Friday, April 27, 2007

Heroes, Who, Batman

I am really looking forward to Christopher Nolan's next installment of the Batman franchise The Dark Knight. Christian Bale was marvelous as the moody Gazillionaire vigilante and I especially enjoyed Gary Oldman as Gordon. (Look Gary Oldman playing a good role - not quasi-evil actually good!) So what to make of this tidbit:
"Bruce Wayne will have his hands full with some Eric Roberts come 2008, as the actor has just been cast as a villain in the "Batman Begins" sequel, "The Dark Knight."

Holey Moley! Call the Doctor!

Thursday, April 26, 2007


One of the prettiest pieces composed for the piano lately:

It's the theme and incidental music from Kingdom Hearts.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


of the day:
you go to war with the politicians that you have, not the ones that you wish you had

Heh. Be sure and read the excellent war analysis piece that spawned it over at Wretchards:
American political hopes rest on the Shi'ites keeping their cool and resisting any large scale attempts to lash out uncontrollably. There have been simultaneous American efforts to divide the Sunni insurgency by working with the Anbar tribes, taking advantage of the alienation caused by al-Qaeda in Iraq's vicious brutality and unyielding fundamentalism. (This process is vividly described by Outside the Wire.) If the Sunnis insurgents could arrange for Iran to turn Sadr or some other Shi'ite leader into loose cannons, the both could cooperate in politically undermining the US, in the hopes of removing it from the board leaving the field clear for the two Muslim parties to settle differences between themselves later. We have already seen the tactical response of the Sunni insurgents to the surge. But their political response has not yet been been unveiled. Can the Sunni insurgents forge an alliance of convenience with their sectarian enemies to evict a common foe by concluding a 21st century Molotov-Ribbentrop pact? Time alone will tell.

The US operation in Iraq has consciously or accidentally, but nevertheless definitely had the effect of transforming it into the central battlefield of the current world crisis. The al-Qaeda type forces have converged there because there they can attack the hated American in the heart of the Arab world. But that circumstance also allows US combat power to be focused on individuals who would otherwise be scattered throughout the world. But the contest in Iraq is not purely military; it is also political and psychological. What is underappreciated is that the war in Iraq has also forced Sunni Islamic fundamentalism to indirectly take the Shi'ite world and explicitly show the world its political face. A victory in Iraq for either side will not simply be one of arms, but of legitimacy.

Friday, April 13, 2007

To Be Read: Books for a real education

Hugh Hewitt had a fascinating discussion with David Allen White, Shakespeare teacher at the Naval Acadamey, and John Mark Reynolds, professor of philosophy at Biola University on his show a few days back.
HH: A few days ago, I was riding around with my intern, who is an enrollee at the Torrey Honors program at Biola University, and we were talking about what he was reading and not reading. And it occurred to me that most young college students are absolutely lost. They lack a program like Torrey, they lack a teacher like David Allen White, to tell them what they ought to read, at least when they’re freshmen or sophomores. And so I conspired with David Allen White, professor extraordinaire at the United States Naval Academy, where he’s been teaching Shakespeare and other matters to the mid-shipmen for more than a quarter century, and John Mark Reynolds, professor of philosophy at Biola University, and the head of the Torrey Honors program there, to put together a reading list, and it’s the top 30 books that every one of you ought to have read, and certainly freshmen and sophomores ought to have read. Here’s my plan. Take one a week for the next 30 weeks, or one a week during your year in college, you’ll be at least partially educated. Professor White, Professor John Mark Reynolds, welcome to you both. I’m going to lead off with you, Professor White. Since we’re going to be pressed for time, I’m going to ask you to just spit out your top ten, and I’m going to do the same with John Mark Reynolds, and then we’ll go back and compare and contrast.

Now this is the cat's meow for me. Not only do I love to read, but I have taken time to do my best to aquaint myself with the Classics. Even if I do not understand all the levels of meaning; I have, at least, gotten the baseline. I've read The Divine Comedy a couple of times and had the privilege of discussing it with a US Poet Laureate. It was the funnest, most mentally stimulating thing I'd done in a long while. Hugh says reflecting on the interview:
I thought it was a very interesting conversation, but I was unprepared for the volume of mail requesting the list from across the country. We talk show hosts tend to forget that America is full of very bright, very curious people who at least occasionally want to step back and look up.

