Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Herding Kittens

Some years back, with a group of friends on a rainy day, we visited Ernest Hemingway's house on Key West.

There were cats, cats galore, cats with extra toes. Of course, we petted them.

Now the federal government wants to help the cats. By forbidding people to pet them. And by locking them up at night.

The manager of the Hemingway Museum responded with a typical cat-lover sentiment: "They own us. We don't own them."

The government's theory, apparently, is that the cats are "performers," and need to be regulated like zoo animals.

Thus does over-reaching insanity
Descend, at last, to inanity.

Legal action has begun.
Run, little kitties, run!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Distressing Condition

Our chief justice had a seizure today.

I expect to hear a lot of dumb 4th amendment jokes concerning "unreasonable searches and seizures".

He had another seizure back in 1993. So that's 2 seizures, lifetime, 14 years apart. But once you've had 2, doctors often recommend meds for the rest of your life.

Fyodor Dostoevsky scraped along without medicine for a more drastic form of this condition, managing to write great works of literature. But I bet he would have jumped at the chance to get modern drugs, despite his suspicious attitude toward scientific progress.

Would you rather take an annoying med
Or risk another storm in your head?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ha Ha - Aha!

Sometimes a sudden laugh reveals
What a serious face conceals.

Mining Party

We had a good crowd for the Mine Your Own Business DVD-viewing party. People enjoyed watching it and it generated a lot of discussion.

My favorite line was from some British academic. He said that progressives have stopped believing in progress.

I stopped and thought about that one. Like most broad generalizations of big ideological movements, it's easy to find exceptions. But it's true that Progress with a capital P is no longer the ideal it once was in liberal circles.

Move forward with a will.
Forget about standing still.

Try stopping in your tracks,
And you'll soon start drifting back.

Friday, July 27, 2007

No Footwork

Though bound by circumstance to the ground,
Plants have found a way to dance,
Swaying while the wind plays on.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Cane Transforms

Got off the train tonight and who did I see but my former next door neighbor, out taking a stroll, hobbling along on a cane.

He's in his 70's. We walked for a while and he began talking dispiritedly about how he "wastes his life" nowadays by doing things like taking strolls. He's a widower, and his kids have long ago moved out.

I felt bad for him as I struggled to understand his words. He's from County Mayo, in Ireland, and sometimes my ears stumble on his accent.

Somehow we started talking about hurling, an Irish game that looks, from a distance, a bit like lacrosse. I confessed I had never seen it played and asked him if it was a good game.

You should have seen the energy flow into his body. The cane in his hand suddenly became a hurley stick as he vigorously demonstrated basic moves to me. Yes, he had played the game, and rather well too, as a young man.

Playfulness had replaced
His sense of waste.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mine Your Own Business

We're going to be hosting a showing of Mine Your Own Business this Saturday at 8pm. My wife saw it at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas and raved about it. Feel free to join us.

Youtube trailer here.

I'm told it's a skillful expose of certain environmentalists who interfere with mining projects in impoverished parts of the world. They come off as arrogant and uncaring about the truly poor.

Perhaps they think the poor should be kicked to the curb,
So the rich can enjoy the scenery undisturbed.

Hands On

kraorh points out that New York's Governor Spitzer has a reputation as a micro-manager.

Which makes it harder to understand it -
How did he miss the underhanded
Behavior of his underlings?

If I had that sort of occupation
I'd hope to develop a reputation
As a boss who favors delegation.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In the Spitzer

If you're a prosecutor, it's hard to get in trouble when you use the police to look for dirt on people. It's just part of your job! So what if you leak damaging stories about defendants to the press? The press doesn't complain.

But if you're governor of New York, and your staff uses the state police to look for dirt on a rival, and then - when they can't find real dirt - feeds false stories to the press, you can get in all kinds of trouble.

Or, rather, your staff can get in all kinds of trouble. After all, you didn't know anything about it.
"Finally, I apologize to the people of the state of New York for letting this matter become a distraction from the vital work at hand."

I like that. It's just a distraction. Move along. Nothing to see here.

