Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Jimi's Music: What have you mastered?

Jimi Hendrix was a staple of your grandparents', or possibly parents', music scene in the psychedelic 1960s, but there is more to him than some steps along the watchtower. 

Hendrix once said, .“I started playing the guitar about 6 or 7, maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I was influenced by everything at the same time, that’s why I can’t get it together now.” What? Hendrix couldn't get his guitar playing together? I wish I was that discombobulated.

While being a staple of the psychedelic movement, Hendrix felt more connected to the Delta River Blues. “I used to like Buddy Holly,” he said, “and Eddie Cochran and Muddy Waters and Elvin James… B.B. King and so forth.” But his great love was Albert King, who “plays completely and strictly in one way, just straight funk blues.

Probably more of a surprise to those lovers of all things Hendrix, when talking about his playing style, he said, “I don’t want anybody to stick a psychedelic label around my neck. Sooner Bach and Beethoven.” Yes, that classical music that you hear at the symphony or as a background track for romantic movies. 

Classical music, opera, sailing, surfing? Is there something that you have mastered that people would not expect from you? What has it added to your life? Do you think you could ever do this for a living? Who are the influences in your life? As a college student, have you had time to engage in this activity lately? 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos XXXI to XXXIV

Canto XXI – Circle Nine (Cocytus) – Treachery

Danté takes the rebuke at the end of Canto XXX just as “we turned our backs on the dismal valley.” They hear a “horn-blast that would have made the loudest thunderclap seem faint” and turn to look at “a range of lofty towers . . . Master, tell me, what city is this?”

Virgil tells him “your eyesight is deceived by distance . . . these are not towers, but giants and, from the navel down, each stands behind the bank that rings the pit.”

They approach one who just talks nonsense. Virgil says, “This is Nimrod, because of whose vile plan the world no longer speaks a single tongue” to remind readers of his association with the Tower of Babel and the resulting confusion of language. Virgil brushes off Nimrod and they proceed.

They see the chained giant Epihialtes who “joined the great assault when giants put gods in fear” during classical times. In other words, he tried to rebel against the gods—not a good move.

Antaeus, another classical giant famous for losing to Hercules is next (remember Danté borrows from many literary and mythological sources), and they will use him as an elevator to “set us down in the very depth of sin.”

Virgil gets Antaeus to help out by telling him Danté “still can make you famous in the world, because he lives, and hopes for years of living.” In other words, he can make you famous. Antaeus complies setting them “gently on the bottom that swallows Lucifer with Judas.”

Canto XXXII – Circle Nine (Cocytus), Rounds One (Caina) and Two (Antenora) – Treachery

Circle nine is also broken into parts, like circle eight. Instead of boligas, however the different sections are called rounds.

And you thought Hell was full of fire and brimstone. Danté can’t “describe the very bottom of the universe.”
A voice says “Watch where you walk. Step so as not to tread upon our heads.” Danté looks down and “under my feet I saw a lake so frozen that it seemed more glass than water.” Those sinners were trapped iced in up to their mouths. This is the ice of circle nine, Cocytus.

Round One – Caina, named after Cain who killed his own brother. Danté asks a pair whose hair has iced together, “Who are you?” They look up and “dripped tears down to their lips, and icy air then froze those tears” just before they began ramming their heads against one another. These are two brothers who hate each other and are trapped frozen together, forever.

One brother, Camiscion de’ Pazzi, points out Mordred who killed King Arthur (in the French novel Morte d’ Arthur) and Focaccia, a Guelph, who murdered various relatives, and Sassol Mascheroni, a Florneintine, who murdered a relative over inheritance. But worst of all hasn’t arrive yet, one Carlino who will be arriving soon after betraying a White Guelph stronghold for money.

“After that I saw a thousand faces purple with the cold, so that I shudder still—and always will—when I come to a frozen ford.”

Round two – Antenora, named after Antenora of Troy, a traitor who betrayed his city to the Greeks. Danté kicks a sinner hard in the face. “Why pick on me?” he asks.

Danté questions him and discovers it is Bocca degli Abati who is a “‘vile traitor . . . to your shame shall I bring back true news of you.’” Degli Abati was a member of the Florentine Guelph army who cut off the arm of the standard-bearer ensuring a disastrous defeat of the Guelphs at the hands of the Ghibellines (remember, Danté is a Guelph).

