Thursday, November 30, 2006

Recent Acquisitions

I received a used book bought through amazon, R.R. Bolgar’s The Classical Heritage and Its Beneficiaries: From the Carolingian Age to the End of the Renaissance, a Harper Torchbook published in 1964. It looks promising. The book is about the good effects of classical civilization on western civilization. Bolgar wrote before the rise of the New Left, so I don’t think I’ll come across the words “dead white males” in this book.

The cover features a poor black and white reproduction of the inevitable, Raphael’s School of Athens. You know the painting: Plato is pointing up, Aristotle is gesturing out at the world. On how many philosophy book covers has this painting been used?

I also received the December 2006 Commentary, which has a review of Barack Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope. I won’t be buying his book, as I like to say that anyone who buys a book written by a politician deserves to read it. But I must ask, what is it with Democrats and hope? The word makes their knees weak, and yet, if they really gave a good goddamn about hope, then they would not be socialists. Socialism destroys hope for everyone, even those weak and needy ones it purports to help. Capitalism provides opportunity, raises the general standard of living, advances technology and everything else and creates wealth. Without capitalism there is no hope. Liberals use the word hope to expand the state and destroy the real cause of hope – another example of the parasitic nature of evil.

Any big government liberal who writes a book called The Audacity of Hope is saying to me, “I am a mediocrity who cannot think in anything but the treacliest of bromides and I expect to appeal to ignoramuses who respond emotionally to fuzzy words but do not think critically.” Yes, he is a politician for our time. I expect him to go far.

Good Line

Found at Cassandra Page:

“Six imams removed from a US Airways flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix are calling on Muslims to boycott the airline. If only we could get Muslims to boycott all airlines, we could dispense with airport security altogether.” – Ann Coulter

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Nancy He Knew

Ethan Wallison has given us an insider’s look at Nancy Pelosi in “The Nancy I Knew.” He paints a portrait of the liberal mindset. Because Pelosi is certain that her motives are pure, she can break rules and scheme against others. Anyone who opposes her, she believes is motivated by “malice.” Also of interest is how important her sex was in her climb to the leadership. Being “the first woman such-and-such” is essential to feminists. New Leftists go through life judging people not as individuals, but as members of a group. It is hard to overstate how collectivism warps leftist thinking.

But... if we bomb them, they will get mad

Dr. Hurd quotes this:

MSNBC: You don’t think Bush will attack Iran in the end?

Biden: I don’t think so … The reason being, we have no capacity to do that. Even with airstrikes, now that you’ve energized the Iranian population, what do you do then? (Senator Joe Biden, Democrat, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the new Congress)

We don’t have the capacity to bomb Iran because that will “energize” the Iranian population. And what do you do then?

How about this? We light a cigar, pour some champagne and laugh at the energized Iranians. Not only will this feel good, but we’ll get the additional pleasure of pissing off the French.

Senator Biden needs to think outside the appeasement box. Stopping the Islamofascist regime of the mullahs from getting nuclear weapons is a good thing. If it angers the Iranian people, then they deserve to be provoked.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Practical or the Moral?

Paul Mirengoff writes:

Republicans concluded that pure government bashing won't work politically during the Clinton years. Hence President Bush's "compassionate" or "big government" conservatism.

Is that right? Were Republicans for smaller government, but then they saw that it didn’t work politically so they threw out their principles and proceeded to expand the state even greater than Clinton did and with the drug prescription program passed the biggest welfare state program since LBJ’s Great Society? If that is so, then the Republicans are cowards without integrity.

I don’t think Mr. Mirengoff is right. I think Bush and many if not most Republicans are ideologically committed to big government. You don’t come up with a theory of government like “compassionate conservatism” solely as a cynical ploy to win votes. Bush’s favorite political philosopher was an altruist. Bush might be the most idealistic President since Woodrow Wilson. He is committed to doing what he thinks is right, both at home and abroad.

The Republicans must look deeper than political tactics and “what works”; they must examine their ideals.

Sandra Shaw's Art History I

I listened to the first hour of Sandra Shaw’s course, Art History I, which is available online for free. This hour is on prehistoric art. I was surprised by how interesting it was. Sandra Shaw makes some essential identifications on Cro-Magnon art and culture, explains how it is superior to other stone-age art and even suggests a connection with Western Civilization. It is a breathtaking synthesis, although the connection with later European culture, which she makes only in one brief sentence, remains speculative and maybe I misunderstood her point on one listening.

I will pay to hear the rest of the course.

Casino Royale

I enjoyed Casino Royale immensely. The Bond franchise lost its confidence during the Roger Moore era due to what Ayn Rand called “bootleg romanticism.” The filmmakers didn’t take the series seriously and as a result the movies became campy and utterly unrealistic. Some things such as the opening sequences were there just because people expect a Bond film to follow a certain formula, and these sequences became outrageously over the top and unintegrated with a coherent plot.

The new Bond takes itself seriously. Every action sequence is integrated into the plot. The movie has an excellent script; it is thrilling and romantic, with some first-rate plot twists. I would say Daniel Craig's Bond is second only to Sean Connery. He is a more naturalistic Bond who gets cut up and bleeds and he is quite intense. He has a little Mike Hammer in him; he seems to be on a moral mission and, with his license to kill, willing to be judge, jury and hangman.

SPOILER IN THIS PARAGRAPH. The story even has a theme -- when was the last time you could say that about a Bond film? The theme is tragic: one must lose one's humanity and any chance at a normal, happy life to become a 00 agent. I believe the tragedy comes with taking a story seriously these days. Today's filmmakers cannot put happiness and seriousness together. Unalloyed value-achievement leads them to the campiness and comedy.

Unlike some, I thought the Bond girl, Eva Green, was fine. Granted, she is not an exotic type and not a supermodel, but, as a friend of mine used to say, I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers. She can act. You can’t say that about all the Bond girls over the decades.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Who Was Wrong?

Was your first reaction to the story about the police shooting 92-year old Kathryn Johnston what is wrong with the police or what is wrong with the woman?

I suppose libertarians and leftists would say what is wrong with the police.

My reaction was what is wrong with the woman. The police did their job right. They identified themselves as police, she shot three of them and they killed her. Any investigation or restrictions on the police will just make it harder for them to do their job. Cops have to be able to shoot back when someone shoots at them.

Those who hate America and want to break down the objective rule of law love this kind of case because the weak (92-year old woman) was killed by the strong (police). They hope to paint the woman as a victim out of context of the facts in order to further hamper the police. They do what altruists always do: appeal to out of focus emotions.

Of course, the case is complicated by the fact that the raid was unjust and tragically wrong because drugs should be legal. The police should not be busting down doors to search for drugs. And if they do bust down doors, they should damn well do their homework and not just raid a house from one anonymous tip. However, the existence of bad laws in a mixed economy does not change the fact that if we’re going to have police, they must be able to do their job and to protect themselves from gunfire.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What McCain Wants

Matt Welch’s examination of John McCain’s ideas is a must-read. Many politicians show aspects of fascism, but McCain, with his militarism, national greatness, government regulation of business, calls for self-sacrifice and militaristic view of citizenry, is the purest fascist among prominent politicians. Can anyone doubt that a Democrat Presidency (especially with a Republican Congress) would do less harm to freedom than a McCain Presidency?

Do you want to wake up one day between the years 2009-2113 to an America in which every young person must do two years of mandatory service to the state as a "rite of passage"? Is that what Jefferson, Madison and friends had in mind when they founded this country?

Hugh Hewitt's Next Book


The evangelical Christian Hugh Hewitt thinks it is important to sell Mitt Romney to the religious right. He wants to stop any anti-Mormon talk now. Romney is obviously the early candidate of the social/religious right.

Watching how Romney, McCain and Giuliani fare in the next two years might be a good indicator of where the power is in the Republican Party. We should be able to see what the soul of the party is, unless everything gets muddied and complicated (as pragmatists love to make it).

My reading at the moment is that Romney has the social/religious conservatives; McCain has the pro-war, anti-corruption and independent voters; and Giuliani has socially liberal Republicans. All three candidates are mixed bags, and the task will be sorting through the positions to find the most important. My early preference is none of them, but gridlock with a Democrat President and a Republican Congress.

(HT: Andrew Sullivan)

Business As Usual

The Democrats are being cautious:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three Democratic congressmen who are about to take important leadership posts said on Sunday they plan to pass popular legislation blocked by Republicans but would refrain from pushing some of the most controversial elements on the liberal agenda.

Why are they being cautious?

"Democrats like winning elections," said Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the longest serving member of the House.

"We want to win elections and we're going to do our best to do so," he said. "This doesn't mean to get into any extreme positions on any matter. We'll do what makes good sense."

