Thursday, May 31, 2007

Move over, Relapsed Catholic

Okay, okay, Relapsed Catholic is still my favorite blog. But Small Dead Animals just may have stolen my heart by linking mockery of Stephane Dion to what may very well be the greatest song of all time. Kate, Bonnie, I love you all.

On Canadian Identity

So it's senior week, which means that the usual suspects are too drunk to cause any trouble (campus liberals proved they could go without food for ten days, but jello shots are a different matter altogether...), and I have no rants or new material of any kind. A dip into the archives it is, then. This is an essay I wrote a long time ago, in eighth or ninth grade I think. I publish it unchanged, so my apologies for the out-of-date references. The writing itself isn't great, but hey, I was fourteen, sorry! Still, I think it's pretty good, and I still agree with it (or is it a bad sign that my thoughts haven't evolved over a decade?), so I hope you enjoy it!
-----------------------

Do You Want Fries With That ?

Yes, I admit it. I deliberately skipped school. I left early on the Thursday afternoon a few years ago, conveniently right before French class, and walked to a friend’s house. Once there, I plopped down in front of the television and proceeded to watch the Thanksgiving Day NFL double header. Late in the evening, after the last quarterback got sacked, the last coach got soaked, and the last belt got loosened, I slowly rolled myself off the couch and waddled towards the door, remembering to wish my friend and his parents a happy Thanksgiving. My polite offering met with shocked silence, with only the sound of John Madden’s voice resonating throughout the house. Yet his brilliant post-game analysis soon gave way to a tirade by my friend’s father. We are living in Canada, he informed me, and Canadians do not celebrate American Thanksgiving. Ours was last Monday, or maybe Sunday, he wasn’t sure. Here he paused for a moment to put down his Coke before continuing his poetic lament. I had become a pawn of American culture, he said, and had lost my Canadian identity. He was ashamed of me. I trudged home that night thoroughly humiliated and full of remorse for the tragic betrayal of my country.

We pride ourselves in being Canadian. Who needs McDonalds when Canada has Tim Horton’s? Who needs the NFL when Canada has the CFL? Why read Time when Canada has Maclean’s? We’d take Pamela over Laetitia any day. Not to mention Celine over Britney. Truth be told, what Canadian culture exists is nothing but a regurgitation of the American one. The Tim Horton’s/Robin’s Donuts rivalry shadows the McDonalds/Burger King one. The CFL advertises its unique Canadian game. I suppose that one down really makes a radical difference. Our celebrities, musicians, artists, and writers all say that they strive for the true Canadian identity when their real goal is making it big in the States. An integral part of Canadian culture would appear to be the simultaneous denigration and emulation of Americans.

As my friends often say, one cannot forget the beer. A recent ad campaign for Molson attempted to destroy the ridiculous myth that all Canadians live in igloos in favor of the ridiculous myth that all Canadians are drunks. In fact, beer appears to constitute the one domain in which we Canadians distinguish ourselves from American culture. Let’s get real. We have a serious problem when we take patriotic pride in our alcohol production. The pathetic nature of such a situation compares only with our staunch desire to keep Canadian spelling, which favors “favour.” Our national identity consists of a six-pack and a vowel.

The paradox of Canadian identity lies in its reliance on the United States. Almost all Canadians share the conviction that we differ from Americans. Our patriotism manifests itself negatively, for it does not celebrate what makes Canada great; rather, it brags about what makes Canada better than the States. We must stop intoxicating ourselves with delusions of grandeur and accept our dependency on the United States (we must not feel ashamed – they outnumber us ten to one). Canada must appreciate and even embrace the American culture that pervades our society, realizing that being Canadian goes past pop culture, that downing a Bud Light does not constitute treason. We must stop lying to the pollsters about watching Canadian content on television and unabashedly admit that, yes, we do watch NBC. Doing so, we will be able to forge a new Canadian identity, one of honesty, truth, and realism.

A huge gap exists between what Canada should do and what Canada will do. Canadians will continue to insult the greatest nation in the world behind its back. Canadians will continue to take pride in our elongated end zones. Canadians will still speak out against the American influence even if McDonalds feeds them, General Motors employs them, The Sopranos entertains them, and Julia Roberts titillates them. The only comfort we have in this expression of ingratitude comes in knowing that most Americans couldn’t care less what Canadians do or say, so they won’t get insulted.

Our hypocrisy extends beyond that. On one hand, Canadians fume when the Americans stereotype us, whether as lumberjacks or hockey players. We mock their ignorance, their inability to look past the surface and see the many other aspects of Canadian society. On the other hand, we just as quickly label them. We refuse to look past the greasy curtain of McDonalds fries to see the true greatness of American culture. This refusal must exist, however, if we intend to keep on deluding ourselves with ideas of Canadian superiority. For if we look past Jerry Springer to the books of Ernest Hemingway, the plays of Tennessee Williams, the short stories of John Cheever, the poems of T.S. Eliot and countless other works of pure genius in innumerable fields, we would begin to plant the seeds of doubt. So we close our eyes, for we wish to remain in our country of illusion, scoffing at the supermarket books of John Grisham and contently perusing the latest from Margaret Atwood.

Which brings me to the question: how come Canadians only display emulatory expertise when it comes to American pop culture and not in truly important domains? How can we so easily swallow up McDonalds franchises but not produce a Metropolitan Opera? How come so many Canadians can imitate Britney Spears while not a single one comes close to Arthur Miller? Why did Madison Avenue commercialism catch on and not Broadway artistry as well? It would appear that not all of American culture has overwhelmed Canadian society, only the superficial aspects of it. Many Canadians rush to blame the U.S. for those shallow imports, but isn’t it our own fault for somehow never letting the meaningful ones through customs? That selective assimilation reflects more poorly on Canada than it does on the United States.

Indeed, as one who frequently visits the United States, I know for certain that Canada only sees a diminutive part of American culture. Yes, New York City’s landscape seems littered with McDonalds and Pizza Huts, but it also has The Lincoln Center. Perhaps when Canadians drop their superiority complex and accept their American ties, a little class will cross the border along with the deep-dish pizzas.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chutzpah

Example 1: The boy who kills his parents, then asks for the court's mercy because he's an orphan.

Example 2: The Bush Administration, in the midst of all the furor over the amnesty bill, doing this.

(h/t: HotAir)

Great blogs

It's six in the morning, and I'm still awake, because I've spent the past seven hours absorbed in two blogs I discovered when I went hunting for pictures of Jean Arthur and Myrna Loy.

One blog is pictures, pictures, pictures.


The other has fewer pictures, a lot more words. Miss O'Malley, despite being a Red Sox fan, appears to be passably literate.


Here, she features a wonderful excerpt from the one and only Camille Paglia:

Genuine radicals did not go on to graduate school. If they did, they soon dropped out, or were later defeated by the faculty recruitment and promotion process, which rewards conformism and sycophancy. The universities were abandoned to the time-servers and mercenaries who now hold many of the senior positions there. Ideas had been relegated to the universities, but the universities belonged to the drudges.

There is a widespread notion that these people are dangerous leftists, "tenured radicals" in Roger Kimball's phrase, who have invaded the American establishment with subversive ideas. In fact, they are not radicals at all. Authentic leftism is nowhere to be seen in our major universities. The "multiculturalists" and the "politically correct" on the subjects of race, class, and gender actually represent a continuation of the genteel tradition of respectability and conformity. They have institutionalized American niceness, which seeks, above all, not to offend and must therefore
pretend not to notice any differences or distinctions among people or cultures.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Strangers in our midst.

"You have to understand how it was for everyone at the time. There was a war."

Thoughts on Blackness

Warning: this has been rolling around in my head for the past few days, gaining steam with each new, self-parodying opinion piece and mindless letter to the editor on racism at Harvard that The Crimson has published, so what you are about to read will quickly devolve into incoherent, angry rambling. My apologies in advance for the rant! With that out of the way, time to speak some truth to power.

