Empty Words, Empty Gestures, Empty Actions

There is a scene near the beginning of the film The Departed (2006) in which the character played by Martin Sheen, a police captain, asks Leonardo DiCaprio, a potential recruit for undercover work, a pointed question.  The question is this:  “Do you want to be cop, or do you just want to appear to be a cop?  It’s a legitimate question.  Some guys just want to appear to be cops.” 

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Arousing The Imagination

By what means can the imagination be activated?  By what artifice may its secrets be coaxed to the surface of our consciousness, and made capable of articulation, as an enterprising fisherman might lure a rare specimen from deep waters to the surface?  Are there tried techniques, or is it simply a matter of random inspiration?  These are questions worthy of consideration.

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The Anatomy Of The Scam

There has been a big surge in online scammery and con artistry in the past two years.  Economic hardship and desperation have been contributing causes, but this kind of activity has been with us since the dawn of time.  And con games will always be with us, because they are rooted in the timeless and predictable ingredients of human nature.

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Betrayal Will Find Its Punishment

We will examine the consequences of treachery and betrayal.  Zahir Al-Umar Al-Zaydani (ظاهر العمر الزيداني) was a charismatic regional potentate who managed to carve out a fiefdom for himself in Palestine during the waning centuries of the Ottoman empire.  Born around 1690, he achieved ascendancy through the usual mix of piety, maneuvering, and ruthlessness; and by the 1730s he had acquired such power in Galilee that the Turkish authorities in Istanbul knew they needed to find a way to clip his wings.

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On The Right Delivery Of Advice

The best advice in the world will be of meager service if it is not conveyed in a way that enhances the likelihood of its acceptance.  Knowledge is one thing, and communication of that knowledge is another.  What is hard-won on the battlefield of experience may be dissipated in its conveyance to another.  He who wishes to render advice, then, should be aware of the snares and pitfalls that lie in wait for him.

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The Eminence Of Barley

Of all the cereal grains I like barley the most.  It has a smooth consistency and a nourishing quality that one does not find in other grains, such as rice or oats.  One reads of its ubiquity in ancient Rome, when it was a true food staple, and found its way into the bowls of gladiators, soldiers, scholars, scribes, and aristocrats.  It could be pounded into a porridge, baked into a bread, and fermented; added to soups or stews, it acted as a fortifying agent.

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Some Thoughts And Opinions On Investing

I’m certainly not a finance person.  At least I don’t consider myself one.  I am just a country lawyer.  I have no magic formulas for anyone, unless common sense and my own experience can be considered a magic formula.  I have no magic wands, no hidden secrets, no rabbits to pull out of a top hat for you.  But I do have some modest experience in dealing with my own money and investments.  I’m also a practicing bankruptcy attorney–a job I’ve been doing for over 20 years–and have represented a very large number of individuals and businesses.  I’ve seen what things get people into trouble, and what things do not.  One begins to notice recurring patterns, and I have tried to distill these into cautionary principles.  The result is what follows.

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The Nutriment Of Hippocrates

The Ionian philosopher Heraclitus, who flourished around 500 B.C., was even in ancient times known for his obscurity and elusiveness.  His well-deserved nickname was “The Obscure,” due to the fact that his elliptical sayings could be variously interpreted.  Yet this was no impediment to his influence; his renown was considerable, and his fame rested on the strength of one book, On Nature.  Time has not preserved it for us intact, but we do have about a hundred short fragments, and these provides us with the rudiments of his thought.

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The Mind Of Hippocrates

Thomas Kuhn, in his brilliant 1962 treatise on the structure of scientific revolutions, proposed that the advancement of knowledge takes place more often in periodic surges than through slow, incremental linearity.  He proposed that progress can best be understood as a sequence of “paradigms;” in his view, a paradigm was a kind of general consensus on how systems should be understood and interpreted.

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The Mystic Conviction Of Ibn Musaed

The mystic Yunus Ibn Yusuf Ibn Musaed was born around 1132 into the Mukharik family, of the tribe of Shaiban (بنو شيبان).  The subdivisions of this tribe occupied an area called the Jazira, a region covering what is now eastern Syria and upper Mesopotamia.  He would later found an order of dervishes that came to be called, according to his biographer Ibn Khallikan, the Yunusiya.

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