Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
Three of the most common tropes from Golden Age science fiction are fantasy: faster than light travel, time travel (going back in time) and telepathy. If you took away those three ideas, you would wipe out most 20th century science fiction, and all three are impossible. What we think of as classic science fiction is for the most part as fantastic as elves, magic and unicorns, but because it uses scientific concepts it has a veneer of plausibility – until you think about the science.
Science fiction today is much more believable. Serious SF does not glibly zip characters off to Aldebaran V, unless the author is making some self-conscious, postmodern homage to the old stuff. The purest expression of the contemporary naturalism in science fiction is a movement called Mundane SF. If the science is far-fetched, then it’s out.
Much of today’s SF is believable and naturalistic. It is also bad. It is often mind-numbingly boring, anti-heroic and plotless. It has all the traits of mainstream modern literature that intellectuals love, or pretend to love, and readers hate.
In such magazines as Fantasy and Science Fiction and Asimov’s we are watching the slow suicide of SF by naturalism. The process started in the 1960’s with the New Wave and the wave continues to this day. The New Wave brought modern literature to science fiction, making it naturalistic and conscious of style. Since then it has been increasingly difficult to take the tropes of Golden Age SF seriously.
This suicide by naturalism is ironic as SF has taken over movies, TV and video games. Visual media love whooshing spaceships, ray guns, aliens and all those giddy concepts from the Golden Age. The science in Star Wars is comparable to 1930’s written SF.
Since the late 1970’s readers have been abandoning science fiction for what used to be its neglected little sister, fantasy. Readers don’t want plotless non-stories about a neurotic scientist suffering a mid-life crisis as he discovers some form of pollution that will destroy mankind. They don’t care if the science is realistic, they want an interesting story about heroes who are fascinating to contemplate. They want romanticism. Today they know they’re more likely to find it in a paperback with a sorcerer on the cover than one with a spaceship or a cover with some modern smears of color on it.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Checking out the Wimbledon web site, I found this:
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Genteel and old-fashioned Wimbledon discarded one of its longest traditions — unequal pay. The All England Club yielded to 21st century realities Thursday, agreeing to pay women the same as men and falling in line with the other Grand Slam tournaments.
Six-time singles champion Billie Jean King, a pioneer for women's sports, said the decision was "a long time coming."
"With women and men paid on an equal scale, it demonstrates to the rest of the world that this is the right thing to do for the sport, the tournament and the world," she said.
The U.S. Open and Australian Open have paid equal prize money for years. The French Open paid the men's and women's champions the same for the first time last year, although the overall prize fund remained bigger for men.
"This is an historic and defining moment for women in the sport of tennis, and a significant step forward for the equality of women in our society," WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott said.
Phillips said "broader social factors" played a part, noting that 55 percent of Wimbledon's spectators were women and the club will host the 2012 Olympic tennis tournament.
Centre Court ticket prices:Hm. Spectators must pay £7 more on Sunday than on Saturday. Sunday’s events must be of more value to ticket buyers than Saturday’s. What is scheduled on those two days?
Saturday 7 July £80
Sunday 8 July £87
Sat 7 JulySo ticket buyers must pay more to see the men’s final than the ladies’ final. This makes sense, if for no other reason than that the men play the best out of five sets, whereas the ladies play the best out of three sets. Could the original disparity between men and women’s prize money have been connected to the fact that people want to see the men’s final more than the ladies’ final?
Ladies Singles (Final)
Men’s Doubles (Final)
Mixed Doubles (Final)
Sun 8 July
Men’s Singles (Final)
Ladies Doubles (Final)
I can’t blame Wimbledon for caving to political correctness. The bad publicity and ill will from the cultural establishment that result from unequal pay probably make equal pay worth it. And men will continue to play Wimbledon regardless of the prize money, simply because it is the most prestigious event in tennis. But it is interesting that in our egalitarian age a sporting event must make a decision that might not make economic sense just to keep everyone happy. The fact that the ladies are, in effect, parasites on the men does not matter (or is not understood). Men and women get equal pay, and that makes people feel good.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I don’t know why those Hollywood liberals would grow chilly about Edwards’s idea. It makes perfect sense from the pacifist point of view. If free countries would just stop fighting back and appease dictatorships, there would be no more war. Of course, there would be no more freedom either, but what does the left care about that? They’ve been working for over a century to destroy freedom in America.
The aggressively photogenic John Edwards was cruising along, detailing his litany of liberal causes last week until, during question time, he invoked the "I" word -- Israel. Perhaps the greatest short-term threat to world peace, Edwards remarked, was the possibility that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. As a chill descended on the gathering, the Edwards event was brought to a polite close.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I'm sittin' in my underwear passin' gas.
I'm sittin' in my underwear passin' gas.
If I get ambitious,
I might scratch my ass.
I'm sittin' in my underwear drinkin' beers.
I'm sittin' in my underwear drinkin' beers.
My wife's out shoppin'
With a coupla queers.
I tell you, man, I got it rough,
9 hours sleep is just enough.
I gotta walk 10 feet from the
TV to the fridge.
I'm sittin' in my underwear smokin' dope.
I'm sittin' in my underwear smokin' dope.