A couple more traitors are revealed, Tesauro de’ Beccheria who treacherously assisted the Florentine Ghibellines and was beheaded and Gianni de’ Soldanieri , another Ghebelline who betrayed his own party after their defeat at Benevento.

Two men are stuck in the same hole where one gnaws on the other’s head for eternity as a “famished man will bite into his bread.” And, of course, Danté wants to speak with them.

Canto XXXIII - Circle Nine (Cocytus), Round Three (Ptolomea) – Treachery

Count Ugolino “raised his mouth from his atrocious meal, that sinner, and wiped it on the hair of the very head he had been ravaging” to tell his gruesome tale. Archbishop Ruggieri whose head Ugolino is gnawing on, betrayed their cities and then Ruggieri cooked up some excuse to be rid of his partner-in-crime. He has Ugolino,“his two sons and two grandsons locked in a tower.”

At one point during their captivity, Ugolino “awoke before the dawn of the day I heard my children, in that prison with me, weep in their sleep and ask for bread.” But instead of food “down below I heard them nailing shut the entry to the dreadful tower.” Ugolino’s sorrow “made me gnaw my hands” and the children imaging him starving said, “Father, we would suffer less if you would feed on us.”

On the fourth day, one of this children died, then another “on the fifth and the sixth.” He was blinded from hunger and “for two days called to them, though they were dead. Then fasting had more power than grief.” You can guess what that means; his hunger overcame his revulsion of human flesh.

Ugolino breaks off to gnaw at Ruggieri’s skull. Danté is moved, believing that Pisa “should not have put his children to such torture.”

Danté then feels a “breath of wind” even though “the cold had made all feeling leave my face.” Virgil says only that “your eyes will give an answer, seeing the source that puts out such a blast.” In other words, the devil is near.

The two move farther along and reach the next round, Ptolomea. This round seems to punish those who deliver treachery to guests. Ptolomey invited his father-in-law and brothers-in-law to a banquet, and once they had imbibed some alcohol, he slew them. And you thought you had treacherous relatives?

Next they meet Fra. Alberigo who invited some relatives to dinner with whom he had a dispute. Once the fruit course was called for assassins fell on his guests “here, for figs, I am repaid in dates.” But, before he made it to hell, his “body [was] taken by a devil, who was then in control until the time allotted it has run.” He says the shade he is stuck with still walks the earth as one Branca d’Oria, a man who murdered his father-in-law. Fiction is stranger than real life, d’Oria was still alive when this was written, and outlived Danté dying in 1325, living well into his nineties. I wonder if he enjoyed his vacation?

Fra. Alberigo asks Danté to clear the ice from his eyes three times during this discussion, which Danté has promised, but once he gets what he wants, he simply refuses. Is that Christian behavior? Or is Danté finally fed up with all these sinners.

Canto XXXIV - Circle Nine (Cocytus), Round Four (Judecca)– Treachery

The final canto of The Inferno opens with the Latin phrase “Vexilla regis produent inferno” meaning “The banners of the King of Hell drew closer.”

In the final round of the circle “the shades were wholly covered [by the ice], show through like bits of straw in glass,” like imperfections stuck in every which way.

Virgil points out Dis (the classical name for the king of hell), and Danté became “faint and frozen” neither alive or dead, just “deprived of either state.”

Satan is a giant, and “if he was fair is hideous now, and raised his brow in scorn of his creator.” He has three faces; one in front, the other two above each shoulder, “and all the three united at the crest.” They are winged, three sets “featherless and fashioned like a bat’s wings. When he flapped them, he sent forth three separate winds, the sources of the ice upon Cocytus.”

Satan is chewing on three sinners. The middle head contains the “soul up there who bears the greatest pain . . . is Judas Iscariot who has his head within and outside flails his legs.” Judas betrayed Jesus to the Romans.

The other mouths hold Brutus and Cassius, the betrayers of Julius Caeser, and in Danté’s view, the destroyers of Rome and Italy.

So the worst, final, deepest, coldest, circle of hell is reserved for those who are traitors to their lords, kings, and benefactors.

Virgil tells Danté night is rising in the sky. It is time for us to leave, for we have seen it all.” And the two scamper down the body of Satan through the center of the Earth and arrive at “a natural dungeon, rough underfoot and wanting light.” They follow the sound of a stream until they step outside and “see, through a round opening, a few of those fair things the heavens bear. Then we came forth, to see again the stars.”

