Single-Season TV Shows

I’ve done a pick list for best TV shows, but this one is for shows that didn’t go beyond a single season. Underrated gems that deserve special mention.


Tales from the Loop first impression: An intriguing sci-fi TV series | Entertainment News,The Indian Express
1. Tales From the Loop. 2020. I worried about a Stranger Things rehash. The series is set in a small midwestern town in the ’80s (Ohio instead of Indiana), there’s a lab where dangerous experiments are performed, and kids play a key role. But where Stranger Things revels in the nostalgia of the ’80s, here the period is incidental. Stranger Things is full of anxious and overt horrors, using action sequences to supplement the character drama; Tales from the Loop shines in the small and quiet moments. Put it this way: Stranger Things is ET and Gremlins and Alien; Tales from the Loop is Blade Runner and Twin Peaks, filtered through a Kubrick-like lens where everything is held coldly at arm’s length, even as it magnifies the intimate and personal. Dialogue is restrained and used like a precious commodity; every word counts. We end up seeing lot of impossible wonders — time travel, body swapping, time freeze, snow that falls upwards, parallel-world travel, and robots with uncannily human traits — but the series isn’t about any of that. It’s about people; their fears, tragedies, and deepest hopes.

2. Godless. 2017. Marketed as a “feminist Western”, I think the label is misleading. The town of La Belle is dominated by women (since most of the husbands were killed in a mining accident), but the lead and supporting cast have an equal share of men and women, and the overall tone doesn’t really strike one as feminist. Which is good: film and TV suffer when politics become overt, and so I’m glad that Godless‘ excellence is carried purely on the strength of its artistic merits. It has all the classic ingredients of the western — outlaws, train heists, expansive scenery, disillusioned law officials, and a final shoot-out you’ll never forget — while being innovative enough so that it stands proudly among the greats in the western Renaissance. Jeff Daniels plays a baddie of mythic evil, and the underappreciated Jack O’Connell is used very well against him, as the adopted son now turned on his master. I’ve seen this series twice and I’m sure I’ll watch it again.
3. Bodyguard. 2018. This one pleased me on many levels. It’s a solid thriller, with smart twists that match its brutal intensity. The romance between the Home Secretary and her bodyguard is handled believably, and in just the right doses, before she is assassinated halfway through the series. Most of all, the end reveal completely blew my mind – that the Muslim woman was a cold-hearted jihadist, and not the victim we were led to believe. “You all saw me as a poor, oppressed Muslim woman. I am an engineer. I am a jihadi.” This she says to the appalled protagonist, who had rescued her from the clutches of her husband in the show’s opening scene of terrorism. The cries of Islamophobia were inevitable, but it was so refreshing to see a mainstream Netflix production treat the subject of jihad terror with realism for a change. I was very impressed with Richard Madden (“Robb Stark”); he makes a good hero who gets shafted in the worst ways. If he’s not beheaded at a Red Wedding, he’s being framed as a suicide bomber with a bomb strapped to himself that he can’t get rid of.

Behind Her Eyes, filming locations, filmed, set, Netflix, where, Louise, Adele, cafe, London
4. Behind Her Eyes. 2021. As I write this, Behind Her Eyes is currently the most watched show on Netflix, and I can understand why. It starts as an erotic thriller and then becomes a manipulative game of out-of-body experiences. Then the ending which has everyone in an uproar, but is stunningly perfect given the premise of astral-projection. It reminds me of The Sixth Sense: all the clues are there, so that when you rewatch the series you can understand who Adele really is. It’s established that Rob is gay; his jealous behavior around David and Adele was about his feelings for the former, not the latter; Adele’s junkie behavior, and risking rough neighborhoods; etc. The biggest treat to the series is Simona Brown. She plays a single mother who does all she can for her son, and gets caught in a love triangle against her better judgment. She’s a genuinely good person who is manipulated into surrendering her body — an unpleasant shock, but dramatically compelling, naysayers notwithstanding.

5. Des. 2020. David Tennant is one of my favorite actors of the 21st century. He can play a lovable eccentric (Doctor Who), a brooding curmudgeon (Broadchurch), and one of the nastiest villains to walk the Earth (Jessica Jones). In Des he channels that last as serial killer Dennis Nilsen. Between 1978 and 1983, Nilsen brought home and killed at least a dozen men and boys, keeping their corpses around before butchering them. When he got to that, he boiled their flesh, kept other remains around his apartment, and flushed other parts down the john. (I wonder if Nilsen inspired Walter Dragonette in Peter Straub’s novel The Throat.) The drama is set after his arrest, inside interrogation rooms and courtrooms, as the series explores why Nilsen did all this shit. As true crime dramas go, this one is a cut above most, thanks mostly to Tennant’s chilling performance. He casually chats with authorities about his monstrous actions, and there’s no looking away.

6. Unbelievable. 2019. Here’s another true crime drama, about a serial rapist who kept on the move, hopping over states to confound the police. He never raped in the same place twice, nor the same kind of victim twice. He chose young women and old, of varying ethnicity and social class. The show flashes back and forth between two equally compelling storylines, the first set in Washington State in 2008, focusing on one of the rapist’s early victims (above pic), the second set in Colorado in 2011, showing how two detectives from different cities ended up nailing the guy. The first storyline is heartbreaking, as the Washington State girl isn’t believed by anyone — not her stepmother, her flat mates, or the police; she is arrested and compelled to say before a judge that she had made up her rape attack. The second storyline shows the pair of female detectives on top of their game as they use every resource available to close in on the rapist. The story arcs join at the end in a triumphant payoff, made all the more rewarding since the portrayed events are true.

Photo credit: Netflix
7. The Queen’s Gambit. 2020. This brought me back to my chess days in high school, and it even got me playing against my computer. I lost every time — as I evidently have lost my touch. But I was never anything close to the prodigy of Beth Harmon. She’s based on the real world chess prodigies Robert Fischer, Boris Spassky, and Anatoly Karpov (mostly Fischer), and the show takes a lot of dramatic liberties, so this isn’t anything that could be called a “true story” without winking broadly. It’s wonderful drama all the same, showing a girl spiraling out of control with substance abuse, but almost never, ever, losing a chess game. What blows my mind is how exciting the chess games are to watch on screen. I wouldn’t have guessed that one could wring so much tension out of chess duels, but Queen’s Gambit proved me wrong.

Still from series 'Unorthodox' – young woman getting her hair shaved off
8. Unorthodox. 2020. One of the better religion-themed dramas in recent years: the story of a woman’s liberation from everyday life in an ultra-orthodox community. The Satmar Jews in New York are from Hungary, mostly descendants of Holocaust survivors, and they live to strengthen their ranks and churn out as many kids as possible. While this may sound inspiring, to some it can be suffocating. Women like Esty (the main character) are not allowed to explore their identities and are deprived of rights most American women take for granted. In the series Esty rebels and leaves her husband; she moves to Berlin where multiculturalism awaits. The power of Unorthodox lies in the way it acknowledges the beauty of conservative religion steeped in millennia of tradition, while showing how someone can be miserable in that tradition. We see the beauty of a Passover seder, not beautiful at all to Esty, and reminds us how easy it is to romanticize religion from a distance.
9. The Five. 2016. I’ve never read a Harlan Coben novel, but since watching The Five I’ve considered giving him a try. He’s known for extremely convoluted plots involving past events which have been misunderstood, this case being a five-year old boy (Jesse) who disappeared and was never found and presumed dead. Until his DNA turns up at a crime scene 20 years later. Now the boy’s older brother is a solicitor, and his three friends are a doctor, a police detective, and a social worker — all still friends and still wanting closure over Jesse’s disappearance. The shocking evidence of Jesse’s DNA leads the characters on an absolute mindfuck through the lives of his family and friends, and finally to the identity of Jesse himself. Few of the subplots and side mysteries have anything to do with each other, and yet it all feels like it hangs together. That’s the Coben magic.
10. I Am Not Okay With This. 2020. Take elements of Stranger Things (girl has telekinetic powers) and The End of the Fucking World (grief and mental health issues), and you get this series. It’s not on the same plane of excellence as the former, or as edgy as the latter, but it’s a very enjoyable watch. The protagonist lives an unenviable life: her father killed herself, her mother is a hollow bitch, and she suddenly realizes she has superpowers — she destroys things with her mind — that she can’t control. That’s what makes her powers interesting. Sophia Lillis is an actor to keep eyes on. She wasn’t impressive in It, but then she didn’t have a decent script. This series gives her a chance and hints at a promising career.

Word for the Day: “Incused” (Stephen Donaldson’s Self-Plagiarism)

Readers of Stephen R. Donaldson know that he likes to use words that send you to the dictionary: carious, disport, dolor, frangible, guerdon, hebetude, leal, moraine, otiose, puissance, roborant, serried, telic, and thurible among the many examples. But my favorite Donaldson word by far is incused:

incused: /inˈkyo͞ozd/

adjective: formed by stamping, or pressing, or hollowed out by engraving – usually in the case of coins

It was evidently Donaldson’s favorite too, because he used it twice in his Thomas Covenant series, plagiarizing himself in the exact same context. It’s when Linden Avery heals someone with her health sense. She does this by mentally reaching into people, exposing herself to their physical and emotional wounds, and through that intimate sharing of pain works her healing powers.

In the first case she heals a Giant. It occurs in The One Tree (1982) (book 2 of the second chronicles), as she is traveling by sea and the ship becomes mired with no winds to propel the sails. The Giants summon a sea-beast (three times as large as the Giants’ ship) and capture it with a hawser, so that as it flees it pulls the ship forward. Eventually the beast becomes ferocious in its movements and the hawser tears at the Giants’ arms, forcing them to free the beast by letting go of their holding blocks. They need to let go at the same moment, but one of the Giants lets his block go a nanosecond too late, and he is yanked forward by the sea beast and smashed against the rail of the ship’s prow. Linden immediately moves to heal him with her health sense:

“The Giant’s pain cried out to her. She saw his shattered bones as if they were limned in light, felt his shredded tissues and internal bleeding as though the damage were incused on her own flesh. He was severely mangled. But he was still alive. His heart still limped; air still gurgled wetly from his pierced lungs. Without hesitation she knelt at his side, cleared her mind of everything else. Reaching into him with her senses, she committed herself to the support of his faltering life. With her own pulse she steadied his, then bent her attention to the worst of his internal injuries. His pain flooded through her, but she refused to be mastered by it. She confronted his lungs. Broken ribs had puncture them in various places. Firmly, she nudged his tissues closed around the bones so that his lungs would not fill with blood…” (The One Tree, pp 60-61)

In the second case, Linden heals an army of warriors. It happens in Fatal Revenant (2007) (book 2 of the third chronicles), when she comes to the war camp of Berek Halfhand, sees most of his army on death’s door, and proceeds through the tents attempting to heal as many as she can:

“The naked human suffering was worse than any she had faced before. She felt every severed limb and broken skull, every pierced abdomen and slashed joint, as if they had been incused on her own flesh. Nevertheless she did not falter. She dropped to her knees beside the nearest of the wounded. This warrior was a woman, and the sword-cut which had split her breastplate had opened her ribs; her left foot had been amputated above the ankle; her shin suppurated with infection and anguish; slivers of bone protruded from a mass of pus and maggots. Linden closed her eyes; refined her attention; swathed the woman in Earthpower. She burned away infection and maggots, cleansed poisons, excised and sealed neurotic tissues, knit together shards of bone…” (Fatal Revenant, pp 169-171)

I’m not surprised Donaldson plagiarized himself. I doubt there’s a better word for conveying the pain Linden feels by healing others. “Incused” implies the pain is being imprinted or engraved on her. It’s hard to get stronger than that.

