The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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Wednesday’s Child: To Say Nothing of the Dog

Some six months ago, at the end of March, I wrote here about the sensational case of the Ukrainian Joan of Arc, Nadezhda Savchenko – then in captivity in Moscow and undergoing a farce of a trial – who has since been exchanged for some Russian prisoners of the undeclared war and is now in Kiev.  Now, it may be that Savchenko is not the Ukrainian Joan of Arc, and that in reality she’s a war criminal, a madwoman, a villainess, a CIA agent, or even a Russian police provocateur; none of that matters in the least for making sense...

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Jerks O: Introduction, Part A

Everyone in America is constantly complaining about Jerks:  the Jerk who cut them off in traffic, the Jerks at the office who never wash their lunch dishes and leave them for their junior colleagues or overworked secretaries, the Jerk father who lets his toddlers run around screaming in the nice restaurant where you have taken your girlfriend to propose, the Jerk that pushed his airline seat back so violently that it sent your coffee flying–he’s the same Jerk who shouted for 15 minutes into his cellphone and then delayed the take-off because he would not turn it off when he...

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Properties of Blood, I.6: Defending Honor, Part B

The Sense of Honor I could not love thee, dear, so much, Loved I not honor more. Richard Lovelace’s poem “To Lucasta” used to be one of those poems that everyone had to commit to memory, and these last two lines constituted the most oft-quoted reference to the principle of honor in English literature.  Lovelace was a young man of good family, whose loyalty to his king and church first sent him to war, later put him in prison, and ultimately plunged him into poverty.  He had left Oxford with an M.A. and was about to serve under Lord Goring...

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Diary of a Jerk-Hunter, I: Gold Medal Jerks

My title is a little misleading.  It’s not as if anyone has to go in search of Jerks.  They are like mosquitoes in a tidal marsh:  They are inescapable. But, like mosquitoes, some species of Jerk are merely annoying, while others carry diseases far more dangerous to society than malaria or zika. Some years ago, I embarked on a project to which I gave the obvious title, Jerks.  My agent thought it was a brilliant idea and loved the initial pieces.  I dutifully spent a good deal of time writing up the outline, prospectus, etc., but nothing I prepared succeeded...

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Urbs Aeterna in Carolina

Summary:  The Bad News is that a bad break has made it impossible to conduct a Greek program in October, but the Good News is that we are doing a little program in Charleston in the Winter.   The Bad News July 10th was a long day, sweltering in my Summer office, otherwise known as the porch.  Too much to do for the Summer Seminar, with far too little time left.  Most of my five lectures were more or less done, though I was embarrassed to realize, several days later, that I had neglected to finish one of them.  No...

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Trump’s Strategy for Victory

  We’ve all come to know Donald Trump, or some version of him: real estate baron, reality TV star, target of biased leftist media, husband of three wives and father of four children, victor over 16 Republican rivals in the “bum of the week” primaries and supposedly guaranteed loser to the first female Supreme Leader come this Nov. 8. The odds are against him: The media assault is as relentless from neo“conservative” pundits eager to slaughter thousands more U.S. troops and millions more foreigners, in uniform and out. The country’s changing demographics increased those likely to vote against him while...

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Wednesday’s Child: 2+2

  I was scrolling through news headlines the other day, marvelling lazily at the lengths to which journalists will go to draw attention to their and other people’s philistine twaddle, when a story title caught my eye.  “Syrian women liberated from ISIS are burning their burqas,” it went. “What does that tell us?”  Naturally, I didn’t read on.  I knew the answer to the journalist’s rhetorical question long before she was born. When Stalin died in 1953, Russia’s entire population–statistically speaking, for there are a few notable exceptions on record went into a paroxysm of genuine, profound and unrehearsed grief,...

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Boethius Book Club, Episode 8: C.S. Lewis The Abolition of Man

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This month’s selection is The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. Many, if not most, of you have undoubtedly read this prophetic book. Lewis realized that modern culture was saturated with a virulent form of nominalism that reduced all human knowledge to pseudo-objective social sciences and human wisdom to subjective judgment. His answer was to refamiliarize ourselves with a form of natural law teaching that reached across cultures. The Abolition of Man remains provocative to this day, particularly Lewis’s insight that the subjectivism taught by bad literature textbooks flows inexorably into the contempt for human nature that made genetic engineering...

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The Art of Ugliness, Part II

This is the Conclusion of a piece I first published in 1980 in The Southern Partisan Quarterly Review (please note acronym). Trying to sort out this business of ugliness, I asked an artist friend in McClellanville, why the whole world was getting so ugly.  “Ugly is cheap,” he said.  “Beauty costs,” just the sort of practical remark I have come to expect from a painter.  The new shopping malls and fastfood shops in Chapel Hill are convincing evidence for the proposition.  Located out in no-man’s land or swamps, where acreage is cheap,  these stores and restaurants are built according to...

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POB I.6:  The Ethics of Honor

NOTA BENE: This chapter, far more than the others, is really a work in progress.  I have been studying dueling for many years and have picked up a lot of stray knowledge on the subject, but this chapter is not really a history of dueling but an attempt to grapple with the ethics of honor and its defense.  Comments, queries, criticisms, and complaints will be much appreciated.  Charles Lee was a trained soldier.  The son of a British officer, he had served in North America and Portugal during the Seven Years War, and, later, he had gone to Poland  as...