Okay, but look at what they do not consider controversial or extreme:

Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who will take over the U.S. House of Representatives committee that covers banking and other financial institutions, mentioned raising the minimum wage, providing cheaper drug coverage for the elderly and providing more affordable housing and help with college tuition as the focus of Democratic legislation.

Throwing more money down the sewer of the welfare state and expanding government power into every aspect of our lives is just business as usual to these people.

I draw two conclusions offhand from all this. (If you have better conclusions, feel free to comment.)

1. Whatever the Democrats do in the next two years, they would do even more if they were not afraid of the American voters. That’s a good sign, isn’t it? They still have to walk on eggshells. Liberal still has negative connotations in America.

2. The welfare state is the status quo, the given, the non-extreme. Dismantling it will be the mother of all challenges. Forget the Augean stables, cleaning up the welfare state would kick Hercules’s ass. Every step of the way, statists in both parties will lie, fear-monger and demonize the reformers as “right-wing extremists.” It will be ugly. It will take politicians of unbreached integrity and courage.

[Blink]

Did I just write “politicians of unbreached integrity and courage”?

The welfare state will be with us for a loooong time.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What Women Want II

In my last post I discussed what women want for America, which is to turn it into Canada. Now let’s look at what women want in a man.

If you ask women what they want in a man, they will say things like, “I want a man who is tender, who listens to me and is attentive, who communicates. I want a man who isn’t afraid to show his feelings. I want a man who can cry.”

It’s BS. Women are so messed up by feminism that they don’t know what they want.

Women want to be seduced by a strong, confident man. They want to be turned on, thrilled, romanced, swept off their feet and conquered.

If you give a woman what she says she wants, you will become the male equivalent of Canada – pleasant but dull.

If you give a woman what she says she wants, you will become her friend. This is good if you’re gay. You can go shopping together and talk about shoes and Louis Vuitton handbags.

If you’re straight, you do NOT want to become a woman’s friend. Friends end up moving a woman’s furniture while the lout down the street screws her brains out. (I'm writing about the early stages of a relationship here. Long-term, things change. And in marriage, well, the men WILL be moving the furniture.)

Nothing kills sexual passion faster than altruism. Women don’t want men who are groveling and obedient and willing to do whatever they want. That’s selfless. A selfless man does not exchange value for value, he exchanges pity for pity, sacrifice for sacrifice. A selfless man is not pursuing a value, he is doing his politically correct duty. Women don’t want to feel like a duty, they want to feel like a value. They want a selfish man who wants to possess a woman’s body with passion.

A woman wants a man who lusts for her so much that he will throw her across a bed and take her without following the feminist rules and asking permission every step of the way. A man who asks permission is not a confident man.

Now, on the subject of sexual technique: men have to walk a tightrope here. They have to selfishly pursue their own pleasure because they want it and the woman wants it to see her value to the man. But men also have to give women sexual pleasure – and that is more complicated for women than men. Men are microwaves, women are crock pots. They must be romanced. They must be excited one step at a time. It’s called foreplay. Most of the time women need it.

If you want to know what women expect in bed, read a romance novel. Not the Barbara Cartland or Georgette Heyer ones, but the modern ones. They are sexual manuals in fiction form. Really. I was shocked when I first read one, and I’m not a puritan. It was like something out of Penthouse Magazine but from a woman’s point of view. I kept thinking, “This is what women expect in bed? This is like, um… a lot of work.”

It is a lot of work, but you have to make it look like you really want to do it, otherwise she becomes a duty instead of a value. It’s best if you really want to do it; and there is a certain pleasure in taking it slow and exploring the less interesting parts of a woman’s body like her earlobe or the small of her back. If you’re not really interested in foreplay, remember the old line: sincerity is everything; if you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Also remember, the payoff is worth the trouble it takes to get a woman hot and bothered. If you look at the big picture, foreplay is also selfish for a man.

UPDATE: Slight revisions.

Friday, November 24, 2006

What Women Want

I hereby pledge to write nothing mean-spirited in this post. I like women. I love women. I lust for women. I respect women. My Mother is a woman. Margaret Thatcher is a woman. I study the philosophy of a woman, Ayn Rand.

(After a start like that, you know I’m heading for major trouble in this post.)

Ellen Goodman writes about how women voted in 2006.

This was… the year women provided the Democratic margin of victory. If men had been the only voters in Missouri, Montana or Virginia, we'd have a Republican Senate. This is also the year in which women drove the agenda.

All right. That’s no crime. Many intelligent people voted Democrat. Let’s go a little deeper into Ms. Goodman’s analysis. (See how I used the feminist neologism Ms.? This caveman is on his best behavior here.)

So if women drove the agenda, what will make things "better"?

I was wondering that myself. What do women want?

Women worrying about a diminished future for the next generation are looking for a broad, overlapping domestic agenda. Some pieces can be found in the to-do list assembled for the Democrats' "First 100 Hours": raise the minimum wage, fix the Medicare prescription drug program, halve interest rates for student loans and bury the dead horse of Social Security privatization.

Oh, I see. Women want more socialism.

So for many, the biggest concern still is health care. As Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, one of the new breed of young moms in Congress, says, "I don't want the next generation of moms hand-wringing over how to deal with the sniffles and waiting until it turns into pneumonia." It's past time to make health care available to all kids.

Well, if the ladies want it for the kids, I guess it’s okay if we TURN AMERICA INTO A SOCIALIST HELL. Let’s make doctors slaves of the state because women are wringing their hands over the sniffles. No problem!

Sorry. That was mean-spirited.

As for education, especially early education and child care? The desire to truly "leave no child behind" tops terrorism on the female list. And for women who share a family-table view of the world, economic security includes the increasingly elusive retirement security.

Cradle to grave nanny state. Thanks, ladies.

It's been a long time since Americans have looked to the government with expectations. Now, we're making a list. And checking it twice.

While the men slip out the back door to have a drink at the corner bar. “The ol’ lady’s making a list,” one mutters, then knocks down his rum and coke. The other men nod in silent commiseration. They know. Women don't make lists that say, “watch football, drink beer, golf with your buddies, sit around in your underwear scratching your ass, watch me clean the house.”

They're making a list. Will America survive? Will we march into a fascist tyranny because a preponderance of women just are not motivated to study economics and politics and philosophy?

In my day job, I listen to FM radio stations. The hard rock stations targeted toward young men are obsessed with sex because young men are obsessed with sex. (Old men are too, he says after two seconds of introspection.) Go to the station web sites and you’ll find “Babe of the Day” – pictures of hot young girls in bikinis. It is horrible how men objectify women. Certainly, women are right to condemn such adolescent behavior.

You know what they have on stations targeted toward young women?

Daily horoscopes.

Daily horoscopes.

Draw your own mean-spirited conclusion.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving went well. No stress, no arguments. We played a movie trivia game called scene it? that was a lot of fun. The great thing is that you use a DVD and watch movie scenes on TV in the game, then you answer a question about the scene. Watching famous scenes everyone knows adds to the festive holiday atmosphere. When you divide up the teams, try to get different generations on every team. One question asked who was the leading lady in the Hope-Crosby “Road to” movies. No one under 40 knew who Dorothy Lamour is. Likewise, the kids knew about the modern teen movies. It’s a good game for our functionally illiterate video culture. Everyone had fun.

My Top 11 Favorite Rock Guitarists

11. Chuck Berry. Bill Haley was fast, but his sound is a little pre-rock. With Berry, you hear where it started. Instead of Haley’s clean scale-type riffs, Berry would play two strings at once, putting some texture and crunch into his lead. Big influence on Keith Richards. And everyone else.

10. Tony Iommi. An interesting figure because he is Classic Rock but also the Godfather of Heavy Metal. But if you listen to those early Black Sabbath songs, they are quite different from today’s metal. They have a horror-movie moodiness and tremendous imagination. Unlike today’s metal, Iommi was firmly connected to the blues.

9. Richie Blackmore. I call Blackmore the architect. By that I mean that no one structures a lead more intelligently. Exhibit A: “Highway Star.” Blackmore is all rationality and planning – and he had a great Strat sound.

8. David Gilmour. Epic sound, which is exactly what Pink Floyd needed. (Chicken and egg question: Was it because he was in Pink Floyd that he developed an epic sound?) Listen to the long, soaring notes in “Time.” It’s like Lord of the Rings in a rock lead guitar.

7. Duane Allman. To me, Allman defines the Gibson sound. Those Humbucker pick-ups have a kind of horn-like sound to my ears that can sound cheesy when played by your average guitarist. Using his slide he could be graceful and energetic at the same time. Too bad he ate a peach.

