Void “And the Greatest of These is War” James Weldon Johnson Around the council-board of Hell, with Satan at their head, The Three Great Scourges of humanity sat. Gaunt Famine, with hollow cheek and voice, arose and spoke,— “O, Prince, I have stalked the earth, And my victims by ten thousands I have slain, I have smitten old and young. Mouths of the helpless old moaning for bread, I have filled with dust; And I have laughed to see a crying babe tug at the shriveling breast Of its mother, dead and cold. I have heard the cries and prayers of men go up to a tearless sky, And fall back upon an earth of ashes; But, heedless, I have gone on with my work. ‘Tis thus, O, Prince, that I have scourged mankind.” And Satan nodded his head. Pale Pestilence, with stenchful breath, then spoke and said,— “Great Prince, my brother, Famine, attacks the poor. He is most terrible against the helpless and the old. But I have made a charnel-house of the mightiest cities of men. When I strike, neither their stores of gold or of grain avail. With a breath I lay low their strongest, and wither up their fairest. I come upon them without warning, lancing invisible death. From me they flee with eyes and mouths distended; I poison the air for which they gasp, and I strike them down fleeing. ‘Tis thus, great Prince, that I have scourged mankind.” And Satan nodded his head. Then the red monster, War, rose up and spoke,— His blood-shot eyes glared ’round him, and his thundering voice Echoed through the murky vaults of Hell.— “O, mighty Prince, my brothers, Famine and Pestilence, Have slain their thousands and ten thousands,—true; But the greater their victories have been, The more have they wakened in Man’s breast The God-like attributes of sympathy, of brotherhood and love And made of him a searcher after wisdom. But I arouse in Man the demon and the brute, I plant black hatred in his heart and red revenge. From the summit of fifty thousand years of upward climb I haul him down to the level of the start, back to the wolf. I give him claws. I set his teeth into his brother’s throat. I make him drunk with his brother’s blood. And I laugh ho! ho! while he destroys himself. O, mighty Prince, not only do I slay, But I draw Man hellward.” And Satan smiled, stretched out his hand, and said,— “O War, of all the scourges of humanity, I crown you chief.” And Hell rang with the acclamation of the Fiends.

“The Star” by H.G. Wells
May 17 2015 37 mins  
A vision of a world in apocalypse. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Star” H.G. Wells It was on the first day of the New Year that the announcement was made, almost simultaneously from three observatories, that the motion of the planet Neptune, the outermost of all the planets that wheel about the sun, had become very erratic. Ogilvy had already called attention to a suspected retardation in its velocity in December. Such a piece of news was scarcely calculated to interest a world the greater portion of whose inhabitants were unaware of the existence of the planet Neptune, nor outside the astronomical profession did the subsequent discovery of a faint remote speck of light in the region of the perturbed planet cause any very great excitement. Scientific people, however, found the intelligence remarkable enough, even before it became known that the new body was rapidly growing larger and brighter, that its motion was quite different from the orderly progress of the planets, and that the deflection of Neptune and its satellite was becoming now of an unprecedented kind. Few people without a training in science can realise the huge isolation of the solar system. The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims in a vacant immensity that almost defeats the imagination. Beyond the orbit of Neptune there is space, vacant so far as human observation has penetrated, without warmth or light or sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million times a million miles. That is the smallest estimate of the distance to be traversed before the very nearest of the stars is attained. And, saving a few comets more unsubstantial than the thinnest flame, no matter had ever to human knowledge crossed this gulf of space, until early in the twentieth century this strange wanderer appeared. A vast mass of matter it was, bulky, heavy, rushing without warning out of the black mystery of the sky into the radiance of the sun. By the second day it was clearly visible to any decent instrument, as a speck with a barely sensible diameter, in the constellation Leo near Regulus. In a little while an opera glass could attain it. On the third day of the new year the newspaper readers of two hemispheres were made aware for the first time of the real importance of this unusual apparition in the heavens. “A Planetary Collision,” one London paper headed the news, and proclaimed Duchaine’s opinion that this strange new planet would probably collide with Neptune. The leader writers enlarged upon the topic; so that in most of the capitals of the world, on January 3rd, there was an expectation, however vague of some imminent phenomenon in the sky; and as the night followed the sunset round the globe, thousands of men turned their eyes skyward to see—the old familiar stars just as they had always been. Until it was dawn in London and Pollux setting and the stars overhead grown pale. The Winter’s dawn it was, a sickly filtering accumulation of daylight, and the light of gas and candles shone yellow in the windows to show where people were astir. But the yawning policeman saw the thing, the busy crowds in the markets stopped agape, workmen going to their work betimes, milkmen, the drivers of news-carts, dissipation going home jaded and pale, homeless wanderers, sentinels on their beats, and in the country, labourers trudging afield, poachers slinking home, all over the dusky quickening country it could be seen—and out at sea by seamen watching for the day—a great white star, come suddenly into the westward sky! Brighter it was than any star in our skies; brighter than the evening star at its brightest. It still glowed out white and large, no mere twinkling spot of light, but a small round clear shining disc, an hour after the day had come. And where science has not reached, men stared and feared, telling one another of the wars and pestilences that are fo...

“Battle of Carrhae” from Wikipedia
May 06 2015 24 mins  
Battle of Carrhae Anniversary Special: A story of greed, deceit, genius, envy, and deep historical significance. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Battle of Carrhae” Wikipedia The Battle of Carrhae was fought in 53 BCE between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic near the town of Carrhae. The Parthian Spahbod (“General”) Surena decisively defeated a numerically superior Roman invasion force under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus. It is commonly seen as one of the earliest and most important battles between the Roman and Parthian empires and one of the most crushing defeats in Roman history. Crassus, a member of the First Triumvirate and the wealthiest man in Rome, had been enticed by the prospect of military glory and riches and decided to invade Parthia without the official consent of the Senate. Rejecting an offer from the Armenian King Artavasdes II to allow Crassus to invade Parthia via Armenia, Crassus marched his army directly through the deserts of Mesopotamia. His army clashed with Surena’s force near Carrhae, a small town in modern-day Turkey. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Surena’s cavalry completely outmaneuvered the Roman heavy infantry, killing or capturing most of the Roman soldiers. Crassus himself was killed when truce negotiations turned violent. His death led to the end of the First Triumvirate and the resulting civil wars between Julius Caesar and Pompey. 1. Political background in Rome The war in Parthia resulted from political arrangements intended to be mutually beneficial for Crassus, Pompeius Magnus, and Julius Caesar — the so-called First Triumvirate. In March and April 56 BCE, meetings were held at Ravenna and Luca, in Caesar’s province of Cisalpine Gaul, to reaffirm the weakening alliance formed four years earlier. It was agreed that the triumvirate would marshal their supporters and resources to secure legislation for prolonging Caesar’s Gallic command and to influence the upcoming elections for 55 BCE, with the objective of a second joint consulship for Crassus and Pompeius. The leaders of the triumvirate aimed to expand their faction’s power through traditional means: military commands, placing political allies in office, and advancing legislation to promote their interests. Pressure in various forms was brought to bear on the elections: money, influence through patronage and friendship, and the force of a thousand troopers brought from Gaul by Crassus’s son Publius. The faction secured the consulship and most, though not all, of the other offices sought. Legislation passed by the tribune Trebonius (the lex Trebonia) granted extended proconsulships of five years, matching that of Caesar in Gaul, to the two outgoing consuls. The Spanish provinces would go to Pompeius; Crassus arranged to have Syria, with the transparent intention of going to war with Parthia. The notoriously wealthy Marcus Crassus was around sixty and hearing-impaired when he embarked on the Parthian invasion. Greed is often regarded by the ancient sources, particularly his biographer Plutarch, as his major character fault and also his motive for going to war. Historian of Rome Erich Gruen believed that Crassus’s purpose was to enrich the public treasury, since personal wealth was not what Crassus himself most lacked. Other modern historians tend to view envy and rivalry as his motivation, since Crassus’s long-faded military reputation had always been inferior to that of Pompeius, and after five years of war in Gaul, to that of Caesar. His major military achievement had been the defeat of Spartacus nearly 20 years earlier, and before that he had seen limited action, most notably the Battle of the Colline Gate. Plutarch notes that Caesar wrote to Crassus from Gaul, endorsing the plan to invade Parthia — an indication that he regarded Crassus’s military campaign as complementary and not merely riv...

