Posted by: Mark | August 10, 2017


I think it was my junior year of college that I was supposed to read all of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The Inferno and Purgatory were no problem but I stalled out on Paradise.  Almost 25 years later, I picked up Paradise again. I understand why young me gave up.

Through Hell and Purgatory, Dante churned out grotesque tortures, guaranteed to keep anybody’s attention. Purgatory seemed more interesting than Hell because the souls were thankful for their abuse.

In Heaven, it was one conversation after another. Even after being translated to English, the language was spectacular but Hell was a hard act to follow.

Souls tended to speak about 14th century politics and pre-Reformation theology, neither of which can hold up to a pack of farting demons.

Part of the issue is that modern Americans picture Heaven as how Dante presented the first circle of Hell, the Circle of Virtuous Pagans. There, good non-Christians were rewarded with all sorts of worldly pleasures. In Heaven, souls spent all their time praising God. It’s hard to feel excited about that.

It didn’t help that Dante based Heaven on science that was before Newton and Copernicus. That wouldn’t have been a problem but Dante was so absolute in his convictions.

Overall, I’m glad I finally finished reading it but, even after 25 years, I can remember Hell better than descriptions of Heaven that I read this week. Dante was one of the greatest writers of all time but it’s hard to make Heaven as compelling as Hell.

Posted by: Mark | August 8, 2017

List of 60

I found a list of the 60 books I was tested on for my M.A. exam. I’ve got a bunch of posts about this but I needed to type these here first.

1. Anderson, Sherwood, Winesburg, Ohio
2. Arabian Nights, selected edition
3. Aristotle, Poetics
4. Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice
5. Barthelme, Donald, City Life
6. Bellow, Saul, Humbolt’s Gifts
7. Borges, Jorge Luis, Labyrinths
8. Bronte, Charolette, Jane Eyre
9. Bronte, Emily, Wuthering Heights
10. Carver, Raymond, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”
11. Cervantes, Miguel de, Don Quixote
12. Chaucer, Geoffrey, “The General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales and “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale”
13. Chekhov, Anton, Selected Stories
14. Conrad, Joseph, “Heart of Darkness”
15. Dante, Inferno
16. Defoe, Daniel, Moll Flanders
17. Dickens, Charles, Bleak House
18. Eliot, George, Middlemarch
19. Ellison, Ralph, The Invisible Man
20. Faulkner, William, As I Lay Dying
21. Fielding, Henry, Tom Jones
22. Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby
23. Flaubert, Gustave, Madame Bovary
24. Ford, Ford Madox, The Good Soldier
25. Forster, E.M., A Passage to India
26. Genesis, Exodus, Job, Ecclesiastes, The Gospels, Revelation, and Psalms
27. Gide, Andre, The Immoralist
28. Gogol, Nikolai, Dead Souls (Part One)
29. Greene, Graham, The Power and the Glory
30. Hardy, Thomas, Jude the Obscure
31. Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Scarlet Letter
32. Hemingway, Ernest, The Sun Also Rises
33. Homer, The Odyssey
34. James, Henry, The Ambassadors
35. Joyce, James, Ulysses
36. Kafka, Franz, “The Metamorphosis”
37. Kerouac, Jack, On the Road
38. Lawrence, D.H., Women in Love
39. Mann, Thomas, Death in Venice
40. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia, One Hundred Years of Solitude
41. Melville, Herman, Moby Dick
42. Morrison, Toni, Song of Solomon
43. Nabokov, Vladimir, Lolita
44. O’Connor, Flannery, The Complete Stories
45. Paley, Grace, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute
46. Poe, Edgar Allan, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”
47. Proust, Marcel, Swann’s Way
48. Robbe-Grillet, Alain, Jealousy
49. Schwartz, Delmore, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities”
50. Shakespeare, William, King Lear
51. Shakespeare, William, The Tempest
52. Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein
53. Sophocles, The Oedipus Cycle
54. Stern, Laurence, Tristam Shandy
55. Swift, Jonathan, Books 1, 2, 4 of Gulliver’s Travels
56. Tolstoy, Leo, “The Death of Ivan Ilych”
57. Twain, Mark, Huckleberry Finn
58. Voltaire, Candide
59. Woolf, Virginia, To The Lighthouse
60. Wright, Richard, Native Son

Posted by: Mark | August 6, 2017

Under 100

I’m shooting for 730 miles of running for the year but my knee injury in February looked like it wasn’t happening.