UPDATE: According to Wikipedia, I fell for an urban legend.

There is a widely believed urban legend that Eat a Peach was a reference to the type of truck that killed Duane, however that is not true; though the cover art of the album does a depict a truck underneath a giant peach, and whether or not it is a reference to Duane's accident or not is unknown.

6. Johnny Winter. He smokes. Listen to “Be Careful With A Fool.” He is unbelievably fast. And the great thing is that, unlike the post-new wave/punk/metal revolution guitarists, Winter never loses the emotion. He never sounds mechanical and alienating.

5. Jeff Beck. I can’t play as well as anyone on this list, but I can understand what most of the others are doing. I mean, they sound rational. With Beck, I think, “What th… WHAT DID HE JUST DO?!” He is the most imaginative lead guitarist. He does things with his whammy bar most people would never dream of.

4. Neil Young. No, really – he’s good. I’ve heard guitarists laugh at him because in some of his leads he plays one note over and over. Yes, but what a note! Nobody else sounds like Young. I get the impression that he never copied anyone else, he just sat down and worked to make the sounds in his head reality. The result is quirky, sometimes na├»ve and straight from the heart.

3. Alvin Lee. Fluid. No one comes close to his fluidity. He moves his fingers over a fretboard with astonishing ease. He gets from note to note the way Muhammad Ali moved in a ring, the way Fred Astaire danced. I think the new wave/punk/metal revolution of the late ‘70s was particularly hard on him and Winter, both blues rockers, whose careers went into decline after the deluge.

2. Jimmy Page. Defined hard rock lead guitar. He puts a bite into every note that energizes his leads. His style is the opposite of Alvin Lee’s because every note is distinct, like he had to work for it, but he’s also fast. There is one amazing moment in the lead of “Dazed and Confused,” where his lead is working and working, building to a frenzy, and then he hits a pick squeal – a mistake or was it planned? I don’t know, but it is the perfect variation from the flurry of notes that makes the lead both exciting and moving, and then it climaxes in power chords with Bonham wailing on his drums.

1. Jimi Hendrix. The sorcerer. Before him rock leads were black and white; he showed us color. Before him, Newton; he was Einstein. The opposite of Blackmore, in that I don’t think he really planned it out, but was all improvisation of the moment. At his worst he is unfocused and dull (read: stoned out of his gourd); at his best he is the best. “Voodoo Child” walks the edge of anarchy and chaos, exploring how far one can go with an electric guitar, but never quite falls over the edge. Like all of hard rock, I can only take him in small doses (I listen to classical music more now), but when I was a child, he was the man.

Why 11 instead of 10? Hey, haven’t you seen Spinal Tap?

(My thanks to Billy Beck of Two-Four for his insights that sparked my thinking on rock guitarists.)

UPDATE: Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists list puts Neil Young at 83, after such guitarists as Joni Mitchell, Steven Stills, Johnny Ramone, Jack White and Lou Reed. Please. That is just idiotic.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I Did My Part

In preparation for the feast tomorrow, I went to Marie Callendar's and bought a banana cream pie and a chocolate cream pie.

It's a little known fact of American history that when the Indians were en route to the first Thanksgiving they stopped at Marie Callendar's to buy banana cream and chocolate cream pies. They presented the pies to the pilgrims, which made the recipients lower their muskets. Both red and white man ate the desserts in the spirit of brotherhood. One pilgrim exclaimed, "Verily, savage -- thy cream pies are most delectable!" The pilgrims were so impressed by the pies that they presented the Indians with a gift of blankets that had been used in their small pox ward. I will add this knowledge to the Wikipedia entry on Thanksgiving after I have had more to drink.

American Accents Quiz

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
Boston
North Central
The Inland North
The South
Philadelphia
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

I was born in Kansas but have lived in California most of my life. I have no idea how they can figure out my accent from those questions they asked.

(HT: Born Again Redneck)

Grover Cleveland

Found at Cassandra Page:

"Though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people."

Democrat President Grover Cleveland - 1887 - vetoing a bill that would have provided $10,000.00 in aid for drought stricken farmers.

And he was a Democrat! From Wikipedia:

His admirers praise him for his bedrock honesty, independence, integrity and commitment to the principles of classical liberalism. As a leader of the Bourbon Democrats he opposed imperialism, taxes, corruption, patronage, subsidies and
inflationary policies. His intervention in the Pullman Strike of 1894 in order to keep the railroads moving angered labor unions. His support for the gold standard and opposition to free silver angered the agrarian wing of the party.

Without question, he was one of the greatest US Presidents ever. But not everyone loved him. There were no-nothing statists back then, too:

Critics complained that he had little imagination and seemed overwhelmed by the nation's economic disasters--depressions and strikes--in his second term. He lost control of his party to the agrarians and silverites in 1896.

And it’s been downhill ever since. I rather suspect that what his critics meant by “imagination” was the willingness to use the power of the state to force citizens to do what the state wants. Leave imagination to the poets.

Yet One More Problem to Evade

From Western Resistance we find:

MARKA, Somalia Nov 21 (Garowe Online) - More than 100 people, including children, were arrested Tuesday by Islamic Courts militia in Lower Shabelle region of southern Somalia after Islamists stormed into a movie cinema.

The arrested people did not include the cinema-owners but the Islamists took away all the equipment the cinema had, witnesses reported.

The Islamist administration in Marka, the regional capital, had been undertaking steps to combat “un-Islamic practices,” including shutting down cinemas and banning khat, a leafy narcotic popular throughout Somalia.

Movie cinemas in other Islamist-held regions of Somalia have also been shut down in recent months as the Islamists gradually consolidate their power in the country.

The Islamists are locked in a power struggle with the Baidoa-based interim Somali government, which has been trying to assert its power since late 2004.

So if some hellhole like Somalia becomes a breeding ground for terrorists, if it isn't already, what do we do? Look the other way because bombing will generate bad pictures on CNN? Give them more foreign aid? Make them the 51st state? I’m sure with geniuses like James Baker and George McGovern around we’ll think of something.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gridlock in '08

Mitt Romney attacks McCain on gay marriage:

Eager to position himself as the most conservative GOP presidential hopeful, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney accused Sen. John McCain Monday of being “disingenuous” on gay marriage.

In an interview with The Examiner, Romney described himself as more conservative than Republican rivals McCain, R-Ariz., and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on a variety of issues. “We’re in a different place on immigration; we’re in a different place on campaign reform; we’re in a different place on same–sex marriage; we’re in a different place on the president’s policy on interrogation of detainees,” Romney said.

So in his first move in the 2008 campaign Romney uses homosexuals as a wedge issue against McCain. This validates the left’s worst fears of Republicans, doesn’t it?

I support gay marriage. What do I care if two men get married? Granted, there are complications involving business. Companies will be forced not to discriminate against homosexual spouses getting benefits, but this comes from a wider problem of government interfering with the economy and regulating business. The answer is not to make gay marriage illegal, but to free the economy.

On the other issues Romney brought up, I probably agree with him on campaign reform and interrogation of detainees.

Michael Medved said today on the radio that Romney will get the nomination easily because he is the only real conservative. I don’t see any evidence that Romney is a free market conservative. He is a social and religious conservative.

It’s way too early to endorse yet -- the primaries are still a year and a half away -- but I’m leaning toward a vote for Hillary for President and Republicans for Congress. Gridlock in ’08, that’s my bumper sticker. You heard it here first.

Spotted on a Bumper Sticker

To err is human
To forgive is divine
Neither is Marine Corps policy

We Get What We Deserve

Dr. Hurd writes:

Enjoy your moment of glory, Ms. Pelosi. Your time to be thrown out will come as well -- as it necessarily must in a country that isn't truly free, but still, somehow deep down, wants to be.

Ayn Rand wrote something to the effect that in a country with free elections people get the politicians they deserve. (Can anyone find the exact quote?)

My greatest fear is that someday the American people will be ground down by bad philosophy, weariness and bad education and will like being parasites on the welfare state so much that they will no longer want to be free. We will become like Europeans. Then it will be over. We will get the dictatorship we deserve.

Vive le Voltaire!

Following up on my last post on a great French writer, I read somewhere that Voltaire drank 60 cups of coffee a day. No wonder he had such a bitchy wit!

But I give him credit for writing a play called Mohamet. In the 18th century that play could be performed in Paris. Today it cannot.

Ego Hugo

Here’s a Victor Hugo anecdote you might not know. When Hugo was over 80 he spent the night in someone’s house. He awoke before dawn and walked in his nightshirt through the halls to the maid’s room to have sex with her. He could do this because he was Victor Hugo and he was French.

