Hacked by Russia: A True Confession

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.

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Left: Yessen Zhazoursky, Dean of the School of Journalism, Moscow University; Right: Yours Truly (TFB),  Doctoral Candidate in Comparative Literature, UCLA.  (Fall 1986)

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.

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The Second Reality Crumbles — Short Take III

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Chaos, as Hesiod puts it, “was the first thing that came to be.”  In a three-generation struggle, Zeus at last succeeded in imposing civilized order on the chaotic substrate of the cosmos.  Chaos, for Hesiod, might be first, but order is last; and order is infinitely preferable to Chaos.  In Hesiod’s story, after Zeus settles matters with the violent Titans (the Jotuns of Scandinavian myth), he must face one more challenge in the arousal of Typhon or Python, the Chaos-Monster.  In Hesiod’s vision of things, Chaos always lies in wait to erupt on order and subvert it.  Order is a struggle.  Chaos is the lapse back into what is easiest and most primitive.  So too in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the Several States of America, order is a latter imposition on Chaos, but Chaos lurks in its lair, ready to squirm out again and mess up the just apportionment of the civilized dispensation.  Thus, as the Drudge Report rehearses, “Agitators Plot Inauguration Chaos.”  What else would they plot?  After all, their motto is, “It is forbidden to forbid.”  That is to say, order is forbidden; Chaos is mandated – and the Law is the enemy of the crowd.  Drudge quotes a Daily Caller story as follows: “On the day of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration protesters are planning an anti-capitalist march, road blockades and disruptions to inauguration balls…

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The Second Reality Crumbles — Short Take II

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As the Left’s second reality collapses, the Lefties still believe that they can dig themselves out of the sinkhole of their abysmal expectations.  The Left being a purely collectivist entity, it responds to every crisis, as to this crisis, by amassing itself in crowds.  As Gustave Le Bon remarked in his study of The Crowd (1895), crowd-behavior is de-individuated, non-conscientious, and essentially religious or sacrificial.  An individual who might, left to his own soul-searching, renounce such things as morality-renunciation and participating in hatred-inducing activities, will find relief from his qualms in the degree to which he congregates with others, whose collective massiveness assuages his guilt-pangs.  Once a nucleus of moral self-betrayers has gathered in close proximity, conscientiousness, which is individual, no longer impedes the impulse to action.  Guilt is distributed.  The subject, forfeiting his subjectivity, may do as he wills, however basely he wills, without the smart of any remorse.  The religiosity of the crowd is primitive religiosity, of course.  It wants to feel Karl Marx’s revolutionary Blutrausch in the spectacle of immolation, even if external social strictures prevent the immolation from being real but rather confine it to being only symbolic.  (Policemen murdered in ambushes are actual victims; men of European ancestry pilloried by female multiculturalists at “White Privilege” seminars are symbolic victims, who are permitted walk away with their humiliated lives.)

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The Second Reality Crumbles – Short Take I

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The Left believes itself to be historically inevitable.  The Left vehemently execrates anyone who denies its fundamental premise that it is historically inevitable.  To the Left, people who think otherwise than that the Left is historically inevitable are not thinking at all: Such people are ignorant, boorish, and very likely incapable of thinking – or, as the Left has long called it, “critical thinking.”  (I note in passing that the phrase “critical thinking,” like the phrase “social justice,” conforms to the Leftist linguistic pattern of taking an ordinary and perfectly well-understood noun and obliterating its standard meaning by the prefixation to it of a modifier which is actually a negation.)  Leftist “critical thinking” forecast the outcome of the 2016 presidential election many months in advance.  The election would go “inevitably” to That Woman.  The fix was in and the fix was cosmic or perhaps ontological.  Nothing could un-fix it, right?  However, the “inevitable” outcome failed to manifest itself.  For the Left, this constituted a cognitive, but more importantly an emotional, catastrophe, the equivalent of Krakatoa suddenly erupting in San Francisco Bay and spoiling everyone’s fun at the Gay Pride Parade.  The Left has always lived in a second reality, but now events had shaken that second reality to its phantasmal foundation, and the whole illusory structure began to collapse.