So this is how I see it. The defining element of black identity, as taught to young blacks by their elders, is the experience of racism – slavery in specific, discrimination in general. It is hammered into each new generation from the earliest age that to be black means above all to be a victim of racism. The obvious problem that arises here is that, in the absence of racism, there is an absence of black identity. The only way the younger generation can share in this identity is to convince themselves that they are indeed living in a society as racist as that of their elders. So these spoiled Harvard brats, who wouldn’t know real racism if it burned a cross on their lawn, actually want to be discriminated against, they long to be victims, because it is only by savoring this sense of racial injustice that they can feel truly black. It is not enough for them to learn about the bad old days and then get on with their lives in the comparatively Edenic present of Harvard Yard; no, they feel that they must experience racism first-hand as an initiation into the black fraternity (an incredibly un-secret society), and so they will look for racism anywhere they can find it.

Compare that cultural approach to the Jewish one. I don’t want to make this into a suffering contest, but when it comes to hardship, blacks ain’t got nothing on us. Yet Jewish identity, as preached by our elders, is not about being a victim – it’s about refusing to be a victim, no matter what the odds. It’s about keeping your head high, working twice as hard, being a survivor, and, perhaps above all, joking about your troubles instead of dwelling upon them.

Believe me, I know all my family’s stories, I’m fully aware of everything that happened and of the possibility that it may happen again. But that doesn’t mean I go around trying to get German tourists to put their cigarettes out on my palm in some feeble, pathetic attempt at getting in touch with my roots. I’m reminded of the old Jackie Mason joke, about the excuse used by any Jew who can’t afford a Mercedes: “What? Me buy a German car?!? Phooey!” Yes, we Jews might crack a German joke now and then, but we’re not serious about it. We got over it. Maybe that’s something the rest of y’all should look into. So, dear students writing op-eds on Harvard’s racism: 1) Get a sense of humor, 2) a sense of perspective wouldn’t be too bad, either, and 3) excuse my misogynistic expression, but please grow a pair.

You know, I take that back - perhaps the complaining students do have a sense of humor, because it’s absolutely laughable that they are claiming that this is an issue of racial pride, of racial humiliation. These students don’t know a thing about pride or humiliation. When my dad escaped to Vienna after the war, he had nothing. He had faced hardships and horrors that these Harvard kids couldn’t even begin to understand, and he had nothing. Every day for an entire year, on his way to scrounge up whatever work he could find, he walked past a Red Cross station handing out food and supplies to a long line of fellow refugees. Not once, not one single time, did he stand in that line. He had nothing, yet not once that year, or in his entire life, did he accept anybody’s charity. That is pride. He has lots of incredible stories of escape from Nazis and Communists, but you have to pry them out of him – the only thing he willingly told me about, that he taught me, was that feeling of pride, of refusing to rely on anyone but yourself. The way he saw it, as long as you’re of able body and able mind, you should never accept charity. Obviously, I was never in a similar situation; I was blessed, thanks to his hard work, with an upbringing in which I never had to make those kinds of choices. But I do know this: if I ever suspected that I was accepted into Harvard not for my grades or my record, but on the basis of my family’s past hardships, I would be humiliated. And I would tell whoever had the gall to think he could offer me charity that he could take that diploma and shove it. I sure as hell wouldn’t accept the offer and then presume to tell anyone else about the meaning of pride and humiliation.

Anybody who calls for public apologies, public protests, public forums, public anything, by definition does not have any pride. Pride is not a possession you proclaim in public, it is a contempt for the public – a reliance upon the self, and nothing else. Pride means that even if you are living in an openly and violently racist society, you don’t complain about it, you definitely don’t write letters to the editor about it, you hold your head high and fight to survive. You cannot allot yourself pride in public, you must earn it in private. All you can achieve in public is humiliation. And, true enough, these protesting students and their faculty enablers, who I know do not represent all black students at Harvard, and who talk so freely of racial humiliation, have succeeded only in humiliating themselves.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"If they won't be peaceful, kill 'em"

Remember when Hollywood's dangerous bad boys used to be, you know, actual dangerous bad boys?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Grindhouse

I saw Grindhouse last night in the only theatre in Boston where it's still playing. I don't understand why it performed so poorly, I really enjoyed it. The first movie (it's a double feature), Planet Terror, is a very over-the-top, violent, and gross zombie movie, but it's entertaining if you're into that sort of thing, and it's an honest-to-goodness grindhouse film, which was, after all, the whole point.

But I want to write something about the second movie, Death Proof, directed by Tarantino. Unlike Planet Terror, it's not just a campy grindhouse homage, it's actually a terrific action movie in it's own right. And, I would like to argue, it has some surprisingly conservative themes and dialogue (in Tarantino's usual vulgar, wordy, and funny style). Before I get to the conservative message, which will require spoilers, I wanted to excerpt a pro-gun discussion from the movie. Lots of foul language, so be warned, proceed at your own risk. The context here is that one of the characters, Kim, explains to her friends why she always carries a concealed pistol (the transcript I'm using is from IMDB):

Lee: Did you know Kim carried a gun?
Abernathy: Yes. Do I approve? No. Do I know? Yes.
Kim: I don't know what futuristic utopia you live in, but in the world I live in, a bitch need a gun.
Abernathy: You can't get around the fact that people who carry guns, tend to get shot more than people who don't.
Kim: And you can't get around the fact that if I go down to the laundry room in my building at midnight enough times, I might get my ass raped! Lee: Don't do your laundry at midnight.
Kim: Fuck that! I wanna do my laundry whenever the fuck I want to do my laundry.
Abernathy: There are other things you can carry other than a gun. Pepper spray.
Kim: Uh, muthafucka tryin to rape me, I don't want to give him a skin rash. I wanna shut that nigga down!
Abernathy: How about a knife at least.
Kim: Yeah, you know what happens to muthafuckas who carry knives?They get shot!

(Spoilers ahead)
As for the overall theme, it's one of strong female empowerment. No, no, not that kind of empowerment - not spoken-word poetry or low-rise jeans or sleeping around or whatever the latest thing is that liberal women claim empowers them. No, I'm talking about real empowerment - women shooting a bad guy, chasing after him, scaring the daylights out of him, attacking him with a lead pipe, and finally punching and kicking the life out of him. The movie follows two sets of women, and the maniac who tries to kill them. The first set, who are portayed on a typical modern immoral girls' night out, drinking heavily, smoking pot, giving lapdances to strangers, etc., are easy prey for the killer. But then the movie moves on to a second group, not girls this time, but women - two strong and brave stuntwomen (one, as noted, packing heat) and another woman who doesn't let the men in her world use and abuse her (she explains, in another conservative moment, why she won't sleep with her boyfriend, but I couldn't find a transcript of it). The maniac sees these women as prey and tries to kill them, but soon regrets the decision, since these women are no victims - they soon turn the tables and begin hunting and terrorizing him. The movie ends as they take turns beating the hell out of him.

In short, the moral of the movie: don't let yourself be a victim, don't let men push you around; be strong, fight back, and don't forget your gun!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Talk, Talk, Talk


I watched The Talk of the Town, which was very good, but not great. My main complaint is that Jean Arthur, except for her short interrogation scene, is criminally underused. I mean, yes, she's in almost every scene - but not as her spunky self, just as some generic leading lady. I have a big crush on Jean Arthur, and if you do, too (and you should!), and you want to see that dame at her wise-cracking best, check out The Whole Town's Talking, a very underrated comedy co-starring Edward G. Robinson (!) and directed by John Ford (!).

Kind Hearts and Coronets is hilarious and deserves its classic status. My only complaint is that it's too short - some of Guinness' characters barely get a line out before they're offed. Well, my other complaint is that it's probably this movie that led Eddie Murphy to think The Nutty Professor would be a good idea.

As for Days of Heaven, I haven't watched it yet. The reason I've been able to rent movies this week - the end of school - is also the reason I've been able to play a lot of tennis every day, so I'm really, really tired by the evening. I love Terrence Malick, but I know that his films tend to be slow and lingering (one of my favorites is Badlands, a beautiful movie, much better than Bonnie and Clyde), and I was pretty sure I would fall asleep if I started it. I don't know why I am even sharing this. Blogging is weird sometimes. No, that's not fair - I am weird sometimes. Well, goodnight!

p.s. my other big Old Hollywood crush: Myrna Loy. Like I said, I'm weird. This is what happens when your father was born in 1927.