As he was on his way to the maid’s room, he came across a little boy who would tell this story for the rest of his life.

The boy looked at Hugo in awe. The boy thought this old man with white hair and beard was God.

Hugo pointed to his erect penis and told the boy that it was rare in someone his age. Then he took the boy’s hand and put it on his penis and said, “When you grow up, tell people you held Victor Hugo’s machine.” (I hope my translation of the French is accurate.)

The man was amazing.

UPDATE: I checked Paul Johnson’s Creators to see if I got the story right. I got a few details wrong. In the interest of accuracy, I quote Paul Johnson at length:

When I was a young man living in Paris in the early 1950’s, I was given an unforgettable picture of the elderly Hugo’s sexuality by an old society gentleman who, as a small boy, had been a visitor at a chateau, along with Hugo, in 1884. In those days, children and women servants had rooms on the attic floor, which was uncarpeted and Spartan (the male servants slept in the basement). He said he got up very early one summer morning, being bored, and went out into the corridor, the unvarnished boards under his feet, the strong sunlight slanting through the windows at a low angle, picking out the motes of dust. He was, perhaps, four. Suddenly an old man hove into sight, striding purposefully along, white-bearded, eyes penetrating and fierce, wearing a nightshirt. The boy did not know at the time, but surmised later, thinking of the episode, that Victor Hugo had risen early too, having noted a pretty serving girl handing plates at dinner the night before; had, possibly, made an assignation with her; and anyway was now in search of her bedroom. The old man, whom the boy thought was possibly God, paused in his stride, seized the boy’s hand, and, lifting his nightshirt, placed the hand on his large, rampant member and said: “Tiens, mon petit. Il parait que c’est tres rare a mon age. Alors, en temps d’avenir tu auras le droit a dire a tes petits-enfants, que tu a tenu en ton p’tit main, le machin de Victor Hugo, poete!” Then he lowered his nightshirt and strode off down the corridor, in search of his prey.

In a footnote Johnson adds:

The story may be bien trouve rather than exact. When I lived in Paris, there were still people who had know acquaintances of Hugo and his family, and such stories abounded. I have forgotten the name of my informant, but he had held a high post in the administration of the former royal palaces of France.

(I'm sorry I don't know how to do the diacritical marks in the french. Anyone who can give me a literal translation of the french, I would appreciate it.)

I believe the story because I want to believe it. It’s too great not to be true!

Incidentally, before I remembered where I read that story, I searched my books looking for it. One book I looked in was The Essential Victor Hugo. This book has selections of Hugo’s poetry and essays, but none of his plays and no passages from his fiction that show his greatest talent, his plot writing. It is remarkable that a book called The Essential Victor Hugo has everything except the essential Victor Hugo.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lakers: 10 Games In

While Blair crows about his Buckeyes, let me write about the Lakers.

The Lakers are 7-3. Will they remain a .700 team throughout the season? No, but they will make the playoffs. They made the playoffs last year when they were a worse team.

Three players have improved markedly since last year: Lamar Odom, Luke Walton and Andrew Bynum. Bynum, their 19-year old 7-foot center, is in his second year, so one would expect him to improve over his rookie year, when he was an 18-year old out of high school. This kid is showing excellent footwork, a lot of heart, hustle and courage. Yesterday he went up against the great Ben Wallace and outscored him, outrebounded him and blocked more shots. As one announcer said, someone forgot to tell Bynum he was supposed to be afraid of Wallace. In a few years Bynum will be the best center in the NBA. (It probably does not hurt that he is being tutored by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.)

Odom and Walton are more surprising, especially Walton. Both men have decided to be aggressive, to attack the basket and get their shots instead of always thinking pass first.

The best thing about the Lakers is that they have other scorers now instead of just Kobe Bryant. Radmanovic, Odom, Walton and Cook can all put the ball in the basket. Last year the team stood around and watched Kobe; if an opponent could shut Kobe down, the Lakers were dead. This year when Kobe gets the ball the other guys are moving, cutting to the basket and giving Kobe someone to pass to. They have a balanced attack, with more guys who deserve playing minutes than there are minutes to give. (Coaches LOVE that problem.)

The worst things about the Lakers so far are defense, turnovers and off-season injuries that have kept them from playing at 100% and finding their rhythm. When they start clicking on all cylinders, watch out. Come to think of it, they might end up playing .700 ball all season.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Poem by John Keats

SONNET

WRITTEN IN DISGUST OF VULGAR SUPERSTITION

The church bells toll a melancholy round,
Calling the people to some other prayers,
Some other gloominess, more dreadful cares,
More hearkening to the sermon's horrid sound.
Surely the mind of man is closely bound
In some black spell; seeing that each one tears
Himself from fireside joys, and Lydian airs,
And converse high of those with glory crown'd,
Still, still they toll, and I should feel a damp, --
A chill as from a tomb, did I not know
That they are dying like an outburnt lamp;
That 'tis their sighing, wailing ere they go
Into oblivion; -- that fresh flowers will grow,
And many glories of immortal stamp.

(Keats wrote this poem in 15 minutes. In other poems he was capable of conventional religious views, but he's great here. Is he saying that religion is dying in this poem? I share his disgust; would that I shared his talent!)

Worth Checking Out

From Medworth:

Rob Tracinski’s “Pajama Epistemology”

Have I Got A Girl For You

Found at Tim Blair:

San Francisco designer Rachel Pearson, 33, owns a successful line of children’s clothing made of organic cotton that also meets international fair-trade rules. For herself she favors clothing from thrift stores—“Not buying new,” she says, “eases the toll on the earth.” A vegetarian, she recycles religiously [ed: of course] and loves to pamper herself with yoga and meditation.

There’s another arena in which Pearson upholds green values, and it can create a bit of an etiquette problem. “I won’t date a guy who doesn’t recycle,” she says. “He doesn’t have to wear nonleather shoes, but he has to get it.” And woe betide the guy who doesn’t.

For a while she was happily dating a film producer from Los Angeles who, she thought, was definitely on her eco-wavelength. But one morning they went out for breakfast, and Mr. Right ordered an all-meat meal and doused his coffee with several packets of Equal. “I was dumbstruck,” says Pearson. “I think I ate my entire meal in silence. Pork plus NutraSweet? That was definitely our last date.”

I thought he was the perfect man, Mr. Right, my soulmate… until (sob) he tore open an Equal!

Give me a gun-totin’, meat-eatin’ mama any day.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Net Neutrality?

The people at Democratic Underground are excited about something called “net neutrality.”

Internet neutrality proponents believe that the recent change in Congress is likely to boost their efforts to push legislation that would prohibit tiered access to the Internet.

SaveTheInternet lobbied to stop telecommunications and cable companies from setting higher prices for improved speed and access to some customers. The group said election results have catapulted their efforts forward.

"The outlook for better, more public-spirited Internet legislation is now quite good," the group said through a prepared statement.

In fact, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who proposed legislation supporting their cause, is set to lead telecommunications policy for the House majority in 2007. So is U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, who said he would propose a telecommunications reform bill with public interest and net neutrality in mind.

And:

The House Judiciary Committee's Task Force on Telecommunications and Antitrust is holding a hearing Tuesday on whether the Internet should operate like a utility, with equal service, or whether providers should be able to provided tiered access and pricing.

Over in the Senate:

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Thursday unveiled a bill that would prohibit telephone and cable companies from charging others businesses for faster delivery of content to consumers over the Internet.

The bill to ensure so-called 'Net neutrality' would also prohibit network operators from favoring content over others, such as their own video services over those of Internet companies.

In unveiling the Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006, Wyden said in a statement that allowing cable and telephone companies to create a two-tiered system for distributing content over their networks would "have a chilling effect on small mom and pop businesses that can't afford the priority lane, leaving these smaller businesses no hope of competing against the Wal-Marts of the world."

To read some of the comments, you would think the Democrats are striking a blow to protect truth, justice and the American way:

The Tubes are safe!

YES ... we get to keep the Internets!!!

They should make it an Amendment to the Constitution that no one can ever take our tubes away from us. The Intenets are the only true democracy!

Kerry's heading the Senate Committee and he's a firm believer in MORE ACCESS to citizens not less, with restrictions only for serious matters like child porn.

Just reading the legislative initiatives that our Dem representatives have put out in the past week makes me want to sob in relief. And I have a feeling they're just getting started--they aren't even in power yet!

Speaking only as an individual, I am telling you that if I hadn't had the net these past few years, I wouldn't have known of many of the incredible rip-offs, crimes, boondoggles, and other Abramoff-esque antics of the repukes. I certainly wouldn't have learned of them from cable news, nor from our pathetic local newspaper. You, unlike the repukes, seem not to be afraid of an informed public. The free net is the best news ever for those of us who want to hear something besides the ol' Mighty Wurlitzer blasting in our ears.