He was on a crusade
To get rid of crooks,
But his staff mislaid
Their ethics books.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hard to Believe

Quick - what famous American leader was killed by a nutty Communist?

Did you answer John Kennedy?

There's a guy who has a new book out claiming that liberals just couldn't handle that truth. He argues that the Kennedy assassination caused "cultural disorientation," which in turn led to the campus radicalism of the late Sixties.

I agree that a lot of people wanted a different villain for this piece. Preferably one with right-leaning politics.

But, so far, I can't see the basic line of causality here. Isn't it simpler just to say that the Left's sympathy with the "ideals of communism" was sufficient cause for both: 1) preferring a right-wing villain, and 2) desiring a cultural revolution?

Allegedly the killer was a commie,
So disbelieving liberals went balmy
Leading to a cultural tsunami.

That's his theory.
Color me leery.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Between Barack and a Hard Place

We went to see the latest Second City comedy revue, "Between Barack and a Hard Place." They spent a lot of time having fun with the way that so many people, from all sorts of backgrounds, identify with Obama.

There was a funny bit, too, where Hillary tried to figure out what she could do to make people like her.

Looking good, and mouthing pieties,
Makes you popular in most societies.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nothing But Blue Sky

I'm not really sure I ever get the so-called runners high. But sometimes, after running for hours on a nice day. the colors all seem to get brighter.

It's like a laundry detergent commercial for the world: the sky is bluer, the grass greener, the flowers brighter.

I'm not going to claim it makes long-distance running worthwhile. But it's an exquisite experience.

Achy and dazed
As feet pound the ground,
Amazed by beauty
All around.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Not Her Day

In area traffic news, Ruth Rose, 94, drove her car into a restaurant yesterday.

"She's not sure what happened," said the local police chief.

Maybe there was a "Drive Thru" sign?
Good thing she only injured nine.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ergo's Puzzle of Bulbous Chunks

Ergo writes from India:
Ya know, being gay and all that, I never really figured out the straight male’s fascination with breasts. In my eyes, they were just large chunks of bulbous fat–and quite frankly, large viscous chunks of fat anywhere is simply an undesirable thing.
So he's interested in a new evolutionary theory:
Harvard anthropologist Frank Marlowe contends that larger, and hence heavier, breasts sag more conspicuously with age than do smaller breasts. Thus they make it easier for men to judge a woman’s age (and her reproductive value) by sight—suggesting why men find women with large breasts more attractive.
Is it the truth
Men prize big scoops
Simply because
A lack of droop
Is proof of youth?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Facts, Schmacts

Newsweek's Evan Thomas, speaking of the Duke non-rape case:

"We just got the facts wrong. The narrative was right, but the facts were wrong."

That reminds me. I worked as a reporter one summer. I got the facts wrong about a fire once. Being a strict sort of guy, the editor was not pleased, and seemed to think I had the story wrong.

As for the facts, be flexible.
Bend them to fit the narrative.
Reality is optional,
The party line is imperative.

From "Quicksand Beach"

choriamb links to a wonderful article about a lovely poem by Kate Bingham. The poem is titled "Divorce."
I had been looking forward to divorce –
recriminations, therapy and casual sex,
the disentangling of my life from yours
That's the opening. But, trust me, it's a love poem. Click above to see the rest.

(Okay, you may not like it. But I do.)

It lures you in with grief,
And spins you around with relief.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pupfish Popping Through The Pipe

There's an endangered little critter - the desert pupfish - that has successfully invaded some man-made ponds.

The artificial ponds were designed for scientific research - of something else completely.

Apparently the fish swam a mile and a half through a pipe.

The fish were in a declining niche,
"Our lives are at risk!" they started to gripe.

Some of them got the traveling itch,
And swam through over a mile of pipe
To man-made ponds of a suitable type.

Once there, they happily swam about.

"This is way better than the old ditch
Where we used to hang out!"
They were heard to shout.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Recreation of Quotations Past

The St. John's College magazine, the current one with J.S. Bach on the cover, (warning:pdf) has a quote from Ayn Rand featured on page 23, but it's attributed to Marcel Proust. Someone else pointed it out to me a while back.

