Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Sing it, Sister

This article is worth the time of any, like me, who find themselves both broadly sympathetic to progressive causes and yet wearied and generally opposed to the bien-pensant voices for those causes currently preeminent in the American Media.

Here's the intro, to whet your appetite:

In the interests of efficiency, I’ll start by asserting — not arguing — some propositions: In their discussions of cultural life and of societal trends, the organs of American educated opinion (the New York Times, NPR, the New Yorker, et al.); the faculty and students at our elite prep schools, colleges, and universities; and the members of the metropolitan class who read those publications and emerge from those institutions, frequently and increasingly assert, rather than argue, a set of vaguely interlocking propositions and slogans concerning (I’ll spare the scare quotes) white privilege, social justice, systemic racism, diversity, inclusivity, microaggressions, and the intellectual and cultural heritage — irrelevant at best, baneful at worst — of dead white males.
Although both the champions and critics of these propositions characterise them (and the attendant attitudinising) as ‘political’, they are nothing of the sort. They are merely gestural. Lacking subtlety and depth, they amount to the intoning of shibboleths unsupported by reasoned, detailed, systematic analysis and argument. An orthodoxy has taken hold of intellectual, cultural and academic life, an orthodoxy nurtured and protected by an overweening and aggressive sense of virtue and righteous aggrievement that permits it to go unchallenged by the scepticism and bracing scrutiny that used to characterise — in fact to define — intellectual, cultural and academic life.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Excellent Article

On Jordan Peterson, a current bete noire for all sorts of bien-pensant intellectuals, who tend to misrepresent his moderate (even banal) ideas, reframing them as hyperbolic, straw man arguments they proceed to diminish with great self-congratulation (see the recent piece in the NYTimes, for one of many examples).

A sample:

Moderation can, of course, be the wrong approach to any given problem and, like every other political temperament, it is susceptible to criticism. But one criticism it is not susceptible to is being a form of crypto-fascism, or covert anti-Semitism, or an attempt to “justify class and gender hierarchies,” when it plainly is none of those things. His goal appears to be to advance the cause of progress while taking care to preserve what is functional in our systems, whose capacity to sustain nation states of hundreds of millions of people in conditions of relative peace and prosperity he would like all of us to acknowledge. His own personal conservatism might lead him to strike the balance between equality and freedom at a different place than would an egalitarian liberal or leftist: But it’s the idea that there is a balance that needs to be struck that has come under assault.
There is something uneasily poised at the border of grandiosity and grandeur, heroism and quixotism, about Peterson that makes him appealing to undergraduates at the same time as it makes him a target-rich environment for haughty intellectuals and snarky journalists. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How Many People Does this Describe?

No doubt by this behaviour they meant only to shew that, if there were things in the world which they themselves lacked — in this instance, certain prerogatives which the old lady enjoyed, and the privilege of her acquaintance — it was not because they could not, but because they did not choose to acquire them. But they had succeeded in convincing themselves that this really was what they felt; and it was the suppression of all desire for, of all curiosity as to forms of life which were unfamiliar, of all hope of pleasing new people (for which, in the women, had been substituted a feigned contempt, an artificial brightness) that had the awkward result of obliging them to label their discontent satisfaction, and lie everlastingly to themselves, for which they were greatly to be pitied

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Within a Budding Grove, Again

"The time which we have at our disposal every day is elastic; the passions that we feel expand it, those that we inspire contract it; and habit fills up what remains."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Jordan Peterson

Canadian thinker Jordan Peterson's intellectual star is very much on the ascendancy these last few months.  This interview is a must-read as far as I'm concerned...

The ending especially is worth your time.

A sample:...

