Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Death to Theory! Long Live Eloquence!

When a colleague of mine returned from an MLA convention in Toronto around that time, he told a story that nicely illustrated the trend. One afternoon he hopped on a shuttle bus and sat down next to a young scholar who told him she’d just returned from a panel. He replied that he’d just returned from France, where he’d been studying for a semester.
“What are they talking about?” she asked.


“Is there any new theory?”

“Yeah, in a way,” he answered. “It’s called ‘erudition.’”

“What’s that?” she wondered.

“Well, you read and read, and you get your languages, and you go into politics, religion, law, contemporary events, and just about everything else.” (He’s a 16th-century French literature scholar who comes alive in archives.)

She was puzzled. “But what’s the theory?”

“To be honest, there isn’t any theory,” he said.

“That’s impossible.” He shrugged. “Okay, then, give me the names, the people heading it.”

“There aren’t any names. Nobody’s heading it.”

A trivial exchange, yes, but it signals the professional meaning and moral barrenness Theory accrued in the Nineties. The more popular Theory became, the less it inspired deep commitments among searching minds. The more Theory became enshrined in anthologies ordered semester after semester, the more it became a token of professional wisdom. The only energy Theory sustained during those years issued from a non-philosophical source: the race/gender/sexuality/anti-imperialism/anti-bourgeois resentments tapped by various critics giving different objects of oppression theoretical standing.

Theory's Empire

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Here's to you, Mr. Detweiler

I have just discovered the website of one of my best Junior High school teachers, Ken Detweiler. He was a Civil War reenactor and often had a bunch of his friends come in character, to the point where they would ask what a savage (the long-haired Mexican-Indian kid) was doing in school with whites. Boy was that a lawsuit waiting to happen!

He'd also have some students shoot a recreated Civil War-era cannon, with actual gunpowder. Looks like he's discovered even more fun stuff for his students:

Probably my biggest project was bringing WWII armor to the school several years ago. We gave every student a ride on an armored half-track, and winners of an essay contest earned a trip in a sixteen ton WWII Stuart tank! (They tell me that there are only three such tanks left in America that are still used regularly for public demonstrations. )

In 2000, I was able to train 240 students from Oberon as a nine-company Civil War battalion in order to recreate the famous charge of the 1st Texas Regiment at Antietam.

My latest project is working on designing two big field trips. I organized two huge out of state field trips last year - one to New Mexico and one to Gettysburg. I can hardly wait to go back again!

Sad to see he has only won a single teacher of the year award, though he's been nominated for many others.

Monday, June 27, 2005

For Future Reference

Pontifications has posted the interesting essay “I am in the Church” by Jean Danielou, S.J. It seems to have been written in the '70s.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."

-James Madison, Federalist 10

The editors needed to grab readers’ attention without getting some so mad they cancelled their subscriptions. Kaiser and Stanley yearned to win awards with tough reporting but without alienating the community.

“We’re losing touch with our readers,” Senior Editor Gary Krentz would say, suggesting that the coverage of some issue had gone too far in one direction.

In the Belly of the Beast (via The Japery)

In politics, too, one strives to get attention and support alongside the goal of alienating as few people as possible. Here, we have support for a thesis that both political parties and the mainstream media comprise a single faction.

Addendum 8/04:

Richard Posner in the NYTimes sees something similar, albeit without disapproving or bringing faction into it:

To see what difference the elimination of a communications bottleneck can make, consider a town that before the advent of television or even radio had just two newspapers because economies of scale made it impossible for a newspaper with a small circulation to break even. Each of the two, to increase its advertising revenues, would try to maximize circulation by pitching its news to the median reader, for that reader would not be attracted to a newspaper that flaunted extreme political views. There would be the same tendency to political convergence that is characteristic of two-party political systems, and for the same reason - attracting the least committed is the key to obtaining a majority.

One of the two newspapers would probably be liberal and have a loyal readership of liberal readers, and the other conservative and have a loyal conservative readership. That would leave a middle range. To snag readers in that range, the liberal newspaper could not afford to be too liberal or the conservative one too conservative. The former would strive to be just liberal enough to hold its liberal readers, and the latter just conservative enough to hold its conservative readers. If either moved too close to its political extreme, it would lose readers in the middle without gaining readers from the extreme, since it had them already.

He does, however, incorporate the Press into the system for moderating the effects of factionalism:
Still, because there is a market demand for correcting the errors and ferreting out the misdeeds of one's enemies, the media exercise an important oversight function, creating accountability and deterring wrongdoing. That, rather than educating the public about the deep issues, is their great social mission. It shows how a market produces a social good as an unintended byproduct of self-interested behavior.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Something to look for:

Are the people who say such things as "If you don't like it, change the channel" often the same people who berate certain parents for "isolating their children from the real world"?

