The Heelers Diaries

the fantasy world of ireland's greatest living poet

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Location: Kilcullen (Phone 087 7790766), County Kildare, Ireland

Saturday, December 18, 2010

books for christmas

The Top Ten
1. The Shroud The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved, by Ian Wilson. Published by the Bantam Press. Ian Wilson is a British brainbox art expert and classicist who claims he had a conversion experience while studying the Shroud Of Turin. I don't think his book solves the mystery and I suspect his publishers insisted on the title. Nonetheless this is the book to buy if you've ever had an interest in the subject of the shroud of Turin. Mr Wilson has for thirty years and more been the pre-eminent investigator of the fabric which he now believes is the genuine burial cloth of Christ. This book gives a summation and update of current information regarding ongoing shroud investigations. Some of it is very readable indeed. The historical overview is top notch. Various theories as to the shroud's origin are accessibly presented. Occasionally Mr Wilson is a little too credulous in some matters for my taste. For instance he accords instant status to archivist Barbara Frale's claims that she has found documentary evidence the shroud may have been in the possession of a long suppressed religious order known as the Knights Templar at a date much earlier than carbon dating tests say the shroud existed. But Barbara Frale's research is uncorroborated and based on an ancient text in medieval French which almost no one else has ever even seen. Her styling of herself as a Vatican researcher does not necessarily mean she is on the side of the angels. Mr Wilson in common with Ms Frale postulates that the Knights Templar were innocent of most of the charges which led to the order's dramatic and violent disbandment along with the execution of many of its members and leaders about seven hundred years ago. My own view is that the Knights Templar were nothing less than devil worshippers. And that's the thing. People who are drawn to shroud studies tend to develop sometimes outlandish views of their own! Mr Wilson's book is nicely illustrated with relevant photographs and occasional line drawings. The illustrations can only be deemed a disappointment if you compare them to those in his 2001 Shroud book which featured many fine photographs, mainly by Barrie Schwortz. The present publication excels the previous in its presentation of up to the minute data. There are omissions which disappoint though. The story of those studying the shroud is also relevant to any assessment of the shroud itself. Mr Wilson gives some details of the machinations and politics that exist behind the scenes. But not enough of such details. He refers to certain disputes which took place between competing groups offering to carry out the carbon testing, and other disputes between what might be called competing elements within the Vatican. Then he tells us there is no need to go into sordid details. Of course I regard this as a shortcoming. I wanted the sordid details. Sometimes sordid details are very informative indeed. Mr Wilson is quite British both in his urbane enthusiasm and in his polite reserve. Polite reserve though will not cut the mustard here. For perfectly understandable reasons Mr Wilson does not seem to overstress his own role in the shroud story. Unfortunately that role is now inseparable from any ongoing assessment of the investigation process itself. Mr Wilson too has played a leading role in the soap opera. He is an apparently sincere Catholic convert. Yet he is alleged to have had an affair with Lynn Picknett whom some claim (including Mr Wilson himself) to have been involved in black magic. Ms Picknett is a somewhat low rent debunker of the theory that the shroud is genuine. She has no standing in scholarly circles. Again I have a personal view both on her work and on her behaviour. I believe that by having an affair with Ian Wilson she was simply attempting to infiltrate respected Shroud study organisations with a view to discrediting them. Whether she was doing so in the service of Satan is another matter. Ms Picknett is not a respected academic but has managed to parlay her pseudo sensationalist speculations into a neat little sideline as a commentator on television stations like the BBC and the Discovery Channel whose standards when it comes to commentary on Christian icons are not all that high. I think it would have been hard for Mr Wilson to go into details of his affair with Lynn Picknett and even harder on his wife. Nonetheless the affair is part of the story of the Shroud of Turin. If he wants to write the definitive book on the shroud, at some stage he is going to have to tell the whole truth about himself.