Is it time to... (patter) get a job, lose weight, grow up, take responsibility for my existence, face reality, get ambition, go somewhere, put in some effort, come to terms with my shortcomings, change my life and end my disfunctionally extended adolescence?
Perhaps the best thing that could happen to America would be the abolition of the Department of Education and government schools. Free market competition in education would allow Classical Education to compete better against Progressive Education and within years the empirical evidence would compel any responsible parent to avoid Progressive Education as if it were a disease.
But just as we pay $20 billion a year for a Department of Agriculture that stifles competition and erects regulations that give us food of less quality for more money, we pay the Department of Education $65.7 billion a year to dumb down America. $65.7 billion a year to cripple minds!
You statists who support government schools are not just wrong, you are disastrously, irresponsibly, unforgivably wrong. You sanctimonious liberals are destroying lives and morons like George W. Bush go along with whatever you want.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I also dislike the NBA All-Star Game because it's not a serious game, just showy offense. It too has ghastly halftime shows.
(Am I starting to sound like that uncle you dread having over?)
2. I auditioned today for a local Shakespeare Festival. It went well. I'll post what roles I get as soon as I know. "Witness For the Prosecution" is going well. The audience is listening intently. That is a credit to Agatha Christie's plot writing ability; she knows how to keep readers (or audience) in suspense. I would say blogging will be light for awhile, but everytime I do, I then go on a blogging frenzy.
3. In a conversation the other day I spoke the word commies. The room got a little chilly. I forgot I was talking to liberals. To liberals anyone who says commies is ignorant and backwards. There are some things a civilized person simply does not say.
(Bitches about halftime shows and says commies -- I am the uncle from hell!)
UPDATE: I was featured in a local newspaper article about the weekend's audition. I'm the 50-year old man who was interviewed.
UPDATE II: I got the part of Sir John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor. It's a big comic role and I'm quite happy to get it. I'm always excited when I begin working on a new part. I enjoy the process of discovery and creation more than the performances.
Friday, February 16, 2007
2. Shower, brush your teeth, use deodorant and wear clean clothes.
3. Learn your lines on time.
4. Project your voice.
5. Pick up your cues.
6. Don’t direct your fellow actors.
7. Don’t worry about the inadequacies of your fellow actors, just worry about yourself. If another actor cannot memorize his lines, you must know yours so well that you can cover when he screws up.
8. Don’t be negative. If you think the show you are in stinks, keep it to yourself. Your grousing will not make a bad show better, but might make it worse.
9. Give your part some thought? This rule applies only if you want to be a good actor; if you’re satisfied with mediocrity, you can stop at #8.
10. Men, don’t sleep with more than one actress in a show. Actresses compare notes in the dressing room.
(Okay, #10 was a joke.)
These are just the basics that must be mastered before one can move on to more advanced practices. The more advanced the rules, the less they are rules and the more they are guidelines or even choices. But #1-8 really are rules that cannot be gotten around.
Which rule do novices most often break? #4. Actors want to feel natural, not phony, so beginners talk the way they talk in real life. Onstage, even in an intimate theater, an actor must project his voice so the audience can hear it. This feels unnatural to the beginner; he must make a conscious effort at first to talk loud. The experienced actor has projection automatized in his subconscious, so that he feels unnatural if he does not talk loud.
The second biggest problem is #5, picking up cues. A play is not a real life dialogue. If there are big pauses before every line, then the play drags. Each actor must begin speaking as soon as the previous line ends, unless a decision to pause has been made. This is not natural, so the novice must make a conscious effort to pick up cues until it is automatized in the subconscious.
UPDATE: A director I know suggested two more rules:
11. Take direction -- that's what it's there for.
12. The proper response for a note from the director includes only two words: Thank you.
UPDATE II: Regarding those last two rules, I should note that directors can be wrong. No human is omniscient. For instance, I've had directors tell me to cross the stage when it makes absolutely no sense to cross, there is no need for the cross, the cross actually weakens the scene and I should just stay where I am. You know what I do in these cases? First, I follow rule #12 and say "Thank you." Then, after a day or more has passed and the director has forgotten his lapse of sanity, I ignore the direction. Usually, if what I am doing makes sense, then the director forgets his bad direction and it is never heard of again. If the director brings it up again, then we must have a discussion. If he insists, then I do what he wants and keep my complaints to myself. The director's vision is the artistic integrator, and in the end he is the boss.
I guess I'm saying that rule #11 is not quite an absolute rule like rules #1-8 are. For beginners, it is good advice, though, as the chances are greater that the director is right and the beginner is wrong. Problems can ensue with actors who have a little experience and think they know more than they really do or actors who are just stubborn, defensive, lazy or stupid. But then, those people cause problems in any endeavor, don't they?
Thursday, February 15, 2007
100 years from now, after most of us are gone, barring life extension, will blogs exist in archives? Will historians be able to go back and check, say, how all the Objectivist bloggers reacted to event x?
Imagine two writers. One publishes his short stories with a small publisher and gets paid very little because short stories do not sell much. Another puts his short stories on his blog for free. 300 years from now, might it happen that the author who printed his stories is forgotten because his neglected books have turned to dust, whereas the author whose stories are on the internet has become popular because his work is easily accessible?