Congratulations! You have made your way back out to see the stars. Would you go on through purgatory? How do you feel about Danté and Virgil as characters? Do you feel sorry for any of the sinners? Which ones? How about Virgil? Do you believe he should be consigned to limbo?

Treachery against relatives, home and country, guests, lords and benefactors is the worst of all sins according to Danté. Do you see it the same way? Is treachery worse than murder, pandering, theft? Why or why not?

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos XXVIII to XXX

Canto XXVIII - Circle Eight, Bolgia Nine - The Scandal Makers

Danté begins canto XXVIII with a catalog of the horrors of war, who "could tell the blood and wounds that I saw now?" where men were "cleft from the chin right down to where men fart." From Aeneas's Trojans (1150 BCE)--a Roman victory--to the Roman defeat by the Carthaginians (216 BCE), the Norman defeat of the Saracens (1070 CE) and the defeat of Manfred by Charles of Anjou (1266 and 1268 CE). In other words, from ancient times to Danté's time.

Danté even runs into Mohammad in this bolgia who "looked at me and, with his hands, ripped apart his chest." Danté believed that Islam was a rival Christian sect, thus Mohammad is divided in belief. Danté also describes the Sunni/Shiite split that occurred in 656 and still divides Muslims.

All the inhabitants of this bolgia "sowed scandal and schism while they lived and that is why they here are hacked asunder. Their punishment fits their sin since they ripped apart nations, religions, families, politics. They are incessantly hacked apart by a sword-wielding devil who hacks them apart when "all our wounds have closed."

Virgil tells Mohammad that Danté is just visiting "to give him great knowledge." Mohammad is stunned and tells Danté to warn Fra Dolcino, the head of an outlawed Christian sect, that he better straighten up "unless he'd like to join me here quite soon."

Danté is recognized by Pier da Medicina and is intrigued by the inhabitants. He tells da Medicina "Point out to me and make him known, if you would have me carry news of you above, the one to whom that city's [Rimini] sight was bitter." da Medicini pries open the mouth of Curio, but he can't speak because his tongue has been cut out. He is seen as schismatic because he told Caesar he should march on Rome, thus destroying the republic, and causing civil wars in Rome.

Mosca the architect of the Guelph/Ghibelline discord that racked Italy (Danté was a Guelph) is also in this bolgia. Danté says to him "Death to your own stock" to which Mosca runs off like a berserker.

Here's a great image from all your B-horror films worth their screams and blood. Towards the end of the canto Danté views "a headless body . . . and by its hair he held his severed head swinging in his hand as if it were a lantern." This sinner caused a rebellion between king and prince and "because I severed persons thus conjoined, severed, alas, I carry my own brain."

Canto XXIX - Circle Eight, Bolgia Ten - The Counterfeiters

Danté takes a look around at the multitude of "people and their ghastly wounds." Virgil rebukes him "What are you staring at?" It's like a scene from a fatal car crash where everyone slows down to take a look. Virgil also says the pair needs to get a move on because "the moon already lies beneath our feed. The time we are allotted soon expires." Virgil's lunar time-telling leaves five hours for the remainder of their journey through Hell.

Danté is offended. He's not just curious rubbernecker. "I do believe I saw someone of my own blood." Virgil tells him it's Geri Del Bello, a member of his family, who is a troublemaker and was murdered. Danté then sticks up for Del Bello saying, that because "no vengeance has been taken yet" makes "any person partner to his shame." Danté is stuck, he should seek vengeance for his fallen relation, but as all Christians know, vengeance is the provenance of God.

They start descending into a fetid pit which "from it rose the stench of festering limbs" and "strange arrows of lament" coming from the sinners of this level, the forgers. Danté finally sees "the minister of God on high, unerring justice, punishes the counterfeiters whom she here records," but leaves it at that. What’s a reader to do? Who/what is he talking about?

Danté offers a simile to explain the forgers' punishment. Juno sent a plague that laid waste to the island of Aegina - in the same way the counterfeiters are a plague on society, so they have been afflicted with every kind of disease one can imagine. These particular inhabitants are covered "with scabs from head to foot" and "clawed his nails across his skin because of that mad itch."

Virgil asks if "any are Italian"?

"We whom you see so blasted are Italian?"

Virgil directs Danté to "Ask them what you will."

