Wednesday, October 21, 2020
I suppose the most famous fictional abode for a character is Sherlock Holmes’s 221b, Baker Street. James Bond’s address and George Smiley’s have yet to achieve the same legendary status, but give them time.
… what do the more liberal among us call their secret Facebook group? Then it came to me — they just call it Facebook. And on Facebook, many of my liberal friends blast away without cause or concern that they are maligning unfairly people who they claim to love and respect. I have lost count as to how many real friends have posted “If you don’t agree with my political views, unfriend me.” Really? How tolerant of you. We’ve been friends for years, really? Your child played at my house countless times, really?
… Salvaging Secession. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Disagreements between independent political entities often leads to something called war. It was the southern secessionists who started the Civil War. Remember Fort Sumter?
I posted a link to this yesterday, but thanks to Blogger’s klutzy revisions it linked to my email. That is now fixed.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
… E. B. WHITE’S “PLAIN STYLE” @75. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
It might seem self-evident that White the author practiced what Strunk and White the style gurus preached, but the truth is more complicated. Like Ernest Hemingway, who mocked his fans’ enthusiasm for the writing tips he dispensed, White had mixed feelings about being anointed a master of plain prose.
I read the 1959 edition not long after it came out, during the year I spent between high school and college. I never got the impression from it that the plain style was the only way of writing, but rather that it was the foundation for good writing. Once you had it down, you could safely go your way however and wherever you wished.
… Trio by William Boyd review – lights, camera, chaos. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
… brilliantly drawn, often grotesque characters make Trio Boyd’s funniest book since 1998’s Armadillo. I especially relished the horrible, Charles Hawtrey-esque actor Ferdie Meares, whose cameo in one of the film’s pivotal scenes is complicated by his insisted-upon right to deliver his dire comic catchphrase: “I’m excited! Are you?” Boyd, a screenwriter and occasional director himself, beautifully captures the chaos and exhilaration of a shambolic film set, in which unforeseen disasters andskulduggery create their own opportunities and problems.
Monday, October 19, 2020
The new version of Blogger is awful. I would like to return to the original version, which I was able to do until recently. One can't seem to get this message through to you in any way that I can discern. So I guess I'll have to find another platform for this blog. Talk about screwing something up.
If anyone knows how to get this through to Blogger, please let me know.
Wonder and Wrath is an apt title for a collection that both marvels at and rails against human frailty, against the backdrop of a fallen universe. The book’s seriousness lies in its sustained resistance to the easy way out: either to reject or embrace, without caveat, a cosmos that consists, in equal measures, of miracle and outrage.
As we might expect,
And a sample: “Rounding up the Mimes” by A. M. Juster.
(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
… with always a visionary glow: The Grandmothers, by Glenway Wescott (1927). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
“The east was covered with tiny clouds like the torn bits of paper which a newcomer finds in a dismantled house; the sun entered the sky like such a newcomer.”
I’ve spent a good bit of time in Wisconsin. I love the place.
I confess to feeling dubious about Garry Wills.
Sunday, October 18, 2020
The best way to remember our grandfather is to read his books. They are his memoir Witness (1952) and his later writings in Cold Friday (1964). Rather than a monument, he left testimony to read.
The CDC itself caused a stir at the end of August by estimating that the virus directly caused only 6 percent, or now just over 11,000 of the 187,000 attributed deaths. Most of these deaths were in the elderly.
The remaining 94 percent died with and not exclusively of the coronavirus. These people also were on average elderly and had 2.6 other health problems. This implies a good fraction who succumbed had three or more comorbidities. In other words, most deaths attributed to the coronavirus were in very sick people.
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Friday, October 16, 2020
— John Polkinghorne, born on this date in 1930
Thursday, October 15, 2020
From the comments: “ If what students “bring to the classroom” is already sufficient, why teach them anything?”
“The vote has to be rethought in our American hearts as a radical act, because so many people don’t want you to vote. We have to think about the vote as the center of American culture and American purpose, that cuts across lines of identity that people have drawn so vividly.”
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Epstein is a generalist in the finest sense. In his many collections, still available and worth the reading time, readers are likely to find a thoughtful essay on Joseph Conrad or Marcel Proust followed by a take on Michael Jordan, a putdown of Philip Roth followed by an affectionate Memory Lane treatment of his hometown, Chicago.
The page calls Israel “The most racist state in the world” accusing them of “Crimes against humanity” including “ethnic cleansing.”
St. John's appears to be advocating the wrong religion.
You know how John Wayne movies give you the feeling that you’re watching John Wayne play himself? In a similar (but good) way, Flannery O’Connor’s literary voice is always front and center in her stories and novels. And what a unique voice it is—a brilliant mind, a fierce tendency to call bull**** on hypocrisy, and a skillful rendering of regional characters and places, all delivered in low country dialect. Underestimate her—or her characters—at your peril.That's because Wayne — Like Cary Grant — created a persona for himself that proved adapatble to a wide variety of roles.
“We have always been the alternative voice in Philadelphia,” says McDonough now, regarding his decision to rebrand the paper. “That audience has changed over the years, and, in 2020, conservatives and people who are angry and fed up with an inept city government don’t really have a voice here. To continue our mission, we had to change.” ’s chief revenue officer, Ed Lynes, told that, in the city, it is “conservatives who no longer have a voice. If you oppose a socialist and intrusive government, your views are rejected by the city’s mainstream media.”Anything that provides relief from The Inquirer’s Will Bunch and his Johnny-one-note rants can be thought a blessing.