In the Democrat imagination, were it not for the legislation passed by brave Democrats regulating the internet, the repukes would shut it down because they can’t tolerate an informed public.

Such an innocuous name: net neutrality. Who could be against that? And the Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006 sounds so fair! What bigot would dare oppose nondiscrimination?

Under the cover of these happy fuzzy words the Democrats are about to slap price controls on internet providers. Americans should be happy, as the consumers in the Soviet Union were under price controls. Oh, wait -- there were long lines and empty shelves? Scratch that.

Americans should be happy, as drivers in the 1970’s were under price controls. Oh, wait -- there were long lines and gasoline shortages? Scratch that.

Price controls cause shortages. Internet service will suffer somehow under this law. Internet providers will not continue to improve service as much as they would without this law.

But making the internet better is not really the point of all this legislation. Giving the state power over the internet is the point. Socialists simply cannot stand free Americans having power over their own lives. They must stick the state’s gun in the ribs of the internet and say, “Listen, Bud -- we’re taking over now. Just do as we say and you won’t get hurt.”

As one commenter above noted, "they're just getting started--they aren't even in power yet!"

Daily Pundit Knows Hollywood

Bill Quick writes:

…hard-core liberals cannot translate libertarian or conservative themes into attractive films. Their own preconceptions undo them. Their own ideologies sabotage them.

Unless a director is both sympathetic to the material, and has complete artistic control, the result of an attempt to film Heinlein (or Ayn Rand, for that matter) will be disastrous. Which will then be blamed on the material, rather than on those truly responsible.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Fissures Widen

Controversies brew among online Objectivists.

First, Gus Van Horn regrets agreeing with Robert Tracinski and voting Republican. He is dismayed by Republican support for various statist schemes. He thinks it is better to have Democrats in charge because (to put it in my words) they don’t pretend to be friends of capitalism and the free market and people would see more clearly that we are heading away from freedom.

Well, I’m not surprised that the Republicans are no friends of freedom. I still don’t see how they’re worse than the Democrats. We’re heading downhill either way. The most important question to ask is: Which way do I vote to buy us the most time for Objectivism to spread through the culture? The far left elements and the whiff of totalitarianism in the Democrats frighten me. However, I will admit that the Republicans are deteriorating so quickly that the difference between the two parties is almost a moot point.

Second, Jack Wakeland fantasized on the Forum for Ayn Rand Fans about shooting a regulator. Diana Hsieh is horrified and Nicholas Provenzo wants Wakeland to rescind his remarks or stop referring to himself an Objectivist.

My eyebrows rose when I first read Wakeland’s fantasy. I take it as over-the-top bravado like you hear from young libertarians. Vigilantism is wrong, especially when we still have freedom of speech and the peaceful recourse to change the law. I am most bothered by this sentence:

Killing a regulator who does not answer to the will of the people is justice.

“The will of the people” is some high-flying rhetoric, but what does it mean? Regulation is bad because it violates individual rights, not because it is undemocratic.

I file his statement away and watch carefully for a more explicit, well considered statement.

Third, Harry Binswanger on HBList and Edward Cline have criticized Robert Tracinski for misunderstanding how ideas move history in an essay called “What Went Right.” I want to read Tracinski’s essay before I judge. This is certainly something to watch.

UPDATE: Slight revision.

UPDATE: Wakeland retracts. Also here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Where Are They?

In 1961 Dr. Frank Drake came up with the Drake Equation, which is supposed to be a tool to help us figure out how many intelligent civilizations exist in our galaxy. Ben Bova has called the Drake Equation “numerology,” which sounds right to me. There is simply too much unknown about our galaxy, planet formation, the evolution of life and intelligent life and other factors for the numbers to mean anything.

Whereas the Drake faction thinks intelligent life is common in the galaxy, the Rare Earth Hypothesis argues the opposite, that Earth and its intelligent life (that’s you) are freakishly rare. I think the Rare Earth people make some excellent points, but hashing all that out is beyond the scope of this post.

I want to state up front that none of the following opinions is scientific. This post is the idle speculation of someone who has read too much science fiction.

My guess is that life is probably common, but intelligent life is probably not. I base this on one fact that we do know: in the four billion years that life has existed on Earth, intelligence has evolved exactly once, genus homo. Were it not for genus homo our planet might continue to spin for another two or three billion years until the dying sun turned red and expanded and incinerated Earth without there ever having been a concept thought on the planet.

(I wrote this idea on a science fiction message board once and was immediately attacked by the new age types because I dared to suggest humans are more intelligent than other mammals such as cats. “How do you know they’re not intelligent?! Maybe they’re just different.” Any beast that I can make run in circles with a laser pointer is not intelligent.)

But rare or highly improbable is not impossible, and our galaxy is a big place. With our current state of knowledge, it is impossible to estimate with any certainty how many stars there are in the Milky Way, but some estimates put the number in the low trillions. Even if that is wildly wrong and there are only, say, 400 billion stars, that’s a lot of stars. So many that I think it likely there are other intelligent life forms out there. Remember, we’re not talking about thousands of stars, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, billions or tens of billions; we’re talking hundreds of billions and possibly trillions. Thinking about space is like thinking about the federal budget – the numbers are so large that it is hard to wrap your mind around them and make them real. And we’re just focusing on our galaxy here; I don’t even want to think about the rest of the universe.

If there were one technological civilization for every 100 billion stars, then there could be 10-20 civilizations like us in the galaxy. If the ratio is more like one civilization to every 10 billion stars, then the number could be 100-200. Whatever. It’s impossible to know, but the more stars there are, the greater the chance of life and intelligent life evolving.

Even if there are only a handful of technological civilizations in the galaxy, if one were of an explorative nature like humans, and if it had the capacity for interstellar travel and if it began moving out to the stars long enough ago, then it could have come to Earth by now. I know, that’s a lot of ifs, but play along.

That brings us to the Fermi Paradox: where are they?

My answer comes down to economics. Let’s look at how hard it would be for humans to travel to other stars.

The distance between stars is vast. It’s one of those things it is hard to make real in your mind. The nearest star to our sun, Proxima Centauri, is 4.3 light years away. Light travels almost 6 trillion miles in a year, so the nearest star is around 25 trillion miles away.

Traveling at one-tenth the speed of light, .1c, it would take us 40 years to get to Proxima Centauri, not including time for acceleration and deceleration. .1c is 10,000 times faster than man managed to travel in the 20th century!

Given our current state of technology, the only realistic way to move humans to another star is by using a slow generation ship. Shipping metal into space to build a generation ship is far too costly. One possible solution is to convert a metal-rich asteroid into a spaceship. Isaac Asimov called such a ship a “spome,” short for space home. Once the spome was launched, generations of humans would be born, live and die within the traveling world before it reached another star.

(To digress for a moment, can you imagine being the third or fourth generation born in such a traveling world? They would watch movies of Earth and know that they would never swim in an ocean, climb a mountain, feel the sun on their back, ride an inner tube down the Sacramento River or see Paris or New York or any of the glorious cities of Earth. Even if they managed to turn their spome around, they would die before it got back to Earth. Instead they’re stuck inside a rock. You think they might be a little pissed off? Preventing societal breakdown and general madness would be a major concern for the spomites.)

Building a spome and launching it would be an enormous, costly task that I believe would take generations of effort. The cost of building a small world would easily run into trillions of dollars. How do we pay for it? Three possibilities:


1. Government spending
2. Capital investment
3. Charity

We can rule out government spending. Setting aside the fact that governments are notoriously inefficient and would turn the project into a bureaucratic nightmare, what politician will vote to spend trillions of tax dollars on something that will not benefit his constituents in their lifetime?

Capital investment is out because the time horizons are too long to make a profit from interstellar space travel. The most we can hope for from corporations is that they might sponsor the effort in part for advertising purposes. A company might put its name on the project the way they do to sports stadiums. Imagine the AT&T Spome.

That leaves charity. Interstellar travel would depend on a society of committed visionaries collecting contributions and investing them over generations, probably centuries, to raise the funds.

This raises another problem. When a substantial pool of money exists, politicians want to steal it. Jesse Jackson and other socialists want to tap into America’s pension funds for their redistribution schemes. Can you imagine how they would lust for a fortune of hundreds of billions or trillions that the visionaries created after a century or so of effort? Interstellar travel would depend on a capitalist country that protected private property with absolute vigilance. Such a civilization would have to last for centuries. Given the current degeneration of America and the world into the cesspool of socialism… well, it’s a longshot.

