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  • Archive for June, 2003

    Not So Bright, Not So Liberal II: The Attack of the Atheists

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th June 2003 (All posts by )

    One of our valued readers left, in part, the following as a comment to Jonathan’s earlier post:

    Wouldn’t atheists find the assertion from religious people that they are plugged into some cosmic truth through their faith to be smug, arrogant and insulting? But I suppose it’s only a sin if the other side does it. If you do it it’s just asserting the obvious.

    I started typing a comment in reply, which had a hostile tone. I deleted it. Then I decided to just leave it there, move on. Then on third thought I decided I would respond. But that comment got out of hand. I then had a fourth thought, the old saying about never arguing with the guy who buys ink by the barrel — “hey, this is my blog, I’ll just put MY response out in the open”. So here it is:

    The tone, sir, the tone. The gratuitously insulting tone. We must work on that. Civility is a virtue which we all should have. It is the mortar holding together our pluralistic society. It is the foundation of our priceless civil peace, which is the envy and wonder of the world. So, starting out assuming that someone who disagrees with you has various moral failings is bad form socially and bad citizenship, as well as being intellectually unsound.

    I will tell you that the Roman Catholic religion is true. I assert that. I assume the burdens of that assertion. I try to live up to the standards imposed on me by that assertion. This necessarily means that I also assert that contradictory statements are not true. (Incidentally, I certainly don’t think this is an “obvious” truth, so you are wrong about that. It takes some prayer, reflection, experience and study to get there. I’ll also assert that it is worth the effort.)

    OK, I did it. I have made a “truth” statement. Pause. Look around. The sky has fallen on neither of us. Nor does that mean I cannot remain friends with people who do not make this assertion, or who aren’t sure, or who don’t want to think about it. There is no inconsistency between my assertion of the truth of Roman Catholicism and my genuine friendship with and respect and affection for those who do not do so. You have a poor, and false, idea of Roman Catholicism if you think otherwise.

    We all live, function, act and think based on what we believe to be true. All human conduct is necessarily rooted in some set of premises about what is true. These premises may be well thought out, not thought out, or incoherent, but these premises are there. So, making an assertion that something is true does not present any problem in itself. We all do that all day long, in deed if not in word.

    Now, some people may say, “if you cannot show me empirically or by means of scientific, quantifiable measurements, that your religious belief is true, then you may not speak about it.” I reject this. I reject the proposition that someone may engage me on a life or death matter, in fact a life-after-death matter, and say that I must accept that person’s truncated and false view of the world and of humanity and of what constitutes relevant evidence, all as some kind of ground rule for having a conversation. That strikes me as smug and arrogant, to use your adjectives. Someone initiates a conversation with me and insists that certain relevant matter is off limits, ab initio? Sorry, dude, Lex don’t play that.

    Now, if the tone of religious believers whom you have met has been “smug, arrogant and insulting” that is a bad thing. That is not how it is supposed to be done. Christianity is supposed to be about love, charity, patience, understanding, service, humility, etc. It’s in the New Testament in a bunch of places. You can look it up. Also, many people down the centuries have actually approached this ideal, some of whom we know as saints, most of whom are known only to God. I have found that this approach is far more common among sincere believers, even among those Christians who think my Catholicism will damn me to Hell, than anything like what you describe. But, hey, you had some bad experiences. Sorry about that. But I repudiate your judgement of me based on your experience with some unknown third parties. I refuse to be included in whatever group of people you had a bad experience with. And I reject your categorical lumping of religious believers into some pejorative category. And I am mystified that you think anyone with any self-respect would just knuckle under to such overbroad and, frankly, bigoted statements.

    Anyway, we believe in open and even hard-hitting free speech on this blog. But let’s treat each other with respect. Our model should be the old Victorians like Lord Acton, Cardinal Newman, Mill, James Fitzjames Stephen, Gladstone, all of whom were engaged from time to time in debates pertaining to religion in one way or another, and all of whom fought hard for their causes, all of whom threw hard oratorical punches, but who did not sink to personal rancor or insult the intentions of their opponents — whom they assumed to be serious men seriously engaged with serious matters, at least as an initial presumption.