“The Repairer of Reputations” from The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, part 3
Apr 30 2015 39 mins  
Weirdness and crime and insanity come to a head of horror. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Repairer of Reputations” from The King in Yellow Robert W. Chambers part 3 III One morning early in May I stood before the steel safe in my bedroom, trying on the golden jewelled crown. The diamonds flashed fire as I turned to the mirror, and the heavy beaten gold burned like a halo about my head. I remembered Camilla’s agonized scream and the awful words echoing through the dim streets of Carcosa. They were the last lines in the first act, and I dared not think of what followed—dared not, even in the spring sunshine, there in my own room, surrounded with familiar objects, reassured by the bustle from the street and the voices of the servants in the hallway outside. For those poisoned words had dropped slowly into my heart, as death-sweat drops upon a bed-sheet and is absorbed. Trembling, I put the diadem from my head and wiped my forehead, but I thought of Hastur and of my own rightful ambition, and I remembered Mr. Wilde as I had last left him, his face all torn and bloody from the claws of that devil’s creature, and what he said—ah, what he said. The alarm bell in the safe began to whirr harshly, and I knew my time was up; but I would not heed it, and replacing the flashing circlet upon my head I turned defiantly to the mirror. I stood for a long time absorbed in the changing expression of my own eyes. The mirror reflected a face which was like my own, but whiter, and so thin that I hardly recognized it. And all the time I kept repeating between my clenched teeth, “The day has come! the day has come!” while the alarm in the safe whirred and clamoured, and the diamonds sparkled and flamed above my brow. I heard a door open but did not heed it. It was only when I saw two faces in the mirror:—it was only when another face rose over my shoulder, and two other eyes met mine. I wheeled like a flash and seized a long knife from my dressing-table, and my cousin sprang back very pale, crying: “Hildred! for God’s sake!” then as my hand fell, he said: “It is I, Louis, don’t you know me?” I stood silent. I could not have spoken for my life. He walked up to me and took the knife from my hand. “What is all this?” he inquired, in a gentle voice. “Are you ill?” “No,” I replied. But I doubt if he heard me. “Come, come, old fellow,” he cried, “take off that brass crown and toddle into the study. Are you going to a masquerade? What’s all this theatrical tinsel anyway?” I was glad he thought the crown was made of brass and paste, yet I didn’t like him any the better for thinking so. I let him take it from my hand, knowing it was best to humour him. He tossed the splendid diadem in the air, and catching it, turned to me smiling. “It’s dear at fifty cents,” he said. “What’s it for?” I did not answer, but took the circlet from his hands, and placing it in the safe shut the massive steel door. The alarm ceased its infernal din at once. He watched me curiously, but did not seem to notice the sudden ceasing of the alarm. He did, however, speak of the safe as a biscuit box. Fearing lest he might examine the combination I led the way into my study. Louis threw himself on the sofa and flicked at flies with his eternal riding-whip. He wore his fatigue uniform with the braided jacket and jaunty cap, and I noticed that his riding-boots were all splashed with red mud. “Where have you been?” I inquired. “Jumping mud creeks in Jersey,” he said. “I haven’t had time to change yet; I was rather in a hurry to see you. Haven’t you got a glass of something? I’m dead tired; been in the saddle twenty-four hours.”

“The Repairer of Reputations” from The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, part 2
Apr 29 2015 32 mins  
A portrait of weirdness and insanity and horror, indulgence and love, the city in springtime, forbidden knowledge, foreboding. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Repairer of Reputations” from The King in Yellow Robert W. Chambers part 2 II I climbed the three dilapidated flights of stairs, which I had so often climbed before, and knocked at a small door at the end of the corridor. Mr. Wilde opened the door and I walked in. When he had double-locked the door and pushed a heavy chest against it, he came and sat down beside me, peering up into my face with his little light-coloured eyes. Half a dozen new scratches covered his nose and cheeks, and the silver wires which supported his artificial ears had become displaced. I thought I had never seen him so hideously fascinating. He had no ears. The artificial ones, which now stood out at an angle from the fine wire, were his one weakness. They were made of wax and painted a shell pink, but the rest of his face was yellow. He might better have revelled in the luxury of some artificial fingers for his left hand, which was absolutely fingerless, but it seemed to cause him no inconvenience, and he was satisfied with his wax ears. He was very small, scarcely higher than a child of ten, but his arms were magnificently developed, and his thighs as thick as any athlete’s. Still, the most remarkable thing about Mr. Wilde was that a man of his marvellous intelligence and knowledge should have such a head. It was flat and pointed, like the heads of many of those unfortunates whom people imprison in asylums for the weak-minded. Many called him insane, but I knew him to be as sane as I was. I do not deny that he was eccentric; the mania he had for keeping that cat and teasing her until she flew at his face like a demon, was certainly eccentric. I never could understand why he kept the creature, nor what pleasure he found in shutting himself up in his room with this surly, vicious beast. I remember once, glancing up from the manuscript I was studying by the light of some tallow dips, and seeing Mr. Wilde squatting motionless on his high chair, his eyes fairly blazing with excitement, while the cat, which had risen from her place before the stove, came creeping across the floor right at him. Before I could move she flattened her belly to the ground, crouched, trembled, and sprang into his face. Howling and foaming they rolled over and over on the floor, scratching and clawing, until the cat screamed and fled under the cabinet, and Mr. Wilde turned over on his back, his limbs contracting and curling up like the legs of a dying spider. He was eccentric. Mr. Wilde had climbed into his high chair, and, after studying my face, picked up a dog’s-eared ledger and opened it. “Henry B. Matthews,” he read, “book-keeper with Whysot Whysot and Company, dealers in church ornaments. Called April 3rd. Reputation damaged on the race-track. Known as a welcher. Reputation to be repaired by August 1st. Retainer Five Dollars.” He turned the page and ran his fingerless knuckles down the closely-written columns. “P. Greene Dusenberry, Minister of the Gospel, Fairbeach, New Jersey. Reputation damaged in the Bowery. To be repaired as soon as possible. Retainer $100.” He coughed and added, “Called, April 6th.” “Then you are not in need of money, Mr. Wilde,” I inquired. “Listen,” he coughed again. “Mrs. C. Hamilton Chester, of Chester Park, New York City. Called April 7th. Reputation damaged at Dieppe, France. To be repaired by October 1st. Retainer $500. “Note.—C. Hamilton Chester, Captain U.S.S. ‘Avalanche’, ordered home from South Sea Squadron October 1st.” “Well,” I said, “the profession of a Repairer of Reputations is lucrative.”

“The Repairer of Reputations” from The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, part 1
Apr 26 2015 31 mins  
Walpurgis Night Special: A story unique and masterfully weird… and our world’s introduction to the King in Yellow. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Repairer of Reputations” from The King in Yellow Robert W. Chambers part 1 Along the shore the cloud waves break, The twin suns sink beneath the lake, The shadows lengthen In Carcosa. Strange is the night where black stars rise, And strange moons circle through the skies But stranger still is Lost Carcosa. Songs that the Hyades shall sing, Where flap the tatters of the King, Must die unheard in Dim Carcosa. Song of my soul, my voice is dead; Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa. Cassilda’s Song in “The King in Yellow,” Act i, Scene 2. The Repairer of Reputations I “Ne raillons pas les fous; leur folie dure plus longtemps que la nôtre…. Voila toute la différence.” Toward the end of the year 1920 the Government of the United States had practically completed the programme, adopted during the last months of President Winthrop’s administration. The country was apparently tranquil. Everybody knows how the Tariff and Labour questions were settled. The war with Germany, incident on that country’s seizure of the Samoan Islands, had left no visible scars upon the republic, and the temporary occupation of Norfolk by the invading army had been forgotten in the joy over repeated naval victories, and the subsequent ridiculous plight of General Von Gartenlaube’s forces in the State of New Jersey. The Cuban and Hawaiian investments had paid one hundred per cent and the territory of Samoa was well worth its cost as a coaling station. The country was in a superb state of defence. Every coast city had been well supplied with land fortifications; the army under the parental eye of the General Staff, organized according to the Prussian system, had been increased to 300,000 men, with a territorial reserve of a million; and six magnificent squadrons of cruisers and battle-ships patrolled the six stations of the navigable seas, leaving a steam reserve amply fitted to control home waters. The gentlemen from the West had at last been constrained to acknowledge that a college for the training of diplomats was as necessary as law schools are for the training of barristers; consequently we were no longer represented abroad by incompetent patriots. The nation was prosperous; Chicago, for a moment paralyzed after a second great fire, had risen from its ruins, white and imperial, and more beautiful than the white city which had been built for its plaything in 1893. Everywhere good architecture was replacing bad, and even in New York, a sudden craving for decency had swept away a great portion of the existing horrors. Streets had been widened, properly paved and lighted, trees had been planted, squares laid out, elevated structures demolished and underground roads built to replace them. The new government buildings and barracks were fine bits of architecture, and the long system of stone quays which completely surrounded the island had been turned into parks which proved a god-send to the population. The subsidizing of the state theatre and state opera brought its own reward. The United States National Academy of Design was much like European institutions of the same kind. Nobody envied the Secretary of Fine Arts, either his cabinet position or his portfolio. The Secretary of Forestry and Game Preservation had a much easier time, thanks to the new system of National Mounted Police. We had profited well by the latest treaties with France and England; the exclusion of foreign-born Jews as a measure of self-preservation, the settlement of the new independent negro state of Suanee, the checking of immigration, the new laws concerning naturalization,