I am tempted to ask today's guests, Mark Steyn and James Lileks, how many of the 40-odd titles thrown out by the good professors they have read. But I am afraid it would be another exercise in humility for your host, who, sad to say, didn't even recognize Boethius' The Consolation of Philosophy.

Well, Hugh, I'd read most of the books on the list and heard of them all but I have yet to read Boethius and I imagine I am in good company.

The List:
1. The Bible
2. Shakespeare

I remember the Bible studies I slogged through as a middle schooler, then enjoyed as a highschooler. I studied out of a King James Version, then later a New King james Version, and a little Bible study prepares your mind to grasp complex language and images and lays a referential groundwork for some much other literature it is indespensible. If you know the basic story of David and Goliath than the laguage is less daunting and if you can grasp David and Goliath:
Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim.
2And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.
3And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.
4And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
5And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.
6And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.
7And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.
8And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.
9If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.
10And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.
Suddenly the Iliad is looking pretty lingustically tame:
"Achilles, loved of heaven, you bid me tell you about the anger of
King Apollo, I will therefore do so; but consider first and swear
that you will stand by me heartily in word and deed, for I know that
I shall offend one who rules the Argives with might, to whom all the
Achaeans are in subjection. A plain man cannot stand against the anger
of a king, who if he swallow his displeasure now, will yet nurse revenge
till he has wreaked it. Consider, therefore, whether or no you will
protect me."

3. Plato's Republic and Dialogues
4. The Iliad
5. The Divine Comedy (I would add The Figure of Beatrice as a fantastic commentary)
6. Cervantes Don Quixote
7. Dickens' David Copperfield (I have not read this. Dickens suffers from a wordiness I can not get past - even for a Victorian writer. He was paid by the word and it shows at times in his circumlocutions.)
8. Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov
9. Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (Another I have not read.)
10. Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago (A trauma to read but riveting and essential to understanding the dangers we have faced.)
11. The Odyssey
12. Aristotle's Ethics
13. Oedipus Rex
14. Augustine’s Confessions
15. Second Treatise on Government by Locke
16. Virgil’s Aeneid
17. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address & Second Inaugeral Address
18. Johnson's Birth of the Modern
19. Declaration of Independence/Constitution of the United States
20. Federalist Papers
21. Democracy In America
22. Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (This I have actually read once apon a time. It is much better to read P.J. O'Roark having read Adam Smith, one feels a certain superiority as well as commiseration)
23. Communist Manifesto
24. Origin of Species (David Allen White disagrees with this but I agree with JMReynolds. One must expose themselves fully to Darwin's reasoning and conclusions before deciding that a good deal of what he said was dangerous bunkum - like Eugenics.)
25. On The Genealogy of Morals
26. Civilization And Its Discontents (and if you must read Freud you must read the antidote:)
27. C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man (For a wonderful comparison of Freud and Lewis I heartily recommend: The Question of God: CS Lewis & Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Armond Nicholi. Nicholi teaches a class at Harvard, I think, and this volume has grown from his classes there. I would also recommend Mere Christianity)
28. Aeschylus’ Oresteia (Thank goodness for Penguin Classics. I plunked down only a quarter for this treasure)
29. Aquinas’ Summa Theologica
30. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (My favorite fiction book of all time. From the show:
DAW....I’m going to include one of my favorites, everybody who wants to be married has to read it, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

HH: Oh, that’s a disaster for the men listening here.

DAW: No, no, no. It’s a great book, and boy, they can learn something about being a man. She had a better sense of manhood than most men in our time…

HH: Can we watch the movie instead, David Allen White?

DAW: No, you’ve got to read it. The sentences are exquisite, and the wisdom of this woman is profound.

