Saturday, June 30, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 8

1. Richard Brookhiser looks at Presidential timber from New York.

...four New Yorkers managed to win eight presidential elections: Martin Van Buren (1836), Grover Cleveland (1884, 1892), Theodore Roosevelt (1904) and Franklin Roosevelt (1932, 1936, 1940, 1944).

Batting .500 ain't bad. Two of my favorite Presidents are from New York. I'll leave it to the reader to guess which two.

2. From Instapundit:

A TROUBLING OBSERVATION: "'There is enormous pride among young officers in their units and in each other,' says Lt. Col. Peter Kilner, who recently returned from two months in Iraq interviewing young Army officers for a research project. 'But I see strong evidence that they are rapidly losing faith in the Army and the country's political leadership.'"

Col. Paul Yingling blames our failure in Iraq on our generals. The blame goes higher than them to the Commander-in-Chief, President Bush, and it goes even higher to Bush's commanding officers, the philosophy faculties of America's elite universities.

If our young officers are "rapidly losing faith in the Army and the country's political leadership," it is with good reason. Our government has decided our military personnel are expendable. Our government has decided they are lambs to be sacrificed to the gods of altruism and world opinion. For instance, instead of carpet bombing Fallujah as we should have done, inflicting collateral damage, angering the rest of the world and inflaming the left, we went in house by house. We sent our men into a meat grinder to die because we didn't want the bad PR. We didn't want the rest of the world to think we're mean.

You can't fight a war and at the same time tremble in fear that you might hurt someone's feelings.

3. I have written the last two posts (and this one) on Windows Live Writer. It is terrific! I compose in a space that looks like the blog. I don't have to fiddle around with the quotes now to get rid of short lines and fix the spacing. I hit publish from this program and it publishes a post on my blog.

The only bad thing is that I can't search through browsed web pages to get links, as I can in Microsoft Word. I have to go to a web page, copy the link and then come back to Windows Live Writer and click Insert Hyperlink. If they could add a browsed web pages function, this thing would be about perfect.

4. Witch Doctor Repellent discusses one of those stories that just makes you shake your head. Cameron Diaz, one of the great minds of Western Civilization, wears a t-shirt decorated with Maoist propaganda in Peru. She is criticized not for proudly supporting the most murderous regime in history but for being insensitive to another culture, specifically Peruvians who were blown up by Maoists. She would have been better off wearing a Gestapo uniform to Jerusalem; at least there only the Jews would be offended. The Palestinians would give her a medal, if in their current state of civilization they can afford medals.

5. Politics and Pigskins looks at a statement by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon blaming the Darfur conflict on global warming. Fred Thompson's response make some excellent points:

Blaming the Islamic government and groups that have manipulated events in Sudan will get him nothing but enemies. Blaming global warming, however, is basically the same thing as blaming America. America is by no means the only major source of greenhouse gases, but we've taken the most political heat. The reason is that congress rightfully balked at ratifying the Kyoto international climate treaties during the Clinton presidency.

There is simply no downside to blaming America, because Americans don't punish their ideological foes. From the UN, we don't even require sanity sometimes. And there might even be an upside to blaming us, since there are Americans who suffer from such ingrained feelings of guilt, they’ll support increased aid to both the UN and Sudan.

Unfortunately, Thompson also says this:

Now hopefully we can work toward international cooperation with regard to environmental policies that make sense.

No environmental policies make sense, nor does being in the UN, allowing the UN to remain headquartered in America or seeking international cooperation with a bunch of America-hating socialist hell-holes.

Fred Thompson strikes me as a typical conservative: he has moments of lucidity in an otherwise pragmatic welfare statist worldview. I wouldn't expect anything big and wonderful from his presidency, but a mix of more of the same with some small moments of good news and some ghastly concessions to the religious right.

6. Americans are hiring consultants to help them name their babies. Now, this is good news, isn't it? It means the economy is still good. If times were rough, I don't think people would be paying $350 for help in naming a baby. Instead, they would say, "David. Let's go with David." And the problem would be solved for free.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Blogosphere

Bill Quick, the man who named the blogosphere, has written an important post about the internet. He says the defeat of the immigration bill is a coming of age for the blogosphere.

Although I am not happy about the defeat of the immigration bill, I share Bill Quick's excitement about the blogosphere. (I suppose that figures, since I'm a blogger.) The great thing about the power of the blogosphere is that there is nothing politicians can do about it, short of destroying the internet -- a move that would make so many people across the political spectrum angry that no politician would consider it.

It is ironic that this victory comes at the moment the left is mobilizing to destroy right-wing talk radio with the Fairness Doctrine. The blogosphere does not depend on broadcasting permits. Starting a blog can be done for free. The blogosphere is as widespread and diverse as humanity. How can the state apply a Fairness Doctrine to humanity?

Furthermore, the biggest, most powerful political blogs are on the left. The non-leftist blogs are more extensive, but the leftist blogs are more intensive. There is more ideological conformity on the left and more diversity on the right. I think the power of the leftist blogs pretty much guarantees that even the worst statists in the Democrat Party will keep their hands off the internet.

The blogosphere reflects the people. The people were in the wrong on the immigration issue, but I suspect the power of the people and of the blogosphere will be used for better causes in the future. I believe Bill Quick is onto something. This is an important moment in American politics.

Around the World Wide Web 7

1. John Stossel takes on big-government conservative David Brooks. Mr. Brooks believes government should intervene in the economy; he just wishes it were he who did the intervening and not, say, Hillary Clinton.

Stossel writes,

Brooks even advocates national service, "forcing city kids to work with rural kids, and vice versa."

Why are pundits and politicians so eager to use force against others?

They used to call forcing someone to serve people slavery, but I suppose the New York Times columnist would consider such talk gauche and barbaric.

2. Michael Moore opposes profit in medicine.

"I favor the removal of private health insurance companies from this country. I don't believe that there is room for them in the equation. When you are talking about people's health, you should never have to worry about profit."


"I want [the American people] to demand that candidates of both parties come forth with specific health care proposals that will guarantee health insurance for all Americans and profit not be involved in it.”

You could explain economics all week to Mr. Moore - that profits are necessary for individuals to make rational calculations, and on and on – it would be like pouring water on concrete: nothing would sink in. Profits are selfish, and to an altruist, nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter if getting rid of profits means replacing reason and freedom with force and tyranny. Profits are selfish. Case closed.