It's her definition of art. Try googling: proust "metaphysical value judgments"

You will get a lot of hits. Proust has become Objectivist in his theory of art, in retrospect.

I suspect someone credited Proust
To give the quotation a boost.

Right One and Right Two

There's a disputed passage somewhere where Rand argues something like:

It's right for a man to do X, therefore he has a right to do X.

Where X is some virtuous behavior generally necessary for human survival.

The 2 occurrences of the word "right" are a bit different in meaning, the first being ethical, the second political.

Some have worried that her argument implies that one ONLY has a political right to do ethical things. But this reading of the argument sounds rather unlikely, since she morally condemned all sorts of things, but thought most of them should be perfectly legal.

Her argument still makes sense if she simply thought that virtuous activities should generally be legal, as well as many - but not all - forms of bad behavior.

She thought committing force or fraud
Should be outlawed.

Otherwise, you're free to will
Good or ill.

But when you choose unvirtuous stuff,
Life gets rough.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Brigadoon Dissolves

As conference attendees headed home, I finally got a chance to meet bjornblog in real life. He was every bit as charming as his pictures indicate, and not stuffy at all.

When Bjorn, the white bear,
Travels by air
He's coldly polite - even polar.

He's got a cute racket:
He steals peanut packets
And grinds them to paste with his molars.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The End Is Here

The end of lecture-live-rhyming, that is.

Robert Poole spoke on "Fighting Back in the War Against Auto-Mobility".

Privatize the roads
And handle larger loads.

Alexander Cohen extemporized on "Rights and the Rule of Law".

Alex Cohen spent
Time on what is meant
When we speak of the Consent
Of the Governed.

Live Rhyming Friday the 13th

This morning started out with Walter Donway, speaking on "Poetry: the Supreme Romantic Art Form". In his abstract, he staked out the position that "the medium of poetry is meter".

What could be sweeter
Than deeply felt meter?

Stephen Hicks addressed "The Fate of Art under Capitalism".

The historical record
May be somewhat checkered,
But for the most part,
Markets make for great art.

Jason Walker tackled "Photography as a Selective Recreation of Reality".

Is taking a photograph...
Art or simply craft?

Or could it be half and half?

Fred Stitt spoke on "The Life and Work of Frank Lloyd Wright".

Confined within his spaces, I feel free.
Mr. Wright is quite all right with me.

Finally, wrapping things up with a bang, Thor Halverson talked about "Making Pro-Liberty Films".

Truth may emerge from dry tomes,
But movies make it hit home.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Symphonic Tonic

Douglas Wagoner spoke about the Symphony Orchestra. He began by talking about the musical instruments they use.

Pity the poor English Horn.

They can't quite distinguish
How it got born.

It's not really English,
Nor is it a horn.

No wonder its singing
Can sound so forlorn!

Lectures with Fountainhead References

Robert Bidinotto spoke this morning on: Is There an Objectivist Sense of Life? His answer was a qualified no.

Probe a bit, and you will find
Under your conscious state of mind,
Automated premises.

They color how you react to art,
And guide your deciding who plays the parts
Of Heroes and their Nemeses.

Bidinotto mentioned, by way of example, an argument in the pages of the New Individualist - between Roger Donway and my wife. Roger wrote:
Where the purpose of bourgeois morality is to survive by means of prudence, frugality, industry, and perseverance, the purpose of Continental Romantic morality is to experience the edgy, stylish, stimulating, and contemporary. Bourgeois man desires a decent life secured by doing what he can with what he has scraped together. But the Romantic burns with the vision of all that he could be and do, if only he had the means, which he would have if true Reason and Virtue prevailed.
In reply Marsha wrote that if Roark was trying to secure a decent life with what he could scrape together, she would "eat her house."

That got a laugh from the crowd.

Bidinotto described this as a sense-of-life disagreement, and went on to describe Roger as leaning toward the Eddie Willers perspective.

Marsha, defending Howard Roark,
Declared he wasn't an edgy dork.

Roger was said to favor Eddie:
Not too romantic but pleasantly steady.