One Hymn that Belongs in Contemporary Parishes

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious Word!


Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
We all shall then be truly free.


Faith of our fathers, Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
England shall then indeed be free.

The third stanza was changed in Protestant hymnals to read:

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach Thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.

It seems this modified version was sung at FDR's funeral. Changing "England" to "Our Land" would work quite well in an American context, I think.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sound of Music: EVIL!!!!

For the Schism makes you Stupid file:
November 7, 1997

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

As the Christmas season comes round again, no doubt many Catholic households, especially but not only in the U.S.A., will be preparing to watch, on public television or on video-tape,

The Sound of Music. This Hollywood film has repeatedly been the object of critical remarks in this letter. If readers have wondered why, let it now for the season be explained at length.

Read More

This is by Richard Williamson, one of the bishops leading the schismatic Priestly Society of St. Pius X. Wizard of Oz, watch out!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Jesus broke my Worldview!

Balthasar, as it happens, was a close friend and neighbor of Barth in Basel, and the influence of the latter on the former was deep and long-lasting (Balthasar’s influence on Barth, however, was less notable). What both had in common was an insistence that the Bible be taken on its own terms, even if both accepted as well the results of historical criticism (provided they were reliable). For both as well, accepting the Bible on its own terms meant that it would be impossible, pace Schleiermacher and Rahner, to subsume the figure of Jesus into some more overarching framework. In other words, Jesus’ claim to be “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) must be taken on its own terms, quite independent of the historical process by which that claim came to be embedded in the Fourth Gospel and not in the others. And if that claim is taken on its own terms, it shows that Jesus was not merely a teacher who pointed to the way but was, in himself, in his own person, the Way itself.

But to any worldview whatever, such a claim, no matter how mediated, must lead to outrage. For a claim to be the Way, the Truth, the Life means at core that one whitecap atop a wave claims to be not only the sea and the seabed but the generating matrix of the world as well (“Before Abraham was, I am”). Moreover, that claim is so preposterous that it can only be validated by God himself in the resurrection. Thus the three together – Claim, Death, and Resurrection – form a triadic pattern (Gestalt, one of Balthasar’s favorite words) that is the indissoluble core of the Christian proclamation.

Edward T. Oakes, Article "Christology" in the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to Catholicism

Father Oakes sent me this article, along with an excellent review of From Darwin to Hitler coming up in First Things.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Not-So-Quizzical Results

Don't think I posted an Internet Quiz before, but here's one:

Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan






Reformed Evangelical


Classical Liberal




Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

I don't think there is such a thing as a Christian Worldview, though it's interesting to see how little I have in common with answers attributed to both Fundamentalism and Liberalism.

The Dead Have Been Seen Alive

by Sorley Maclean

`Time, the deer is in the Wood of Hallaig.'

The window is nailed and boarded
through which I saw the West
and my love is at the Burn of Hallaig,
a birch tree, and she has always been

between Inver and Milk Hollow,
here and there about Baile-chuirn:
she is a birch, a hazel,
a straight slender young rowan.

In Screapadal of my people,
where Norman and Big Hector were,
their daughters and their sons are a wood
going up beside the stream.

Proud tonight the pine cocks crowing
on the top of Cnoc an Ra
straight their backs in the moonlight--
they are not the wood I love.

I will wait for the birch wood
until it comes up by the Cairn,
until the whole ridge from Beinn na Lice
will be under its shade.

If it does not, I will go down to Hallaig,
to the sabbath of the dead,
where the people are frequenting,
every single generation gone.

They are still in Hallaig,
Macleans and MacLeods,
all who were there in the time of MacGille Chaluim:
the dead have been seen alive--

the men lying on the green
at the end of every house that was,
the girls a wood of birches,
straight their backs, bent their heads.

Between the Leac and Fearns
the road is under wild moss
and the girls in silent bands
go to Clachan as in the beginning.

And return from Clachan,
from Suisnish and the land of the living;
each one young and light-stepping,
without the heartbreak of the tale.

From the Burn of Fearns to the raised beach
that is clear in the mystery of the hills,
there is only the congregation of the girls
keeping up the endless walk,

coming back to Hallaig in the evening,
in the dumb living twilight,
filling the steep slopes,
their laughter in my ears a mist,

and their beauty a film on my heart
before the dimness comes on the kyles,
and when the sun goes down behind Dun Cana
a vehement bullet will come from the gun of Love;

and will strike the deer that goes dizzily,
sniffing at the grass-grown ruined homes;
his eye will freeze in the wood;
his blood will not be traced while I live.

