A charlatan makes obscure what is clear; a thinker makes clear what is obscure. H. Kingsmill

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“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark


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The Charlatan
Jean de La Fontaine

The world has never lack’d its charlatans,
More than themselves have lack’d their plans.
One sees them on the stage at tricks
Which mock the claims of sullen Styx.
What talents in the streets they post!
One of them used to boast
Such mastership of eloquence
That he could make the greatest dunce
Another Tully Cicero
In all the arts that lawyers know.
‘Ay, sirs, a dunce, a country clown,
The greatest blockhead of your town,–
Nay more, an animal, an ass,–
The stupidest that nibbles grass,–
Needs only through my course to pass,
And he shall wear the gown
With credit, honour, and renown.’
The prince heard of it, call’d the man, thus spake:
‘My stable holds a steed
Of the Arcadian breed,
Of which an orator I wish to make.’
‘Well, sire, you can,’
Replied our man.
At once his majesty
Paid the tuition fee.
Ten years must roll, and then the learned ass
Should his examination pass,
According to the rules
Adopted in the schools;
If not, his teacher was to tread the air,
With halter’d neck, above the public square,–
His rhetoric bound on his back,
And on his head the ears of jack.
A courtier told the rhetorician,
With bows and terms polite,
He would not miss the sight
Of that last pendent exhibition;
For that his grace and dignity
Would well become such high degree;
And, on the point of being hung,
He would bethink him of his tongue,
And show the glory of his art,–
The power to melt the hardest heart,–
And wage a war with time
By periods sublime–
A pattern speech for orators thus leaving,
Whose work is vulgarly call’d thieving.
‘Ah!’ was the charlatan’s reply,
‘Ere that, the king, the ass, or I,
Shall, one or other of us, die.’
And reason good had he;
We count on life most foolishly,
Though hale and hearty we may be.
In each ten years, death cuts down one in three.

[The end]
Jean de La Fontaine’s poem: Charlatan

No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time. Lewis Carroll

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see, he’s the proud possessor of a twelve-inch snake
a tiger, or a brown, perhaps
but, more likely, a benign carpet variety
pink and friendly.
he says he’d like to ‘pull it out
and whack it on their table’
to shock them from their myth-making
talk of his anatomy.

penis envy, sibling style 

by Liz Hall-Downs 


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Something will have gone out of us as a people
if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed;
if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into
comic books and plastic cigarette cases;
if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species
into zoos or to extinction;
if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams
and push our paved roads through the last of the silence,
so that never again will Americans be free in their own country
from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste.

~ Wallace Stegner,
letter to David E. Pesonen of the Wildland Research Center,
3 December 1960 ~


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Poetry and Alcohol

The two of us we have lived together long,
she sits in the kitchen watching Brazilian soaps,
I read TLS which gives me an edge even though I think some of the stuff is effete and some of the famous writers and painters are totally overvalued.

I do catch a glance of the TV in the living room from
time to time, a nature program that irritates me, the
Australian hero is actually worrying the wild animals and I hope he will be bitten by a crocodile, or trampled by an irate elephant. No such luck.

Andrew Motion wrote something about oral poetry,
I appeared once at poetry venue, nervously drank
too much, and insulted the organizer. Wish the TLS
would adopt me. Really!  But like late George Best,
I’m a loose cannon liable to tell them to fuck off


Jan Oskar Hansen
© 2006

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The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunk man is happier than a sober one. George Bernard Shaw,

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Love We Recognize 

by Kim Downs

Jane’s father used to drink and bash up his wife.
Jane’s mother forgave him again and again.
She thought love was like that. She didn’t know better.
She told Jane her father just had a bad temper.
She shouldn’t provoke him. It was mostly her fault.
Jane’s father used to drink and bash up his wife.
Jane watched this happen two hundred times
Before she reached puberty; and then … and later.
She thought love was like that. She didn’t know better.
At eighteen, Jane started to take her first lovers.
She chose ones with tempers. They seemed so familiar.
Jane’s father used to drink and bash up his wife.
Jane married Bill, a motor mechanic.
She fell pregnant. Had a daughter. Then another. Then a son.
She thought love was like that. She didn’t know better.
When Bill would get drunk … then angry … then hit her,
Jane forgave him. Like her mother. Like her daughters. Because:
Jane’s father used to drink and bash up his wife.
She thought love was like that. She didn’t know better.