OK, so moving on. When trying to explain to people your ideas, one drops in the term ‘postmodern neo-Marxism,’ and they just look at you and go,” What on earth are you talking about?” Can you not come up with a more accessible term? 
Well, there are analogies. “Social Justice Warriors” is a pretty good one. It’s a bit more pejorative. But the thing is, we are at a point where people have to actually understand what these things are. Because we are in a war of ideas, and if it’s solved at the level of ideas then there won’t be a war.
Is “cultural Marxism” better? 
It’s an oversimplification because it doesn’t take into account the effect of the postmodernists. And I actually think the postmodernists were worse that the cultural Marxists, because they identify the cultural Marxists within the Frankfurt School, and there is some utility in that although its complicated.
There was far more excuse for the cultural Marxists than there was for the postmodernists. Because the cultural Marxists were reacting to Nazism. They had their reasons for being terrified of the radical Right and they had their reasons for trying to set the Left straight. Now, I think they did all sorts of perverse and corrupt things but it’s kind of like the original revolutionaries in the Soviet Union. They didn’t know it was going to be a century-long bloodbath. So, there was a little bit more excuse for their revolutionary utopian fervour.
Are you familiar with Daniel Farber and Suzanna Sherry? They wrote a book: Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on Truth in American Law in 1997, which attacked critical race theory. They faced much of the same criticism that you have: that they were bigoted and so on. Part of their argument was to ask the question: “Do Jewish people enjoy white privilege?” because if they do, then the concept of white privilege begins to sound anti-Semitic, doesn’t it?  What do you think of that argument?
How about Asian people, do they enjoy white privilege? There is a major problem with [the privilege] argument, especially with regard to Asians. Asians are the fly in the ointment for the identity politics types because the Asians are suing universities all across the United States for discriminating against them. Which they do! You have to do way better as an Asian to get into an elite American university. Otherwise, the Universities would be just full of Asians.
So what do we do about that? Nothing! You select on merit and you let the bloody cards fall where they are going to. And then they say, “Well your mechanisms of merit are polluted by your patriarchal presuppositions.” And the answer to that that is, partly! But you don’t have a better solution! So you use objective measures despite the fact that they are flawed because they are not as flawed as whatever other things you’re going to use.
One of the ways that left-wing ideologues seem to be winning is through Wikipedia. If you go to the “White Privilege” page you will find that it’s effectively postmodern propaganda… 
It is a very intelligent point of entry for someone who is activist-minded. Why the hell wouldn’t you go on Wikipedia and gerrymander the contents? You have an ethical duty to do so.
And one of the ways this is entrenched is that the sources that underpin these misleading Wikipedia pages are professors who are peer reviewed…  
Ha! Peer-reviewed…that’s such a lie! First of all, 80 percent of humanities papers are not cited once. That’s fraud! That’s what that is, right. 80 percent, that’s a very bad number. “Peer-reviewed” means you have conjured up a specialty journal that only you and your friends publish in. You each review your own publications. Then you go the library, and say “You have to buy this.” And the library says, “Because you said so we have to buy it, because that’s our mandate.” And the publisher says, “Oh good because we will sell it to the libraries at a price so inflated that the mere fact that no-one ever reads it is irrelevant.” Right, and so then the libraries buy it. And that’s your “peer-review”. 
So it becomes a circular argument on Wikipedia because when you want to introduce criticism, say, by a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, and they say, “Well he isn’t a professor of critical race theory…” 
Exactly, they say, “He’s not qualified”. That’s what they keep telling me. They say: “You’re not qualified to comment on that’ and I say, “Well, you’re not qualified to comment on anything!’” This is part of the reason why I am unpopular in Canada: because I keep saying that these are pseudodisciplines. They bear no resemblance whatsoever to a [scholarly] discipline. And that would be all of the “Critical Studies” areas. They have no intellectual credibility whatsoever. They do far more harm than good.
This is what Janice Fiamengo keeps saying, and she deserves more attention because she is quite the character. She is Professor of English Literature at the University of Ottawa and she was deep into Women’s Studies for a long period of time and then learned that it was fraudulent from top to bottom. She has been making videos and going around campuses ever since, to quite vicious opposition. But she is a tough cookie, man.
Yeah, so, Sociology? It’s done. Social work? It’s corrupt. Faculties of education? They are so done they are not salvageable, as far as I can tell. Anthropology, history, literature, the humanities, generally speaking, they are done [Tammy: law!]. Law is the worst of the bunch.
We are finished then, aren’t we? If the lawyers are against us?
The law is really bad. I had no idea how deep the corruption in law had gotten until last year. I have been talking to law students and professors and it’s absolutely unbelievable.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Swann In Love

“Poor Swann,” said Mme. des Laumes that night to her husband; “he is always charming, but he does look so dreadfully unhappy. You will see for yourself, for he has promised to dine with us one of these days. I do feel that it’s really absurd that a man of his intelligence should let himself be made to suffer by a creature of that kind, who isn’t even interesting, for they tell me, she’s an absolute idiot!” she concluded with the wisdom invariably shown by people who, not being in love themselves, feel that a clever man ought to be unhappy only about such persons as are worth his while; which is rather like being astonished that anyone should condescend to die of cholera at the bidding of so insignificant a creature as the common bacillus.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Henry VI

I've never read it.  So far these two passages have caught my attention.