Might it not happen that someday an author’s heirs who keep his books off the internet so they can continue to sell them are doing his legacy a disservice in the long run for short-term profit?
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
"I know what Gingrich tells people privately, I know what DeLay tells people privately, I know what Karl Rove tells people privately," Clinton said Sunday at the Nashua home of Debra and Mike Pignatelli. "I'm the one person they are most afraid of. Bill and I have beaten them before and we will again."I don’t know if her claims are true, but this is an excellent strategy. The Republicans are talking about me. Unfortunately, too many people in both parties hate the other party more passionately than they care about any substantive issue. If you want to move primary voters, stoke that hatred. I would advise Senator Clinton to mention in every campaign speech she gives between now and Iowa, “The Republicans hate me.” Nothing will turn on Democrat voters more than this. I’m not being facetious here.
I'm posting this because I am all too often negative on this blog and I want to make an effort to celebrate my values more. As Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." Being passionate about one's values is, like excellence, a trait that grows stronger by doing the act. In an ominous time, such as the current age, one has to make the extra effort to love life.
Monday, February 12, 2007
He gave two reasons. First, according to Ray, it says so in PNAC. PNAC is a neoconservative document, the Project for a New American Century. To Ray it is the Bush Administration’s Mein Kampf. Apparently, it says in PNAC that we need a new Pearl Harbor to mobilize Americans, so Ray thinks the September 11, 2001 attacks were done with the Bush administration’s knowledge. Osama bin Laden is friends with the Bush family and his family was given a flight out of America after 9/11. Furthermore, Osama was not captured when we invaded Afghanistan (which was done to make the Bush family rich), and we know where Osama is today but we still do not capture him. It all adds up: Bush and Osama are in cahoots.
Second, Bush will bomb Iran because his family is in oil and, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, a war with Iran will make them richer.
A leftist caller agreed with Ray and said (quoting from memory), “The Republicans have made us the bad guys.” We're the ones in the black hats now. America is now the worst nation on Earth. (I guess that makes our enemies the good guys. Certainly, they're justified in attacking us if we're initiating force just to make our capitalist elite rich.)
What a movie the leftist version of the war would make! Has Oliver Stone started working on it yet? It’s all an evil Republican conspiracy to make themselves rich! These greedy capitalist pigs are willing to send American troops into a meat grinder just so they can make more money.
The people listening to this show are the Democrat base. Ray is hugely popular at Democratic Underground. And these are the people who boast that they are reality based! How many members of Congress do you think agree with all this, but are smart enough not to say it in public? (As I recall, Senator Kennedy did slip and said something about Republicans going to war to get rich.)
It looks to me like a good portion (25%? 30%?) of America cannot think about politics in terms any deeper than a cartoon. Has there ever been a study of the average IQ of Democrat voters?
Sunday, February 11, 2007
I heard on the radio today murmurs of a recall effort against Governor Schwartznegger. I would support this recall. He has expanded environmentalist regulations and socialized medicine in California. The elitists would wring their hands and moan that California voters are weakening government by recalling their Governor every few years. Screw ‘em. The recall would put RINO’s on notice that when they act like Democrats they suffer.I came across this piece by John Lewis on the last California recall election.
The clause in California's constitution that permits this is a deadly concession to democracy, and a repudiation of the constitution's own principles. A constitution that allows the people to override its own mandates provides no means to stop such popular referenda from becoming the norm. Such a constitution sows the seeds of its own destruction.I can see his point. Regular recalls would turn politicians into demagogues (even more than they already are). I retract my earlier stand. It’s too bad -- I think another shock, following last November’s shock, would be good for the Republicans.
If not stopped, such a trend could lead our state and federal governments to mutate into species akin to countries that recall their officials every few months. We could see budgets, judicial appointments, and enforcement decisions crafted to win popularity contests. This would be democracy--placing the officials under the direct and immediate thumb of popular demagogues--and the death of the republic.
First the Democrats:
The Democrat base wants to tax the rich and pull the troops out of the middle east. The economics is Marxist and the foreign policy is New Leftist anti-Americanism. You could call the left’s foreign policy Marxist-Leninist, as their opposition to the war is premised on the idea that America and capitalism are imperialistic and we should leave the rest of the world alone.
As the Democratic Party presidential aspirants finished their speeches last week to the Democratic Party winter meeting, the early big political fact is the dangerous populist and anti-war pull that the candidates feel. This is particularly dangerous for Sen. Hillary Clinton as she ratchets up, almost weekly, her anti-war Iraqi rhetoric and policy.
Hillary Clinton apparently felt the need for these swiftly escalating efforts at flamboyant anti-warism to match the "bring the troops home within months" proposals of her two strongest challengers: former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Obama.
Compounding this dangerous leftward pull on the Democratic Party presidential aspirants is the fierce economic populist message of former Sen. Edwards, who is currently running disconcertingly (for Clinton and Obama) strongly nationwide -- particularly in Iowa. As he increases his tax-the-rich, class-envy rhetoric (a message that episodically works well in the odd state and in the personal injury courtroom, but has not yet elected a president in the modern era), I suspect that Obama and Clinton may feel the pressure to at least partially match such divisive policy.