I first heard this poem on the CD Bothy Culture by Martyn Bennett. Bennett overlaid the voice of MacLean reading his own English translation on an electronic instrumental riff.

Little did I realize that this poem was about the Highland Clearances!

The poem was incorporated into Peter Maxwell-Davies' opera The Jacobite Rising. I'll have to look him up. It seems he wrote Le Jongleur de Notre Dame, which was mentioned here some time back in a snipe at an article promoting a local performance.

What is Wrong with Proselytizing for the American Way of Life

For Illich, ministry to Puerto Ricans required a complete surrender of one’s own cultural values. He understood this surrender in explicitly Christian terms, equating it with the surrender of the will that precedes the reception of grace in traditional Christian theology. Although he was familiar with modern social theory, Illich nonetheless understood this surrender of cultural assumptions not in terms of objectivity or tolerance, but as “a beatitude of cultural poverty.” Illich spent vacations in Puerto Rico, walking and hitchhiking across the country, performing priestly duties and soaking up the peasant culture of the people; he became convinced that the future vitality of Puerto Rican Catholicism depended on the maintenance of Puerto Rican cultural traditions. One commentator on Illich has claimed that “if he had had his way he would have totally transferred the church of the campesinos, with its unpunctuality, its semi-pagan rituals, its great community feast days, to the streets of New York.” The appeal to tradition provided Illich with a language through which to subvert Spellman’s Americanization goals without appearing subversive.

Carnival in New York in tNP

In all our zeal for spreading democracy and freedom, there is no death to self and death to the world before the preaching of the "good news" of America and her saving power which is supposed to rescue others from tyranny and poverty.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Balada Para Un Loco

I appear. Rare mix of the ultimate tramp
and the first stowaway on a trip to Venus:
a half melon on the head,
a striped shirt painted on the skin,
two leather soles nailed to the fet,
and a taxi-for-hire flag up in each hand.
You laugh! But only you can see me:
because the mannequins wink,
traffic lights give me three colors sky-blue
and the oranges at the corner grocery stand
cast their blossoms.
Come on!, that, half dancing, half flying,
I remove the melon to greet you.
I give you a flag and I tell you...

Thanks to the joys of Rhapsody Radio, I heard a wonderful tango dance on the Astor Piazolla channel, "Balada Para Un Loco." Not being competently versant* in Spanish. I was wondering whether this might be a localist tango singing the praises of one place, but instead it's about a dancing lovecrazy woman, who of course also deserves a song. Here are its lyrics with a translation.

As darkness sets in your porteƱa loneliness,
by the shores of your bedsheet I'll come
with a poem and a trombone
to keep your heart sleepless.

Having been brought up on the Music Man, it's hard picturing the trombone as a romantic instrument, and it would be rather difficult to recite a poem while playing a trombone. But this just proves how crazy this character is.

One of my great regrets is missing a tango lesson combined with a Theology of the Body lecture given by Katerina Zeno at my home parish. Despite regularly perusing the parish bulletin AND being on a local TOB mailing list, I didn't hear about it until the day after it happened.

I would like to see a well-made film of a bride and groom dancing the tango at a wedding banquet. Better yet, I would like to be the groom in such a dance. Of course, modern wedding clothes, especially the bridal dress, would seem to make a tango impossible, but I know of several couples who have made their wedding clothes by hand so a tango-friendly wedding dance is certainly not out of the question for such people.

One of my local cousins, a woman who departed this world far too young, was an Irish dance instructor. The girls have always significantly outnumbered the boys in her dance troupe. This might be because there is so much distance and rigidity in the traditional dance. I worry that Jansenism has infested the dance's tradition, so tango is a very interesting contrast to it.

*Dictionary whinge: curious about the history of the word "versant," I looked it up on Webster's claims my intended use of it is archaic.
Come the revolution, Webster's Dictionary shall be first against the wall!

Grace Finds Beauty in Everything

Found while googling "God prefers drunkards..." to see if anybody else likes Lady Cordelia's fine phrase:

'The whole eastern half of my lagoon is shallow, you must understand,' said Attwater; 'so we were able to get in the dress to great advantage. It paid beyond belief, and was a queer sight when they were at it, and these marine monsters'--tapping the nearest of the helmets--'kept appearing and reappearing in the midst of the lagoon. Fond of parables?' he asked abruptly.

'O yes!' said Herrick.

'Well, I saw these machines come up dripping and go down again, and come up dripping and go down again, and all the while the fellow inside as dry as toast!' said Attwater; 'and I thought we all wanted a dress to go down into the world in, and come up scatheless. What do you think the name was?' he inquired.