"For someone this disdainful of the American underclass, why do you want to double the size of it?"

Many thanks to Udolpho for pointing the way to the quite hilarious evisceration of Bryan Caplan in his own comments section. I have no idea who Tino is, but I'm a little bit in love. I would urge you to read all of Tino's remarks, but if you're in a hurry, just focus on his first comment, the third one down (no permalink, sorry).

p.s. my favorite line from Udolpho's post: "Instead of debate there is, on the one side, immigration skeptics pointing to demographic trends, class and social realities, and a sea of worrisome data, and on the other side a bunch of deluded pseudo-hippies shouting catchphrases: "YOU CAN'T PUT AN ARMY ON THE BORDER, YOU CAN'T DEPORT THEM ALL, THEY DO THE WORK AMERICANS WON'T DO.""

UPDATE: From another comments thread, I really liked this remark, from Steve Burton: "Those who support open borders like to point out that, in the past, the U.S. has successfully assimilated all sorts of ethnically distinct immigrants.
But the great waves of American immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries swept ashore in a relatively harsh, sink-or-swim society where one had little choice but to fit in, and to make one's own way.
The Latin American immigrants of today, on the other hand, show up in an advanced welfare state which positively *encourages* them to maintain and to exploit their separate ethnic identity for political and economic advantage.
That's a whole different ballgame."

FURTHER UPDATE: Just to avoid any confusion, I am not the 'adrian' from those comment threads.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Disobedience training tomorrow, 12 noon - don't be late!

Who says you don't learn anything at Harvard? I just received an email about a student-run training session tomorrow: "Civil Disobedience Training & Know Your Rights!" An excerpt:
"Before we leave for the summer, come learn about your rights to protest. Come practice non-violent street tactics!
- What is civil disobedience?
- Dealing with authorities and police officers
- Know your rights!
- Non-violent Civil Disobedience and Street tactics
- Escalation and de-escalation
Sponsored by: the Student Labor Action Movement"

The subject line of the email, you ask? "if you wanna be a rebel you gotta KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!" It is wrong for me to smirk. I must admit, I know of no better, more direct and straightforward way of becoming a rebel than attending a training session on how to be a rebel.

Now that's a coalition!

Now that the security guards are set to go on strike, their student allies are passing the hat around for donations to a strike fund. I don't really have anything to add to my earlier comments on this whole inane affair, but I was quite amused by the long list of student groups involved. Here, straight from the latest email, is the full list:

"The Stand for Security Coalition is: Activate South Asia · Association of Black Harvard Women · Black Men's Forum ·Black Students Association · Fuerza Latina · Graduate Student Council ·Graduate Student Labor Council · Harvard AIDS Coalition · Harvard Coalition for Ugandan Peace · Harvard College Democrats · Harvard College Interfaith Council ·Harvard Progressive Jewish Alliance · Harvard Darfur Action Group · Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice · Harvard Progressive Advocacy Group ·Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA · Harvard Students for Choice · Latinas Unidas · Latino Men's Collective · Phillips Brooks House Association · Radcliffe Union of Students · Society of Arab Students · South Asian Women's Collective · Student Labor Action Movement · Students Taking On Poverty · Unbound · Undergraduate Council"

The Harvard AIDS Coalition, Harvard Darfur Action Group, Harvard Coalition for Ugandan Peace - I'm glad to see these groups are sticking up for the truly important cause of a living wage for security guards, and not wasting time on frivolous concerns with AIDS, Darfur, or Uganda. It would be a shame, after all, if it turned out that these groups had devolved into little more than run-of-the-mill liberal interest groups. A real shame, that would be.

As for the support of Harvard Students for Choice, well, this only casts the hunger strike in an even more negative light. After all, why risk the health and well-being of fully grown, immensely talented Harvard students, what with their bright futures and limitless potential and all, in such a dangerous and physically taxing protest, when you could just as easily have aborted a fetus or two on the Widener steps? The chances that they would have grown up to become Harvard students too are negligible at best, so it seems quite fair to say that they're rather disposable.

God is a Republican

So, remember how I was saying that the only thing Harvard's security guards do, besides sitting on their butts and watching their stories, is supervising package delivery in the mailroom? And remember how I said they performed even that minor task with conspicuous incompetence? Well, it turns out that they really screwed up yesterday. A student had her passport delivered to the dorm, and it was signed for, but now it's gone, lost or stolen. The student is supposed to leave the country tomorrow, but won't be able to unless the passport is miraculously recovered. Quite a stressful situation for her, as we all can understand. The kicker, and the reason for this post's title? The student whose passport was lost or stolen by the security guards is the very girl who was the dorm's most vocal defender of the hunger strike in their name! She is, as a matter of fact, the young lady who coined the phrase displayed in my masthead. I don't wish lost passports or travel hassles on the worst of my enemies, but I'll admit I find this quite entertaining.

"If written today it would include a clause making the separation of paper and glass mandatory for all householders, every other Wednesday."

I know I link to Relapsed Catholic to the point of excess, but, I mean, she's just that great.

The Death Penalty for Rape

As far as it makes any sense to judge these things, I think that rape is worse than murder. I'm actually against the death penalty (not for any humanitarian reasons - I just would prefer that murderers suffer a lifetime of solitary confinement interspersed with the occasional beating rather than a quick and painless death), so my take on convicted rapists is that they should all be castrated (seriously). Still, I suppose this ruling is a good first step.

Study: 3 in 4 Harvard Freshmen Did Not Cheat on Final Exams

Phew. And to imagine that some people were trying to claim that there might be something to be worried about.


UPDATE: As always, Iowahawk does it better.

Neocon Propaganda

Gateway Pundit has a bigoted post up about Iranian women supposedly being beaten up by police for not wearing their veils. Doesn't he understand that these women freely choose to wear the veil as an expression of their faith? It's just that, sometimes, they feel an even stronger need to express that faith, and then they freely choose to get violently assaulted. If they're feeling especially pious, sometimes they even freely choose to get hanged. It continues to amaze me that anti-Muslim, pro-war, imperialist bigots like Gateway Pundit refuse to learn the truth about the freedom women enjoy under Islam.

Talk is Cheap

Despite all the vocal anti-Americanism around the world, there are still huge numbers of people who go to immense lengths to come to America to have a chance at a better life - to the point that we actually have to build a fence on the border to keep all the people out. Meanwhile, despite all the arguments of communists and their sympathizers, they still had to build a wall to keep their people from escaping to the west.

Which brings me to Michael Moore's new movie, Sicko. I haven't seen it, and I won't, but if it's true that he holds up Canada's health care system as a model, he's even dumber than I thought.

If you want a great rebuttal to claims of Canadian health care superiority, please see this Norma Kozhaya article. But I don't need to read her article, or anyone else's, because all I need to know is that any Canadian who can do so goes to America for treatment. They talk a big game, brag about universal healthcare, but the moment they get sick and need surgery or an MRI tomorrow, rather than next year, it's off to Buffalo they go.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"they never cease to make you smile and feel at ease. but they do that for everyone. and they will do it for anyone."

Great post. "Do not expect anything to come from dating charming people." It's kinda obvious if you think about it, but it needs to be said, because lots of girls (and guys) seem blind to this false charm. I suspect there are more people like this at Harvard than in most places, what with all the networking and politicking and all that. There are kids here who have incredible charisma, who make you feel as if you're the only person in the world, who treat every person as their long-lost best friend - except, if you think about it, they don't like you at all, because if you were somebody completely different, they would treat you exactly the same, you're absolutely interchangeable to them.

I myself am always at my best with people I'm uninterested in. With people I really like, I'm a total bore, because I'm not looking to put on an act and entertain them, I'm just free to be my regular boring self.

The trick is to come to terms with that regular, boring self. I'm not one of those new age-y people who says you have to learn to love yourself before you love others, in fact I'm quite opposed to loving yourself. But you do at the least have to like yourself. Otherwise, when you're in a relationship, you'll have to keep the act up, keep entertaining her 24/7, and will inevitably run out of steam. The goal of love, as I see it, is not to keep each other entertained, but to be able to simply be yourselves, your private selves - to be with one another as you would be if you were alone.