Griffolino d'Arezzo was burned alive for heresy, but landed in Hell for falsifying metals. The other Capocchio, the Arentine, does the same thing, he first tells a story about the indulgences of the Sianese - using clove to spice food - and then says I “altered metal by means of alchemy” and that’s what landed him in Hell.

Canto XXX - Circle Eight, Bolgia Ten - The Counterfeiters (cont'd)

Canto XXX opens with a long classical simile from Ovid's Metamophoses, tales that end in madness and involve deception through disguise. Myrrha disguises herself to have sex with her father, etc. The classical sinners bear off Capocchio (see XXIX above), the scratcher, who is dragged away "so his belly scraped the rock-hard ground.” The other sinner, the Arentine (see XXIX above) is Gianni Schicchi, a man known as a great imposter. These sinners are all plagues on society.

There are four different kinds of falsification that are afflicted by various diseases: falsifiers (alchemists) are punished with scabs, impersonators are rabid, counterfeiters of coin are stuck with dropsey (edema), and perjurers are fever ridden.

One of the hell bound, Adam, a debaser of gold coinage, "the coinage stamped with John the Baptist" was burned at the stake. He blames his employer, the Conti Guidi, (typical) "for it was they made me strike the florins that held three carats' worth of dross."

Danté wants to know who lies near the "new" Adam. "One is the woman who lied accusing Joseph, the other is false Simon, the lying Greek from Troy." The woman failed to seduce Joseph, so she told the Pharaoh, Joseph tried to seduce her, the other, Simon tricked the Trojans into accepting the horse. The three falsifiers begin fighting among one another in an amusing scene, accusing each other of villainy and whacking each other with plagued body parts.

Virgil rebukes Danté "Go right on looking and it is I who'll quarrel with you." Danté does not offer a retort, like he did in the last canto; instead he takes it, feeling guilty for enjoying the back-and-forth quarreling of the sinners.

"Do not forget I'm always at your side should it fall out again that fortune take you where people are in wrangles such as this. For the wish to hear such things is base."

When we began the descent into circle eight’s ten bolgias, the translator Dorothy Sayer notes,  Maleboge "began with the sale of the sexual relationship, and went on to the sale of Church and State; now, the very money is itself corrupted, every affirmation has become perjury, and every identity a lie.” Do you see the sins progressing as you would have thought from lesser sin (at the top of circle eight) to the worst sin at the bottom?

Have you ever enjoyed listening to friends and family argue? Do you watch political shows where the commentators argue over the same things day in and day out? How about Judge Judy, or Judge whoever, where we find glee in the absurdities on display?

So what do you think the punishment should be for those selling knock off goods? That's counterfeiting. Do you believe counterfeiting money is a victimless crime?

Do you know someone who just loves to stir up trouble and then watch what happens?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos XXV to XXVII

Canto XXV - Circle Eight, Bolgia Seven - Thieves

 After the ornament-stealing, Vanni, tells Danté his fate, he blasphemes by making some kind of finger gesture towards god. Let's just say he gave god the finger. Danté now believes that the "serpents were my friends" as they coiled around Vanni's neck.

Soon a centaur approaches and "on his shoulders crouched a dragon with its wings spread wide that sets on fire whatever it encounters."The dragon sits atop Cacus, the son of Vulcan who was killed by Hercules for stealing cattle as told in Virgil'sAeneid. But in the AeneidCacus is not a centaur, he is a man who exhales smoke and fire. It seems Danté took some liberties here and what this displays is that Danté is willing to revise the Aeneid to make it work for him in The Inferno.

Three souls then shout at Danté and Virgil, "You, who are you?"

Danté is amazed when a "reptile with six legs propels itself at one of them, and fastened itself to him. It grabbed his belly with its middle claws, then with its forepaws held his arms and bit through both cheeks. It stretched its hind feet down the other's thighs, thrusting its tail between them and curled it up behind, above the buttocks . . . Then they fused together, as if made of molten wax, mixing their colors so that neither seems what it had been before . . . The two heads had already united, two sets of features blending, both lost in a single face. Four separate limbs combined to form two arms. The thighs and calves,the stomach and chest turned into members never seen before. All trace of their first aspect was erased." Can't you just see it? This is how horror films were created, a medieval blast from below.

 Danté boasts that his vision of hell is so terrifying that Lucan should shut up about Sabellus and Nasidius, soldiers slain in the Libyan desert by snakes. He also says, "Let Ovid not speak of Cadmus or Arethusa" one of the more famous metamorphoses from classical antiquity as Cadmus was transformed into a serpent and Arethusa into a spring. These transformations are only of physical bodies while the transformation of hell’s inhabitants involves their whole natures, thus their punishment to have their bodies and personalities constantly stolen.