'Self-conceit,' said Herrick.

'Ah, but I mean seriously!' said Attwater.

'Call it self-respect, then!' corrected Herrick, with a laugh.

'And why not Grace? Why not God's Grace, Hay?' asked Attwater. 'Why not the grace of your Maker and Redeemer, He who died for you, He who upholds you, He whom you daily crucify afresh? There is nothing here,'--striking on his bosom-- 'nothing there'--smiting the wall--'and nothing there'-- stamping--'nothing but God's Grace! We walk upon it, we breathe it; we live and die by it; it makes the nails and axles of the universe; and a puppy in pyjamas prefers self-conceit!' The huge dark man stood over against Herrick by the line of the divers' helmets, and seemed to swell and glow; and the next moment the life had gone from him. 'I beg your pardon,' said he; 'I see you don't believe in God?'

'Not in your sense, I am afraid,' said Herrick.

'I never argue with young atheists or habitual drunkards,' said Attwater flippantly. 'Let us go across the island to the outer beach.'

-Robert Louis Stevenson, The Ebb-Tide, Chapter 8.

Completely out of context, but I might look into the whole book now. I only know Stevenson through the Disneyfied old live action movie and the Muppet's remix.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

On Keeping Wedding Guests out of the Bedroom

One of my sisters attended a wedding up in Greeley last Friday. The happy couple were, like my sister, part of the hardcore FOCUS Catholics at the University of Northern Colorado. She tells me that at the banquet, held in a church basement, a guest came up to the newlyweds and, believing the gesture would be appreciated, handed them a condom. Needless to say, the couple was quite astonished.

Yeesh. I hope for his sake that he was drunk.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Iranian Film Rips off Sister Act

The plot of Lizard, as heard on the radio last night:

Petty burglar winds up in situation where he must impersonate an imam. Makes weird sermons about many paths to God. People love him and are transformed and guess what! The experience transforms him too! Wow!

Somebody please, make the film "Blood Sister: One Tough Nun."

Sweet is my Surprise: a Plug for the music of Venus Hum

...and a bit of techno music analysis

Yesterday, thanks to my ISP's internet radio, I discovered a new music group called Venus Hum. I can't quite pigeonhole their style, since the taxonomy of electronic music is incredibly convoluted. "Electroclash" or "dream-pop" seem to be the music industry's preferred sub-sub-genre categories for this group, but the phrase that comes to my mind is "erumpent electronica."

The lead singer is from Montana, but her song "Montana" could just as easily be about Colorado. The thing is an overflowing encomium to the big beautiful sky of the Rocky Mountain West, and the group's first album "Big Beautiful Sky" takes its name from this song's lyrics. There is a brief mention of going to St. Mary's Lake, and sure enough it looks like all those Colorado mountain lakes that I've spent many a day at, only the Montana mountains are more barren and eroded than their Colorado cousins.

"Hummingbirds" is an enjoyable reflection on color. "Some of my favourite colours in the world/Beat against my eyelids with the blues of green hummingbirds" I don't know why more people haven't related other things to Hummingbirds, which are such beautiful creatures. This song made me realize that I don't know of much recent music about animals and nature. Contemporary music is too often psychological discription of someone's inner problems without much connection to the outside world. There are far too many anthems to alienation floating around in the sickly miasma of drugged-out rock.

Curiously enough, in my ears the electronic instrumentals don't distance the singer from her subject, which also separates this album from those of many other electronic groups.

"Soul Sloshing" is the most erumpent song of the three I'm profiling here. It's a beautiful piece combining lyrical self-mockery with a playfully baroque explosion of sound. The title itself evokes a delightfully disorganized overflow of one's self. A passage I particularly like:

It's subtle--it's creepy knees
It's condescension versus humility
I know you! (I swear I do)
You're just like me-- You're sipping a cup of--pit-y!

Humility is a topic even less mentioned in contemporary music than nature is, and the whole song is one big laughing romp. It seems a bit of a dig at the Great Seattle Depression so popular in the nineties, and it makes me wonder if 9/11 highlighted all that music's self-pitying self-absorbed pose. Of course, it might also be that our situation has changed. Negative downer music might play well in times of peace, happy music in times of war. Glen Miller's music was similarly bouncy and quite popular in its time, but both his and Venus Hum's music seems to avoid "bubble gum" happy music, which of course tends to pop.