Duncan Scott then presented video interviews with Iris Bell and Patricia Neal. Bell worked with Rand in the early NBI days. Neal played a certain troubled heroine in the Fountainhead film.

Patricia Neal
Kept things "reel"
And gave us a juicy peek
Into how she played Dominique.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Back In The Saddle

Today was the "free day" - free of lectures! So I quit the company of my fellows, and did what romantic poets are supposed to do: commune with nature.

Nature responded by drenching me with wonderful thunderstorms. Twice.

I did my communing on a mountain bike. No poet of yore owned such a contraption, but I believe that Lord Byron would have approved.

I took a trail from Ashland, MD to York, PA. It's about 82 miles round trip.

Half way back, just after 6 PM, I realized that my back tire had gone flat.

Fortunately, I had just passed a bicycle shop with an "OPEN" sign.

The lady of the shop took a look. It turned out my tire had a thorny problem. Literally. 2 of them.

Thorns are Mother Nature's spears.
I saved them both as souvenirs.
She tried to nail me, but she failed.
Technology, again, prevailed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From Business To Romanticism

More talks to attend!
Talks without end!

William Kline talked about Business Ethics and Objectivism. I came in late, but I got this part:

In Ayn Rand's moral theory,
As you probably knew all along,
Rights violations are merely
A subset of ethical wrongs.

It was onto Tibor Machan, calling for: No Taxation With Or Without Representation.

He says if you study the facts,
That Robin Hood
Was actually good,
Since he was just taking back
Funds that had been wrongly taxed.

Then I ran out to rent a bicycle, so I missed a class.

Then Fred Stitt gave a lecture
On gothic architecture
With its beautiful well-lit spaces.
(Disregard the gargoyle faces!)

Then I attended a talk by my wife
Who talked about the project which, to my knowledge,
Has taken over her life:
A new college

Finally, I went to see Lindsay Hardman, who talked about the Romantic era in painting, with a great set of slides.

If Romantic art history
Seems like a mystery,
It's too bad you didn't attend,
Because now you would comprehend,
Or at least experience improvement
In your grasp of this complex movement!

From Business To Romanticism

More talks to attend!
Talks without end!

William Kline talked about Business Ethics and Objectivism. I came in late, but I got this part:

In Ayn Rand's moral theory,
As you probably knew all along,
Rights violations are merely
A subset of ethical wrongs.

It was onto Tibor Machan, calling for: No Taxation With Or Without Representation.

He says if you study the facts,
That Robin Hood
Was actually good,
Since he was just taking back
Funds that had been wrongly taxed.

Then I ran out to rent a bicycle, so I missed a class.

Then Fred Stitt gave a lecture
On gothic architecture
With its beautiful well-lit spaces.
(Disregard the gargoyle faces!)

Then I attended a talk by my wife
Who talked about the project which, to my knowledge,
Has taken over her life:
A new college

Finally, I went to see Lindsay Hardman, who talked about the Romantic era in painting, with a great set of slides.

If Romantic art history
Seems like a mystery,
It's too bad you didn't attend,
Because now you would comprehend,
Or at least experience improvement
In your grasp of this complex movement!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Lecture Liner Notes

Mike Shapiro continued the TAS Lecture Fest with an entry entitled: "Program Music (or: What Does E Flat Look Like?)"

Music requires a structure,
Often purely formal,
But music that paints a picture
Is also fairly normal.

From Vivaldi's buoyant Spring
To Ives' Unanswered Question,
Composers labor to bring
Sound out of pregnant suggestions.

Live Rhyming the TAS Summer Seminar

I'm here in beautiful Towson, MD, for the TAS Summer Seminar, where I am seeing lots of friends, at least one of whom I had never met in real life.

Today, the presentations began.

Instead of normal note-taking
I have the bad habit of making
Rhymes with some passing relation
To the formal presentation.

But sometimes I skip the essential
And go straight to the tangential.

First talk I attended was Ed Hudgins on the State of the Culture:

What is the state of the culture?
Do the circling vultures
Prove that we are doomed?