We need the spread of a philosophy that defends rational self-interest. I wonder whose philosophy that might be?

3. Think conservatives are better about the free market than liberals? John Hawkins rails against businessmen who hire illegal aliens. He calls them selfish, crooks and motivated by "raw, unbridled greed."

These businesses that are knowingly hiring massive numbers of illegals are criminal enterprises, not much different from crack dealers in my book, and not only do I want to see them getting fined, I want to see the people running those companies doing hard time in a federal penitentiary.

Mr. Hawkins would have made a fine commissar in the USSR. "Comrade, you are pursuing a profit? You are a criminal enterprise!"

He even shows the typical leftist ignorance of the market by accusing businessmen who hire illegal aliens of paying slave wages and lowering wages for the rest of us (as if competition in employment were a bad thing). The current immigration debate is revealing the conservatives as xenophobic know-nothings. If American liberty is in their hands, then we're doomed. It's over.

David Brooks, Michael Moore, John Hawkins... I need a drink.

4. Systemic thinks we'll be discovering earthlike planets around the nearest star to the sun, Proxima Centauri.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Rehearsals for Cyrano de Bergerac have begun. Excellent cast. It is a fabulous acting opportunity to play very large, romantic passion. One cannot be hindered by the Lee Strasberg Actors Studio type of method acting.

After the first read-through I noticed how Rostand uses supporting characters to react to Cyrano and thus define for the audience who Cyrano is. If Cyrano were not surrounded by this world of characters, he would be less real, less defined. This is an excellent thing for writers to remember, because I know that as a playwright I try to limit characters as much as possible to the ones who are necessary to the plot, and perhaps have used too few characters in the past. Smaller characters do more than just plot functions, they also flesh out the hero’s character and the world of the play. Smaller characters can also help greatly in the theme, a trick Shakespeare used a lot.

Another thing I noticed: Cyrano is much more exciting and interesting a story than anything by Shakespeare. The Bard, for all his poetic and theatrical genius, did not write terribly interesting plots.

Also, I was struck by the same thing that strikes me in plays by Hugo and Schiller: the characters are intensely passionate about their values. They are deeply committed to what they love and to getting it. This passion is necessary in order to have a plot with exciting conflict. If your characters are a bunch of slackers who sit on the couch saying, “What do you want to do?…I dunno, what do you want to do?…I dunno, get Chinese food?” then you cannot have a believable, exciting plot. Romantic characters have ideals for which they will live and, if necessary, die.

This play is great stuff. I’m excited that I get to work in and analyze this world for the next few months.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Intimidation and Consensus

How do you establish a global warming establishment? You smear your opponents.
So, the Society of Environmental Journalists put together a guide on climate change that lists a number of publications on global warming, scientists and seven environmental groups, each with positive descriptions. Under the "Deniers, Dissenters and 'Skeptics'" category are four listings -- all negative. They suggest that these folk are venal, partisan and bad scientists, or all of the above.
Why is it so important to environmentalists that their side be perceived as having a consensus? Isn’t science about the facts, not whether everyone else agrees? After all, Galileo was far outside the consensus of his time -- yet still the earth moves.

I think it comes down to the big victim of progressive education: the virtue of independence. Progressive education “socializes” its students; it trains young people to go along with the group rather than think for themselves.

We’re beginning to see what happens in a nation of easily intimidated conformists who lack the self-confidence to think for themselves.

Words of Force

Evil always has its rationalizations. There might be some nihilist out there who is so corrupt that he says, “I am evil and my actions are destructive and purposeless,” but I have yet to hear it. Instead, evil-doers make excuses. The worm who massacred students at Virginia Tech told the rich and powerful, “You made me do this.”

The terror during the French Revolution was perpetrated by the Committee of Public Safety. Public Safety! Who could object to that? Those who were arbitrarily thought to represent a threat to public safety ended up at the guillotine.

Vast ideological systems stand as rationalizations for evil. Marxism justified the murder of tens, if not hundreds, of millions in the 20th century and the enslavement of many more millions. One could argue that Islam is nothing more than a rationalization for Mohammed’s thuggery and power-lust. Well, one can argue that in America, at least until it’s outlawed as hate speech. Don’t try this in downtown Tehran.

One of the greatest rationalizations is equality. Most people have a vague conception that equality is good. If a family has three children and one pint of ice cream, and one child eats more ice cream than the other two, the others perceive it as unfair. In this context, equality means justice. Unfortunately, too many people think no more deeply about equality than this.

The theory that everyone should be equal is egalitarianism. In the Greek myth, Procrustes had a bed and anyone who slept in it had to be stretched or chopped down until he fit the bed. As the myth shows, equality always comes at a price.

On a cultural-philosophic level, egalitarianism is a tool, a rationalization, used by nihilists to destroy. It is the greatest, smoothest, most deceptive destroyer ever. Instead of saying, “We must destroy the good and noble,” a naked statement of evil that no one would accept, egalitarians say, “Everyone should be equal” or “Let’s not hold people to high standards.” Once you lose standards, then you lose the good and the noble and you’re left with the low, the mediocre, the ignoble. Nihilist mission accomplished: without ever stating their destructive purpose clearly, it is achieved through egalitarian rationalizations.

Equality among humans can only come through destruction. One cannot force a poor man to be rich, but one can take money from a rich man and give it to the poor. One cannot, like Procrustes, stretch a five-foot tall man to be six feet tall, but one can cut 12 inches of length off a six-foot tall man. The state cannot force idiots to be geniuses, but it can kill or jail all the intellectuals. (When the communists took over Vietnam, anyone who wore eyeglasses was sent to a prison camp.)

On a political-economic level equality is used to justify massive, destructive state intervention in the economy. The state is not a parent spooning out equal portions of ice cream to children, but the agency with a legal monopoly of force, whose function is to protect individual rights. Equality enforced by the state always comes at the price of violated rights.

The only proper sense in which the state should be concerned with equality is before the law. Rich, famous and beautiful people (as Paris Hilton recently found out) should be subject to the same laws with the same penalties as everyone else. No one should be persecuted because of the whims of those in power more than others are punished by the law. Other than this, the state has nothing to do with equality. It is not a function of the state to make life “fair.”


There has been a lot of talk lately about bringing back the Fairness Doctrine in radio. Jack Kelly summarizes recent efforts by the left to suppress speech they don’t like. The spirit of the New Left is the opposite of that expressed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, in which he wrote, “…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes….” This is the spirit of reason. 1776 was a long time ago, and two centuries of modern philosophy have destroyed the west’s confidence in reason. The New Left no longer has respect for the opinions of mankind.