I liked this bit of self-plagiarism so much, that I plagiarized it myself in chapter 6 of my novella Stranger Things: The New Generation, in describing Eleven’s battle with the Llaza. When she calls the shadow creature into herself, accepting the entity as her personal flesh, she senses her son Mike who has been devoured by the creature, and then “felt his frozen tissues and poisoned bloodstream as if they were incused on her flesh”. Stranger Things is about homage, and that was my homage to Donaldson: plagiarizing his self-plagiarism.

U2 after 40 Years

I’m four months late with this post. In October 2020 I’d meant to do something for U2’s 40th anniversary. Their first album Boy was released on October 20, 1980, and since then they’ve given us 14 albums, some better than others, three of them masterpieces, even a few stinkers. The web is flooded with rankings of U2’s best songs, but you know these lists, they always cry for clearance. Here are my essential 20, plus a bonus to celebrate Boy. In seven cases I prefer a live version over the original studio.

1. Where the Streets Have No Name (Live, Rose Bowl, 2009). There’s no doubt that the live performance is the ultimate U2 song, but there is every doubt in my mind as to which live version is the best. There are so many good ones. Put a gun to my head, I go with the Rose Bowl 2009 version, but supremely honorable mentions include Boston 2001, Slane Castle 2001, and Chicago 2005. The segue openings are sublime — “Amazing Grace”, “40”, “All I Need is You”, being typical choices. More than any song I know (let alone a U2 song), “Streets” has been elevated to mountainous heights from its studio version, which, like many Joshua Tree tracks, doesn’t do much for me. If I were limiting my rankings to studio versions, this song wouldn’t even make my top 20.

2. Bad (Studio, 1984). Many feel the same way about “Bad” as they feel about “Streets” — that live versions have transfigured the song into something much greater. I strongly disagree. The studio version of “Bad” is as perfect as the song will ever get. The slow build, the notes Bono hits, and pulsating sonics combine to convey the desperation of the heroin addict in a soft-edged miracle of lyric transcendence. The live versions are good, don’t get me wrong; but by making it more aggressive, something essential is sacrificed.

3. Ultraviolet (Studio, 1991). Someone should write a book about the “speak-sing trilogy” of Achtung Baby: “The Fly”, “Until the End of the World”, and “Ultraviolet”. (Called that because Bono speaks the lyrics as much as sings them.) They all make my top ten, and the last is the best. It was the overlooked gem of the album back in the ’90s, rarely played at concerts, but has undergone something of a reassessment since the 360 tour of 2009. For me, it was always the greatest. It’s the moment on the album (track 10 out of 12) when you can breathe a bit, after all the despairing songs about shitty relationships. “Ultraviolet” celebrates the trials and hardships of love, and holds fast to the wisdom of lighting the way and moving forward, even if it’s all ultimately in vain.

4. Kite (Live, Slane Castle, 2001). Bono knocked this one out of the park at Slane Castle. It was soon after his father died (and only ten days before 9/11), and the song plays to that, but it really plays to any theme about remembrance and loss. When he sings “I’m a maaaaaaaaaaan, I’m not a child,” he hasn’t nailed a note like that since the studio version of “Bad”. It’s an incredibly beautiful song.

5. A Sort of Homecoming (Studio, 1984). Whenever I hear this song, it’s almost like hearing it for the first time. I doubt it could be ruined by overplaying it. Lyric wise, it’s the best thing Bono ever wrote, and he was inspired by the poet Paul Celan. Celan described poetry as “a kind of homecoming”, and while the poor bastard ended up drowning himself, I don’t imagine this song provoking any suicidal tendencies in anyone. It’s a slice of ambient perfection from the Unforgettable Fire masterpiece.

6. Beautiful Day (Studio, 2000). AKA “The song announcing a return to form”. But after the horrid stench of Zooropa and Pop, All That You Can’t Leave Behind wasn’t just a return to form; it was a mid-career masterpiece. And while “Kite” is my personal favorite from the album, “Beautiful Day” is a close second, blending melodies and hooks from the ’80s albums, along with the electronic textures from Achtung Baby. It was certainly a beautiful day when this song hit the air in 2000, and it sounds just as fresh after two decades.

7. The Fly (Studio, 1991). The speak-song that burned down the Joshua Tree almost single-handedly. Every song from Achtung Baby took part in that fire, but “The Fly” was the first released, and I’ll never forget my reaction when I first heard it: That is not U2. It was a hoax and I hated it. Within weeks I was eating my words. Abrasive industrial textures have never sounded smoother, and lyrics have never called forth an alter-ego as memorable as Bono’s Fly. And it’s Edge’s best guitar solo of all time.

8. One Tree Hill (Live, Denver, 1987). The second half of The Joshua Tree is the stronger half by far, and “One Tree Hill” is the unsung masterpiece. It was performed live only once (for the Rattle and Hum album), even better than the studio version, but the song was apparently too emotional for Bono to get through ever again, so the band hasn’t performed it since the Joshua Tree tour. I can understand why: it has a poetic intimacy that goes through you like an awl, even if you don’t understand who the song is about (a friend of Bono who was killed).

9. Drowning Man (Studio, 1983). At least “One Tree Hill” was played live once. “Drowning Man” never. Each are the best songs on their respective albums, and “Drowning Man” is probably the darkest song in the U2 canon. It’s about drug addiction (like “Bad” and “Running to Stand Still”) but with a sense of personal injury, as it was written for band member Adam Clayton who was struggling with substance abuse at the time. The cribbed lines from Isaiah 40, amazing guitar strokes, and Middle Eastern-sounding violins, all add up to one of the best pieces U2 has ever recorded, though it’s hardly recognized as such.

10. Until the End of the World (Studio, 1991). And here’s the third speak-song from Achtung Baby: the story of Judas’s betrayal reworked as a love story. It contains some of Edge’s edgiest guitar riffs, and while the studio version reigns supreme, some of the live versions give it a run for its money (see Paris, 2015, for example). It’s one of the greatest biblical songs of all time: the first verse is the Last Supper, the second the betraying kiss in Gethsemane, and the third Judas’ suicide.

11. City of Blinding Lights (Studio, 2004). I’m not a fan of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, but this song is magical. The band was trying to write another “Where the Streets Have No Name”, and didn’t do half a bad job. (The studio version of “City” buries the studio version of “Streets” IMO.)  It’s about their love of New York, but I hear it as love for any big city where you can lose yourself in a good way. Brings me back to my years in Portland Oregon every time.

12. New Year’s Day (Studio, 1983). It was hard choosing between the studio version and the live from Slane Castle, but I have to stick to the studio. “New Year’s Day” is about as purely perfect as a recorded song can be, and this is the song that everyone’s attention back in the ’80s, hinting at mountains of potential that was indeed unleashed in the three masterpiece albums following War. There’s a lot on War itself that hasn’t aged well for me (If I never heard “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “Two Hearts Beat as One” ever again, I wouldn’t care), but “New Year’s Day” hasn’t lost a dash of its power.

13. Mysterious Ways (Live, New York, 1992). While Achtung Baby is unquestionably the best U2 album, the Zoo TV tour is one of the band’s weakest outings, torpedoed in part by the inclusion of Zooropa songs, but also because of the gaudy “sensory overload” approach. The singular exception in that performance was “Mysterious Ways”, involving a belly dancer who served to tempt Bono. This was apparently a difficult song to write and nail down, but nail it down they did. It’s one of the most compulsive songs in the U2 canon, and watching the Zoo TV performance makes me want to get up and spin.

14. Red Hill Mining Town (Studio, 1987). The band members are often poor judges of their creations, and this song is exhibit-A. They never played it live (until 2017), believing it to be an overproduced and underwritten effort on The Joshua Tree. In fact it’s one of the very best tracks on The Joshua Tree, eclipsed only by “One Tree Hill” (and live versions of “Where the Streets Have No Name”). Bono howls and looses anguish in a way he has seldom since matched; it’s a song of social injustice and helplessness, and for my money hits stronger than the politics of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.

15. Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of (Live, Boston, 2001). Finally a gospel number that stands the test of time. In 1987 we all loved “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, but within a few years that song was setting my teeth on edge. “Stuck in a Moment” is a song about acknowledging fears, navigating them, resisting suicide, and waiting for the darkness to pass. The live version at Boston Fleet Center shows Bono and Edge at the top of their game. It’s only gotten better with the passage of time.

16. Mercy (Studio, 2004). Here’s another song that was judged mediocre by the band members, this time to the extent that it didn’t even make the album cut. If it had, it would have been the second best track on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. I stand in awe of how incompetent artists can be when judging their own work. Thanks to a fan with a bootlegged copy, we can all enjoy it. When I hear Taylor Swift’s “State of Grace”, I hear echoes of “Mercy”. It channels the energy of the Unforgettable Fire period.

17. Acrobat (Studio, 1991). Never been performed live, as the band members apparently believe it’s too depressing even by Achtung standards. Just when we get our second wind with “Ultraviolet” (track 10), “Acrobat” (track 11) pulls us down the hole of hypocrisy, alienation, and utter moral confusion. To which Bono can only offer the strained advice: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” I’m still hoping for a live outing, but it doesn’t look promising.

18. The Unforgettable Fire (Studio, 1984). The title track from the band’s first masterpiece is one that you feel in your blood. It harks back to the nuclear devastations of War, but with more maturity, and an ethereal buzz that stays in my head long after the song ends. Like so many songs from this album. Knowing that it was inspired by paintings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in the bombing aftermath makes it even more effective.

19. Running to Stand Still (Live, Tempe, 1987). AKA “Bad, Part 2”, though a much more subdued piece. “Bad” escalates to overwhelming crescendos; “Running To Stand Still” keeps it reflective. It almost seems intent to find beauty in the pain of heroin addiction. It begins like a blues song then becomes more orchestral, then fades back to blues on the end harmonica. It’s a damn beautiful piece; the live performance in Tempe remains supreme.

20. One (Studio, 1991). Like the Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, this is played at weddings by heartthrobs oblivious to the song’s true meaning. It’s not about two people in love so much they are practically one. It’s a nasty conversation between two lovers who have been through so much conflict and grief that it promises the end of their relationship. Play this at your wedding, perhaps, if you anticipate a nasty divorce. In Bono’s words: “The song is saying, ‘We are one, but we’re not the same. It’s not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive.” And in response to the song’s celebration at weddings: “Are you mad? It’s about splitting up!” It’s indeed a great song; just not for the reasons many people think.

21. Out of Control (Live, Slane Castle, 2001). A bonus song to celebrate Boy. At Slane Castle in 2001, the band members re-enacted their opening performance for Phillip Lynott in 1981: “I want to thank Phillip Lynott for letting us open the show… We’re a band from the north side of Dublin… We’re called U2, this is our first single… We hope you like it!” You can feel the energy of the audience feeding off the band members. This was a true homecoming celebration for the Irish boys, now men.


