The American Conservative, 17 November 2008

In a used book store years ago, I bought some old issues, circa 1965, of National Review.  They weren’t all that interesting on their own merits.  What stuck in my mind about them was the sadness that ran through them.  Each article seemed to be a form of mourning for a kind of politics that was no longer possible, for a kind of country that no longer existed.

That’s very much the feeling I got from this issue of The American Conservative.  The cover features a checklist of G. W. Bush’s “Missions Accomplished”: “Start a war (or two); Shred Constitution; Crash economy” etc, etc.  Inside is a five article retrospective on the horrors of the Bush-Cheney administration (including articles by our old friends Alexander Cockburn and Allen Carlson.)  As Bush and company prepare to leave office, these articles take on a strangely distant sound.

Michael Brendan Daugherty looks at the results of California’s Proposition 8 and concludes that it is likely to be the last victory that he and his fellow opponents of same-sex marriage will be likely to celebrate.  Pointing out that Proposition 8 and similar measures have passed only because so many voters aged over 65 backed them, Daugherty claims that “Absent an incredible shift in attitudes, same sex marriage will soon command majority support.”

David Gordon gives a favorable review to James Kalb’s The Tyranny of Liberalism.  Apparently Kalb defines “liberalism” as “the rejection of moral authorities that transcend human purposes,” and from this definition lays great mischief at the feet of the liberal tradition.  I’ve read several interesting articles by Kalb, for example in the journal Telos, and have gone to his blog in hopes of finding more like those articles.  But I must say I’ve been disappointed.  His editors must add a lot of value to his work- the blog usually includes several overly abstract defenses of the Roman Catholic faith that Kalb has adopted, interspersed with current affairs commentary from what it might be charitable to call an anti-Zionist perspective.

I’m getting to be quite fond of their backpage columnist, Bill Kauffman.  This time around Kauffman remembers novelist John Gardner, who like him lived in Batavia, New York.  After describing the lengths to which he and his fellow Batavians have gone to keep the memory of Gardner and his works alive, Kauffman interjects, “You know what?  Gardner is not even among my hundred favorite American novelists.  But he is ours.  That is enough.”  When I was a teenager, I read Gardner’s The Art of Fiction.  I remember that it was pleasant to read, that’s all I do remember of it.

Spiderman opening

At noon on days when I was six, channel 44 from Chicago showed the Marvel Superhero cartoons from the sixties.  These cartoons were shorts featuring in turn six of that company’s characters, Spiderman, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and the Submariner.  The opening of the Spiderman cartoon gave me a thrill, a rush of tension in my upper arms and middle chest.  When I saw it on youtube, I still got precisely the same thrill.  It’s interesting how persistent a conditioned response can be!  So here’s the stimulus. 

The Nation, 24 November 2008

She doesn't look like this anymore(image)


This issue is mostly topical and therefore unlikely to bring me back for a second look.  I always enjoy Stuart Klawans’ movie reviews, so I’ll make note of his contributions here on A Christmas Tale and Synecdoche, New York.  Catherine Deneuve is in A Christmas Tale, so I’ve included the image above (she doesn’t look like that anymore, but this is the most interesting photo of her I could find) (not counting nudes, of course.)

A Vision of Hell

How is this a vision of hell?





Imagine Papal Forgiveness

One more step toward peace, tolerance, understanding, and delusional, hypocritical, self-aggrandizing, pompous-assness.

What elicits the most papal scorn?:

1. Saying “I’m more popular than Jesus.”

2. Saying “I’m more popular than God.”

3. Saying “I’m more popular than Thor and Zeus COMBINED.”

4. Live-saving and poverty-preventing contraception.

5. Raping little boys.

hint: It’s not #5.

Obit Magazine

If you like obituaries, you’ll like Obit.  They have some nifty features, like pairing people who died on the same day.  For example, did you know that British writers C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley both died 45 years ago today, on 22 November 1963?  They don’t mention it, but President Kennedy did too.

Sydney Parkinson’s botanical drawings

Thanks to “The Artist and His Model” for posting a gallery of botanical drawings by Sydney Parkinson.  Evidently they found the drawings here.  All of the pictures are lovely; I’ve copied a few of my favorites below.



MC2 = E

Quantum chromodynamics prove the theory of relativity in four dimensions.

So what’s all this about energy, mass, light, and Jim Doyle?

Etymology of First Names


Multicultural and quite lengthy. Search for names, and search for “words in meaning” as well as “words in description” of the names.

Science and Buddhism

Heracles/ Vajrapani as the protector of the Buddha; a Greco-Buddhist relief from Gandhara

Heracles/ Vajrapani as the protector of the Buddha; a Greco-Buddhist relief from Gandhara


Via 3quarksdaily, a report on relations between some Buddhists and some scientists:

The Dalai Lama is keen for Buddhists and scientists to interact.

In the troubled relationship between science and religion, Buddhism represents something of a singularity, in which the usual rules do not apply. Sharing quests for the big truths about the Universe and the human condition, science and Buddhism seem strangely compatible. At a fundamental level they are not quite aligned, as both these books make clear. But they can talk to each other without the whiff of intellectual or spiritual insult that haunts scientific engagement with other faiths.

The disciplines are compatible for two reasons. First, to a large degree, Buddhism is a study in human development. Unencumbered by a creator deity, it embraces empirical investigation rather than blind faith. Thus it sings from the same hymn-sheet as science. Second, it has in one of its figureheads an energetic champion of science. The current Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetans, has met regularly with many prominent researchers during the past three decades. He has even written his own book on the interaction between science and Buddhism (The Universe in a Single Atom; Little, Brown; 2006). His motivation is clear from the prologue of that book, which Donald Lopez cites in his latest work Buddhism and Science: for the alleviation of human suffering, we need both science and spirituality.