Apprendre le français XI: Appât Page 10

PAGE 10 (Four panels)

Panel 1: Still in the same apartment where the interview is taking place, but Eliza is now on tiptoes taking a heavy book down from a a high shelf.

Unseen interviewer (1): Seriously, aren’t you afraid?

Translation (1): Sérieusement, vous n’avez pas peur ?

Eliza (2): I have something to make the fear go away. Have you heard of the Roman poet Lucretius?

Translation (2): J’ai un truc pour supprimer la peur. Avez-vous entendu parler du poète romain Lucrèce ?

Panel 2: Close-up around some text, the following lines from Lucretius’s De rerum natura, set in a very old typeface or (better if possible) as medieval manuscript: “respice item quam nil ad nos ante acta vetustas/temporis aeterni fuerit, quam nascimur ante./hoc igitur speculum nobis natura futuri/temporis exponit post mortem denique nostram.

CAPTION – ELIZA NARRATING (3): He explains that we didn’t exist for an eternity before being born, and that wasn’t bad. So why should it be bad once we stop existing?

Translation (3): Il explique que nous n’existions pas pour l’éternité avant d’être né, et que ce n’était pas mauvais. Alors pourquoi le fait de ne plus exister serait une mauvaise chose ?

Panel 3: Eliza, now sitting cross-legged in her big wicker chair. She has the large book she brought down in Panel 1 resting open on her lap. She’s pointing down at something on a page.

Unseen interviewer (4): And you buy that?

Comment (4): “And you buy that?” is an idiom in American English, the literal meaning of which is “Do you really believe that?”

Translation (4): Et vous y croyez ?

Eliza (5): It’s what David Hume told James Boswell as Hume was wasting away, about to die. But Hume was calm and even told jokes.

Translation (5): C’est ce que David Hume a dit à James Boswell alors qu’Hume était en train de dépérir, sur le point de mourir. Mais Hume était calme et plaisantait même.

Panel 4: Eliza looking down at the page of the book open on her lap, reading.

Eliza (6): From Boswell’s account: “I asked him if the thought of annihilation never gave him any uneasiness. He said not the least; no more than the thought that he had not been, as Lucretius observes.”

Comment (6): Eliza is quoting from a real literary work, James Bosewell’s Life of Johnson. If there is a public domain version of the Life in your target language, you are encouraged to substitute its text for your own translation.

Translation (6): Selon ce que dit Boswell : « Je lui ai demandé si l’idée de disparaitre provoquait en lui un malaise. Il a répondu par la négative. Pas plus que l’idée de n’avoir pas existé, comme le fit observer Lucrèce.

Appât (Français/Version longue page)
Appât (Français/Version slider)

Tumblr favorite #425: Making women

The sentiment is heresy to the mad scientist, but I reblog all the same because these pairings of naughty images with intellectually serious texts done by the blogger who wrote at Seduction of the Innocent were among the funniest things I encountered on tumblr. Also, I’m a big fan of David Hume. Original post here.

Original text:


It is likely that Hume was skeptical both about religious belief (at least as demanded by the religious organisations of his time) and of the complete atheism promoted by such contemporaries as Baron d’Holbach.

Paul Russell suggests that perhaps Hume’s position is best characterized by the term “irreligion”.

O’Connor (2001, p19) writes that Hume “did not believe in the God of standard theism. … but he did not rule out all concepts of deity”.

Also, “ambiguity suited his purposes, and this creates difficulty in definitively pinning down his final position on religion”. When asked if he was an atheist, Hume would say he did not have enough faith to believe there was no god.

I have read Paul Russell’s The Riddle of Hume’s Treatise which discusses the point made here in great detail. It was a worthy way to spend time.

Punching your own one-way ticket #2: Terror management?

So now I am going to engage in a bit of speculation about my own psyche. I have four conjectures about what need I might be fulfilling with my interest in one-way ticket punchers, and that means four posts (at least). None of the conjectures appears to me to logically preclude any of the others, so it is possible that all of them are true — we all have many needs, after all. It is also possible that any or all of them are false. As someone once said there is no royal road to science, and you have to go up a lot of blind alleys before you find the right path.