1. Where the Streets Have No Name (Live, Rose Bowl, 2009)
2. Bad (Studio, 1984)
3. Ultraviolet (Studio, 1991)
4. Kite (Live, Slane Castle, 2001)
5. A Sort of Homecoming (Studio, 1984)
6. Beautiful Day (Studio, 2000)
7. The Fly (Studio, 1991)
8. One Tree Hill (Live, Denver, 1987)
9. Drowning Man (Studio, 1983)
10. Until the End of the World (Studio, 1991)
11. City of Blinding Lights (Studio, 2004)
12. New Year’s Day (Studio, 1983)
13. Mysterious Ways (Live, New York, 1992)
14. Red Hill Mining Town (Studio, 1987)
15. Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out of (Live, Boston, 2001)
16. Mercy (Studio, 2004)
17. One (Studio, 1991)
18. The Unforgettable Fire (Studio, 1984)
19. Running to Stand Still (Live, Tempe, 1987)
20. Acrobat (Studio, 1991)
21. Out of Control (Live, Slane Castle, 2001)

My Tour of Dante’s Inferno (Circle 9 – The Lake of Treachery)

In the first part of my Inferno tour, I journeyed through Circles 1-7. In the second part, I suffered the horrors of Circle 8. Here is the final part: my trek across the frozen Lake of Cocytus, which imprisons the souls of the traitors.

Canto 23: The Giants (from Circle 8 to Circle 9)

I looked down in the final pit
Wanting badly now to quit
Knowing I couldn’t, the only way out
Was to finish Dante and Virgil’s route

The giants made my bowels churn
Many of them looking fierce and stern
Rising from below, over 1200 feet
The Lake of Cocytus, the frozen sheet

The giant I approached extended a hand
That could have easily held a rock ‘n roll band
I jumped on gagging at the beast’s pheromones
And braced myself for treachery’s zones:

First against family, slayers of kin
Second against country, betraying within
Third against guests or even one’s host
Fourth against lords – to sin the most

Every soul a supreme offender
Cast down on the frozen blender
They had broken oaths at every price
And were now caged in the rigid ice

As I was lifted down I felt the freeze
The air a brutal 15 degrees
Yet somehow my skin was kept protected
As a guest of Hell I was unaffected

I was swiftly set down at the lake’s edge
And I thanked the giant, giving my pledge
To make this last damned Circle count
And call these miserable souls to account

And I stepped on the ice.

Canto 24: The Traitors (Circle 9)

I step on the lowest Circle in Hell – the frozen Lake of Cocytus, where traitors are buried to their necks (at least), and devils swing mallets at their protruding heads. Lucifer is at the lake’s center. There are four zones of punishment: the outer circle for traitors against kin, the next for traitors against country, the third for traitors against guests or hosts, and the innermost zone for traitors against lords and rulers.

The outermost zone was full of heads
Glassy-eyed, as if on meds
Buried deep up to their necks
Tormented by the lake’s effects

I stepped around them, very slow
And looked upon the horror show
Of all the souls who’d killed their mothers
Fathers, sisters, cousins, brothers

Devils as usual patrolled the course
Abusing the heads without remorse
Hammering them with iron mallets
And chewing off ears to reward their palates

It was the worst punishment in Hell for sure
Except for the flatterers’ lake of manure
To be immersed in either shit or ice
I could never choose, I’d roll the dice

The heads of these traitors moaned around spit
Screaming only when the mallets hit
And I proceeded through the torture ground
Trying to ignore every sound

And then I gasped and stopped my walking
When I saw a head before me gawking
Trying to find the words to speak
Through a frozen mouth and frostbitten cheek:

“How have you come to us down here?
And speak loud, I can barely hear!”

“I’m a guest on tour of this awful place
And there’s much from memory I wish to efface
Who are you, and whom did you slay?
Or at least, I presume, foully betray?”

[Kashyapa I]
“I am Kashyapa of dynasty Mauryan
I had the soul and teeth of a lion
Hated by all, but I didn’t care
The throne was mine to seize on a dare.”

I knew the name of this Sri Lankan king
He usurped the throne and made it his thing
Entombing his father inside a wall
Buried alive to scream and bawl

“You had the soul and teeth of a shark
And never deserved to be monarch
I hope your father can see you now
Being made the devil’s chow.”

And sure enough, right then and there
Came a devil with no quarter to spare
Smashing the king’s head, as if to cheers
Then squatting to feast on both his ears

I left Kashyapa and then came next
To a soul demanding I pay him respects:

“Who are you, to expect submission?
I’m inclined to put you out of commission
Perhaps I’ll find a mallet to borrow
And find more ways to increase your sorrow.”

[Mehmed II]
“I am Mehmed the Conqueror, you infidel
It is you, not I, who should freeze in Hell
I smashed Constantinople once and for all
For the glory of Islam, may it never fall.”

“That’s enough to convict you, I grant
But not on this Circle as an ice plant
Which of your family did you slay?
As I’m sure you did, clear as day.”

[Mehmed II]
“I drowned my brother, it’s well known
To remove any chance he’d come for my throne
Better yet, I made it legal
To kill any relatives who might become regal:

‘Whichever of my sons inherits the crown
It behooves him to make his brothers drown.’
This I promoted with the force of a claw
And it became the norm like sharia law.

It only makes sense to remove any threat
Of which there are many, lest you forget
In the royal court, where a brother schemes
To sit the throne and fulfill his dreams.”

“If only that ‘justice’ had been done to you
Instanbul may have never come true
Perhaps today it would still be a beacon
And Eastern Europe not have weakened.”

At that he shouted and swore and defamed
I was tempted to kick him, then felt ashamed
These heads in the ice were invitations
To indulge my nastiest inclinations

I left him and walked for about a mile
Then came to a section that looked like an isle
Thousands of heads, and thousands more
Filled this region like an open sore

Questioning them I was able to determine
That they all needed a fiery sermon
For these were men who had killed their sisters
For the “sin” of being raped as resistors

They killed their daughters for the very same crime:
Having the gall to get raped in one’s prime
In the pecking order of family slayers
Honor killers were the worst betrayers

I gave into fury and went on a rant
To the souls it likely came out as a cant
But I was all sincere, 100 percent
And said exactly what I goddamn meant:

“Every one of you were ruled by shame
To absolve the guilty and dump the blame
On the victim who needed love and support
Your ‘honor’ came up mighty short.”

[Random soul]
“There’s no need for us to be reviled
We killed our women who’d been defiled
Or fornicated, or dressed like whores
It was only right to settle the scores.”

“Scores are settled on this frozen floor
Paying you back for all your gore
While your daughters and sisters bask in the light
Of paradise, hopefully, where all is right.”

I moved onward, straight to the center
And before long I came to enter
Zone number 2 in this ice-cap marsh
Where the souls now suffered even more harsh

The heads were buried up to the chin
Not the necks, as for traitors of kin
These heads could not even bow to deflect
The worst of the winds that blew unchecked

Traitors against country, nation, and state
Breaching their patriotic mandate
And the first of these turncoats to speak aloud
Was a soul of great hubris, who refused to be cowed:

“Watch where you walk, you careless dolt
I’m trying to sleep and you gave me a jolt
But as long as you’re here, stand to your right
And keep the wind out of my plight.”

“I think I’ll move the other way
And enjoy it as you bark and bay
The likes of you I will never obey
And who the hell are you, anyway?”

“I am Ephialtes of ancient Greece
Ostracized for making the peace
With Persians who outnumbered us 20 to 1
Anyone could see that Xerxes had won.”

“I would have ostracized you no less
What you did was for wealth and largesse
I’m glad you were stiffed on that traitor’s reward
You should have then fallen upon your sword.”

I walked away then without any grace
Leaving the winds to shatter his face
And it wasn’t long before I heard
A voice crying “Peggy, where are you, my bird?”

The head that cried was that officer of fame
Benedict Arnold, his cursed name
Calling for his wife, who was surely resting
In greener pastures with no protesting

I addressed him, asking him why he defected
But he seemed not to see me, as though disconnected
I was about to kneel and get in his face
When shouts from my left tore over the place

I was shocked to see an acre of traitors
White House rioters and demonstrators
Who stormed the Capitol on January 6
Shouting their odious politics:

“Give us Trump! He won the election!
To him we offer eternal subjection!
Give us Trump! America’s Savior!
Praise to all his vulgar behavior!”

The heads repeated their chant like sheep
Singing the praises of that fascist creep
I tried shouting over them in complete vain:
“Enjoy your death under Lucifer’s reign!”

The chants rose higher, and mallets swung
From devils annoyed by treasonous tongue
But bashing their heads just made it worse
Their praises became even more perverse

I rushed away as fast as I dared
From these Trumpians so mentally impaired
Sliding on the ice, and around every head
I reached a border and looked ahead

In Zone number 3 each soul lay supine
Buried in the ice, a horizontal line
Face exposed just barely to the sky
As tears pooled and froze in the eye

The comfort of weeping was denied these souls
Who had turned on their guests with vicious goals
Slaying them while under their roof
And calling down every form of reproof

And likewise guests who did the same
Slaying their hosts to utter shame
These were souls of the blackest hearts
Who deserved to be torn in a thousand parts

They groaned where they lay, hardly aware
How their moans sounded like a pitiful prayer
Begging release from their freezing tomb
And their irrevocable permanent doom

I approached a head that wouldn’t stop mewling
And asked him why he’d received this ruling:

“I am Lord Chancellor William Crichton
In the halls of fame, a Scottish titan
‘Twas I who hosted the Black Dinner
So my king would remain the royal winner.”

“Holy shit, it was that beheading
That inspired George Martin’s Red Wedding
You deserve to suffer this close to the center
With the shade of Douglas your eternal tormentor.”

“Douglas and his brother had to die
Don’t make me out to be the bad guy
It was just the way of medieval lords
Whatever it took, we protected our wards.”

“I hope it felt good, killing those boys
Who never remotely suspected your ploys
Even King James burned with hives
And begged you to spare their innocent lives.”

“The young James was naively kind
And sometimes even willfully blind
I wouldn’t risk or hedge my bets
And I kept him safe from Douglas threats.”

It was crystal clear to me by now
That a sin in Hell was a sacred cow
Beyond the reach of any regret
A badge of honor and coronet

I left Crichton, feeling soiled
Thinking of those that he’d despoiled
And further on I stopped to stare
At four souls lying in a square

Buried supine, and aligned precise
With faces exposed above the ice
They yakked incoherently, not making sense
I asked them to explain their hellish offense

“We’re here for treachery,” said one of the heads
“We killed Clan MacDonald – all in their beds
They offered us quarter and treated us nice
Clueless that they would pay our price.”

“You’re the shits who murdered your hosts
Then vanished from Glencoe like cowardly ghosts.
All because a pledge arrived too late
From a clan you’d already decided to hate.”

[One of the four]
“The MacDonalds could never be trusted
So quit acting so disgusted
We made an example to stifle rebellions
And to send a warning to any hellions.”

I left them to vent and spew their dreck
And then resumed my infernal trek
Which was finally nearing the end of the line
As I came to Zone 4 of Circle 9

Here the traitors were completely buried
Their heads beneath the ice unvaried
Twisted and bent, their bodies broken
By the Devil who’s name is often unspoken:

Lucifer, who was not far away
At the center of the lake, itching for prey
Trapped though he was, down in this hole
He could still reach out to wreck a soul

As he evidently had with this zone-4 bunch
Mangling the bodies in a horrible crunch
Two of the souls I could barely make out
But I knew them from photos and had no doubt:

One was the sniper, Lee Harvey Oswald
Who had left the American people galled
Shooting Kennedy, despite the claims
Of Olive Stone and conspiracy frames

Another was law student Ygal Amir
Who shot his prime minister like a musketeer
And many more assassins were buried below
Who had slain their lords long ago

I wasn’t sure why on the punishment scale
Betraying one’s lord was beyond the pale
What if one’s lord was especially vile?
For that I’d betray him and suffer a trial

If I’d been a Ruskie under Uncle Joe
I’d have vehemently opposed the status quo
And perhaps killed Stalin, given a chance
With sword or gun or even a lance

Lords who betray the people they serve
Get the betrayals they fucking deserve
Or so I believed at the end of my tour
Of Dante’s Inferno that I’d vowed to endure

And I went to Lucifer and returned home.

