April 21, 2004

The field of Classics is not overstocked with trendy PoMo authors, but there are a few exceptions, the most notorious being John Henderson of King's College, Cambridge. In the April 16th TLS, Emily Wilson reviews his latest as follows (page 6):

Reading Henderson is stimulating and infuriating in almost equal measure. His playfulness is sometimes refreshing, and sometimes deeply wearisome. He is pathologically unable to resist a Derridean trick or tic. His typ(olog)ical gimmicks sometimes seem like mere doodling, and his enjoyment of his own cleverness can feel irritatingly exclusive: we get to watch, while he pleasures himself. Readers usually want a bit more share in the action than this.

There's more, but that's the best part.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:15 PM
Blurbular Etiquette

In yesterday's NRO Impromptus, Jay Nordlinger writes (near the end):

One of the most interesting biographical lines under an op-ed piece I've ever seen? It comes from the Wall Street Journal, which printed a piece under the name of King Abdullah II. The bio: "Abdullah II is the king of Jordan." Somewhat cool, huh? I mean, how would you like your biographical line to read, "John Smith is the king of [X country]"?

That reminds me of a dilemma a friend was faced with some years ago. As editor of a respected journal of philosophy published by a Catholic university, he had accepted a paper on Phenomenology from a European churchman little-known outside his own country. Between the time the paper was accepted and the time the issue went to print, the man was promoted to a much bigger job. This presented a serious problem in phrasing the author blurb. I don't know how my friend eventually solved the problem, but I do recall some of the possibilities we discussed, not all of them serious:

  • "Karol Wojtyla needs no introduction." (Evade the main issue.)
  • "Karol Wojtyla is the Pope." (Keep it simple.)
  • "Karol Wojtyla is the Holy Father, the Vicar of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church", etc. (A full list of titles would fill half a page or more.)
  • "Karol Wojtyla wishes to assure his readers that he was not infallible when he wrote this paper." (My contribution. And yes, I know that he would not be infallible even now when writing scholarly articles on Phenomenology. Please do not write to tell me so.)

In today's Impromptus, Nordlinger quotes a Dutch politician: "People say we Dutch are very liberal. The truth is, we just don't care." Somewhere V. S. Naipaul wrote of "a tolerance which is more than tolerance—an indifference to virtue as well as vice". Is that the same thing?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:04 PM
April 12, 2004
A Troll Unmasked?

Readers of Hobbs Online A.M. will be familiar with 'JadeGold', the trolliest troll currently infesting the Blogosphere. It has been banned from every other website I read, and I've had to ban it three times so far here, since it keeps changing addresses.

I believe I have penetrated JadeGold's disguise. Consider the evidence:

  • Apparently lives in the D.C. area -- so people say who have checked its various IPs.
  • Has lots of time on its hands.
  • Not precisely stupid, but has only a tenuous connection to reality.
  • A distinct malevolent streak.
  • A strong hostility to Republicans in general, and conservative Republican presidents in particular.
  • Very evasive about personal details: will not confirm his (or her) gender, profession, age (even within 10 years), or anything else at all about her (or him).
  • Has a habit of making sneering and dishonest remarks about supposed gaps in other people's resumés, while carefully concealing every detail of his (or her) own. This sounds like projection to me: what's he hiding?
  • Seems to like being banned from every blog in town, though he hasn't quite succeeded in being kicked off Hobbs Online. This suggests an urge for self-punishment -- for what?

Adding up the evidence, I can only conclude that 'JadeGold' is the chosen pseudonym of John Hinckley, Jr.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 03:18 PM

Hipponax lived in Ephesus and Clazomenae, on the east coast of the Aegean in what is now Turkey, in the late 6th century B.C. His verses are even cruder than those of the other iambic poets: in various fragments the narrator drinks beer out of a bucket, is whipped in an outhouse to restore his virility and attacked by a cloud of dung-beetles, and uses the Greek equivalent of ‘mother-f***er’ without any Greek equivalent of asterisks. Most surviving quotations are tiny scraps. Here are some of the more coherent ones, all, as it happens, in the form of prayers to, or complaints about, various gods — Wealth (Ploutos) is a Greek god.

Fragments 32 and 34:

Hermes, dear Hermes, Maia’s son, Cyllenian,
hear thou my prayer, for I am bloody frozen,
my teeth are chattering . . .
Grant Hipponax a cloak and a nice tunic
and some nice sandals and nice fur boots,
and sixty gold sovereigns to balance me up . . .
For thou hast never granted me a cloak
thick in the winter to cure me of the shivers,
nor hast thou wrapped my feet in thick fur boots
to stop my chilblains bursting.