    In closing, I will say that the truth or falsity of Catholicism or Christianity or Islam or religion generally is NOT what I particularly want to discuss in this forum — though I have decided and I daresay well-founded views on these questions. My fellow ChicagoBoyz have their own divergent opinions and I don’t want to use this blog as a soapbox for my views on these issues, which are very serious ones, where their views may differ to a major degree. We have enough to talk about on this blog where we either agree, or might have a shared interest, or where we will have grounds for constructive disagreement. But if someone insults me or my religion, I may choose to respond, depending on what I deem appropriate under the specific circumstances.

    Posted in Politics | 4 Comments »

    Not So Bright, Not So Liberal

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th June 2003 (All posts by )

    There’s been some discussion on blogs about this column by one of the Anglosphere’s deep thinkers. The idea is that atheists should call themselves “brights” as a way to distinguish themselves and to intellectually one-up those benighted believers.

    This is a bad idea and won’t fly. Many Americans are religious and would reasonably take offense at the clear implication of the word “bright” as used in this way: that religious people are stupid. This point, and the likelihood that even many atheists would prefer to avoid conveying such sneering disrespect for alternative views as use of this word, in this context, conveys, are going to make a lot of people reluctant to use it. And if it doesn’t catch on here it isn’t likely to become a standard term in the way that “gay” has.

    But I understand why people who hate religion would try to convince everyone else to use a term such as “bright.” Its use forestalls argument by assuming a conclusion — a conclusion that it asserts up front as though it were as obviously valid as someone’s name, and how dare anyone challenge it. (Are atheists bright? Yes, they tell us so themselves.) You have to wonder about the judgment and intellectual confidence of people who try to gain adherents to their position by using verbal sleight-of-hand rather than rational persuasion.

    “Bright” has been compared to the aforementioned “gay,” but I think a better comparison is to the word “liberal” as it is used in the U.S. to describe political orientation. Americans who call themselves liberals are really socialists. But socialism doesn’t sell here, so American leftists play word games to avoid defending their positions via straightforward arguments in which they would be at a disadvantage. They use “liberal” in the same way as Dawkins uses “bright” — to avoid dealing with opposing views on the merits. Ask what liberals believe, and why, and you are likely to receive a circular response asserting that since the word “liberal” implies tolerance and love of freedom, people who call themselves liberals must favor these things, and therefore (it is implied) if liberals support something it must be favorable for tolerance and freedom. Thus, for example, the American Left favors racial discrimination as long as leftists are in charge of it and do it out of self-declared good motives. This doesn’t seem very liberal to me, but they keep telling us that it is, and since they are “liberals” who am I to object? This is a neat trick, and lots of people still fall for it (though less so over time, as leftists’ increasing use of the word “progressive” in place of “liberal,” presumably in response to how their own actions have discredited liberalism, suggests).

    Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

    Band Practice

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th June 2003 (All posts by )

    We had a band practice for the first time in 13 years on Saturday. We had three out of four of us. I’m the singer. I’ll go to my grave amazed that talented people are willing to put up with me. But, hey, count your blessings. I guess I add something. Boyish enthusiasm, maybe. Our drummer played guitar at the practice, which he’s actually better at these days, and since his drums have been at someone else’s house for some number of years. He showed up nattily attired in a Ramones t-shirt. I had my Eyeliners t-shirt on. Our monstrously good guitar player, who can take five notes you whistle and turn it into a rock song, is in New York now. But we decided to just get started despite age, fat, decayed skills and absence of our best guy. The goal: twelve songs, 25-30 minute set performable somewhere in Chicagoland sometime reasonably soon. In other words, we aint in any hurry. We’re all keepin’ our day jobs. We decided we’d try a bunch of covers, and as we got going on that we’d maybe see if inspiration struck for some new originals. We’ll resurrect a few of our old originals as a last resort. We rehearsed “Don’t Push Me Around” by the Zeros, “Cesare Said” by Buck, “Everything’s Geometry” by cub (which I’m not sure works with a guy singin’ it …), “Spare Change” by the late, great Chicago all-girl band Bhang Revival. We took a swing at “Pancho and Lefty”, which may not work out, though I still have hope for it, it is such a good song. And we did a shorter version of our old cover of Ace Frehley’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ “2000 Man”. So far so good. I drank Pilsner Urquell throughout, which worked well for me. My kids sat on the basement stairs and watched this whole thing, with unreadable expressions. They seemed to like it OK, once they got used to it. They are stuck with a “weird” Dad. Could be worse. At least we have health insurance.