Now the Republicans:
So Republicans, whether they mean it or not, at least have to pretend to the base that they are for less government and lower taxes.
After refusing to endorse President Bush’s tax cuts when he was governor, Mitt Romney has now made them a central part of his presidential campaign, stirring accusations that he is changing his position to appeal to GOP primary voters.
In 2003, Romney stunned a roomful of Bay State congressmen by telling them that he would not publicly support Bush’s tax cuts, which at the time formed the centerpiece of the president’s domestic agenda. He even said he was open to a federal gas tax hike.
In a key policy speech in Detroit yesterday, Romney said it is “absolutely critical” to renew President Bush’s tax cuts, set to expire in 2010, to help spur economic growth. It is a stance he has repeated in recent days.
“Which course is better for America?” Romney said. “A European model of high taxes and regulations? Or, low taxes and free trade: the Ronald Reagan model? Some are already fighting to implement a massive tax increase. Instead, we should make the tax cuts permanent.”
Call me concrete-bound, but when I read things like this, the threat of a Republican theocracy seems like a floating castle in the air. I have a hard time tying it to facts of reality. But I’m open to persuasion. If the primary voters reject Giuliani because he is pro-choice, that will certainly be an ominous sign.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
The voice of the majority is no proof of justice.
Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life.
A tyrant's power has a limit.
Dare to be wrong and to dream.
Keep true to the dreams of your youth.
Great souls suffer in silence.
Sorrow is brief but joy is endless.
The iron chain and the silken cord are both equally bonds.
Truth lives on in the midst of deception.
Honesty prospers in every condition of life.
A beautiful soul has no other merit but its existence.
A healthy nature needs no God or immortality.
Art is the right hand of Nature. The latter has only given us being, the former has made us men.
It hinders the creative work of the mind if the intellect examines too closely the ideas as they pour in.
He that is overcautious will accomplish little.
Think with awe on the slow and quiet power of time.
They would need to be already wise, in order to love wisdom.
Lose not yourself in a far off time, seize the moment that is thine.
Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily.
Who dares nothing, need hope for nothing.
Nothing, it is true, is more common than for both Science and Art to pay homage to the spirit of the age, and for creative taste to accept the law of critical taste.
The history of the world is the world's court of justice.
Many things are growing plain and clear to my understanding. (Schiller’s dying words)
I--there's no answer to that question at this moment.Whoa. You’re asking me? Dude, I just spent the morning getting my hair styled and you want me to figure out what to do with Iran?
I think that it's a--it's a--it's a very bad thing for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.
I may be a Democrat, but I’m still sane.
I think we have--we have many steps in front of us that have not been used.I have no clue what we should do, but I'll attack Bush for not doing enough.
We ought to negotiate directly with the Iranians, which has not, not been done.If we just talked to these people who call us the Great Satan, surely they would see the light.
I would like to stop talking, but if I stop too soon people will think I’m an intellectual lightweight, so I’m filling time with meaningless phrases.
The things that I just talked about, I think, are the right approach in dealing with Iran.
And then we'll, we'll see what the result is. . . . I think--I think the--we don't know, and you have to make a judgment as you go along, and that's what I would do as president.Look, our foreign policy has flown by the seat of its pants for 60 years. You think I’m going to come up with something new? Can we talk about Anna Nicole Smith now?
Friday, February 09, 2007
Yesterday the Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, announced that Russia intends to build a new generation of long range nuclear missiles, capable of reaching America and the capitals of Europe. He promised a new fleet of eight submarines, all armed with nuclear weapons, and hinted that he reckoned it was also time to launch a few more aircraft carriers to patrol the seas.
Then there is the fact that the mullahs of Iran and their plans to build a nuclear capacity threaten to change the global order of battle. No one who has listened to the ravings of President Ahmadinejad doubts that the Iranian goal is to fire its first nuclear missile at Israel. But that is only the beginning. European Union leaders who tend to thumb their noses at American foreign policy objectives and accuse Israel of crying wolf should be in no doubt that the long range missiles North Korea has provided the mullahs are capable of reaching London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, and all the capitals of western Europe as easily as they can rain upon Jerusalem.We got through the 20th century and the Cold War without a nuclear conflagration. I would guess the odds are we will not get through the 21st century without one. The commies, as bad as they were, did not believe they would be rewarded with their own personal whore house in Heaven if they died fighting capitalism.
What kept peace in the 20th century? American strength. Altruism, egalitarianism and multiculturalism have been undermining that strength. Assertion of American power is increasingly controversial. The Democrats have now been taken over by anti-American New Leftists, the ones who protested the old Democrats in Chicago in 1968. The Republicans are now led by a man whose favorite political philosopher advises turning the other cheek. Just War theory is now taught at West Point. We now lack the will to do what we did in WWII: crush the enemy with overwhelming, decisive, disproportionate force. If we tried to force our way of life on Islam the way we did to Japan and Germany after WWII, the intellectual establishment would scream.