Since almost all of my favorite music is either instrumental, not in English, or too similar to pre-modernist poetry, my lack of experience makes me mistrust any opinion I venture about the quality of Venus Hum's lyrics. Of course, lyrics in electronica are often very repetitive and almost always of very low quality. Enigma comes to mind as an example of bad song lyrics propped up by good music and voice manipulation, not to mention the very regrettable and poorly-sung lyrical version covering Orbital's glorious instrumental "The Box." And we're simply better off not mentioning the one-hit wonder Babylon Zoo. The wailing diva dominates techno, and she could be used well were she well-integrated into the group. As it is, the music makers pretty much just sample a banshee cry from a bad singer and repeat it over and over and over.

Lots of repetition isn't an entirely bad quality for musical lyrics to have. When done well, the singer's voice is fully integrated into the music becoming an instrument as malleable as the others in the song. My initial impression is that Venus Hum integrates well, since the singer is herself a part of the group and all the music can be composed with her one voice in mind while playing off her own input and musical expertise. The groups' lyrics themselves are sometimes very random, and I fear they at times slip from an admirable and surprising randomness into unlistenable chaos. This fear seems unfounded at the moment, but I'll see how I think about it after further reflection; the quirkiness also might have potential to get on my nerves. The voice of lead singer Annette Strean is very appealing to me right now.

Venus Hum has collaborated with the similarly random Blue Man Group and fronted for some of their shows. Blue Man Group catches my eye and ear, and I'd like to see them live, but I haven't listened to anything of theirs that will by itself make me get out my credit card. I'm pondering paying for Venus Hum's music, which considering my penny-pinching music-purchasing habits, compounded by no immediate prospect of income, is quite revealing of their music's first effects on me.

Electronic music has never been very popular. MTV tried to create a techno trend after the respectable sales of the Mortal Kombat soundtrack indicated a market in the US, but since MTV sucks, it failed miserably. I do hope this group enjoys the enduring success of Depeche Mode, or if that's too much to hope for, the well-deserved appreciation many people have for Tangerine Dream. I think the group's base in the music town of Nashville bodes well for a unique and worthwhile style and could be a check on ego inflation.

The Blue Man Group has a music video of their Venus Hum collaboration on their website, This is a good site linking to a few complete songs in streaming audio, and MSN has two music videos here. Rhapsody radio, to which I get a basic subscribtion through my ISP account, allows a customized Venus Hum channel. (Hopefully I'll get around to praising Netscape Radio's Rennaisance Music channel, which actually carries the music of Provencal troubadours!)

The videos show Annette Strean dressing in her preferred retro fifties(!) style, and she herself is a sweet surprise.

(Also of musical interest: a well-wrought pro-life rap song "Can I Live?" from mainstream artist Nick Cannon has a music video!)

Friday, June 10, 2005

An Evening Quotation

PEGGY: I don't see how having a girl on the team would ruin it. Did a woman judge ruin the Supreme Court?
HANK: Yes, and that woman's name was Earl Warren.
--King of the Hill

It's not Flattery. It is Persuasive Speaking!

Curious whether any of my elementary school teachers were still around, I went poking around the county school system's gifted and talented website to see if they were still working. Couldn't find anything informing me one way or the other. However, I did find this incredibly funny phrase chart translating parental statements into bureaucratese for the purposes of gifted and talented advocacy.

Reproduced as follows:
Language of Advocacy(Adapted from the work of Carol Morreale.)
In talking to school personnel, legislator, or other parents:

(Big old blank space cuz it's in a table format, and Tables were introducted to HTML after I last studied it and I don't know how to fix this)



My child is bored in school. All students should be able to learn at their challenge level.
We must pay attention to the educational needs of our future leaders. To become successful adults, all students must learn the value
of struggling to achieve one's goals.
How can we compete globally if we don't accommodate our "best and brightest"
 We need to assure that all our students will reach their greatest
potential in learning.
Our gifted kids need special programs. High ability students may need out-of-class opportunities to experience
appropriate challenge.
High ability students may need out-of-class opportunities to experience
appropriate challenge.
I support all programs that allow students to learn at their own level
and pace.
Kids in special education are getting too big a slice of the financial
pie in our schools.
 Let's study what works for kids in special education and make
similar opportunities available for students learning beyond their grade
Students with high academic ability cannot have their learning needs
met in mixed-ability classrooms.
Students with high academic ability need to be with students of similar
strengths so they can feel OK about themselves the way they are, rather
than feeling they have to hide their abilities to "fit in" with other kids
their age. 

Root Causes of Terrorism

On a whim, I looked to see if anybody wanted to address the Root Causes behind the OKC bombing. Keeping in mind that that horror took place before the internet took off, Google returns this result:

Root Causes: The only long-term solution for terrorism is to rise above these divisions and address the political grievances which provoke it. We must try to understand what causes such violent anger, as well as what can be done about it. Progress requires a serious assessment of the successes and failures of government. We need to both confront pressing problems, such as government excesses, job insecurity, and family breakdown, as well as try to clear up gross misperceptions about what government is doing. It is impossible to read some of the claims of various underground groups without recognizing we have a long way to go in understanding the politics of hate.
-Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, D-Indiana, Congressional Record

Were I a professional hack, I would have already used this statement in late 2001 as the basis for an op-ed.