    If this band ever actually plays out, I’ll announce it here. Road trip to Chicago. All ChicagoBoyz readers can crash on my living room floor. Ha. Just kidding.

    (I see there are two copies of our ancient vinyl 7 inch ep, only 5 Euros! Woo hoo!)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

    Smite them hip and thigh

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 27th June 2003 (All posts by )

    Evilusion is developing a biblically themed role playing game:

    “The main concept behind Eon of Tears is that the player will get a shot at the biggest events in the Bible: unleashing the ten plagues of Egypt, seeing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha, leading the conquest of Canaan, or performing some of the miracles as Jesus-Christ.

    The game offers the chance to explore the events of the Bible and rewrite it to a certain extent. Your in-game journal consists of the Bible writing itself; if you do exactly what Moses did, you’ll end up with the very same Bible we know today. Chances are, however, that you will do a few things differently. All in all the choices the player makes steer him on one of the three paths: following the law of God, helping Satan destroy Him, or doing your own business to save your skin.

    These choices will have a big impact on your quest. For example, a player that acts evil most of the time won’t get to play Jesus, but Judas instead, or a Pharaoh’s troop commander instead of Moses. Sometimes it is the psychology of a character which changes – an evil player will still play as Joshua, but instead of “liberating the land of Canaan from the evil-doers”, he will “exterminate the sinners to the bitter end”.

    That sounds actually pretty good to me. If the concept is well executed I`ll be sure to get this game. Link via Slashdot Games.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    The misleading road map

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 27th June 2003 (All posts by )

    As its critics say the so-called “road map to peace” is indeed a benighted attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but at least one thing has to be said in its defense: Even a much more thoughtful and credible approach would have led to the same increase in attacks we just witnessed. The terrorists simply don’t want peace and will respond to any proceedings to that effect with violence in order to derail them.

    Israel is well advised to continue in its attempts to stamp out Hamas and all the other terrorist organizations. There is no guarantee that it is going to work much better than it used to, but it still is the best hope to at least weaken them to such an extent that they’ll be unable to sabotage the next and with some luck more comprehensive peace-plan. And there is one thing which is different from the past – an American administration that unambigously assigns the responsibility for the violence to the Palestinian side. The road map’s failure has given GWB some first hand insight into who the real culprits are (and that may be another good thing to say about it). If he follows through on that he’ll give Israel carte blanche on dealing with Hamas et al. and that might make the crucial difference.

    Now if only the European Commision could finally understand that Hamas’s so-called “political wing” is nothing but terrorist infrastructure some real progress might be made (link via the Shark Blog). Since the EU is no more of a fast learner than another supranational institution I could mention I’m not holding my breath, though.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    Sabine Herold

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th June 2003 (All posts by )

    The French, man, you want so much to hate them, but they always come up with something. Here is a picture of the new champion of freedom, Sabine Herold. (See this and this.) This appears to be her organization’s website. Her hero is Hayek. She led a pro-War rally. And she doesn’t want to leave France — she wants to take over.

