Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First-rate intelligence


Today's David Brooks is written for some reason by Mr. Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, no relation, I believe, who doesn't do it quite as well, but stands in a similar position, urging American conservatives to adopt an innovative "compassionate" conservatism (Hey, kids! Let's put on a show!) with fresh ideas like offering more tax breaks for poor people (look at all tax breaks have done for the rich!) and the inevitable Scott Fitzgerald quote:
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously declared that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
I can't understand why people think Fitzgerald's Law means if you want to show a first-rate intelligence you must hold opposed ideas in your mind at all times. That's not first-rate, it's irrational.

What Fitzgerald was talking about in The Crack-Up was a serious crisis in his own life that hit him in the early 1930s, a moral-emotional collapse that hollowed him out and left him in despair. The "test" was not to spend the rest of his life living in contradiction but to live through it to some kind of resolution. You have to at least look at the next sentence:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chris Cross

Why are these men laughing? Via Capital New York.
New Jersey governor Christopher Christie, although his job as chairman of the Republican Governors Association tasks him above all things with working for GOP victories in this year's 36 gubernatorial races, is strangely reluctant to offer any support to the Republican candidate across the Hudson in New York, somebody called Rob Astorino (which would be the Italian for "little goshawk" and not, as I hoped, "little star"—twinkle, twinkle!), against the Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

That may be, according to a brilliant analytic piece by Andrea Bernstein of WNYC radio New York. because Christie and Cuomo are practically the same person:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pretty state of things

Image from Hastings on Nonviolence.
Maureen Dowd didn't like the reporter Judith Miller much. Or rather, she liked Miller a lot, but in a special Dowdy sort of way:
I've always liked Judy Miller. I have often wondered what Waugh or Thackeray would have made of the Fourth Estate's Becky Sharp.

The traits she has that drive many reporters at The Times crazy -- her tropism toward powerful men, her frantic intensity and her peculiar mixture of hard work and hauteur -- have never bothered me. I enjoy operatic types.
Sometimes I wonder if Dowd isn't a fictional character invented by Clare Booth Luce to preserve the worst early 20th-century stereotypes of the independent woman as uncontrollably catty misogynist. Anyhow, what she didn't seem to think at all was that Miller's jailing for contempt of court in the summer of 2005 was a case of "strange and awful aggression against reporters and whistle-blowers". Au contraire!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Heart of Whiteness

Papa K illustrating the "West Side" sign, possibly making a universal gesture of primate territorial challenge as well.
I just found out (via Sick Horses) that National Review has taken to running literary fiction, starting with a charming effort by its "roving correspondent" and Chancellor of the Exchequer Kevin Williamson, entitled "Where the Sidewalk Ends: Danger and Despair in Pat Quinn's Crumbling Illinois".

The story is a journey narrative, a re-imagining of a trip to East St. Louis, Illinois, as an enchanted, surreal landscape seen through a child's eyes, taking its cue, as the title makes clear, from Shel Silverstein's poem:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Decalogical fallacies

Via Retinart.
We the People of the United States of America, in order to have no other Gods before you-know-Who, remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy, honor our parents, not kill, not commit adultery, and all that good stuff, do ordain and establish this Constitution...
No, seriously, where does this shit come from? Where County Commissioner Tim Guffey of Scottsboro, AL, explains to the press about his desire to erect a little group of monuments to the Ten Commandments, which according to him have nothing to do with religion, and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence:

David Brooks, Feminist Film Critic

Dark Passage, by Delmer Daves (1947).
I think Brooks's main aim this morning is to display his quirky independence by devoting his Lauren Bacall tribute not to the most cliché moment of her career (from To Have and to Have Not, Howard Hawks, 1944) but instead to the second most cliché moment [jump]

Thursday, August 14, 2014

For Mike Brown and the witnesses

BooMan says he's "tired of trying to figure out what happened" in a case like the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, and I am too. I've been tired of it since Trayvon Martin was killed, this whole situation where one set of people is obviously lying and another set of people is plainly telling the truth and I'm going to sit there and try to weigh all the evidence, judiciously, and come up with my own independent conclusion, and I'm not going to do it any more.

I mean, not unless I want to and think I can make a contribution nobody else is making.

Because I don't know much, and am not likely ever to learn much, about the forensics of the thing, the bullet entries and exits, the angle at which the person fell, the identification of screams off cell phone audio, all that. But I'm pretty confident I know who's lying, and who's covering up, and fairly confident I can find out who's corrupted.

The cops of Ferguson are lying, and covering up, and motivated by fear, of being exposed as bigoted murderers and bad cops. The community witnesses (including this one who turned up today at Kos) are telling the truth the best and the most precisely they can. That's all the story I need. You go ahead and sift your evidence, and do your diligence, for the court system and the gearheads, and I'll read it as far as I can, but I'm not working at it. I'm on strike against taking those liars seriously. I'm on strike against disbelieving, "just for the sake of argument", those who are true to the complicated and novelistic way I understand the world.

Michael Brown, via 3chicspolitico.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dowd pitches

Inspired by Maureen Dowd:
1. Tragedy
You wouldn't think a spunky gal reporter of Irish ancestry would give two pins about Greek tragedy, but when I was going out with Bobby Kennedy (always a perfect gentleman, by the way, and never laid a finger on me, realizing I was too young), he often quoted his favorite poet, Aeschylus, author of the Agamemnon and countless other great dramas. Euripides, too, was a great Greek tragedian, and in his Medea he portrays a woman destroyed by jealousy of her faithless husband, madly killing her own children in order to get back at him, which immediately brings Hillary Clinton to mind...
Jenö Gyárfás, The Tragedy of Man, ca. 1880. Wikimedia Commons.
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