“Legend tripping” from Wikipedia
Apr 24 2015 4 mins  
Walpurgis Night Special: …out there in the dark. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Legend tripping” Wikipedia Legend tripping is a name recently bestowed by folklorists and anthropologists on an adolescent practice (containing elements of a rite of passage) in which a usually furtive, nocturnal pilgrimage is made to a site that is alleged to have been the scene of some tragic, horrific, and possibly supernatural event or haunting. To date, the practice has been documented most thoroughly in the United States. Sites for legend trips While the stories that attach to the sites of legend tripping vary from place to place, and sometimes contain a kernel of historical truth, there are a number of motifs and recurring themes in the legends and the sites. Abandoned buildings, remote bridges, tunnels, caves, rural roads, specific woods or other uninhabited areas, and especially cemeteries are frequent sites of legend-tripping pilgrimages. Some places associated with legend tripping in the United States include the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky; the New Jersey Pine Barrens, said to be home to the Jersey Devil; Mudhouse Mansion in Fairfield County, Ohio; the Hornet Spook Light twelve miles southwest of Joplin, Missouri; Stull Cemetery in Stull, Kansas, claimed to be a “gateway to Hell”; Bunny Man Bridge in Clifton, Virginia; and the Devil’s Tramping Ground south of Siler City, North Carolina, near Harper’s Crossroads. Reactions and controversies Legend-tripping is a mostly harmless, perhaps even beneficial, youth recreation. It allows young people to demonstrate their courage in a place where the actual physical risk is likely slight. However, in what Bill Ellis calls “ostensive abuse,” the rituals enacted at the legend-tripping sites sometimes involve trespassing, vandalism, and other misdemeanors, and sometimes acts of animal sacrifice or other blood ritual. These transgressions then sometimes lead to local moral panics that involve adults in the community, and sometimes even the mass media. These panics often further embellish the prestige of the legend trip to the adolescent mind. The panic over youth Satanism in the 1980s was fueled in part by graffiti and other ritual activities engaged in by legend-tripping youths. In at least one notorious case, years of destructive legend-tripping, amounting to an “ostensive frenzy,” led to the fatal shooting of a legend-tripper near Lincoln, Nebraska followed by the wounding of the woman whose house had become the focus of the ostension.

“Of Withered Apples” by Philip K. Dick
Apr 22 2015 27 mins  
Walpurgis Night Special: From autumn into spring, perfect weirdness from the regent of reality-challenging stories, Philip K. Dick. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Of Withered Apples” Philip K. Dick Something was tapping on the window. Blowing up against the pane, again and again. Carried by the wind. Tapping faintly, insistently. Lori, sitting on the couch, pretended not to hear. She gripped her book tightly and turned a page. The tapping came again, louder and more imperative. It could not be ignored. “Darn!” Lori said, throwing her book down on the coffee table and hurrying to the window. She grasped the heavy brass handles and lifted. For a moment the window resisted. Then, with a protesting groan, it reluctantly rose. Cold autumn air, rushed into the room. The bit of leaf ceased tapping and swirled against the woman’s throat, dancing to the floor. Lori picked the leaf up. It was old and brown. Her heart skipped a beat as she slipped the leaf into the pocket of her jeans. Against her loins the leaf cut and tingled, a little hard point piercing her smooth skin and sending exciting shudders up and down her spine. She stood at the open window a moment, sniffing the air. The air was full of the presence of trees and rocks, of great boulders and remote places. It was time—time to go again. She touched the leaf. She was wanted. Quickly Lori left the big living-room, hurrying through the hall into the dining-room. The dining-room was empty. A few chords of laughter drifted from the kitchen. Lori pushed the kitchen door open. “Steve?” Her husband and his father were siting around the kitchen table, smoking their cigars and drinking steaming black coffee. “What is it?” Steve demanded, frowning at his young wife. “Ed and I are in the middle of business.” “I—I want to ask you something.” The two men gazed at her, brown-haired Steven, his dark eyes full of the stubborn dignity of New England men, and his father, silent and withdrawn in her presence. Ed Patterson scarcely noticed her. He rustled through a sheaf of feed bills, his broad back turned toward her. “What is it?” Steve demanded impatiently. “What do you want? Can’t it wait?” “I have to go,” Lori blurted. “Go where?” “Outside.” Anxiety flooded over her. “This is the last time. I promise. I won’t go again, after this. Okay?” She tried to smile, but her heart was pounding too hard. “Please let me, Steve.” “Where does she go?” Ed rumbled. Steve grunted in annoyance. “Up in the hills. Some old abandoned place up there.” Ed’s gray eyes flickered. “Abandoned farm?” “Yes. You know it?” “The old Rickley farm. Rickley moved away years ago. Couldn’t get anything to grow, not up there. Ground’s all rocks. Bad soil. A lot of clay and stones. The place is all overgrown, tumbled down.” “What kind of farm was it?” “Orchard. Fruit orchard. Never yielded a damn thing. Thin old trees. Waste of effort.” Steve looked at his pocket watch. “You’ll be back in time to fix dinner?” “Yes!” Lori moved toward the door. “Then I can go?” Steve’s face twisted as he made up his mind. Lori waited impatiently, scarcely breathing. She had never got used to Vermont men and their slow, deliberate way. Boston people were quite different. And her group had been more the college youths, dances and talk, and late laughter. “Why do you go up there?” Steve grumbled. “Don’t ask me, Steve. Just let me go. This is the last time.” She writhed in agony. She clenched her fists. “Please!”

Better Run: U.S. School Shootings, 1991-2014, and 3 Songs: “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam, “Youth of the Nation” by P.O.D., and “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People
Apr 20 2015 12 mins  
Columbine High School Shooting Anniversary Special: Their children murdering themselves and being murdered by firearms in their schools is such a fixture of U.S. life that the Americans routinely consume songs about the subject on their radios. ⁓The Voice before the Void Better Run: U.S. School Shootings, 1991-2014, and 3 Songs: “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam, “Youth of the Nation” by P.O.D., and “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People Data from the Wikipedia incomplete “List of school shootings in the United States”: 1991 4 school shootings, with 1 person injured and 8 people killed 1992 4 school shootings, with 15 people injured and 8 people killed The single “Jeremy” by the band Pearl Jam was released 1992 September 27. On the U.S. Billboard charts, it reached #79 on the Hot 100 chart, #5 on the Modern Rock chart, and #5 on the Mainstream Rock chart. “Jeremy” Eddie Vedder At home, drawing pictures of mountain tops With him on top Lemon yellow sun, arms raised in a V And the dead lay in pools of maroon below Daddy didn’t give attention To the fact that mommy didn’t care King Jeremy the wicked Ruled his world Jeremy spoke in class today Clearly I remember picking on the boy Seemed a harmless little fuck Oh, but we unleashed a lion Gnashed his teeth and bit the recess lady’s breast How could I forget? And he hit me with a surprise left My jaw left hurting, dropped wide open Just like the day Like the day I heard Daddy didn’t give affection And the boy was something that mommy wouldn’t wear King Jeremy the wicked Ruled his world Jeremy spoke in class today Try to forget this Try to erase this from the blackboard 1993 6 school shootings, with 6 people injured and 7 people killed 1994 4 school shootings, with 4 people injured and 5 people killed 1995 4 school shootings, with 4 people injured and 5 people killed 1996 6 school shootings, with 5 people injured and 11 people killed 1997 5 school shootings, with 16 people injured and 9 people killed 1998 6 school shootings, with 38 people injured and 12 people killed 1999 5 school shootings, with 33 people injured and 16 people killed 2000 4 school shootings, with 2 people injured and 4 people killed 2001 4 school shootings, with 19 people injured and 3 people killed The single “Youth of the Nation” by the band P.O.D. was released 2001 December 25. On the U.S. Billboard charts, it reached #28 on the Hot 100 chart, #18 on the Top 40 Mainstream chart, #6 on the Mainstream Rock chart, and #1 on the Modern Rock chart. “Youth of the Nation” Sonny Sandoval, Marcos Curiel, Traa Daniels, and Wuv Bernardo Last day of the rest of my life I wish I would have known ’cause I’d have kissed my momma goodbye I didn’t tell her that I loved her or how much I cared Or thank my pops for all the talks and all the wisdom he shared Unaware, I just did what I always do Everyday the same routine before I skate off to school But who knew that this day wasn’t like the rest Instead of taking the test, I took two to the chest Call me blind, but I didn’t see it coming And everybody was running But I couldn’t hear nothing except Gun blast, it happened so fast I didn’t really know this kid though I sat by him in class

