Sybarites, Scholars, and the Buffoon Who Got Himself Taken Seriously

If you behave like the youths of today,
Your chest will be narrow, your skin will be grey,
Your shoulders will shrink, and your tongues will extend,
And your public harangues never come to an end:
At last you’ll believe that black is white,
That right is wrong, and wrong is right.

Aristophanes, The Clouds (423 B.C.)

Some of you have no doubt read Sir John Glubb’s trenchant and thought-provoking pamphlet, The Fate of Empires.  If you haven’t, a free copy can be downloaded from several sites.  Glubb published this pamphlet in the 1970s, when the unfolding cultural revolution seems to have crystalized his lifetime of historical research into an exceedingly clear and alarming understanding of the deep meaning of contemporary events.  The world, or at least his world, had come to its end. Continue reading

What the Well-Dressed Wedding Guest is Wearing Nowadays

I know that hope is a theological virtue, so I tried to be hopeful as our deacon mounted to the lectern this morning. This is the deacon to whose homilies I have previously had occasion to demur (here, here, and here), so my hopefulness was somewhat artificial, although not for that reason insincere. Experience told me that he would discover a noisome nugget of social justice in any scripture passage you might hand him, but hope answered that there is always a first time. Continue reading

Indecent Proposals

I have not followed the catastrophe of Harvey Weinstein with any special care or concern, but some of the wreckage has naturally washed up on my lonely island, as some has, no doubt, on yours.  It appears that Mr. Weinstein is a man addicted to lechery, which with pride and covetousness made what medieval theologians regarded as the trifecta of mortal sin.  And from the little I know of Weinstein, he seems to have  been no slouch when it comes to pride and covetousness.  He has indeed lived what Plutarch described as a life of “furious lechery and wriggling after glory,” very much like you and I. Continue reading

Lust has a “Headlong Fury”

Last month, I posed the question, “What to Do When There is Perfection in Collapse?”  My answer was that we should do nothing at all, since it is not good to conserve a thing that is not good to begin with.  I illustrated this principle with the story of my visit to an art exhibit where the wretched and ridiculous “work” on display collapsed into a heap of sticks and wires.  As this collapse improved (in my opinion) the artistic tone of the exhibit, standing to one side with my hands in my pockets was, I maintained, the correct response.  I then went on to draw an analogy between the sexual mores of college students and that pre-collapse assemblage of sticks and wires, as both are rickety, unattractive, and yet officially valorized as a thing that we should defend. Continue reading

Blackwashing Cleopatra

I have never set foot inside the Folger Shakespeare Library, a dereliction I hope will be excused by the fact that it lies about twelve hundred miles down the road.  Although I am not a patron, and am very unlikely to become one, the Folger Shakespeare Library nevertheless sends me notices of its upcoming events–indeed it did so just this morning.  The event is a performance of Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, in which they tell me the actress Shirine Babb will play the famous Siren of the Nile. Continue reading

What to Do When There is Perfection in Collapse

Long ago in graduate school, I somehow fell in with a set of students from the College of Visual and Performing Arts.  This set was not entirely composed of drunken British posers, but was very nearly so.  I do remember one exception, a young American woman, acquainted with soap, who aspired to design wallpaper, and who once rather abashedly showed me her portfolio of handsome patterns.  But most of that set were greasy drunks cut along the lines of a Dylan Thomas or a Malcolm Lowry.

Without the talent, of course.  Continue reading

Between the Death Wish and the Great Nausea

Bonald has a new post on what he calls particularism, or the beliefs that “it is right for a person to be attached to the particular cultural group into which he is born,” that such a group should “control and inform some public space,” and that such a group should “seek its own perpetuation.”  He admits that particularism can take illicit forms and make use of illicit means, but denies that particularism itself is wrong.

He’s in good company.  Here’s Plato, writing in the Laws (book v) Continue reading

Under Grievous Provocation

Last Friday, the manager of Vintage Apartments called the College Station police to report that “a couple” was “squatting in an otherwise unoccupied apartment.” If the couple had been squatting in an occupied apartment, we must suppose that ejecting them would have been the tenant’s problem; but as this unit was for rent, the manager did the manly thing and picked up the telephone.

Prospective renters are notoriously narrow-minded when it comes to squatters in the second bedroom. Continue reading