Category: Feature

1

Reckoning With Reality

Reality has a way of biting you in the posterior. Americans are finding that out the hard way. They’re going to find it out even more if voters put Hillary Clinton back in the White House. She basically has reassembled President George W. Bush’s Neocon Brain Trust. The Atlantic magazine keeps a tally of Republicans who are backing her, including these Neocons: Richard Armitage, Michael Hayden, John Negroponte, Paul Wolfowitz, Max Boot and Robert Kagan. Add that to the “neo-Liberal” interventionist Democrats she has gathered, and you have a powder keg of interventionist insanity. Kagan is married to Victoria Nuland,...

7

The Chickens Come Home To Roost

These are not really  trick questions: Question 1) What is dumber than a dumb jock? A sports fan—or sports writer—who lionizes postmodern athaletes [sic!] who are paid to slough off every quality that turns hominid apes into human beings.  Note: I am not talking about genuine athletes, who still exist–though there are not many “Olympians” among them–but sports stars, who are as insubstantial in human terms as any other media celebrity.  Televised football games are aimed at the husbands of soap opera fans, and our sports heroes are cut from the same cardboard and tinsel as Ryan Seacrest and Angelina Jolie. This past...

2

Wednesday’s Child: The Bloodthirsty Artist

Everybody knows, however vaguely, that just before World War I, during his years in Vienna, Adolf Hitler made his living as a painter.  In Mein Kampf he recalled his hopes of attaining at least national renown, holding the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts responsible for eventually dashing them by denying him admission.  It is likewise remembered that the Viennese cafes where the epoch’s leading artists habitually gathered were frequented by the future dictator with a view to what today would be called networking.  In 1937, pictures by some of those artists were famously held up to ridicule in the Exhibition...

4

Jerks 0: Introduction, Part B (Conclusion)

Jerkitude is a contagious disease:  After putting up with bullying and rudeness for a few days, we come to expect it, and we are ready to lash out in a preemptive strike against anyone who even slightly offends us.  It’s like the story of the guy whose car breaks down at night on a lonely road and finds he does not have a jack.  He starts walking down the road, imagining the warm reception he will get from a friendly farmer, but the farther he goes, the darker his thoughts become.  What if the farmer doesn’t have a jack?  What...

4

Properties of Blood, I.6: In Defense of Honor, Part C

Opponents of dueling have made many valid arguments against staking life and honor on swordsmanship or marksmanship, and not all of them went so far as Twain in deriding the very notion of personal honor.   Before evaluating the arguments on both sides, we should have some understanding of what this honor is that would cause a man to risk death.  In the 21st century, honor has little meaning in vernacular English.  It can hardly be used without quotation marks or an ironic intonation of the voice.  This was not always so.  Once upon a time, one could take for...

6

The Art of Degradation, Part I

It is a good thing that rhetoric is a lost art, because anyone with the most elementary knowledge of rhetoric would be sticking blunt objects into his ears to keep from hearing not just the politicians’ speeches but, even more, the pundit’s comments and questions. I am not referring to the bad grammar and mispronunciation of NPR newsreaders who cannot pronounce words like “tour” but invariably say “tore” or even to the effeminate and uncontrolled sing-song chanting of the TV announcers or the hilariously inaccurate diction of people who think “fraught” means something like “full of anxiety or trouble” and...

18

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...

7

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...

15

Properties of Blood, I.6: In Defense of 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...

6

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...