“The Judgment Day” by James Weldon Johnson
Apr 05 2015 5 mins  
Easter Special: Christian eschatological imagery is insane, and awesome. (Easter is for zombies.) ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Judgment Day” James Weldon Johnson In that great day, People, in that great day, God’s a-going to rain down fire. God’s a-going to sit in the middle of the air To judge the quick and the dead. Early one of these mornings, God’s a-going to call for Gabriel, That tall, bright angel, Gabriel; And God’s a-going to say to him: Gabriel, Blow your silver trumpet, And wake the living nations. And Gabriel’s going to ask him: Lord, How loud must I blow it? And God’s a-going to tell him: Gabriel, Blow it calm and easy. Then putting one foot on the mountain top, And the other in the middle of the sea, Gabriel’s going to stand and blow his horn, To wake the living nations. Then God’s a-going to say to him: Gabriel, Once more blow your silver trumpet, And wake the nations underground. And Gabriel’s going to ask him: Lord How loud must I blow it? And God’s a-going to tell him: Gabriel, Like seven peals of thunder. Then the tall, bright angel, Gabriel, Will put one foot on the battlements of heaven And the other on the steps of hell, And blow that silver trumpet Till he shakes old hell’s foundations. And I feel Old Earth a-shuddering — And I see the graves a-bursting — And I hear a sound, A blood-chilling sound. What sound is that I hear? It’s the clicking together of the dry bones, Bone to bone — the dry bones. And I see coming out of the bursting graves, And marching up from the valley of death, The army of the dead. And the living and the dead in the twinkling of an eye Are caught up in the middle of the air, Before God’s judgment bar. Oh-o-oh, sinner, Where will you stand, In that great day when God’s a-going to rain down fire? Oh, you gambling man — where will you stand? You whore-mongering man — where will you stand? Liars and backsliders — where will you stand, In that great day when God’s a-going to rain down fire? And God will divide the sheep from the goats, The one on the right, the other on the left. And to them on the right God’s a-going to say: Enter into my kingdom. And those who’ve come through great tribulations, And washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, They will enter in — Clothed in spotless white, With starry crowns upon their heads, And silver slippers on their feet, And harps within their hands;– And two by two they’ll walk Up and down the golden street, Feasting on the milk and honey Singing new songs of Zion, Chattering with the angels All around the Great White Throne. And to them on the left God’s a-going to say: Depart from me into everlasting darkness, Down into the bottomless pit. And the wicked like lumps of lead will start to fall, Headlong for seven days and nights they’ll fall, Plumb into the big, black, red-hot mouth of hell, Belching out fire and brimstone. And their cries like howling, yelping dogs, Will go up with the fire and smoke from hell, But God will stop his ears. Too late, sinner! Too late! Good-bye, sinner! Good-bye! In hell, sinner! In hell! Beyond the reach of the love of God. And I hear a voice, crying, crying: Time shall be no more! Time shall be no more! Time shall be no more! And the sun will go out like a candle in the wind,

“One-line joke,” “Gregueria,” and “Paraprosdokian” from Wikipedia
Apr 01 2015 7 mins  
April Fools’ Day Special: Humor from more than just dead white men: some of them are still alive. ⁓The Voice before the Void “One-line joke” Wikipedia A one-liner is a joke that is delivered in a single line. A good one-liner is said to be pithy. Comedians and actors use this comedic method as part of their act, for example: Rodney Dangerfield, Bruce Campbell, Groucho Marx, Jay London, Steven Wright, Emo Philips, Tommy Cooper, Ken Dodd, Mark Linn-Baker, Henny Youngman, Mitch Hedberg, Dan Mintz, Zach Galifianakis, Demetri Martin, Jimmy Carr, Anthony Jeselnik, Tim Vine, Milton Jones, Stewart Francis, and so on. Many fictional characters are also known to deliver one-liners, including James Bond, who usually includes short and witty quips after disposing of a villain. Examples “A baby seal walks into a club.” “A dyslexic man walks into a bra.” —George Carlin “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” —Oscar Wilde, upon arriving at US customs, 1882 “Race is just a pigment of the imagination” —Glen Highland “Venison’s dear isn’t it?” —Jimmy Carr “Take my wife… please.” —Henny Youngman “Greguería” Wikipedia A greguería is a short statement, usually one sentence, in which the author expresses a philosophical, pragmatic, or humorous idea in a witty and original way. A greguería is roughly similar to an aphorism or a one-liner joke in comedy. It is a rhetorical and stylistic device used in Spanish and Latin American literature. History Ramón Gómez de la Serna is considered the father of the greguería, which he defined as humor plus metaphor. Gómez de la Serna first used the greguería in about 1910. Examples by Ramón Gómez de la Serna El par de huevos que nos tomamos parece que son gemelos, y no son ni primos terceros. (The couple of eggs we eat look like identical twins, and they’re not even third cousins.) El pavo real es un mito jubilado. (The peacock is a retired myth.) Las puertas se enfadan con el viento. (Doors get angry with the wind.) “Paraprosdokian” Wikipedia A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists. Some paraprosdokians not only change the meaning of an early phrase, but they also play on the double meaning of a particular word, creating a form of syllepsis. Etymology “Paraprosdokian” comes from Greek “παρά”, meaning “against” and “προσδοκία”, meaning “expectation”. The term “prosdokia” (“expectation”) occurs with the preposition “para” in Greek rhetorical writers of the 1st century BCE and the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, with the meaning “contrary to expectation” or “unexpectedly.” These four sources are cited under “prosdokia” in Liddell-Scott-Jones, Greek Lexicon. Canadian linguist and etymology author William Gordon Casselman argues that, while the word is now in wide circulation, “paraprosdokian” (or “paraprosdokia”) is not a term of classical (or medieval) Greek or Latin rhetoric, but a late 20th-century neologism, citing the fact that the word does not yet appear in the Oxford English Dictionary as evidence of its late coinage. However, the word appeared in print as early as 1891 in a humorous article in Punch magazine. Examples “He was at his best when the going was good.” —Alistair Cooke on the Duke of Windsor

“Kentucky meat shower” from Wikipedia
Mar 23 2015 2 mins  
Kentucky Meat Shower Anniversary Special: A classic Fortean mystery. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Kentucky meat shower” Wikipedia The Kentucky meat shower was an incident where large chunks of red meat fell from the sky in a 100 by 50 yard area near Rankin, Bath County, Kentucky, for a period of several minutes on March 23, 1876. The phenomenon was reported by the New York Times and several other publications at the time. Identifying the meat The meat appeared to be beef, but two locals who tasted it stated that it tasted like mutton, venison, or lamb. Initially, the “meat” was identified by a Mr. Leopold Brandeis writing in the Sanitarian as Nostoc, which he described as a type of vegetable matter. When Brandeis passed the meat sample to the Newark Scientific Association for further analysis, this led to a letter from Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton appearing in the publication Medical Record stating that the meat had been identified as lung tissue from either a horse or a human infant (“the structure of the organ in these two cases being very similar.”) The makeup of this sample was backed up by further analysis, with two samples of the meat being identified as lung tissue, three samples were of muscle tissue, and two of cartilage. Hypotheses Out of the many theories for an explanation of this phenomenon, the most likely appears to be that a large pack of buzzards flew over the area after having eaten a couple of freshly dead horses, and when one of them spontaneously disgorged itself, all the others (as apparently is customary amongst buzzards) followed suit.

“My Mother’s Curse upon White Settlers” by Zitkala-Sa
Mar 17 2015 3 mins  
“My Mother’s Curse upon White Settlers” Zitkala-Ša One black night mother and I sat alone in the dim starlight, in front of our wigwam. We were facing the river, as we talked about the shrinking limits of the village. She told me about the poverty-stricken white settlers, who lived in caves dug in the long ravines of the high hills across the river. A whole tribe of broad-footed white beggars had rushed hither to make claims on those wild lands. Even as she was telling this I spied a small glimmering light in the bluffs. “That is a white man’s lodge where you see the burning fire,” she said. Then, a short distance from it, only a little lower than the first, was another light. As I became accustomed to the night, I saw more and more twinkling lights, here and there, scattered all along the wide black margin of the river. Still looking toward the distant firelight, my mother continued: “My daughter, beware of the paleface. It was the cruel paleface who caused the death of your sister and your uncle, my brave brother. It is this same paleface who offers in one palm the holy papers, and with the other gives a holy baptism of firewater. He is the hypocrite who reads with one eye, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ and with the other gloats upon the sufferings of the Indian race.” Then suddenly discovering a new fire in the bluffs, she exclaimed, “Well, well, my daughter, there is the light of another white rascal!” She sprang to her feet, and, standing firm beside her wigwam, she sent a curse upon those who sat around the hated white man’s light. Raising her right arm forcibly into line with her eye, she threw her whole might into her doubled fist as she shot it vehemently at the strangers. Long she held her outstretched fingers toward the settler’s lodge, as if an invisible power passed from them to the evil at which she aimed.

