February 26, 2008


El Cabrero got launched on a Dante kick yesterday and I'm going to ride it as long as it lasts. You'll also find the usual links and comments about current events. If this is your first visit, please click on yesterday's post.

Dante's Divine Comedy is an all time masterpiece but it's a challenging read. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you do it.

*It's never over. I read somewhere that when someone told T.S. Eliot that they had read the Comedy, he corrected the person by saying "begun to read it." In other words, this is not one you read just to scratch off a list or to add a notch to your literary six shooter. It's one to keep going back to over and over through the years.

*We have a new rule. There are probably way more people who have read the first part of the Comedy, the Inferno, than the other parts. That is just wrong. It's like saying you read the first two acts of Hamlet or walked out on The Big Lebowski after half an hour. To quote from that movie, "This isn't Vietnam, Dude--there are rules."

It's a package deal--don't do the crime if you won't do the time and don't do Inferno if you're not going to do the whole thing. You really can't understand it just from the first part. Dante's insight--and yours--will grow as you proceed.

*It's kind of a loop. By that I mean that in order to really read it, you have to have already read it. That may take some unpacking. Dante is both the narrator and the protagonist of this story. Dante the character doesn't really understand what is happening to him completely until journey's end, which is the perspective of Dante the narrator.

There is probably a way easier way of saying what I just did...

Anyway, it's only after you've made the whole trip through that you can see where it's going and what it means. So once you're slogged through it the first time in all its strangeness, you're really ready to read it.

THE NEW DEAL might teach us a thing or two about dealing with the housing meltdown.

THE MESS TO COME in Iraq is the subject of this item by Chris Hedges.

PUBLIC INVESTMENTS MATTER. Proponents of tinkle down economics disparage public investments in education and infrastructure and their positive impacts on the economy. Here's the deal. It matters. A recent study of the economic impact of West Virginia University (which is...like...public!) found:

• Total number of jobs created was 35,700.
• Total business volume generated was $3.9 billion.
• Total output generated was $3.3 billion.
• Total employee compensation was $1.15 billion.
• Total value added created was $1.7 billion.
• Total assorted state taxes (consumer sales and use, personal income, corporate net
income, and business franchise) resulting from WVU and affiliated organizations was
$57.4 million.

TOO MANY OPTIONS can be a problem, according to this NY Times science article.

STOP THE PRESSES. Some scientists think hiccups may be a legacy from our gill-breathing ancestors.


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