2. Turin Shroud, How Leonardo Da Vinci Fooled History, by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince. Published by Time Warner. Well I suspect this book is pure bunkum. I recommend you read it though, if you are interested in the Shroud. Is Ms Picknett a passionate researcher battling against the tide in seeking the truth while perpetually maligned by faux religionists like me? Is she a media age hack with negligible intellect and a tawdry talent for sensation a la Oprah? Or does she serve a darker power? Ms Picknett herself, like the more estimable Ian Wilson, is now an integral part of the Shroud story.
3. Son Of Hamas, by Mosab Hassan Yousef. Published by Saltriver, an imprint of Tyndale House Inc. The story of a young Muslim man, a son of one of the founders of Hamas, who became a spy for the Israelis and afterwards converted to Christianity. It all seems a tad unbelievable. Still I think the sincerity of Mosab Yousef is apparent from the word go. He brings us to a world of violence and death and shows us what might be the way through. He also proclaims, with tremendous insight and courage, the common humanity of all those swept up in the conflict in Palestine. The book will make humbling reading for many of us who think we are Christians. Mosab tells his tale with luminous faith, hope and charity. He speaks like someone who really knows Jesus. Nor does he evade any of the issues or spare himself when it comes to shedding light on the dark side of human nature. Journalist Ron Brackin receives billing on the cover of the book beneath Mosab's name. I'm not crazy about the presence of a co-writer. It makes me wonder whose voice I'm hearing. But if the story is true, they've both done a good job telling it.
4. The Rage Against God, by Peter Hitchens. Published by Continuum Books. A worthy attempt by Peter Hitchens to expose the atheistic idolotries of our age.Peter is the brother of atheistic controversialist Christopher Hitchens who while having absolutely nothing to do with the present publication seems to haunt its pages in a most curious way. The book arose in part from a public debate on the existence of God, between the brothers in which by some accounts Christopher triumphed. Both brothers had been extreme leftwing communists in their youth. Christopher never really shook it off. Peter had a conversion experience at some stage. He and his brother were estranged for many years but rather touchingly have lately begun talking again. Their recent public debate about God thankfully did not sour their renewed friendship but Peter did decide he needed to revisit in print some of the issues raised. Unfortunately while being in my view correct in his advocacy of Christianity, and sublimely insightful in his excoriation of militant atheism, Peter Hitchens is utterly wrong about many things. He errs particularly in his anti war predilections and perorations where he seemingly opposes not only the American liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein's murderocracy, but also apparently and with no less fervour Winston Churchill and the British people's defiance of Hitler in 1939 and throughout World War Two. Peter may be right in his pacifism and I may be wrong. Nonetheless, some of his views are a bit too redolent of the young bolshevick bolshoiter he once was. It also has to be said that his brother Christopher while being in my opinion utterly wrong about God, is still far and away the better controversialist and, er, intellectual. Peter Hitchens for decency. Christopher for cleverality. Christopher, as I've said, may have little directly to do with the present work, but he did cause it to be written by beating Peter in an argument which someday Christopher will wish he had lost. Ironic, what! The book itself gives a moving account of Peter Hitchens' former atheism and his coming to accept the reality of the creator of the universe. It contains a searing indictment of the evils of Sovietism and the willingness of communist sympathisers to turn a blind eye to any number of atrocities. And it blisteringly indicts the clamouring media shills who have sleep walked us into an age of barbaric conformist atheism. Peter Hitchens' writing is graceful, occasionally stilted, and always well meant. His judgement on certain matters may irk but the intention is never less than honest, honorable and brave. Typical Brit. Of whatever persuasion. I'm just saying is all. One of my books of the year.
