Paste Pot Pete

Wow!  PPP is kicking some ass!

This post is a tribute to Paste Pot Pete.

Where would we be without him?

The greatest thing ever made for youtube

A couple of word lists

Words ending in –phobia

Contronyms, that is to say, words with two directly opposite meanings (such as “dust,” to remove dust from a surface, and “dust,” to spread dust over a surface). 

I once read somewhere that the philosopher Hegel believed that all words are contronyms.  I’ve never gotten around to looking that up to see whether he actually said that, what he meant by it if he did say it, what influence his idea (whatever it was) may have had on the theory of language, or whether it is true.  But it’s an interesting notion, I think.

Unrelated picture:

A Sculpture Depicting Michel Foucault

If you’re like me, you’ve often wondered what Michel Foucault would have looked like if he had been, not a Frenchman, but a watermelon.  At long last this ancient question has been answered.

Do you enjoy my “Periodical Notes”?  Do you wish I’d started them 90 years ago?  Your wish is granted!  In a sense!

The American Conservative, 7 April 2008

Kelly Beaucar Vlahos delivers a surprisingly temperate examination of the role of women in today’s fighting army; Allan Carlson, author of Third Ways and other fascinating books about political movements that tried to defend the patriarchal family against capitalism, argues that our current affirmative action regime pits white women against black men; Freddie Gray celebrates the record of Pope Benedict XVI, including both his conservative doctrinal views and his vociferous opposition to the war in Iraq, and hopes that the upcoming papal visit to the USA will encourage like-minded Americans to speak up; reviewing Samantha Power’s new biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello, Wayne Merry praises the book as a fine example of reportage and Vieira de Mello’s longtime employer, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as an instrument of Realpolitik (“the UN is a mechanism of plausible deniability for its member states; it is a crucible for shameful acts- including acts of omission- that the media no longer permits governments to engagein themselves”); Paul Gottfried traces the development of “the New York Intellectuals” from the Trotskyite radicalism of the 30’s generation of Philip Rahv and the Partisan Review circle to the cautious patriotism of the 40’s generation of Daniel Bell, Irving Kristol, and Seymour Martin Lipset to the founding of neoconservatism by the 50’s generation of Norman Podhoretz and Commentary magazine. 

Piers Paul Read finds much to praise in The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left, by Ed (short for Muhammad) Husain, though he lists a great many questions Husain does not address.  For example, quoting Husain’s claim that “A primary reason for Western failure in the War on Terror is an innate inability to understand the Islamist psyche,” Read asks “Isthere a single psyche to understand?”  This question may seem easy, but Read lists a dozen more, some of them quite thorny.  The last paragraph merits quoting in full:

The Islamist is stylistically pedestrian, but it provokes thought.  What are the limits of free speech?  Should our first loyalty always be to a nation state?  If Britain rejected the legitimacy of the state of Israel and worked against it, where would the loyalties of the Jewish community in Britain lie?  Is it beyond dispute, as the French Dominican Jacques Jomier wrote in The Bible and the Koran, that “the Koran texts are not conducive to peace”?  And should moderate Muslims be blamed for failing to disown them?  Are the young Britons who go to fight for a cause they support in Bosnia or Iraq [emphasis added] different in kind from those who went to fightfor the Left in the Spanish Civil War?  Is the political activism of Islamists in our universities any worse than that of Marxists?  Think of the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy.  Indeed how different are they from the young terrorists portrayed by Dostoyevsky in The Devils?  Perhaps we should resign ourselves to the fact that rebels will always find a cause.   



The Nation, 21 April 2008

“Chalabi’s Lobby” shows both that Ahmad Chalabi’s efforts to persuade the US to invade Iraq were paid for by the US government itself and that Chalabi is back in favor with senior American officials.  “Inside the Surge” argues that America is helpless in Iraq, and that Iraqi groups who share none of America’s interests are manipulating American forces and money for their own advantage.  Some memorable lines: “The Americans think they have purchased Sunni loyalty by giving aid to these groups, but in fact it is the Sunnis who have bought the Americans.”  “The Bush administration and the US military have stopped talking of Iraq as a grand project of nation building, and the US media have dutifully done the same.  They too have abandoned any larger narrative, presenting Iraq as a series of small pieces.  Just as Iraq is physically deconstructed, so too is it intellectually deconstructed, not as an occupied country undergoing several civil wars but as small stories of local heroes and villains, of well-meaning American soldiers, of good news here and progress there.” 

