December 16, 2003

Too Old To Rock and Roll

...but too young to die? We'll see about that: visit Boomer Deathwatch. Sample:

"Boomers have gotten our way since we arrived in this world, and the onset of gray hair, bifocals, and arthritis is not going to moderate our unswerving self-indulgence. We are the same people, after all, who forced the lowering of the drinking age when we were young, so we could drink, and forced it back up when we got older, so our kids couldn't."

A sidebar notes those stars in the Boomer (Aquarian) skies who are no longer with us. Who do you think is next? (Via Kathy Shaidle.)

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September 28, 2003

Kicked across the Styx

And while I've been out of touch I missed the announcement of Edward Said's departure from this mortal coil. Michael Totten doesn't want us to gloat, because that isn't nice. Okay. I'll try to think of something nice to say about the man who more than did his part in the cause of turning the Middle East from being merely a place with some problems into a place resembling that Far Side "crisis center" cartoon.. Thinking... thinking... Okay, here it is:

He's dead.

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July 15, 2003

The Unnatural

A thought just occurred to me upon reading this discourse upon the problem with the "it's unnatural" argument against homosexuality. Eugene Volokh says that people who use this argument are actually hiding their "religious, moral, and practical judgments" behind (I think) a pseudo-scientific position that heterosexuality is natural (because it leads to procreation, and so on) while homosexuality is not. But he doesn't say anything about the fact that in history, or Christian history anyway, the "natural" -- ie, the physical world, the "world of the flesh" -- was always what mankind was supposed to resist, pray for protection from, strive to escape from. Christianity, Islam, other non-Western religions (Buddhism, Hinduism) caution against attaching too much importance to the physical world, which is seen as imperfect, tainted, and corrupt. Despite the fact that in general technology has progressed enough that at least in the Western world we can afford to think of Mother Nature as our good buddy, the focus of most of the worlds' major religions is still the eventual leaving of life upon this imperfect earth to a "better life" in some sort of heavenly afterworld. I don't think that religious objectors to homosexuality are consciously using the argument from nature in a way that contradicts their own teachings; at some point "it's natural" became a good rather than a bad thing, and objections to physicality got broken down into specifics (certain sex acts are "unnatural," but the sex act itself -- as long as you follow the rules -- is not seen to be corrupted by its physicality; greed is bad, but it is a good thing to make a lot of money as long as you work hard and live an otherwise moral life, and so on).

Oops, posted too soon. What I meant to end with was: saying that homosexuality was natural is actually an argument against that state, or it would be if people were still consistent on how they regarded nature. But they aren't; the meanings of "natural" and "unnatural" are continuously shifting, and mostly seem to be synonyms for "I like it" and "ew!" Underneath the approved modern tendency to label good things as "natural," though, is still an instinctive resistance in many people to emulating "the beasts of the field." In this case the example of the bonobo monkeys would not only not be a selling position on the normalcy of homosexuality, it would be another argument against homosexuality.

(Via Rand Simberg.)

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June 28, 2003

That 100-year-old dead white racist guy

Charles G. Hill at has the most even-handed and, to my mind, the best statement on the late Strom Thurmond. Charles brings personal experience and a certain maturity to what has become a minor blogville shriek-o-fest, what with the many self-righteous cries on one side of "Good riddance, burn in hell you racist!" (in the comments) and of "How dare you speak ill of Strom Thurmond, he was a great man, I'm delinking you so there!" on the other (in the post and the comments).

Here is my personal viewpoint of the matter: I don't know what his recent senate voting record was like, but I am pretty sure that he had stopped voting in favor of segregation some time ago. Sure, we have yahoos like Trent Lott who slipped up and basically admitted that they yearned for the good old days when Thurmond was in his prime and darkies knew their place. And I have the feeling that many of his constituents kept voting him into office out of nostalgia for that halcyon time when an illiterate white farmboy could openly consider himself superior to a black man with a college degree. But did Thurmond still hold those views? I have no idea -- I am pretty sure he didn't do so openly, though. I think it was a disgrace that someone so old and (at least physically) doddering should not have retired after a certain age -- say, before he needed two aides to hold him up all the time. I don't say this out of revulsion for old age. In many ways his refusal to retire had something of that present-day, in-your-face attitude that everyone seems to have -- a certain truculent refusal to take the other person into consideration because the universe revolves around me! me! me!