(But lest you think only Democrats oppose free speech, remember that Republican Senator Trent Lott recently groused, "Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem." Predictably, he has backtracked since his remark, but it’s always enlightening when a politician lets the truth slip out. Whether his gaff was from arrogance, stupidity, living inside the Beltway so long that he has lost touch with the people or what, I don’t know.)

The United States Constitution, another 18th century document, protects freedom of speech in the first amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
You can’t get much clearer than that. So how do those who want to destroy free speech get around this inconvenient law? With the concept of fairness. The state is not abridging speech, they would argue, but only requiring that talk radio give both sides of the story. It’s only fair -- and who could object to fairness? Like equality and public safety, fairness is a good thing.

Of course, fairness -- as defined by the state -- comes at a price. The individual rights of radio stations are violated when the state commands them to run liberal commentary. This would surely lower the radio stations’ profits in proportion to how much time for liberal opinion is mandated. The destruction of wealth could be huge.

A return to the Fairness Doctrine would be a major step forward in our ongoing march into fascism.

Words can be used by reason and they can be used for force. Equality, public safety, fairness -- these are words used as weapons, words used to justify the initiation of force by the state against individuals.

UPDATE: Slight revision.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sparrow In the Wind

A sparrow fights the wind, the wind,
The hot wind from the mountain pass
That pelts the cactus plant with sand,
The needles useless, blades of grass.

The Santa Ana wind starts far
Away in Colorado or
Nevada (nothing there but slots),
A devil wind and more, and more.

The spiders know, the lizards know,
The orange trees and palms abide,
But somehow that dumb sparrow, she
Is on a roller coaster ride.

It’s ugly when a little thing
Goes up to fight that howling force
And slashes wicked up and down
And jigs and jags, all thrown off course.

Perhaps a eucalyptus tree
Somewhere -- Rialto, Riverside --
Is bowing, shaking in the gale,
Its branches thrashing close and wide.

And in that eucalyptus tree
A nest of sparrow chicks holds on;
They don’t know much, they don’t know death,
They know their mother still is gone.

UPDATE: I rewrote the poem, replacing raven with sparrow. Sparrow is a better image, as it is a smaller, less threatening bird. It would also be more believably buffeted by the wind. This should teach me something about posting my poetry too soon.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Needed: Ring of Gyges

Hillary Clinton says too many Americans feel invisible.
"Too many Americans feel invisible today," she said at the 75th annual meeting of The U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"You know these people and they're not invisible to you and they're not invisible to me," the New York senator said. "And I pledge they will not be invisible to the next president of the United States."
I’ll never look at Hillary Clinton again without thinking of the Eye of Sauron.

You will NOT be invisible to Big Sister Hillary.

Other People

Dan Edge has posted about the Benevolent Universe Premise and dealing with people with what he calls the Benevolent People Premise. The post has stimulated discussion here. Inspector has more.

Dan sees a problem among young Objectivists.
For years, I have watched (mostly young) Objectivists struggle with a specific form of the Malevolent Universe Premise. I call it the "Malevolent People Premise." One with a Malevolent People Premise expects the worst out of each new person he meets. He realizes that everyone has the capacity to be rational, but he expects those he meets to be irrational. While he may develop relationships with new people who seem virtuous, he always expects to find faults, and he carefully scrutinizes new friends or lovers for any evidence of irrationality. When he discovers a flaw in the person, he feels betrayed and angry -- but justified.
Since I don’t know any young Objectivists, I don’t know if Dan is right that this is a common problem. I suspect he overstates his case. Here are my somewhat random thoughts on dealing with people.

Relations with people, like everything else, depend on one’s purpose. If your purpose is to buy groceries, the relationship with the person at the check-out stand is simple and formulaic. The conversation is the same every time, and unfortunately includes the question, “Paper or plastic?” because environmentalists think plastic is bad for some reason, so apparently it’s better to use tree products. (I once read that someone wrote a spoof academic article called, “Paper or Plastic: An Inquiry.”)

For the most part, relations with people are a matter of manners and etiquette. Manners are not quite what they were before the New Leftist cultural revolution, but they’re still pretty good. I have read that people are nicer to one another in capitalist countries than in socialist ones. This is because socialism makes everyone an enemy competing for a slice of the pie doled out by the government. It is fascinating that the “dog eat dog” smear that socialists lay on capitalism is actually true about their system.

There is no reason why on this superficial level one should not be positive and cheerful, expecting the best from people. Anyone who is typically unpleasant and grouchy at this level of contact, like Moliere’s Misanthrope or Menander’s Dyskolos (The Bad-Tempered Man) has a psychological problem. Comic writers have a lot of fun with grouches, but it’s no way to go through life.

You get beyond superficial relationships when you talk to people more and find out their ideas. This is when disappointment enters. People quickly reveal themselves as mystics, cynics, buffoonish nihilists, gray ciphers, flattering sycophants (social metaphysicians) or some other type. I find two simple questions, asked with an unthreatening smile, most revealing: 1) What does that prove? And 2) Do you have any evidence? The answers to these questions are usually enough to tell you who you’re dealing with. By asking questions without lecturing or arguing, you find out people before they get angry and the defenses go up. First get the facts, then pass judgment.

Most people neither understand nor care about philosophic ideas. It’s good to remember their context of knowledge. You’ve read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, but they probably have not. When you meet someone who is honest and cares about ideas, then you’ve found a nugget of gold amid the dross.

H.L. Mencken was something of an elitist who called the common man “booboisie.” He can be a little intimidating as he wrote before the coming of the New Left, when cultural standards were higher. I remember reading him once sneer at people who blow in their soup; I thought, “Gee, I’ve done that…”

(Another example of being intimidated by people who were around when America and the west were better places: When I heard on tape Ayn Rand dismiss Wagner as organ grinder music, I thought, “Whoa! I’m a guy who is happy with the Beatles and Black Sabbath and she’s looking down on Wagner?”)

Is being a curmudgeon like Mencken a bad thing? I suspect Mencken was much more polite to people in person than he was in print. I doubt that he went around being unpleasant and rude. Writing has a different purpose than personal relations, and being a curmudgeon in print served his purpose of entertaining readers and making money from writing. To me, Mencken’s curmudgeonliness was just recognizing the reality that if one sets one’s personal standards high, most people will fail to meet them. If you want the best out of life, you will be in the minority, as most people settle for much less than the best.