I am not yet anywhere near that point - I still often prefer my act, my entertaining side, to my real side. My real side is the side that hates it here and gets depressed and all that jazz. I went on a few dates this year with a truly wonderful girl, the only girl with whom I've ever truly been able to be myself, but I don't think either one of us could have kept it up because we're both in kinda bad places and it would just have ended up as a suicide pact or something.

So until I'm able to make peace with myself (and I hope that leaving Harvard will help a great deal), I'm staying away from romance. Because, if I'm going down, I don't want to take anyone else down with me!

To return to book recommendations, my favorite author by far on this subject is Hemingway. I would recommend A Farewell to Arms in particular. Hemingway's couples talk of love and wonderful romantic futures, but he shows that they know, deep down, that their talk is empty, that they are playing roles, and nothing more.

p.s. to end the post on a lighter note, I am proud to report that at least one person has come upon my blog after a google search on "Nipples Photography." I am sorry if I disappointed them!

If I Only Had a Brain

I found out today that, despite my best efforts, I did manage to pass all my classes this semester, so I will be graduating in a couple of weeks. I actually came very close to dropping out these past few months. Not because of my dislike for Harvard, but as a matter of principle. As I have already explained, I think my degree is worthless. I feel it would be dishonest for me to accept a diploma that I believe represents nothing. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that honesty doesn’t matter when you’re dead, and that, if I dropped out a month before graduating, my mother would hunt me down and kill me with her bare hands. So, cap and gown, here I come. Here are some clich├ęd, sentimental, and overly moralizing thoughts to mark the occasion (I will put up a sillier take on all this eventually, don’t worry):

Your graduation doesn’t mean a thing. Your family, your friends, the very robes you wear, all are on display to make you believe that it is a special day. That it is the first day of the rest of your life, the day you enter “the real world.” Well, it isn’t. It’s just the day you sit through a bunch of boring speeches and get a piece of paper. A very pretty piece of paper, perhaps, but a piece of paper and nothing more. And that paper, that diploma, is meaningless. Oh sure, it might represent the classes you took, the subjects you studied, who you were as a student, but it doesn’t represent who you are as a person. You can do what you want with it – you can frame it, mount it, laminate it, you can even get really wasted and run it through the shredder – but all these attempts to imbue it with some greater meaning will fail. Because your diploma is just a piece of paper, your robes are cheap rentals, it is just another day, and you are not about to enter the real world. You’re already in it.

The real world isn’t out there, beyond the gates; it’s in here, in our hearts and souls. To borrow a turn from The Wizard of Oz, we’ve had it in us all along, right here in our backyard: we never really left to begin with. I know, I know, I’m being maudlin – but I’m sincere. Look, our generation can’t put on our sneakers without a sense of irony, but, hard as it may be, there are times to put our knowing smirks aside and embrace our vulnerable, true inner selves. That is why I am harping on all this diploma business: because there is no link, no relation, between that inner self and that paper. Your diploma might say, “He graduated,” but it will not say, “He is good,” and that is all that matters. Sure, at one time, a diploma might have meant more. The goal was once unabashedly to mold us into better people. Harvard doesn’t do that anymore. We can no longer count on our teachers to lead us into the light. We have to do it for ourselves. Maybe, for some, that journey is already well underway. Maybe you were lucky, and one of the books for one of your classes touched you, moved you, really got to you, in a way that proper academic style would frown upon mentioning in a final paper. If not, don’t worry. There are so many books left to read. For what I am trying to say is that graduation is not a beginning, it is not an end. It’s just another day in the journey.

To return to the Emerald City, and to the wise words of the Wizard: “Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma.”

Well, in a few days, I will have one, too.

The mirror crack'd from side to side

I continue to be enthralled by Catholic literature. In case you haven't read it, I highly recommend Dame Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Don't trust the film or stage adaptations, which completely butcher the main point of the novel. As Benilde Montgomery puts it, the screenplay "ignores any reference to the religious context in which Spark so carefully sets her novel." Spark herself wrote of the adaptation that she had the "distinct impression that my views, as author of the book, were not really welcome."


The book is absolutely fascinating. It's not really about Miss Brodie or any of her students - it's about Spark herself. The novel, not just in its plot but in its very form and style, reenacts Spark's conversion to Catholicism. She begins writing in a deliberately flawed manner (what she would call a Calvinistic style) and evolves as a narrator and a stylist (towards Catholicism) as the pages go by. That's how I read it, anyway. In any case, a very interesting, very beautiful work.


The central imagery of the novel (well, besides the Bible) comes from Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott," and these lines in particular:

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

We all have the tendency to elevate our egos, to think the universe revolves around us (especially at Harvard!), to see others only as characters in the tapestry we weave. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a welcome reminder that the world exists without us, and that if we are to truly appreciate it we must see it not through the eyes of a chosen prophet, but through those of a humbled penitent. Doing so, we may sacrifice many a tempting and self-aggrandizing fantasy, but we will instead have the chance to imbue our lives with a deeper sense of grace.

"Maybe they're not so much environmentalists as they are joiners ... of anything"

Exactly.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Further adventures in shopping and sociology

After buying a card, I went to go rent some movies (final tally: The Talk of the Town, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Days of Heaven). There was a man there, a Ron Howard type in his fifties, with his son, who couldn't have been more than seven. The father was super-excited about showing his son some movies (he was shouting to the clerk from across the room about initiating his son into this shared wonder). The movies at hand, you ask? The Star Wars prequels.

I don't share Udolpho's hatred of fanboy geek types. I like Star Trek and Firefly and LOTR, and Star Wars, too. But I'm not kidding myself about their quality. Nothing more than cheap, fun escapism. After working really hard for a few months, I come home, sink into to the couch for a long weekend, turn off my brain, and watch some CSI or a Bond marathon. The thing is, though, that I'm fully aware at those moments that I'm indulging in stupid, mindless laziness. What bothers me is that a lot of people, such as the father I saw, seem to view these works as modern works of genius, as life-defining classics. They scarf down cheeseburgers and think they're dining on steak.

I strongly believe that kids will live down to your expectations. If you treat them like idiots, they'll become idiots. Throw stupid scifi movies (or, even worse, today's filthy, flatulence-obsessed 'children's movies') at them, and they will undoubtedly enjoy them, and they'll grow up to be dumb, crass, and blind to beauty. But show them some true classics, read them the great books, and you might be surprised at how much they understand and appreciate.

As Joseph Bottum (a name fit for a modern kids' movie, come to think of it) put it in Commentary a few years ago, "Certainly the hungry child will find too many of today’s standards awfully thin gruel. It is worth remembering that Dickens’s reading list for the eight- or nine-year-old David Copperfield includes Smollett’s Humphrey Clinker, Fielding’s Tom Jones, Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield, and Cervantes’ Don Quixote—any one of which would make a well-qualified recommender of children’s books these days fall to the ground in a Victorian swoon. As Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 Little Women opens, the March girls have just read Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, which is not a title likely to be mentioned in children’s bibliographies any longer."

Parents: your kids aren't dumb until you dumb them down. Let them discover the Star Wars prequels for themselves once they're in their teens (but pray they never do). As long as they're under your control, though, make the most of it and shove the classics down their throats. Even if they don't like it (I maintain that they will), they'll at least know what a good book or movie looks like, what true culture and class feels like, and hopefully won't grow up to pour ketchup on their steaks.

Speaking of racism

I was browsing greeting cards at the store this morning, and discovered that there is a line of cards targeted to black people. The name of the line? "In Rhythm." Ooookay....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

And now I'm depressed

Prof Althouse has a post up about free-roaming childhood in the good old days. Read the comments, which broke my heart. My childhood: karate lessons, recorder lessons, and three hours of tennis training every day. And my parents wonder why the very sight of a racquet is enough to make me sick. But it all got me into Harvard, so it must have been worth it, right? Right?

If I ever have kids, I'm moving to the Outback and shooting any approaching college admissions officers on sight.

I'm In

Road Trip!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"why should universities exist at all?"