Austen is a treasure trove of morals and manners relating to the obligations and duties you owe in relationships. She glorifies love but tempers it with wisdom and humor, extolls honor but balances it with realism about it's sometimes uncomfortable effects.
31. Immortal Poems of the English Language (I worried that had yet to get to Donne but this volume covers it and Shelley too, if you like that sort of thing. I dislike Shelley but it is far from universal.)
32. Moby Dick (Suffers the same issue as Dickens but the themes are phenomenal)
33. Canterbury Tales
34. The Prince
35. The Faeire Queene (CS Lewis lauded Spenser. I have not read it. Jasper Fforde (I know he's no Lewis) calls Feaire Queene one of the deadliest dull books of all time and uses it to kill off one of his characters. This is also the man who roasts James Joyce in a few well chosen words, he would most likley be at home with JMR and DAW.)
36. Song of Roland (another buy from penguin classics for a quarter. Glorious!)
37. Through the Looking Glass
38. Alice in Wonderland
39. Paradise Lost
40. Boethius, the Consolation of Philosophy (I have not read this. Must put in the To Be Read Pile)
41. Cicero on Friendship and on Duties
42. Hobbes’ Leviathan (I have actively avoided Hobbes. When the word is a synonym for unrestrained, selfish barbarism you tend to avoid the work that coined the term. I know it is a critique of such a state of being. I still avoid it.)
43. Calvin’s Institutes (One cannot now seperate Calvin and Hobbes)
44. Anna Karenina
45. War And Peace (labored through this in 9th grade. If you read Tolstoy read the above or his Children's stories)
46. The Collected Poems of T.S. Elliot

The gentlemen go on to include a few books they read not only for edification but pure pleasure and so I will include a few of mine here: Perelandra and Till We Have Faces by CS. Lewis. I think nearly every philosophy Lewis later expounds upon are encompassed in one of those two books. Reason, Mercy, Forgiveness, Sin, Pain, Sacrifice, and Creation are all addressed in their relationships to God and they are cracking good reads.

Three Men in a Boat farce deserves a place among the great pantheon of literature and Jerome K. Jerome's sublime comedy beats out PG Wodehouse because I can not think of a single Wodehouse which sums up his cannon.

On the Shores of Silver Lakeby Laura Ingalls Wilder. Little House? Great Literature? I often mention To Kill a Mockingbird as a Great American novel and have been remiss in mentioning Laura Ingalls Wilder's bedrock lit. Silver Lake recounts the turning points in Laura's life with spare, telling prose. Her sister's blindness causes her to sublimate her desires for the good of her family, her last season of unworried childhood with a wild cousin, her first glimspe of her future husband. In a few sentances the course of Laura's life and her motivations are explored, her understanding of adulthood and the American citizen's contract with God and Government is explored.

There are scads more but I think it's a good list to start on.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Quote of Today

From the Underground Grammarian:

Civilization is itself an institution and has, like all institutions, one paramount goal, its own perpetuation. It was Jefferson's dream that that civilization could best perpetuate itself in which the citizens were "educated," whatever he meant by that, and we do have some clue as to what he meant. He wrote of the "informed discretion" of the people as the only acceptable depository of power in a republic. He knew very well that the people might be neither informed nor discreet, that is, able to make fine distinctions, but held that the remedy for that was not to be sought in depriving the people of their proper power but in better informing their discretion.

And to what end were the people to exercise the power of their informed discretion? The answer, of course, shouldn't be surprising, but, because we have been taught to confuse government and its institutions with civilization in general, it often is. Jefferson saw the informed discretion of the people as one of those checks and balances for which our constitutional democracy is justly famous, for it was only with such a power that the people could defend themselves against government and its institutions. "The functionaries of every government," wrote Jefferson, although the italics are mine, "have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents." Jefferson knew--isn't this the unique genius of American constitutionalism? that government was a dangerous master and a treacherous servant and that the first concern of free people was to keep their government on a leash, a pretty short one at that.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Giant Squid Attack California Coast

Really the header says it all. Giant squid are cannibals, it just gets better and better:
They are deadly, huge and fast moving. Their tentacles can suck the life out of a human being and they've arrived in Northern California.

They are giant squid. Nobody knows why, but for three years now fishing boats out of Bodega Bay have been catching the ink spewing fish by the droves.

"They feed like a pack of wolves, and what they'll do is they will force their prey to the surface," said sport fisherman Rick Powers. "And they just get themselves into an absolute feeding frenzy. These things are literally eating machines."

I am now invisioning a TV movie. "In a World..."
ht: Llama butchers