5. The Dawkins Delusion, by Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath. Published by SPCK the Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. A cheerfully worthy and acuitive retort to the cult of Dawkins put together by a husband and wife team of academics. For many Christians long accustomed to being bombarded by cultural atheism, it will read like a breath of fresh air. It is not an exhaustive rebuttal of Dawkins. More a timely demonstration that one doesn't have to bow to him. An important pamphlet in an age of overblown worthless tracts. The tide turns at low water as well as at high!
6. Atheist Delusions, The Christian Revolution And Its Fashionable Enemies by David Bentley Hart. Published by Yale University Press. Another book of Christian apologetics that goes toe to toe with the baddies in attempting to rebutt the myriad legions of modern atheism. Hart's writing is a phenomenon of nature. Poetic almost effortless prose mixed with profound intellectual insight. This book is a finely honed, spirited, yet scholarly, blast of the trumpet. The author mixes pamphleteering with philosophy to give a long overdue illumination on the hypocrasies and misrepresentations underlying modern atheistic assessments of the Christian faith. He exposes the non sequiturs and half truths which atheists have so woefully propagated in usurping power and influence within the academic, media and political spheres throughout the free world. Hart mightn't see his book as I see it. But that is what it is. David Bentley Hart is witty, erudite, sublime in analysis and supreme in debate, a brilliant expositor of theory and a wry sufferer of fools. He is also discursive, entertaining and wise. The work amounts to an engaging account of the history and influence of Christianity over human culture. It is the most readable and artistically resonant academic book I have ever come across. Hart is not always right of course. At least I don't always agree with him. He is no particular friend to Catholics. Though fair enough in most of his statements, he errs massively towards the end of the book in one historical assessment. Yes. When Hart is wrong, he's wrong big. Consider this. Hart views the repentence forced on the emperor Theodosius by Saint Ambrose of Milan around the year 390 AD for killings committed by Roman soldiers, as being an historical defeat for the Christian faith. I dissent from this. In my view Saint Ambrose of Milan was proclaiming the authority of God and the truth of the gospel while risking his own life by refusing Theodosius entry to a church unless he came as a penitent for the killings committed by his troops. Hart is wrong to interpret this as a wrong turn for Christianity and to incorporate it into his critique of Catholicism. It was, I say again, a beautiful spectacular testimony of faith. Saint Ambrose wasn't humiliating anyone. He was giving true witness to the one real power in the universe. The power of God. The repentance of Theodosius may just have saved the emperor's immortal soul and countless other souls besides. It was a glorious repentance showing that even the richest and most powerful and most ruthless rulers must answer to God. And it showed that powerful men sometimes avail themselves of the mercy of God in a way that would have been historically unknown before the advent of Christ and his church and his servant Saint Ambrose of Milan. Hart merely sees the incident as a humiliation of the political power of the emperor, and as creating improper exponential power for the Roman Catholic Church. A sour note indeed David Bentley Hart. And you were doing so well. Anyhoo. I'm still giving this book my heartiest recommendation. It is a work of art. And Hart is certainly the best, I mean most accomplished, writer among present day champions of faith against atheism. Snooty enough too as befits a Yaley: "... one hardly need mention the extraordinary sales achieved by Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, already a major film and surely the most lucrative novel ever written by a borderline illiterate." Cuddna said it better myself.
7. Man's Search For Meaning, by Victor Frankl. Published by Rider Books. The title is a bit pretentious but the content certainly touches the heart. Mr Frankl was a prisoner in a Concentration Camp during the second world war and encountered horror and depravity in equal measure while there. This book was supposedly first published in 1946 under a German language title which translates as A Psychologist Surives The Concentration Camp. They should have kept that title but perhaps it was deemed too austere for the modern era. Frankl is a psychologist of the Vienna school. But he is kinder and more spiritual than either Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung. He seems to tell fewer lies than Freud too. The book is divided into two parts. The first being a simple account of his experiences as a prisoner, the second giving an