In our culture, most people do have wrong premises of one sort or another. In that respect it’s not irrational to “look for the worst” as the chances are the worst is there waiting to be found. But even so, honest people, however flawed, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity until they prove otherwise. And what they choose to think is their responsibility, no one else's. One has no duty to run around like a religious fanatic saving other people's souls.

The most frustrating thing about "the common man"? He occupies his mind with trash and nonsense. In my day job I listen to FM morning talk shows across America, so many of which are obsessed with Hollywood gossip. People love gossip! I don’t want to contemplate someone like Michael Jackson, who has all the personality of a sea cucumber, but others might talk all day about him. (Women are a bit more likely to love celebrity trash than men.)

At the age of 50 I find it tempting sometimes to think like Dominique in The Fountainhead or Kay Gonda in Ideal. I long for the ideal, but instead I get “American Idol.” I end up feeling, more than anything, boredom. As a result of being bored and uninterested in most people, I stay home too much and I have to force myself to get out and socialize. The advent of the internet has made staying home even more attractive. Were it not for acting in plays, I might be a total shut-in.

UPDATE: Slight revision.

Another Bad Idea

Nothing, it seems, fills a Democrat’s heart with happiness and hope more than slavery. The idea of enslaving America’s youth for two years of service to the state is the ideal of their morality. Watch their faces glow when they talk about it; they almost look like those posters communist China used to have. We serve the collective! We are selfless and noble!

Let’s hope Dodd’s bright new idea sinks like a rock in muddy water.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cold Turkey

My computer is doing strange computer things and I have not been able to connect to the internet on it for 36 hours. When I try, it says,
Internet Explorer is not able to connect to this webpage
Or something like that. I'm posting this from my Mother's house.

Let me tell you, being without the internet is most disconcerting. It's like... where did my life go? No emails. No blog. No surfing. No Sudoku.

Maybe I should do what the stoics or the Epicureans would do and use this privation to find inner peace.

Screw that. I want my internet.

UPDATE: It's fixed. The problem seems to have been a complication caused by Time Warner's takeover of Adelphia. Currently, I'm apologizing to my computer for everything I said over the last two days. Maybe I should buy flowers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What Today's Universities Do: A Snapshot

What should a Master of Arts program in Theatre Arts look like? What courses should be required? What is the purpose of an MA degree?

I think graduate degrees should be about training scholars -- creating intellectuals. In Theatre Arts that means a heavy emphasis on the history of drama. If I designed the program, an MA student would read every great play, every good play and some not so good plays, from Aeschylus to Ayckbourn. In addition to book work, the candidate should also do some production work.

Since this program is more or less what I do in life anyway (without getting college credits for it), I checked out the MA program of a local college. It turns out they have a whole different conception of what an MA program should be. Although they say the program is for theatre artists, educators and people who wish to further graduate study, it looks useful only for educators.

The requirements are full of multi-culti classes such as “Chicana/o Latina/o Theatre and Drama,” “Issues in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Theatre,” “Multicultural Images in Children’s Literature” and “Theatre in the Post-Colonial World.”

Now, what does this program really accomplish? What does it train students to do? It teaches them to teach children. Specifically, and to put it provocatively, the program trains people to use theatre to indoctrinate children with New Leftist pieties.

No, I won’t be attending this program. I will continue reading old plays that today’s MA graduates have never heard of. Why should I interrupt my education to study New Leftist propaganda?

Garbage In, Garbage Out

This blog is actually looking at the electronic sensors that monitor temperatures for the National Weather Service. It turns out that some are placed on roofs, near air conditioning vents, next to a trash burning oil drum, etc., so their readings are questionable. Contrast the two graphs, one for the sensor that has moved and had changing conditions around it and one that has not moved or changed in the last century.

Are we certain the globe is warming?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 6

1. Great opinion piece by a Democrat on the religious pandering of the Democrat candidates. It’s another sign of the ominous rise of religion in America.

2. Elsewhere on the Politico, we get a taste of the wisdom of actor Richard Dreyfuss.

Williams asks Dreyfuss about his battles with drug addiction and alcoholism. "What we call addiction is also a desperate desire to experience the eternal," Dreyfuss says.

"We have just spent six years escaping the bullet of bullshit," says Dreyfuss, the man concerned with raising political discourse. "I'm glad Bush is young and healthy, because he will spend more time in deposition than any president in history."

He finishes with praise for Eugene V. Debs and eternal damnation for Thomas Jefferson, "the worst person in American history. All he did was defend slavery."
Wow. It’s sad when a celebrity is a moron. He embarrasses himself before the whole world.

3. Here’s a time-lapse photography movie of a volcano on Io, a moon of Jupiter. You didn’t want to go through life without seeing a volcano on a moon of Jupiter, did you?

4. The Lakers – groan. Kobe wants to be traded. A few years ago they had Shaq and Kobe and were a great team. Then Shaq and Kobe couldn’t get along and when the Lakers indicated that Kobe is the future, Shaq felt unappreciated and demanded a trade. That was the start of the Lakers’ woes: what do you get in return for one of the greatest centers in NBA history? Well, you get screwed is what you get. You get Lamar Odom and Brian Grant and some other guys, nothing that comes near to filling the hole in the center left by Shaq’s absence. The Lakers ended up owing Brian Grant some unbelievable amount of money that left them unable to get the star players they needed. The O’Neill trade was a disaster forced on them by the petulant superstar, a disaster of which they are still feeling the effects.

So the team tried to reform around Kobe and has so far been unable to get past round one of the playoffs. In three years they have achieved mediocrity. Phil Jackson was brought back to coach and expected to perform miracles based on his amazing record. But he inherited one of the youngest teams in basketball, and shouldn’t a young team be running the legs off older teams? Instead, they were finding their positions in the triangle, a complicated offense that takes awhile to learn, and passing.

What they are doing is not working and it doesn’t look like any radical change is in the works. Now Kobe says he wants to be traded. That’s fine with me if it will help the Lakers. I want the purple and gold to win, whatever player has to be traded. Let’s just hope that this time they get someone great in return for trading Kobe.

5. And in baseball, Barry Bonds closes in on Hank Aaron’s home run record of 755. The steroids question casts a shadow on what should be Bonds’ pinnacle of glory. But if we disdain Bonds for steroids, we should also spew opprobrium at Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and every other baseball player that looks like a middle linebacker with pads on, because they all used steroids.