My first conjecture is that what I’m actually doing in writing one-way ticket-punching stories is terror management. The surest thing we know is that we are all going to die someday, and this prospect of our annihilation terrifies us. Most people cope with this terror either by adopting a religion that has a reasonably cheery view of an afterlife or by adopting some system of cultural meanings, either religious or secular, that reassures them that in spite of the temporal finitude of their lives they nonetheless have objective value. Both these paths are blocked to me. I know what the mad-dog naturalist knows, that death really is the end and that “objective” values or meanings are just illusions that careful analysis will dispel.

The thought occurs that while a mad-dog naturalist cannot avail himself of the consolations of religion, but those of philosophy are still open. There is something here. As a matter purely of the intellect, Epicurus was right. It is irrational to be afraid of death, for where we are death is not and where death is we are not. Death is not some sort of bad experience we can have, it is only the end of experiences. The problem for this elegant view is that we aren’t creatures of the intellect exclusively, or perhaps even primarily. (I shall grant that the view probably worked for intellectual supermen like Epicurus himself and also probably David Hume who clearly shared it but I, alas, am just not on their level.) The fear of death is like having a strong phobia, one that you are quite unlikely to rid yourself of even with the best of philosophy. The reason that this fear is so refractory is that it has probably been wired into us by our evolutionary history. Given how miserable life often is, nature needed a whip to wield over us to keep us going, and fear of death would have worked well. Those of our primate ancestors who lacked such a fear would have been succumbed to the dangers and fatigues of the world. Those who had it struggled onward, surviving to produce more little primates who would be our ancestors. Against the tremendous influence of millions of years of evolution, cultural innovations of the last few thousand years like philosophy struggle mostly in vain.

So what is one to do, aside perhaps from nurturing the faint and flickering hope that in one’s lifetime a positive technological singularity arrives and death itself dies? Well, one thing one might do is what I here have done, and try to re-imagine death as a process led up to by the most extraordinary of erotic experiences. Enough sweet will cancel out the bitter.

Bacchus’s research turned up any number of examples of people creating work that has the property of erotic experience ultimate in two distinct senses of the word, la petite mort and la grande mort at the same time. Here I’ll share two. One is a story — magical rather than mad science but well within the concept, entitled “Sculptura” and written by an author working under the name Redline. A young woman goes in for a transformation which it seems she pretty clearly knows will be one-way. But what a way!

She groaned, arcing her head back from the waves of pleasure caused by the crafting, and reached one flame-red hand towards her sex. The flesh there was taking on a more intense white-hot glow than the rest of her did, and I gently pushed at her spirit, guiding the curious hand away. She moaned loudly in disappointment, her head rolling from side to side as the energies of the enchantment coursed within her. Her insistent cries were more than enough reason for me to continue — her sexual energies were mounting swiftly under the effects of the spell, and I intended to use that to my advantage.

As the glow intensified, with patterns of orange and yellow dancing on the white-hot flesh, I began the core of the ritual. Her body slid downwards under my mental urges, and she lay on her right side, propped up by her elbow. Gently, I pushed her spirit body here and there, the flesh connected to it moving in unison. Her right leg drew towards her chest, sliding along the smooth marble of the studio floor, while her left leg angled back, the tiny toes curling back with the arch of her instep. Smiling, I noticed that the angle of her hips had parted her sex, and smiling to myself, I released the hold on left arm, allowing her curious fingers to slide towards it. Gently, she parted her womanhood, and slid a single finger within; her movements became more and more primal, more and more carnal. This was the moment I was waiting for, and as she tossed her head back in the throes of orgasm and opened her tiny mouth in a scream of release… I closed the crafting.

Readers paying attention to the title will well be able to guess where all this thaumaturgy is heading.

Rather more controversially, many of the stories associated with the notorious Dolcett have the property of providing their protagonists with an ecstatic and apparently voluntary end. An example called “Current Affair” starts like this:

I wouldn’t defend this work as particularly well-drawn or -written, but it is within the concept. Our heroine clearly has terror (“Gulp!”), but she is managing it with the promise of an erotic payoff. If you have a strong stomach, you can follow the rest of the story here.