The glue that held the world order together in the 20th century is dissolving. The New World Order is the order of altruism, in which America sacrifices for the rest of the world. We are pursuing this policy of American weakness on principle. The principle is not spelled out clearly in any policy document, but it is the logical outcome of our culture's prevailing philosophy. The policy has been effected piecemeal in thousands of little pragmatic compromises, evasions, blank outs and fear-ridden alms-giving to the church of world opinion.
As the glue of American strength dissolves, we see the fissures widening in Russia and the Middle East. The Chinese space program is a fissure that began in the corruption of our 42nd President, Bill Clinton. The march of socialism in South America is another fissure. Someday the structure will collapse.
UPDATE: Slight revision.
What hands are here! Ha, they pluck out mine eyes.These lines have two big, unusual words, multitudinous and incarnadine, but that actually makes them easy to memorize. It’s the little prepositions and common words that are harder to get right, especially when you have many lines that are similar.
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.
I “went up” in rehearsal last night. “Going up” is when you’re onstage and it’s your turn to talk and you have no idea what you’re supposed to say. I have an excellent memory and I work hard on my lines, so this is the first time it’s happened to me this late in rehearsal (we’re opening next week). It is a horrible experience, to be avoided at all costs. What comes out of an actor’s mouth when he forgets his line can make for much hilarity -- backstage; but onstage, it ain’t funny.
When I went up, I wandered over to my desk, muttering a few banalities, then remembered the next general topic of questioning (I play the prosecutor) and jumped to it. It worked. If you don’t break character and keep the thing moving, the audience is usually unaware of any mistake.
I read a book on acting that said memorizing lines gets harder as the actor ages. The older you get, the more work you have to put into it. In my experience, it’s the younger actors, especially the high school students, who are the worst at memorizing lines because they don’t understand how much work needs to go into it. Like students, they put it off until the deadline and then they cram. You have to put in hours of work for days, even weeks; you can’t put it off until the day before lines are due.
I also read that sleep helps the memorization process. Somehow sleep cements memorized words in the subconscious mind. If this is true, then it is even more important to work on lines every day in order to get the benefit of that night’s sleep period.
Late in his life Lawrence Olivier said something to the effect that when he looks back at all the parts he played he wonders how he memorized all those lines. Hey, if it was an issue to Lord Olivier, that makes me feel better.
I suspect that some stage careers have been cut short simply because the terror of going up is too much to bear. I imagine it is particularly bad for screen actors, who are used to having little dialogue to memorize on any given day of shooting.
A teacher of mine maintained that an actor can’t even begin working on his part until his lines are memorized. That might be an overstatement, but I see the point my teacher was getting at. I was in a play once with a guy who simply could not get his lines. (He also came to rehearsal smelling of alcohol, which might have been part of the problem.) Finally, at dress rehearsal he got through the play with all his lines. He was so proud of himself. I thought, “Dude, you have your lines, but that’s all you have.” During performance he just stood onstage and recited his lines with little acting beyond that.
Local theatre companies are doing the following plays this year:
Merry Wives of Windsor
Taming of the Shrew
Cyrano de Bergerac
That’s a lot of great plays. If I do them all, it will keep me busy through September. Of those plays the parts I would like the most are Falstaff (Merry Wives) and Baptista (Shrew). Falstaff is a fat guy trying to get laid; I believe I can bring something to this part. I would like to play Baptista with a nervous tic, as if being Katherine’s father has frazzled his nerves. I think there’s a fat cook in Cyrano that I would probably get.
In King Lear I think Gloucester is the part I’m most suited for. I’d get to have my eyes gouged out onstage, and wouldn’t that be fun? I’m actually not real excited about King Lear, because it reads better than it performs. I’ve never seen a good production of it. It’s so brutal and nihilistic that a rewritten version with a happy ending held the English stage during the enlightenment for something like 150 years.
Merry Wives of Windsor is interesting because critics and scholars loathe the play, but theatre companies love it. (Harold Bloom dismisses this Falstaff as not the "real" Falstaff of Henry IV, parts 1 and 2.) It is sure-fire theatre. It is the opposite of King Lear in that it works onstage better than it reads. For instance, at the end, when Falstaff realizes he has been duped, he says:
I do begin to perceive that I am made an ass.Now, just reading that in your armchair, the line is not funny. But I saw a performance once in which the actor paused, then said it absolutely deadpan to the audience and it brought down the house. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen in the theatre. The actor's delivery revealed that the formality of the words "I do begin to perceive" contrasts hilariously with "that I am made an ass." You really have to see a play to get a full understanding of its worth.
Yes, a lot of great plays -- and a lot of lines to memorize.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
I agreed with Mr. Tracinski on the election, but I’m disagreeing with him more every day on President Bush’s mostly sacrificial military actions (they don’t rise to the status of war) in the Middle East. His “What Went Right?” series, which I think is being written in response to Dr. Peikoff’s election endorsement, has so far raised more questions than it has answered. I’m still unclear as to what point Mr. Tracinski is making, which sets off alarm bells in my mind. Is Mr. Tracinski dancing around his real point? What is he really getting at? One thing I have always liked about Objectivist writing is that you know what the [bleep] their point is, but I don’t know in this case and I’m not sure Mr. Tracinski knows.