Here ends Part 3 of My tour of Dante’s Inferno.


Notes to Canto 24 (The Traitors)

Against Kin

Kashyapa I. “Kashyapa of dynasty Mauryan”: The king of Sri Lanka between 473-495 AD. He acquired the throne by overthrowing his father and usurping his brother who was the rightful heir to the throne. Then he killed his father by entombing him inside a wall.

Mehmed II. “Mehmed the Conqueror”: The Ottoman Sultan who had two reigns, between 1444 and 1446, and then 1451 to 1481. He took Constantinople in 1453, making it Istanbul, and wrote brutally harsh laws, including the Law of Governance, which stipulated that anyone who succeeded to the Sultan’s throne could slay his brothers so they could not try claiming or usurping the throne. (Just as he had done to his own brother.)

Honor killers. “For the sin of being raped”: Most honor killers (currently 91%) throughout history have been Muslim fathers or brothers, killing their daughters or sisters who were raped.

Against Country

Ephialtes of Trachis. “Ephialtes of ancient Greece”: This man betrayed his homeland, letting the Greeks get slaughtered at Thermopyle in 480 BC, hoping to be rewarded by the Persians (which he was not).

Benedict Arnold. “A voice crying “Peggy, where are you, my bird?” Arnold began by fighting for America in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), but defected to the Brits in 1780. Peggy Shippen was the Brit he married after defecting.

The White House mob. “Who stormed the Capitol on January 6”: On the day of Epiphany in 2021, thousands of Trump supporters stormed the White House in defiance of the election results that validated Joe Biden as the new president.

Against Guests or Hosts

William Crichton. “‘Twas I who hosted the Black Dinner”: Crichton was a knight and the Keeper of Edinburgh, charged with safeguarding the young king, James II, who was ten years old in 1440. On November 24, 1440, Crichton invited the 16-year old Earl of Douglas and his 10-year old brother to Edinburgh Castle as guests, and then beheaded them both, in an act of treachery that would become known as the Black Dinner. This event inspired George Martin’s famous Red Wedding in A Song of Ice and Fire.

John Dalrymple, Robert Duncanson, Thomas Drummond, and Robert Campbell. “We killed Clan MacDonald all in their beds”: These men played the lead role in engineering the slaughter of Clan MacDonald, who supposedly refused to pledge allegiance to William of Orange. In reality they were only late pleding their fealty, and the Secretary of State for Scotland (John Dalrymple) wanted to make an example of them. The other men led forces who accepted hospitality from Clan MacDonald — and then murdered their hosts in their sleep On February 13, 1692, which became known as the Massacre of Glencoe.

Against Lords

Lee Harvey Oswald. “Shooting Kennedy, despite the claims of Olive Stone and conspiracy frames”: Oswald assassinated his president, John F. Kennedy, on November 22, 1963, conspiracy claims notwithstanding.

Ygal Amir. “Law student Ygal Amir”. Amir assassinated his prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, on November 4, 1995.

Cocytus: The Frozen Floor of Hell (Circle 9 Preview)

Part 1 of my Inferno tour consists of eleven cantos covering Circles 1-7, and Part 2 is also eleven cantos, but covering Circle 8 alone. Circle 9 is coming soon, and it will be only two cantos, covering the frozen floor of Hell. Here’s a preview of who I’ll find there. Note that even though Circle 9 is divided into four zones, they are all the same punishing ground: a lake of ice. The souls of traitors are frozen here, with the worst traitors closest to the circle’s center where Lucifer is.

Zone 1: Traitors against Kin

  • Kashyapa I of Sri Lanka (473 AD). Acquired the throne by overthrowing his father and usurping his brother who was the rightful heir to the throne. Then he killed his father by entombing him inside a wall.
  • Mehmed the Conqueror (1453 AD). After the conquest of Constantinople (making it Istanbul), he wrote brutally harsh laws, including the Law of Governance, which stipulated that anyone who succeeded to the Sultan’s throne could slay his brothers so they could not try claiming or usurping the throne.
  • All honor killers (throughout history) who murdered their daughters/sisters. The vast majority being Muslim (currently 91% globally).

Zone 2: Traitors against Country

  • Ephialtes of Trachis (September 8, 480 BC). Betrayed his homeland, letting the Greeks get slaughtered at Thermopyle, hoping to be rewarded by the Persians.
  • Benedict Arnold (September 21, 1780). Started fighting for America in the Revolutionary War, then defected to the Brits.
  • The White House mob (January 6, 2021). Instigated a riot at the Capitol building, in defiance of legitimate election results.

Zone 3: Traitors against Guests or Hosts

  • William Crichton (November 24, 1440). Invited the 16-year old Earl of Douglas and his 10-year old brother to Edinburgh Castle as guests, and then beheaded them both (the Black Dinner).
  • John Dalrymple, Robert Duncanson, Thomas Drummond, and Robert Campbell (February 13, 1692). Accepted hospitality from Clan MacDonald and then murdered their hosts in their sleep (the Massacre of Glencoe).

Zone 4: Traitors against Lords

  • Lee Harvey Oswald (November 22, 1963). Assassinated his president, John F. Kennedy.
  • Ygal Amir (November 4, 1995). Assassinated his prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

My Tour of Dante’s Inferno (Circle 8 – The Ten Ditches of Fraud)

In the first part of my Inferno tour, I journeyed through Circles 1-7. Here is Circle 8, which is ten levels in itself, and told in eleven cantos like the previous part. The final cantos for Circle 9 will come later this month.

As I foreshadowed here, I have revised Ditches 3 and 5. In place of simony and barratry, I substituted categories I think Dante might have added if he had lived in today’s world. He never knew woke-left propaganda, alt-right conspiracy theories, yellow journalism, and fake news like we have it today. My Ditch 3 punishes snowflakes — woke college professors, public speakers, or commentators who have a large platform. They are fraudulent because they subordinate facts to feelings and often try to silence those they disagree with. My Ditch 5 punishes cranks — crackpot scholars and conspiracy theorists.

Here are the punishments I came up with for Ditches 3 and 5:

Circle 8: Malebolge
Souls Punished
Contrapasso: Punishment Fitting the Sin
Ditch 1
Panderers and Seducers They are whipped by devils while marching. The devils apparently gain sexual pleasure by inflicting pain on those who were either pimps or obtained sexual pleasure by abuse of trust.
Ditch 2
Flatterers They live in the shit they spoke in life — plunged into a lake of excrement.
Ditch 3
Snowflakes They have their lips sown shut, forced to march on a narrow line to a specific drumbeat. As they subordinated truth to their personal feelings, and policed the speech (or even tried to ban speech) of those who spoke truth, so now in death they have their lips sown shut, unable to ever speak again. And because they manufactured offenses, castigating people for trivial causes, they are now flailed with a spiked ball for even slightly stepping out of line or missing a single beat.
Ditch 4
False Prophets They walk with heads twisted backwards, destined to look only behind through eyes blinded by tears.
Ditch 5
Cranks and Conspiracy Theorists They sit against the walls of the ditch with their eyes torn out, continually screaming in fear. As they feared every phantom menace they couldn’t see any real evidence for, so now they can’t see anything at all, and suffer extreme paranoia.
Ditch 6
Hypocrites They walk in gilded cloaks lined with lead. As in life, they shine on the outside but are lifeless on the inside.
Ditch 7
Thieves (Robbers, Extortionists, Launderers) They have their hands tied behind their backs by snakes and suffer a horrible metamorphosis, stealing each others identity, unable to distinguish what’s “mine” and what’s “yours” after all the transitions.
Ditch 8
Counselors of Fraud They used their eloquence to mislead people and rip them off, and so are wrapped in tongues of fire which conceal them, just as in life their speech concealed their fraudulent thoughts.
Ditch 9
Sowers of Discord, Inciters of Rebellion They divided people in life, so now in death they are hacked and divided into a dismembered state, forced to drag their mutilated bodies around the ditch. Their wounds heal as they march the circuit, and then the devil cuts them open again.
Ditch 10
Forgers, Counterfeiters, and Identity Thieves Forgers are afflicted with leprosy, counterfeiters given dehydration, and identity thieves driven insane. Their physical rottenness mirrors the false rottenness of their souls that caused them to falsify things.


Lower Hell: Fraud (Circle 8)













Canto 12: Riding Geryon (from Circle 7 to Circle 8)

I looked down into Lowest Hell
There was no way down that I could tell
The cliff dropped nearly half a mile
No path or stair to any defile

I knew of course what Dante did
But wasn’t ready to open that lid
So I sat to give myself a rest
Before calling out the grim request

Far below lay the evil ditches
Patrolled by those devil sons of bitches
Malebolge was the city’s name
Filled with every fraudulent shame:

Pimps and seducers, and flatterers too
Prophets who preached without a clue
Hypocrites, crackpots, forgers, thieves
Pits awaiting the one who deceives

These sinners were punished by the cruelest whips
For falsifying relationships
I forgot their order but knew they were ten
The largest Circle in Satan’s pen

Standing up, I prepared to go on
And called out the name: “Geryon!”
In less than five minutes, the demon appeared
Fraud’s guardian – as bad as I’d feared

His face was just the face of a man
His torso a snake with a huge wingspan
His arms were like Kong’s with muscle and hair
And I trembled and muttered a silent prayer

“Thank you, Geryon,” I said to him then
“I know you hate the race of men
But I need to be carried from this height
Straight down into that city of spite.”

For a moment he looked as if ready to kill
Then extended his farce of seeming good will
He taxied guests down without any fare
To watch them break in the pit of despair

And I mounted him and flew down.












Canto 13: The Panderers and Seducers (Circle 8, Ditch 1)

I enter Circle 8 and walk along the edge of the first Ditch, where the souls of Panderers and Seducers are whipped by devils as they run. The devils apparently gain sexual pleasure by inflicting pain on those who attained such fraudulent pleasure.

Never had I seen a parade of abuse
Like the ditch for those who pimp and seduce
The whips didn’t rest, the cries didn’t stop
The broken souls wanted to drop

Not that I had an ounce of pity
These sickos deserved what they got in this city
The pain they had caused scarred people for life
Prostitutes, kids, and many a wife

And running below me, evading the lash
Was Jeffrey Epstein, that piece of trash
He trafficked teens and got one knocked up
Then died somehow when he was locked up

Gerald Sandusky ran close behind
And a sorrier sight I couldn’t find
The scum had seduced over 50 boys
Grooming them into his sexual toys

I decided at once to skip over this pit
I wouldn’t speak to those piles of shit
And as I crossed the bridge to face the next curse
I wondered how fraud could get any worse

Canto 14: The Flatterers (Circle 8, Ditch 2)

I look down into Ditch 2 where flattery is punished. The souls are immersed in excrement, forced to live in the shit they spoke in life.