exposition of his psychological theories. I found the theories a little bit intrusive. But there is wisdom here. And some beautifully apposite Biblical quotations. At the end I concluded that Mr Frankl wasn't just another would be guru peddling a product. I think he's the real deal. Not for his psychological theories. But for his belief in the limitless capacity of human beings to heal by the grace of God. His tale is well told. I was most moved by an account of him working as a forced labourer in the snow and thinking of his wife. He did not know that his wife was already dead. He felt her presence. At that moment a little bird flew down and stared at him fixedly. I had a similar experience thinking about my mother in the garden last week.
8. The Prince Of Darkness, 50 Years Reporting In Washington, by Robert D Novak. Published by Crown Forum, New York. The prince of darkness in the title is of course Novak himself. Ever the egoist even in repose, he looks back on a lifetime reporting the American political scene. He seems to see himself as a collossus brooding over momentous events. He's not. But he is a tremendously accomplished fellow. And he can write. The book will be fascinating for anyone who has watched American politics over the past fifty years. Novak, unlike many commentators, actually has something to say. Consider his assessment of CNN executive producer Rick Davis. Novak writes with scabrous good humour: "Like many business executives he brought to the table no particular talents." The book is fascinating for other reasons aside from its straight talking style. It contains an important exposition of events surrounding one of America's greatest ever scandals, the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson affair. Towards the end of his career, Novak who as a journalist had always moved easily among competing political factions, suddenly found himself being demonised by Democrats wishing to discredit President George W Bush over the Iraq war. The Democrats and their media sympathisers sensed the chance for blood when Novak named Valerie Plame a CIA employee in one of his reports. Novak was right to name Valerie Plame. Her name was already in the public domain and it was certainly in the public interest that the public should know Valerie Plame had been responsible for recommending her husband Joe Wilson (a life long Democratic Party supporter) to go on a research mission to Africa charged with investigating whether Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium for nuclear bombs. Valerie Plame recommended her Democratic Party anti war husband (who loathed President Bush) to go on that mission (on behalf of President Bush) as doing so would provide her with a chance to improperly, outrageously and grotesquely manipulate the government policy of the United States of America, thereby preventing President Bush from taking direct action against Saddam Hussein's terror regime. It was absolutely in the public interest that the public and all the rest of us should know Democratic Party supporting factions in the intelligence services were attempting to govern America from the shadows. Joe Wilson spent a few days in Africa, did nothing, and came home claiming Saddam hadn't been trying to buy uranium. When Novak reported Wilson had been recommended for the job by Wilson's own wife Valerie Plame, the Democratic Party and the liberal media attempted to whip up a firestorm in support of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson by claiming Novak's naming of Valerie Plame had endangered her life as a CIA agent. It hadn't. As previously stated, Valerie Plame had already been named elsewhere. And she wasn't an agent. She was an employee. In any case, with the Dems desperate to discredit the Bushwhacker, and the Plames desperate to cover up their own attempted hijacking of governmental policy, Robert Novak for the first time in his life found himself in a situation where people and organisations with exponential power were trying to destroy him. His account of the snowballing media campaign and the shabby treatment meted out to him by former media colleagues is both horrifying and poignant. Towards the end of the book Novak talks with genial warmth about his spiritual awakening. A lifelong bon viveur, careerist, big drinking, journo, he suddenly felt a deeper calling he couldn't deny and became a Catholic. He describes how Kitty Kelly, whom he refers to as "the notorious pop biographer," demanded of him: "What in the world made you become Catholic?" And Novak replied: "The Holy Spirit."