Or shall the soaring eagles,
Glorious and regal,
Chase away the gloom?

Next was Glen Fletcher on the Laws of Nature:

The older idea was that natural law was descriptive,
Orders from God that told physical things how to act.
The newer idea is that such so-called laws are descriptive
Patterns we see that run true in the world of fact.

Next up was my wife, Marsha Familaro Enright, talking about Social Skills. At one point she explored how one of the obstacles to clear reasoning, for many people, is the fact that clear reasoning challenges the beliefs held dear by family and friends:

Sometimes the use of reason
Feels like a kind of treason
To the "truths" we've imbibed
As a child of the tribe.

Okay, that's all I've got so far.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Heinlein Centennial

I remember, when I was 16, having a conversation with a fellow student about Robert Heinlein. This kid's position was that Heinlein was a "hack". He seemed to think it was obvious.

The opposite was obvious to me. He was a "genre writer" of course, but that doesn't make one a "hack". A hack, as I understood it, is someone who just churns out work for money, without believing in the value of his own work.

In principle, a mainstream "literary fiction" writer can be a hack.

But Heinlein sure seemed sincere to me, and he tossed off suspenseful stories full of his own distinctive world view.

Think outside the box.
"Throw rocks."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Through Another's Eyes

I've been hosting a young man from Botswana for a few days. He hasn't been to the U.S. before, so it's fascinating to hear his observations.

He arrived on July 4, and was surprised to see all the stars and stripes flying on private residences. He says that never happens back home, even on national holidays.

He was also disbelieving about vanity license plates. Didn't there have to be an official number? He liked it, once he believed it, and saw that it was a good money-making opportunity for the government as well. He's probably already emailed home about it.

Soon they'll have vanity plates
In Botswana - just like the States.

Jane Eyre

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I recently finished a reading of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.

I was fascinated by this marriage proposal our heroine gets from a minister:
"God and nature intended you for a missionary's wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for labour, not for love. A missionary's wife you must -- shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you -- not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign's service."
She's actually a sort of submissive and altruistic heroine, and she's willing to sacrifice herself in many ways, but she draws the line at such a loveless marriage.

She ends with a man who touches her with pleasure
And regards her as a treasure.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Is Binary 111 Lucky For Androids?

Tomorrow's 7/7/07.

That resembles 7-7-7, which is a jackpot combo on a slot machine. So I figure the machines will be busy in Vegas tomorrow.

You'll probably have to compete
For a seat
In order to lose a lot
In a slot.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Tough Guys In The News

Here's a 72 year old who beat up a would-be pickpocket.

But this outdoes it: a cab driver who tore a tendon when kicking a flaming terrorist in the testicles.

Never underestimate
Citizens when they get irate.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Life In The Fast Lane

Down the highway thundered
A hybrid doing one hundred!

I didn't know they'd go that fast.
Sounds like an eco-friendly blast!

Go Fourth!

Today I'm thinking about freedom of expression, in the U.S. Lots of other countries, and some of our own citizens, think we're way too extreme here.

Some of them would like us to just put a cork in it.

As we used to say on the playground: Too bad. You're not the boss of us.

Let's keep independence.
In splendid ascendance.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What Next

Downtown was crawling with cops as I made my escape this evening.

The lakefront is a party tonight: Taste of Chicago plus a huge fireworks show.

Not to mention that we're at threat code Tangerine.

Designed to disconcert:
A terrorist doctor alert!
They crash flaming cars
Into airports and bars
But only the drivers get hurt.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Get Out Of Jail Free

Not pardoned, nor exonerated,
But Libby has been liberated.

It must be tough to prosecute
Only to have the prez commute.

Better Late than Never

Jose Temprana, just got his American citizenship.

He's pretty happy about it:
''I feel different,'' said Temprana, who served 30 years in Cuban jails. ''Satisfied, very happy. It was worth the wait.''
They finally let him out of Cuba when he was 93 years old.
Once here, he worked to get his citizenship. "I've wanted ... it since I was 8 or 10 years old," he said.
He's 105 now.

He wanted this since he was 8.
What a wait.