    She’s speaking in Milan on June 27th, for something called the Centre for a New Europe. (That’s tomorrow. Too late for a road trip.) They have this blurb up:

    Mademoiselle Sabine Herold is a 21-year-old student who is challenging France’s silent majority to revolt against the strikes crippling her country. On May 25, she addressed a 2,000 people demonstration in front of Paris’ townhall. On June 15, she organized and addressed 80,000 people demonstrating against the Unions’ tyranny. Miss Herold has been nicknamed “the Joan d’Arc of the liberals” by Le Figaro and, by the London Times “Mademoiselle Thatcher”. She is “Rédactrice en chef” of the Paris-based free-market association “Liberté j’écris ton nom”.

    (Of course I found out about her from Instapundit.)

    UPDATE: Libertarian Samizdata has this, and this, and this on our heroine.

    I note that Mlle. Herold has been compared to Jeanne D’Arc, which is hyperbole, but harmless. I am however appalled to see certain bloggers saying nasty things about the Maid of Orleans. (No, I won’t link to them.) To all of our uncynical Chicagoboyz readers with open minds and youthful hearts, I commend to your attention the stirring and factually sound chapter from Edward Shepherd Creasy’s Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: From Marathon to Waterloo. You will need to Scroll down to Chapter IX, “Joan Of Arc’s Victory Over The English At Orleans, A.D. 1429.” Creasy, a fair-minded Englishman was forced by the facts to conclude that the Warrior Maiden was ” the truest heroine that the world has ever seen. ”

    Seeing such unfounded slander of St. Joan, who is not here to defend herself, reminds me of Edmund Burke’s wonderful passage about Marie Antoinette, which doesn’t really have anything to do with the point of this post, but I like and so here it is. The Queen had just been executed by the Jacobins. Burke tells us his thoughts when he heard the news, “It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles … ”

    …little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.

    But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.

    Ten thousand swords, gentlemen, leaping from their scabbards … .

    And Lex is feeling like a very sentimental old fellow as he reads these lines again. (Proving once again that he is a conservative, and not a libertarian.)

    OK, I’ll make some effort to tie all this together, sort of. God willing, Mlle Herold by her efforts, and the efforts of those she inspires, will restore some scintilla of the greatness her country once had and could yet have again.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

    Real fans don’t wait for the translation

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 26th June 2003 (All posts by )

    The original English-language edition of the new Hary Potter book is the number one bestseller in Germany.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    And I can’t wait for this

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 26th June 2003 (All posts by )

    The Diablo II development team at Blizzard is working on updating the game to Version 1.10. Among other things the patch will change character-balance and introduce many new items.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    I vividly remember most of these

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 26th June 2003 (All posts by )

    GameSpy lists the 25 dumbest moments in gaming.

    I’m currently working on some bigger posts, but I’m not quite happy with them. I’ll just post these smaller ones in the meantime.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Recording Industry goes after large numbers of file-traders

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 26th June 2003 (All posts by )

    The Register, the Inquirer and Corante report the details.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    “Dear CNBC. . .”

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th June 2003 (All posts by )

    Why do you guys keep hyping economic-data releases hours after they come out? Don’t you know that the markets discount this kind of information within seconds? Of course you know it, so stop pretending that everyone else doesn’t. Yes, I realize the other financial-news networks do the same thing that you do, but that’s because they’re clueless too.

    I know that this goes against journalistic conventional wisdom, but if you want to stand out in a way that gets you more viewers, you might consider doing things that your competitors don’t do. More interviews with economists and business analysts would be fine, but your over reliance on journo talking heads promoting the story of the day and interpreting economic news they don’t understand doesn’t cut it. Neither does your heavy use of talking-head conventional interpretations of political news. What might make you worth watching would be a few simple innovations, like a listing of the day’s economic releases in tabular or graphical form comparing them to previous stats. (Hint: we don’t care what the numbers are so much as how they compare to expectations, how the markets react, and whether there are obvious trends.) And would it kill you to time stamp your headlines, so that anyone could see at a glance if that latest news item is two minutes or two hours old?

    Thanks.