Alice Kaplan reviews a clutch of books by, about, and related to Irene Nemirovsky.  Matt Steinglass reviews two books about the Vietnam War, Andrew Wiest’s Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN, and Mark Moyar’s Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in Vietnam.  Wiest’s book includes the riveting story of Colonel Pham Van Dinh, the hero of Dong Ap Bia (aka Hamburger Hill) who later defected to the North.  Leading with this story, Steinglass argues that the Communists were better able to meet the aspirations of Vietnamese nationalism than the Saigon regime ever could.  As for Moyar’s book, Steinglass claims that “just as for some liberals Iraq has always been about Vietnam, for Moyar Vietnam has always been about Iraq.”  Steinglass argues that Moyar’s partisanship leads him to wander away from a set of perfectly reasonable claims and to try to defend the some of the most reprehensible policies the USA pursued in Vietnam.

White Boy

Several years ago I visited the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis.  There was an exhibition of paintings by a group of artists who were active in the 1930s and 1940s.  They developed a style that showed the influence of southwestern Native American art.  The first painting I saw looked extremely familiar.  When I saw that the painter was Garrett Price, I knew why.  In the mid 30s, Price created a comic strip called WHITE BOY.  Two Sunday installments of the strip were reproduced in a book my parents had when I was a kid, The Smithsonian Collection of American Newspaper Comics.  Those strips fascinated me; the same style Price and his fellow painters of the southwestern school used in their paintings was featured there.  

Several WHITE BOY strips are scanned in and available for viewing at this address:

The Nation, 14 April 2008

An article titled “Who Are They Calling Elitist?” leans on Geoffrey Nunberg’s book Talking Right to analyze the way rightists have used the image of a “liberal elite” to discredit any opinion with which they disagree.  The best lines come from Nunberg: 

Just look, for example, at the way liberals are referred to in the media, even in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.  Wherever you look, the liberal label is almost exclusively reserved for middle-class whites.  Phrases like ‘working-class liberals,’ ‘Hispanic liberals,’ and ‘black liberals’ are virtually nonexistent, though ‘conservative is frequently used to describe members of all those groups.  When the media are referring to members of the working class or minority groups who vote left-of-center, they invariably describe them as Democrats, with the implication that their political choices are shaped by economic self-interest or traditional party loyalty rather than by any deep commitment to liberal ideals.” 

Thus the idea of a “liberal elite” becomes not only defensible, but tautological- if only members of the (affluent white) elite can be called liberals, then liberalism is solely an elite phenomenon. 

Reviewers take on the collected poetry of Philip Whalen and of Helen Adam.  The Whalen review starts with some rather hostile epigrams of his (e.g., “Not a word/ Not for love or money/ Not a single word from me, nor music/ [These are not words but signs/ They carry no charge.]/ Make your own speech./ You’ll get none of mine.”)  interlaced with facts about the history of Zen Buddhism, then concludes with a look at Whalen’s unfortunate “political” poems, the only substantial theme of which is the stupidity of his neighbors.  So, “Almost all Americans aged 4 to 100/ Have the mentality of Chicago policemen.”  Here we see the flip side of the “liberal elite” trope- a left-liberal who believes that most Americans are hopelessly reactionary and congratulates himself on his superiority to them.  The Adam review paints a far more appealing portrait of the poet, closing with these lines from “Counting Out Rhyme” that have been stuck in my head for the last couple of days:

Then cam’ the unicorn, brichter than the mune, 

Prancing frae the wave wi’ his braw crystal croon. 

Up the crisp and shelly strand he trotted unafraid.

Agin’ the lanesome lassie’s knee his comely head he laid.

Upon the youngest sister’s lap he leaned his royal head.

She stabbed him to the heart- and

Oh!  How eagerly he bled!