Building and launching one spome would be such a phenomenal achievement that it might very well stand as the technological highpoint and climax of Western Civilization.

So that’s my solution to the Fermi Paradox. Where are the aliens? They’re at home watching TV. When their visionaries knock on the door, they say, “I gave at the office,” then resume watching “Alien Idol.”

UPDATE: Welcome Centauri Dreams readers! CD is a fascinating blog that I read daily.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Good Questions

David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo wants the hearings for Robert Gates to be held by the Democrat-led Senate Armed Services Committee, not the lame duck Senate. I agree. The American people voted in the Democrats, in part because of Iraq, so let’s hear Gates’s answers to their tough questions. Kurtz gives examples of some questions:

What is victory? What is the strategic objective? Are we spread too thin militarily and how do we address that? What will troop rotations look like going forward? What should our force strength be? How much repair and replenishment of materiel is required and what will it cost? What resources do we need to commit in Afghanistan? What are the relative priorities?

I’d be interested in hearing the answers to those questions myself. If the Democrats keep it to tough policy questions, more power to them. If they let the hearings degenerate into Judiciary Committee-style character smears, that will tell us something about their ability to legislate with any seriousness at all.

A Short, Stupid Story

A ray of sunshine slanting through the window hit Allen’s face and woke him up from a long night’s sleep. He rubbed his eyes, yawned and stretched his arms.

His right arm tapped something in the bed next to him, something hard. He looked to his right to see a five-foot bug lying on its back in bed next to him. The thing’s six skinny bug legs stuck up in the air, writhing helplessly. A long, feathery antenna stroked Allen’s arm.

Allen leaped out of bed.

“Damn it, Joan,” he yelled, “have you been reading Kafka again?!”

THE END

Our Best Hope?

John Lewis writes:


Let us remember: atomic weapons were developed, and used, in World War II, by Democrats. Let us hope that they can reverse the intellectual damage of the 1960's and regain their will to defend their country. The Republicans have shown that they will not.

Several weeks ago I heard the left-liberal radio host Ray Taliafaro, who is hugely popular with the folks at Democratic Underground, call America the world’s worst terrorist nation. 40 years ago you would have had to go to the fringe socialist parties to hear such a vicious lie. Today Ray Taliafaro speaks for a portion of the Democrat base, how big a portion I do not know. If our hopes rest on people who believe America is the world’s worst terrorist nation coming to their senses, then it’s over. We’re done for.

Today’s Democrats are not the same party that won World War II. The rot of multiculturalism and the other New Leftist ideologies has transformed the party. The name is the same, but not much else.

Today's Democrats just elected a Muslim to Congress. At the victory celebration his supporters chanted "Allah o akhbar!" Not exactly "Happy Days Are Here Again."

Why would people who hate America even want to reverse the intellectual damage of the 1960’s? They see Islamic attacks on America as acts of justice. Isn’t it more likely that the Republicans will reverse the intellectual damage of neoconservatism and the religious right? Granted, it’s still a longshot, but at least the Republicans do not hate America.

Come the next crisis the Republicans will be motivated by their love of America to rethink their position and root out their errors. The Democrats, to the extent they are infected by far left anti-Americanism, will be motivated to evade reality.

UPDATE: Slight revision.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Calling All History Buffs

What is the best history book you ever read?

I would like to read a good history. Any suggestions?

Read This

Edward Cline’s post at Rule of Reason, “Post election soul-searching—and the rise of censorship,” is worth reading. The Democrats are a threat to bring British multi-cultural censorship to America and it is a very real threat.

UPDATE: Also check out this piece by Robert Spencer.

Gus Van Horn is on this story also.

The worst thing is that I have completely lost confidence in the Republicans to stand up to the left on any issue.

Also, check out this essay by Robert Tracinski, written a year ago during the French riots, “The Kristallnacht of the Altruist Nazis.” Tracinski examines the philosophical underpinnings of multiculturalism.

Ostrich Time

John Hawkins thinks the House Democrats will try to impeach Bush despite their claims otherwise:

The Dems have already said that they're going to investigate everything under the sun. What they'll do is claim that some new evidence that they've found justifies impeachment and then Conyers, Pelosi, and Dean will say, "Well, we didn't INTEND to impeach Bush, but after this shocking new evidence came to light, we had no choice but to change our minds."

It might happen. From listening to left-wing talk radio and reading Daily Kos and DU, it looks like a significant portion of the Democrat base is motivated primarily by hatred of the Republicans. The Republicans impeached Bill Clinton; the Democrat base wants revenge. They don’t care about any issue so much, and frankly, I think attacking Republicans is about all they can understand. More serious issues such as war and expanding government require some thought.

Meanwhile, by bringing in Bush 41’s people, James Baker and Robert Gates, the Bush administration is retreating to the pragmatism that has dominated American foreign policy for the last half century or so. It looks to me like both parties and the American people are saying, “Can’t we just go back to the way things were?” History is moving forward, the enemy is at war with us, and both parties are sticking their heads in the sand. They hope it will all go away if they refuse to see it.

It’s ostrich time in America.

What Do I Do?

I have a fungus in a toilet bowl. I drop bleach tabs in the tank, I pour bleach in the bowl, I scrub. No matter what I do... it comes back.

It has been there for years. This life form will not die. What if it mutates? What if it spreads? I wait for the day I read the words Resistance is futile written in fungus in the toilet bowl.

The "Theme from Jaws" plays in my head every time I enter that bathroom.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Art of Acting

Few people listen to a concert pianist and think, “I could do that.” Few people look at a great painting and think, “I could do that.” (I mean pre-modern painting. Most people probably could paint like Jackson Pollack. An elephant splattering paint with his trunk could do that.)

I would bet, however, that most people reading this have watched actors and thought, “I could do that.” What do actors do, anyway? They talk, they walk, they love, they get angry, they crack jokes. They do what all humans do.

It’s harder than it looks, but not as hard as playing Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto.

This year I acted five Shakespearean parts. (I’m a little Shakespeared out right now.) Next year, in addition to more Shakespeare, a company I work with is doing Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution” and “Cyrano de Bergerac.” I look forward to those productions.

In college I majored in theatre arts. My acting teacher was an old Stanislavskian who had been acting since the 1930’s. He was rough on me. He would not let me get away with anything that was shallow and imposed on the character. He insisted on actors building a character using the Stanislavsky “method.”

How miserable he made my life! I tried and I tried to understand, but I could not get it. I just could not get it. To me, acting was acting. It was doing the things that you see actors do. But my teacher wanted me to go deeper and strip all of that away and just pursue the objective. I don’t know how many times in four years I heard him ask, “What is your objective?”

One day about 15 years later I was sitting in my armchair reading a play when something clicked in my mind. It was like in the cartoons when a light bulb appears above a character’s head. I looked up from my book and thought, “I get it now.”

What did I get? To explain, let me tell you about a classmate of mine in college. He was in roughly the same situation I was: lots of talent, but he approached acting from the outside in and there was a certain shallowness to his acting.

My friend tells me that one day in acting class he began a monologue, doing all his normal shtick. The teacher stopped him and said, “Just say the lines. Don’t do all that other stuff.” My friend began again and again the teacher stopped him and told him to just stand there and say the lines. My friend started again and was stopped again.

My friend was losing his temper now. He wanted to do the monologue right, not just stand and say the lines. “Fine,” he said with some anger. “You want me to just say the lines, I’ll just say the lines.” He stood absolutely still, not acting at all and just said the lines.

And it was good. He found a reality he had been unable to find when he was trying to “act.”

When an actor strips away the phony stuff, then he is free to pursue his objective in rehearsals and build on the reality he finds.

Stanislavsky fits rather nicely with the Aristotelian philosophic tradition, of which Ayn Rand is a part. Life is goal-oriented. Human action is purposeful.

Aristotle writes about final causation, which means that a goal causes the action one takes to attain it. For instance, if your goal is to get to other side of the street, then the action you take (walking) is caused by your pursuit of that goal.

The idea of a character having an objective or goal is, I believe, the most important part of Stanislavsky’s teaching. Pursuing a character’s goal causes the things an actor does in pursuit of that goal.

Stanislavsky writes about a day in acting class when he told his students to find the brooch that was hidden in the curtains. The actors began looking through the curtains for the brooch. He then told them that there really was no brooch. The point was that the actions they had been taking were the actions they should take if they were to act like they were seeking a brooch. You don’t indicate to the audience, “I am looking for a brooch,” you just look for the brooch.