In my increasingly frequent tirades about the pointlessness of college, I am always careful to exclude the sciences from my wrath. I may be wrong to do so. (h/t: Instapundit)

According to the author, "It is becoming increasingly clear that this corruption of education is probably universal across all disciplines. If so, then all advanced education will have to be obtained outside of the university."

There is nothing taught in history or literature at Harvard that one can't learn just as well (if not, in fact, a great deal better) at the nearest public library. The sciences may be heading down a similar path, if this author is to be believed. Indeed, come to think of it, a med school bound friend of mine aced the MCATs only by teaching himself the subjects over summer break.

This being admissions season, the papers are full of stories about the growing "cachet" of universities. Yet, if anything, universities are only growing more and more useless every day.

I can be talked into believing that, back in the day, universities were the gatekeepers of knowledge. The books, the archives, the thinkers, all were kept cooped up in the ivory tower, and there were relatively few ways to gain access to them outside of being right in there with them.

Today, that is no longer the case. We are in an information age, and knowledge is everywhere. The problem is no longer in finding it, but in filtering it - learning which sources to trust, which to discard. Universities thus act not as gatekeepers, but as guides. They can no longer keep us out, only point us in the best direction. Yet the modern academy is doing everything in its power to convince us that it is no longer worthy of even such diminished responsibility. The unbearable idiocies of postmodernism have stripped professors of values, judgment, and respect for truth. They no longer have the intellectual confidence to point us in any direction, and on the rare occasion when they might feel impassioned enough to lead the way, believe me that it is best to run screaming down the opposite path.

Why do people still go to college, then? Well, many simply don't know better - I was thrilled to be coming here, and it was not until the end of my sophomore year that the empty reality of the situation had really sunk in. Even those who do realize the truth (and many a classmate has told me that they consider their degree worthless, as I do mine) love college for social reasons: the main draw of higher education, I honestly believe, is that it gives adults who should know better a free pass to engage in all the immature loutishness they desire for four crazy years. You might not learn anything worth learning, but you're living it up, dude, you're partying, you're being so college. The third and final main reason, and perhaps the best excuse, is the need to get a job. As I discussed yesterday, employers must rely on college degrees as a proxy for ability and intelligence, because the law forbids independent testing for those qualities.

So, as long as parents remain naive about what their kids are in for, as long as the kids themselves enjoy the social license that matriculation grants them, and as long as employers can't figure out alternate ways to judge an applicant's ability, college will, despite its growing uselessness, stick around. I don't know what I can do about it, either, except to keep on repeating, over and over again, that the emperor (like some of my fellow students these days) has no clothes.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet . . .

Unless that name is Madison. Ugh. Well, at least Kirsten isn't on the new list. Glad to see Ava up there, and I've always been a Samantha fan. I wish Sarah would be on the list, though, and I will never understand why Sally has gone so out of style.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Struggle for Justice continues...

So, after the failure of the students' hunger strike, the security guards themselves are set to go on strike. No, not a hunger strike (they're not crazy!), just a regular strike.

They're all going to walk off the job, and so, in a dispute over a two-dollar raise, the entire university community will be placed in perhaps life-threatening, extreme dange -- oh, no, wait, Harvard security guards don't actually do anything. The Harvard University Police Department and the city cops keep us safe, the security guards sit on their butts all day and watch T.V. Well, that's not entirely true - they also supervise the mail room! Packages will be stolen left and right (well, more packages - the guards don't even get up off their butts to check to see if we're taking the mail that belongs to us), cats and dogs will live together, it'll be chaos!

No, absolutely nothing will happen and nobody will even notice that they're not there (well, the Nielsen ratings for All My Children might drop - it isn't still sweeps week, is it?).* The hunger strike backfired because people saw that the strikers were insane, and this strike will backfire even worse.

*note: upon further reflection, it was wrong of me to imply that soap opera ratings will plummet if the security guards won't be at their posts. Naturally, since they're on strike, they'll be able to watch their stories at home.

UPDATE: Thank you to Armavirumque for the link!

"as students met in fortified classrooms to take their matriculation exams in mathematics"

Considering that I'm still bitter about that time the huge ice storm hit and my high school was the only one in the city to stay open, it's nice to have a little perspective.

Your school is a regular target for rocket attacks? Don't call in sick or anything, just take your exam in a fortified classroom!

It never ceases to amaze me how much the Israelis have to put up with, and how wonderful and productive their nation remains despite it all.

I don't think there's any doubt that, if the shoe were on the other foot, and it was the Arabs with the superior firepower, there wouldn't be a Jew left alive in the region. It continues to be a display of truly remarkable humanity, civility, forgiveness, and restraint on the part of Israel that there are enough Palestinians left to keep shooting rockets at them.

But what are these crazy Jews doing teaching their children about mathematics? Don't they know there are more important things for the young to learn?

Blame the Supreme Court

Ever wonder why employers put such an emphasis on college degrees when we all know (well, at least, I strongly believe) that college is a total waste of time? Well, James Taranto makes a convincing case that the blame lies with the usual suspects.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Apparently, I have no morals

Look, I am not one of those obnoxious, humorless atheists who goes about trying to rewrite the Pledge of Allegiance and ban nativity displays. My dad is in the Christopher Hitchens camp of 'all religion is idiotic and harmful,' but, while I do like Hitchens quite a bit, I have a lot more respect for religion than he does. Flannery O'Connor is my favorite author. Relapsed Catholic is my favorite blog. I simply do not have a believing temperament, but I am very drawn to the beauty of Christian (usually Catholic) writing and thought.

So I usually stay out of fights about religion, and when I do get involved I almost always attack the atheist side, since many of the most vocal atheists are just plain childish. However, in the wake of Falwell's death, after having sat through hours of talk radio and now a HotAir thread in which countless Christians have gone on about how atheists are not even immoral but literally incapable of morality, I'm a little angry. So, as an atheist who lives pretty much an Amish lifestyle (no drink, drugs, sex, or buttons), who is pro-life and who would love nothing more than to die for his country (no, not Canada, the real country), I would like to try and clear this up.

The Judeo-Christian tradition plays a crucial role in upholding morality (one of my favorite quotations, about the importance of respecting tradition and not placing our egos above the hard-learned lessons of our ancestors, from Chesterton I believe, is "Tradition is the democracy of the dead"). However, morality predates religion. It is innate; religion can preach it and reinforce it, but religion did not beget it.

Take the Ten Commandments (please!). Let's say, "Thou shalt not kill." Is it at all conceivable that God could have commanded to Moses, "Thou shalt kill"? That God, in His omnipotence, could have decreed murder to be moral? Of course not. Because God was simply revealing the preexisting morality to Moses, not creating it. God would be bound by that morality just like anyone else. There is not a single one of the Commandments in which it is possible God could have commanded the opposite - they ruled over Him, not vice-versa. You don't honor your parents because God says so, you do so because it's right, and God just reminds you of it or teaches you about it if you're not sensible enough to figure it out for yourself. That's my take on it, anyway.

Back to Hitchens for a moment. My main problem with the attack on religion is the fact that many people, out of loneliness, fear of death, the desire to belong, or whatever other reason, end up needing to believe in something. And if it's not traditional religion, it'll be the cult of global warming, or some evil totalitarianism, or celebrity worship, or something else really harmful or stupid. I would much rather have all those people as decent Jews and Christians than as annoying wacko greenies. So lay off the faithful, Hitch, because the alternative is very likely a great deal worse.

"'Mister,' he said, 'when you read Shakespeare, Shakespeare's not on trial. You are.'"

I really liked that line.

"in the very detailed index for the book, the entire entry for 'Communism' is: 'Communism, see McCarthyism, McCarthy era; countries and conflicts'"

Hitting on a couple recurring themes from this blog, Roger Kimball has a great post up about David Halberstam. Read the whole thing, as they say!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Shrinkage; or, modern liberalism is now officially beyond satire

So there was quite the kerfuffle on campus this past weekend. A bunch of people were out on the lawn on Saturday, having a barbecue and apparently blowing horns or something (I wasn't around, I can't vouch for any of this) and making a bunch of noise. Someone from my dorm actually called the police on them, which is ridiculous (why couldn't he just at least try first and go up to the people and ask them to quiet down? This is a post for another day, and I don't want Treacher on my back, but there are more and more signs every day of the frightening modern phenomenon of people being conditioned from birth to just curl up in a ball under the desk and wait for the authorities rather than help themselves).