Slavery in Contemporary Colorado, courtesy of an Arab

Woman held as slave, feds say
Aurora couple facing charges
By Alicia Caldwell
Denver Post Staff Writer

Aurora - An Aurora couple were indicted Thursday, accused of enslaving an Indonesian woman in their home for four years, forcing her to cook and clean without pay.

The husband also is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting the woman, records show.

Saudi couple charged with enslaving Indonesian

By Karen Abbott, Rocky Mountain News
June 10, 2005

A Saudi Arabian couple is charged in federal court with keeping an Indonesian woman in her early 20s as a virtual slave in their Aurora home for four years while the husband regularly raped her.

A federal grand jury in Denver returned an indictment Thursday against Homaidan Al-Turki, 36, and his wife, Sarah Khonaizan, 35. Both were living legally in the United States and are now in custody.

This happened in Aurora, a large suburb east of Denver.

The Rocky indicates the captors ran a translation service: "The federal government also is seeking to seize the couple's assets, including bank accounts in the name of Al-Basheer Publications and Translation, and seeks an additional judgment of $92,700 for the value of the woman's forced labor." That's not much considering the woman was enslaved for five years. I hope she's told about civil suits.

Apparently This is the company's web site. It seems rather professional.

The husband is a student in linguistics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. You can see his photo at their site. I figured him to be older.

He is also on the Board of Directors for the Islamic Media Association

A Woman Sui Generis

Long long ago on there was a poster of incredible energy, verve, and literary style. She could piercingly and entertainingly eviscerate so much modern cant that she became a must-read poster for me. She loved "shocking the bourgeois," but she did so not as a leftist progress-monger but as a trad-con "old republican" weary of the continuing destruction of her culture and country. Here she is on modern feminism:

The hyena is a matriarchal creature. Hyenas hunt in packs consisting solely of females. The hierarchy is determined by confrontations between large agressive females. Although the pack is a highly efficient scavenging force it practices continual adversarial power struggles. Sometimes alliances are made and a contesting female is attacked by the group while sleeping or eating. Hyenas are ruthless and fierce but rarely confront a healthy, male adult adversary; preferring, like many scavenger/predators, the unprotected young and lactating females. They also eat the young of their own pack females who exist in the lower eschelons of the heirarchy.

Male hyenas are solitary creatures; markedly smaller than the females; more timid, they subsist on leftovers from the female pack's carrion. They come in contact with females briefly during mating season and are then driven out of the pack--sometimes even killed and eaten by the pregnant females. Young male hyenas are often culled early and few survive. They too become a meal for the hyena sisterhood.

The only creature in the jungle the hyena pack fears is the adult male lion. The lion and the hyena are mortal enemies. The only time lionesses--who are formidable predators themselves--require the intervention of adult male lions is when they are confronting a pack of hyenas in defense of their young.

She was one of those conservatives who had actually read Marx, and so acquired a suspicion of capitalism. She summarised Das Kapital as one long love poem to capital, and took the extreme position that the Cold War was simply a fight between two groups of pirates for the rights of plunder. The bombing of Serbia was ever-present in her memory, and she hit hard at our post-9/11 appeasement of Islam. You'll remember that the Clinton administration had no qualms about bombing Serbians on their Easter, while the Bush administration was terribly squeamish about attacking during Ramadan. She believed that her civilization was not invited to Huntington's Clash. Though I flinch from accepting such an idea wholeheartedly, there is something to that.

She went by the moniker LaBelleDameSansMerci, and after being banned from FreeRepublic for viciously attacking the planned Iraqi invasion she moved on to the unmoderated LibertyForum where she took the nom-de-plume of Pariahville. She has not posted for over a year, hopefully because her time is occupied by better things. But some of her admirers have begun this tribute thread well-worth reading.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Your Taxpayer Dollars at Work

You know Cheyenne Mountain?

The head of NORAD and SAC, built inside of a mountain to withstand nuclear attack and command any retaliatory expeditions?

They have picture galleries of celebrity visits!

I would really like to see some of these galleries, but of course the most interesting ones are broken. The idea of WWE professional wrestlers posing at NORAD command is simultaneously hillarious and discomforting.

Personal favorites:

Earth Day Celebration, especially the cake-cutting scene. Atomic warfare and environmentalism hand-in-hand.