    P.S. And while you’re at it, maybe you should drop the car reviews, golf reviews, coverage of the CNBC annual barbecue, etc., etc. I can get that kind of stuff a lot more efficiently by browsing the WSJ “Personal Journal” section when I’m in the john.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Bond-Market Blow Off?

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th June 2003 (All posts by )

    Don Luskin links to this warning about long-term interest rates.

    The Fed, as the Times article points out, is plainly determined that this time nothing will get in the way (as 9/11 and Enron did in the recent past) of economic recovery. Therefore the Fed has been cutting rates and expanding the money supply. The desired results are economic expansion, which is already occurring, and a stock-market rally, which seems to be happening in fits and starts. But costs of the Fed’s manipulation include a weaker dollar, and an overvalued bond market that will collapse once it becomes clear that the Fed has finished cutting rates. Buy puts.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Economic Lynchpins

    Posted by Andy B on 23rd June 2003 (All posts by )

    Brian Wesbury hit the nail on the head with his Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal today (Monday June 23). I would provide a link, however the filthy capitalist pigs at the Journal require you to be a subscriber to view. (When the revolution comes, the Journal’s offices will certainly be converted to headquarters for the New Propaganda Daily). The main theme of his editorial is that the problem with this economy lies not in prevailing interest rates, and will not be solved through more cutting of said rates, rather the lack of velocity of money flow is what holds us back. Citing Irving Fisher’s brilliantly simple formula of (M)Money X (V)Velocity = (P)Price X (Q)Quantity , we can see that the Fed gets the most bang for its buck by exerting influence on V. I will let Mr. Wesbury’s piece speak for itself on how to do just that.
    For an alternative viewpoint, visit my friend Andrew Strasmann’s site, which is updated daily with econ-o-pinion as well as hockey commentary.

    Update: Here is the link to Brian Wesbury’s article. Since they obviously allow GKST to republish, I take back what I said about The Journal.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

    Newspaper or Blog?

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd June 2003 (All posts by )

    Somebody (Instapundit?) linked to this piece by David Gelernter, who has some interesting ideas about online newspapers. Gelernter thinks they could be radically improved by introduction of a cardfile-like user interface that he describes in detail. He also links to Scopeware, a company he’s involved with that develops and markets UI software of the type he discusses.

    The Scopeware UI paradigm seems like a natural. It also looks likes an evolutionary improvement on the UI designs we use in blogs. (Which raises a question of why Gelernter didn’t mention blogs as precursors and prototypes for the new newspaper paradigm he envisions.)

    I’m eager to see if Gelernter’s UI comes eventually to be used by online newspapers, but I’d be more interested in seeing it applied to blogs right now. Blogging software such as Movable Type already makes it easy to aggregate data feeds, search posts and categorize them by theme — features Gelernter says are important (and they are, though most bloggers fail to make efficient use of them). How hard would it be to create a MT main index template and style sheet to display posts as an over-the-horizon cascade of index cards in the way Gelernter suggests? Not very, I’d bet. Maybe someone will do it, and maybe then, if it becomes a popular blog UI, newspapers will consider using it. I doubt the newspapers will be the first to introduce it, though.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

    Sowell on Hoffer

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd June 2003 (All posts by )

    Jonathan sent me this, and this essay by Thomas Sowell, on the 20th anniversary of the death of Eric Hoffer. I read Hoffer’s book The True Believer a few weeks after 9/11, based on an essay in the WSJ. I’d had a copy on the shelf for years but never gotten to it. Hoffer put Catholicism and Nazism in the same category — delusional beliefs for the weak. Ouch. So wrong for so many reasons. A silent prayer for the repose of his manifestly well-intentioned soul is an appropriate response, which I am happy to provide and repeat as I type this. But this type of thing happens throughout the book, which is a mix of clever and wise insights commingled with historical and factual error and over-generalization. It makes the book a lot weaker than it ought to be. Hoffer was trying to do too much. Instead of just describing the membership of modern mass political movements, which he understood pretty well, he tried to write a book which spanned all of history. And he did not know enough of all of history to do that very well.