Anyway, this is when things started to get out of hand. Because the people on the lawn were black (turns out it was the joint spring barbecue of the Harvard Black Men's Forum and the Association of Black Harvard Women, two groups who passionately oppose racism of any kind and who just happen to form groups based entirely on skin color because they love diversity), and they got really mad that the cops were called on them (indeed, they had been doing nothing wrong, and the cops went away and the bbq went on). I must be honest and and say that racism was probably a factor in the incident, since drunken white kids are really loud on that lawn on a regular basis and nobody ever calls the cops on them. But the whole thing has gotten dramatically blown out of proportion by all the usual people who have nothing better to do with their lives than exploit grievances and set up community meetings, so the past two days have been filled with discussion groups, open forums, student panels, and everything else that's in the liberal handbook under 'How To Savor That Delicious Righteous Outrage For As Long As Possible, And Bore Whitey Into Submission While You're At It!' Which brings me, at long last, to the point of this post.

Turns out that the discussions, heartfelt as they may have been, were, amazingly, not powerful enough to wipe out racism once and for all. So the campaign continues, and since hunger strikes are so last week, the offended people have come up with a brand new tactic: running around naked.

Primal Scream is this stupid Harvard tradition when, the night before finals start, people run around the yard naked, screaming, and acting like fools. Who knows, it might once have been a fun way for stressed-out students to let off steam (though I doubt it), but, these days, well, it's pretty much the same as every other night. Except now it's worse, because now it has become an occasion for the students to protest racism and celebrate diversity. Since, for liberals, a person is defined by their skin color, i.e. their body, it makes total sense to them that running around naked is the perfect way to assert your worth.

Here are actual excerpts from the email the community received today:

"Please join us as we take a stand for inclusion. For celebration of difference. And for acknowledgment that making Harvard a welcoming space for all is everyone's responsibility. Wednesday night, at 11:30pm, stand with us at University Hall as we celebrate the tradition of Primal Scream by declaring,

:: MY SKIN BELONGS AT HARVARD ::

Stand with us as we bare ourselves (as much as we each feel comfortable) and push for real change. We envision a Harvard where all students enjoy an equal sense of belonging. Where students of color are not only appreciated for their contribution to diversity, but are also respected as full-fledged members of the Harvard community, by the Harvard community. [...] This year at Primal Scream, bare yourself for a better Harvard."

Hilarious. "My Skin Belongs At Harvard." My mind, my soul? Screw 'em. But don't you dare question the crucial contribution to diversity made by my skin! Oh, and look at my dick. Stop it, stop averting your eyes. I demand that you show respect to the full fledge of my member of color!

The part I cut out is their list of demands. It's mostly the usual stuff (more support for ongoing initiatives, more ethnic diversity, better tools to proactively address racial inclusiveness, one white scalp, etc.). Except one cheerfully sinister line really did creep me out: "Consistent opportunities for more meaningful dialogue -- not just with the students who already attend discussions on race, but for everyone affected by race in the Harvard community. And that means all of us!" In other words, mandatory racial sensitivity training for the entire community. I just hope that, if it does come to that, we'll at least be allowed to keep our clothes on.

My reaction to this whole ridiculous mess? Well, it's time to add The Dawn Patrol to the blogroll!

A Request

If you are offended by something I write on this blog, by all means go ahead and curse me out in the comments, or via email, or on your own blog. Please leave my family out of it. I just received a worried phone call from my father because someone, who refused to identify himself, phoned him at work to harrass him about the posts I've written mocking the hunger strike. I dish it out, and I can take it, but please leave my family out of it.
Also, in general, I often use a deadpan style, so if you read something wildly bizarre or offensive that sounds serious, it more than likely is not, so please don't worry too much about it. I certainly do not take myself seriously, and y'all shouldn't take me seriously, either!

If Life were like a Presidential Candidates Debate

In the classroom
Mrs. Smith: Okay, class, the Declaration of Independence was in what year?
Billy: Well, the important thing here is that America has a long and storied history –
Bobby: That’s not what you said last week.
Billy: Now, hold on, let me finish –
Bobby: No, let me finish. I think the class would be interested in knowing that last week you called President Lincoln a dorkwad.
Billy: Funny, I thought you were too busy serving detention last week to listen to what I was saying.
Bobby: You know what? I did serve detention, and I’ll tell you why: while you’ve been doing your homework like a pawn of the system, I’ve been taking action to bring the man down –
Billy: Hold on –
Bobby: No, you hold on. I did egg the principal’s house, and I think the class is behind me on this one. It’s time we stopped letting those teachers’ lounge fat cats tell us what to do!
Billy: Big talk from someone whose mother is a substitute teacher.
Bobby: In another district! You’re mixing up the issues here – this is third grade all over again!
Billy: Oh, so you mean you’re still wetting your bed?
Bobby: . . .
Billy: That’s what I thought.

At the office
Mr. Weyland: Does anyone have any ideas on how to spin these reports?
Mr. Stevens: Well the first thing we need to do is set up a committee to –
Mr. Jones: Talk, talk, talk – that’s all you ever do, Larry. Well I say it’s time to act! Do you –
Mr. Stevens: Don’t interrupt me, Sam. Though you bring up a good point, and maybe you should start acting like someone who isn’t such a dorkwad.
Mr. Jones: Hey, pal, let’s stick to the issues here. Tell me, do you have any idea how many fat cats thrive on this company? It’s a disgrace!
Mr. Stevens: Well, considering that our company’s main product is cat food, I think it’s quite an accomplishment.
Mr. Jones: Oh, um, right . . . well excuse me if I was too busy serving this nation in Vietnam to read the mission statement!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

"Your car is uglier than I am. Oops, that didn't come out right."

One of the most annoying films of my lifetime is Pleasantville. Prof Althouse, back from an auto show, has taken some truly beautiful photographs which prove that life back in the day was a great deal more colorful and stylish than the makers of that movie would have us believe.
If you'd like to see a great picture about those times, by the way, chock full of beautiful cars, it doesn't get much better than American Graffiti.

Submission 101

Another rejected column. From back in the wake of the Summers kerfuffle and the riots over the Pope's speech. Hope you like it!

The jury’s still out on whether Pope Benedict XVI had any intention to provoke anything except polite applause during his now infamous speech on “Faith, Reason and the University.” For those who missed it, in the middle of a speech in German, the Pope quoted a 14th-century exchange in which a Byzantine emperor criticized Islam for spreading itself by the sword. Within days, once the remarks had been translated and exagerrated by the usual suspects in Friday prayers, the Pope, long thought ineffable, was in fact burning in effigy around the world as radical Muslims firebombed churches, murdered a nun, and made themselves generally unpleasant.

Regardless of what one feels about the speech, its fiery reception and the Pope’s subsequent reaction can teach us a great deal. When compared with a somewhat similar incident closer to home, we discover a pattern that, if not reversed, will lead to the death of free speech.

When former President Summers made his own gaffe, he did not have much to fear; even at their fiercest, feminists burn bras, not infidels. Yet rather than grasp this teachable moment in his stubby fingers and champion academic freedom, Summers apologized so often and with such ingratiating relish one half-suspects that were it not for the intervention of more level-headed advisers, he may have castrated himself, cries of repentant glory piercing the skies, on the Science Center lawn. Now it is the Pope’s turn, and the enemies he faces are infinitely more bloodthirsty and vicious, despite very few among them having tenure. If you are at all interested in Italian Renaissance artwork, I recommend you hurry over to the Vatican right away and check out some of the frescoes before the Sistine Chapel gets painted over in its conversion to the Joseph A. Ratzinger Center for the Study of Jihad as a Peaceful Internal Struggle. Summers showed us that as soon as you apologize, even if you don’t really mean it, it’s over. Your enemies are emboldened, you become weakened, and you might as well retire because you’ll be watching your step so carefully the rest of your life that you’ll never be able to speak truly freely again.

