Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Random Rock Bloggage: BB King, "Better Not Look Down"

"Better not look down, if you want to keep on flying Put the hammer down, keep it full speed ahead Better not look back, or you might just wind up crying You can keep it moving, if you don't look down"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

RIP Hilton Kramer, 1928-2012

The art critic, high culture observer, and founder of The New Criterion passed away today. Here's a brief appreciation from The Weekly Standard, from his colleague Roger Kimball. I read and enjoyed his book Twilight of the Intellectuals, years ago. Here's my review of it on my Amazon page:


An aerial view of the culture war, July 3, 2001 By The Sanity Inspector

In a 1994 interview on C-SPAN's Booknotes, reporter and critic John Corry told how politically one-sided the _New York Times_' newsroom was in 1980. In that year, of all the reporters and editors on staff, he only knew of one person who voted for Ronald Reagan, and that was the paper's art critic, Hilton Kramer. Kramer left a couple of years later, continuing his art criticism in the _New York Observer_. But he also set out to do battle with the cultural Left, that "herd of independent minds", in Harold Rosenberg's famous phrase. Eventually, he founded the _New Criterion_, an intellectual journal, which features some of the finest cultural criticism on offer today. This book, Twilight of the Intellectuals, is as much a retrospective of his often lonely mission, as it is a survey of the political climate of American intellectual culture in this century.

_Twilight_ differs from Paul Johnson's _Intellectuals_ in treating only 20th century intellectuals. Plus, Kramer's high culture background allows him to provide the reader with more insight into his subjects' worlds, as opposed to Johnson's uniform tarring of his as scoundrels (mostly accurately, though). Kramer even expresses some nostalgia for some of the people here, such as Kenneth Tynan, giving him his artistic due over the political divide.

But in the main, his work here is a series of political polemics. "Socialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion," is how the Catholic intellectual Richard John Neuhaus described the mindset that Kramer battles here. Throughout, Kramer selects his old articles with the intent of fixing the truth about influential leftist intellectuals firmly in the cultural memory. People like Lillian Hellman, Alger Hiss, Dwight MacDonald, Mary McCarthy, and such are all known qualities now, and do not need to be refuted afresh. But they still hold places of honor in institutions where like-minded intellectuals cluster, so the task of telling the truth about them is an ongoing one. The progressive myth surrounding Hiss is still so thick that Kramer felt compelled to include two essays about his case.

His praise of Sidney Hook, the lone ranger of socialism, is fulsome, and deservedly so. Hook did much of the heavy lifting in building the Marxist mindset among American intellectuals in the Thirties, and then atoned for it with a long, noble and lonely career as an anti-communist cold warrior. He oddly tags Hook for a philistine, though, for having pooh-poohed an anti-communist arts festival with the comment that artistic greatness could appear in dictatorships, too. Hook was right on that point, though, in my opinion. A musical program of Shostakovich and Prokovieff at their best would more than stand comparison with a program of contemporaneous Western composers, caged birds though the Soviet artists were otherwise.

His estimation of Saul Bellow may be a little unfair. Bellow has never been known for being a brawler, which may explain Kramer's disappointment in his seeming acquiescence to PC attacks against him. One _Herzog_, one _Mr. Sammler's Planet_, ought to be enough to ask from any writer's career, without also being called upon to spend creative energy in opinion journal polemics.

A print reviewer of this book commented on how entering the culture wars must have retarded Kramer's potential as a critic, by draining his powers. I don't know about that, but he makes a convincing Horatius At The Gate, giving battle to the herd of independent minds, who marched in leftist lockstep so disgracefully, for so long.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Black Motheritis, Black Fatheritis, and the Trayvon Martin shooting case

One narrative emerging out of this terrible event is that black parents have to coach their teens to avoid giving the impression to white people that they are up to no good. This is of course humiliating to have to do, and enraging if it is in fact necessary. Black Motheritis and Black Fatheritis are now abroad as memes, as parents tell of their fears for their children, and of their resentment of having to take such extra precautions that racial majority parents don't.
It is an infuriating condition, this blackmotheritis. There are times when you want to defy it. Go ahead, child; scratch that itch; zip your coat; put your hands wherever you want. To hell with answering someone's prejudicial paranoia. You're free. Be it. But before you say that, you envision a finger pointed at your boy. There's a scream, perhaps. Then the clopping of heavy shoes, as the cops rush in, their nightsticks drawn and perhaps their guns, and flashlights blinding your boy's sweet, brown eyes and suddenly, there's the hard, cold floor in his face and his arms wrenched behind his back and shackled. And all you can think about is how they had better have plenty of room in the jail that day because you, civilized woman, are going to act such a damn fool if they ever do that to your boy.
As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.
Come to think of it, I may have encountered some black kids who have been coached in this way by their parents. I sometimes have occasion to tell black teens to quit making nuisances of themselves. Some of them come back with what sounds like a very well rehearsed "Yes, sir!" & pipe down. Other times I'll pass kids whom I don't know on the sidewalk and they'll give me an extra cheery "Hello, sir!". I always thought in those instances that they were very well behaved--which I suppose they are--but maybe it was also survival skills taught to them. A shame that it's necessary, if that's what it is. Also: Author of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law says Zimmerman should probably be arrested.

