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Monday: May 26, 2008

Bad Ideas Are Eternal

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:10 AM GMT-0500

Two entries in Flaubert’s catalogue of inane clichés, the Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues (Dictionary of Accepted Ideas, tr. Jacques Barzun) are depressingly familiar:

Importation: Ver rongeur du commerce.

Imports. Canker at the heart of Trade.

Libre-Échange: Cause des souffrances du commerce.

Free Trade: Cause of all business troubles.

Sunday: May 25, 2008

Gourmet Hot Dogs?

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:49 PM GMT-0500

InstaPundit quotes an AP story claiming that the cost of a package of hot dogs is up almost 7% in the last year to $4.29. I paid 99¢ each for my last two packs, on sale at Food Lion. Hot dogs keep for months in the refrigerator and years in the freezer, so there’s no reason ever to pay full price. What brand did I buy, and what kind of animal(s) were they made from? Who cares? Anyone who worries about the precise ingredients of his food shouldn’t be eating hot dogs in the first place. Even the priciest dog is, as Mencken put it, “a cartridge filled with the sweepings of the abattoir”. And even the cheapest dog tastes OK when broiled until semi-crispy.

As for buns, I put my hot dogs on semi-toasted folded white bread, with plenty of ketchup, mustard, and minced fresh onion. Even the traditional short stubby hot dogs stick out of the pseudo-bun on both ends as they ought to, and the bread holds the condiments at least as well as a bun, whose hinges tend to break under the strain of a well-slathered dog. Of course, bread is also generally cheaper than dedicated hot dog buns, and works well for hamburgers, too, especially if they’re square.

Impertinent Question

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:41 PM GMT-0500

On Winds of Change, Donald Sensing has a post entitled ‘Buy a Honda, Kill a Polar Bear’. If I do, can I have the skin for my living-room floor? Because that would make buying a Honda that much more attractive.

Paradise Lost II

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:35 PM GMT-0500

Notes from my reading of Book II:

1. Again the passage that most struck me was a classicizing bit, a simile describing Satan’s journey through Chaos (943-50):

As when a Gryfon through the Wilderness
With winged course ore Hill or moarie Dale,
Persues the Arimaspian, who by stelth
Had from his wakeful custody purloind
The guarded Gold: So eagerly the Fiend
Ore bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet persues his way,
And swims or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flyes:

This has some resemblance rhetorically to 7.501-3, though the latter is more neatly laid out in threes:

                    Earth in her rich attire
Consummat lovly smil’d; Aire, Water, Earth,
By Fowl, Fish, Beast, was flown, was swum, was walkt

Milton does not mention that the Arimaspians were traditionally one-eyed: did he not think it important, or assume that his readers already knew? ‘Moarie’ is not in the Shorter O.E.D. or www.dictionary.com, and must be a form of ‘moory’, meaning ‘marshy, fenny’.

2. The account of the origins of Sin and Death, featuring rape, incest, head-birth, and bestial transmogrification, manages to outdo Hesiod in gruesomeness.

3. It’s interesting that the music of the fallen angels (546-51) is epic or panegyric, sung “With notes Angelical to many a harp” about themselves and their deeds. The effect is rather Homeric.

Saturday: May 24, 2008

Paradise Lost I

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:24 PM GMT-0500

I started a new job two months ago, and now teach part-time at two different high schools. Oddly, I seem to have more spare time for reading now, partly because I have to get to work at the new school at 7:00 to avoid rush-hour traffic, but don’t meet any of my students until 8:15. In the last month, I’ve read half a dozen novels and the first seven books of Paradise Lost, a work I had not read since college. (That would have been 1972 or 1973.) It seems appropriate to blog some desultory thoughts on the work, perhaps three per book. I’ll write about the novels tomorrow.

1. The passage in Book I that most struck me as particularly worth quoting was the description of Mammon, principal architect in Heaven and now in Hell (738-51):

Nor was his name unheard or unador’d
In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land
Men calld him Mulciber; and how he fell
From Heav’n, they fabl’d, thrown by angry Jove
Sheer ore the Crystal Battlements: from Morn
To Noon he fell, from Noon to dewy Eve,
A Summers day; and with the setting Sun
Dropd from the Zenith like a falling Starr,
On Lemnos th’ Aegaean Ile: thus they relate,
Erring; for hee with this rebellious rout
Fell long before; nor aught availd him now
To have built in Heav’n high Towrs; nor did he scape
By all his Engins, but was headlong sent
With his industrious crew to build in Hell.