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Howard Hanson: The Music of God in Nature

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Howard Hanson (1896 – 1981) circa 1930

Nebraska-born of Swedish ancestry, Howard Harold Hanson (1896 ─ 1981) became by his mid-thirties what he had determined to become from an early age, the most popular American composer of serious music in the European concert tradition.  He had also become a sought-after teacher, orchestra leader, and musical administrator.  Hanson poured his seemingly inexhaustible vitality not only into the promotion of his own creativity, but, generously, into the promotion of his fellow composers, many of them, as time went on, his students at the Eastman School where he presided.  A radio documentary about the composer from the late 1980s revealed another side of the man.  Several of those interviewed by the producer complained – one of them indeed rather bitterly – about Hanson’s alleged egocentrism and insistence on getting his own way.  No doubt but that Hanson, believing himself a force, often stormed over those who, as he saw it, put themselves in the way of his schemes, his magnanimity in other circumstances notwithstanding.  The man being dead, however, and his personal entanglements being buried with him, the impressive practical and artistic achievements remain.  Paramount among these stands Hanson’s compositional legacy: Seven substantial symphonies, at least as many symphonic poems, a handful of concerted scores, numerous choral works, and an opera, which should have a more active place in the repertory, and not only by way of recordings.

With his contemporaries Roy Harris (1898 ─ 1979) and Aaron Copland (1900 ─ 1990), and with the slightly younger Samuel Barber (1910 ─ 1981), Hanson created a recognizably American sound in concert music, and demonstrated that American composers could adapt European musical forms to the conditions of a new society seeking to set its own mark on an inherited culture.  It is useful to compare Hanson’s legacy with the legacies of his countrymen-composers in the first half of the Twentieth Century.  Harris certainly matched Hanson in egocentrism, maybe exceeding him; but Harris lacked Hanson’s talent, peaking with his Symphony No. 3 (1937), really an extended passacaglia for orchestra, and repeating himself, at ever lower levels, for the remainder of his career.  Copland began as an avant-garde composer in the 1920s, assimilating influences from Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky; he found his marketable voice in the “cowboy” ballets of the 1930s and the populist, large-scale Symphony No. 3 (1946), for whose finale he adapted his own earlier Fanfare for the Common Man.  Copland wrote a surprisingly small number of works and ceased to compose altogether after 1964.

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In the Fen Country: Landscape and Music in the Work of Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams

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Robert Gallon (1845 – 1925): The Water’s Edge (1870s)

A strong sympathy for the landscape often entwines itself with a type of religious sensibility, particularly the pantheistic one.  In the decorative murals with which the wealthy classes of Rome during the Imperial centuries adorned their domestic lives, the idyllic scene, with its groves and grazing sheep, invariably contains a rustic temple.  In Hellenistic poetry, too, the writer – it might be Theocritus or at a later date Ovid – in describing the sylvan setting of Sicily or Arcadia emphasizes the presence everywhere of the nature-spirits.  Ovid’s Metamorphoses seem in part to be an explanation of why everywhere in the ancient world one encountered innumerable altars and shrines.  To the pagan mentality, everything, every tree and stream and mountain, shared in the quality of the sacred, and offered a home to the spirits and demigods.  So too in Romantic painting and verse, the artist’s response to the natural scene records his sense of the ubiquity of spirit.  Thus in William Wordsworth’s famous sonnet “The world is too much with us” (1802), the calamity of the emergent industrial and commercial order manifests itself most poignantly in the terrible loneliness of being cut off from participation in the aura of the elements –

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

The lyric subject of the poem, concluding that the modern dispensation has left men “for everything… out of tune,” wishes that he were (although he is not) “a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,” that is, someone who might “have glimpses that would make me less forlorn” of “Proteus rising from the sea.”  That men should have become acutely aware of nature in the early nineteenth century is hardly surprising.  The social and economic developments of the period, the hypertrophy of cities and the dissolution of ancient arrangements in the countryside, wrought changes in the very appearance of the rural landscape.  A generation later than Wordsworth, in the “Wessex” stories and novels of Thomas Hardy, the situation has grown even more acute.  In the short story “The Fiddler of the Reels,” the great fact of existence is the Crystal Palace, in the year of whose construction much of the action takes place.  The countryside is emptying into the great cities; railroads have appeared in the provinces to draw away the young people, and the expansion of a new order of industry and finance has begun to alter the familiar aspects of field and forest, river valley and hill.

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Consciousness, Culture, and Art: Informal Comments on an Imagist Poem by William Carlos Williams

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Ou Li Da

The poem to which this essay’s subtitle refers is one of the much-excerpted and much anthologized verse-interpolations in the Menippean combination of verse and prose, Spring and All (1921), that the New Jersey poet William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963) produced at the acme of his self-consciously Imagist phase in the years after the First World War.  The poem carries no title, but, according to the tenets of Imagism, presents itself to the reader as an instance of res ipso loquitur or “the thing speaks for itself.”  In a later phase of his insistent creativity, Williams would adopt as his poetic motto the formula, “no ideas but in things,” the implication of which is that experience is not solipsistic, nor consciousness hermetic, but that any self-aware navigation of the world presupposes an intentional relation between the navigator and the world that he navigates, which he records as images, ideas, or concepts.  Williams’ poetry in all its phases possesses the charm that its author maintains equal interest in the reality and workings of the external world and in the mystery and joy of the mind that represents and cognizes that reality and those workings.