Denver Broncos Cheerleaders!

Aviational Folly

"United Airlines will officially mothball its problem-plagued $700 million automated baggage system at Denver International Airport this fall and revert to transporting luggage the old-fashioned way: manually."
-Baggage System Sacked, Rocky Mountain News

Gah. I know taxpayers put a whole lot of money into this, and of course the DIA project got Mayor Pena his elevation to Secretary of Transportation. I wonder just how many political lackeys got that money. I have a relative in the Denver Auditor's office, and apparently odd deals are still being done at DIA. Lufthansa had a verbal agreement with the Denver mayor's office for some sort of arrangement, but that of course caught the auditing office's attention when they finally learned about it. It was chalked up to the mayor confusing governance with business, where such verbal agreements are allegedly de rigeur.

On a vaguely related note, somehow I never heard about the DIA conspiracy theories, represented on such sites as this one and this one. I remember a minor controversy over some odd murals, but nothing else. Apparently the friggin' Masons have an official plaque there, which makes me wonder how much taxpayer funding their members' network got its hands on.

Down with the Traitor, and up with the (Death) Star!

The blatant craptacularity of the recent Star Wars movies has brought many young adults to take another look at the favorite movies of their youth with a more critical eye, and unfortunately the flaws are glaring.

Here's a defense of the Empire against the Rebel Alliance. There are quite a few others, but this one caught my eye.

Makes you wonder who is shouting the battle cry of freedom.

Who will give a cheer when we sink?

But word is that the future of the very conservatism that has always prized such virtues lies in the hands of "South Park Conservatives," after the book by the same name by Brian C. Anderson. Very basically, the theory posits that the rank vulgarity institutionalized by the cartoon "South Park," which degrades and desacralizes absolutely everything, will inspire young conservatives to smash the stultifying tyranny of political correctness. If you're picking sides, P.C. vs. South Park offers about as much choice as the Iran-Iraq War -- which, remember, after eight years of carnage, left both sides still afloat.
-Diana West, Replacing duty and honor with 'South Park'

A Review of Reviews

Chesterton Impersonator reviews Jim Wallis's "God's Politics

Eugene McCarraher reviews the same

Is Diversity Anxiety a Symptom of Technocracy?

I don't understand the recent trend of opinion pieces asserting that people are becoming more and more culturally inbred, associating only with those who already share their opinions and tastes. There's a sociological term for this, called something like self-selecting assortion or self-assorting selection. For instance, curiously soon after The New Atlantis wrote a longer piece on the same subject, Andrew Sullivan wrote an onanistic reflection on his isolating(not to mention very expensive) iPod onanism. He reflected on how he constantly shuffles his favorite music for himself while ignoring all the other dupes on the subway, who are also wearing iPods and shuffling their own soundtracks. He or The New Atlantis also throws costly TiVos into the mix.

Perhaps this is a sort of "diversity anxiety" that afflicts those with Progressive, or simply Upwardly Mobile aspirations. There's a New York Times trendspotting article, a genre about as worthwhile as trainspotting, that indicates this might be part of the nomadic lives of certain professionals--in other words, a class phenomenon--manifested in the very neighborhood they choose to live in. Here's one man reflecting on his community:

"The good thing about it is that it is a very comfortable neighborhood to live in," Mr. Link said. "These are very homogenous types of groups. You play tennis with them, you have them over to dinner. You go to the same parties."

"But we're never challenged to learn much about other economic groups," he said. "When you talk about tennis, guess what? Everybody you play against looks and acts and generally feels like you. It doesn't give you much of a perspective. At work, diversity is one of the biggest things we work on."

(The Five-Bedroom, Six-Figure Rootless Life, NYT June 1, 2005)

Technocrats whose work and education require from them an incredibly mobile and lucrative lifestyle have the luxury of choosing their neighbors, but even having embraced the fully autonomous regime of choice, they flinch at some results of their own choices. But being indefatigable technocrats, they think more information, training, and hard work by other technocrats employed in the diversity industry can reduce the lamentable consequences that wouldn't even be a problem if they had simply left things up to chance in the first place. It's little wonder Irony is so damn popular.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Future Summer Reading Discussion

Catholic Girl Talk promises a discussion of JPII's Memory and Identity. My dead-tree reading capacities have declined considerably; I'm still only 2/3 through the new pope's Introduction to Christianity a month and a half after beginning it. I did buy the last pope's book on a recent trip to the bookstore, so hopefully I can follow this discussion.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Origin of "Meritocracy"