Jewish school killer is holed up in French house, is likely al-Qaeda

Bastard. Hope they bag him soon, if they haven't already. And I hope he gets put on trial and has ample airtime to espouse his foul beliefs, so people can once again see where those beliefs lead the unstable. "How is a person or a world unmade or unformed? First, by being deformed. And following the deforming is the collapsing. The tenuous balance is broken. Insanity is induced easily under the name of the higher sanity. Then the little candle that is in each head is blown out on the pretext that the great cosmic light can better be seen without it." -- R. A. Lafferty The tree is known by its fruit. Also: dueling headlines, plucked from Google News:
French police in standoff with possibly Al Qaeda-linked suspect in school ...Fox News French hunt school killer, suspect neo-Nazi ties ...The Associated Press

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Progressive howler of the week

Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, in this interview for progressive 'zine In These Times, marvels at the Arab Spring, thus:
The Arab Spring is encouraging. I didn’t expect to see in my lifetime a genuine, old-fashioned revolution with people going on the streets and overthrowing regimes, something like the 1848 revolution, which is actually the origin of the name Arab Spring.
He's obviously developed a mental block about communism, and its victims whom he sided against during his long career. I'm sure he saw the anti-communist revolutions of 1989-91. But just as victims of emotional trauma sometimes lose their memory of disturbing events, so too has he seemed to have blotted out the end of the Cold War, when his side lost. You may recall that Hobsbawm was the one who famously admitted that all those millions of victims of communism would have been worth the sacrifice, if communism had in fact ever come about. Niall Ferguson had this to say about him, in an article in the Telegraph years ago:
"Can humanity live without the ideals of freedom and justice", asks Hobsbawm, "or without those who devote their lives to them?" The tragedy of Communism - and it was a tragedy that cost the lives of tens of millions - was that a man of Eric Hobsbawm's intelligence could not see, and still cannot see, that Communism was the negation of both freedom and justice, for the sake of a spurious and ultimately bogus egalitarianism.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thomas Sowell: James Q. Wilson (1931-2012)

I've been feeling the need to say some words of appreciation about James Q. Wilson, ever since I heard that he had passed away.  Fortunately for me--and you, dear reader--Thomas Sowell says it better than I could.  Click here:

Thomas Sowell: James Q. Wilson (1931-2012)

I was too young for the 60s, but old enough to grow up in the hangover decades, and old enough to run into plenty of leftover proggs who still felt that "the criminal is the real victim".  So it's great to have Wilson's beneficial and corrective influence widely acknowledged. Ask your favorite progg this, the next time he or she starts blithering about "root causes" of crime: Which causes are rooted in good vs. evil?

Friday, March 09, 2012

Remember Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami, Pt 3

I did find a lot of sensational cellphone video of the disaster itself, but I was equally drawn to the more human side. I sympathized with the Japanese people, and I admired their resilience. From shortly after the disaster: Tsunami survivors announce that they are safe, and ask for info on their families and friends: Exhausted doctor, the only one left, continues caring for survivors in Miyako City: Fiery debris floats down flooded streets, as Kesennuma City burns:

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Remembering the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, Pt 2

I'm reposting some videos from Japan that I found on YouTube and then posted on LiveLeak. I only regret that I didn't keep the original links, to give proper credit. Wires sway, canal sloshes, during earthquake: Doors bang, poles sway, girlfriend giggles, as cellphoner catches earthquake on camera... U.S. Navy choppers food aid in to shelter:

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Remembering the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, pt 1

In the weeks immediately following this terrible disaster, I searched YouTube for Japanese citizen journalism videos of the events. As technologically advanced as Japan is, they weren't hard to find. With the aid of Google's translation service, I was able to figure out what was going on in most of the vids, and repost them to my LiveLeak account. Over the next few days, I'd like to share several of them with you. In case the embeds don't work, just double-click on them to go to LiveLeak and watch there. Salvaged photo albums: Tsunami hits Kesennuma Bay: Old Japanese hippie cheers up survivors at shelter:

Monday, March 05, 2012

Rush Limbaugh apologizes to Sandra Fluke, continues to lose advertisers

The market at work, apparently. Anyone who runs his mouth for a living is going to step in it from time to time, law of averages.

I don't go along with the personal slur he cast, of course. But the larger point is valid, at least to this extent: If you're old enough to be sexually active, and you're rich enough to be in graduate school, then you're old enough and rich enough to not have to hit me up for the costs of your contraception. If this notion seems insensitive to anyone, then my sympathies on having gone over so far to the entitlement mentality.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

RIP Andrew Breitbart

A stunner, dead at 43. My sympathies to his family. A classy encomium from his former colleague Arianna Huffington is here. My reaction to his work? He was something of an anachronism. Fox News is more than 15 years old, and the internet's dextrosphere isn't much younger. The MSM are not gatekeepers anymore, because the walls are down. As Ken Layne said in the early days, "We can fact-check your ass." Banging on about liberal bias in the media--which of course exists--seemed slightly unnecessary to me, as alternatives are now readily available.

Plus, his penchant for cheap "gotcha" stunts led him to fall for juicy tidbits from the Too Good To Check File, sometimes. Did he ever apologize to Shirley Sherrod, for example, for unjustly ending her career?

But, the shock of having one so young and full of mission pass on is the takeaway here. RIP, and best to his family and friends.

UPDATE: But of course, I was probably too old for him to have the impact he undoubted had on younger conservatives. Here's an absolutely incandescent appreciation of him by a former showbiz type, via Instapundit.