Among his recurrent themes are love and sex, science and poetry. The verse — Conquest’s preferred usage — in Collected Poems, edited by his widow Elizabeth Conquest, some 60 years of it, is vast and various in every sense. Conquest is that rare sort of poet who might take anything as his subject matter. Without being shrill or resorting to bumper sticker message-mongering, Conquest is a poet of the people, or at least of that portion who read poems for pleasure. In The Dragons of Expectation: Reality and Delusion in the Course of History (2004), he writes:
The main problem with this criticism is that Cleopatra herself was actually from Europe. The briefest Google search would have revealed to these furious tweeters that she was, in fact, a Macedonian Greek.
Monday, October 12, 2020
Among Muggeridge’s contemporaries it was the idealistic, impecunious writer Hugh Kingsmill (1889–1949) who meant most to him. The Poisoned Crown (1944), in which Kingsmill criticized the corruption and cruelty of power-worshipers, was central to his vision of things, and he wrote an introduction to Michael Holroyd’s 1964 biography of Kingsmill. Kingsmill argued a mystical Shakespearean-Blakean view that there were perennial human conflicts between lovingkindness and power and between imagination and will, and that the modern era particularly had seen the satanic hunger for Blake’s “poisoned crown,” the lust for amoral power, in humankind’s technological rape of nature and in totalitarian power maniacs such as Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung, and that against this post-moral Nietzschean will-to-power—Saint Augustine’s libido dominandi—only lovingkindness and imagination could ultimately triumph, though not necessarily visibly or in this life. Kingsmill was a fellow traveler with Christians, as was Muggeridge for the first part of his life; and Muggeridge took Simone Weil to be making the same argument in her reflections on gravity and grace.
Slavery was not introduced to the New World by Columbus. Rather, slavery was common even among native people in the Caribbean.
Columbus sought to be kind to the natives because he knew that they would be an essential component in not only his survival, but the survival of the men that accompanied him as well. When Columbus left Spain in 1492, in search of a faster and safer route to Asia, slavery was permissible. Spain did not formally ban the slave trade to its colonies until 1817 – more than 300 years after Columbus’ death.
See also this, about Samuel Eliot Morison’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea. Always good to be informed.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Hazzard’s fiction takes much from her life, but the temptation to read her work autobiographically never clouds the experience. “I think there is a tendency now to write jottings about one’s own psyche and call it a novel,” Hazzard told Kakutani after The Transit of Venus was published. “My book, though, is really a story—and that might have contributed to its success.”
This gives you a chance to see and hear him. Very worthwhile
I was once chatting with Leonard at Philadelphia’s Central Library, prior to introducing him onstage, and he kept asking me about Philadelphia. I asked him why he was so curious about Philly. He said you never know. What I was telling him might come in handy sometime while writing.
Sacrificing Wordsworth on the altar of De Quincey seems odd to me. Whatever his personal shortcomings, Wordsworth is undoubtedly the greater literary figure. And even in this account, De Quincey seems to have been a person best kept at a safe distance.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
… it is now possible to watch the live-TV version of “Twelve Angry Men” on YouTube, meticulously restored from a surviving kinescope film of the original 1954 telecast—and you know what? It’s better than the movie. A lot better.
One of the plummiest targets for attack by intellectuals in the 1950s was conformity. Conformists in those days were thought to reside in American suburbs; they were judged unimaginative, thinking dull thoughts, living out lives of quiet desperation. How it would pain the officially tolerant of our day to think themselves conformists. Yet to be tolerant today entails a strict conformity of opinion. They might wear rococo beards, ponytails and tennis shoes with tuxedos, have had 20 affairs and three abortions, and attended what the world thinks are the best schools. But they all know that, should they depart the deep grooves of locked-in opinion that is the source of their virtue, they risk social excommunication. Few are willing to risk that.
Friday, October 09, 2020
The decision to postpone Guston’s exhibit is a regrettable mistake: At the heart of Guston’s work are the very personal questions of responsibility and complicity, of fear and even self-hatred. Trying to avoid any controversy, the directors prevented the public from engaging in difficult conversations, precisely when they’re most needed, in this fraught moment when both racism and anti-Semitism are on the rise, and many of the large cultural institutions are reckoning with their own history.Revising, editing, and even deleting the past seems to make some people — often those with letters attached to their names — feel quite happy about themselves. Merely proving once again that being schooled doesn't necessarily make one educated.
Here is Weigel's article: Truman's Terrible Choice. And here is Paul Fussell's classic — and thoroughly informed — discussion of the matter, which Dave just sent: “Thank God for the Atom Bomb.”
Understanding the past requires pretending that you don’t know the present.Feser notes that "Catholic just war teaching holds that directly and intentionally killing non-combatants is intrinsically evil." Well, in that case, World War II was an unjust war straight across the board, since both sides targeted civilian populations — remember the Blitz and Dresden and Hamburg, etc. So I guess bad guys were bound to win. I presume Feser is happy that the bad guys who did win were the Allies and not the Axis.
It requires feeling its own pressure on your pulses without any ex post facto
I would suggest that philosophy that does not thoroughly engage reality — which is often messy and irrational — is not worth pondering.
Thursday, October 08, 2020
It's about time.
Wednesday, October 07, 2020
In a comparison of 50 countries, a team led by Rabail Chaudhry of the University of Toronto found that Covid was deadlier in places with older populations and higher rates of obesity, but the mortality rate was no lower in countries that closed their borders or enforced full lockdowns. After analyzing 23 countries and 25 U.S. states with widely varying policies, Andrew Atkeson of UCLA and fellow economists found that the mortality trend was similar everywhere once the disease took hold: the number of daily deaths rose rapidly for 20 to 30 days, and then fell rapidly.