I almost fainted from the horrid stench
It was a million Lord Lards packed in a trench
Or so it seemed, the smell was so vile
And caused me to cough and choke on my bile

I’d probably have to skip this ditch too
I couldn’t go down into that cavernous loo
But I stayed on the bridge for as long as I could
And surveyed the grovelers of falsehood

The sycophants here had gone too far
And three had set a whole new bar:
First, Cardinal Giulio Alberoni
Who would have kissed the ass of a filthy pony

Instead he settled for a terrible duke
Whose uncouth manners made everyone puke
Treating his audience like virulent pests
He commonly shat in front of his guests

Giulio had launched his servile career
By literally kissing that nobleman’s rear
A rear still filthy after only two wipes
Yet Giulio kissed it without any gripes

Dante had never known flatterers like these
Who ate filthy ass as if it were cheese
The worst he had seen along this route
Were a lowly opportunist and a prostitute

I saw much worse down in this shit
And the next two made me pitch a fit:

Joseph Goebbels, who licked Hitler’s boot
And created the “Heil Hitler” salute
Full to the teeth of groveling praise
He worshiped his Führer to the end of his days

And then Mike Pence, who in everyone’s sights
Took flattery to vulgar heights
All but kissing Donald’s rump
The ultimate tool and right-hand chump

Besides these three were many more
Swimming in feces, they screamed and swore
I couldn’t imagine dying to this
To dwell forever in a turd abyss

But there was some satisfaction in having found
That what goes around comes around
For this was the worst I’d seen so far
In the Hell that gives you as you are

And I hurriedly moved on.

Canto 15: The Snowflakes. (Circle 8, Ditch 3)

I cross over to Ditch 3, expecting to see the souls of the simoniacs. I discover that the ditch now punishes a new category of sinners unknown in Dante’s time. They are the souls of the snowflakes: Their lips are sown shut, and they are forced to march on a narrow circumference to a frantic drumbeat played by a devil. As in life these souls subordinated truth to their personal feelings, and policed the speech of those who spoke truth, so now in death their lips are sown shut, unable to ever speak again. And because they manufactured offenses, castigating people for trivial causes, they are now flailed with a spiked ball for even slightly stepping out of line or missing a beat.

The ditch loomed ahead and as I drew near
I smiled remembering who Dante found here
Bishops and popes from St. Peter’s stock
Plunged headfirst into holes of rock

But those were not the souls I saw
When I gaped down into the ditch’s maw
Instead I saw a procession of flakes
Who were marched around without any breaks

I descended the stair to see more clearly
And saw that these souls were paying dearly
Their lips were sown so they couldn’t talk
Just as well – they were full of schlock

Snowflakes they were, of woke-left views
Immune to facts and quick to accuse
Those who triggered and made them upset
To cry “bigot” and other names nastier yet

I relished this chance to give them flak
To lecture them as they couldn’t talk back
Justice this was in every way
For they had subordinated truth to the fads of their day

Even to the point of silencing views
And banning speakers from campus news
Some of them claimed there should be no free speech
For ideas that were too unsuitable to preach

They would hear my speech now, unrestrained
Forced to listen as I explained
That hate cannot be proscribed in laws
As one person’s hate is another’s just cause

Consider Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The human rights honoree
Who urged reform of the Islamic faith
And for this was panned a hateful wraith

And here came Ali’s enemy now
I couldn’t wait to rip into this sow:
Linda Sarsour, the vicious liar
Who claimed that sharia wasn’t so dire

She marched past me bleary eyed
And I joined the march right by her side:

“Linda Sarsour, it must really chafe
To be paraded here like a lowly waif
How many times have you taken a whack
With that flail that bleeds and breaks your back?

Now you can’t say a single word
Since all you spoke was false and absurd
And hateful too, when you said you’d remove
Ali’s vagina – and more to reprove

Your leftist ilk is a filthy disgrace
To feminism in every place
Sugarcoating your faith, greasing like oil
Betraying the women on Muslim soil.”

Sarsour by now was seething in rage
Trapped in her ambulatory cage
Keeping in step to a fascist drum
Her legs most surely exhausted and numb

I was about to continue my screed of shame
When I looked behind and saw a person of fame
Reza Aslan of radical chic
And woke theories dumb, but very sleek

He had postured to those given to whine
Pretending to stand with them on the front line
Against “oppressors” who were anything but
And he aped the rhetoric of every nut

I fell behind to march by his side
Unsympathetic to the painful stride
And if looks could kill I would have certainly died
From his glare that promised homicide

“You look as fierce as the words you wrote
Then proceeded to shove down everyone’s throat
Defending Hamas and thinking it cute
And vowing violence on those you dispute

You taught that female circumcision
Wasn’t required by Islamic religion
Which it certainly is, as you very well knew
But chose to lie for a fake world-view.”

And at that, he turned and swung his fist
– I barely dodged, he barely missed
And because that made him move off track
The devil’s flail smashed his back

I jumped away and looked for more
In this endless parade of snowflakes galore
And as I dodged among the stifled snarls
I was almost knocked down by Laurie Charles

That writer who accused J.K. Rowling
Of bigotries that sent the media howling
(Poor Rowling, she just couldn’t win
To the right and the left her novels were sin)

Rowling was actually no more bigoted
Than a Vegas whore was sexually inhibited
Snowflakes never tried to make sense
But honestly, how could they be this dense?

And having enough, I returned to the bridge.

Canto 16: The False Prophets (Circle 8, Ditch 4)

I enter Ditch 4 and immediately descend the stair, transfixed on the sight below: the souls of the false prophets and fortune tellers walk with their heads twisted backwards. As they lied and deceived about future events, they are forced to look behind for all eternity.

My childhood nightmare was being replayed
With heads twisted in a masquerade
Hundreds – thousands – of Linda Blairs
Promising legions of Exorcist scares

I walked among the contorted lot
And suddenly lost my train of thought
When I saw a figure squatting in mud
Yelling about fire and the Lamb’s saving blood

Damned if it wasn’t Charles Taze Russell
Trying to flex his spiritual muscle
Even in Hell he wouldn’t go sour
On his precious beloved Watchtower

Insisting that Christ was coming again
According to whatever flowed from his pen
And all the Witnesses who followed his lead
To make phony predictions they guaranteed

Not far from him sat a pair of twins
Holding each other and bemoaning their sins
I approached these ladies and asked their names
And all about their future claims

“We’re Tali and Ophira,” said both as one
“We looked to the stars, the moon, and the sun
For simple astrology we are punished thus
And expected to take it without a fuss.”

“The Astro Girls – now I remember
You scared all those people born in September
With crazy warnings of fortune reversed
And look at you now, as you sit here cursed

Forced to look at each others backs
(Prettier than your fronts if I speak the facts)
I can’t believe all those senile farts
Who put so much stock in your bloated charts.”

[The sisters, alternating]
[T] “And where do you place your shitty trust?”
[O] “The Bible is as good as choking dust.”
[T] “Our faith came before the infant savior.”
[O] “Applied well, it improves behavior.”

“Seems that’s not working well for you now
I don’t follow the Bible anyhow
Or at least not its prophecies which many doubt
And which Jesus himself was wrong about.”

[The sisters]
[T] “Then why isn’t Jesus down in this Ditch?”
[O] “Because he’s the Son of the Almighty Bitch?”
[T] “Seems that the Lord makes the rules
[O] “And breaks them, playing us all for fools.”

“Perhaps the Son gets an automatic pass
Because he humbled himself riding an ass
Many of his teachings are tried and true
Which is more than I can say for frauds like you.”

The girls then launched into a nasty defense
Of astro power at my expense
I let them sling their woes and bile
And moved along to the next rocky aisle

Where sure enough, in the same disrepair
Sat another deceitful odious pair:
Tim Lahaye and his good pal Jerry
For them I loosed a sour raspberry

“You rude, heartless, junkyard hound!
Try being us with your head torn around
Jerry here can’t even speak
Too traumatized to utter a squeak.”

“It must be a very bitter pill
When you weren’t supposed to suffer ill
According to that garbage you peddled for cash
It guaranteed your rapture in a flash

To be taken up by God into the clouds
And avoid tribulation of the crowds
Yet the Bible makes clear, through and through
That believers must suffer as Christ did too

God only spares them the bowls of His wrath
But not the seals of man’s bloodbath
Which puts believers to the test
So they can prove their very best.”

[LaHaye, with Jenkins looking on furious]
“Don’t preach to us about holy writ!
Your views don’t matter a single bit
God would never subject us to wrong
There’s been a mistake here – we don’t belong.”

I left them to their misery fest
And walked about the wretched nest
And lo, the bastard I stumbled on next
Was David Koresh the oversexed

The prophet of Waco was crying hard
Pining for his “wives” that he raped and scarred
His exegesis of the seven seals
Was written under siege, around FBI deals

Not far from Koresh I saw another:
A prophet who would have sold his own mother
Brian Mitchell, who kidnapped a child
And whom everyone positively reviled

Because of these frauds, lives were wasted
Or even ruined, with potentials untasted
Fixated on what the future might allow
They should have lived more in the here and now

And I left for the next Ditch.

Canto 17: The Cranks and Conspiracy Theorists (Circle 8, Ditch 5)

I cross the bridge to Ditch 5 and look down on the souls of the cranks. They sit with their eyes torn out, continually screaming in fear. As they feared every phantom menace they couldn’t see any real evidence for, so now they can’t see anything at all, and suffer extreme paranoia.

Another Ditch that had changed with the times
Dante had stumbled on different crimes:
Bribery and barratry, now likely subsumed
On Ditch 7 where thieves were consumed

This was now the ground of the cranks
Who went through life without any thanks
Except from nutcases just like them
Who peddled theories you could only condemn

They took fraud to a whole new level
Guided no doubt by the hand of the devil
Those claiming that the world is flat
Or that Covid isn’t “as bad as that”

The South Pole is home to Illuminati!
Jesus and the Magdalene were lewd and naughty!
JFK was a government hit!
Moon landings faked by a devious shit!

All these and more, promoted by fools
Who claimed authority but broke all the rules
And tragically so, for they could not surmise
How stupid they looked in everyone’s eyes

And speaking of eyes, these souls had none
Ripped from their sockets by an evil someone
One of the devils patrolling the floor
Had a claw-like ripper, just for the chore

The screams were loud and shook the bowl
Begging for mercy and to be made whole
And the souls wrestled and fought with air
Convinced that conspiracies were standing right there

Then one of the howlers I recognized
For all of his films I so despised
Oliver Stone, that Mr. Cheese
Who spun conspiracies with obnoxious ease

Further along came screams more strident
From sensationalist crackpot Michael Baigent
He “proved” that the early kings of France
Came from Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s romance

Next a despicable human being
Who with all my heart I resented seeing:
Alex Jones – his radio series
Promoted endless conspiracy theories

Then that ignorant pharmacist
As dangerous as an arsonist
Steve Brandenburg, who destroyed vaccines
And saw every threat in government routines

I couldn’t reason with any of this grime
Speaking with cranks was a waste of time
But then among the disaffected
I saw someone I’d once respected:

Maajid Nawaz, that noble crusader
To woke liberals he was Darth Vader
He’d repeatedly bashed the regressive left
With sound arguments, skilled and deft

He was indeed a great Muslim reformer
But then turned into a cheap performer
Downplaying Covid everywhere abroad
Claiming that lockdowns were global fraud

My dander was up, seeing this hero
Devolved into a pathetic zero:

“Maajid, Jesus, what a waste!
Here you sit all defaced
Let me say, I really liked you
Before all that nonsense you started to spew.”