Since the election there has been sniping between Noodlefood and The Forum for Ayn Rand Fans over all this. Robert Mayhew criticized Mr. Tracinski’s account of the Ancient Greeks in a piece I found persuasive. Stephen Speicher criticized Dr. Mayhew in four posts, 1, 2, 3 and 4, that I found unpersuasive. (Are you bored yet?)
Robert Mayhew responded on HBL by calling the Forum a “dubious Objectivish internet forum.” This is an inaccurate characterization. There is nothing dubious or “Objectivish” about the Forum. It is an Objectivist internet forum with many different opinions, some brilliant and a few idiotic – that’s the nature of a forum. It’s a place where people voice their opinions and read other opinions, nothing more. It is superior to the old usenet forums where you read all kinds of smears of Objectivists, and where debates deteriorated into ad hominem flame wars.
Stephen Speicher responded to something Tore Boeckmann wrote on HBL, to which Mr. Boeckmann responded. I don’t think either is characterizing the other’s position accurately. The whole thing is getting tedious.
After Mr. Boeckmann’s post Diana Hsieh says the Forum deserves to be boycotted. I disagree. One can stay away from any web site one dislikes, but recommending a boycott is going a bit far, unless there is evidence of dishonesty or immorality. I’ve been reading Stephen Speicher on the internet since alt.philosophy.objectivism. He has always been in the thick of it. He’s not afraid to make enemies. He is contentious and sometimes wrong, but never immoral, dishonest or irrational.
UPDATE: I deleted the paragraph about the anonymous attack on Stephen Speicher. It wasn't made in a public statement.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Last week ExxonMobil posted record-breaking profits. This news provoked an immediate reaction from Senator Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Committee in Baltimore on Friday. “I want to take those profits,” Clinton said, “and put them into an alternative energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy alternatives that will actually begin to move us toward the direction of independence.”To be fair, Senator Clinton did not “openly call for the government seizure of an industry,” although that is a logical inference from her statement. How else can the government take an industry’s profits? It would be a refreshing change if today’s politicians did openly call for government seizure of industry, instead of leaving them nominally in private ownership, regulating them to death, forcing them to be little welfare states for the workers and then blaming them for problems in the economy.
Clinton’s remarks are the first time that a nationally known Democrat has openly called for the government seizure of an industry since President Harry Truman tried to nationalize the steel industry in 1952. The U.S. Supreme Court slapped back Truman’s takeover in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. et al. v. Sawyer. (Like Senator Clinton, Truman also championed a national health-care scheme.)
While other politicians have suggested establishing an alternative energy fund, Clinton is the first to advocate funding it by taking the earnings of a publicly held American company. ExxonMobil has some eight-hundred thousand shareholders, any of whom depend on these earnings to fund their retirements.
Senator Clinton blundered by showing too much of the iron fist inside the velvet glove of the American mixed economy. This is remarkable because she learned from her husband and the DLC that the path to Democrat power is to be perceived as a moderate, not as a far leftist.
It is hard to pretend to be something one is not. Over time the truth has a way of slipping out.
Hillary Clinton is a radical New Leftist. She was a student of the Marxist Saul Alinsky, who wrote Rules For Radicals, a book that teaches leftists to use any means necessary to gain power. She has no understanding of capitalism or how the free market works. She actually thinks that our standard of living and our prosperity is due to government intervention in the economy:
You know, for the last 100 years, we have slowly and steadily constructed a social compact. Our nation has built the foundation for our prosperity on the basis of that compact. And the compact was, really, rooted in the principles of the American dream, you know, if you do work hard, you do play by the rules, you do get a good education, you do have willingness to get ahead and sacrifice today to make life better for the next generation, you will be rewarded with a decent paying job that provides a standard of living that gives you a better chance at the American dream. And that, at least in the past, provided health care benefits and some kind of pension retirement security in addition to Social Security.Without government telling corporations what to do and redistributing wealth through "entitlements," America would not have prosperity. In Senator Clinton’s mind, if it were not for the noble and good altruists in government, cigar-smoking capitalists would oppress workers as “wage slaves.” Her understanding of economics is Marxist.
Bill Clinton would not have made this mistake. The last thing a Democrat running for President wants to do is say anything that makes people think, “Uh, that sounds communist.” This strategy does not win votes in America.
I believe she did not think through the logical inference of her statement. Her mind vaguely thought something like, “Oil companies are making record profits. We need an alternative energy fund. Why not use the profits for that fund?” The fact that the government is not supposed to dictate the use of profits in America did not occur to her. There are probably many politicians in both parties who agree with Senator Clinton, but they're smart enough to cloak their ideas in the vague, happy-fuzzy talk of our mixed economy. "Let's create incentives for the oil companies to explore alternative energy," and so on.
Does this mean Senator Clinton is too honest for the mixed economy? No, her scandals during the Clinton Presidency proved her willingness to lie. I think her blunder shows that she is not terribly intelligent. Her mind is nowhere near as agile as her husband’s. I think this is why she stays away from interviews. The notion that she is intelligent is a feminist myth. But her lack of intelligence hardly makes her exceptional in government. Look at George W. Bush, Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray Smith, Sheila Jackson Lee, Robert Byrd and so many others. An idiot can do quite well in American government. There is still hope that Hillary Clinton can make it to the top, but she needs to run everything past her husband before she goes public with a statement.
