Thursday, July 28, 2011

Question for Senator Harry Reid and President Obama

If default is the end of the world, why is cutting spending even worse?

John McWhorter on comprehending Shakespeare's language... The New Republic.

In the past I have suggested careful translation into modern English of the passages in Shakespeare that truly cannot come across intelligibly. However, an alternative would be the general acceptance that anyone who wants to get a full meal from a Shakespearean evening should read the play beforehand.

I would reverse those alternatives. Bantam Books used to have an excellent series of Shakespeare plays, extensively footnoted, informative introductions about the play and the history of its staging, and a wonderful forward by the late Joseph Papp. These, plus the BBC's video productions of the Bard's complete works, helped ease me into the rhythms of Elizabethan English, and to appreciate Shakespeare's genius.

Indeed, let Dr. McWhorter not lament that bits of Shakespeare are incomprehensible, but that so much of it is still intelligible. The English language morphed very quickly in the Middle Ages, so much so that by Shakespeare's time the English of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales was as obsolete as it is to us today. Yet the language has stabilized since then, by comparison. We still "get" Shakespeare in large part, almost as if the English language itself were wary of losing its ability to transmit the plays to living viewers. This is a cause for rejoicing. No, I don't know what some of those passages mean. I don't know who all those people in Raphael's School Of Athens are, either--but it's no barrier to feeling the genius of the art one is in the presence of.

You are very sensible, and yet you miss my sense.
Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Faithlessness and marriage

I know a couple who have cohabitated for years, had a baby together, and finally married last year. This past week, she left him. She didn't so much break up with him as she dismissed him. Just didn't dig being a wife anymore, it seems. He's crushed, on a roller-coaster of emotions right now. And these aren't kids, they are staring middle-age in the face. You never know what's going on in other people's families, I guess. But I hate the sight of solemn relationships being abused, being entered with a giggle and exited with a shrug.

Have some quotes:

Alas! how many who have been confided in for years, have yet suddenly proved faithless to the trust reposed in them.
-- Mrs. H. Buckner

Faithlessness is one of the most pernicious sores of our social life; it contaminates all it touches, and spreads disorder, ruin, and despair in the path of those who have loved, trusted, and been betrayed.
--James Ellis

He lives in a serial non-pledged monogamy, in ad-lib cohabitation. This is preceded by no awe-provoking exchange of oaths, or reminder of his (now legal) duties.

When he tires, and eventually marries, the ceremony will be understood as supererogatory--has he not engaged in cohabitation several times before? He knows how to live with woman, he has done it many times.

The awesomeness of an oath, and the meaning of his signature on a legal document committing him to various responsibilities, will occur to him--though only at the *end* of his marriage. They in their totality are known as "divorce", which has, in our day, replaced marriage as the culturally determined ritual signifying "leaving home".

The ceremony of beginning one's new home, of separating from one's parents, originally ending in marriage, with desire and joy, has been replaced and is now attended by rancor and shock: the community has finally insisted upon its rights.
-- David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Budget talks break down, default looms

Ever get the idea you're watching a snowball fight on the decks of the Titanic, after the iceberg has struck?

"I hate all bungling as I do sin, but particularly bungling in politics, which leads to the misery and ruin of many thousands and millions of people."
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Norway murderer a right wing anti-multicultural extremist.

I will admit that it gave me sharp pause: someone types out his concerns of creeping Islamization of Europe, which I share in substantial part, and then goes and murders nearly a hundred young campers. I now know the disquiet progressives must have felt from time to time these past ten years, hearing jihadists repeat their own denunciations of the First World, while waving severed Western heads.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blasts and gunfire in Oslo, Norway

I have no information. But, if it was Muslims, be sure to read what expatriate journalist Bruce Bawer has to say. He lives in Norway and, though otherwise quite liberal, has been on the case of the Islamization of Europe for some time.

Update: Rumors are trending away from it being the world of Muslims. I'll repeat my recommendation to see what Bruce Bawer says, though. He speaks the language and writes for the Norwegian newspapers sometimes. So he's a good English portal into Scandinavian doings.

Update the second: 80 dead. This is beyond horrible. Sympathies to the victims & families. And a grudging, muttered "sorry" to Norway's Islamic population: looks like a right-wing extremist is shaping up to be responsible for this one. Though I ought to take my own advice and go with the 48 hour rule.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Borders Books going out of business

Since progressi­ves believe that profits are immoral, they must be very happy that Borders has gone bust. It's an eeeevil corprayshu­n, after all, right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

From tofu to brass tacks

I recently read David Mamet's new book The Secret Knowledge. I found it to be very intriguing, and so I repost my Amazon review of it, below:


I will confess my attraction to this book: It's like a collection of earnest usenet posts. It's full of far-fetched analogies. It's full of wild over-generalizations. The arguments read like assertions, the assertions read like epiphanies, and the reader bounces from one to the next on Class-5 rapids of outrage and disgust. These stylistic characteristics, along with the general affinity I feel for the political attitudes herein, remind me of, uh, me. I argue like this also, on usenet. But nevermind...

There are several fine but too-brief passages on his youth in Chicago, on his career in show business, and time with his son. We must hope that he will return to these themes in a future memoir, as they serve as well-placed breathing spaces in the larger polemic.

It's too bad he fell in with the climate change deniers--they're wrong & no few of them are dishonest. When scientists working in several different fields come up with data pointing to the same conclusion: AGW is real, artificial, growing, and a menace--a consensus like that isn't to cried down as some leftist cabal.