Canto XXVI - Circle Eight, Bolgia Eight - Evil Counselors and Fraudulent Advisers

As Danté enters bolgia eight, he laments that he met five thieves from Florence in the previous bolgia--something Florence should be ashamed of. Danté then mourns that his pride may have landed him on this infernal journey. He hopes to "curb my powers lest they run on where virtue fail to guide them" and make this hike through hell permanent.

Bolgia eight is the domain of evil counselors and fraudulent advisers; especially the people that encouraged people to give false advice. They are concealed in flames symbolizing their ardor towards capturing the minds of those they fraudulently controlled. First up, Ulysses (aka Odysseus) and Diomed who utilized "the stratagem of the horse that made a gateway through which the noble seed of Rome came forth." Ulysses tricked Achilles into joining the war against Troy where he died in battle while the horse itself was a fraudulent peace offering.

Danté can't wait to talk to Ulysses, but Virgil speaks to him in Greek, asking, "Let one of you relate just where, having lost his way, he went to die."

Ulysses speaks first. Circe beguiled him (yes, blame it on a woman) to stay away from home. Once he returned, nothing could move him, "not tenderness for a son, nor filial duty toward my aged father, nor the love I owed Penelope (wife) . . . could overcome the fervor that was mine." Danté takes some license here. Ulysses enlists his crew to head off on another voyage, one not recorded in The Odyssey. They take off because "they were not made to live like brutes or beasts, but to pursue virtue and knowledge"--here again, is some wild counsel that Ulysses is giving--he needs these "brothers" to row his ship.

They spend five months out at sea until their ship is destroyed in "whirlwind that struck the ship head-on." 

Canto XXVII - Circle Eight, Bolgia Eight - Evil Counselors and Fraudulent Advisers (cont'd) 

As a new flame approaches it sounds like a bellowing bull which refers to a torture device whereby victims were put inside a bronze bull and roasted alive, their screams transformed into the bellowing of a bull.

Virgil nudges Danté saying "It's up to you to speak--this one is Italian." He turns out to be Guido da Montefeltro, "A warrior was I, and then a corded friar," which made him happy until Pope Boniface VIII led him from his life of meditation to political machinations. Montefeltro's "deeds were not a lion's but the actions of a fox."

Boniface calls on Montefeltro for advice on a matter of tactical strategy, but Montefeltro "kept silent." Boniface says to him, "I absolve you here and now if you will teach me how I can bring the Praeneste to the ground." The Colonna family of Praeneste were in rebellion against Boniface's authority. Montefeltro gives in because he will forgive his sins and "will seal your triumph on the lofty throne."

Bad move.

The minute Montefeltro dies, and St. Francis comes to collect him, a "dark Cherubim" shows up saying, "He must come down to serve among my minions because he gave fraudulent advice." According to the Cherubim, who seems to know more about church law than St. Francis, "One may not be absolved without repentance, nor repent and wish to sin concurrently . . . Perhaps you didn't reckon I'd be versed in logic." 

We still live with thieves, but it seems that some thieves are worse than others. Stealing food because you are hungry is one thing, but stealing . . . what will land you in Hell?

How about fraudulent advisers? Where do they exist in our society? Would you consider someone who sells you life insurance that you can't afford is guilty of giving bad advice? How about financial advisers that guarantee that you will make money? Do any of our leaders have fraudulent advisers?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos XXII to XXIV

Canto XXII - Circle Eight, Bolgia Five - Barrators (cont'd)

So off Danté and Virgil head with a ten-demon escort, an escort befitting their current location "in church with saints, with guzzlers in the tavern." Danté spies barrators (corrupt politicians) emerging from the pitch to relieve their aching backs "like dolphins, when they arch their backs above the water" until they see the Demon Barbariccia approaching and then the barrators sink below the boiling surface, that is all except one.

A demon pulls Ciampolo out of the pitch with a billhook, who is a native of Navarre and took bribes while serving the "noble Thibaut."

Isn't there anyone in this boiling pitch from Italy? asks Virgil.

Yes, there is one Friar Gomita of Gallura "a vessel full of fraud," who instead of punishing wrongdoers, let them off for the right amount of money. He was "no small-time swindler but a king."