UPDATE: Slight revision.
UPDATE II: One reason people mistake Hillary Clinton for intelligent is that she is not a happy woman. For whatever reason, people equate unhappiness with intelligence and happiness with stupidity. There was a scene in an old Woody Allen movie in which Woody, who is never happy, went up to a young couple to find out why they were happy. I forget what the young people said, but they were both airheads. Happy=stupid. Ignorance is bliss.
Notice the little jab at individualism, as this bureaucrat identifies what he thinks is most important about the Superbowl: it is a collective experience.
The Super Bowl, which determines the championship of American football, is most of all a shared experience. In a nation where the individual so often does his or her "own thing," Americans disproportionately choose to spend this day in the company of friends. For some, the game is the reason, while others enjoy the pageantry that accompanies the game, advertisers’ efforts to gain attention or simply the company of old friends and new.As Thomas A. Bowden explains, the Superbowl is not “most of all a shared experience.” It is a display of self-interested goal-achievement. The fact that Americans want to share the fun in Superbowl parties is great, but it is not the essence of the experience.
The rest of the world has watched the defection of some of Mr. Bush's congressional supporters. China's topsiders have heard from their close ally Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf -- "a major non-NATO ally" -- that he doesn't think the U.S. can avoid what the world will perceive as a defeat in Iraq. And perception trumps reality the world over.This is further evidence supporting Ayn Rand’s idea that a half-battle is worse than none at all. Much of the world is hoping we fail in Iraq, and just the prospect of American failure is already emboldening our enemies. We have not even failed, and our enemies are already moving to exploit the possibility of weakness.
The global newspaper Financial Times wrote, "As authority drains from Mr. Bush, so Washington is losing its capacity to determine outcomes elsewhere. Iran is the principal beneficiary."
A defector from Mr. Musharraf's camp has informed U.S. authorities the Pakistani leader's "agonizing reappraisal" about Afghanistan's future stems from his perception the U.S. cannot pull a victory rabbit out of the Iraqi hat. Hence, his perception that neither the U.S. nor NATO can muster what it takes to complete their mission in Afghanistan. Hence, in turn, Mr. Musharraf's decision to authorize his all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency to assist the bid of Taliban "moderates" to retake power in Kabul. ISI greatly assisted the original victory of Taliban in 1996.
If this is true, how will the pragmatists at Foggy Bottom respond? Will they argue, “Well, Musharraf is not supporting the Taliban extremists, only the Taliban moderates, so we should not destabilize the region by treating Pakistan as anything but a good ally”?
Why is America failing in the Middle East? Because we are not pursuing the goal of destroying our enemies, but are trying to establish democracy in Iraq in the name of altruism. No other power is stopping us, only our morality is stopping us from asserting our power in our self-interest. Our foreign policy of self-sacrifice weakens us before the rest of the world. This is not an accident; altruism by definition demands that the strong sacrifice for the weak. We are pursuing a policy of American weakness on principle.
The neoconservatives are achieving what the anti-American left could not do: they have America committing suicide for the rest of the world.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
A Roman Catholic elementary school adopted new lunchroom rules this week requiring students to remain silent while eating. The move comes after three recent choking incidents in the cafeteria.
No one was hurt, but the principal of St. Rose of Lima School explained in a letter to parents that if the lunchroom is loud, staff members cannot hear a child choking.
Granted that children are probably too loud at lunch and that elementary schools have a right to ask them to be quiet, this rule strikes me as altruistic in principle. Normal behavior is penalized in the name of safety. As the nannies strive to create a risk-free world, they force people to live in unnatural restraints. Wouldn’t it be better to ask students to alert the staff if someone at their table chokes?
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Unlike professional broadcasters, who are trained to ask a question after a guest has said a sentence or two, the women on this show allow Dr. Lewis to speak at length. This is good, because Dr. Lewis is more intelligent and interesting than most professional broadcasters. I would rather hear him than Bill O’Reilly interrupting him to ask, “Yeah, but when we gonna off dese bums? Dey did somethin’ wrong and dey gotta pay.”
Do you know how much work it takes to destroy a mind? To turn a child’s mind into a passive receptor that has no desire to think independently or to pursue a lifetime of learning? To turn a happy, active child into a dull, unthinking sheep that does not question authority but obediently follows the orders of our glorious leaders in Washington, D.C.? And public teachers do not destroy just a few minds a year, but millions all across America. Public school teachers destroy minds the way Nazis killed Jews: with industrial efficiency.
To you public educators, I say, mission accomplished. You’ve made America passive, obedient, collectivist and pretty damned stupid. The welfare state will continue to grow unquestioned. Funding for public education will continue to grow. Teachers unions will gain more power. Relax and enjoy a cold one, comprachicos! You’ve earned it.
Friday, February 02, 2007
I went to work for a libertarian bookstore. They had a lot of stuff I had not read, including a most enlightening pamphlet by Peter Schwartz called, “Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty.” I quit the bookstore after two months.