Hazel Miner and the 1920 North Dakota Blizzard
Mar 15 2015 20 mins  
1920 North Dakota Blizzard Anniversary Special: Thirty-four people killed, one of them a folk-hero legend. ⁓The Voice before the Void Hazel Miner and the 1920 North Dakota Blizzard compiled from Wikipedia The 1920 North Dakota Blizzard was a severe three-day blizzard that killed 34 people from March 15 to March 18, 1920, in the state of North Dakota. High winds and an eight-inch snowfall stopped rail service in Bismarck, knocked out telephone service between Devils Lake and Fargo, and left only one functioning telephone line between Fargo and Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is one of the worst North Dakota blizzards on record. Among the victims across North Dakota were Charles Hutchins, who lived north of the town of Douglas; the 12-year-old son of Matt Yashenko, who lived five miles south of the town of Ruso; “Chicken Pete” Johnson, an eccentric who was found dead in his dug-out on South Hill in Minot; the young mother, Mrs. Andrew Whitehead; the four Wohlk brothers; and Hazel Miner. Mrs. Andrew Whitehead was driving a horse and buggy between Devils Lake and Fort Totten with her 3-year-old son when the blizzard hit. When the horses became too tired to continue, she stopped the buggy and set the horses loose. Mrs. Whitehead was found frozen to death in a snowdrift, holding her son in her arms. The hands and feet of the little boy were frostbitten, but he survived. The Wohlk brothers were four young brothers of the town of Ryder who died during the blizzard as they made their way home from school. Herman, 9 years old; Soren, 10 years old; Ernest, 13 years old; and Adolph, 14 years old, were the four oldest sons of Gust Wohlk, a German emigrant from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Gust Wohlk was the former bodyguard to Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg. The boys, who were the only students to attend school that day, decided to drive their horses and sled the two miles home from their one-room school. They made it to within three quarters of a mile from the farm, but had to stop when their horses could pull the sled no further. The eldest brother, Adolph, bundled up his siblings and left them to find help. Gust Wohlk found his 14-year-old son’s body within a quarter mile of their farm. He found his three younger sons curled up together in the box of the wagon; one of the boys was dead and the other two were dying. Hazel Dulcie Miner, 15 years old, of the town of Center in Oliver County, died while protecting her 10-year-old brother, Emmet, and 8-year-old sister, Myrdith, from the blizzard. After her death, she became an American national heroine. Her actions were celebrated in a folk ballad and paintings and were published in many newspapers, magazines, and books in the subsequent decades. Hazel was the daughter of William Albert Miner, a farmer, and his wife, the former Blanche Steele, both originally of Iowa. In addition to Emmet and Myrdith, Hazel’s siblings included 21-year-old sister Zelda, and 5-year-old brother Howard. Hazel was an eighth-grade student at a one-room school, the same attended by Emmet and Myrdith. The Oliver County Register of Deeds, whose daughter had played with Hazel, recalled, “Kind of a quiet girl she was,” and described her as “sort of motherly, for one so young.” Hazel’s father considered her highly dependable. Her obituary described her as “quiet and loving,” with a “sunny, cheerful nature” and having a liking for children. Hazel had planned to start high school in Bismarck that fall. On March 15, 1920, the first day of the blizzard, the school dismissed its students early to enable them to go home before the storm arrived. Many of the students, like the Miner children,

“The Soft-Hearted Sioux” by Zitkala-Sa
Mar 13 2015 24 mins  
Christianity as a weapon of subjugation. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Soft-Hearted Sioux” Zitkala-Ša I. Beside the open fire I sat within our tepee. With my red blanket wrapped tightly about my crossed legs, I was thinking of the coming season, my sixteenth winter. On either side of the wigwam were my parents. My father was whistling a tune between his teeth while polishing with his bare hand a red stone pipe he had recently carved. Almost in front of me, beyond the center fire, my old grandmother sat near the entranceway. She turned her face toward her right and addressed most of her words to my mother. Now and then she spoke to me, but never did she allow her eyes to rest upon her daughter’s husband, my father. It was only upon rare occasions that my grandmother said anything to him. Thus his ears were open and ready to catch the smallest wish she might express. Sometimes when my grandmother had been saying things which pleased him, my father used to comment upon them. At other times, when he could not approve of what was spoken, he used to work or smoke silently. On this night my old grandmother began her talk about me. Filling the bowl of her red stone pipe with dry willow bark, she looked across at me. “My grandchild, you are tall and are no longer a little boy.” Narrowing her old eyes, she asked, “My grandchild, when are you going to bring here a handsome young woman?” I stared into the fire rather than meet her gaze. Waiting for my answer, she stooped forward and through the long stem drew a flame into the red stone pipe. I smiled while my eyes were still fixed upon the bright fire, but I said nothing in reply. Turning to my mother, she offered her the pipe. I glanced at my grandmother. The loose buckskin sleeve fell off at her elbow and showed a wrist covered with silver bracelets. Holding up the fingers of her left hand, she named off the desirable young women of our village. “Which one, my grandchild, which one?” she questioned. “Hoh!” I said, pulling at my blanket in confusion. “Not yet!” Here my mother passed the pipe over the fire to my father. Then she, too, began speaking of what I should do. “My son, be always active. Do not dislike a long hunt. Learn to provide much buffalo meat and many buckskins before you bring home a wife.” Presently my father gave the pipe to my grandmother, and he took his turn in the exhortations. “Ho, my son, I have been counting in my heart the bravest warriors of our people. There is not one of them who won his title in his sixteenth winter. My son, it is a great thing for some brave of sixteen winters to do.” Not a word had I to give in answer. I knew well the fame of my warrior father. He had earned the right of speaking such words, though even he himself was a brave only at my age. Refusing to smoke my grandmother’s pipe because my heart was too much stirred by their words, and sorely troubled with a fear lest I should disappoint them, I arose to go. Drawing my blanket over my shoulders, I said, as I stepped toward the entranceway: “I go to hobble my pony. It is now late in the night.” II. Nine winters’ snows had buried deep that night when my old grandmother, together with my father and mother, designed my future with the glow of a camp fire upon it. Yet I did not grow up the warrior, huntsman, and husband I was to have been. At the mission school I learned it was wrong to kill. Nine winters I hunted for the soft heart of Christ, and prayed for the huntsmen who chased the buffalo on the plains. In the autumn of the tenth year I was sent back to my tribe to preach Christianity to them. With the white man’s Bible in my hand, and the white man’s tender heart in my breast, I returned to my own people.

“The Devil” by Zitkala-Sa
Mar 12 2015 5 mins  
A young Dakota girl deals with Christian culture as it is thrust upon her. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Devil” Zitkala-Ša Among the legends the old warriors used to tell me were many stories of evil spirits. But I was taught to fear them no more than those who stalked about in material guise. I never knew there was an insolent chieftain among the bad spirits, who dared to array his forces against the Great Spirit, until I heard this white man’s legend from a paleface woman. Out of a large book she showed me a picture of the white man’s devil. I looked in horror upon the strong claws that grew out of his fur-covered fingers. His feet were like his hands. Trailing at his heels was a scaly tail tipped with a serpent’s open jaws. His face was a patchwork: he had bearded cheeks, like some I had seen palefaces wear; his nose was an eagle’s bill, and his sharp-pointed ears were pricked up like those of a sly fox. Above them a pair of cow’s horns curved upward. I trembled with awe, and my heart throbbed in my throat, as I looked at the king of evil spirits. Then I heard the paleface woman say that this terrible creature roamed loose in the world, and that little girls who disobeyed school regulations were to be tortured by him. That night I dreamt about this evil divinity. Once again I seemed to be in my mother’s cottage. An Indian woman had come to visit my mother. On opposite sides of the kitchen stove, which stood in the center of the small house, my mother and her guest were seated in straight-backed chairs. I played with a train of empty spools hitched together on a string. It was night, and the wick burned feebly. Suddenly I heard some one turn our door-knob from without. My mother and the woman hushed their talk, and both looked toward the door. It opened gradually. I waited behind the stove. The hinges squeaked as the door was slowly, very slowly pushed inward. Then in rushed the devil! He was tall! He looked exactly like the picture I had seen of him in the white man’s papers. He did not speak to my mother, because he did not know the Indian language, but his glittering yellow eyes were fastened upon me. He took long strides around the stove, passing behind the woman’s chair. I threw down my spools, and ran to my mother. He did not fear her, but followed closely after me. Then I ran round and round the stove, crying aloud for help. But my mother and the woman seemed not to know my danger. They sat still, looking quietly upon the devil’s chase after me. At last I grew dizzy. My head revolved as on a hidden pivot. My knees became numb, and doubled under my weight like a pair of knife blades without a spring. Beside my mother’s chair I fell in a heap. Just as the devil stooped over me with outstretched claws my mother awoke from her quiet indifference, and lifted me on her lap. Whereupon the devil vanished, and I was awake. On the following morning I took my revenge upon the devil. Stealing into the room where a wall of shelves was filled with books, I drew forth The Stories of the Bible. With a broken slate pencil I carried in my apron pocket, I began by scratching out his wicked eyes. A few moments later, when I was ready to leave the room, there was a ragged hole in the page where the picture of the devil had once been.