Another barrator is Don Michel Zanche, King of Sardinia, who was murdered after committing outrageous acts of political fraud.

The Navaresse Ciampolo offers to bring more barrators up from the pitch if Virgil can hold the devils at bay, a ploy so that he can attempt an escape. Two devils fly after him, and when it is apparent Ciampolo has escaped they start fighting and fall in the pitch. Danté and Virgil watch as the head malebranche sends four devils to release "the pitch-trapped pair, already cooked to a crust. And that is how we left them in that broil."

Canto XXIII - Circle Eight, Bolgia Five - Barrators to Bolgia Six - Hypocrites

Virgil and Danté silently walk together thinking about the brawl, and their escape, which reminds Danté of Aesop's fable about the frog and the mouse--a fable that goes something like this. A mouse wants to cross a river and a frog says he will tow the mouse across the river using a string. Once the mouse reaches half way across the frog dives down to drown the mouse, but an overflying kite (bird of prey) grabs the mouse and kills him and gets a frog as a bonus snack. Danté sees himself as the mouse, Virgil as the frog, and the Malebranche as the kite. Again Danté seems to be pulling the veil off his eyes and seeing that in Hell these are all sinners and that Virgil has his flaws.

Danté is afraid of the enraged malebranche who chase after them. Just as the winged demons approach Virgil picks Danté up and slides with him down the bank bearing him along "as if I were his child, not his companion," leaving the malebranche stuck on the fifth crevasse, since they are deprived "of the power to leave it."

In Bolgia six they come upon the "lacquered people" moving slowing looking "both weary and defeated." They dress like Cluny monks wearing cloaks that were "gilded and dazzling on the outside, within they are of lead." These are the hypocrites and their punishment of the gilded leaded cloaks represents the shiny words they speak to your face hiding malicious falsity beneath, cloaks that are so heavy they can't make any spiritual progress.

Danté wants to know if there are any Tuscans and two hypocrites approach "Jovial Friars," knights who were supposed to keep the peace between warring factions, but they failed to do so due their hypocrisy. They took sides in many squabbles resulting in the wanton burning of the parts of the city occupied by those they did not support.

Danté then sees a man staked to the ground--his crime? The friar identifies, Caiaphas, the man who urged the Pharisees "that one man should be martyred for the people" (aka Jesus Christ). He is a hypocrite because he did so to save his own skin and gain political popularity. He is naked but feels the weight of his sin since all the lead-wearing sinners walk upon his body. Caiaphas's father-in-law is also there as one of the Pharisees who condemned Jesus.

Virgil asks how to get out of this place "without requiring help from some black angels." The friar replies, that there is no bridge and they will have to "clamber up the sloping rubble." Virgil is stung to find out the malebranche lied to him. The Friar replies, "I heard tell of the Devil's many vices, and I heard he is a liar and the father of all liars" to which an angry Virgil stalks off.

 Canto XXIV - Circle Eight, Bolgia Seven - Thieves

When Virgil reaches the broken bridge his anger has cooled and Danté and he start climbing out of there. Danté becomes winded and Virgil tells him to quit being lazy. Danté hears a voice he can't identify, but forgets this when he finally climbs over the seventh bolgia where he sees a ditch filled with "a dreadful swarm of serpents."

This is the home of the thieves who are pursued and bitten by snakes and lizards. Danté watches as one is bitten, catches fire, and as "he lay unmade upon the ground, the dust regathered of its own accord and suddenly he was himself again," and subject to the next bite. So the punishment for thieves fits their crime; as they stole from others their identity is repeatedly stolen over and over again in this circle.

 Danté meets Vanni who describes himself as an "animal." What is your sin? He is ashamed but "can't refuse to answer . . . I am thrust so far below because I stole the lovely ornaments from the sacristy 'and the blame was wrongly laid upon another."

Vanni does feel some shame and offers  Danté another prediction as an act of revenge for being seen in Hell--Danté's faction of the white Guelphs will be driven from Florence--and that is why we have The Inferno today. If Danté had never been exiled from Florence he would never have written The Divine Comedy.

Are these sinners still around today?

Are politicians and those that surround them corrupt? Does the media "cheerlead" for one side over another? Do politicians receive the same justice as the rest of us?

Do you have friends that are all sweetness and light when they talk to your face, but when they are with other friends they say awful things about you? Have you ever done this?

Ever stolen anything?