Let’s say you’re a man playing a husband and wife scene. From your script analysis you decide your objective in this scene is to deceive your wife (which never happens, ladies). As you rehearse the scene, you find yourself avoiding eye contact with her because you don’t want her to see you are lying. You mumble the end of one line because you don’t want her to understand too clearly what you are saying. You laugh nervously at one moment and speak loudly when you try to change the subject at another moment.

Now, when you were preparing the scene, you probably did not think, “Okay, I’ll have shifty eyes, mumble here, laugh here…” You might have thought of some of those actions, but you probably discovered them as you pursued your objective. You and the director might consciously think of other things you can do and you might fine tune the raw material you discover as you rehearse. It all must be integrated around your objective.

Once you have this reality, then you can further develop your character by putting yourself in circumstances or conditions using what Stanislavsky called “the magic if.” If I were drunk, how would I walk? If I were effeminate, how would I move my hands?

The mistake my friend and I made in college is that we were copying the things we saw actors do instead of doing the things that people do. We were playing the results we imagined for the character without finding the underlying action that causes the results. If you pursue your objective, then those results happen naturally and they look real. That’s acting.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Long Live Econ 101!

Atrios tells us:

Deliberate or not, Econ 101 classes generally are highly ideological indoctrination classes which make numerous college freshman believe lots of wacky stuff every year. When I taught I really tried to make sure to emphasize some thing to counteract this, but even courses taught by this crazy liberal probably turned a bunch of people into free market fundamentalists.

Even with Atrios teaching economics, enough truth got through for students to see the light! Let me be the first to thank Atrios for turning a bunch of people into free market fundamentalists.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

American Accents

My day job involves listening to FM radio stations in the top 30 markets of America. Here are the thickest regional accents that I hear in America.

1. Long Island. Or Lwon Guyland, as they call it. Easily the thickest accent in America, far worse than New York or Philadelphia, which have similar accents. Everyone on Long Island sounds like a gangster.

2. Boston. Baston. They still have that Kennedy sound working there. And you know what’s really funny? In Boston they make fun of Maine. One morning show has a bit called “Men from Maine” that is just a scream.

3. Chicago. In Chicago, instead of “Rock on” they say “Rack An.” Elwood Blues.

4. Minneapolis-St. Paul. I love this market. Watch the movie Fargo. They really do talk like that.

I’ve noticed a slight moderation of the southern accent in Atlanta. Oh, you still hear it a lot. “Me and Billy Bob, we was listenin’ to y’all’s ruh-adio stuh-ation?” But you also hear a lot of Yankees in Atlanta. Will the southern accent someday be gone with the wind?

Digression. And then there are our two Texas markets, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston. What is it with Texas? I mean, what is it with Texas? Do Texans EVER tire of hearing their state hyped as the greatest place on Earth? One country station has a promo that says, “I’d rather be a fence post in Texas than a king in Tennessee!” Uh, okay.

Texas has the only callers who identify what state they live in, as if there were any question. In Washington, callers say, “I’m from Tacoma.” In Illinois, callers say, “I’m from Chicago.” In Texas, callers say, “I’m from Houston, Texas!” As opposed to what, Houston, Arkansas? End of digression.

As a westerner I cannot identify a western accent. To me it just sounds like the standard American accent. (Having spent my early childhood in Kansas and Arkansas, I have a bit of a twang, but I've lost most of it since I moved to California in 1966.)

I Hate My Generation

Since day one of the Bush Presidency, the New Leftist baby boomers in the Democrat Party have been replaying the two great triumphs of their youth, Watergate and Vietnam. Their attempts to mire Bush in Watergate-like scandal have so far been a bust. Remember Halliburton? After all their effort to smear him, Bush is still untarnished. Perhaps we should thank the Democrats for helping us see in clear relief that Bush is not corrupt. I’m not saying Bush is an intelligent man or a good president, but he seems to be clean.

From the recent election it looks like the Democrats will succeed in turning Iraq into Vietnam. The left will succeed because the Republicans first turned Iraq into Vietnam when they failed to do what it takes to destroy the enemy. Fear of world opinion crippled LBJ and Nixon and the same fear cripples Bush. Maybe someday we’ll learn that America cannot fight a vigorous war and also make the French happy.

The morality of altruism gives world opinion so much power. Altruism demands that the strong sacrifice to the weak. America is the strongest nation. Any assertion of our right to exist goes against the altruist premise. As far as the world is concerned, America does not have a right to exist except as a humble servant to the needy.

President Bush, whose favorite philosopher advises him to turn the other cheek when he is struck, was undermined by the altruist premise. He could not wage a war to destroy the enemy. The fountainhead of militant Islam, Iran, still lives; it foments unrest in Iraq, it plots against America and it works to achieve nuclear missles. All because Bush and the neo-conservatives could not proudly stand up and say, “America has a selfish right to exist.”

So it looks like we’ll start bugging out of Iraq. Maybe we’ll get pictures of the last helicopter leaving Baghdad so the baby boomers can really relive the good old days.

I congratulate my fellow baby boomer, Osama bin Laden. He pointed to Vietnam and Somalia and said America was a paper tiger. He said we did not have what it takes to stick it out. He was right.

The rock group Cracker has a song called, “I Hate My Generation.” This cracker agrees. America will be a better place when the baby boomers are dead and gone. There are good baby boomers, but on balance the passing of my generation will be a sign of progress.

UPDATE: The inevitable slight stylistic revisions.

Saturday Morning Bitching

I clicked on Oak Tree to see this message on his blog:

Not Found

Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn't here.


Is Oakes’s blog telling us that Oakes’s blog does not exist?

****

I eat McDonald’s breakfast sometimes. I use the drive-thru (I believe that’s how they spell it), then come home and eat at the computer. It’s fast, cheap and I’ll eat anything as long as it’s not good for you, so it works out.

From my experience I would guess they screw up the order 20-30% of the time. Twice they have given me someone else’s order entirely. I’ve learned to sit at the window and check the order before I drive away.

A failure rate of 20-30% is unacceptable.

I have to bite my tongue when I place my order not to add, “And don’t f**k it up.” If you do that, then they spit on your McMuffin.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Living the Revolution

After a year without touching a club, I hit a bucket of golf balls on this beautiful Southern California day. My concentration broke down; I was sloppy and rushed my shots. In golf mental stamina is important.

As I was out there at the driving range it occurred to me that I focus too much on the negative in politics. There are good trends too, such as the internet. The average man has more power to make his voice heard than ever in history.

Take this blog -- peanuts as blogs go. I would say no one reads this blog, but House of Eratosthenes has a copyright on that line. My biggest day so far came when Michelle Malkin linked to me and I got a Malkinlanche of around 1,000 hits in one day. Atrios and Instapundit can sneeze and get more than 1,000 hits, but for me it was something of a thrill.

Before the internet, I did not communicate my political or philosophic ideas to 1,000 people in my entire life. Only professionals had the power to reach that many people in one day. Now amateurs can do it.

The blogosphere is a big place where millions speak their mind. The world is better for it. I believe that truth prospers and lies suffer when the “marketplace of ideas” is so vast and efficient. Look at how fast bloggers demolished CBS’s Texas Air National Guard smear of Bush.

The world has changed since 1977 when I read Atlas Shrugged at the age of 20 and became an Objectivist. I did not know any other Objectivists then. I knew they existed, but their image was vague and unreal in my mind. I listened to a taped speech about gold by Leonard Peikoff and from his voice I pictured a bald man around 70 or 80 years old. I remember thinking it was a pity he would be gone soon. Such was the extent of my ignorance!

When I was stationed at Ft. Meade in 1979 I spent an afternoon in the Library of Congress looking through the five or six books they had about Ayn Rand. It was disappointing because most of the books were bizarre attacks by people like Albert Ellis.

In college in the early ‘80s I still had not met an Objectivist. I was so starved for anything about the philosophy and its founder that I spent one afternoon looking through the Reader’s Guide of Periodicals and reading every article the library had on Ayn Rand. I read very nearly all that had been written about her in major publications from the 1930’s-1980 in one afternoon.

Today there is too much written about Ayn Rand to read in a lifetime, much less an afternoon. Today a young Objectivist cannot experience the isolation I went through because the internet connects people with common interests. And it’s not just Objectivists, it’s every imaginable interest. I suppose lepidopterists have forums where butterflys from around the world are discussed.

When I first got on the internet in 1996 I researched a novel about Vikings (that I’m still working on; I did not like the style in my first attempt; yes, Myrhaf is a character in the novel). I read a document that was in Oxford’s library. Now, before the internet what are the chances I ever would have seen that document? Today anyone who can afford a computer and an internet hookup has a research library in his home. How will that change the world?

