The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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Planning vs. Reality

As they say, man proposes, God disposes. Some time back I announced what our podcast schedule would be for the remainder of 2016, only for it to be disrupted by some family health issues that Dr. Fleming had to attend to (which are still ongoing), and then the arrival of many of you in Rockford for our Boethius Seminar. As a result, we are spending the rest of August uploading the remainder of our stock of Boethius Book Club audios to continue to provide content to those paying members who so faithfully support our work. We will return to our...

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The Art of Ugliness, Part I

This piece appeared  in the second issue (1980) of the Southern Partisan, which Clyde Wilson and I (along with John Shelton Reed, Sam Francis, and Chris Kopff) had created.  I have corrected a number of errors–including the quotation from the film version of Gone with the Wind–made several small  verbal improvements, and added some bits of  material I have always used in conversation.  These major additions I have indicated by square brackets.   Last month I took a short drive through the midriff of the Carolinas—through Georgetown, Conway, Marion, Latta, and Dillon, right through the middle of Rowland and Pittsboro all the...

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Wednesday’s Child: Letter to a Sapient Neighbor

On a lighter note – it’s the middle of August, after all, and I ought to supply the longsuffering reader with something amusing for a Wednesday afternoon in the chaise-longue – here is a story written by Anton Chekhov in 1880, which my son and I have translated.  We had a laugh doing it, and are particularly proud of having found a plausibly English-sounding name for the protagonist’s estate, “Allcakes, nr. Eaten.” At first glance, this is pure slapstick.  It has, however, a darker side, as the part rationalist, part mystical banalities spewed forth by Basil Semiparticular – part Archie...

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Boethius Book Club, Episode 7: Machiavelli’s Discourse

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This month’s selection is book I of Machiavelli’s Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius. If you think this title refers to a dry academic commentary on an ancient historian, think again. Machiavelli is one of the most brilliant and original political thinkers in human history, and this is his by far best work. I first read it at the suggestion of (or rather under orders from) my friend Sam Francis, who (like James Burnham and other political analysts) viewed it as the political equivalent of sacred writ. Machiavelli takes the first ten books of Livy’s History of Rome...

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Properties of Blood, I.5: Revenge, Conclusion

In our own time vengeance is the predictable plot-device in pulp fiction thrillers and the apparently endless series of films inspired by comic books.  In one series of ludicrous films, the union of superheroes is even known as “The Avengers.” Americans have not confined their dreams of vengeance to popular entertainment.  The newspapers are filled with cases of vengeance-killings.  The rise in cases (both fictional and real) of vengeance is not limited to men killing men or getting even with their ex’s: Feminists have made heroes out of women who killed (as in the case fictionalized in The Burning Bed)...

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Prof. Brownlow on Early Modern English Verse

C.S.Lewis said that a “metrical mania” came over England in the 16th century, and it’s an idea that certainly explains the very odd taste for metrical versions of the Psalms in ballad meter that popped up then. There’s a late 15th–early 16th-century version of The Hunting of the Cheviot that’s a great deal more relaxed, metrically, than the later 8 + 6 “metrical” versions: 1.  The Perse owt off Northombarlonde an avowe to God made he That he wold hunte in the mowntayns off Chyviat within days thre In the magger of doughte Dogles and all that ever with him...

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Writing and Reading Verse: A Digression

I postponed putting up Katherine Dalton’s reply until I had time to make some response.  Although I did finally post her  comment on Part II, it is helpful, I think, to put it here: Ah, poetess.  Makes me feel all be-bluestocking’d and olde quaintee. I have no argument with “since,” but as I read it, the replacement of “it seems” with “since” still leaves four beats in that line—it just makes the line begin with a stressed syllable instead of an unstressed.  SINCE anOTHer FORty-TWO. I had orginally written “It seems another forty Have just arrived today” but I missed the enjambment,...

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Aristotle’s Politics, Book IV

In Politics IV, he surveys the kinds of constitution other than monarchy, which he treated in III.  His prudent and cautious treatment of democracy and aristocracy are a good antidote to the inflated rhetoric put forward by the proponents of both systems, while his observations on law and custom as the basis of legitimacy should be read aloud to Congress and the President every day. In terms of the dangers they represent by their deformed types, Aristotle regards the tyranny of one man as more pernicious and less constitutional than the tyranny of the people.  He expresses some criticism of...

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Surprising News

Everyday the media spring a surprise on the public.  This morning we learn that a knife-wielding Norwegian in London killed an American and wounded several other people.  While British police are not ruling out terrorism, they are saying at this point that mental health issues are involved.  Oh, and by the way, the Norwegian is of “Somali descent.”   What percentage of Somalis are Muslims, you ask.  Just about 99%, but that is irrelevant.  In one sense the cops are right:  Islam would appear to be dangerous to a believer’s mental health. Just a day or two ago, Somalis in Minneapolis-St. Paul...