9. There Is A God, How The World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, by Antony Flew (Writing with Roy Abraham Varghese.) Published by Harper One. The title promises slightly more than the book delivers. A lifelong atheistic philosopher, Antony Flew recounts how he came to believe God exists through a rational assessment of data based evidence. He states that he has realised science itself indicates the presence of a creator God in the universe. I found the book pleasant reading. I kept thinking of something Jesus once said about there being more rejoicing in heaven for one sinner who returns to the fold than over a hundred who never strayed. It would be a joy throughout all time if this formerly implacable atheistic philosopher came all the way to Christ. Mr Flew's realisation about the reality of God will be significant for many readers. It is particularly sweet testimony for Christians who are accustomed to being sneered at by people of Mr Flew's rank and calibre. The premise of the book remains momentous. Momentous even for those of us who think we've believed for years.
10. The Confessions Of Saint Augustine, translated by EM Blaiklock. Published by Hodder classics. This book annoyed the hell out of me. Translator EM Blaiklock in his introduction reveals a distaste for Saint Augustine that is most unsettling. You see folks, I don't really want to read Saint Augustine as translated by a guy who can't stand him. Right at the end of his introduction Mr Blaiklock reveals: "The mystical ponderings of the last three books are for all that quite detachable and it is even a little difficult to probe the writer's purpose in placing them thus. They seem laboured in their striving for linkage and are rather the utterance of the Bishop of Hippo than of the embattled man striving Godwards. We have taken leave to omit them." You have taken what??? I unfortunately read these words of EM Blaiklock's after I had bought the book. So the book I bought contained only those portions of Saint Augustine's writings that Mr Blaiklock thought I needed to see. If you're buying The Confessions Of Saint Augustine, and I recommend you do, do not buy this version as arbitrarily truncated by EM Blaiklock. Buy another version and check that it contains the full thirteen volumes. In many ways Saint Augustine is, in the best sense of an old fashioned cliche, a man for our times. He was Bishop of Hippo 1600 years ago when barbarian tribes were on the brink of wiping Christian civilisation off the map. The barbarians did indeed engulf Augustine's world. But his books survived and helped transmit Christian culture to a new era. Ausustine's best one liner about God: "I came to love you late, oh beauty so ancient and so new." Now that's what I call music!
11. The Jeeves And Wooster Books, by PG Wodehouse. Published by Random House. This is a general recommendation. The Jeeves and Wooster books featuring a rich young Englishman and his inspired servant have been enduringly popular for the past seventy years.The compendium editions are a bit bulky so I advocate buying individual titles. PG Wodehouse is not just a humourist but a genius of English prose. He is an immortaliser of a world that, if it never really quite existed in actuality, has at the same time never really quite passed away from our imaginations. It is the England of sleepy towns, and Lords and Ladies, and the comedy of manners, and gleaming spires, and the bubbling social scene, and the treasure trove of language. Wodehouse wrote a whole passel of books but I endorse several as his funniest. Namely: "The Code Of The Woosters," "The Inimitable Jeeves," "Right Ho Jeeves," and "Joy In The Morning." Buy em individually. If you must buy compendiums, check that the above titles are in em. "Right Ho Jeeves," contains the scene where a drunk Gussie Fink Nottle presents the prizes at a school ceremony. Wodehouse sets the scene thusly: "In this hall the youth of Market Snodsbury had been eating its daily lunch for a matter of five hundred years, and the flavour lingered. The air was sort of heavy and languorous, if you know what I mean, with the scent of Young England and boiled beef and carrots." Humourist Frank Muir has asserted that this scene is one of the ten funniest pieces of comic writing in existence. He's not far wrong. "The Inimitable Jeeves," is more episodic than some of the others I've mentioned. It reads like a collection of linked short stories rather than a complete novel. I single it out because it contains some superlative moments when Bertie Wooster and friends are betting on which Vicar will have the longest sermon. A later gambling coup involves an attempt to fix the egg and spoon race at a village fete. Anyway. The four Wooster books I've cited are his finest. I also have a soft spot for a book featuring different characters called "Psmith In The City," about an upperclass chap forced to work in a bank.