Fragment 36:

And Wealth — he’s all too blind — he’s never come
to my house, never said, ‘Hipponax, here’s
three thousand silver drachmas, and a heap
of other stuff besides.’ No, he’s a dimwit.

Fragment 38:

Zeus, father Zeus, Olympian gods’ sultan,
wherefore hast thou not given me gold, silver?

As you can see, he tends to repeat his themes. Quotations are from M. L. West, and should be inextensive enough to count as fair use.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:28 AM
What's In A Name?

In a post entitled “Which is it?”, Tyler Cowen of The Volokh Conspiracy asks why ‘Jane Galt’ sometimes calls her blog ‘Asymmetric Information’ rather than ‘Asymmetrical Information’, the name on the masthead, and what difference it makes. The words are synonyms, so the only difference is the rhythm. ‘Asymmetric Information’ would be a trochaic tetrameter, an inappropriately symmetrical rhythm far too reminiscent of Longfellow’s Hiawatha or the clunkier poems of Edgar Allan Poe. ‘Asymmetrical Information’ gives a pleasingly asymmetrical hipponactean.*

At least it would be a hipponactean if it were Greek verse: English professors may have another name for it. The hipponactean is named after the Greek poet Hipponax, the only one I know other than Hank Williams (Senior, of course) who writes of buckets of beer. Perhaps I’ll quote some choice bits when I have the time.

— — — — — — — — — — — —

*The definition is x x — v v — v - x, where is long, v is short, and x may be either. Its just a glyconic with one more syllable tacked on the end.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:09 AM
April 02, 2004
How To Tell A Mercenary In One Easy Lesson

I hate to quote one of the viler trolls still infesting some of the less-often-fumigated parts of the Blogosphere, but something 'JadeGold' wrote over at HobbsOnline is worth answering in detail.

He (she? it?) insists that the four Blackwater emplyees lynched in Fallujah are properly described as 'mercenaries', and this opinion seems to be near-universal in the leftmost quarter or fifth of the political spectrum:

What makes them mercenaries is that they're not there out of any sense of patriotism or duty or country; they're there for money. Period.

And the pay is good, around a $1000 per day.

I take it that that "Period" means they are motivated purely by money.

A simple thought-experiment may help clarify the question. Suppose these four men were still alive, and were sitting around their temporary quarters (hotel? tent?) in Iraq when a local brought them an offer to join the "resistance". Suppose they listened carefully to the details of the offer (I know, this is already getting into Fantasyland), and were firmly convinced that it would be no more dangerous to help Iraqis kill their fellow Americans than it already was to help Americans do whatever it was they were helping them do for Iraqis, and that they could get away with it in the long run. Suppose they were offered a substantial pay-raise, to $1,200 or $1,500 or $2,000 per day. Once convinced that the increase in pay was not outweighed by an even greater increase in risk, anyone properly describable as a mercenary would take the offer immediately. After all, as 'JadeGold' astutely puts it, mercenaries are "not there out of any sense of patriotism or duty or country; they're there for money".

Would these men have taken such an offer? Would they even have listened to such an offer to the end? Would they have allowed the messenger bringing such an offer to leave their presence unmolested? If you think the answer to these questions is "not only no, but Hell no", then you agree that they were not mercenaries. If you still think they were mercenaries, I recommend that you not say so out loud around their families or their service buddies or in fact anyone who's not a moral and intellectual cretin like your own pathetic self. That will still leave you plenty of opportunities to express yourself to an appreciative audience, for instance in the comments on DailyKos and several other left-wing blogs.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

P.S. Is there any evidence that these particular guys were making anywhere near $1,000 per day, after expenses? That sounds like the kind of figure recruiters and credulous reporters might throw around. I don't doubt that a few specialists with unusual combinations of knowledge (e.g. advanced computer hacking + fluent idiomatic Iraqi Arabic) might earn that much, but I suspect the standard rate is rather lower. Or is $1,000 / day what Blackwater charges per person, including overhead and expenses, which would of course be substantial? When I worked in computers years ago, I believe the company charged the government 2.5 times my salary for my services, despite the fact that I didn't need to be fed or lodged or transported anywhere at all, much less halfway around the world. The markup was necessary to cover fringe benefits and management costs, along with a profit that was far less 1.5 times my salary.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 07:20 PM