What should baseball do? Let the players take what drugs they want. Let the players replace their bones with aluminum alloys, let them take take drugs that increase their reflexes, let computer chips be implanted in their brains and let teflon cords replace their muscles. Let them turn into cyborgs technologically enhanced to play baseball. Maybe it will make the game less boring.

6. What would you get if you combined a teenager and one of these? Probably a dead teenager.

7. Revenge of the cats?
Lloyd Webber, 59, was working on the score [of a sequel to "Phantom of the Opera"] at his computerised grand piano when his six-month-old kitten Otto clambered into its frame and managed to delete everything he had written so far.

The digital Clavinova piano has an inbuilt computer and the ability to play back thousands of songs from its memory.

But Lloyd Webber was unable to recover his work from the high-tech instrument after Otto, a rare-breed Turkish Van, had done his worst.

Says the composer: “I was trying to write some new music; Otto got into the grand piano, jumped onto the computer and destroyed the entire score for the new Phantom in one fell swoop.”

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Fortress America Mentality

It seems like every time I turn on talk radio these days -- which is only when I drive -- I hear the words “secure the borders.” Secure the borders! We’re at war and the enemy is sneaking in to sabotage us.

Are people serious about this? Have they looked at a map? America is more or less a continent-wide rectangle with two long borders and two long coasts. We are proud to boast that our border with Canada is the longest peaceful border in the world. Our long, unguarded borders are the result of -- and the symbol of -- all that is best about capitalism. Free countries do not live in hostility or fear, but in peace and free trade. As Bastiat said, when trade does not cross borders, then soldiers do.

This Fortress America mentality is something new and something bad. I believe it is the psychological result of America’s inability to wage proper war against totalitarian Islam. Specifically, this mentality is the result of creating the Department of Homeland Security. As Robert Tracinski wrote in 2002,

The War on Terrorism is over. It ended when President Bush pushed to the top of his agenda the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security. This is the climax of a trend that has been building for the past month: the only action the U.S. government is now taking in response to terrorism is purely defensive.
There was no creation of a Department of Homeland Security in WWII. Instead, America waged war -- real, serious, all out war -- against our fascist enemies and destroyed them within four years. We understood then that the only defense is offense; that American security could be achieved only by destroying the enemy.

When he created the Department of Homeland Security, President Bush’s action told the American people and the world that we would not wage a war to destroy the enemy, but would go on defense. The American people got the message that we would just have to learn to live with terrorism as the Israelis do. The enemy is out there, plotting to destroy us, aided and abetted by Iran and Saudi Arabia, and our government has thrown up it hands and said, “Sorry! We will not destroy the enemy, so you’d better prepare for future attacks at home.”

Since the day I heard about the Department of Homeland Security the name has struck me as un-American. "Homeland" sounds European. It sounds collectivist, statist and mystical, like the words "fatherland" or "motherland." Furthermore, it sounds imperialist; only a nation that constantly gets entangled in foreign wars needs a separate concept for defending itself at home. There is nothing in America's individualist past like it. Maybe this is what William Graham Sumner meant when he said in 1899 that America was defeated by Spain.

Bush’s neoconservative policy is suicidal negligence of the President’s duty to protect and defend the Constitution. I do believe, although this is speculation about the future, that one day Bush and the neoconservatives will be held by historians as treasonous in their failure to defend America.

Our government is saying to us, in effect, you can no longer live entirely without fear of being killed by a foreign enemy. Now we must look to the state for colored alerts to tell us the likelihood of our being incinerated. As our government fails to strike fear in the hearts of its enemy, it settles for keeping its own citizens in a permanent state of fear. Such are the fruits of America's altruist foreign policy.

This is a radical new way of living for Americans. The psychological effects of living in fear are still unknown, as is how this new mentality will affect the American character in the long run.

I would guess that the intensity of the emotion about illegal immigrants and the fight to “secure our borders” is in part the result of our new defensive mentality. It is yet another ominous development, but a problem that could be solved if we would just get serious about waging the war and winning the war.

Curtis LeMay, where are you? America needs you.

UPDATE: Revision.

Hollywood Gets Religion?

I went to see Knocked Up, a tedious movie with a story so dull that Hollywood producers would have to love it. Is it my active imagination or is Hollywood turning religious?

First, this boring comedy struck me as almost a fantasy because any normal non-religious woman in the heroine’s situation would get an abortion. Now, I understand that if the heroine gets an abortion, there’s no story (not that there was much of a story anyway), but the movie did not feel the need to justify her decision to have the baby in any way. The woman’s mother wanted her to “get it taken care of” but the woman simply refused without giving any reason for her decision. The movie couldn’t even say the word abortion; the closest a character came is “shmashmortion.”

Second, two of the previews had religious themes: License to Wed and Evan Almighty, both of which look so unbearably bad that you couldn’t pay me to watch them.

Am I onto something here or is this just an atheist’s hypersensitivity to anything that smacks of mysticism?

If I’m right, what does it mean? Here are the choices:

A. Hollywood is changing and more religious people are making movies.
B. Hollywood is letting a few religious movies get made to keep the conservatives off their back.
C. Hollywood is going where the money is, making more religious movies because that’s what the ticket-buying public of America and the world want to see.
D. A little bit of all of the above and some other factors as well. (I include this choice for all you empiricist-minded complexity worshippers who get sweaty palms at the thought of identifying a principle.)
My answer is A. As America goes, so goes Hollywood. And the ominous fact is that America is becoming more religious. Hollywood is not so much a leader of culture as a follower. Any widespread philosophic changes will inevitably change an industry full of timid social metaphysicians who would rather copy a proven success than innovate. We're not talking about visionaries or titans of independence here.

It’s not the first time Hollywood has embraced religion. Some ‘40s movies are drenched in mysticism, altruism and sentimentality and they are unbelievably boring, as if pop culture was just trying to lull people to sleep in that tacky decade. Unless you need a soporific, avoid all '40s movies that involve priests, nuns, doctors or nurses, as these types are invariably portrayed as selfless idealists who sacrifice their happiness for humanity.

Instead of back to the future, Hollywood is going forward to the past. Forward to the past in bad way: Hollywood is rediscovering the worst traditional values while keeping the worst new age values, all the while still ignoring the lost art of romanticism.

