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Showing posts from May, 2012

Collaborative Sonnet

Another relic of the recently ended Parthian Jamboree was the product of a drinking game played by the ancient and modern physicians who attended. The learned medics passed around a paper inviting each participant to add one line before passing it to the next player. Each line was to continue the form and sense of the previous contributions while reflecting the character of complaints presented by one memorable patient. 

Before very long, the players grew weary of the game. The effects of strong drink were felt just as the challenge of continuing the coherence of the previous lines became more burdensome. One of the discouraged drop-outs kept a copy of just enough lines to make up a sonnet, which he shared with the Arrow. He now brushes it off on the curious reader, if any there be.

Gone are the Days of Pizza & Jazz
Gone are my days of pizza and jazz: No odalisques answer my reveries' call; My dissolute luxuries sate me and pall; My mornings begin with diminished pizzaz!
My lucubrati…

Slavery in Dickens' Day, and Now

A question suggested by a post on Concurring Opinions by Professor Frank Pasquale dominates the Arrow’s thoughts as he returns from his toxophilic exercises. The question is whether one short sentence in American Constitutional Scripture– 
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

–is prescriptive or merely aspirational. 

Scholars, pundits and ethicists provide ample support for Parthian's contention that the except clause of Thirteenth Amendment, Section 1 has in practice swallowed a rule that appears categorically to prohibit slavery. This post urges wider public engagement with an issue that will eventually disgrace our times in the eyes of history as wastefully cruel and barbaric, just as we recoil from the Victorian squalor we call Dickensian.    

If Abolitionism retains any moral force, the Thirteenth Amendment mus…

American Guide to Irish Place Names

Parthian apologizes for his recent and unexpectedly long absence from cyberspace. Technical and logistical difficulties that interrupted the Arrow's target practice are now sufficiently resolved to enable more regular postings. Among his many recent distractions, a pleasant evening was devoted by a large company of past and present campaigners to the exchange of toasts, verses, songs, and jests. Parthian drew clean-up duty, and among the scraps he found in the sweepings was a little limerick penned by a Dublin delegate, with a title almost as long as the verse. He assured the Arrow that his lines were perfect rhymes in every respect, but he called it–
An American Guide to Irish Phonetics
A dissolute rogue from Dun Laoghaire Dwelt in a house by Frank Gehre. His bedroom and den Looked over a fen With quarry for birders to query.

A Strange Verse Form

The Arrow observes only a few tribal holidays. One of the holiest cataphractic festivals falls in Mid-May. Warriors and shamans assemble in a sacred ‘Druidical’ grove of oaks that shade their campground on a blessed island that can be reached only by the Knowing. The current generation of Parthians will soon meet to join in celebrations with a long line of their ancestors. In the hour of long shadows, their bards entertain the entire tribe, living and dead. Most of the warriors who attend these festivals appear to Parthian to come for the fun– especially to hear the offerings of their far-flung (in space and time) poets. If Parthian goes offline for a few days, blame his absence upon the gregariousness of the season. 
The Arrow was chosen to serve as a judge of lyrics this year. He is free to consult with ordinary citizens about the relative merits of contestants' lyrics. The item posted below attracted his interest for its form more than its  substance. The lunatic who wrote it ob…

The Descent from Man and the Origin of Specious

In his student days, Parthian took a keen interest in population genetics. His interest was reawakened by the internet’s passing squall of interest in iPad-using Orang Utans.

Soon enough, he found updates clarifying our relationship to our arboreal cousins. The Arrow already knew about the 97% overlap between our DNA and theirs, and he saw pedigrees more recent than the ones in his school texts that charted current scientific thought about our common ancestors, and when our evolutionary paths diverged.

The more he considered how culminating the branch he was sitting upon looked, the more the Arrow began to suspect bias in our scientific interpretation of the evidence for homo sapiens position at the very tip of the last fork. He remembered that Borneo is not so distant geographically and geologically from the Indonesian Island of Flores, where another cousin was recently unearthed: the so-called Hobbits, homofloresiensis. No doubt science will pin a new sprig upon our branch after exper…

