What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Don't murder me


Dire Wolf. Original composition: mixed medium. Cella, 2017, [age 5].

His favorite Grateful Dead tune is “Dire Wolf.” My son. The poor kid, subjected by his dissolute father to Dead songs, nonetheless displays the nous to name a real classic. And then present a piece of art to memorialize it.

“Dire Wolf” remains classic song, but now it is a mixed-media composition for all time. (So says the father.)

Anyway, the child has some questions.

When I awoke the Dire Wolf
600 pounds of sin
Was grinnin’ at my window
All I said was come on in

Query: Why say “come on in”? Of all the things to do when a Dire Wolf is grinning at your window. This puzzle strikes the five-year-old’s mind.
Gulping, the father prepares a reply: Probably because all the things of man are subject to rot and ruin. Sons of Adam invite the Dire Wolf in.
“We all do?” “Yep.”

The Dire Wolf collects his due
While the boys stand ‘round the fire

Standing around that old fire. No doubt they do.

“Son, we’re standing ‘round the fire. And making representations of the Dire Wolf.”

Comments (17)

Nice art work. :-)

Thought you'd find this interesting:

The situation that's basically happening in 'Dire Wolf' is it's the middle of winter, and there's nothing to eat for anybody, and this guy's got a little place. Suddenly there's this monster, the dire wolf, and the guy is saying, 'Well, obviously you're going to come in, and why don't you pull up a chair and play some cards?' But the cards are cut to the queen of spades, which is the card of death, and all the cards are death at this point. The situaion is the same as when a street dude, an up-against-the- Establishment guy, approaches the Establishment and says, 'We can coexist.'



There's a large house visible across the fields which is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a dog, probable inspiration for the Hound of the Baskervilles (an old local family). Funny tie in there. The song "Dire Wolf" was inspired, at least in name, by watching the Hound of the Baskervilles on TV with Garcia. We were speculating on what the ghostly hound might turn out to be, and somehow the idea that maybe it was a Dire Wolf came up. Maybe it was even suggested in the story, I don't remember. We thought Dire Wolves were great big beasts. Extinct now, it turns out they were quite small and ran in packs. [Actually, it looks like they were right the first time and dire wolves were pretty big fellows.] But the idea of a great big wolf named Dire was enough to trigger a lyric.


Dear sweet sunshine. I've got Lydia looking up Grateful Dead lyrics. Heh.

Hey, it's the archives of a fusty listserve with annotations to an obscure lyric. Just my kinda thing. I used to belong to a Medievalists' listserve back in the 90s when the Internet was just begun. This is exactly the kind of esoteric research those guys would love to share.

Ha! Straussian reads of Grateful Dead songs?

It is interesting how Robert Hunter wrote half the Dead lyrics but barely played a single instrument. (He also worked with Dylan, by the way.)

My son is on to something, though: a 600-pound wolf cuts a compelling figure anywhere.

A 600 lb wolf would be dog food - it would be so fat that it could not begin to run.

The biggest wolves around are not really any bigger than the biggest dogs around - we have been breeding dogs for probably 10,000 years and some breeds we have selected for size, and I can guarantee you "natural" selection won't top human breeding efforts. The biggest dog in the world is 200 lb, and it's enormous. The biggest wolf recorded was 175 lb. (You can find claims of a 300 lb wolf killed, but then you see the killer holding the wolf in his arms, and there's no way even a beefy large-boned hunter is going to hold 300 lb of oddly-shaped wolf up. Imagine picking up a dead NFL offensive lineman off the ground - not on your best day).

But if it COULD grow to that size and be healthy, watch out.

I appreciate the fact that the lyrics to this song are better moral teaching than the lyrics to "Devil Went Down to Georgia." I like the latter a lot. It's a kickin' good song, if you like that kind of thing. But one has to admit that it seems to teach the listener that it's a good thing to make what is actually a very stupid bet with the devil. Seriously, you get a gold fiddle if you win and lose your soul if you lose? And why assume the devil will be such a gentleman as to acknowledge defeat? I glory in Johnny's victory like any red-blooded American, but, Johnny, that was a really, really bad move.