And here’s another good thing. I think both the Republicans and Democrats would love to censor information if they could. If they thought they could get away with it, the worst politicians would vote for total suppression of speech like the Nazis and communists had. This will never happen. The internet is here to stay. The world is a place where billions of individuals communicate in freedom.

Such a vast pool of voices makes it easier for the truth to be get out and perhaps to be heard. I hope the truth rises to the top. I hope this unprecedented freedom of communication helps the best philosophy to rise to the top.

We are in the midst of an information revolution that will change the world at least as much as the printing press did in the Renaissance. What you are doing right now, reading these words, is part of the revolution. We are living the revolution.

UPDATE: Slight stylistic revisions. It would be good if I sat on a piece overnight before posting it, but I'm like a kid on Christmas Eve -- I can't wait that long.

Heads Up

In the next two years watch for stories in the MSM painting the filibuster as obsolete. Now that the Republicans are the minority in the Senate, the filibuster is an important weapon against big government schemes the socialists think up. The left will launch a full on propaganda war against the filibuster to weaken the Republicans’ resolve to use it.

My guess is the left will win this one. Politicians are like water falling down a mountain: they find the path of least resistance. If the MSM make filibuster mean obstruction, thwarting the will of the people and general nastiness, the Republicans will collapse.

Defining the terms of the debate determines the outcome of the debate and for the last century the left has been masterly at this. The word liberal used to mean pro-individual rights and free markets. The greatest political move in American history came when the socialists took the name of their enemy.

Watch for the campaign to make filibuster a dirty word.

Arlen Specter Reacts

From the AP:

Sen. Arlen Specter, the moderate conscience of Pennsylvania Republicans, on Wednesday urged the party to re-evaluate its priorities in the wake of nationwide election losses and called for a more progressive agenda that changes the strategy in Iraq and puts more emphasis on education and health care at home.

Specter’s reaction to the election is “Let’s surrender to the terrorists AND the Democrats!” Is Specter a French name?

In addition to the war, which he called a key factor in the losses of fellow Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum and others, Specter said his party will have to become "a lot more progressive and a lot less ideological."

So, let me get this straight. If you’re progressive (also known as “socialist”), then you are not ideological?

With politicians like Specter, the question is not, “Is America on a highway to hell?” The question is, “How have we survived this long?”

(HT: Polipundit)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Republican Water Boy

Rush Limbaugh tells us:

I feel liberated, and I'm going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried.
You know what, Rush? It would have been better for America (and for your self-esteem) if you had not carried the Republicans’ water when they did not deserve it. But instead of doing what was best for America, you did what was best for Republican Party power. There is a difference.

When the Republicans walked five steps in the wrong direction, you carried their water because you feared the Democrats would take us 10 steps in the wrong direction. Where did America end up? Five steps in the wrong direction and you feeling soiled and in need of liberation.

So now you can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the one thing you do well, criticizing liberals. This is what you conservatives have come to, Rush. You can no longer stand up and feel good about your side. All you can do is point a finger at the other side and say, “They’re worse!” Well, maybe America will keep the Democrats in power so you can continue to revel in your liberation.

Questions -- and An Answer

In my last post I wrote,


Remember this in the coming months: when the liberal media say “bipartisanship,” they mean Republicans doing what Democrats want.
Now this from Bill Quick:


Ken Mehlmann is on Fox right now blathering on about how he agrees with Howard Dean that the two parties need to set aside partisanship and "work together," and then cites things like the Kennedy edu bill as desirable examples.

I did not realize that bipartisanship also meant doing what the Democrats want to the White House.

The Bush administration will learn nothing from this election. They are “compassionate conservatives,” which means they thoroughly subscribe to the welfare state, but want to make it religious, too. Bush is in my opinion ignorant and contemptible. He is beyond reform.

Well, it didn't take me long to lose confidence in Bush, did it? One question remains: are there any good Republicans left?

Another important question haunts me. Are the American people beyond reform? This from Neal Boortz:

Democrats have known for years what they were going to do as soon as they managed to regain power in Washington… and that is to begin work immediately on making sure that they are never turned away by the voters again.

The largest component of the Democrat voter base is comprised of voters who vote for a living, voters who have abandoned their adult responsibilities and have, to one extent or another, become wards of the state. Democrats will immediately try to expand the American social welfare state. Look for proposals for new tax credits and exemptions… but only for lower income Americans. Look for increases in the minimum wage… the government setting wages rather than leaving that up to the competitive free market. Look for proposals to shift payroll taxes away from lower income workers and onto the evil rich. In short… look for more government.


The Democrats are the party of government -- those in government and those dependent on government. This bloc lives as a parasite off of productive Americans. I believe these people are beyond reform. They will go down fighting to the last man.

Do productive Americans have what it takes to stand up to the parasites morally and assert their right to live for their own self-interest?

This is why the spread of Objectivism is the most important task today. In the name of everything that is good, we must arm the producers of America with the understanding that they have a moral right to live for themselves. Objectivism will be the spine of the coming rebellion against socialism -- and against that monstrosity known as “compassionate conservatism.”

Random Thoughts on the Election

Now that I’ve had some rest, I feel refreshed. Got my good humor mojo workin’ again.

The campaign for 2008 begins somewhere around 9am today. Can you stand it?

Aside from the Democrats, the big winners are the pollsters. They pretty much got it right. My confidence in my lack of confidence in polls has been shaken.

Prediction: If, as it looks, the Democrats win the Senate, the old liberals on the Supreme Court -- which come to think of it is all of the liberals -- will retire in the next two years for fear that Republicans will take back the Judiciary Committee in 2008. Finally, after decades of toil, they get to take a rest from proofreading the opinions their clerks write. Okay, maybe not all of them will retire.

Some of the Republicans who lost were religious conservatives: Rick Santorum and John Hostettler, for two. That’s a good thing.

Ramesh Ponnuru thinks some of the Republicans lost because of Libertarian votes. It’s not good that people are voting Lib, but it is good if the Republican Party is encouraged to move toward smaller government and less spending for fear of losing votes. (Like that will ever really happen. I think I’ve been inhaling my cigars too deeply.)

According to one analysis, the number of college voters was up huge -- an average of 50% in the precincts studied! But how did they vote? If they went heavily Democrat, doesn’t that indicate that fears of a rising religious vote are maybe a little overblown?

Diana Hsieh stood in line two hours and 20 minutes to vote. I guess she had to after making a vote against the Republicans seem like a matter of life and death. (I'm exaggerating. A little.) But seriously, I respect Diana and take many of the points her side made before the election. However, I think it is a waste of time to stand in line that long to vote.

Remember this in the coming months: when the liberal media say “bipartisanship,” they mean Republicans doing what Democrats want. This paragraph is sponsored by the Rush Limbaugh Show.

Speaking of radio, here is a telling line from Hugh Hewitt:

And it is a wonderful day for new media, especially talk radio. For two years we have had to defend the Congressional gang that couldn't shoot straight. Now we get to play offense.

Why did you have to defend the Republicans when they couldn’t shoot straight, Hugh? Why couldn’t you criticize them? Are you saying the new media are biased toward the Republicans?

Michelle Malkin is hot. (Did I just lose Trey Givens?)

Several of the Democrats who were elected, such as Shuler, are religious conservatives. Now, this is a fascinating development. Could the Democrats begin taking back the south by fielding conservatives? What would the Kossacks think? Would this be good or bad for America? It would mean more religious politicians, but fewer Republicans, who are supposed to be the party of impending theocracy. Something to watch in the next election.

If the Democrats had not won the House of Representatives, we would be talking about the death of the Democrat Party. As Mike’s Eyes see it,

Traditionally, the party out of power picks up seats in both houses in off year elections. It didn't happen for the Dems in 2002. So it had better happen this year or they might as well jump into a casket and close the lid. But, it happened for them and they can give a big thank you to the Republican Party for making it happen.

I think this win was HUGELY important for the Democrats. I’m hoping a reinvigorated Democrat Party will bring the Republicans to their senses. (Yep. I’ve lost it. Must be the cigars.)

Charles Rangel will chair Ways and Means, John Conyers will chair Finance, Alcee Hastings will chair Intelligence, Barney Frank will chair Financial Services and Henry Waxman will chair Good Government. God, what a freak show. It’s up to Bush to veto any expansion of government these clowns manage to push through. Bush is not facing re-election. Maybe he’ll put Karl Rove out to pasture and grow a set of testicles and govern the way Republicans are supposed to govern but really haven’t since Coolidge. (Did I just write that? Enough. I’m throwing away those stinky cigars.)

The angry left will demand subpoenas on everyone from Bush down. I think we’re looking at two years of sound and fury signifying nothing. Sit back and enjoy the show. It could be worse: the government could actually do something.