(Other than religion the only other trend I see is the same one we've been living with since the rise of the blockbuster -- that is, idiocy designed for the lowest common denominator. I mean, Underdog? Remember when Hollywood used to make intelligent movies? Neither do I.)

UPDATE: Revision.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Swing and a Miss

Peter Beinhart’s latest column is an example of what happens when you define by nonessentials. He describes the GOP’s woes thus:
These are tough times to be a Republican. An unpopular president, an unpopular war and a trio of ideologically impure 2008 front-runners have left the party in a funk. And running through it all is one debilitating weakness: The GOP no longer has a unifying populist cause.

Since World War II, perhaps the Republican Party's greatest political achievement has been to marry conservatism -- once considered a patrician creed -- with anti-elitism. The synthesis began with Joseph McCarthy, who used conspiratorial anti-communism to attack America's East Coast, Ivy League-dominated foreign policy class. It grew under Richard Nixon, who exploited white working-class resentment against campus radicals and the black militants they indulged. It deepened under Ronald Reagan, who made government bureaucrats a focus of populist fury.
McCarthy, Nixon and Reagan were popular because they opposed (or were thought to oppose) big government in some form or another, not because they stoked resentments of the people as cynical demagogues. The GOP is in trouble today because Bush and Rove have abandoned the party’s small government/free market tradition to embrace the big government liberalism Peter Beinhart loves.

I guess explanations such as Beinhart’s are stories liberals tell one another to make sense of how Americans could oppose the welfare state that they hold as unquestionable.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Missing Virtue

While reading this depressing story of the 15 “greenest” celebrities, I pondered what drives them to embrace environmentalism. I think the fundamental problem is the desire to conform to the group. They get their moral validation from the group and can’t bear to live without it.

This is the fruit of progressive education. Dewey stated that the goal of education is to socialize the individual to the group.

According to [progressive education’s] founder, John Dewey, "The school is primarily a social institution," whose central purpose is not "science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography...but the child's own social activities." Our schools certainly embrace both parts of this doctrine: teachers now attend to the child's "social" needs as devoutly as they dismiss his intellectual ones….

The Progressive philosophy maintains that the cause of social strife is the unwillingness of an individual to sacrifice his convictions to the group. Dewey maintained that it is the insistence on distinctions such as "true versus false" and " right versus wrong" that generates social conflict. If only children did not hold strong ideas, disagreement and conflict would evaporate in the sunshine of social harmony. Truth, therefore, is socially fractious--while ignorance is bliss.

Hence, what the Progressives mean by "socialization" is the surrender of one's mind--of one's independent knowledge and judgment--to a "group consensus." According to Dewey, "The mere absorbing of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat." This explains why educational standards have plummeted over the years -- why Progressive teaching methods consist primarily of class discussions where everyone's arbitrary opinion is considered equally valid--and why Johnny can't read, write, add or think.

Once truth and logic are dismissed, Johnny is left with one fundamental guide to making choices: his emotions. Explaining the Progressive practice of engaging children in whatever "scientific experiments" they feel like doing, one teacher said: "If students enjoyed working with science-type materials, such as magnets or mirrors, I really don't care if they learned anything." To which a principal replied: "As an educator, I fully agree with that view. As a parent, it scares me to death."
Dewey’s education theory has been quite successful. Progressive education in government schools is bad not primarily because it makes kids stupid, although it does do that, but because it makes them afraid to think for themselves.

Once progressive education has made little conformists, in steps political correctness to direct them as to how they should think. They gladly go along with the group because they can’t stand life outside it.

Even if you sat one of these conformists down and explained that environmentalism makes no sense economically, is bad science and is at root just a leftist attack on capitalism, they couldn’t accept these conclusions for any length of time. Their subconscious mind would bring them back to the fold because they feel bad outside the group. They don’t have the self-esteem and self-confidence to really believe they can be right when so many disagree with them.

What they lack is the greatest victim of progressive education: the virtue of independence.

The left likes to sneers at America as a nation of conservative sheep. This is projection. America is a nation of sheep -- but of sheep who follow the New Leftist ideologies and political correctness that have been indoctrinated into them in 12 years of public education.

If we’re ever going to turn this country around, we need to get people to think for themselves again. This country started with a Declaration of Independence; now it needs a Restoration of Independence.

Around the World Wide Web 5

1. Born Again Redneck has pictures of possible first ladies. Funny stuff. I think I’d vote for Kucinich just to be amused by his wacky presidency. Well, not really.

2. 1,680 guitarists play “Smoke On the Water.” The song has become a self-parody.

3. Vodkapundit liveblogged the Republican debate the only way any debate should be watched: drunk.

4. A blogger called Britney is quitting because she has taken too much abuse. Apparently, she linked to an abusive post about the late blogger, Steve Gilliard, which incited a leftist firestorm of nastiness. The internet is full of ad hominem attacks, profanity and mockery. I believe the left is a bit more inclined to resort to the foam-flecked name calling than the right, but only a bit.

Personally, I find the “f*** you, revolting moron” type of response less bothersome than the polite hair-splitters. (Although I get little abuse on this blog because most of the people who read it agree with me.) You can dismiss the raving abusers with a wave of the hand, but the hair-splitters, the equivocators and so on can take real work to answer.

5. Michael Barone looks at the latest poll about Republican presidential hopefuls. (If anyone can read a poll, Barone can.) One line of his bothers me: “Republicans this cycle, like Democrats in 2003-04, clearly have the sense that their party is in grave danger of losing and are seeking a candidate who they think can win.”

I could swear we heard the same talk in 2000 and we ended up with George W. Bush, whose presidency has been a disastrous failure.

6. George Reisman examines “Environmentalism In Light of Menger and Mises.” If you have never read Austrian economics, this post will be an eye opener.

UPDATE: Slight revision.

UPDATE II: I have never seen a nature video like this one at Noodlefood. I thought that little buffalo was a goner between the lions and the crocodile, but the buffalo herd actually comes back and... you must see it. When buffaloes run from a lion, they are pretty much defenseless, but when they face them with their horns in a herd, they're a frightening force.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Eagle

This poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson is only six lines, but each line is superb. It is a little gem cut to perfection.