2. The only non-famous line that was particularly familiar after all these years was 307:

Busiris and his Memphian Chivalrie

3. Right from the start, I’ve found the poem entertaining, sometimes even hypnotic, but also insubstantial: far more words than matter. So far from being a peer of Homer, Vergil, and Dante, Milton seems a poet in roughly the same class as Statius or Claudian. Is this unfair? He seems to do a mediocre job of justifying the ways of God to men.

Friday: May 23, 2008

A Question for Obama

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:02 AM GMT-0500

You’ve said that you are willing to meet with Ahmadinejad, Raúl Castro, and other disreputable (to put it politely) foreign leaders “without conditions”. Would the same apply to Augusto Pinochet, if he were still alive and in power? Would you meet with him, shake his hand, and negotiate directly with him about matters of common interest between Chile and the United States? Or would that be too vile an action to contemplate?

Thursday: May 22, 2008

Quotation of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:48 PM GMT-0500

Topsius, a fictional German professor of Biblical archaeology who drinks beer with his breakfast:

Socrates é a semente; Platão a flôr; Aristoteles o fructo . . . E d’esta arvore, assim completa, se tem nutrido o espirito humano!

(Eça de Queiroz, A Relíquia, III)

Socrates is the seed, Plato the flower, Aristotle the fruit; and on this tree, thus complete, the human spirit has been nourished!

(Eça de Queiroz, The Relic, Chapter III)

Wednesday: May 21, 2008

Dishonest or Incompetent? Pick One

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:11 PM GMT-0500

Patterico quotes an L.A. Times story about the FARC laptops captured by the Colombian government in March, containing thousands of files implicating Hugo Chavez and other leftists in various crimes and blunders. Although the files have been authenticated by Interpol, the Times and various web-trolls continue to insist that the question of Chavez’ guilt is still open. Patterico bold-faces the most significant sentence in the Times story:

No independent confirmation of the laptops’ content has been made, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has denied the Colombian charges.

This seems to be false. As Gateway Pundit noted at the time, at least one bit of information on the laptops was confirmed almost immediately:

Colombian authorities tipped off Costa Rican officials about a huge stash of FARC cash in an old safe house earlier this month. Costa Rica confiscated $480,000 of FARC cash in the raid. The Colombians discovered this information from the computers seized during the raid on FARC leader Raul Reyes in Ecuador.

It hardly matters whether the Times reporters do not know that, or know it and prefer not to mention it. No honest and competent journalist could omit mention of the Costa Rican safe-house cash as strong evidence confirming the authenticity of the laptop files.

Sunday: May 11, 2008

My Earliest Political Memory

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:01 PM GMT-0500

Being faced with unappetizing choices in a presidential election is nothing new. When I was seven and a half, my parents thought they were morally obligated to vote, but had great difficulty deciding which of the two major-party candidates was the lesser of two evils. (I don’t believe they considered for a moment voting third party.) They had disliked and distrusted Richard Nixon since they had first heard of him many years before, and had disliked and distrusted the entire Kennedy family since they had first heard of any of them, which must have been even longer. Eventually they flipped a coin and one voted for each. Their votes did not cancel each other out, since my father was in the Navy and they had kept their official residences in their home states, as military voters were (and I think still are) allowed to do. As it turned out, his vote, in Rhode Island, made far less difference than hers, in Illinois. When I asked them ten or so years later, they couldn’t recall who had voted for which candidate, so I don’t know whether my mother’s vote helped to widen or to narrow Kennedy’s slim margin in one of his closest states.

What About Copies of Copies?

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:48 PM GMT-0500

Les seules bonnes copies sont celles qui nous font voir le ridicule des méchants originaux.

The only good copies are those which show up the absurdity of bad originals.

(La Rochefoucauld, Maximes 133, translated by Leonard Tancock)

Sunday: May 4, 2008

Most, Not All

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:01 PM GMT-0500

La plupart des jeunes gens croient être naturels, lorsqu’ils ne sont que mal polis et grossiers.

Most young people think they are being natural when really they are just ill-mannered and crude.

(La Rochefoucauld, Maximes 372, translated by Leonard Tancock)