The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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Programming schedule for 2016

I just wanted to take a moment to thank our Gold and Charter members for their patience as Dr. Fleming and I caught up on our podcasts.  The promise of last year was one per week, four per month, but in February and March Dr. Fleming and I both had travel schedules that contrived to tinker with that plan.  I’m happy to say now at the end of April/beginning of May that we are mostly caught up, and will be regularly delivering at least one podcast per week. We will have two season breaks in 2016, which will include the...

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Why I don’t “support the troops”

Some weeks back one of the speakers at a conference I was attending told me over a meal that his son was heading into the Marines via ROTC, and he wanted to know what I, as a former Marine and as someone who had attended Officer Candidates’ School, thought about his son’s military aspirations.  I did not have encouraging words for him. I had a conversation about this subject with one of my former students some months ago. I have taught hundreds of young men and women, but only a few students become friends and keep in touch with me...

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Racism–and the Rose by Any Other Name OTH

This a revision of three old pieces on the same subject: Thucydides observed, in his famous depiction of the civil war on Corfu, that political partisans change the meanings of words.   Dictionaries have become instruments of ideological oppression.  The movement began long before the end of the millennium. “We very clearly had made a mistake,” said the marketing director of Merriam-Webster, explaining her company’s decision to pull an on-line thesaurus that included “faggot” and “fruit” as synonymns for “homosexual.” While many homophiles freely use expressions like “faggot” and “fruity,” and “butch,” they reserve the right to dictate polite usage...

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Properties of Blood, I.7: Kith and Kin, Conclusion

More depends on kinship than feelings of affection or the obligation of mutual assistance.  Kinship has many dimensions, and a systems of kinship determines who inherits property and status from whom, who may marry whom, who is entitled or required to take vengeance for a slain kinsman, and who must bear what proportion of responsibility for the acts of a relative.  Conventionally, anthropologists and historians have categorized descent systems as patrilineal, when property and/or status are inherited from or through the father’s line, matrilineal, when it is through the mother’s, or some form of cognatic system in which both sides...

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Mr. Autodidact’s Poem(s) of the Week

First is a sonnet by Tennyson, not one of his best, perhaps, but indicating his distaste for professional critics and men of letters: Poets and Their Bibliographies Old poets foster’d under friendlier skies, Old Virgil who would write ten lines, they say, At dawn, and lavish all the golden day To make them wealthier in the readers’ eyes; And you, old popular Horace, you the wise Adviser of the nine-years-ponder’d lay, And you, that wear a wreath of sweeter bay, Catullus, whose dead songster never dies; If, glancing downward on the kindly sphere That once had roll’d you round and round...

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Mr. Autodidact’s Reading List: English Literature (Update 2 May)

Absolutely Essential Classics of English and American Literature for Readers from 12 to…. These works have been chosen partly for their literary excellence but even more because they were, until recently, taken for granted, as part of our common Anglo-American heritage.  This first version, which will be expanded from time to time, is only a sketch, and the omission of some beloved classic may be due to an oversight or a decision to include the work in a subsequent list.  If the list is somewhat boring and predictable, it is ibecause I have left off many of my favorite writers,...

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Neocons Losing Friends Over Trump

I didn’t know Neocons had friends. I thought they only had interests. But both Peter Wehner in the NY Times and Tom Nichols at The Federalist whine they have “lost friends” over opposing Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Well, some friends of mine in 2006 “lost” their son in the Iraq War, which these two chickenhawks supported, Wehner even as the head of Bush’s Office of Strategic Initiatives. I went to the funeral. And another former neighbor of mine got a 100% disability in Iraq. It’d say each is a bigger “loss” than somebody de-Friending you on Facebook. One of the...

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Latin, Episode 4

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In this episode of Latin, Dr. Fleming discusses the third declension, the dative case, and the inapt uses of English words that have Latin roots, particularly “fabulous,” “tremendous,” and the like. Remember that this podcast is not a formal course but a foray into the study of Latin. Original Air Date: April 29, 2016 Show Run Time: 1 hour 10 minutes Show Guest(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming Show Host(s): Stephen Heiner   The Fleming Foundation Presents Latin℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2016. All Rights are Reserved. Notes for Latin: Episode Four A.  Clarifying Texts  (Acts 2:1) et...

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Glossed in Translation

Every one of us knows something about lying – not that I’d ever dream of casting aspersions on the probity of my readers–and it isn’t always from books that the bitter knowledge comes.  And the one thing about lying that any normal person who’s ever been caught with his hand in the cookie jar understands is that the lie has to be convincing, otherwise it would be best to simply say nothing and look injured, leaving it to others to make the necessary excuses. A convincing lie, in fact, needs to surpass the truth in verisimilitude, because a salient feature...

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Aristotle: Politics I, chapters 1-2 On the House

In English we think of “politics” as the art of gaining maintaining, and using power.  Partly, we owe this understanding to Machiavelli, who is unfairly accused of degrading political philosophy from the pursuit of truth to the pursuit of power.  Utter nonsense!  Machiavelli was not a philosopher in the pure sense of the world, but a Florentine writer and statesman who loved Florence and Italy and thought hard about the ways they could be made independent, free, and republican.  Aristotle, by contrast, was interested in the nature of politics or ta politika, the things pertaining to the polis.  The word...