Williams’ oeuvre offers itself seriously in two other ways: Its author knew that consciousness, language, and culture intertwine with one another aboriginally, so that any investigation of one necessarily entails an investigation of the two others; and he knew that consciousness is historical, that it has traceable origins that suggest the mechanism of its making.

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Rewording the “Basic Guide, Part I,” and more about the Definition of Liberalism

Responding to my previous post A Basic Guide to Liberalism and Conservatism, Part I, many commenters said that I had either failed to define “liberalism” or had given a bad definition. And blogger Winston Scrooge offered more substantial criticisms, from a position less friendly to conservatism.

I‘m grateful to these commenters for, whereas I remain convinced that my basic position is correct, their criticisms helped me to realize certain ideas were not expressed well enough. I have accordingly made some additions to my post, which you can read here.

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But let’s talk here about defining liberalism. I say it’s a vast phenomenon. Zippy Catholic says it’s a simple principle that’s now injected into everything. Let’s discuss: Continue reading

Knowledge is Sanity

If there be Truth, then might we know it. So then might there be also such a thing as falsehood – as, i.e., failing to understand and agree with Truth: to know it. No Truth, no possibility of falsehood or error. All human cognition then presupposes that there is indeed Truth; for all of it proceeds according to decisions, to operations of assent or dissent, yes or no to this or that notion. All of it works to ascertain whether propositions are true, or are not. If there be no Truth, this operation cannot but be chaotic noise, through and through; noise, NB, that cannot coherently asseverate its own noisiness.

You can’t believe that you’ve erred unless you believe that you might have done otherwise. To think anything at all, then, is implicitly to presuppose the existence of the Truth.

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Suggested Reading For Analytical Philosophers: Wordsworth’s Prelude

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This modest offering stems from two provocations.  One is Richard Cocks’ piquant disquisition at The People of Shambhala, referenced here at The Orthosphere, concerning the limitations inherent in the modern school of thought that calls itself Logical Positivism or Analytical Philosophy; the other is a pedagogical necessity that befell me last week to explicate in class for the students of my “Writing about Literature” course a famous passage from William Wordsworth’s Prelude, Book I.  My title must obviously be taken cum grano salis, as logical positivists and analytical philosophers would immediately reduce Wordsworth’s  observations and arguments to their own insipid categories.  Frankly, I cannot imagine the logical positivists or analytical philosophers, or howsoever they dub themselves, making any sense whatsoever of Wordsworths verses or, for that matter, being interested in or aware of them.  Wordsworth’s fundamental assumptions must be opaque to such people.

I have written up my lecture-outline as a short essay.  I append the text on which I comment at the end of the essay.  Those sufficiently generous to feel curiosity about the essay might want to read the excerpt first.  I take for my illustration the fourth panel of The Voyage of Life (1842) by Thomas Cole, one of the founders of the Hudson Valley School.

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A Brief Essay on the Adventure of the Boat at Night: It is an observation of natural philosophy that ontogeny repeats phylogeny: That is, the gestation and maturation of the individual repeat the gestation and maturation of the family, genus, or the species.  More generally speaking, everything that exists is an effect that research – or introspection – can trace back to a cause until the procedure finds its destination in a First Cause.  These facts entail any number of paradoxes, not least the poet William Wordsworth’s contention, found in his little poem “My Heart Leaps Up” (1802), that “the child is the father of the man”:

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Wordsworth averred often in his prosaic self-explanations that his every line of verse belonged to one great conjectural poem such that each smaller poem was but part of a transcendent whole, which could perhaps never be completed in the poet’s lifetime.  That one Wordsworthian poem should  comment on another should come therefore as no surprise.  The few short lines, almost throwaway verse, of “My heart leaps up” indeed suggest much concerning a crucial passage from one of the early books of one of Wordsworth’s most ambitious poems – the epic-length verse-autobiography The Prelude, begun by the poet as early as 1798 but never published until after his death in 1850.  In the episode in question, Wordsworth recounts one of the adventures of his boyhood, in the Lake District of Northwest England just below the Scottish Border, the native locale where he spent his childhood and to which he returned to live later in life after the peregrinations of his young adulthood.

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