But I don't know that his current senatorial record isn't enough to offset the damage his segregation-era congressional career did. I do wonder at the wisdom of cursing people for what they did in their past, and disregarding anything they may have done in the present to make up for it. We talk a great deal about wanting to "heal" the wounds of racism, and of reforming racists, but what might a racist think when he sees this sort of thing? If we have given up on the lasting value of reform, what are we going to do instead, execute them?

Updated to add: this (the pertinent phrase is here if you don't want to read any more hosannas to St. Strom) is why I decided to make my blogroll private, by the way. The public, showy act of linking and delinking is just so much evidence that the internet is one big middle school. I was a misanthropic outsider who refused to participate in the shenanigans then, and I might as well be one now.

Update further: can it now be told -- was Strom Thurmond really a member of the Legions of the Undead? Zombie or vampire -- you make the call! (Come to think of it, he did resemble David Bowie's character in The Hunger, just before that character's demise. Hmmm.

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May 11, 2003

Art heist

Now here's a good, old-fashioned act of art-thievery:

A work of art that has been described as "the Mona Lisa of sculptures" has been stolen from Vienna's art history museum.

The 16th Century solid gold sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini was worth at least 50m euros ($57m, £36m), museum director Wilfried Seipel said.

This is one of the art pieces I studied in at least two of my humanities courses last year. I'll bet you this is going straight to some rich oil sheik's or drug-dealer's vault -- it's the sort of ostentatious gold stuff guys like that dote on.

The alarm sensors in the museum didn't go off. Can you say, "inside job"? I knew you could.

(Via Tim Blair, tomorrow.)

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May 03, 2003

Foul Bawl

I keep meaning to say something about this Norman Mailer character and his latest senile scribblings. All you need to know about this article is encapsulated in the title: We went to war just to boost the white male ego. It certainly seems to have worked in the case of Mr. Mailer, the personification of the He-Man White Male Writer Who's No Sissy Even If He Does Make His Living Typing.

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May 01, 2003

Story became legend, legend became myth

Archaeologists working in Iraq (yeah, that place) may have uncovered the actual tomb of Gilgamesh. Go to the article to read more about the fabulous ruined city they have found in an area the Euphrates used to flow through.

(Via -- post of April 30th.)

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April 03, 2003


And I keep forgetting: Bill Whittle has written an essay on war and historical perspective that my dad, a history teacher and Civil War buff (who dragged his two whiny daughters all over the baking hot fields of Gettysburg in August so he could read all the markers indicating the soldiers that fell there -- if you go there go in October, people, you won't be sorry) would have loved to read.

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April 02, 2003

Fables of the Reconstruction

Feste has some excerpts from Aesop that show how, despite the trappings of modern technology, the world is the same old place it's ever been.

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February 04, 2003


I like this quote that Jack Rich has on his website today:

There is a rank due to the United States, among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.

I forgot to add: the person quoted was George Washington.

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February 02, 2003

Where have all the philosophers gone?

The lack of civilized discourse on topics of more than trivial importance is a problem in the cradle of Western Civilization.

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January 03, 2003

Shakespeare wrote

The Shakespeare Authorship Page is dedicated to the "Proposition that Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare." A for the Elizabethan set.

(Via Heretical Ideas.)

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January 01, 2003

Samuel Pepys' Diary

Samuel Pepys has a blog. All kidding aside, this will probably be a useful site, if only for the fact that it will provide (eventually) the entire Diary. Side note: on the sidebar is a comment about Mr. Pepys' bouts of kidney stones. I had one myself a few years back, but I didn't even get to have an operation, but rather it was removed by the snazzy, high-tech method of pumping me full of painkillers and liquid until I peed it out. That was a good thing, of course, though I didn't think so at the time. Pepys continued to have more trouble:

At the post-mortem examination a nest of seven stones, weighing four and a half ounces, was found in the left kidney, which was entirely ulcerated.
Excuse me, I'm going to drink some more water now.

(Via Neil Gaiman, who still has no permalinks. Hey, writer boy: get some permalinks. )

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