“Who’s goes there, edging me on?
Are you another devil-spawn?
You hellish fiends are pure cliche
Shut your mouth and go away.”

“I’m not a servant of the Hells
I’m a touring guest of all its cells
And I can’t say I’m terribly shocked
That this is where they keep you locked.

By rights you should be on Circle 1
With Asra Nomani, who shines like the sun
For all those suffering in Muslim nations
You both took a hammer to Islam’s foundations

But then you drank the crank kool-aid
And went on that feckless Covid crusade
Opposing lockdowns – Jesus Christ!
All the integrity you sacrificed.”

“I don’t know who you think you are
But I’ll tell you this, you’ve gone too far
Say another word, keep acting cute
And you’ll find yourself facing my lawsuit!”

He returned to screaming at what he thought
Was assaulting him like a juggernaut
Phantoms and ghosts, and fans turned traitors
While his eye sockets burned like barren craters

And I returned to the bridge above.

Canto 18: The Hypocrites (Circle 8, Ditch 6)

I descend to the Sixth Ditch and see the souls of the hypocrites, who walk in gilded cloaks lined with lead. As in life, they shine on the outside but are lifeless on the inside.

The souls wore cloaks as heavy as sin
With hoods obscuring the faces within
But as I peered at the man then passing me by
I swore in shock as I recognized the guy

I stared long and hard before starting a drama
But sure enough, it was Barack Obama
On his shoulders draped the oppressive cloak
Putting his neck in an awful choke

“Why are you here, far below Bush?
You can hardly walk without a push
You were a bad president, that I grant
But Dubya was still the worse tyrant.”

“They call me a hypocrite, but I care not
Just because I liked to smoke me some pot
They blame me and curse me for American blacks
Who got thrown in the slam and raped on their backs

I had nothing to say about legalization
No heart for those who yielded to temptation
My tribe loved to preach and shout
But we had better things to worry about.”

“Better things than prison for years?
And throwing away all chance at careers?
If you’d been arrested for toking that weed
You’d be singing one hell of a different screed.”

At this point Obama tried to object
But I shot him down and kept him in check:

“You’d not have made politics, never been sworn
And probably wish you’d never been born
But you tacitly approved those racist drug laws
And utterly failed the African cause.”

“So says you, and all the fools
Who yip and yap like infant tools
Go away and let me be
I can’t even think with this hood over me.”

Obama moved on and more figures passed
And I prepared to leave this ditch real fast
But stepping up in Obama’s place
Was yet another familiar face

It was rapist Bill Cosby, my teenage nemesis
The sight of him brought me to near hyperemesis
I’d always despised this self-righteous prude
And wasn’t surprised when he turned out so lewd

“Stop, you! I have something to say
Before you go on your miserable way
Back when you fired Lisa Bonet
From your worthless comedy – that was foul play

No, keep quiet, I don’t want to hear
Lies from your mouth which may as well be your rear
You fired poor Lisa for that X-rated scene
That she did in Angel Heart while still a teen

And for this you lumped her with harlots and whores
But it was her own damn business and none of yours
She did a good job, and that movie, you know
Had nothing to do with your Cosby Show

A show, by the way, that wasn’t even funny
How on earth did you make so much money?
And then to find out, many years later
That you were a pervert all along and a woman hater.”

He frowned at me in haughty disdain
My attempt to provoke him was entirely vain
Like all hypocrites he failed to see
How small he was and wannabe

He proceeded on, but I was not to be free
Of TV stars who bled hypocrisy
Here now came the famous Mike Landon
Who resented this Ditch he wanted to abandon

“Take me with you, I don’t belong!
Anywhere in Hell, it’s entirely wrong
I always prayed and lived a good life
It’s liars who say that I beat my wife

Don’t you know that I was Pa Ingalls Christ?
Righteous and holy and all that sufficed?
My word was the kingdom, just like the leaven
I belonged where I was – on the highway to heaven.”

“Jesus please us, don’t make me sick
Everyone knows you’re a goddamn prick
You beat your wife and cloaked your sins
In sanctimonious actor skins

Constantly scolding Albert and Laura
As if you never broke a jot of the Torah
In the real world your life was a violent mess
Just how bad I can hardly guess

But this I’ll say with confidence:
Your sainted image ain’t worth two cents.”

“No, no, that’s just not true
All the gossips, they haven’t a clue!”
And as he began to choke and cry
I turned and bid him a callous good-bye

And then as I was about to turn
I saw one who made my stomach churn
James Buchanan, that chief exec
Whose presidency was a total wreck

I knew his hypocrisy, straight from his mouth
He had refused to take action against the South
Claiming his hands were completely tied
His actions elsewhere showed how he lied

For he utterly crushed Sir Brigham Young
The Mormon rebel who should have been hung
But James Buchanan hated that sect
While licking the boots of the red-necked

These hypocrites all had grievances to lodge
So I turned and got the hell out of Dodge.

Canto 19: The Thieves (Circle 8, Ditch 7)

I look down into the disturbing ditch of the thieves. The sinners have their hands tied behind their backs by snakes and suffer a horrible metamorphosis, losing their identity, unable to distinguish what’s “theirs” and “someone else’s” after all the transitions.

I descended the stair and felt relief
That I was never a goddamn spineless thief
For the punishment here on grim display
Almost turned my bones to puree

The sinners were chased and bitten by snakes
That fired the blood with body aches
And every few moments a body would change
Morphing into a form that was hideously strange

And then change right back, as if to disown
Any form it could call its own
And the first I saw amongst these sights
Was the robber of banks on Friday nights

Carl Gugasian, that slippery slime
He robbed just before closing time
And on Fridays, always, at the week’s end
When the banks had loads of cash on hand

Next I recognized Darnell Riley
The extortionist who acted none too shyly
Crashing the home of another sleaze
And filming the guy doing things on his knees

It was hard to converse with any soul
Their forms constantly changed in this bowl
And there was one soul who especially objected
To the way his body was being affected

Francisco Sanchez, who led the Gurtel
And Christ did he belong in Hell
He had bribed and laundered up the wazoo
And protested now at reaping his due

The snakes held another in this tomb:
Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayoom
President of the sunny Maldives
And absolute king of laundering thieves

Watching these crooks mutate and howl
Was enough to make me throw in the towel
I fled the snakes and their thieving prey
Up the stair and on my way.

Canto 20: Deceivers and Counselors of Fraud (Circle 8, Ditch 8)

I prepare myself for the next ditch: the counselors of fraud. These are thieves who used their eloquence to mislead others, and were thus even more deceptive than the thieves in the previous ditch. The souls are wrapped in tongues of fire, which conceal them just as in life their speech concealed their thought.

The upcoming ditch where I was headed
Is the one I’d seriously all along dreaded
Counselors of fraud were especially vile
They stole from you while wearing a smile

Promising wealth or the end of worries
With scams that called down endless furies
If they had hearts, they were made of ice
All that mattered was the selling price

They were hard to see in their pillars of flame
But I could still identify some by name:

Bernie Madoff the financier
A Ponzi master without peer
The largest fraud in world history
Began with Madoff’s foul sophistry

I was about to begin a dialogue
When I heard the voice of a pariah dog
A few yards down I saw the wiz
The most hated man in the pharma biz:

Martin Shkreli, who defrauded investors
And called down hordes of angry protestors
When he raised the price of a life-saving drug
And through all the furor, kept smiling smug

“I hope, Sir, you will be agreeing
That you were a worthless human being
Jacking the price of those needed pills
So people were unable to pay their bills

From $13.50 to $750.00 a pop
Greed like that is hard to top
Seven years in prison was far too light
For a shit like you never contrite.”

“Go ahead and revile me and smirch
I used that money for important research
We needed pills that were more effective
Than Daraprim, which was highly defective.”

“So your solution for people falling apart
Was to rob them with prices so off the chart
For a drug you claim could never win
The logic makes anyone’s head spin.”

“I used that money for kids who were dying
So spare me all your whines and crying
Funding research makes me a hero
Your hollow sanctimony proves you a zero.”

I was so full of rage, my piles nearly burst
My only comfort was that he was cursed
I left him and passed more tongues of fire
Frauds like Shkreli, just as dire

Who I then saw next burned like a comet
And the face behind almost made me vomit
L. Ron Hubbard, that phony relic
Who made others here look almost angelic

He created the scam Scientology
Based on a sham cosmology
He was the ultimate paranoid-schizo fraud
With delusions of grandeur (he may have been God)

His church turned into a global racket
Advertised on many a book jacket
Books written by Hubbard himself
That belonged on the science fiction shelf

“So here you burn, Mr. Hubbard
In a flaming tongue the size of a cupboard
I hope those flames feel like knives
Your mafia church destroyed many lives.”

“Calm yourself down, you need to rest
And take my Scientology test
Clear your mind of those engrams
And your thetan will pass all my exams.”

“How on earth you parroted this dirt
Expecting the gullible to convert
Only under pressure from wacky ravings
Did they give your church their whole life savings.”

“Psychiatrists are the ones who are whacked
It’s because of them that Hitler cracked
You can’t have science without my tology
That combination is the proper theology.”

His drivel was finally more than enough
To make me walk off in a huff
But who was I kidding – in my ire
I went out of the frying pan into more fire

Now I faced an crazy loon
Who sang to a medically professional tune
Promising cures for homo urges
For which she’d created certain purges

Marian Al-Sohel was her name
A Kuwaiti “doctor” of instant fame
Ridiculed widely for her silly game
She claimed “it was science and nothing for shame”

“Dearest Mariam, for all your pretension
I had always wanted to try your invention
If suppositories can wipe out homo desires
Then yours might have saved me from Circle 7’s fires.”

“You should have come see me, you infidel
Your lack of initiative put you in Hell
All it would have taken to remove your disgrace
Were my suppositories – and Allah’s grace.”

“Hell is your home as much as mine
I wouldn’t be quick to judge what’s divine.”

And that was all I could take from this Ditch
The abusive lies to get filthy rich
I girded my loins for fouler swine
The sowers of rebellion in Ditch #9.

Canto 21: The Sowers of Discord, Schismatics, and Inciters to Rebellion (Circle 8, Ditch 9)

From the bridge over Ditch 9, I look down upon the sowers of discord, who are continually sliced open by a devil wielding a sword. As these souls divided people in life, so now in death they are hacked and divided into a dismembered state. Their sin was to rip down the fabric of society in order to gratify a sectional egotism. Now these souls must drag their mutilated bodies around the ditch; their wounds heal as they march the circuit; and then the devil cuts them open again. And round it goes, repeating the cycle. I see that most of the souls are sliced from groin to chin, with their entrails hanging out. One soul, however, stands apart from the rest: his head has been decapitated by his own hand, and he carries it around like a lantern…

As I watched the souls all disemboweled
I saw a headless trunk befouled
It held its head by the orange hair
And swung it like a lantern with hardly a care

In the other hand it carried a monstrous sword
Bloody, like that of a medieval lord
Suddenly this figure walked straight towards me
And I gasped as I saw who it had to be

“Donald Trump, you piece of shit!
So this is where your fate is writ
How does it feel to be sliced in two?
I only wish I could have done that to you.”

“Who are you, putting on airs?
You come here disturbing my thoughts and prayers
You have something to say, go ahead
I give you five minutes, then I chop off your head.”

“I’ll take all the time I fucking need
To explain how you made our country bleed
Feeding conspiracies, nurturing lies
And wishing for a Wall to blot out the skies.”