In contrast, "Dire Wolf" is more like Faust. Making a wager with the wolf, you always lose.

Up the road:


"A 600 lb wolf would be dog food - it would be so fat that it could not begin to run."

Depends on the skeleton - Dire wolves were bigger so beef it up and things might work out; some Smilodons fell in that range. A 1,000 lb bear can easily outrun an East African Plains Ape. A few years ago I was out in the woods with Dozer - an American Bulldog - and what I at first took to be large but lean wolf suddenly emerged from a bunch of ferns. We were mulling our options when the owner emerged. It was most likely a wolf - dog cross of some sort but was the wolfest wolf - dog I've ever seen.

Things were more interesting around here 12,000 years ago.

I don't doubt that many large animals in the 600 range - and even higher, can run darn well. The largest lions top that weight, crocodiles can run at 20 mph for a bit, and giraffes - much larger than 600 lbs, can go 25 or so. All of them faster than me.

The point is that dogs and wolves do not get that big. They would need a different skeleton to manage it.

So this Dire Wolf Project really does propose to say "come on in"?

But of course, because they have some sense, they only want the look of the Dire Wolf, not the nature:

At present, each dog when bred begets itself in conformation, the Dire Wolf look is not complete. Because Lois concentrated on the health and the mellow, calm, non-barking temperament before looks, the breed's conformation is still under development.

Seems to me that a Dire Wolf without a ruthless hunter's personality is no more an actual Dire Wolf than a Plains Ape with a notion to bring back extinct predators is an actual Plains Ape.

But if it COULD grow to that size and be healthy, watch out.

Tony, even a 175-pound wolf makes me a little bit icy inside. Such a creature might be capable of advancing through rifle fire. I mean, a .300 blackout round probably does kill him -- eventually. But not in time to keep him from killing me.

"ruthless hunter's personality"

"I mean, a .300 blackout round probably does kill him..."


Healthy non-Plains Ape predators are just hungry and inherently conflict adverse - they merely earn their living. A Plains Ape, when confronted with something novel, ponders "how might I kill it" as one of his first thoughts and bemoans a lack of "ruthlessness".

We might meditate on the loss of North and South American mega-fauna and the contemporaneous spread of Plains Apes from Asia to those continents.

I thought the scholarly consensus attributed those extinctions largely to climate change (because the last thing academics want to do is project a ruthless hunter's mentality onto early American Indians, while the first thing they want to do is teach us lessons about our impact today.)

For myself, the arrival of humans seems entirely more plausible. In what sense was North America more conducive to mega-fauna populations when it was covered in snow and ice year around, as opposed to when it warmed up a bit?

Sorry, Al, but I just don't possess a great deal of sentimentality about animals. The fact that early Americans could take on and conquer these magnificent creatures, wielding nothing but stone weapons and atlatls, induces in me admiration, not meditation on loss. Also, probably not one human in 10,000 had the skill to get the drop on a wild predator like a wolf on foot, so the fact of a confrontation means a very, very strong probability that one party will end up a corpse.

By the way, are you aware of any evidence of other apes driving competitors to extinction? Have gorillas extinguished certain species of lions?

Tony, even a 175-pound wolf makes me a little bit icy inside. Such a creature might be capable of advancing through rifle fire. I mean, a .300 blackout round probably does kill him -- eventually. But not in time to keep him from killing me.

Yeah, I wouldn't want to have to face one without a good weapon, either. But I would much rather face a single wolf than a single bear, any day: I grew up with a fairly aggressive german shepherd, so I have some familiarity with its basic physical accoutrements - though the typical wolf may be bigger than that dog by a bit, it's still in the same order of magnitude. Bears are a lot bigger and just plain tougher: more muscle to get through, heavier bones to try and break, longer claws, and more able to use front paws like hands than wolves can. And nearly the same speed in a short distance. A wolf's jaw and front paw is potentially vulnerable if you keep your wits in a close-in attack, if you don't have a weapon to keep it away.