    Sowell’s affection for Hoffer seems to turn mainly on Hoffer’s uncompromising stand against the stupidities of the day which were rampant in the 1960s, at least as much as on the quality of Hoffer’s books. I have read almost everything by Sowell, who is usually very solid. His more recent books are not as good as his earlier, meatier work. For example, Knowledge and Decisions is excellent. (I just noticed that my copy seems to have disappeared … . All is not always orderly here at Fortress Lex.) Sowell’s books are better than his punditry, which can occasionally be superficial. All in all, Sowell is a better writer and thinker than Hoffer was, at least based on my sampling.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Photo

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st June 2003 (All posts by )

    red/white/black/light/shadow

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Random Thought

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st June 2003 (All posts by )

    Thomas Sowell writes:

    Insurance companies are in the business of reducing given risks and transferring them, for a price. Non-profit advocacy groups are in the business of maximizing fears from given risks, in order to attract the donations that keep them going. Yet because the latter’s income is not called by the dreaded word “profit,” they are considered to be doing something more noble.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    Block Party

    Posted by Lexington Green on 21st June 2003 (All posts by )

    Beautiful day, sunny, breezy, not too hot. Stuck at the office most of the day, responding to a muted but chilling observation from on-high that I need to be more “proactive” — but made it back before the whole thing was over.

    Today was the day of the block party. Street blocked off. Kids riding bikes in the street. Gangs of children I don’t even know appearing on my porch and demanding glasses of water, or to use the bathroom. People standing around drinking beer. As I type, karaoke out front. I can hear my wife singing “hey hey hey, goodbye”. After three bottles of strong and yummy Pilsner Urquell (the Czech Republic’s gift to the world) I took my turn in the karaoke barrel. I did a horrible version of “White Rabbit”. I then made partial penance by doing an on-key a capella version of Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home”. Then I quit while I was ahead. Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock’N'Roll” beckons, if someone gets more beer. (Now someone’s doing Whitney Houston. Bad call. Whitney doesn’t even sound good doing it, and she’s hitting the notes.)

    One of the guys down the street wants to go see the new Matrix movie. Our wives said, in unison, “you two can go”. I’m going to treat that as an evening pass, and run with it.

    My two year old was so tired she was falling down, but fought like a tiger not to have to go to bed. Once I got the dirt and snot and chocolate wiped off of her, and got her into a dry diaper and a pj, she fell asleep like a rock.

    Got good news the other day that Los Straitjackets are going to be playing walking distance from Lex’s pad on the 4th of July. Woo hoo.

    Work looks to get ugly. Plus I’m trying to get the doc to give me some medicine and he won’t return my calls. And my kids are beating me into the ground. And other stuff going on for the next little while. Can’t say for how long. But God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world. Still, I’ll have to trust the other ChicagoBoyz to pull the train for a while.

    Meanwhile, this Robert Kaplan interview(cited by Instapundit) is brilliant. The article from the dead tree magazine is even better — and will be online pretty soon, so be on the lookout for it. Currently reading Copse 125 by Ernst Junger, and Right Face: Organizing the American Conservative Movement 1945-65 by Niels Bjerre-Poulsen. Just finished David Hackworth’s book Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts. Also read Russia’s Chechen Wars 1994 – 2000: Lessons from Urban Combat by Olga Oliker. These are all excellent. Figure on “book reports” here as soon as I can focus. I have a bunch of other good ideas for posts, too. There’s a lot going on in the world and as always, I’ve got opinions longer than you have time to listen or read.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    The Sun King

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 19th June 2003 (All posts by )

    This account by the Duc (Duke) de Saint-Simon on the life of Louis XIV. of France is quite interesting and in some parts also pretty amusing:

    His natural talents were below mediocrity; but he had a mind capable of improvement, of receiving polish, of assimilating what was best in the minds of others without slavish imitation; and he profited greatly throughout his life from having associated with the ablest and wittiest persons, of both sexes, and of various stations.

