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Tuesday: July 29, 2008

Advice from an Unlikely Source

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:00 PM GMT-0500

This passage made me think of James Bowman, particularly his latest diary entry. The problem seems quite contemporary, particularly the pairing of “ministries and newspapers”, though the proposed solution must have looked archaic even fifty years ago. How many people had a riding-crop handy when they needed one even in England in 1958?

It may be asked whether that state of society in which rascality undergoes no social penalty is a healthy one; whether we should not be a happier country if certain important people were pariahs as the hangman once was — blackballed in every club, dropped by every acquaintance, and liable to the print of riding-crop or fingers across the face if they were ever bold enough to speak to a respectable woman. It leads into the larger question whether the great evil of our civil life is not the fact that there seems now no medium between hopeless submission and full-dress revolution. Rioting has died out, moderate rioting. It can be argued that if the windows of various ministries and newspapers were more often broken, if certain people were more often put under pumps and (mildly — mud, not stones) pelted in the streets, we should get on a great deal better. It is not wholly desirable that any man should be allowed at once the pleasures of a tyrant or a wolf’s-head and also those of an honest freeman among his equals. To this question I do not know the answer. The dangers of a change in the direction I have outlined are very great; so are the evils of our present tameness.

(C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 1958, Chapter VII: “Connivance”)

Saturday: July 26, 2008

How Presumptuous Can You Get?

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:53 AM GMT-0500

As Marc Ambinder and others have reported, “Obama Team Begins Work On Presidential Transition”. No one seems to have noticed that Obama is not only not president yet, he’s not even officially the Democratic nominee, which makes this doubly presumptuous.

Friday: July 25, 2008

General Tso’s Chicken

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At least that’s what some of the other generals say.

Tuesday: July 22, 2008

Quantum Mutati ab Illis

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:47 PM GMT-0500

“Where is he from?”

Bracoletti answered without hesitation, lowering his voice, and with a gesture indicating the most complete disenchantment:

“He is a Greek from Athens.”

My interest sank like water absorbed by sand. When one has traveled in the Orient and through the ports of the Levant, one readily acquires the habit, perhaps unjust, of viewing the Greeks with suspicion. The first time one meets any of them, especially those who have been to the university and have classical educations, one’s enthusiasm is somewhat aroused; one thinks of Alcibiades and Plato, of the glories of a free and artistic people, and in imagination one recalls the august proportions of the Parthenon. But after being with a number of them at the tables d’hôte and on the decks of the Messageries steamers, and especially after having heard the legends of rascality that they have left behind from Smyrna to Tunis, one’s reactions to the others one meets are likely to take the form of buttoning one’s coat quickly, of crossing one’s arms tightly over one’s watch chain, and of racking one’s brains to guard against some escroquerie. The cause of this unfortunate reputation is that the Greeks who emigrate to the Levantine ports are an infamous crowd, part lackey and part pirate, a clever and unscrupulous gang of robbers.

(Eça de Queiroz, “A Lyric Poet”, in The Mandarin and Other Stories, tr. R. F. Goldman, 1964, pp. 135-36)

Tuesday: July 15, 2008

Missing the Obvious Pun

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:19 PM GMT-0500

I wish I’d known about Barney Greenglass the Sturgeon King when I worked for six months just a few blocks away: very tasty. But if I were in the lox business I would call myself the Sturgeon General.

Sunday: July 13, 2008

A Vegan in 1911

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:26 AM GMT-0500

The scene:

There are no trees in the “Luft Bad.” It boasts a collection of plain, wooden cells, a bath shelter, two swings and two odd clubs — one, presumably the lost property of Hercules or the German army, and the other to be used with safety in the cradle.

And there in all weathers we take the air — walking, or sitting in little companies talking over each other’s ailments and measurements and ills that flesh is heir to.

A high wooden wall compasses us all about; above it the pine-trees look down a little superciliously, nudging each other in a way that is peculiarly trying to a debutante. Over the wall, on the right side, is the men’s section. We hear them chopping down trees and sawing through planks, dashing heavy weights to the ground, and singing part songs. Yes, they take it far more seriously.

What about the vegan? Here she is:

Opposite to me was the brownest woman I have ever seen, lying on her back, her arms clasped over her head.

“How long have you been here to-day?” she was asked.

“Oh, I spend the day here now,” she answered. “I am making my own ‘cure,’ and living entirely on raw vegetables and nuts, and each day I feel my spirit is stronger and purer. After all, what can you expect? The majority of us are walking about with pig corpuscles and oxen fragments in our brain. The wonder is the world is as good as it is. Now I live on the simple, provided food” — she pointed to a little bag beside her — “a lettuce, a carrot, a potato, and some nuts are ample, rational nourishment. I wash them under the tap and eat them raw, just as they come from the harmless earth — fresh and uncontaminated.”

“Do you take nothing else all day?” I cried.

“Water. And perhaps a banana if I wake in the night.” She turned round and leaned on one elbow. “You over-eat yourself dreadfully,” she said; “shamelessly! How can you expect the Flame of the Spirit to burn brightly under layers of superfluous flesh?”

(Katherine Mansfield, In a German Pension, chapter “The Luft Bad”)

The text is on-line here, but the Hesperus edition is very handsome and reasonably priced.

Friday: July 4, 2008

That Explains A Lot

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:35 PM GMT-0500

InstaPundit reports that since an “unfortunate incident” in his youth he hasn’t had a spleen. I bet Kos and Atrios and Hamsher and Aravosis and the rest of the gang all have theirs, and wouldn’t be surprised if some of them have spleens enlarged to twice the normal size.

Of course, if InstaPundit (or Brian Beutler) needs a splenetic infusion, he can always read some Baudelaire: even with a century and a half of cultural and technological advances, Paris spleen is still the best spleen, and it is readily available in the U.S. at a very modest price.