Meritocracy is an especially obtrusive and unstable term here, since neither Scott nor Leonhardt — nor scarcely any uncritical champion of meritocracy in our time — pauses to note the original meaning of the term. The concept of meritocracy first surfaced in a 1958 satirical political novel, The Rise of the Meritocracy, by old-line British socialist Michael Young. Young’s coinage was not intended to describe a system of impartial upward advancement, but rather the diametric opposite: a dystopian social order wherein bureaucratic rank outstripped wealth and title as the measure of human advancement. The irony in Young’s book, of course, was that the egalitarian nomenclature of this brave new order — of which the word meritocracy was itself a prime example — masked a system of spoils and rewards that was fast becoming much less fair and balanced than the old British class society it was thought to have supplanted. Only in America — or more precisely, only in the A section of the New York Times — could a bitter term of Old World satire gain traction as a straight-faced descriptor of a sunny status quo.

An Indymedia Whack at the NYT

Saturday, June 04, 2005

There is much nose scratching and much rejoicing!

The Tick Returns to Television! Hopefully this means new episodes as well, but the old shows are great enough.

Via Eve Tushnet

A true vision of the future from the 17th century?

via Michael Duburiel, the Prophecy of Saint Nilos, a hermit of Mount Athos on the time of the Antichrist.

I found this passage particularly interesting:
...the Antichrist wants to be Lord over everything and become the ruler of the whole universe, and he will produce miracles and fantastic signs. He will also give depraved wisdom to an unhappy man, so that he will discover a way by which one man can carry on a conversation with another from one end of the earth to the other. At that time, men will also fly through the air like birds and descend to the bottom of the sea like fish. And when they have achieved all this, these unhappy people will spend their lives in comfort without knowing, poor souls, that it is the deceit of the Antichrist.

I do not know whether it is of reliable provenance or if it is a recent forgery. A google search mentions this Saint Nilos almost entirely in relation to this putative prophecy.

Even if it was truly his, of course, doesn't make his prophecy a genuine one. However, its technological allusions would be of interest to anybody interested in the history of futurology.

Athena is still considered a patroness?

Another important part of the traditions is the statue of the goddess Athena, the patron goddess of the College, in Thomas Great Hall. Students leave gifts and notes for the statue when they desire help from the goddess.

Wikipedia on Bryn Mawr College

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Swindle of Consent?


The success of the French, Spanish, and German invaders [of the Italian Peninsula in 1494] and the reduction of the Italian states to political impotence was an event without sense beyond the sphere of naked power. Italy, at the time, was a prosperous, wealthy country; and it was the most highly civilized area of Europe. The upheaval did not make sense in terms of a reduction of a poor, backward colonial region by economically progressive countries; neither did it make sense in terms of a social revolution, perhaps the rise of a third estate, or a populist uprising; neither were any issues of moral or political principles involved; neither was there any question of a religious movement, as later in the wars of Reformation.

In brief: economics, morals, principles of social justice, ideas concerning political organization, spiritual movements, or religious factions had nothing to do with the event; it was a clear case of a stronger power and better military organization in ruthless victory over a weaker and militarily less-well-equipped power.

We must realize, and perhaps we can realize it better than we could even twenty years ago [as a result of the Second World War], that the generation that witnesses such events receives a trauma. The more intelligent and sensitive members of such a generation have seen the reality of power at the moment of its existential starkness when it destroys an order, when the destruction is a brute fact without sense, reason, or ideas. It is difficult to tell such men any stories about morality in politics.

With the experienced eye of the moraliste they will diagnose the moralist in politics as the profiteer of the status quo, as the hypocrite who wants everybody to be moral and peace-loving after his own power drive has carried him into a position that he wants to retain.

The psychological diagnosis is fundamentally correct and will apply frequently. Under this aspect a man like Machiavelli who theorizes on the basis of his stark experience of power is a healthy and honest figure, most certainly preferable as a man to the contractualists who try to cover the reality of power underneath an established order by the moral, or should we say immoral, swindle of consent.

Eric Voegelin
Chapter 1, The Order of Power: Machiavelli

That Old Time Education

I went drifting
through the capitals of tin
where men can't walk or freely talk
and sons turn their fathers in

An elderly woman reflects on her experiences as a young girl under prohibition. One of her teachers was an enthusiastic teetotaler, who "would discourse on the evils of liquor and the lawbreakers who made it and consumed it."

This being the Prohibition Era, most everyone had a still of their own, including this woman's father. So as a girl this woman seriously debated whether or not to turn her father in to the police.

She writes "After her diatribes, I began to feel that every horrible thing that had ever happened, from slavery to war, was caused by alcohol's evil influence." I think this was something like the intended effect of the environmentalist events in my elementary school which I recently wrote about. Nothing new under the sun.