I have noticed that our adversaries often mistake our critique of their notions as ad hominem condemnation of them as persons. They then react defensively, levying just the sort of vicious ad hominem attacks they say they abhor. This mystifies me.
Professors and other professional intellectuals and quasi-intellectuals (journalists, opinion writers, novelists, bloggers, and so forth) are paid to think about things – or, at least, somehow or other rewarded for doing so, or (more accurately) for *appearing* to do so. And each of them is charged with devising original insights, that, as original, warrant our attention, and then perhaps our deliberation.
There’s no other reason to have these people around.
Triffids constitute a woefully underrepresented minority in college undergraduate enrollments and are not represented at all in graduate programs such as Screen Studies and Whiteness Studies, research has shown. In order to address this crisis, which has been exacerbated by the dictatorial intransigence of the Trump administration, Upstate Consolation University has fully committed itself to the inclusion of Triffids under the criteria of its Alternative Holistic Recruitment Program. That program makes eligible for admission to UCU members of historically excluded intersectional groups who might not qualify to attend college when judged solely by their high school grade-point-averages or their SAT scores. According to Lardner Amitol de Brainepanne, UCU’s newly appointed Interim Quasi Vice Dean for Inclusive Diversification: “It’s all about the transformative experience of diversity, equity, and transgression – that and moving forward. If you’re not moving forward, you’re not really moving at all, as least not in the way that we here at UCU want you to move.” In a press briefing, de Brainepanne revealed that UCU had begun Triffid recruitment in marshy and fetid regions of the state last year, with special effort being made to bring to campus those Triffids who identify as trans- or cis-gendered or who can document their refugee or DREAMER status. Asked to describe the practicalities of Triffid recruitment, de Brainepanne said that UCU’s recruitment officers had been aided by Special Forces of the State National Guard who have trained to operate in swampy and flooded terrain. “Casualties have been surprisingly light,” de Brainepanne added.
Dear Representative Pelosi:
My wife and I are stalwart Democrats seeking advice. We are planning an elaborate summer tour of several nations, some of them transatlantic, and we would like to know the correct order in which we should visit those nations. Here are some questions that we hope you can answer. –
Supposing that we planned a visit to London, should we list that on our itinerary as a trip to Britain or a trip to England? In either case, if we wished also to visit Edinburgh, in Scotland, would we need to visit either Britain or England first?
If we listed our London and Edinburgh destinations as the United Kingdom rather than Britain, England, or Scotland, would we need to visit Serbia, Slovenia, or Ukraine first? And does the Byelo in Byelorussia count, or is it the same, by your reckoning, as Russia? Again, how should we count Abkhazia, were we to visit there? Is it subsumed alphabetically by Georgia?
When visiting Finland, should we list it as Suomi, as Finns call their nation, and touch base Somalia first?
In what order might we correctly visit the different places called Georgia?
Finally, on a related topic, which bathrooms should we use when visiting the autonomous region of Trans-Dniester?
We are sincerely yours,
Mr. and Mrs. Qwerty
On the walk from my office to the train a week ago last Monday, I reflected on the fact that I had all day been curiously alive to moments from my past. In part this was due to the fact that it was my birthday, and people from every era of my life were reaching out to wish my happiness. But other factors were at work, too. I ran into a blog post that linked to a recording of Allegri’s Miserere Mei – one of the most sublime works ever written – and vividly remembered singing it as a boy, and so enacting Heaven. A story I had told my little granddaughter the day before, about the time when I was only four, and went camping with my Dad, and woke up unable to find my way out of the mummy sleeping bag, so that I tried to stand up and get his help, in the process falling down the steps out of the open forest shelter (and almost into the fire he had started), made me chuckle again. So did the memory of her reaction: “Silly Poppy!” I began to remember lots and lots of things from long and not so long ago – some of them tagged (oops!) for later use in the confessional – and suddenly as I walked the moments all crowded in upon me at once. Not in a chaos or a hurry, but as it were quietly, softly.
It was no stampede. Rather, it was a stately pavane.
Suddenly I staggered, thunderstruck by a completely unexpected notion: what if those moments *really were* immediately present to this one? What if I could feel that moment of suffocated terror in the mummy bag as if it were still happening? Clearly, I could: all that I had to do, in order to make that happen, was simply attend to it carefully enough, and without distraction. It might take a few moments of concentration, but if I wanted to I could, I knew, bring back any moment I wanted with as much clarity and intensity as I wished.