surprised by joy


chateau life

Following Mam's death, Padre Peter moved back into the chateau for a few weeks.
He hasn't lived at home for twenty years and I was not optimistic about the move.
I thought he might find our quaint country ways well nigh cosmically insufferable.
I was sure he'd be at least a little perturbed by the Dad's and mine own nocturnal perambulations.
But no.
My brother the Padre has shown no signs of obvious discommodement.
Good humoured, serene and to all intents and purposes beatifically at peace, he has lived among us.
Finally I could take it no more.
"How come we're not upsetting you at night Pete?" I challenged him earlier this week.
"I bought ear plugs," he explained matter of factly.
The only time he did get a bit miffed was over Paddy Pup's regular intrusions into his bedroom.
On Monday evening as I returned from a coffee hunting expedition to the town of Newbridge, Pete accosted me in the hall.
He seemed to be labouring under a grande pression.
He was in fact in a state of comic book exasperation, all waving hands and bulging eyes.
"I've just found your dog," he burst out, "lying on MY bed, with his arse on MY pillow, and MY underpants in his mouth."
"He loves those," I answered unperturbed.
"I don't think I can ever wear those underpants again," muttered Pete morosely as I exited towards the kitchen.

Friday, December 17, 2010

book reviews

Jane Eyre by One Of The Brontes.
A book notable as the first appearance in literature of the hero-as-bollox.
(cf: Wuthering Heights, Gone With The Wind, and Polly Of Primrose Hill.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

this just in

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 3:55 PM
Subject: RE: the ineluctable modality of being

Mr. Healy,


I just found your message of 10/13/10 in my email junk mail folder. I had not previously read your work. I visited your website just now and saw there the messages you have posted. I regret that you have had any concerns about plagiarism, but seeing the two poems I can certainly understand why you might. My poem was entirely my own composition in response to the prompt given in the Chronicle of Higher Education's poetry contest, which invited poems based in some way on Keats' On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.  I agree with Lawrence Biemiller's evaluation (as it appears on your site) that this is an instance of a "great-minds-think-alike coincidence."


I am glad to know that you have had some success with your poem. While mine received an honorable mention on the Chronicle website, I do not expect it to be published elsewhere.


I am hoping this will allow your mind to be at ease on this matter.


With all due respect,




Garry M. Breland, Ed.D.

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Psychology and Counseling

William Carey University

498 Tuscan Avenue

Hattiesburg, MS 39401

(601) 318-6101  (office)

(601) 318-6413  (FAX)

(601) 408-1080  (cell)


From: James Healy []
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 6:31 PM
To: Breland, Garry
Subject: the ineluctable modality of being


Hey Doc

I was intrigued recently to see a poem on The Chronicle website, attributed to you under the title On First Looking Into Groening's Homer.

I wrote a poem of this title and published it several years ago.

Perhaps you have read my work?

James Healy



James Healy
Editor The Heelers Diaries

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

confucius he say

No one ever got rich suing poets.

in the corridors of academe

Twenty years ago I wrote a poem as a tribute to The Simpsons cartoon. My poem was published several times to modest acclaim. A revised version was published on The Heelers Diaries in 1998 and has been repeated here on odd occasions since then. The poem ran as follows...
On First Looking Into Groening's Homer
by James Healy
Much have I wandered on television's roads
Many cowboy and detective serials and sitcoms have I seen
Round many reruns of Magnum have I been
Which the networks in fealty to Aaron Spelling Productions hold
But never did I breathe the pure serene
Until Matt Groening began merchandising The Simpsons loud and bold.
Then felt I like some watcher of Desperate Housewives
When a new piece of salacious titillation swims into his ken
Or like stout Eastwood when with eagle eyes
He looked at a street punk with a wild surmise
And shot him over and over again.
In April of 2010 a poem with the same title as my own appeared on an internet site called The Chronicle. The poem ran as follows...
On First Looking Into Groening's Homer
By Garry Breland
Oft I surfed the channels bored to death
And many informercials did I pass -
Through Mash and Taxi reruns in a flash
And talking heads who ranted out of breath
I'd heard about Matt Groening and his art.
Curious I found The Simpsons show,
Where first I heard his Homer utter "D'oh!"
And thought I'd found our culture's lowest part.
Should I call and cancel cable service?
Luddite ways adopt forever more?
No, that would only serve to prove me churlish.
Better to be a beacon on this shore -
Like Derrida, I'll look beneath the surface
For what this vox populi might have in store.
On discovering this piece of work, I wrote to Garry Breland at his published email address
My missive ran:
"Hey Garry.
I have just read your rather fine poem entitled On First Looking Into Groening's Homer. It bears some interesting similarities to a rather fine poem I wrote twenty years ago entitled On First Looking Into Groening's Homer.
James Healy"
Mr Breland did not reply.
Next I contacted The Chronicle website directly...
From: James Healy
To: The Editor, The Chronicle           October 2010.
You recently published a very fine poem attributed to one Gary Breland under the title "On First Looking Into Groening's Homer."
This poem bears a remarkable similarity to a poem of my own entitled "On First Looking Into Groening's Homer," which was first published in 1991 and last published on The Heelers Diaries in 2008.
What say you?
James Healy
From: The Editor, The Chronicle
To: James Healy
I have looked on our site for an author with the name you mention and can find no trace of him.
The Editor
Due to a certain weariness with the vicissitudes of life I took a break from this effervescent correspondence for two months before resuming thusly...
On Nov 26, 2010, at 3:37 AM, James Healy wrote:
For the attention of: Lawrence Biemiller, Editor, The Chronicle.