You are disputing of your generals.           
One would have lingering wars with little cost;           
Another would fly swift, but wanteth wings;           
A third thinks, without expense at all,           
By guileful fair words peace may be obtain’d.

Glory is like a circle in the water,           
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,                     
Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


I don't think any great novel has been cynical.   I don't think any great art has ever been cynical.  To be cynical is fundamentally to deconstruct, to carp, to cavil.  The test of greatness, the core residuum of its existence, by contrast is of making--building.  I don't say that there must, in a great work, be no trace at all of cynicism--for to make the universe is to make a universe complete, and no universe is complete without cynicism. I suggest only that it cannot be the animating force, the core elemental structuring device.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Within A Budding Grove

Image result for images swann proust
“Good heavens!” exclaimed M. de Norpois, inspiring me with doubts of my own intelligence far more serious than those that ordinarily distracted me, when I saw that what I valued a thousand thousand times more than myself, what I regarded as the most exalted thing in the world, was for him at the very foot of the scale of admiration. “I do not share your son’s point of view. Bergotte is what I call a flute-player: one must admit that he plays on it very agreeably, although with a great deal of mannerism, of affectation. But when all is said, it is no more than that, and that is nothing very great. Nowhere does one find in his enervated writings anything that could be called construction. No action — or very little — but above all no range. His books fail at the foundation, or rather they have no foundation at all. At a time like the present, when the ever-increasing complexity of life leaves one scarcely a moment for reading, when the map of Europe has undergone radical alterations, and is on the eve, very probably, of undergoing others more drastic still, when so many new and threatening problems are arising on every side, you will allow me to suggest that one is entitled to ask that a writer should be something else than a fine intellect which makes us forget, amid otiose and byzantine discussions of the merits of pure form, that we may be overwhelmed at any moment by a double tide of barbarians, those from without and those from within our borders. I am aware that this is a blasphemy against the sacrosanct school of what these gentlemen term ‘Art for Art’s sake,’ but at this period of history there are tasks more urgent than the manipulation of words in a harmonious manner.

From  "Swann at Home"

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A New Way Forward

Will see me start blogging regularly again.  Good news for my millions of loyal readers.

I've felt less need to blog since I've returned from my long exile in California.  Most of the readers for whom I wrote posts now live in my area code.  That proximity takes away some of the urgency I felt about communicating my thoughts.   I think, though, that I've found a new way to make use of this space.  One that features thousands--literally thousands--of candid Kardashian pictures.  Plus, dancing dog gifs!

That's for the future, though.  This morning I'll just record the incredibly vivid dream I had last night. In it, Jon Gruden was teaching a class on "The Waste Land."  I was in the class, along with a lot of other high school students, and several professional football players.  Marshawn Lynch was sitting right next to me, wearing his Raiders outfit.  The lecture on "The Waste Land" itself didn't register.  I do remember that Gruden himself was very passionate about the material.  Then at some point the class devolved into a discussion of the subjunctive in English.  A heated debate broke out on whether or not the phrase "If I were a rich man" counted as subjunctive or not.  Marshawn Lynch came alive during this discussion, I remember.

Monday, June 26, 2017


We've made progress, The Bink and I, towards his recovery.  Daily dosages of anti-inflammatories, plus pain meds, seem to have alleviated his suffering.  We haven't one had pain yelp in the last three days. 

We have a new problem now, however: his naturally rascally nature.  The Bear is not a Bear of idleness.  Check that--he is a Bear of idleness, but not unrelieved idleness.  Eighteen hours of sleep a day--yes: that's reasonable.  Necessary even.  But twenty-two hours of sleep a day--that's too much. 

Too much, though, is what he needs.  For his body to fully heal, he has to stay calm.  Sudden jumps and lurches, yowlings, bounding--these are all actions the Bear enjoys.  But they're not good for his recovery. 

I'm trying to keep him as sedate as I can, but it's now been two weeks since he's gotten out of the house and walked in the neighborhood, and smelled the new smells.  He's becoming restless, and unhappy.  The obvious solution is to take him for walk.  That sounds fine--but walking requires a leash and that opens the possibility of reinjuring himself.