The problem with wolves, generally, is that they run in packs, and it's rarely just one at a time. When you are busy taking out one wolf, another is ripping out your hamstrings. If they attack at all, that is. Better to convince them not to attack. And on that score: I have a feeling that we are better attuned to the "psychology" of wolves than of bears, and are more likely to guess right in how to avoid an attack from wolves than a bear.

A dire wolf may be a "different animal" than, say, the north american wolf of legend and (minimal) contact. Different enough? I don't know.

"But I would much rather face a single wolf than a single bear."

Depends on the bear (a single wolf might be rabid - endemic in much of the west - so any wound could put one in a world of hurt). Black - in general yes; brown/grizzly/polar - not so much. A few months ago, my neighbor to the west called me and said she could see a bear in one of her apple trees and would i mind dealing with it (she is in a wheel chair). I hiked over and did the whole shouting/ banging on things and he ran away (which is normal). A bear or so comes down out of the forest every year to grab some apples and cherry plums (tree ~20' from my abode). Wolves are currently a couple of counties away so If I make it another decade I may have some new neighbors. I'm a little too big but if one is right sized (child or small adult) the occasional cougar that comes through could be a problem. They are ambush killers so you wouldn't have much of a chance. Healthy ones tend to avoid Plains Apes as do wolves in North America.

There was a black bear in my neighborhood of northwest Atlanta last May, believe it or not. Social media lit up. Presumably, this particular creature followed a creek in from the hills. We're talking 20-30 miles from anything rural.

Some buffalo once strolled through our campground in Yellowstone. My mother wisely advised giving them a very wide berth. She was vindicated in her caution later when a knucklehead got gored taking pictures too close.

Oh, boy, buffaloes in Yellowstone - a whole different topic. I don't know what they are like "in the wild" and without protection. Not sure anybody does, really, I suspect. They are big enough - the adults - that in North America the only thing that even remotely could take one down in nature would be a whole pack of wolves, and I doubt even that, for a healthy one. Pretty sure the wolves would rather not try. But in Yellowstone they are protected, and they act like they own the place. When we visited, a small set of them created a "buffalo jam" by deciding that the road was a great way to get from point A to point B - at their ambling .2 miles per hour.

Al, I agree that there is a big difference between the typical black bear and a grizzly / brown. While I would consider trying to "frighten" off a black as you indicated, at need, I would almost certainly need a fresh pair of pants after having that kind of interaction with a grizzly. I.e. I would go a long ways out of my way to avoid that sort of thing.

I guess that it's true that wolves are ambushers, but with bears you can accidentally 'ambush yourself' by just happening to wander straight into their presence while they are picking over a berry bush or somebody's trash. With wolves that's less likely, they are far more elusive and wary of humans.

There was a black bear in my neighborhood of northwest Atlanta last May, believe it or not. Social media lit up.

I believe it, years ago we had a bear showing up in various backyards around my town which is dozens of miles from their natural habitat. Everyone at work was talking about it a little anxiously and speculating about where it might show up. Some joker (not me this time) suggested it was going to next appear ordering a meal at the McDonald's drive-thru. Needless to say, that broke the tension and gave me this indelible mental image of the bear wearing sunglasses and driving a convertible.

I was reminded by Paul's reference to Indians of this excellent quote from Joan Didion:

In a diary kept during the winter of 1846, an emigrating twelve-year-old named Narcissa Cornwall noted coolly: "Father was busy reading and did not notice that the house was being filled with strange Indians until Mother spoke about it." Even lacking any clue as to what Mother said, one can scarcely fail to be impressed by the entire incident: the father reading, the Indians filing in, the mother choosing the words that would not alarm, the child duly recording the event and noting further that those particular Indians were not, "fortunately for us," hostile. Indians were simply part of the donnée...In one guise or another, Indians always are. Again, it is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has its price. People who respect themselves are willing to accept the risk that the Indians will be hostile, that the venture will go bankrupt, that the liaison may not turn out to be one in which every day is a holiday because you’re married to me. They are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds.

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.