Dear Lawrence.
You have published a poem entitled "On First Looking Into Groening's Homer" on your internet site The Chronicle. The poem you have published bears a remarkable similarity to a poem of mine entitled "On First Looking Into Groening's Homer."
My own poem was written in 1991 and published several times since then.
The poem you published was purportedly written by one Gary Breland.
I have contacted The Chronicle about this matter once before and the response was frivolous.
The next contact from me will be through lawyers.
James Healy
Editor The Heelers Diaries
A reply was furnished as follows.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, November 26, 2010 4:20 PM
Subject: Re: dear lawrence

Hi Mr. Healy,

The poem we published was part of a poetry contest in which we sought entries inspired by "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer" (you can read about the contest at As you might anticipate (though I did not), this challenge inspired a number of quite direct imitations of the original, not only Mr. Breland's but also "On Last Looking Into Groening's Homer," "On Last Looking at a Student's Paper," "On Looking Into Norton's Keats," "First Thoughts Provoked by 'On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer,'" "On First Looking Into Hubble's Universe," and so forth and so on. You can read them all on our poetry-month blog. I particularly recommend the winning poem, which you can read about on

As for similarities between your poem, which I've looked up, and Mr. Breland's, it seems to me that they do not extend much beyond the title and the underlying idea, and both of those seem to me to be pretty likely to occur to any "Simpsons" fan presented with a challenge like the one we offered. Of course, I'm not a lawyer. Had your poem mentioned Derrida, or had Mr. Breland's mentioned "stout Eastwood"—which I loveI'd be a lot more concerned. As it is, my guess is that you're looking at a great-minds-think-alike coincidence here, not plagiarism.

Have a good weekend.

-- Lawrence Biemiller
Senior Writer
The Chronicle of Higher Education
1255 Twenty-third Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
And now the readers will decide. Our light hearted comic stylings belong to the ages...