Abandon All Hope, Ye Innocent Cop-Outs

Parthian is too busy these days to join fellow veterans who use nearby federal courtrooms as a source of sport and drama. The Red Sox are having a weak season, and Fenway Park is both more expensive and less convenient than trial-watching. Parthian reckons that he is missing some fascinating action before the local benches. The next best thing, Parthian decided, is to resume his old hobby: law watching. At his monitor, he has an extensive cloud-shelved law library available at his click and swipe. He can use the internet to skim the Law Reviews,  reports of appellate decisions, and wonderful law blogs incompletely listed in this blog’s sidebar. 
The Arrow is always on the lookout for signs of rising talent or alarming (but sub-newsworthy) developments in the corpus juris of his current homeland. He and a few like-minded observers can then play fantasy games using social networking to compose dream teams of law faculties or federal Circuit Court benches, trading ‘players’ and estimating…

Parthian Trips on a Touchstone

A nine year old grandchild recently called the Arrow from California to interview him for a school assignment. He had a script. It didn't take long for him to reach the inevitable question. What changes have most impressed the Arrow during this flight of his avatar?

This called for oral history. No kid in elementary school takes shorthand. The ancient interviewee gave his caller a brief answer: "The internet and its consequences". But after the lad rang off, an email extension of Parthian's remarks was inevitable. He mentioned little symptomatic changes, such as his witnessing the end of a fashion for men's felt hats, or the more recent abandonment of the wrist watch (except as an item of jewelry) when the disruptive technology of cell phones moved timepieces back into pockets, after the fashion of an earlier day when grandfathers regularly wore vests. So now they are found in pants pockets, and unchained. Big Deal!

Parthian did mention in passing that a transcon…

Graffiti Scrawled on a Cyber Wall

On a recent low-flying reconnaissance, the Arrow discovered a cyberwall in virtual Cambridge that was filled with competitive graffiti. The inscriptions came from different hands, but they all stood out in the same vivid clerihews. The freshest entry on the palimpsest mural commemorated the departing President of France–

"Nicolas Sarkozy Launched a mighty Argosy As co-Prince of Andorra To vanquish Glocca-Morra!"
Parthian expects to report more nonsense from the site, whenever his travels take him to the vicinity.

Night Watch of a Serene Insomniac

An unexpected call shook Parthian’s pocketed smart phone a couple of days ago. When he finally fished it out he heard a strange voice invite him to the Holiday Inn for a night of monitored slumber. His physician had prescribed a sleep study based upon scoring a simple quiz probing his naughty need to nap when he can, however awkward the circumstances. Every cataphract is taught to get some nods when possible between life’s incoming barrages. The Arrow indignantly rejects the inference that he might be clinically narcoleptic. He repudiates even more strongly the suggestion that he staggers through his day hung over from fighting nocturnal bouts of apnea. 
Of course Parthian may be mistaken; he might even be ‘in denial.’ His confidence that he understands his body is an element of his clinical story scarcely worth mention in medical notes of his ‘presentation.’ A physician must follow protocols prescribed as the standard of care governing each identified disease or condition. Standards o…

Autodidactic Accomplishments in the Liberal Arts

May is a busy month for Parthian and his friends. Many of us will rise from our rockers to salute our grandchildren. They will provide us with photo ops (and possibly a bit of fiscal relief) as we attend their commencement ceremonies. This is also the season for us to open our summer homes, and attend class or family reunions. Some of us will celebrate other anniversaries. After all that, we may relax on a rest and recovery cruise. Parthian notes that however intense the memories, nor how closely spaced the special moments, they are inscribed in failing flesh. When our late life debaucheries perish with us, our survivors’ regret will bear a shadow of accusation that can be precisely measured by the shrinkage of their legacies.

Parthian began this season of celebrations with a formal dinner convened in one of Boston’s most elegant 19th Century palaces to honor a small group of remarkable women who recently recruited his spouse to fill a vacancy. He wouldn’t have missed this special occa…

The Last Deadly Sin– and Least

The last transgressor in Parthian’s bestiary exemplifies the terrifying power of the reproductive urge. Lust has won tolerance and mysterious hedonic devotees as science has provided us with deepening insight into our animal nature, but too many enlightened and otherwise rational post-Freudian citizens bear an instinctive fear of lust’s ancient emblem, the snake. 
Parthian’s simian vestiges of ophidiophobia provided a few thrills in his youth, but he soon realized in his encounters with snakes that fascination was more opportune than a fight-or-flight reaction. His parental home abutted a drainage channel about 15 feet wide, with vertical sides about half as high. Except during rare floods, the channel carried a trickling stream with a few sandbars and weeds, enough to support an isolated ecosystem favorable to a flourishing variety of serpents. 
The Arrow and his friends exploited this resource by climbing over the fence to drop into the channel, where we could easily collect 8-10 feet…