This – these groveling apologies for voicing one’s opinion – is submission. And what the radical Islamist world has done to its women, it now means to do to us. There are too many of us to be hung in public, like their homosexuals and their dissidents. Instead, like their women, we will simply be forced to show respect and to stay in our place. And while it may appeal in the short term to please – to dutifully shut our mouths and censor our newspapers – in the name of peace, we must recognize that such submission is our assent to any future beatings we receive should we ever be perceived as stepping out of line again. Banning pictures of Piglet from work and copies of Animal Farm from school, as they have done in parts of Britain, censoring cartoons of Mohamed, as they have done all over the world, apologizing for quoting obscure Byzantine emperors in boring academic lectures, as the Pope has done – these small, absurd acts are acts of submission, and each instance of such accepted guilt implies an attitude of deserved punishment. Like a wife assuring her friends that the bruises are from falling down the stairs, a misplaced sense of love or duty might move us towards denial, but this only guarantees that the beatings will continue.

Is this what we want the world to come to? Do we want to grow up to a world in which you can barely get a word out before your likeness is up and burning in cities around the globe? Do we want to live in fear of matches striking every time we open our mouths? The alternative is not pretty, either. Those who refuse to apologize, like those who refuse to convert, tend to get their throats slit. Still, I know where I stand. Freedom means never having to say you’re sorry.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

[Shifts weight awkwardly, stares down at his feet]

Via Instapundit:

"Every platoon sergeant and squad leader I spoke with told me a version of this story: Many of the new privates are smart and eager; they’re quick learners and they know what they’ve gotten themselves into, joining the infantry in wartime. But too many are physically weak, are undisciplined, or have mental and emotional problems that should have gotten them screened out at basic training, if not earlier by the recruiter. . . ."

Ridiculous. I have no idea what he's talking about . . .

A Trick That Never Seems to Fail

The Crimson has published one thing I've written, a letter to the editor about Kofi Annan. Annan was named Commencement Speaker (in 2004), and The Crimson rejoiced. Here is my response:

When UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan comes to mind, I am reminded of a favorite passage from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Desperate to save face after the reckless actions of a bombardier lead to unnecessary deaths, his superiors decide to give the offender a medal and a promotion: “You know, that might be the answer – to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That’s a trick that never seems to fail.” Such must have been the reasoning of the international community when, for being one of the first to look the other way during the genocide in Rwanda, Mr. Annan was punished with an election as Secretary-General of the United Nations and a Nobel Peace Prize. The past century might very well go down in history as the Age of Mutually Ignored Destruction, and we have all been guilty of refusing to acknowledge the internecions among us (the Sudanese slaughters of a month ago spring to mind), but Mr. Annan held a special position as one of the few people in the world whose actions could have stopped the killing, and his failure to do so must reserve him a special share of the blame. The Crimson’s attempt to absolve the Secretary-General in its April 30th editorial reads like a Politburo press release as it glosses over massacres as “missteps,” acknowledging their existence only as unhealthy fixations in the minds of Annan’s critics. Arguing that Annan’s unsavory role in certain events is overshadowed by the glories of a lifetime in public service, the editorial gives new meaning to the term ‘diplomatic immunity.’ The Crimson notes approvingly that Annan encourages volunteerism, and that he has been a leader in the fight against the curiously equated evils of globalization and HIV/AIDS. With some of his youth programs, his occasional support for tariffs, and his promises of humanitarian aid to Africa, George W. Bush has decent marks in all those campaigns; if memory serves me well, however, The Crimson has never shown the same willingness to gloss over blemishes in the public service record of the President. True, Mr. Annan has one more Nobel Peace Prize than President Bush will ever receive, but then again so does Yasser Arafat. The editorial reminds me of my own most eloquent attempts to deflect blame (“Boy, Mom, it was a really beautiful day today, i-got-a-D-on-my-exam, and I met this absolutely gorgeous girl – and she’s Jewish!”); it is nothing more than a talented work of misdirection. I am frankly ashamed that the University has made Heller’s absurd reverse psychology into a reality, and I can only hope that the audience at Commencement will show more sense than the administration and The Crimson expect of it, and that Mr. Annan will not be punished, yet again, with applause.
Sincerely,
Adrian Gaty

I post this now because I was reminded of that great Heller quotation when I learned that the hunger strikers will be marking the pathetic end to their embarassing campaign with, you guessed it, a big celebration! An excerpt from the latest email:

"The Coalition was planning a daily rally on what would have been Day 10 of the hunger strike, but the rally has turned into a celebration and kickoff for the next phase. Join us, and bring your friends!"

I like a good laugh as much as the next guy (well, assuming the next guy isn't your typical student activist), but I think I'll pass.

P.S. Okay, I can't keep this from you. My favorite line from that same email, displaying the touching depths of "Student-Worker Solidarity":
"Yesterday, the hunger strikers ended their strike after 9 days, as security officers served each of them their first bowl of soup."
Priceless.

Friday, May 11, 2007

"The student now goes to college to proclaim, rather than to learn."

Protein Wisdom has a great post up about the "rhetorical will to power by way of narrative control," but I was most drawn to a Spiro Agnew speech that gets quoted in the comments. In honor of the end of the hunger strike (it wasn't a total failure! an independent committee is being formed! and the college is affirming their committment! and, um, we lost ten pounds!), here it is:
"Sometimes it appears that we’re reaching a period when our senses and our minds will no longer respond to moderate stimulation. We seem to be reaching an age of the gross, persuasion through speeches and books is too often discarded for disruptive demonstrations aimed at bludgeoning the unconvinced into action. The young--and by this I’d don’t mean by any stretch of the imagination all the young, but I’m talking about those who claim to speak for the young--at the zenith of physical power and sensitivity, overwhelm themselves with drugs and artificial stimulants.

Subtlety is lost, and fine distinctions based on acute reasoning are carelessly ignored in a headlong jump to a predetermined conclusion.

Life is visceral rather than intellectual. And the most visceral practitioners of life are those who characterize themselves as intellectuals. Truth is to them revealed rather than logically proved. And the principal infatuations of today revolve around the social sciences, those subjects which can accommodate any opinion, and about which the most reckless conjecture cannot be discredited. Education is being redefined at the demand of the uneducated to suit the ideas of the uneducated.

The student now goes to college to proclaim, rather than to learn. The lessons of the past are ignored and obliterated [...] A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete core of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals."

I would make one change, though: the student now goes to college to belong, rather than to learn. That's what the hundreds of different student groups (The Asian American Christian Male Legal Society and Barbershop Quartet, etc.) and movements like the hunger strike are all about - the need to belong, to be part of a club, part of a movement. God forbid that one might dream of being independent, God forbid that one might dare to be alone.

Liberal Bias at Harvard? If only!

Over the years, I've applied repeatedly for an opinion column in The Crimson, the campus newspaper. I never made it. They don't tell you why they reject your column, it could be for bad writing, could be for your politics, I don't know. Though I have my suspicions. Since I have a lot of columns written and nowhere to put them, I will start publishing parts of them here. Here is the first installment, excerpts from an article about liberalism at Harvard:

Don’t worry, this isn’t a rant about liberal bias at Harvard. Just the opposite: Harvard isn’t liberal enough. Yes, teachers here give to the Democrats as if it were a tithe, and yes, students here pee in the bushes not from drink but from principled opposition to the injustice of gendered bathrooms. But liberalism at Harvard stops at America’s shores. Women’s rights, gay rights, free speech, and their relations are human rights, not American ones – they should be fought for the world over, not just in Cambridge. Unfortunately, as my years at Harvard go by, I fear myself more and more alone in that conviction.

The problem concerns Islam. Harvard’s liberals will trip over one another in their rush to defend the rights of anyone unlucky enough to have been detained simply for being a Muslim at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong World Trade Center blueprints. Yet when a Muslim is forced into an arranged marriage, or is murdered by her own brothers for going to nightclubs, or executed by the state for being a victim of rape, there is silence. Those whose grandiloquence knows no bounds when it comes to defending the right of a bespectacled young Saudi man to board a plane with as much contact solution as he damn well pleases, thank you very much, are all too quick to change the subject when it comes to a young Muslim woman’s right to live.