Monday, December 13, 2010

heelers oddscapades 2010

(Celebrating the great diversity that unites us!)
The Top Ten
Oddest name for a new hamster: Field Mouse Von Rommel.
Oddest film I actually liked: Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo.
Oddest greeting on a wintery December morning: The neighbours kid Hannah crying out "Hi James, my cat ate another of your robins."
Oddest bed fellows: Well I certainly never expected to write in defence of Julian Assange and his anti American anti Western Wikileaks blog. Nor did I ever expect to agree with Poor-Little-Rich-Girl-Who-Married-A-Muslim Jemima Khan or Lifelong-Supporter-Of-Communist-And-Islamist-Murderocratic-Dictatorships John Pilger, both of whom have also honorably defended Julian Assange.
Oddest epiphany: When my cousin Thomas asked me why the Leinster Leader fired me and I replied "Because I'm a slob."
Oddest episode of Southpark that I actually liked: The one where Santa Claus is captured by Saddam Hussein's henchmen and tortured, and the Son of the Hebrew God launches a rescue mission with the Southpark kids. Particularly the bit where an Iraqi torturer produces an electro prod and Santa says "No, not Santa's balls," and the guy electrocutes him and then Santa says "You f---n b------d, I'm gonna f---n kill you."
Oddest news reportage: Jointly awarded to Sky News and Al Jazeera. The night Al Qaeda bombed Stockholm, Sky News insisted on leading with a three day old news story about student protests in London. Sky only gave the Stockholm attack top billing on its bulletins after midnight when most viewers were safely in bed. The reason Sky did this is because Sky is financed by Al Qaeda supporting members of the Qatar royal family. Sky's main revenue stream comes from advertisements for the airline Qatar Air. So Sky ain't never gonna focus on the growing threat from the Jihadis. Not until they nuke London. Al Jazeera is also financed by the Qatari royal family. Al Jazeera's main story the night Al Qaeda bombed Stockholm was a typically delusional report about an environmentalists conference at Cancun in Mexico. No Islamic Jihad here folks. Move along quickly now.
Oddest crassness in news reportage: The perennial winner CNN takes the biscuit again for the following two doozies. Firstly reporter Nick Valencia when describing a murderous drug gang in Mexico that perverts Christianity to enslave local communities, said: "The drug cartel is rooted in religion." Hardly Nick. Perverting a religion to destroy lives hardly amounts to a commitment to, or inspiration by, that same religion. Very poor Nick. Karl Marx saved the world, did he Nick? Got a degree in politics, did you Nick? Listen mate. You need to go to church. Secondly CNN Muslim In Chief Fareed Zakaria who a few years ago was responsible as editor at the near defunct Newsweek Magazine for a fake story claiming Americans had flushed Korans down the loo, (a story that invigorated Al Qaeda and got our soldiers killed) this evening accused another journalist of exagerrating Muslim support for terrorism. Fareed Zakaria was permitted by CNN to disseminate a ludicrous statistic in his attempts to discredit Glen Beck of Fox News. Fareed Zakaria claimed live on air that "only 0.01 percent of Muslims support terror." The broad mass of the people will more easily believe a big lie than a small one, eh CNN! In fact, surveys throughout the Muslim world have repeatedly shown high levels of support for terrorism with as many as 70 percent of Muslims admitting to supporting terrorism "in some circumstances." When the circumstances are specified, ie "against Israel," or "against America," or "against the West," the number of Muslims who admit to supporting terror is actually higher.
Oddest sense of irony: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accusing America of being anti democratic and unethical after Prime Minister Putin read a private American diplomatic cable which his agents had stolen and handed over to Julian Assange's anti American website Wikileaks and which contained an accurate assessment of Putin's Russia as a mafia State and a further assessment of Putin himself as the real power in Russia with the titular President Dmitry Medvedev merely a sidekick Robin like figure to Putin's Batman. (Not the good sort of robin either. - Ed note.)
Oddest Nobel Prize Winner: Imprisoned Chinese humanitarian Lu Xiaobo. He was an odd choice because he actually deserved to win. In recent years the Nobel Prize Committee have been handing out Nobel Prizes to people who did not deserve to win, namely Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and any other member of the left leaning American Democratic Party who bothered showing up at the gates. Apparently this year the Nobel Committee recognised that the prestige of the Nobel Prize had been so damaged by their previously serially blatent awarding of it to leftist politicians that they actually finally decided to give it to someone who truly was risking his life in the cause of peace and freedom for suffering and enslaved humanity. I genuinely didn't see it coming.
Oddest reason why I believe the Bible is true: There are almost no accounts in the Bible of Jesus' childhood. If the Bible was made up, you'd think the Lord's childhood would be a goldmine of fictional miracles and adventures. The only incident from his childhood that is recounted for us, is when he goes missing at the age of twelve and Mary finds him in the temple surrounded by the elders. She asks: "Why did you do this to us?" The little boy answers: "Don't you know I must be in my father's house." That's it. That's all of his childhood that we get to hear about. And it's a story that doesn't even add up. If they were faking the Bible, I'd have expected them to drop this story because it raises more questions than it answers. My own mother once told me: "Jesus must have been a little rip when he said that in the temple." I think the only reason that story is included in the Bible is because every word of it is true.