The Eagle
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt, he falls.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bush vs. America

President Bush has made two policy shifts lately that undermine American sovereignty, endanger American security, and intervene in the American economy. First, he called for the ratification of “The Law of the Sea Treaty.” Second, he has caved on global warming, calling for cuts in “greenhouse gas emissions”:
WASHINGTON, May 31 — President Bush, fending off international accusations that he is ignoring climate change, proposed today to set “a long-term global goal” for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and he called on other high-polluting nations to join the United States in negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement by the end of
next year.
If a Democrat President did these same things, conservative talk radio would on fire attacking him. Once again we’re seeing how Republican Presidents can destroy freedom in ways no Democrat could get away with.

With these two breathtaking acts of surrender, Bush hopes to appease his opponents in some pragmatic attempt, I guess, to get them to like him. In the process, this fool is undermining the country he is sworn to protect and defend. But I give him too much credit by calling him fool; as an altruist he does not really believe in American sovereignty and certainly not in anything close to laissez-faire capitalism.

Lame duck Presidents should take a kind of Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm.

UPDATE: Add to this that last week Bush opened negotiations with Iran, which even Carter and Clinton did not do. Iran, remember, is currently supplying arms to our enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Is the Bush Presidency substantially different from what we might get with a Kucinich Presidency? Any more surrenders and Bush will have the French sneering at us as cowards.

Fred Thompson

I don’t know a lot about Fred Thompson. I know he has a nice of way of keeping his name in the news even though he is not an official candidate for President yet. He gets credit for being media savvy.

Another thing, he has charisma. He doesn’t come off like a typical politician, but seems “comfortable in his skin.” This can be important for politicians, especially among people who don’t notice politics until, as I like to put it, they look up from their bong in late October to ask, “What’s all this I hear about an election?” Many voters will choose Thompson simply because they like him without understanding any of his stands on the issues.

If Thompson’s opponent is Hillary Clinton, we can call the election now. Senator Clinton, I am as certain as I can be, would lose big. Biggest landslide since 1984. Clinton lacks charisma as much as Thompson has it. Her voice is shrill, her character suspicious, angry and humorless, her past scandal-ridden.

Furthermore, the Democrats have come to depend too much on character assassination to win. They will get dirty in October, 2008, of that you can be sure. I get the impression that such attacks will fall off Thompson like water off a duck's back.

Clinton will join a long list of Democrat losers, including McGovern, Hart, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry. The addition of her name to this list will doubtless feed the left’s paranoia that American democracy is undermined by capitalist greed and right-wingers saying lies that poison stupid American minds and entice Kansans to vote against their self-interest. (As if socialism were in anyone’s self-interest!)

I must say I like this about him:
As for his ambivalence about running for president until age 64, he jokes that voters may like someone "who hasn't lusted for the job since they were student body president." He maintains that "if a person craves power for the sake of power, if he craves the office for the sake of holding the office, he's got his priorities mixed up. It [should be] a desire to do something not be something."
I could not agree more.

I have no doubt that if he gets the nomination and as we then learn more about him, he will disappoint us time and again. He must because he is a Republican. I think there is a rule in the Republican by-laws that candidates must compromise their principles, appease statists and do their best to demoralize individualist voters. If they didn’t, then things would be too easy and Republicans would be too popular. By self-destructing they stave off the evil eye of envy.

UPDATE: Politics and Pigskins looks at Fred Thompson’s stands on various issues in two posts.

Distorting Self-Interest

Joseph Sobran takes on Ayn Rand’s ethics in his latest column, dated May 14, 2007. It is a shoddy argument that distorts Miss Rand’s ideas so grossly as to be irresponsible. One wonders if Mr. Sobran wants to be taken seriously.

Mr. Sobran equates the morality of self-interest with Darwinism.

Of course we all want to survive. But we want just as strongly for others to survive too. Darwinism can’t explain the environmentalist movement…

Admit it, you atheists: the sight of an old geezer with a cane brings out something sweet in you that, according to Darwin, can’t be there. The truth is that love for others is a profound instinct, a powerful atavism so to speak, harder to resist than hate.

Darwinism is a biological theory of evolution; it has nothing to do with ethics. Mr. Sobran creates a straw man here in order to paint the morality of self-interest as one in which men struggle against one another to survive. Ethics is not a competition. If one man or a million achieve happiness, it does not come at the expense of the rest of humanity. Mr. Sobran mischaracterizes rational egoism as cynical egoism, the idea that being selfish means screwing over other people to get what you want.

To equate Ayn Rand’s morality of rational selfishness with Darwinism is comparable to redrawing the Mona Lisa in crayon, then blaming Da Vinci for drawing in crayon.
Altruism sticks in the craws of the reductionists who think man is, and ought to be, selfish. Ayn Rand tried in vain to persuade us that Moses and Jesus were wrong, that altruism is bad, and that selfishness is a virtue. She failed to make much of a dent in the popularity of St. Francis of Assisi.
Give her time. Objectivism has only been around half a century.

Man is separated from the beasts by the faculty of reason, of course — the point the old philosophers used to harp on; but I prefer to stress his capacity for praise and appreciation, disinterested joy in things outside himself. A boy in love doesn’t just desire the girl; he may not even desire her at all. He simply marvels that so lovely a creature can exist, as he may marvel at Mozart’s music or Shakespeare’s poetry, things that offer nothing beyond themselves to desire.
Mr. Sobran doesn’t understand that spiritual values are as selfish as material values. Admiring a beautiful girl and great art are not disinterested acts; they are deeply selfish because they are a pleasure in themselves and they give one spiritual fuel to continue struggling to achieve goals. Aesthetic admiration is not some platonic love that exists apart from this world.

The piece ends with this outrageous paragraph:

I suppose killing your own children makes some sort of sense from an atheistic and Darwinian point of view. If survival is a ruthless competition, your kids are your competitors, right? No wonder Darwin’s legions are in favor of this “choice.” It accords perfectly, methinks, with Ayn Rand’s “virtue of selfishness.”
Yes, of course, Mr. Sobran! Objectivist ethics leads to killing one’s own children. Ayn Rand really did eat babies for breakfast. (Of course, a fetus is not a child, but that is a whole other post.)

As bad as leftists are, and they are horrible, if you want a master of smear and distortion, you still have to turn to a conservative like Joseph Sobran.

UPDATE: Revised.

Populism on the Right

The Politico discusses the possibility of immigration reform destroying the Republican Party.
…Republicans across the board seemed astonished when the first-quarter FEC reports came out and, all told, the Democratic presidential candidates out-raised the Republicans by $25 million. The party committees are lagging behind their Democratic counterparts.