Why Kitty Carrolls?

(The second part of a short essay.)

So why would anyone get so much of a frisson out of Kitty Carroll and her many (but not enough) sisters in the world of erotic mad science? There’s a simplistic answer, which is that putting pretty, scantily (or un-) clad women in a situation that sets the adrenaline going (whether out of fear or anticipation or for whatever reason might not matter much) is something that my Male Gaze naturally wants to be directed towards. Well, that’s fine, but it doesn’t really help distinguish the Kitty Carroll from the Distressed Damsel, who is also scantily clad and in a situation that will get anyone’s heart pounding. Why go to the trouble to find (or the even greater trouble of creating) Kitty Carroll’s when there are so many Distressed Damsels?

I’ll venture an explanation, one which begins, rather counterintuitively, in pessimism, a sense that human existence isn’t really that good. Having reached full middle age I find that I cannot dispute George Orwell’s casual dictum that while most people get a fair amount fun out of life, on balance life is suffering and only the very young or very foolish think otherwise. I am more than half convinced by David Benatar‘s rigorous argument that coming into existence is always a harm and that it would have been better never to have been. But I have been, and am, and being in full middle age I’m embedded in a web of human relationships that I cannot countenance tearing myself out of, and so on things go.

Now I’m not so pessimistic as to think I’m helpless in the face of life’s suffering. We can’t abolish our suffering but we can always palliate it, and encounters with the erotic are splendid palliatives. Intense pleasure makes us forget about both life and death, so much so that even the contemplation thereof in fiction helps lighten our burden. This aspect of imaginative contemplation is a large part of the reason why I write and publish Tales of Gnosis College. It’s time and resource intensive, believe me, but it also does a lot to make my life bearable. A little pleasure from one’s hobbies does a lot to push back the day when one aches to reach for the Nembutal (I realize it’s not generally available, but you get the picture). And my publication efforts might provide others with a little pleasure, helping to push back their own dark thoughts and the dreadful sequelae thereto: if that’s not hedonic philanthropy then what could be?

As we contemplate pleasure enough, we dream.

Gustav Courbet, (1819-1877), Sleep (1866)

Some of us dream of the possibility of pleasures such that no human has ever had them or probably ever could. It seems only sensible, somehow: since being human sucks why not imagine transcending human possibilities? Thus the appeal of the mad science, and thus the appeal of the scenario of the mad science embraced with enthusiastic consent and quivering anticipation rather than contemplated with fear.

But why women? Wouldn’t it be easier for this male author to identify with male characters? Why not Charlie Carrolls? I suppose that we could always think back to the Male Gaze, etc., but I suspect that something else is going on here. I have this belief, motivated perhaps in part by observation of multiorgasmic female partners in my own experience, and perhaps partly by science that suggests that women’s sexuality is more fluid than men’s, that the erotic possibilities of women are somehow just wider and deeper than those of men, that Tiresias of myth spoke truly when he told Zeus about sex that “of ten parts a man enjoys one only.”

Gustav Klimt, (1862-1918), Flowing Water (1898)

I admit it’s possible that I’m full of shit in my belief about the superior erotic possibilities of women and, if so, I regret my epistemic failure. But there it is — the imagination doesn’t care whether the tributary beliefs that feed it are true or false, it just flows the way it does. And the way mine flows female characters make superior imaginative vehicles for reaching the wonderful weird of impossible erotic experience.

Hence the search for Kitty Carrolls.

Study Abroad: Chapter Five, Page Twenty

I might be mistaken, but I believe this is the first time that Arthur Schopenhauer has appeared in an adult webcomic. It might be my imagination, but it appears that here a middle-aged Schopenhauer is irritating a young Karl Marx (which I guess could have happened).

Schopenhauer debates, while someone transmits...

(Click on the image for larger size. Creative Commons License
Study Abroad: Chapter Five, Page Twenty written and commissioned by Dr. Faustus of and drawn by Lon Ryden is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.)