A few times back in the old days I heard or read libertarians attempt to appeal to the left. I noticed that they downplayed economics and played up social issues – as if they could pull a fast one on the liberals by not talking about free market economics. There was also a moral relativist cast to their appeals, as if they were saying, “Hey, you leftists don’t have moral standards, and neither do we! We’re not stuffed shirts like those religious conservatives. Let’s live and let live together!”
I wondered who the libertarians were trying to kid. Love of the state is central to liberalism. (In America the word liberalism means socialism.) Liberals want the state to be your mommy, your daddy, your nanny, your psychotherapist, your nutritionist, your doctor, your lawyer, your conscience, your TV, your radio, your publisher, your employer, your climatologist, your insurer, your professor, the guardian of your morals and your jailer. Liberals are collectivists who fear and loathe individualism and want to use the state to force individuals to serve the collective. How can there be anything but a temporary ad hoc alliance between lovers of freedom and the lovers of power?
Liberals are never fooled into thinking libertarians are their allies, even though they agree on issues of spiritual values, such as abortion, euthanasia and censorship. As Ayn Rand noted, the left allows (some) freedom (for now) on these issues because it does not regard them as important. Socialists are materialists; to them, economics is important, and that is what they seek to control. Liberals understand that there are fundamental differences – differences of principle – between their statism and capitalism. You never hear liberals hoping to make an alliance with libertarians.
Moreover, liberals don’t need the libertarians. Socialists have been on the winning side for over a century now, and despite a few setbacks, the state has grown and continues to grow. Free market ideologues are still a small minority in America. Most Americans are happy with the welfare state, and the more they depend on handouts, the happier they are with the status quo. Why would liberals stop this highly successful program of advancing government into every aspect of our lives to compromise with a faction they think of as a right-wing fringe that is out of step with history?
Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute has made an earnest case for liberals and libertarians to unite in an article called Liberaltarianism. He describes the case against the Republicans well:
…runaway federal spending at a clip unmatched since Lyndon Johnson; the creation of a massive new prescription-drug entitlement with hardly any thought as to how to pay for it; expansion of federal control over education through the No Child Left Behind Act; a big run-up in farm subsidies; extremist assertions of executive power under cover of fighting terrorism; and, to top it all off, an atrociously bungled war in Iraq.
This woeful record cannot simply be blamed on politicians failing to live up to their conservative principles. Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions.
With this change in Conservatism, Lindsey sees an opportunity for the left to pick up libertarian votes:
The basic outlines of a viable compromise are clear enough. On the one hand, restrictions on competition and burdens on private initiative would be lifted to encourage vigorous economic growth and development. At the same time, some of the resulting wealth-creation would be used to improve safety-net policies that help those at the bottom and ameliorate the hardships inflicted by economic change. Translating such abstractions into workable policy doubtlessly would be contentious. But the most difficult thing here is not working out details--it is agreeing to try. And, as part of that, agreeing on how to make the attempt: namely, by treating economic policy issues as technical, empirical questions about what does and doesn't work, rather than as tests of ideological commitment.Liberal blogger Kevin Drum gives an honest reply to Brink Lindsey. Drum’s bottom line:
Lindsey is better than most at diagnosing where the real differences lie, but those difference are core to the identities of both groups. It's hard to see the point of even trying to compromise on this stuff.It is interesting that whereas the libertarian Lindsey is thinking in terms of political practicality (“empirical questions about what does and doesn’t work”), the liberal Drum thinks in principle. Drum zeros in on the economic issues Lindsey floats as areas of potential compromise, progressive taxation and entitlements. As Drum notes, these issues are fundamental to liberalism and no compromise is possible.
More important, issues such as progressive taxation and entitlements are moral issues to liberals. They support these policies because altruism demands that the strong serve the weak. People don’t compromise on moral principles, at least not as a matter of proud, explicit policy. Hypocrisy is done in the dark and is rationalized in evasive excuses, not in a party platform.
Lindsey senses the need for more than just political pragmatism:
If a new kind of fusionism is to have any chance for success, it must aim beyond the specifics of particular, present-day controversies. It must be based on a real intellectual movement, with intellectual coherence. A movement that, at the philosophical level, seeks some kind of reconciliation between Hayek and Rawls.Rawls is liberalism’s most important theorist of egalitarianism. Hayek defends spontaneous order and tradition. Neither defends reason. Perhaps a reconciliation between these two is possible, but it would result in some form of welfare state, certainly not laissez-faire capitalism. So what is the point of such a reconciliation if it just means more of the same? And again, why do the liberals even need to bother?
Lindsey’s piece shows the futility of libertarianism. The movement is a hodge-podge of small factions that oppose the state on various grounds. Libertarianism itself lacks intellectual coherence because it is not a movement for individual rights and capitalism supported by a philosophy of reason.
Any movement that tries to work out some political compromise with liberalism without attacking the left’s morality of altruism will fail to make any meaningful change in the welfare state. They will merely become the left’s useful idiots. The left might compromise on marginal issues out of political necessity, but if their principles go unchallenged, these pragmatic compromises only serve to give socialism legitimacy and help it in the long run. But right now there isn’t the political necessity to force the left to do anything but laugh at the libertarians.
UPDATE: Slight revision.