“Hugh Clifford” from Wikipedia
Mar 03 2015 3 mins  
So that we know who this man was. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Hugh Clifford” Wikipedia Sir Hugh Charles Clifford, GCMG GBE (1866 March 5 – 1941 December 18) was a British colonial administrator. Hugh Clifford intended to follow his father Henry Hugh Clifford, a distinguished British Army general, into the military but later decided to join the civil service in the Straits Settlements, with the assistance of his relative Sir Frederick Weld, the then Governor of the Straits Settlements and also the British High Commissioner in Malaya. He was later transferred to the British Protectorate of the Federated Malay States. Clifford arrived in Malaya in 1883, aged 17. He first became a cadet in the State of Perak. During his twenty years in Perak, Clifford socialised with the local Malays and studied their language and culture deeply. He served as British Resident at Pahang, 1896–1900 and 1901–1903, and Governor of North Borneo, 1900–1901. In 1903, he left Malaya to take the post of Colonial Secretary of Trinidad. Later he was appointed Governor of the Gold Coast, 1912–1919, Nigeria, 1919–1925, and Ceylon, 1925–1927. He continued to write stories and novels about Malayan life. His last posting was as Governor of the Straits Settlements and British High Commissioner in Malaya from 1927 until 1930. He wrote Farther India, which chronicles European explorations and discoveries in Southeast Asia. Clifford died peacefully 1941 December 18 in his native Roehampton. His widow, Elizabeth, died 1945 October 30. Several schools in Malaysia are named Clifford School in his honour.

Last letter to Sarah Ballou by Sullivan Ballou
Feb 14 2015 7 mins  
St. Valentine’s Day Special: Made famous by Ken Burns’ 1990 documentary The Civil War, Union Army Major Ballou’s final letter to his wife before he was killed at the First Battle of Bull Run is an unbearable expression of love. All of life is made more rich and more agonizing through acquaintanceship with this letter. ⁓The Voice before the Void Last letter to Sarah Ballou Sullivan Ballou July the 14th, 1861 Washington D.C. My very dear Sarah: The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more. Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt. But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country. Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield. The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more. But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again. As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care.

“Lincoln’s ghost” from Wikipedia
Feb 12 2015 11 mins  
Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Special: The spirit of Lincoln haunts the halls and paths of the United States, even if it doesn’t. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Lincoln’s ghost” Wikipedia There have been several stories about ghosts of former Presidents revisiting the White House. However, the most common and popular is that of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s ghost, otherwise known as the White House Ghost, is said to have haunted the White House since his death. Lincoln’s premonitions It is believed that Lincoln anticipated his assassination. According to Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s friend and biographer, three days before his assassination Lincoln discussed with Lamon and others a dream he had, saying: “About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers, ‘The President,’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin.’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.” On the day of the assassination, Lincoln had told his bodyguard, William H. Crook, that he had been having dreams of himself being assassinated for three straight nights. Crook tried to persuade the president not to attend a performance of the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre that night, or at least allow him to go along as an extra bodyguard, but Lincoln said he had promised his wife they would go. As Lincoln left for the theater, he turned to Crook and said, “Goodbye, Crook.” Crook later recalled, “It was the first time that he neglected to say ‘Good Night’ to me and it was the only time that he ever said ‘Good-bye.’ I thought of it at that moment and, a few hours later, when the news flashed over Washington that he had been shot, his last words were so burned into my being that they can never be forgotten.” Reported apparitions of Lincoln’s ghost President Theodore Roosevelt claimed to have seen a spectral Lincoln in the White House. First Lady Grace Coolidge said she saw the ghost of Lincoln standing at a window in the Yellow Oval Room staring out at the Potomac. Several unnamed eyewitnesses have claimed to have seen the shade of Abraham Lincoln actually lying down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom (which was used as a meeting room at the time of Lincoln’s administration), while others have seen Lincoln sit on the edge of the bed and put his boots on, including Mary Eben, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary,

“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man” by the Marquis de Sade, version 2
Feb 11 2015 26 mins  
Second version. Read with Brent Woodfill. Brent is an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Maya cave complexes of Guatemala and the Yucatán. Actually, I was full drunk. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man” Marquis de Sade translated from the French PRIEST – Come to this the fatal hour when at last from the eyes of deluded man the scales must fall away, and be shown the cruel picture of his errors and his vices – say, my son, do you not repent the host of sins unto which you were led by weakness and human frailty? DYING MAN – Yes, my friend, I do repent. PRIEST – Rejoice then in these pangs of remorse, during the brief space remaining to you profit therefrom to obtain Heaven’s general absolution for your sins, and be mindful of it, only through the mediation of the Most Holy Sacrament of penance will you be granted it by the Eternal. DYING MAN – I do not understand you, any more than you have understood me. PRIEST – Eh? DYING MAN – I told you that I repented. PRIEST – I heard you say it. DYING MAN – Yes, but without understanding it. PRIEST – My interpretation – DYING MAN – Hold. I shall give you mine. By Nature created, created with very keen tastes, with very strong passions; placed on this earth for the sole purpose of yielding to them and satisfying them, and these effects of my creation being naught but necessities directly relating to Nature’s fundamental designs or, if you prefer, naught but essential derivatives proceeding from her intentions in my regard, all in accordance with her laws, I repent not having acknowledged her omnipotence as fully as I might have done, I am only sorry for the modest use I made of the faculties (criminal in your view, perfectly ordinary in mine) she gave me to serve her; I did sometimes resist her, I repent it. Misled by your absurd doctrines, with them for arms I mindlessly challenged the desires instilled in me by a much diviner inspiration, and thereof do I repent: I only plucked an occasional flower when I might have gathered an ample harvest of fruit – such are the just grounds for the regrets I have, do me the honor of considering me incapable of harboring any others. PRIEST – Lo! where your fallacies take you, to what pass are you brought by your sophistries! To created being you ascribe all the Creator’s power, and those unlucky penchants which have led you astray, ah! do you not see they are merely the products of corrupted nature, to which you attribute omnipotence? DYING MAN – Friend – it looks to me as though your dialectic were as false as your thinking. Pray straighten your arguing or else leave me to die in peace. What do you mean by Creator, and what do you mean by corrupted nature? PRIEST – The Creator is the master of the universe, ‘tis He who has wrought everything, everything created, and who maintains it all through the mere fact of His omnipotence. DYING MAN – An impressive figure indeed. Tell me now why this so very formidable fellow did nevertheless, as you would have it, create a corrupted nature? PRIEST – What glory would men ever have, had not God left them free will; and in the enjoyment thereof, what merit could come to them, were there not on earth the possibility of doing good and that of avoiding evil? DYING MAN – And so your god bungled his work deliberately, in order to tempt or test his creature – did he then not know, did he then not doubt what the result would be? PRIEST – He knew it undoubtedly but, once again, he wished to leave man the merit of choice. DYING MAN – And to what purpose, since from the outset he knew the course affairs would take and since, all-mighty as you tell me he is, he had but to make his creature choose as suited him? PRIEST – Who is there can penetrate God’s vast and infinite designs regarding man,

“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man” by the Marquis de Sade, version 1
Feb 11 2015 26 mins  
“An interesting, well-reasoned argument for atheism,” as Brent describes this piece. Read with Brent Woodfill. Brent is an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Maya cave complexes of Guatemala and the Yucatán. We were drinking when we read these. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man” Marquis de Sade translated from the French PRIEST – Come to this the fatal hour when at last from the eyes of deluded man the scales must fall away, and be shown the cruel picture of his errors and his vices – say, my son, do you not repent the host of sins unto which you were led by weakness and human frailty? DYING MAN – Yes, my friend, I do repent. PRIEST – Rejoice then in these pangs of remorse, during the brief space remaining to you profit therefrom to obtain Heaven’s general absolution for your sins, and be mindful of it, only through the mediation of the Most Holy Sacrament of penance will you be granted it by the Eternal. DYING MAN – I do not understand you, any more than you have understood me. PRIEST – Eh? DYING MAN – I told you that I repented. PRIEST – I heard you say it. DYING MAN – Yes, but without understanding it. PRIEST – My interpretation – DYING MAN – Hold. I shall give you mine. By Nature created, created with very keen tastes, with very strong passions; placed on this earth for the sole purpose of yielding to them and satisfying them, and these effects of my creation being naught but necessities directly relating to Nature’s fundamental designs or, if you prefer, naught but essential derivatives proceeding from her intentions in my regard, all in accordance with her laws, I repent not having acknowledged her omnipotence as fully as I might have done, I am only sorry for the modest use I made of the faculties (criminal in your view, perfectly ordinary in mine) she gave me to serve her; I did sometimes resist her, I repent it. Misled by your absurd doctrines, with them for arms I mindlessly challenged the desires instilled in me by a much diviner inspiration, and thereof do I repent: I only plucked an occasional flower when I might have gathered an ample harvest of fruit – such are the just grounds for the regrets I have, do me the honor of considering me incapable of harboring any others. PRIEST – Lo! where your fallacies take you, to what pass are you brought by your sophistries! To created being you ascribe all the Creator’s power, and those unlucky penchants which have led you astray, ah! do you not see they are merely the products of corrupted nature, to which you attribute omnipotence? DYING MAN – Friend – it looks to me as though your dialectic were as false as your thinking. Pray straighten your arguing or else leave me to die in peace. What do you mean by Creator, and what do you mean by corrupted nature? PRIEST – The Creator is the master of the universe, ‘tis He who has wrought everything, everything created, and who maintains it all through the mere fact of His omnipotence. DYING MAN – An impressive figure indeed. Tell me now why this so very formidable fellow did nevertheless, as you would have it, create a corrupted nature? PRIEST – What glory would men ever have, had not God left them free will; and in the enjoyment thereof, what merit could come to them, were there not on earth the possibility of doing good and that of avoiding evil? DYING MAN – And so your god bungled his work deliberately, in order to tempt or test his creature – did he then not know, did he then not doubt what the result would be? PRIEST – He knew it undoubtedly but, once again, he wished to leave man the merit of choice. DYING MAN – And to what purpose, since from the outset he knew the course affairs would take and since, all-mighty as you tell me he is, he had but to make his creature choose as suited him?