There is no mystery. Conservatives, who voted in droves for Democrats and against Republicans as a protest vote last November, are now voting with their pocketbooks. The sleeping giant of the conservative movement has been awakened, and if the immigration bill passes, one can imagine an organized effort to shut down all grass-roots conservative money from going to any GOP party committee and instead direct their hard-earned dollars to legitimate conservative groups.
This is most ominous, because the premises behind stopping immigration are collectivist, if not racist. Notice the socialist sounding rhetoric, attacking “corporate America”:
The immigration bill, most conservatives believe, is a sellout of everything they hold dear – the rule of law, justice, freedom and sovereignty. But rather than listen to the grass-roots American people, the GOP elites are instead listening intently to the voice of their master, corporate America.
How is stopping individuals who want to come to America to work and better themselves in the interest of freedom? And bringing up sovereignty is an equivocation of the word; we defend our borders against hostile nations, not against peaceful individuals who want to come to America to work.

I have speculated on this before. I think people feel a general unease about the growing state, the loss of freedom, the decline of culture and our government’s inability to defend us against militant Islam. The brown-skinned people sneaking into America to work serve as a scapegoat for their fears. (And the unions, who oppose an expansion of the labor market that brings down wages, help to stoke this fear.)

I haven’t studied the immigration bill close enough to say if it is good or bad. These days all bills are complicated, mixed bags that require Talmudic study to understand and judge. Sometimes little riders are ghastly power grabs by the state that make a bill unworthy of passing.

The populism we’re seeing in the Republican base is a disturbing sign of the decline of individualism. This is the mob mentality of which our Founding Fathers were so leery.

As the left embraces multiculturalist collectivism, the right is embracing a more nationalistic, mystical collectivism. Between the left and right, the two should get us to outright fascist totalitarianism within decades.

UPDATE: Rewrote one sentence that actually said the opposite of what I wanted to say. Been a long day...

Rock'n'Roll Answers

The Clash ask,

Should I stay or should I go?

Answer: Look, if you go there will be trouble, but if you stay it will be double. You must suck up your courage and go, however unpleasant it might be.

Barry Mann asks,

Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?

Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?

Who put the dip in the dip da dip da dip?

Who was that man?

I'd like to shake his hand

He made my baby

Fall in love with me

Answer: Good questions, Barry. But a better question is, where do you meet girls that fall in love when they hear idiotic lyrics?

Creedence Clearwater ask,

Long as I remember

The rain been coming down.

Clouds of myst'ry pouring

Confusion on the ground.

Good men through the ages,

Trying to find the sun;

And I wonder,

Still I wonder,

Who'll stop the rain?

Answer: Don’t ask Al Gore, you’ll give him ideas.

Boyce and Hart ask,

Oh yes I wonder

What she's doing tonight

Ohoh I wonder what she's doing


Answer: Whatever it is, I can pretty much guarantee it’s more fun than you’re having.

Sheryl Crow asks,

Are you strong enough to be my man?
Answer: Since you recently advocated people use one square of toilet tissue to wipe, I would have to conclude sadly, no, I am not strong enough.

Boy George asks,

Do you really want to hurt me?
Answer: Yes.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sunday Night

I hear the Democrat Presidential wannabes debated tonight. I missed the debate because I was in LA taking this class in verse speaking.

(What would I rather do, listen to Democrats or explore Shakespeare’s verse with dedicated professionals? Gee, that’s a hard one. Democrats or Shakespeare? I guess I would have to go with Shakespeare, but only because I’M NOT OUT OF MY BLEEPING MIND.)

I can’t find the transcript online yet, but I heard a clip on the radio of her saying that when she voted to approve the war in Iraq she did not realize Bush would stop the arms inspectors. Is this right or is she rewriting history? If we’re going to invade Iraq, the arms inspectors are pretty much useless by then, aren’t they?

You have to scrutinize everything a Clinton says.

Anyway, the verse class was a lot of fun. I did Macbeth’s “If it were done, when ‘tis done, then ‘twer well,/It were done quickly…” The speech has some amazing poetry in it. Another fellow did a speech from Henry VI, part 3, Act II, sc. iv, and the teacher showed the humor in the speech that most people miss. There were only three students there so we got a lot of individual attention. I don’t know if the other students were too lazy to show up or what, but I’m rather happy they weren’t there.

This verse class helps me in my playwriting as well as my acting. Analyzing the verse in detail is great.

Looking forward to Cyrano audition. And let the NBA Championship series begin! San Antonio vs. Cleveland should be fun. Lebron James is an astonishing talent.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Progress Report

I've written the first two scenes of my verse play. Here are the last two speeches of Act I, sc. ii, a scene of conspirators (the villains). The play is set in 6th century BC Ionia. An actor could chew some scenery with this final soliloquy.

Our lives are weighted in the balance now;
If gravity tilts to Simonides,
Our fall is final.

Fear thus framed is waste.
Conserve the energies inside your soul
For anger, courage, hatred -- useful turns
Of mind that point as a pack to our goal.
When action waits, then resolution tells
The outcome, firm resolve brings on success.
But fear, base fear, is father to defeat,
A bastard child unwanted and unclaimed.
Now go, prepare: seek out the steel inside
Your breast and shine it till it gleams. Enough.
No words now.

No words now; what are words? The stuff of lies.
Without our words the world would be a school
Of honesty and fairness and we men
Would handle our affairs in silent
Righteousness, superior to gods.
For I myself have used words with deceit:
I know how lies go; I know what they do.
Brave Drakon names our cause a noble case;
His words are honorable and most true,
And I will ply them as a carpenter
His studs of pine and beams of sturdy oak.
The words of Thales, Heraclitus,
Democritus and Parmenides, the
Best words of our gabbing race, are but
Battalions bent to serve me as I wish.
They meet my end, my purpose hidden here
And burning all my being in a hot
Inferno; blasting, all-consuming flames
That do devour all my waking thoughts;
The goal that is my very form, my life:
I live for power. Power! Let the rest
Of vast existence fade forgotten all,
Until the final, tired tick of time;
The universe is nothing to my end,
I live for power, yearn for power, yea,
And food and water fuel me for my fight.
Delights and worldly pleasures tempt me not,
Distractions have I none, for power is
The matter and the form, the actual
Potential; all the raining atoms of
My soul collide, congeal and integrate
As one to this, my everything and all,
As power is existence, being, breath;
Without it lies the empty void of death.