Others who bemoan the liberal double-standard over Muslim rights blame multiculturalism. A reluctance to judge other cultures by the standards of our own, they argue, leads to moral paralysis. I think the real reason is simpler: most liberals are scared. They know that despite the platitudes about Islam being a religion of peace, it’s the bloodiest religion of peace around these days. Yes, I hurry with the caveat that the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims are peace-loving pillars of their communities, with nice little dental practices in the suburbs and the firm conviction that jihad is a strictly internal struggle, maybe a good thumb-wrestling match at the most. It’s unfortunate that the tiny minority, the ones who bomb embassies and behead journalists, are rather motivated overachievers. The barbaric violence of their demonstrations, death threats, and public executions worked long ago to frighten Muslim reformists into silence, and they have of late managed to scare the dickens out of Europe, too. Most Europeans, when it comes to Islam, now act the role of henpecked husbands, tiptoeing around the house, apologizing profusely when confronted, all the while without the faintest idea of what they’re in the doghouse for this time. Now, if Harvard is any clue, it looks like the fundamentalists have made their mark in America, too.

Harvard’s renowned late political theorist Judith Shklar coined the term “the liberalism of fear” to describe how the fear of cruelty can serve as a powerful foundation for moral claims. She seems to have overestimated the resolve of her campus, for these days at Harvard, as in much of the West, the liberalism of fear best refers to a liberalism that wets itself and flees as soon as its enemies brandish a knife. Many Republican policies do merit condemnation, and do not lack for it. But no one has ever been in bodily danger for bashing Bush, unless you include the remote possibility that they may drop the Palme d’Or on their foot. Attack Islam, however, and chances are the only thing standing between you and a knife to the throat is a lifetime of police protection. If Europe is any indication, things will only get worse unless we change. We must stand up to our fear, exercise our freedom with no shame, no apologies, and fight just as hard for human rights abroad as we do at home.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Second Prize: Two Subscriptions to The Nation!

I know, I know - that joke had a beard this long when I was just this high.

The Nation is sending out solicitations for its yearly student writing contest (first prize: $1000 in unmarked, nonconsecutive bills, publication of your essay, and a year-long subscription), and it's providing links to last year's winners.

Now, keep in mind, this is explicitly a writing contest - that is, one would expect that the winner, while undoubtedly sharing The Nation's worldview, would be able to express that view in clear prose.

Well, here is last year's winner.
Your first warning sign is the description of the author as "'an active participant in the global justice movement."
Then you come across this jewel of a sentence:
"Our real impediment, then, is that we are a generation with an atrophied corpus callosum, utterly confounded about how to bridge our intellectual realizations about social problems with our imaginative capacity to enact solutions."

This is, to repeat myself, the grand prize winner in a writing contest. To quote G.O.B., Come On!

Orwell, a man of the Left himself, would be thoroughly embarrassed. That sentence is just as bad as any of the examples of awful, thoughtless writing he features in "Politics and the English Language."

This is what the Academy has wrought. The best and brightest liberals in the nation write like brain-dead hacks (in other words, like their professors). If the Left has any desire to seriously challenge the intellectual and rhetorical vibrancy of conservatism in America (and Canada!), it better put its imaginative capacity into high gear and start enacting some solutions!

But, who knows? Maybe, as merely a passive participant in the global justice movement, I'm just jealous.

"I feel so weak. Thankfully, this, too, is normal."

That's a line from one of the emails I sent out mocking the hunger strike. I picked some ridiculous reason to go on a strike of my own, and then sent out periodic updates about my health to the dorm. I won't post those emails, since they're full of inside jokes. Anyway, some of the hunger strike supporters got really mad and denounced my cruelty (see the classic quotation under my blog's title!). Feeling chastened, this is the apology I sent out in response. It comes from the heart.

Look, I’m really sorry, everybody! Gaby and Aria are right. I was just looking to have some Cabot Open fun to distract me from my paper, but it was wrong of me to trivialize the legitimate suffering and sacrifice of the hunger strikers. It was never my intention to belittle their cause – after all, it must be incredibly serious and important, or they wouldn’t be having a hunger strike over it! It was wrong of me to try and make light of hunger strikes. I should have known better; I was there that infamous night when Carrot Top was beaten near to death by an enraged mob at the premiere of ‘Gandhi’; I have no excuse. The truth is, I have been trying to overcome my insensitivity for a long time. It is not an easy struggle, not something that can happen overnight – I have been fighting it for years. Yet nothing I have tried – not the counseling, not the trust falls, not even repeated viewings of ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ – has succeeded in warming my cold heart. Thus, it is in desperation that I am announcing a new, far more drastic measure: I have decided to go on a hunger strike to protest my own earlier, incredibly insensitive hunger strike. I know this may seem to some an unorthodox gesture, but I feel that only the most extreme acts can do justice to the severity of the situation at hand. After careful consultation with my doctors, I have decided to end my first hunger strike early and begin the new one right away, as I am told that stringing two full-length hunger strikes together in a row could result in hospitalization. This is a difficult time for me, and, regardless of what you think of my cause, I hope I can have your support as I face this new challenge. Maybe, just maybe, if the entire community gets behind me, I will be able to hunger strike some sense into me.
sincerely,
Adrian

My friends ask me how i can put up with Harvard if I hate it so much. Well, it's true, I don't love it here. But it has its little joys. And if I didn't go here, I wouldn't be able to enjoy one of my absolute favorite past-times: pissing off pompous, full-of-themselves Harvard students!

The Truth about History

You know that saying "History is written by the winners"? Couldn't be further from the truth. History is written by the losers. It is also, more often than not, written by losers. This is why, for example, I had one professor tell our class about the Ukrainian famine, and how it was an unfortunate accident resulting from bad planning in a tough year. Yeah, Stalin had nothing to do with it.

I'm not going to make this into a rant about commie bias in the academy. Frankly, I don't care. My parents both did their time in good ol' fashioned soviet propaganda schools and made it out just fine, I figure I can handle the Ivy League without whining. It's just that you should be aware that a great deal you read in mainstream history texts is a lie or a distortion written by communists or their sympathizers. That's why we never stop hearing about the evils of the blacklist and crazy Joe McCarthy, yet never hear anything about all the honest-to-goodness Rusky agents in Hollywood and the government. Or about what America's professors were really saying about the USSR before it fell. Or the truth about Carter (who was not, as one of my professors insists, just a very kind and nice man who wasn't cut out for the presidency). And don't even get me started about Vietnam. (Okay, so it did kinda turn into a rant about commie bias in the academy - sorry!).

That's probably the greatest thing about the blogosphere. This time around, leftist idiocy, subversion, and treason won't just go down the memory hole, it will be archived forever. That's why part of me actually enjoys all this global warming hysteria - fifty years from now, I don't know if I'll ever be able to stop gloating, and I'll have all the heartfelt pleas from the Huffington Post to back me up.

Winners go out and lead productive and happy lives in the real world; losers have no lives of their own, stay in the comforting uterine warmth of the Academy (except the really dumb ones, who can't crack grad school and end up working for the New York Times), and devote themselves to writing with bitterness about the lives of others.

Only now, finally, thanks to the marvels of the blogosphere, do we finally get a chance to see history as written by the winners.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"We are a community

and if one of us is hungry
we are all hungry."

That's an excerpt from a poem written by one of the idiot hunger strikers. Some follow-ups: if only one of you has to be hungry for us all to be hungry, then aren't there ten hunger strikers too many? And does the reverse hold true - can I negate your hunger strike by eating a whole lot and making us all full?

I'll post more about this after I finish up a paper, but for now I just want to say that I do in fact support the hunger strike. Same reason I've become a Quebec seperatist over the years: good riddance. I only wish that more economically illiterate, self-righteous morons would volunteer to starve themselves to death. Well, I'd prefer if they just killed themselves quickly, without all the emails, the drumming, the chants, and the poems, but I guess we have to take these things one step at a time.


UPDATE: Roger Kimball echoes my support!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Dejeuner sur l'herbe

At this point, I would be far more impressed by an artist who could talk 18,000 people into keeping their clothes on.

Congress' Energy Plan

To power the nation through the energy created by Thomas Edison spinning in his grave.