“Dream-Land” by Edgar Allan Poe
Feb 04 2015 2 mins  
This is the Poe you have been looking for. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Dream-Land” Edgar Allan Poe By a route obscure and lonely, Haunted by ill angels only, Where an Eidolon, named Night, On a black throne reigns upright, I have reached these lands but newly From an ultimate dim Thule— From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime, Out of Space—out of Time. Bottomless vales and boundless floods, And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods, With forms that no man can discover For the dews that drip all over; Mountains toppling evermore Into seas without a shore; Seas that restlessly aspire, Surging, unto skies of fire; Lakes that endlessly outspread Their lone waters—lone and dead,— Their still waters—still and chilly With the snows of the lolling lily. By the lakes that thus outspread Their lone waters, lone and dead,— Their sad waters, sad and chilly With the snows of the lolling lily,— By the mountains—near the river Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,— By the grey woods,—by the swamp Where the toad and the newt encamp,— By the dismal tarns and pools Where dwell the Ghouls,— By each spot the most unholy— In each nook most melancholy,— There the traveller meets aghast Sheeted Memories of the Past— Shrouded forms that start and sigh As they pass the wanderer by— White-robed forms of friends long given, In agony, to the Earth—and Heaven. For the heart whose woes are legion ‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region— For the spirit that walks in shadow ‘Tis—oh ’tis an Eldorado! But the traveller, travelling through it, May not—dare not openly view it; Never its mysteries are exposed To the weak human eye unclosed; So wills its King, who hath forbid The uplifting of the fringed lid; And thus the sad Soul that here passes Beholds it but through darkened glasses. By a route obscure and lonely, Haunted by ill angels only, Where an Eidolon, named Night, On a black throne reigns upright, I have wandered home but newly From this ultimate dim Thule.

“An Inhabitant of Carcosa” by Ambrose Bierce
Jan 29 2015 9 mins  
Influential weird fiction. The scariest thing about ghosts is that you might become one. ⁓The Voice before the Void “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” Ambrose Bierce For there be divers sorts of death – some wherein the body remaineth; and in some it vanisheth quite away with the spirit. This commonly occurreth only in solitude (such is God’s will) and, none seeing the end, we say the man is lost, or gone on a long journey – which indeed he hath; but sometimes it hath happened in sight of many, as abundant testimony showeth. In one kind of death the spirit also dieth, and this it hath been known to do while yet the body was in vigor for many years. Sometimes, as is veritably attested, it dieth with the body, but after a season is raised up again in that place where the body did decay. Pondering these words of Hali (whom God rest) and questioning their full meaning, as one who, having an intimation, yet doubts if there be not something behind, other than that which he has discerned, I noted not whither I had strayed until a sudden chill wind striking my face revived in me a sense of my surroundings. I observed with astonishment that everything seemed unfamiliar. On every side of me stretched a bleak and desolate expanse of plain, covered with a tall overgrowth of sere grass, which rustled and whistled in the autumn wind with heaven knows what mysterious and disquieting suggestion. Protruded at long intervals above it, stood strangely shaped and somber-colored rocks, which seemed to have an understanding with one another and to exchange looks of uncomfortable significance, as if they had reared their heads to watch the issue of some foreseen event. A few blasted trees here and there appeared as leaders in this malevolent conspiracy of silent expectation. The day, I thought, must be far advanced, though the sun was invisible; and although sensible that the air was raw and chill my consciousness of that fact was rather mental than physical – I had no feeling of discomfort. Over all the dismal landscape a canopy of low, lead-colored clouds hung like a visible curse. In all this there were a menace and a portent – a hint of evil, an intimation of doom. Bird, beast, or insect there was none. The wind sighed in the bare branches of the dead trees and the gray grass bent to whisper its dread secret to the earth; but no other sound nor motion broke the awful repose of that dismal place. I observed in the herbage a number of weather-worn stones, evidently shaped with tools. They were broken, covered with moss and half sunken in the earth. Some lay prostrate, some leaned at various angles, none was vertical. They were obviously headstones of graves, though the graves themselves no longer existed as either mounds or depressions; the years had leveled all. Scattered here and there, more massive blocks showed where some pompous tomb or ambitious monument had once flung its feeble defiance at oblivion. So old seemed these relics, these vestiges of vanity and memorials of affection and piety, so battered and worn and stained – so neglected, deserted, forgotten the place, that I could not help thinking myself the discoverer of the burial-ground of a prehistoric race of men whose very name was long extinct. Filled with these reflections, I was for some time heedless of the sequence of my own experiences, but soon I thought, “How came I hither?” A moment’s reflection seemed to make this all clear and explain at the same time, though in a disquieting way, the singular character with which my fancy had invested all that I saw or heard. I was ill. I remembered now that I had been prostrated by a sudden fever, and that my family had told me that in my periods of delirium I had constantly cried out for liberty and air, and had been held in bed to prevent my escape out-of-doors. Now I had eluded the vigilance of my attendants and had wandered hither to – to...

“Talking with the Planets” by Nikola Tesla
Jan 24 2015 21 mins  
Pop-culture cult-hero and legitimate science-hero Tesla reveals that he received electrical messages from, he believes, outer space. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Talking with the Planets” Nikola Tesla Collier’s Weekly Editor’s Note.–Mr. Nikola Tesla has accomplished some marvellous results in electrical discoveries. Now, with the dawn of the new century, he announces an achievement which will amaze the entire universe, and which eclipses the wildest dream of the most visionary scientist. He has received communication, he asserts, from out the great void of space; a call from the inhabitants of Mars, or Venus, or some other sister planet! And, furthermore, noted scientists, like Sir Norman Lockyer are disposed to agree with Mr. Tesla in his startling deductions. Mr. Tesla has not only discovered many important principles, but most of his inventions are in practical use; notably in the harnessing of the Titanic forces of Niagara Falls, and the discovery of a new light by means of a vacuum tube. He has, he declares, solved the problem of telegraphing without wires or artificial conductors of any sort, using the earth as his medium. By means of this principle he expects to be able to send messages under the ocean, and to any distance on the earth’s surface. Interplanetary communication has interested him for years, and he sees no reason why we should not soon be within talking distance of Mars or of all worlds in the solar system that may be tenanted by intelligent beings. At the request of Collier’s Weekly, Mr. Tesla presents herewith a frank statement of what he expects to accomplish and how he hopes to establish communication with the planets. The idea of communicating with the inhabitants of other worlds is an old one. But for ages it has been regarded merely as a poet’s dream, forever unrealizable. And yet, with the invention and perfection of the telescope and the ever-widening knowledge of the heavens, its hold upon our imagination has been increased, and the scientific achievements during the latter part of the nineteenth century, together with the development of the tendency toward the nature ideal of Goethe, have intensified it to such a degree that it seems as if it were destined to become the dominating idea of the century that has just begun. The desire to know something of our neighbors in the immense depths of space does not spring from idle curiosity nor from thirst for knowledge, but from a deeper cause, and it is a feeling firmly rooted in the heart of every human being capable of thinking at all. Whence, then, does it come? Who knows? Who can assign limits to the subtlety of nature’s influences? Perhaps, if we could clearly perceive all the intricate mechanism of the glorious spectacle that is continually unfolding before us, and could, also, trace this desire to its distant origin, we might find it in the sorrowful vibrations of the earth which began when it parted from its celestial parent. But in this age of reason it is not astonishing to find persons who scoff at the very thought of effecting communication with a planet. First of all, the argument is made that there is only a small probability of other planets being inhabited at all. This argument has never appealed to me. In the solar system, there seem to be only two planets — Venus and Mars — capable of sustaining life such as ours: but this does not mean that there might not be on all of them some other forms of life. Chemical processes may be maintained without the aid of oxygen, and it is still a question whether chemical processes are absolutely necessary to the sustenance of organised beings. My idea is that the development of life must lead to forms of existence that will be possible with...