Back on June 3, I had only 65.1 miles, and I needed 322 miles to be on track. That was 256.9 miles under. Last resolution update, I  was down to 110 under.

After 14.2 miles in the last two days, I’m 97.8 miles under. Terrible but at least out of triple digits.

I’m also tied to the least I’ve weighed in 2017, down 5.2 pounds. That’s pretty terrible too but at least I haven’t gained.

Posted by: Mark | August 5, 2017

Betta Report

Just for my future reference, I cleaned 61 Betta tubs tonight with the single biggest group being 12 male veiltails. None of them died since last cleaning.

What a night to remember.

Posted by: Mark | August 5, 2017

Monty Burns vs. Wonder Woman

I found a DVD of the 70s Wonder Woman tv show and in the fifth episode, “Beauty on Parade,” the villain’s name is Monty Burns.

The Internet already knew this and a video of the fight is on YouTube. Monty didn’t have any powers or money so it’s pretty one-sided.

The Day of the Locust has a character named Homer Simpson. Homer worked better but was much more distracting.

Posted by: Mark | August 5, 2017

Resolution Update 33

The kids are going back to school soon. Things should be a little more stable then:

1. Run 730 miles – 43.4 miles on the elliptical machine and nothing on the treadmill, 324.0 miles overall. 110 miles under where I should be.

2. 5,000 push ups and 8,000 leg lifts –1,449 push ups and 1,527 leg lifts.

3. Lose weight – gained nine-tenths of a pound.

4. Support 24 local artists – still two.

5. 42 manuscript submissions – 23 submissions.

6. Write 40,000 words and five new stories – 30,049 words and six completed stories.

7. Read all the New Testament – Complete.

8. Read The Nature of Things — Complete.

9. Finish Finnegan’s Wake – Complete.

10. 300 blog posts – this is 137.

11. Read The Song of Roland — Complete.

12. Read The Poem of El Cid – Complete.

13. Read Paradise – 12 cantos of 33.

Posted by: Mark | August 4, 2017

Not Your Brother

Back in college I had someone tell me that before hippies, no one used the word “brother” in a figurative sense. I knew he was wrong. You read “Brother, can you spare a dime” during Depression Era stories all the time but in pre-Internet days, I couldn’t come up with anything solid to show him.

It turns out I had something solid at the time, sitting unread on my shelf. Individuals in Dante’s Paradise refer to Dante (his character within the poem) as “Brother” over and over. If I had only read Paradise when I should have,  I could have won the argument.

Technically, Dante and other Italians in the 1300s used “brother” when they needed to explain or correct someone gently. Instead of “Moron, the reason is…,” they’d say “Brother, the reason is…”

The closest English equivalent I can think of is when we use “look” or “see” in explanations. “Look, we gotta do it this way” is more abrupt and stern than “See, this is to everybody’s benefit.”

I guess it serves me right for not finishing Dante’s work. For all the trouble it gave me year’s ago, it’s going well now.

Posted by: Mark | August 3, 2017

30,000 Words

I’m three-fourths of the way through my resolution of writing 40,000 words.

30,049 words. 9,951 to go.

I’m not doing as well as I was in the beginning of the year but I think I’ll get it.

Posted by: Mark | August 2, 2017

Newer than New Resolution

At this rate I’ll have 50 resolutions by the end of 2017 but I’m going to try to complete Dante’s Paradise before year’s end.

Nearly 30 years ago, in a Medieval literature class, I read Inferno and Purgatory but stalled on the happy place. I looked it over and remember why.

Hell is full of venomous serpents that latch onto a sinner’s body and transform it into a snake. In Paradise an entire Canto is devoted as to why parts of the moon look dark.

I found an old reading list from grad school and I skipped plenty of books or quit them after a few chapters. Making them up isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things but it gives some purpose to my otherwise stupid life. I know if I don’t put them on the blog, I’ll blow them off like I did before, but if I make it public, I’ll be shamed into seeing them through.

Posted by: Mark | August 1, 2017

300 Miles

On July 8, I finally reached 200 miles of running for 2017. My resolution for the year is 730.

It’s looking up now. I was on 294.8 miles before I started today and thought I would make it for sure. Then about four minutes in, an old guy came in for the elliptical machine. Instead of putting more time on it, I let the timer run out. I still beat 300 by four tenths of a mile so I can’t complain.

If I can keep up 100 miles a month, I should make it. I doubt if push ups will go so well.

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