Snarling he came closer, two steps ahead
And replied – clearly wishing me dead:

“I ruled with fairness and wisdom besides
There’s always always blame on both sides
And if that isn’t enough to fucking appease
Then the Constitution said I could do as I please.”

“That document says nothing of the goddamn sort
Your presidency was one to abort
As for blame, there’s much more ambivalence
While all you can do is make false equivalence.”

He roared and swung his sword in an arc —
— barely, barely missing its mark
As I stumbled he brandished his face instead
And rage poured from that decapitated head:

“Who are you, to pass judgment on me?
Just like that know-nothing Jack Dorsey
He censored and silenced me all too well
It’s he and Mark Zuckerburg who should be here in Hell!”

“They are here in Hell, but not nearly this deep
They’re up on the Fourth, where stones make them weep
But you are forever consigned to a fate
On this hideous Ditch of Circle Eight.”

The sword came again, and Trump went insane
Hacking and slashing and screaming in vain
For the sword passed right through me, unable to wreck
Anything except his own red neck

He returned to his circuit and I turned to go
This ditch was out of a horror show
And then I saw other come up to me
His entrails spilling down to his knee:

“Help me put my guts back in
This torture far outweighs my sin
I justly refused to pay the tax
It’s why we had given the Brits the ax.”

“Wow, you must be Daniel Shays
Didn’t you ever start a blaze
Your cause merited the purest scorn
It’s because of you the Constitution was born.”

“The Constitution was a traitor’s farce
And George Washington a horse’s arse
I hope he’s roasting somewhere in Hell
And I curse all those who thought him swell.”

Shays then turned and walked away
Stuffing back his innards, but they just wouldn’t stay
And nor could I, in this ghastly place
I moved right on to finish my race.

Canto 22: The Falsifiers – Forgers, Counterfeiters, and Impersonators (Circle 8, Ditch 10)

I cross the next bridge and descend into Ditch 10, where the falsifiers lie stricken by disease: forgers are afflicted with leprosy, counterfeiters suffer severe dehydration, and identity thieves are driven insane. Their physical rottenness mirrors the rottenness of their souls that caused them to forge or impersonate.

Now came the ditch that I’d been waiting
The souls in this place took a lot of hating
Understandably, for they committed that fraud
That makes scholars and experts look mighty flawed

I saw them lying there, plagued and lame
And I went down the roll call by name:

Charles Dawson of Piltdown Man
Whose “finds” belonged in the garbage can
Konrad Kujau of the Hitler Diaries
That fooled all of the expert inquiries

Matvei Golovinski of the Protocols
A forgery that took considerable balls
Supreme imposter Frank Abagnale
If there was ever a man who belonged in jail

Walter Fritz who hooked Karen King
Making Harvard Divinity his plaything
Wesley Weber of endless frills
And faking 100-dollar bills

They all lay diseased, dazed, and dried
But the one I wanted had managed to hide
And lo – sure enough, behind this lot
Was the scholar I most anxiously sought

He lay on a rock, leprous and wheezing
And my approach to him was none too pleasing
With daggers in his eyes, he made it clear
That danger awaited if I came near

“Morton Smith, it is an honor
But don’t worry, I’m not a fawner
I always admired your scholarship
And your gospel hoax too – that was a trip.”

“Don’t get cute, you impudent twit
How many times have I heard that shit?
Those who claim I forged Secret Mark
Have zero bite, but plenty of bark.”

“I think I have all the bite required
And after one-oh-three years, many are tired
Of those who persist in defending your text
If they’re duped by that, then Jesus, what next?

After you died, there came two books
Explaining the motives of certain crooks
Why people like you are driven to hoax
Not for gain, but to laugh at folks.”

He wasn’t laughing now, and I braced for ire
And he rose to his feet, needing respire
His wheezing was bad and his skin all sore
(And he knew damn well what he was paying for)

“Plenty have tried to show me a fraud
With vain arguments deeply flawed
And bigoted too, by the way
Hating the idea that Jesus was gay.”

“These two authors had so such bias
Nor were they particularly pious
Their eagle eyes spotted the clues
That you’d planted in your text to test and amuse

The allusion to Morton Salt
Was priceless to a fault
The shade of Oscar Wilde’s play
Completely made my day.”

He froze at first, not believing my gall
And then he started to laugh after all
“Score for those guys! Against all my doubt
Someone actually figured it out!”

I saw this gave him some peace of mind
Which in Lowest Hell was hard to find
Then he asked the authors’ names
Who had sent his hoax down in flames

“Stephen Carlson was the very first
To make the heads of scholars burst
Next year Peter Jeffery followed
With arguments not easily swallowed

They’re still dismissed after all these years
Despite the acclaim of many peers
I wish your defenders could hear you now
And put to bed their sacred cow.”

“Tell these two men they did very well
I hope they avoid the Circles of Hell
Now let me be, you simpering lout
Unless, that is, you can get me out.”

And with that my goal in Circle 8
Was handed on a silver plate
The confession of the late Morton Smith
Was mine to shape in later myth

Assuming, that is, I could leave the trap
There was one more level of this crap:
Circle 9, the worst of all
So I made my way to the final wall

And there I saw the giants.

Here ends Part 2 of My Tour of Dante’s Inferno. Part 3 is here.


Notes to Canto 14 (The Flatterers)

Giulio Alberoni. “Launched his servile career”: During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), the low-ranking Italian priest Giulio Alberoni was sent as an envoy to the Duke of Vendôme. Alberoni got this opportunity because no one else could suffer the duke’s outrageous manners; he often defecated and wiped his ass in front of his audience. Alberoni reaction was to kiss the duke’s buttocks (after the duke barely wiped them) and cry, “Oh, ass of an angel!” The duke approved this extreme flattery, and from that point Alberoni’s political career was made.


Notes to Canto 15 (The Snowflakes)

Linda Sarsour. (1) “The vicious liar”: The rise of Sarsour as a national feminist leader shows how far woke feminists have fallen. Sarsour’s offenses are legion, but she’s most infamous for painting sharia law as benign for its provision of interest-free loans. (2) “Remove Ali’s vagina”: At her most vicious, she outdid President Trump’s “pussy-grabbing” remark, declaring that human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserved to have her pussy removed, and on top of that deserved to be violently attacked. She said that she wished she could “remove Hirsi Ali’s vagina”, as she (Hirsi Ali) “does not deserve to be a woman”. Hirsi Ali also needed an “ass-whipping”, according to Sarsour. It’s hard to imagine a more Orwellian backwards view of feminism than Sarsour’s. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a victim of female genital mutilation, and Sarsour was obviously implying that she “deserved what she got”. Incredibly, Hirsi Ali is hated by many leftists like Sarsour, and has been banned from speaking at college universities. Because she urges the reform of Islam. Because she speaks the truth about Islam. Because she cares about the millions of Muslims, not least women, who suffer under sharia law. For all of this humane courage and honesty she has been branded a hateful Islamophobe, while fraudulent liars like Sarsour are considered feminist heroes.

Reza Aslan. (1) “Of radical chic”: Like other woke college professors, Aslan engages in the phenomenon of “radical chic”. This is when elitists ape the rhetoric of radicals and put on a show of revolutionary theater, basically serving as the vanguard of woke-leftists who claim to be oppressed when they aren’t, and pretending that they’re the ones holding the front line against the “oppressors”. (2) “Whitewashing Hamas”: Aslan has defended and even praised jihad terrorist groups like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hezbolla. (3) “Vowing violence on those you dispute”: During the incident at a Kentucky high school where students were accosted by a Native American activist, Aslan called for violence against the student who circulated videos of the incident; then he also called for violence against someone who called him out for this. (4) “Taught that female circumcision isn’t required by Islamic religion”: Aslan has taught this lie repeatedly. In the Shafi’i school female circumcision is obligatory, and in the Maliki and Hanbali schools it is recommended. Only in the Hanafi school is there ambiguity. And where it is obligatory, it is mandated in religious texts. Female circumcision is unquestionably sanctioned in Islamic religion. Reza Aslan’s teaching career is built on deceit, and it’s no surprise that he’s an idol for snowflakes.

Laurie Charles. “Accused J.K. Rowling of transphobia”: British writer Laurie Charles took part of the ongoing witch hunt against J.K. Rowling. In the novel The Silk Worm, Rowling portrayed a male criminal escaping a situation by wearing a burqa. To woke leftists like Charles, this very reasonable plot point (that a burqa is a good disguise) was somehow bigoted against men who dress in women’s clothing, or against men who identify as women — and on top of that also against Muslims, making her Islamophobic as well as transphobic. This was a new low for fraudulent slander.


Notes to Canto 16 (The False Prophets)

Charles Taze Russell. “On his precious beloved Watchtower“: The founder of the Jehovas Witnesses started The Watchtower magazine, first called (in 1879) Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.

Tali and Ophira Edut. “Which Jesus himself was wrong about”: Even moderately conservative Christian believers today acknowledge that Jesus was wrong about the apocalypse’s timetable. He said it would come in his lifetime or within a generation (Mk 9:1/Mt 16:28/Lk 9:27;Mk 13:29-33/Mt 24:33-36,42/Lk 21:31-33,36).

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. “According to that garbage you peddled for cash”: In their Left Behind novels, LaHaye and Jenkins popularized the pre-tribulationist view of the Book of Revelation. The doctrine originated in the 1830s with John Nelson Darby, and states that faithful Christians will be raptured by God (taken up into heaven) before the horrors of the tribulation begin. The New Testament makes clear the rapture will happen after the tribulation, and that the early Christians not only expected to suffer severely before they were raptured, but that they saw it as a badge of honor. It’s true that God would rapture them before He rolled out His supernatural horrors to annihilate the world; but prior to this, they would have to suffer the tribulation period of man-made wars, famine, and persecution. Simply put, the tribulation (Rev 6:1-13; Mk 13:1-25/Mt 24:1-29/Lk 21:8-26) is not a period in which God is pouring out wrath to punish people (which comes later in Rev 8:7-9:21; 11:13-21; 16:2-21). Tribulation is persecution (Mk 14:17/Mt 13:21) and suffering through man-made tyranny and oppression. Pre-tribbers like LaHaye and Jenkins expect God to bail their assess out of any suffering at all — which isn’t biblical by a long shot.

David Koresh. (1) “Pining for the wives”: Koresh was the prophet in Waco, Texas who believed the apocalypse was imminent. All the men of his church had to take a vow of celibacy, while he slept with their wives. (2) “His exegesis of the seven seals… written under siege, around FBI deals”: Koresh believed he was the Lamb of God, and that he alone could open the mysterious book closed with seven seals. During the FBI standoff, he promised he would surrender after he finished writing his interpretation of the seven seals.

Brian David Mitchell. “Who kidnapped a child”: Mitchell was the Mormon prophet heralding a new Zion. He wanted to restore “celestial marriage” and believed he should take seven wives. Most of his wives ended up hating him, and he eventually kidnapped a 14-year old girl, holding her captive and raping her for nine months.


Notes to Canto 17 (The Cranks)

Oliver Stone. “Spun conspiracies with obnoxious ease”: Many of Stone’s films are political screeds filled with paranoid revisionism.

Michael Baigent. “The early kings of France came from Jesus and Mary’s romance”: Baigent wrote the pseudo-historical blockbuster Holy Blood, Holy Grail, with two others (Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln). No historian takes it seriously, and it’s probably the most laughably astonishing theory ever written about the historical Jesus. Namely that he sired the Merovingian Dynasty with Mary Magdalene.