“Dark romanticism” from Wikipedia
Jan 19 2015 5 mins  
Edgar Allan Poe’s Birthday Special: All great and dark. ⁓The Voice before the Void “Dark romanticism” Wikipedia Dark romanticism (often conflated with Gothicism or called American romanticism) is a literary subgenre centered on the writers Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville. As opposed to the perfectionist beliefs of Transcendentalism, the Dark Romantics emphasized human fallibility and proneness to sin and self-destruction, as well as the difficulties inherent in attempts at social reform. 1. Characteristics G.R. Thompson stressed that in opposition to the optimism of figures like Ralph Waldo Emerson, “the Dark Romantics adapted images of anthropomorphized evil in the form of Satan, devils, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and ghouls,” as more telling guides to man’s inherent nature. Thompson sums up the characteristics of the subgenre, writing: “Fallen man’s inability fully to comprehend haunting reminders of another, supernatural realm that yet seemed not to exist, the constant perplexity of inexplicable and vastly metaphysical phenomena, a propensity for seemingly perverse or evil moral choices that had no firm or fixed measure or rule, and a sense of nameless guilt combined with a suspicion the external world was a delusive projection of the mind–these were major elements in the vision of man the Dark Romantics opposed to the mainstream of Romantic thought.” 2. Wider movements While primarily associated with New England writers, elements of dark romanticism were a perennial possibility within the broader international movement Romanticism, in both literature and art. British authors such as Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Shelley, and John William Polidori, who are frequently linked to Gothic fiction, are also sometimes referred to as Dark Romantics. Their tales and poems commonly feature outcasts from society, personal torment, and uncertainty as to whether the nature of man will bring him salvation or destruction. Dark romanticism was also particularly important in Germany, with writers such as E.T.A. Hoffmann, Christian Heinrich Spiess, and Ludwig Tieck – though their emphasis on existential alienation, the demonic in sex, and the uncanny was offset at the same time by the more homely cult of Biedermeier. 3. Later influence Dark romanticism of the New England school found a more naturalistic development toward the end of the century in the works of Edith Wharton and Henry James, where ghosts became emblems of psychological events. Twentieth-century existential novels have also been linked to dark romanticism, as too have the sword and sorcery novels of Robert E. Howard. 4. Criticism Northrop Frye pointed to the dangers of the demonic myth-making of the dark side of romanticism as seeming “to provide all the disadvantages of superstition with none of the advantages of religion.”

“The Sorceror” by Grazia Deledda
Jan 08 2015 12 mins  
Nobel Prize-winning weird fiction of a secret midnight rite. ⁓The Voice before the Void “The Sorceror” Grazia Deledda translated from the Italian They lived at the further end of the little village, one of the strongest and most picturesque villages among the mountains of Logudoro; indeed, their dark and tiny cabin was actually the last of all, and it looked straight down the mountain-side, overgrown with thick clumps of broom and mastic. From her spinning-wheel in the doorway, Saveria could look upon the sea in the far distance, on the extreme horizon, where it blended with the sky that in summer was of platinum and in winter massed with clouds. Sewing beside the window, she could look down upon a measureless succession of valleys stretching away to the foot of the mountains; and she could scent the warm fragrance of the golden harvests, billowing in the sun, and listen to the downward leaps of the dashing stream as it raced between the crags and tangled undergrowth of the mountain-side. In that dark and tiny home, its roof covered with red and yellow moss, and overshadowed by an ancient arbor, through many a gala day of azure skies and silent limitless horizons, Saveria had led, for two years, the happiest life imaginable, beside the young husband with big, ardent eyes, whose lips were like the berries of the heather amid which he led his flocks, the only wealth he had. He too, from the hour that he had married the little lady of his shepherd dreams, had lived most happily; but now at the end of these two perfect years, a light cloud had appeared upon the serene sky of their existence. Saveria had given him no offspring, nor was there any prospect that she would do so. He had so often dreamed of a fine little rascal, as brown as himself, who, as soon as he had mastered his legs, would follow him up and down, through wood and valley, helping him in the weary work of shepherding; a fine little rascal who, later growing into a stalwart lad, the joy and hope of the old folk, would marry and in his turn transmit their name and the descendants of their flocks to another, and so on and so on, through centuries upon centuries! All of Antonio’s ancestors had been shepherds; and it was his dream to pass that honor on; but how was he to do so unless an heir should come? Every resource had been tried; vows, nine days’ prayers, pilgrimages. Antonio went on foot, hatless and unshod, all the way the celebrated sanctuary of the Madonna of Miracles, at Bitti, and paid for a procession and a solemn mass, and promised to give as many pounds of decorated candles to the Madonna as the future infant should happen to weigh. But it was all of no use. Saveria remained slender and charming as ever in her yellow corsage and embroidered skirt, and the home was not yet blessed with the shrill cry of the dreamed-for child, nor with the mother’s lullaby accompanied by the creaking of the cradle. It was a very sad situation. They had already abandoned the last hope, when one day a friend of Saveria came to see her, and after the first greetings, said to her, making a profound mystery of it: “So you really didn’t know, Comare Sabé? Peppe Longu has been telling me that the reason you and your husband have no children is because–” “Because what?” asked Saveria, eagerly, with her eyes at their widest. “Why, because–” the other continued, lowering her voice. “The Lord preserve us, but you know quite well that Peppe is a sorcerer of the first quality, at least so everyone says, — and he himself has told me that the reason you have no children is because of one of his magics!” “Libera nos, Domine!” exclaimed Saveria, laughing and making the sign of the cross. Like all the young women of the village, she was superstitious and believed in magic, and on one occasion she had even seen, with her own eyes, a white phantom wandering through the mountains: but that Peppe Lo...

“Incident/Complaint Report” by Commander, 44 Missile Security Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota
Jan 05 2015 6 mins  
Out of this world. A report by Bob Pratt that provides information about this document ⁓The Voice before the Void “Incident/Complaint Report” Commander, 44 Missile Security Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota HELPING HAND (SECURITY VIOLATION) / COVERED WAGON (SECURITY VIOLATION) Site Lima 9 7 miles SW of Nisland, SD At 2059hrs., 16 Nov 77, A1C [Airman 1st Class] Samuel A. PHILLIPS, Lima Security Control, telephoned WSC [Wing Security Control] and reported an OZ [Outer Zone] alarm activation at L-9 and that Lima SAT [Security Alert Team] #1, A1C JENKINS & A1C Wayne E. RAEKE were dispatched. (Trip #62, ETA [Estimated Time of Arrival] 2135hrs.) At 2147hrs., A1C PHILLIPS telephoned WSC [Wing Security Control] and reported that the situation at L-9 had been upgraded to a COVERED WAGON per request of CAPT. Larry D. STOKES, FSO [Flight Security Officer]. Security Option II was initiated by WSC [Wing Security Control] and Base CSC [Central Security Control]. BAF (Backup Security Force) #1 & #2, were formed. At 2340hrs, 16 Nov 77, the following information was learned: Upon arrival (2132hrs) at site #L-9, LSAT [Lima Security Alert Team], JENKINS & RAEKE, dismounted the SAT [Security Alert Team] vehicle to make a check of the site fence line. At this time RAEKE observed a bright light shining vertically upwards from the rear of the fence line of L-9. (There is a small hill approximately 50 yards behind L-9) JENKINS stayed with the SAT [Security Alert Team] vehicle and RAEKE proceeded to the source of the light to investigate. As RAEKE approached the crest of the hill, he observed an individual dressed in a glowing green metallic uniform and wearing a helmet with visor. RAEKE immediately challenged the individual; however, the individual refused to stop and kept walking towards the rear fence line of L-9. RAEKE aimed his M-16 rifle at the intruder and ordered him to stop. The intruder turned towards RAEKE and aimed a object at RAEKE which emitted a bright flash of intense light. The flash of light struck RAEKE’S M-16 rifle, disintegrating the weapon and causing second and third degree burns to RAEKE’S hands. RAEKE immediately took cover and concealment and radioed the situation to JENKINS, who in turn radioed a 10-13 distress to Lima Control. JENKINS responded to RAEKE’S position and carried RAEKE back to the SAT [Security Alert Team] vehicle. JENKINS then returned to the rear fence line to stand guard. JENKINS observed two intruders dressed in the same uniforms, walk through the rear fence line of L-9. JENKINS challenged the two individuals but they refused to stop. JENKINS aimed and fired two rounds from his M-16 rifle. One bullet struck one intruder in the back and one bullet struck one intruder in the helmet. Both intruders fell to the ground; however, approximately 15 seconds later both returned to an upright position and fired several flashes of light at JENKINS. JENKINS took cover and the light missed JENKINS. The two intruders returned to the east side of the hill and disappeared. JENKINS followed the two and observed them go inside a saucer shaped object approximately 30′ in diameter and 20′ thick. The object emitted a glowing greenish light. Once the intruders were inside, the object climbed vertically upwards and disappeared over the Eastern horizon.

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