And what is it with his scornful pity for college students? Yes, it's sad to think of unemployable soft-science majors spending their working lives folding sweaters in Macy's. But, liberals don't work? Who is in the membership of all those labor unions, then? Counselors sell empty breath to jaded rich people? Surely Mr. Mamet at least knows of people who have been stymied or hurting, and benefited from healing words. I wonder if he is taking his experience with Hollywood hangers-on and projecting it to the entire rest of the country.

But of course the main thing is his conversion. These passages are, like the other autobiographical sections, too brief. And there is a lot of genuine wisdom here, some repeated from his readings of the great contemporary conservative thinkers, and some from he himself. He incisively scores the Left for having become a refuge for terminal adolescents, unable to take responsibility for themselves, and compensating that everyone else do so instead. Indeed, he's onto himself as a fallen sinner, as only the convert can be. A fair-use example:

"My generation has a giddy delight in dissolution. [...] To inspire the unsophisticated young to demand "change" is an easy and a cheap trick-- it was the tactic of the Communist Internationale in the thirties,another "movement.[...] We were self-taught in the sixties to award ourselves merit for membership in a superior group-irrespective of our group's accomplishments. We continue to do so, irrespective of accomplishments, individual or communal, having told each other we were special. We learned that all one need do is refrain from trusting anybody over thirty; that all people are alike, and to judge their behavior was "judgmental"; that property is theft. As we did not investigate these assertions or their implications, we could not act upon them and felt no need to do so. For we were the culmination of history, superior to all those misguided who had come before, which is to say all humanity. Though we had never met a payroll, fought for an education, obsessed about the rent, raised a child, carried a weapon for our country, or searched for work. Though we had never been in sufficient distress to call upon God, we indicted those who had. And continue to do so."

There are also several fine nuggets buried in the numerous footnotes. One of them brutally demonstrates how society's solemn rite of Leaving Home is no longer marriage, owing to its many many counterfeits, but divorce.

A reader used to the polished--and predictable--tones and rhythms of opinion columns will likely find this book rather a lot of trouble to unpack. But, given the caveats above, it's worth the effort.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Welcome, South Sudan

"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!"

Hope they will now be able to defend themselves from their Muslim neighbors in north more slave raiding, no more forced conversions, no more torched villages.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

It's a funny old world sometimes...

I found a close childhood friend on the internet recently. I didn't contact him, just looked him up. As a child he was outdoorsy, active, squared away (for a child), whereas I was bookish, lazy and daydreamy. We grew apart in our early teens, & I only heard news of him sporadically after that. He became a Third World traveller, practicing total immersion in other cultures, a practice that I admired but never quite had the nerve to attempt. In the meantime, I plodded on with a by-comparison (it seemed to me at the time) under-achieving career in a humble profession.

Time did its thing. I rose in the ranks. I married & started a family. At middle age, I can sleep at night and feel that I can look everyone I've had dealings with in the face, with only minor pleadings of immaturity or passing @#!*% . With every passing year I linger more over my blessings, which are numerous and precious.

He, OTOH, is now a natural health quack. There's a video on YouTube, of him pitching his services. It's full of the upbeat flummery and soothing lies typical of that ilk. Apparently he and his wife--who is in the same business--once had a website but in these hard times it expired and they went with a Blogspot site instead, which just screams "fly by night". (No offense to my hosts!) I could never live such a lie. I don't expect I will ever contact him, nor allow him near me and my family in the unlikely event he ever contact me. I feel superior to him in every respect that I previously felt him to be superior to me. Idle, unnecessary thoughts, to be sure. But, it's a funny old world, sometimes.

Atlanta School Cheating Scandal

I wish it could be more widely understood that education is not manufacturing, schools are not factories, and children are not piece rate goods. When we reduce education to just one or two variables--the CRCT, the SAT, etc.--people will leave off everything else involved with education and focus on those. Will in fact try to game those few variables. It's too much temptation for fallen humanity.

That said, I hope the malefactors are de-credentialed and punished. A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste, and boy did they waste a lot of 'em.

Two absolutely golden ruminations on this scandal are here and here:

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

The only people who seem not to understand the worldwide significance of American society are our own intelligentsia. To them the Fourth of July is at best an embarrassment, if not something to sneer at. The flag-waving, the proud speeches and the Horatio Alger stories are just part of a nationalist "myth," as far as the intellectuals are concerned.

They could not be more wrong. The prosperity that we -- and they -- enjoy today is in large part a product of many, many real-life Horatio Alger stories about ordinary people who rose from humble circumstances to achieve success for themselves by creating a more abundant life for millions of other Americans. ...No wonder the Fourth of July makes the intelligentsia uncomfortable. It celebrates the
revolution that gave ordinary people freedom from the rampaging presumptions of their "betters."
--Thomas Sowell

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Federal debt showdown drags on, default looms

To paraphrase Thomas Paine: "I prefer prosperity. But if austerity must come, let it come in my time, so that my children can live in prosperity."

Friday, July 01, 2011

San Francisco becoming a child free zone?

So says this NPR segment. San Francisco's response? Treat everyone like a child. No! you can't own pets. No! you can't have a happy meal. No! you can't circumcise your son. No! you can't have a handgun. No! You cannot have, do, say, or be anything that harshes the mellow of liberals.

Especially silly is the bit where it's implied that developers are to blame for making the city un-family friendly. In a town where the


holds sway, I'm surprised it isn't a crime in SF by now to even be a developer.