Alex Jones. “His radio series promoted endless conspiracy theories”: Jones is famous for his crazy ravings on many subjects, through the multi-media outlet InfoWars.

Steven Brandenburg. “Destroyed vaccines, and saw every threat in government routines”: This guy is a Wisconsin pharmacist who destroyed 570 doses of the Covid vaccine. He also believes the earth is flat and the sky is not real; the sky is a shield put up by the U.S. government to prevent individuals from seeing God.

Maajid Nawaz. (1) “A great Muslim reformer, turned into a cheap performer”: Nawaz’s fall is a tragic one. For his courageous work in critiquing Islam he deserves immense credit. But his recent noise about election fraud and pandemic fraud is no small point, and goes a long way to torpedoing his image. (2) “You’ll find yourself facing a lawsuit”: Nawaz is sue-happy, threatening lawsuits against those who malign him. (In fairness, one of those lawsuits was appropriate and I’m glad it succeeded: his lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center.)


Notes to Canto 18 (The Hypocrites)

Barack Obama. “I liked to smoke me some pot”: During his presidential campaign Obama won people over when he talked openly about using marijuana in college. By the end of his first term he had lost many of those supporters with his reprehensible silence over the drug war (aside, that is, from justifying the government’s opposition to state laws which allowing medical use of pot). He never once addressed the fact that most drug arrests are for small possessions (like the ones Obama had in his younger days) or to offer any critique about how inconsistently racist the arrests go, or how numbers of arrests have increased dramatically since the ’80s. If the police had been as aggressive in making arrests for pot back in the ’80s, then Obama could have been smacked with a criminal record and never become president.

Bill Cosby. “Back when you fired Lisa Bonet”: Lisa Bonet played the eldest daughter on the Cosby Show. When she did the x-rated scene with Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart, Bill Cosby wasn’t pleased and fired her, though it was none of his business.

Michael Landon. (1) “Pa Ingalls Christ”: Landon played Charles Ingalls, affectionately known as “Pa”, on the TV series Little House on the Prairie. (2) “On the highway to heaven.” Landon played a messiah figure on the TV show Highway to Heaven.

James Buchanan. “Hated that sect while licking the boots of the red-necked”: When Abraham Lincoln was elected president, and southern states started to secede, Buchanan sent a message to congress stating (a) that secession was illegal, but (b) that the Constitution didn’t allow him to force a state to stay in the union. He was dead wrong on both counts. If a president so chooses, he can act in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence (and the Articles of Confederation) and allow states to secede. But he also has the authority, under the mildly centralizing powers of the Constitution, to put down secession attempts — again, if he so chooses. So Buchanan could have done either. He could have let the South go, or he could have strengthened southern forts and sent in military forces to stop secession. Either option would have averted the imminent war. Instead, Buchanan sat on his worthless ass and said his hands were tied. That’s what makes him incompetent. What makes him a hypocrite is that he actually knew very well that the had the right to put down secession if he so chose, because his action against the Mormons in Utah proves it. Going on the flimsiest rumors, he assumed the Mormon government to be in revolt, and immediately dispatched a 2,500-man army and a federal governor to replace Brigham Young. He didn’t hesitate for a moment to crush (what he perceived to be) a “Mormon rebellion”. But then Buchanan hated the Mormons, and loved the South.


Notes to Canto 19 (The Thieves, Extortioners, and Launderers)

Carl Gugasian. “Robber of banks on Friday nights”: Gugasian robbed more than fifty banks over a thirty-year period, stealing more than two million dollars. He did the robberies on Friday nights just before closing time, so there would be few customers present and a lot of cash having built up over the week.

Darnell Riley. “Filming the guy doing things on his knees”: Riley broke into Joe Francis’ home and forced Francis to pose for a video, using a dildo on himself. Riley later used the video to extort Francis.

Francisco Correa Sanchez. “Who led the Gurtel”: The Gurtel is a vast network of corruption in Spain’s conservative party (The People’s Party), led by Sanchez until he went to prison in 2018, for huge amounts of bribery, money laundering, and tax evasion.

Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. “Absolute king of laundering thieves”: Yameen leased islands, put the money owed to the state into his own account at the Maldives Islamic Bank, and then laundered the money from there.


Notes to Canto 20 (The Deceivers and Counselors Fraud)

Bernie Madoff. “The largest fraud in world history”: Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme remains just that.

Martin Shkreli. (1) “Defrauded investors”: Shkreli was sentenced to prison for securities fraud. (2) “Raised the price of a life-saving drug”: Before the securities fraud trail, Shkreli was in the news for price-gouging — raising the price of drugs for HIV patients by an outrageous amount (from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill), and then shamelessly claiming he was a hero for doing so.

L. Ron Hubbard. “Clear your mind of those engrams, and your thetan will pass my exams.”: In Scientology belief, engrams are negative mental images of past experiences; thetans are souls inside the human body. The problem is that thetans have been trapped by the person’s engrams formed at various stages of embodiment. The goal of Scientology is to clear the person of all engrams to create an “operating thetan.” An operating thetan has the ability to leave and operate apart from the human body.

Mariam Al-Sohel. (1) “Cures for homo urges, for which she’d created certain purges”: Al-Sohel claimed to have used Islamic medicine to invent suppositories that cure homosexuality. (2) “She claimed ‘it was science and nothing for shame'”: Her exact words were “This is science, and there is nothing to be ashamed of”. Al-Sohel believed that homoerotic urges developed when a person was sexually attacked, and an anal worm fed on semen. Her suppositories allegedly cured those urges by exterminating the worm that fed on the semen.


Notes to Canto 21 (The Sowers of Discord and Inciters of Rebellion)

Donald Trump. (1) “Blame on both sides”: Trump was famous for saying that “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia — white supremacists and anti-racism protesters being the sides in question. (2) “The Constitution said I could do as I please”: Trump played the boorish king since his presidential campaign, and during his presidency he defended his monarchical attitude with startling appeals to the constitution itself. In July 2019, he said that “Article II (of the U.S. Constitution) gives me the right to do whatever I want.” The article in question establishes the powers of the executive branch, as well as the powers of Congress to oversee the presidency. Obviously it doesn’t make the president a king. (3) “That know-nothing Jack Dorsey”: When Trump’s Twitter account was removed after the White House riots, it was interesting to see who came out in his defense; even his arch-enemy Angela Merkel said that he shouldn’t have been banned from Twitter.

Daniel Shays. Shays’ rebellion (1786-87) in Western Massachusetts was an armed protest against the state’s efforts to collect taxes on individuals and their trades. It was a crisis that called into question whether the state governments formed after the American Revolution could survive. Congress had limited powers under the Articles of Confederation; it couldn’t fund troops to suppress rebellions or regulate commerce to alleviate economic hardships. The rebellion led George Washington and others to believe the Articles of Confederation were only so effective, and that a Constitution was needed for the nation to have any hope of surviving.


Notes to Canto 22 (The Forgers, Counterfeiters, and Impersonators)

Walter Fritz. “Making Harvard Divinity his plaything”: The conman Walter Fritz emailed Karen King on July 9, 2010, describing Coptic fragments he wanted to sell. She didn’t reply until almost a year later, on June 25, 2011, and that was to tell him she wasn’t interested. Then, four months after that, on October 15, 2011, she suddenly had a change of heart. And for the next four and a half years, she promoted the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife”, even though it was effectively debunked as a hoax less than a month after she announced it publicly in September of 2012. She finally conceded the hoax in June of 2016. The question is why King ignored Walter Fritz for so long before finally taking his bait, and then persisting in willful denial when the hoax was clearly exposed. Ariel Sabar’s book Veritas (2000) answers this question: In October 2011, Harvard University was on the brink of creating a secular religious studies department, and the divinity department (and Karen King’s status) was in jeopardy. To Karen King, the Jesus-Wife fragment probably seemed a godsend for keeping progressive liberal theology married to academic scholarship.

Morton Smith. (1) “Your gospel hoax too – that was a trip”: The Secret Gospel of Mark (or Secret Mark, as it’s commonly called) is quoted in a letter supposedly written by the famous second-century theologian, Clement of Alexandria. This letter was “discovered” in 1958 by the biblical scholar Morton Smith at Mar Saba, a Greek Orthodox monastery in Palestine. The part of the “secret gospel” which Clement quotes tells a story similar to the raising of Lazarus in John 11. But instead of raising Lazarus, Jesus revives a young man who “looked at Jesus, loved him, and began to beg him to be with him”. Later in the evening, the young man comes to Jesus “wearing a linen cloth over his naked body; and he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God”. (2) “Hating the idea that Jesus was gay”: Smith was passionate about the church’s view of homosexuality, and he wrote on the subject in a time (1949) when it was rarely discussed. He was gay of course, and his “discovery” in 1958 allowed him to conveniently claim that Jesus was gay. In The Secret Gospel (1973) he suggested that Jesus’ baptism ceremonies were used to enter a state of hallucination, and ascend into heaven; in the kingdom of God the disciples were liberated from the Jewish law; and their spiritual union with Jesus was accompanied by a physical union of sex. So Jesus not only had sex with the disciples — he invested homosexuality with religious significance. (3) “The allusion to Morton Salt”: Jesus’ famous saying about “salt losing its savor” (Mk 9:50/Mt 5:13/Lk 14:34) is reworded in Clement’s letter to imply free-flowing salt. Iodized salt is not only a 20th-century invention; the inventor was a man named Joy Morton, who founded the Morton Salt Company. This joke was spotted by Stephen Carlson in 2005. (4) “The shade of Oscar Wilde’s play”: The gospel figure of Salome the disciple (Mk 15:40) is used to invoke a 19th-century play. Salome is among the women in Secret Mark who are rejected by Jesus, implying that Jesus had no interest in women. And in Clement’s letter, there is a puzzling allusion to “seven veils”. It comes from the modern play, Salome, where the lead character does a “dance of the seven veils”. Oscar Wilde was the playwright, and he was a gay martyr. This gag was spotted by Peter Jeffery in 2006.



Circle 8 Souls Punished
Souls I encounter in this Ditch
Ditch 1
Panderers and Seducers Jeffrey Epstein (P), Gerald Sandusky (S)
Ditch 2
Flatterers Giulio Alberoni, Joseph Goebbels, Mike Pence
Ditch 3
Snowflakes Reza Aslan, Linda Sarsour, Laurie Charles
Ditch 4
False Prophets Charles Taze Russell, Tali and Ophira Edut, Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins, David Koresh, Brian David Mitchell
Ditch 5
Cranks and Conspiracy Theorists Oliver Stone, Michael Baigent, Alex Jones, Steven Brandenburg, Maajid Nawaz
Ditch 6
Hypocrites Barack Obama, Bill Cosby, Michael Landon, James Buchanan
Ditch 7
Thieves (Robbers, Extortionists, Grafters) Carl Gugasian, Darnell Riley, Francisco Correa Sanchez, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom
Ditch 8
Counselors of Fraud Bernie Madoff, Martin Shkreli, L. Ron Hubbard, Mariam Al-Sohel
Ditch 9
Sowers of Discord, Inciters of Rebellion Donald Trump, Daniel Shays
Ditch 10
Forgers, Counterfeiters, and Identity Thieves Charles Dawson, Konrad Kujau, Matvei Golovinski, Frank William Abagnale, Walter Fritz, Wesley Weber, Morton Smith