Then – this was the strike of the thunder – I thought: “That’s what dreams are like; and it is the way things really are; for, in Eternity, and to Eternity, everything (whether actual or not) is all at once together.”
It is not from any desire to shock my fellow Orthosphereans, but merely in order to explain how, beginning as a bland and generically liberal person, I came finally to be associated with an ultra-right-wing website obviously controlled by the spuriously defunct KGB, that I make the following confession of my long history of seditious crimes and treacherous misdemeanors. The evidence against me is overwhelming. Below is Exhibit No. 1.
The location was a beach house on Old Malibu Road, with convenient access to the Pacific Ocean hence also to surreptitious traffic to and from casually surfacing Soviet submarines in Santa Monica Bay. (See the recent Coen Brothers film Hail Caesar!) I call attention to a damning detail of the photograph. Obviously the Dean and I are exchanging vital, secret information in the medium of coded inscriptions in a notebook that can be concealed in a jacket pocket. The red stripes of my shirt might also be significant. By the way, the affair had been organized by Pepperdine University, long known as a communist front. Below, again, is Exhibit No. 2.
“Once religious imagination and yearning have departed from a culture, the lowest, grimmest, most tedious level of material existence becomes not just one of reality’s unpleasant aspects, but in some sense the limit that marks the ‘truth’ of things.” (David Bentley Hart, In the Aftermath (2009)
For years I have had a recurrent daydream. It may have originated as a sleeping dream, but it is now a staple of my waking imagination. This daydream steals over me whenever I feel myself slipping under the anesthetic of a committee meeting, or I am forced to wander through a wasteland of what Hart calls “epic drabness,” or I am closeted with a vampiric atheist who invites me to loosen my collar and close my eyes. With this daydream, my imagination proposes that all of these experiences are, at bottom, one and the same experience. I am of a romantic disposition, so I take the propositions of my imagination very seriously. Continue reading
Artie Lennon, vocalist and guitarist, is a featured attraction on Sunday afternoons at the Old City Hall tavern and restaurant in Oswego, where Richard Cocks, Dick Fader, and I, and a few other known malingerers regularly assemble for the weekly Symposium of the dissentient and disaffected. Today Artie played a number of Leonard Cohen “covers,” with his usual uncanny aplomb. (And, if I may say so, rather dissentiently and disaffectedly.)
After two, or perhaps three, pints the known malingerers concluded, in a moderately inebriated palaver, which was nevertheless culturally informed, that if any 1960s Bohemian singer should have received the Nobel Prize in 2016, it ought to have been Cohen, not Dylan.
The moderately inebriated Doctors Cocks and Bertonneau, the Honorary Doctor Fader, and the known malingerers invite moderately inebriated comments from The Orthosphere, or from the Jovian moon Europa, or from the Trans-Neptunian object Sedna, or from wherever the anti-That Woman vote is in the majority these days. (Is Texas a planet?)
Especially from KRISTOR, who knows how to sing, and whom we hope someday will join the known malingerers for a palaver at Old City Hall on a Sunday afternoon!
A cantankerous quarrel has been roiling the philosophic guild in the aftermath of Richard Swinburne’s address to the Society of Christian Philosophers. As I explained a few days ago, one side of the quarrel is outraged because Swinburne committed sacrilege with his irreverent handling of the holy object of homosexuality. Since I made this trenchant (albeit ignored) observation, the quarrel has evolved. The anti-Swinburne faction is now howling against the plucky website Rightly Considered, which has published screenshots of some of their salty philippics against traditional Christians, and by so doing has allegedly violated their right to privacy. Continue reading
Filmmaker Whit Stillman has managed with considerable aplomb to avoid the clichés of the romantic comedy, a genre within whose parameters he nevertheless works, not least in his fourth film of five, Damsels in Distress (2011). In addition to being a romantic comedy, to the extent of transforming itself in its denouement into a 1930s guy-gets-girl musical number, with Fred Astaire’s voice patched into the soundtrack, Damsels in Distress is a college film. Because Stillman understands the meaning and function of college, his college film is also a film about civilization – or rather about the current degeneracy of what used to be Western Civilization, as made manifest by the decline of higher education. In Damsels in Distress, Stillman has undertaken to represent what I once, in a casual essay, half-jokingly called subscendence, a kind of active anti-transcendence that seeks the lowest level in everything; but Stillman has also created a set of characters, in his eponymous damsels, who, discerning subscendence and judging it repellent, rally themselves to mount resistance against it.