    Glory was his passion, but he also liked order and regularity in all things; he was naturally prudent, moderate, and reserved; always master of his tongue and his emotions. Will it be believed? he was also naturally kind-hearted and just. God had given him all that was necessary for him to be a good King, perhaps also to be a fairly great one. All his faults were produced by his surroundings. In his childhood he was so much neglected that no one dared go near his rooms.

    His mind was occupied with small things rather than with great, and he delighted in all sorts of petty details, such as the dress and drill of his soldiers; and it was just the same with regard to his building operations, his household, and even his cookery. He always thought he could teach something of their own craft even to the most skilful professional men; and they, for their part, used to listen gratefully to lessons which they had long ago learnt by heart.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, France, Society | 1 Comment »

    Evelyn Waugh

    Posted by Lexington Green on 18th June 2003 (All posts by )

    This year is the centenary of the two greatest writers in English of the last century: Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell. I hope to put up a substantial post about them both at some point. But for now, check out this and this interview with Waugh.

    A sample:

    Interviewer: You are in favour of capital punishment?
    EW: For an enormous number of offences, yes.
    Interviewer: And you yourself would be prepared to carry it out?
    EW: Do you mean, actually do the hangman’s work?
    Interviewer: Yes.
    EW: I should think it very odd for them to choose a novelist for such tasks.

    This very good essay, about V.S. Naipaul astutely notes a certain type of “conservatism” which was shared by Kipling, Conrad, Waugh and (despite his being professedly a “man of the Left”) Orwell. Waugh is quoted as saying this about Kipling:

    He believed civilization to be something laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defenses fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms.

    That still sounds about right.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    Velvet Underground

    Posted by Lexington Green on 15th June 2003 (All posts by )

    Check out this super cool Velvet Underground website.

    There’s some really great live stuff on this site. Check out especially “Foggy Notion” here.

    Damn. Makes you wish you were there.

    Mo Tucker’s drumming is so solid. What a drummer. Steady as a rock. Her drumming reminds me of this line from Clark Ashton Smith’s “Soliloquy in an Ebon Tower”:

    In my room
    The quick, malign, relentless clock ticks on,
    Firm as a demon’s undecaying pulse,
    Or creak of Charon’s oar locks as he plies
    Between the shadow-crowded shores.

    The true fanatics probably already know all about this site, but I just found it, and I pass it along for the rest of you.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Old News: English as a World Language

    Posted by Lexington Green on 15th June 2003 (All posts by )

    Susan Sontag has this piece entitled “The World As India”. She engages in a lot of tortured and empty agonizing about what it means to do a translation. Pure academic navel-lint gathering. She then embarks on a trivial and superficial discussion of the idea that the world is (linguistically) India writ-large, which it isn’t. Then in her last few paragraphs she gets to what one might reasonably think is the point, the establishment of English as a world language.
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    Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

    New Army Chief

    Posted by Lexington Green on 15th June 2003 (All posts by )

    Ed Offley at Soldiers For the Truth has this good short piece about Rumsfeld’s selection of Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker to be the new Army Chief of Staff.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Whither Hutchins?

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th June 2003 (All posts by )

    Columbia man John Coumarianos raises questions about the state of liberal education in the U.S.

    Since Robert Maynard Hutchins was president of the University of Chicago, no major American university, with the possible exception of Boston University under the rule of John Silber, has had a president who has had an inkling of what liberal education is all about. This is staggering to contemplate, but it is the awful truth.

    Strong words. It’s been a [cough] while since my own experience at the U of C, so I don’t know how Chicago stacks up today. John’s thoughts are worth reading.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    Afghanistan Photos

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th June 2003 (All posts by )

    Here’s a nice site by a young American of Afghan origin who recently returned to the old country. Interesting photos and commentary.

    (via J. E. Simmons)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »