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No Rest for the Wicked

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Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

The phrase “no rest for the wicked” is based on Isaiah chapter 48 verse 20 and chapter 57 verses 20 and 21:

20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 21 There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

The assertion at that the verse refers to eternal torment is not supported by the context or by any Bible commentary of which I am aware.

The actual idea Isaiah expresses in his book is that humans will have a better life if they allow God to guide them. To illustrate, here are verses 17 through 19 of chapter 48:

This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
your well-being like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants would have been like the sand,
your children like its numberless grains;
their name would never be blotted out
nor destroyed from before me.”

So those who follow God’s advice for life as conveyed through prophets such as Isaiah will prosper. In contrast, the “wicked” (defined as those who sin by doing such things as worshiping idols or engaging in dishonest business practices) will experience unnecessary troubles in life. It is in this sense that there is no peace for them.

Within Christianity the view is that all humans are sinners, just some more than others. As the Apostle Paul says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). So even a believer could experience self-inflicted troubles due to failure to apply Biblical advice for stress-free living. Until well into the 20th century the average person would have been familiar with these ideas whether they were a believing Christian or not.

So the phrase “no rest for the wicked” is a self deprecating suggestion that whatever new difficulty has arisen is a consequence of the speaker’s own failure to organize and conduct their life in the best way.

A version of this article was posted at

Written by David Chappell

July 9th, 2024 at 8:00 am

First Review of Star Wars in the Soviet Union

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The review as it appeared in the Literary Gazette. Caption under photograph of storm trooper: This is what one of the “heroes” of the film War of the Stars looks like.

This is the first review of Star Wars published in the Soviet Union. It appeared in the Literary Gazette, a Moscow weekly, on September 7, 1977.

It is unlikely the reviewer had had an opportunity to see the film, nor would most of her readers be able to see it anytime soon. All we learn about the plot is that the main characters engage some kind of formidable tyrants in light-saber battles. The emphasis on the physical appearance of the characters suggests that posters and production stills are the primary source. Over half the text is devoted to portraying the film as a crass commercial endeavor aimed at undiscerning viewers.

The name of the film is translated as War of the Stars, a misunderstanding which was corrected in later reviews. The first month’s box office receipts appear to be overstated. The statement that a sequel will be out in a few weeks is puzzling seeing as The Empire Strikes Back was not released until May of 1980.

Mass Culture 77
Space Horror Films

By Yu. Varshavskaya

This summer American movie theaters were hit with a new wave of “movie madness”. According to the press, the film War of the Stars by American cinematographer George Lucas is breaking all box office records: $60 million profit from the first month of showings. From morning until midnight War of the Stars is shown in overflowing theaters. In order to get into the film one must either stand in line for several hours or pay a scalper a fabulous sum – 50 dollars.

And so “evil spirits”, huge disasters, and giant sharks have been replaced on the American screen by horrors of truly cosmic proportion – monstrous tyrants who terrorize our Galaxy. The battle against them is waged by the heroes of the film – a certain round-faced princess, a village youth, an elderly knight of the Round Table, an ape-man, and two robots. One of them, the enormous gilded robot Threepio, is endowed with human speech. The other, Artoo-Detoo, resembles an automobile and expresses himself in “star” beeps.

The plot of the movie, as the French weekly Express writes, is rather simplistic.

But to really frighten the locals the makers of the film have employed the most modern of weapons – a laser ray with which the heroes of the film do battle as with rapiers. Nightmarish monsters are constantly appearing on the screen: a lizard-man, gnomes without faces, a living mummy with a head with rubber tubes sticking out, fantastical animals…

At the same time as shooting of this blood curdling “masterpiece” which the cinematographer George Lucas calls “the western of the future” was going on, a number of related commercial schemes were undertaken. The publisher Ballantine released a novel under the same name. Then Marvel Comic Book [sic], a publisher which specializes in comics, signed a contract with the movie studio Fox and, having divided the script into six parts, began issuing a monthly War of the Stars comic book. The press run is a million copies. Right after that the classic accouterments of “mass culture” appeared: buttons, tee-shirts, movie posters, and soundtrack records. And the children’s toys should be in the stores in time for Christmas [literally “New Year’s”, the holiday to which the Soviets had transfered the Christmas tree and gift-giving tradition]: a miniature Artoo-Detoo which makes the very same sounds as the original, and the gilded Threepio. The biggest “find” of the film, the toy laser rapier, is not invented yet, but work has already begun.

In the next few weeks there is due to appear on the movie screens of the USA a new episode of War of the Stars which is likely to be as mediocre as it will be profitable. This is not to be wondered at. The mass audience is ready to bite at such pieces of “art” in order to, when leaving the movie theater, see that things outside are fairly quiet…

Written by David Chappell

May 23rd, 2024 at 4:08 pm

Posted in reviews,society

Double Negation

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A few years ago a user on Stack Exchange asked why the construction used in this English sentence is not considered a double negative.

If I don’t use the microphone, nobody will hear me.

This question was presumably prompted by the familiar admonition not to use a double negative. This warning refers to dialect constructions such as in this sentence:

If I don’t use no microphone, no one will hear me.

Notice that in the first clause both the verb and its direct object are negated. This is negative concord because the two negatives are intended to reinforce one another. They are in concord or agreement.

In standard English we would instead say:

If I don’t use the microphone, no one will hear me.

Leaving asside the question of whether non-standard forms of English should be used, the caution should not be understood literally. It does not mean that all uses of double negation violate the rules of formal English. A more precise statement of the rule would be: Standard English does not recognize negative concord as a valid construction.

In standard English double negatives cancel one another out to produce a positive as in mathematics. To illustrate this a teacher might ask the children to interpret the dialect sentence above as if it were standard English. The teacher guides them to this interpretation:

I must not use a microphone if I want to be heard.

This is nonsense, but it serves to illustrate an important point: double negatives are not forbidden in standard English, they simple cancel one another out. It is only an error if negative concord was intended. For example, this use of a double negative is good literary English:

Your complaints have not gone unheard.

The “not” and “un-” cancel one another out, so the sentence means:

Your complaints have been heard.

Though the emphasis is a little different. One negation serves to describe what the interlocutor fears while the second serves to indicate that it has not in fact taken place.

Now let us return to the question from Stack Exchange:

If I don’t use the microphone, nobody will hear me.

This sentence has two negations, but it does not display netagive concord. Nor do the negations cancel one another out (as in our example from literary English) since they are not in the same clause. Instead the two negations are in separate clauses joined in an if-then construct. We can simplify the sentence to this:

If no microphone, then no hearers.

We must use two negations in this sentence because the message is about two negations: negating the microphone negates the hearers.

A version of this post was originally published as an answer on Stack Exchange:

Why is, “If I don’t use the microphone, nobody will hear me,” not considered a double negative

Written by David Chappell

May 9th, 2024 at 11:08 am

Posted in english,language

Mystifying Marconi

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A portrait of a man in suit and tie

Guglielmo Marconi in 1909

My attention was recently drawn to an article in the Provincetown Independent entitled The Marconi Mythology. This makes the claim that “His ideas were derived from spiritualism, a pseudo-religious movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries by which people sought to commune with the spirit world.” It also claims that Marconi believed that “sound never disappears from Earth” and that one could potentially construct a device to recover the sound of the angels singing in Bethlehem!

This last claim is the more extrordinary. But I can find no evidence that it is true. Not only can I find nothing to connect Marconi with these ideas, I can find nothing online to suggest that the possiblility of recovering “lost sounds” is even a known belief.

The idea that he might have been interested in spiritualism is at least plausible. A number of well-known figures of the day were receptive to the idea of communicating with the dead including Sir Arthur Conan Doyl, biologist Alfred Russell Wallace, and English physicist and radio pioneer Oliver Lodge. But Marconi does not seem to have been one of them.

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Written by David Chappell

January 2nd, 2024 at 7:04 pm

Unsubscribing from Zoom Release Notes E-Mails

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Button labeled "Following" with drop-down menu open

For a long time now Zoom has been sending release notes to the e-mail account I used to register. I didn’t want this and so I scrolled to the bottom looking for a way to unsubscribe, but found nothing. I also searched the web where I found information on unsubscribing from meeting notifications, but nothing about the release note e-mails. Today I finally figured out how to unsubscribe.

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Written by David Chappell

February 11th, 2023 at 12:02 pm

Posted in computing

Why All Capitals?

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A news report in all upper case on the platen of a Model 15 Teletype

A Teletype Model 15 teleprinter
Attribution: John Nagle at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Q: Why do some users complete forms all in capital letters?

This is because early teleprinters and computer systems had no provision for lower case. Mixed case teleprinters came on the market in the 1930’s, but the standard US military teleprinter of World War II was the Teletype Model 15 (produced from 1928 to 1963) which only printed in upper case. This exposed an entire generation to official communications and reports typed in all upper case. This ‘official’ style was then duplicated by users of typewriters by engaging the Caps Lock toggle key.

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Written by David Chappell

October 17th, 2021 at 8:37 am

Posted in computing

Walking on Hypothetical Legs

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On September 1st a number of news outlets published stories about the discovery of the skeleton of a whale with four legs. If true, this would lend support to the popular theory that whales evolved from a four-footed land animal which gradually adopted an aquatic way of life.

In most cases the story was illustrated by an artist’s conception provided by one of the discoverers of the skeleton:

Creature with crocodile like snout, body of a skinny elephant, and long tail dives to attack snark lurking on bottom

All of the news stories I read leave the reader with the distinct impression that the skeleton as found actually has four legs.

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Written by David Chappell

September 17th, 2021 at 7:39 am

Posted in evolution,science

Radio Shack brand may return online

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The Radio Shack stores played a big role in my childhood. My first memory of Radio Shack is from around 1975 when I was six. I went with my dad when he bought new speaker cables. We went others times whenever our TV stopped working. Dad would take the back cover off, pull out some vacuum tubes, and take them in to Radio Shack to use the tab tester. Sometimes there would be a line for the tester. If the tester said a tube was weak, dad would go over to a counter and ask the man there for a new one.

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Written by David Chappell

December 12th, 2020 at 9:41 am

Posted in electricity,society

How Stocks Work

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Wall Street, NY in 1867

For many years nobody could explain to me the rational basis of the stock market. They told me that prices were controlled by the law of supply and demand. Investors expected the the price of shares in successful companies to rise and so they bought them. This demand then drove the price up. Those who got in early enough would make money when they later sold their appreciated shares. This is all true, but it did not answer my question: why do shares have value in the first place.

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Written by David Chappell

May 27th, 2020 at 11:44 am

Posted in explainer

Review of the Sun Joe CJ603E Wood Chipper

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Ever since I first saw them in a catalog years ago I have wanted own one of those garden waste chippers. Those I saw 30 years ago were made of metal and cost far more than I could justify paying. But consumer goods are getting cheaper and home wood chippers are no exception. One reason they are cheaper is that the stamped and folded bodies of heavy-gauge sheet metal have been replaced by molded plastic. Still the prices seemed too low for a useful machine. Surely they would break and jam unless the openings had been made deliberately small enough that nothing which would put a strain in the mechanism could be inserted in which case the machine would be of little practical value.

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Written by David Chappell

April 13th, 2020 at 9:18 am

Posted in electricity,reviews